I have a theory about what makes smart organizations end up with stupid nonprofit ads. Tell me if this rings true:
Hotshot ad agency offers to do some work for a deserving nonprofit. Maybe they offer to do it pro bono (to enrich their portfolio). Maybe they charge for their work. Either way, the nonprofit is thrilled at the chance to get some Madison Ave glamour.
The Ad people, who don't really grasp what charitable giving is about, apply their high-production-value magic and their product-as-hero approach ... then they employ abstract symbolism, because they can't imagine that telling a true, real, literal story would motivate anyone to give.
The result: something like this:
(Or watch it here on Vimeo.)
The ad is built on the idea that Marie Curie nurses are a light in the darkness. Which I imagine is a thoroughly apt metaphor. But it's just a metaphor, something that seemed to escape the ad people.
Truth is, the story of Marie Curie nurses and the people they help is a human drama, full of beauty and heartache. But the ad foregoes all that and turns the human nurses into floating lights. That's right: they replace humanity with abstract symbolism. Which is too damn bad, because the real story, the one they couldn't figure out how to tell, is powerful. The floating light story is merely clever.
Telling a real story is no small thing. It's hard to capture. Not a job for amateurs or newbies. But don't give up on your story by defaulting to abstraction. That's not fundraising. And it's not real branding. It's a waste of time, energy, opportunity, and money.
Just say no.
Thanks to Osocio for the tip.
More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.