Garbage in, garbage out

News flash! A stupid nonprofit ad wins an award!

Written by
Jeff Brooks
May 14, 2013

Well, almost. It was a student division of the D&AD awards (a UK advertising industry association).

Thanks to Queer Ideas for the tip and don’t miss Mark Phillip’s cogent discussion of this project.

Or watch it here on YouTube.

I realise it’s really not fair to label the work of students as ‘stupid’. What’s stupid about this is that it won an award judged, presumably, by professionals who should know better.

Further, it was an assignment that could hardly do otherwise than to produce stupid work. The challenge to students was to ‘present an idea that engages support for Oxfam by triggering shared values and concerns in a wide range of people’. There’s a brief with a lot more information, but the direction is no better.

The main problem here is the ‘wide range of people’. That's not an audience. It’s simply not possible to communicate effectively with everyone. In fact, the students who produced this ad solved that problem by aiming at themselves.

At least, I think that’s what they did. How else could you explain an attempt to stir people to compassion by parading a series of snarky, pissed-off potty-mouths who would rather do anything else than fight poverty? These kids seem to think fundraising is a bigger enemy than poverty itself.

In other words, this ad doesn’t have the faintest clue about the psychology behind charitable giving.

I’m sure the students who produced it learned a lot from the project. And that’s the main point for them. But the judges then told them their work was good, thus potentially setting them out on careers of more stupid nonprofit ads. They also signalled clearly to all the other students who entered their work, some of them quite good, that the stupid, snarky stuff is the gold standard.

So we can expect the plague to continue in the coming years. Shame on the D&AD judges.

Jeff Brook’s new book The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications will be reviewed on SOFII soon. Look out for it.

About the author: Jeff Brooks

Jeff Brooks

Jeff Brooks has served the nonprofit community for more than 30 years, working as a writer and creative director on behalf of a variety of organisations including CARE, World Vision, Feeding America, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, National Wildlife Federation, and many more. He blogs at Future Fundraising Now and Moceanic. In previous careers, he’s been an English teacher and a classical musician. He lives in Seattle in the USA.

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