If a friendly and engaging stranger offered you a gift that you knew to be very expensive, but had absolutely no value or utility for you, would you accept the gift?
Would your attitude change if you learned that the stranger had a lot more to gain from giving you the useless gift than you ever could from receiving it?
That's not as weirdly hypothetical as it sounds. It seemingly happened to Plan UK, saddling them with this silly yet disturbing TV spot:
Or watch it here on YouTube.
The creator of this mess is my favorite serial creator of stupid nonprofit ads, Leo Burnett. We're fortunate to have a press release that gives us some insight into what everyone thought they were doing: New Plan TV ad highlights the power of girls education. The ad, it seems is supposed to "highlight the difference education can make -- and draw attention and support to our campaign."
Um, yeah. It looks to me not so much like an ad that encourages education, but one that encourages flinging girls out of airplanes.
Yes, once again, stupidity is achieved through abstraction, that favorite tools of ad agencies and those who would imitate them. Here's more insight into the craziness, from the Executive Creative Director at Leo Burnett: "Poverty often feels like an insurmountable problem and because we don't know where to start, we simply don't. The fact that Plan know that girls are the best place to start is so simple and arresting that it demanded a narrative to make people really stop and think about the possibility."
So the "narrative" they come up with: Girls falling helplessly through the sky. Somehow, by the time the reach the ground, they seem to regain consciousness and land on their feet. That causes buildings to magically appear. Suddenly, the whole issue is so clear!
The work of educating girls in the developing world is wonderful, transformative, and exciting. There's no reason to hide it behind a bizarre and violent metaphor. The work of motivating donors is also wonderful. No reason to hide it, when a clear, specific, and emotional call to action is what motivates people to action.
Plan takes pains to make it clear that this spot was done pro bono. That's nice. But the reason the agency did it was to pad their portfolio, and possibly win some kind of bogus award, which is currency in the agency world. They used the work of Plan for their own advantage -- offering nothing in return but a weird piece of eye-candy.
No harm done? Maybe. But ineffective marketing is like a tax on effective marketing. It's like pointlessly calling for help, crying wolf. There is a cost to stupidity.
Thanks to Creative Advertisements for NGO for the tip.
More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.