Amnesty International UK: additional information on ‘the press ads that shook a nation’
- Written by
- John Baguley
- May 22, 2012
From: John Baguley
Subject: Amnesty adverts update
I’ve just noticed the Amnesty International full-page ads on SOFII and your request for more information.
I was director of fundraising at Amnesty at that time and commissioned these ads from the agency Collett, Dickenson and Pearce (CDP) where Indra Sinha worked. He is now an author and his novel Animal’s People was on the 2007 Man Booker shortlist. Neil Godfrey was the art director.
The first advertisement in the series was a half-page test. The headline read ‘Brazil has solved the problem of how to keep kids off the streets. Kill them.’ It brought an immediate result in floods of new members and donations totalling more than the cost of the advert, which was unheard of for acquisition at that time. It also brought condemnation from the Brazilian government and the British Section of Amnesty amazingly agreed not to run the advert again. The killing goes on today – 20 years later.
Moving to full-page adverts proved even more profitable and one advert alone brought in 3,000 new members via the coupon response. Even adverts stating Amnesty could do nothing about a problem worked well. During the Gulf War I was requested to balance the advert featuring the gassing of Kurds at Halabja by looking at the allies and ran an advert asking ‘With Allies like these, who needs enemies?
’ The adverts provoked huge internal debate, moving Amnesty from being basically a research agency sending mild letters to offending governments to one campaigning forcefully on human rights. The only advert not to make it through the complaints was one mentioning Gandhi, on the spurious grounds it would offend Indians – Indra Sinha was not amused.
I hope this might add to the interest in the advertisements and wish I had kept the results.