Oh dear, another post where I’m being less than positive about charity marketing. I apologise in advance.
In my last post I referred to the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s new (but deliberately retro) poster campaign. I’ve since read the creative agency’s justification for it, which pretty much outlines every reason why I think it’s a big backward step.
Peers Carter in The Guardian; “A successful charity campaign has to slightly hurt and include the reader, and this one has one of those magic lines that really gets to you… [the original ad which this ‘updates’ ran on and off for 14 years] every time it came down the fundraising fell.”
This doctrine entirely baffles me. I’m a potential donor and I don’t want to be hurt. I want to be inspired, connected with and provoked, but ‘hurt’? And I certainly don’t want disabled people to be objectified for my benefit.
So on to another charity marketing technique that riles me, and that’s our sector’s sometime lack of originality. I don’t think I’m the only person to double-take when I saw the latest Race for Life advert from Cancer Research UK, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Breast Cancer Care’s Ribbon Walks – in iconography, colour and message. The vox pops with women taking part plays on ‘who are you running it for?’ – echoing Breast Cancer Care’s ‘Who will you walk it for?’ There is also more than a loose nod at a ‘ribbon’ motif – as you can see in the imagery in the advert above.
To me, this particular DRTV ad seems to be harnessing the imagery and emotion now widely associated with breast cancer charities, so much so that you would be forgiven for assuming that the money raised from Race for Life goes to designated breast cancer research (the funds are in fact unrestricted and will pay for research into numerous cancers including cervical and bowel). As breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, it will touch many more people’s lives – virtually everyone. A bigger demographic to target for a pink fundraiser? Let me know when I’m being cynical.
Now, I realise the colour pink is not patented, and Cancer Research UK’s website is transparent about how the money will be spent. But I’m also acutely aware that we all look at trends and what we see our competitors doing that works. Now in its 17th year, Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life continues to be the most successful and largest women-only fundraising event across the UK. Is there an argument then for suggesting that the charity could afford to innovate and refresh its marketing? Could Cancer Research UK lead us beyond everything pink = ‘one for the girls’?
In the saturated pink-events market, I’d love to see charities making strides to be ingenious – and inclusive. And this should be the case across the board for all causes, and of charities of all sizes. But sadly, it seems that the tried and tested buttons that shame us, or appeal to (stereo)types are more than often pressed.
“I am not an excel spreadsheet figure…I am a free and independent potential donor…”