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Keep Artsy Creative Directors Away from Your Cause-Related Marketing Campaigns

Drew Barrymore for the United Nations World Food Programme

I can see it now. In the wake of a string of natural disasters and skyrocketing food prices in the Developing World, management at UN World Food Programme (WFP) decide to commence some serious marketing. So they start taking meetings with fancy ad agencies.

Here’s how the successful meeting went:

The senior manager at the agency turned on the charm and created a “reality distortion field” before turning the time over to the creative director, who immediately started to weave a persuasive narrative. “We’ll put actresses like Rachel Weisz and Drew Barrymore in PSAs, in print ads and on Oprah. Imagine stark, beautifully-shot images of Drew feeding darling doe-eyed kids in Kenya in haunting black and white. The images will underscore that issue of hunger in the Developing World is black and white…”

At that point the UN World Food Programme managers should have kicked that agency to the curb.

Unless your cause is the Ansel Adams Black and White Photo Preservation Trust (I just made that up, by the way) your fundraising and cause-related marketing images better be in color. In every test of preferences (outside of the canyons of Manhattan), people say they want to see color images.

The only people that don’t prefer color are me and artsy-fartsy creative directors who can’t set aside their own creative biases long enough to think about what the intended audiences favor.

That isn’t the only problem with this ad from the May 19, 2008 issue of Time magazine.

The agency tried to make up for the lack of color in the photo by adding the red cup. But the red cup is a marketing conceit. The cups the WFP feeds people with aren’t red. Neither is the food the WFP distributes. The WFP doesn’t pass around a red cup when it’s fundraising. Donors don’t get a red cup as a premium when they make some kind of donation.

The red cup is, in the main, a way to introduce color into a campaign that should have had it from the start.


John Lepp said…
Interesting post Alden. I would like to offer a alternative point of view. Yes, this is coming from another creative director - This "artsy" visual quickly communicates that Drew Barrymore through her support is a part of helping feed children every day. The black and white/sepia image puts everyone on a even keel - we are all in this together... This type of design approach also will help separate this ad from the other 45 pages of full colour ads that would quickly get glanced over. The red cup joins the two sides together - as well as draws your focus into the image and makes you look closely at the image. It also works well with the red headline and logo for the campaign. In fact, my only critique is that is alienates potential donors by not including them.
Anonymous said…
I love it...

But I'm a photographer. What do I know?

I'm also a marketer, and the analytical side of me wants to know - did it get results?

That's the only thing that really matters at the end of the day -- did it build mindshare and translate into dollars?
Anonymous said…
My comment isn't so much about the advert (I'm sure Drew thought she was doing the right thing), it's more about the actual photograph, which I think is so contrived it makes me shudder.

I spend alot of time out in townships in South Africa, and I can honestly say that when you take children food they don't form a orderly queue. If anything each visit tends to resemble organised chaos.

And, if the children see my camera they push each other out of the way in order to get their photo taken and afterwards they all want to see themselves... well, at least that's the ones that don't think having your photo taken steals your soul.

It's photos like these that give the unsuspecting public a false and 'romantic' image of feeding an African child.

I'm not saying its not rewarding - I love it - it's just that this image so SO false. It doesn't even look urgent. Think about it: If you're absolutely starving would you wait patiently while the next guy gets food before you? No, you'd wonder where your share is and you'd do anything to get it... it's called human nature.
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