Advertising: A force of good?

When I think of an advert, I see David Beckham on a huge billboard modelling H&M’s new underwear line (ladies, see here: We see a huge number of ads, every day, selling t-shirts and watches and food – but what about sensitive topics? Those topics which are important but not exactly fun, those which aren’t easy to talk about, much less advertise. Of course we’ve all watched the UNICEF adverts on TV looking for donations, but surely advertising for good causes exists in more than just a few less-than-persuasive black and white videos.

Luckily, they do. I’ve picked a few of my recent favourites:

During World Water Week, Casanova Pendrill decided to put dirty water up for sale in the middle of Manhattan. New Yorkers had the possibility to choose different flavours of water (such as cholera, salmonella or typhoid fever) for a dollar. Money raised was handed to UNICEF, where each dollar provided 40 children with safe, clean water to drink for a day. Although many people bought the product, no one drank it, even though volunteers tried to raise the brand’s credibility by emphasizing the 900 million costumers worldwide consuming the dirty water. A far cry from a standard TV video, and an incredibly persuasive and thought-provoking idea – this campaign showed how the tricks of advertising can be used to provide a powerful message.

Here is the campaign’s official video: >

The Spanish ANAR foundation also found a way to creatively advertise itself and its message. The campaign used lenticular printing in a new anti-child abuse campaign. This meant that there were two images in the ad, and people looking at the poster from different angles received different messages. A child, looking from below at the image would see the message: “If somebody hurts you, phone us and we will help you”, followed by a phone number. However, someone looking from an adult’s height would simply see the picture of a frightened child and the powerful message, “Sometimes child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.” The foundation was aiming to give children access to information which would help them to find helm, even if their abuser was standing right next to them. Another attention-grabbing use of clever advertising.

Here is the video:

The WWF went even further with funky advertising using an unusual media: ants. They promoted an “ant rally” in the Cologne Zoo, where 500,000 ants marched for 5 days. These little inhabitants of the zoo carried signs made out of leaves and protested against the devastation of the rainforest, their natural habitat. They raised their voices to promote the survival of fellow endangered species and to call for support. The message was seen by 30,000 visitors of the zoo, and went viral both on the Internet and in traditional media. One word: cool.

Watch the video:

Don’t we love advertising?

By Maria Clara Neves and Josie Millichamp