Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al press adver­tise­ment — North Korea’s death camps

This dou­ble page spe­cial fea­ture appeared in all the UK qual­i­ty press on the week­end of 14th Decem­ber 2013, beau­ti­ful­ly coin­cid­ing with wide edi­to­r­i­al cov­er­age of dete­ri­o­rat­ing polit­i­cal sta­bil­i­ty in North Korea.

Written by
Ken Burnett
June 03, 2014
Click on the image to see the ad fully. The text is available in full to download here.

In Yodok starving inmates hunted anything that ‘flew, crawled, or grew in the field.’

‘We had no food,’ Kang says. ‘We would eat anything we could lay hands on, frogs, snakes, rats, insects.’ A guard caught a prisoner trying to chew an oxtail whip for nourishment; he beat him harshly and forced him to eat intestinal worms picked from a latrine. The man died.

There was pellagra in the camps. Mothers tried to nourish their young children by catching pregnant rats. The placentas and tiny foetuses made rich eating and were believed to cure disease. Kang ate centipedes and learned to relish salamanders, which were thought to provide the vitamins for survival, but his first attempt to eat one was a failure.

‘I pushed it into my mouth, but I could not swallow. The creature was struggling to get out of my mouth. I was frightened, I closed my eyes and bit it hard. My mouth was suddenly full of bitter and stinking juice and I had to spit it out.’ The only way to eat one was to hold it by the tail and gulp it down in one. ’
View original image
Research by Indra Sinha and Ken Burnett. Written by Indra Sinha, with additional writing by Ken Burnett. Art director Neil Godfrey. Photography Neil Barstow, retouching Jack Lowe. Produced by Ken Burnett and Indra Sinha with Reuben Steains of Amnesty International UK Section. With special thanks to Rajiv Narayan, researcher, North Korea for Amnesty International.

SOFII presents the first advertisement to show Amnesty’s deliberate return to a style of communication that the organisation hasn’t used since the mid 1990s.

After the initial insertions in December 2013 (see on the right) Amnesty again ran double page and single page versions of the North Korea ‘Yodok’ ads in Mid February and in late March 2014. The single page version is shown below.

Though considerably abridged from the original double page spread the response from the single page ad has proved to be marginally better, cost per reply. Though not half of the media cost, the single page is substantially less expensive than the dps.

For a summary of the response from and cost-effectiveness of these ads, see results box below.


A statement about results from Amnesty’s ‘Yodok’ ads, added 4th June 2014
After three different tests of the ad in various media and in single and double-page formats, Amnesty UK has recruited a substantial number of single gift and regular new donors and has learned a lot. Most significantly, it’s now clear that, when compared to donor acquisition costs both from Amnesty’s own endeavours in other areas and from results achieved by other charities, long copy off-the-page advertisements can be made to work favourably in 2014. Even in these days of reduced readership and information overload, this form of dramatic storytelling can cut through. Not only do these ads recruit donors cost-effectively they also campaign publicly, attract media coverage, build Amnesty’s brand and encourage both staff and supporters everywhere.

‘Human interest stories and empathy have always been at the heart of how we campaign, and these are undiluted stories that can’t fail to move the reader. Stories are our stock in trade. It’s a simple formula and that’s what Amnesty is, stripped back: a story and a refusal to accept the status quo.’

Kate Allen, director, Amnesty International UK, quoted in Third Sector magazine

You can join Amnesty here to add your voice to close North Korea’s death camps.

About the author: Ken Burnett

Ken Burnett

Ken Burnett is author of Relationship Fundraising and other books including The Zen of Fundraising, (Jossey-Bass Inc, San Francisco, USA). The Tiny Essentials of an Effective Volunteer Board and Storytelling can change the world, both published by The White Lion Press, UK

In 2021, he wrote and published a book about campaigning fundraising, The essence of Campaigning Fundraising in 52 exhibits and 199 web links.

Ken co-founded SOFII with his late wife Marie and served as a trustee before retiring from the SOFII board in 2022.

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