Campaign ads – the best and the worst. Part one – advocacy ads

11 Feb

In response to the Robin Hood Tax ad, which is one of the best campaigning ads I have seen for a while, I thought I would post some historically very effective political and advocacy ads. I’m also currently reading The Political Brain, by Drew Westen that looks at the role of emotions in political campaigning. It has been an eye-opening read, so this also gave me some inspiration for this post.

This list is by no means definitive and if anyone wants to send links to some campaigning ads, that would be great, I’d love to watch them.

This post will focus on a few advocacy ads, starting with the Robin Hood Tax ad that has been the focus of the media of late. It is a very simple ad, two voices, one face but plenty of emotion. Bill Nighy plays a leading banker who ends up squirming in response to the questioning about why a Tobin Tax shouldn’t be created. Squirming bankers is something that reverberates with a good portion of the public at the moment. This campaign plays to the slightly divergent emotions of good will and revenge brilliantly.

This next ad scares the heck out of me, although I’m not sure how effective it is. Shock ads, as I have written before, have the tendency to decline in effectiveness over time simply because of people being desensitized. I’m not sure anyone would be able to put themselves in this guys shoes, unless they have been in the same situation.

This shock ad from PlaneStupid, the organisation that focuses on climate change issues caused by the global aviation industry, is different from the previous one however. Shocking – yes. Disturbing – definitely. Effective – most certainly. Polar bears dropping from the sky crushing cars and smashing into buildings may seem like an odd choice, but it is actually very clever. The stance is that every person on a trans-Atlantic flight creates 400kg of carbon. Most people can’t conceptualize what that means however. A polar bear, which is also an icon of climate change devastation, is imaginable. Therefore this appeals to our sense of wanting to save these animals, horror at their gruesome deaths but it also puts our carbon footprint into a physical and understandable context. It was filmed in Canada, but it could be any city, again personalising the imagery.

The final ad is one that has screened on UK screens recently and was the subject of a number of complaints, but is far more subtle that the polar bear ad. Act on CO2 is a non-departmental government body that is the public face of the Government’s climate change policy. This ad simply shows a father telling a bed-time story to his child, but it is a story of the effects of climate change and includes drowning pets and other disturbing results of unabated climate change. But this ad is clever in the fact that it appeals on a personal level to adults and children. This ad scares children, hence the complaints, but it also contextualizes climate change for them ensuring they understand the potential of doing nothing. It also will frighten adults on a parental level – how can I let my child live in a world like this, what can I do to prevent it?

As I said, this isn’t a complete list, but it just a tester. I’d love your thoughts and if you want to send me other campaigns, feel free. I’ll post the political ad blog in the next couple of days.

Cross posted with Ruder finn Dot Comms.


5 Responses to “Campaign ads – the best and the worst. Part one – advocacy ads”

  1. Tina Louise February 11, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    I think the Robin Hood Tax stands out most for me because it is a reflection of an incredible idea – the others are reflections of facts that need to be addressed (in part) by the RHT. The difference is that the RHT campaign is a SOLUTION and the others are warnings/threats/intimidation.

    Robin Hood Tax:
    Sheer brilliance as an idea however it was campaigned in my opinion. The superb Richard Curtis/Bill Nighy ad makes it all the more wonderful to understand and hope for.

    Kill Speed:
    I can’t watch this and tend to turn over when it appears. I understand the need to drive safely and do not need to be told – but I am pleased if the ad speaks to those who don’t understand how easy it is to die in a car accident.

    Polar Bears:
    Well conceptualised and effective. Does what it needs to do.

    Bedtime Story:
    Hmmm… as a mother and grandmother I found this uncomfortable and I’m not really sure why. I have always opted for the divine Winnie the Pooh at bedtime and didn’t like seeing this little girl so sadly concerned for a future that we should be making a happy place to go into. I understand the concept and the importance of the message – just didn’t sit comfortably with me.

    Tina Louise

  2. Tom Baker February 12, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    Interesting post Nick.

    I’d have thought that the Make Poverty History ‘Click Ad’ should get an honourable mention in dispatches –
    In some ways it was one of the first ‘big’ advocacy campaign videos that was trying to reach and engage new audiences by bringing together big name celebs. The concept was simple but powerful, and it was repeated around the world.

    I reckon if it’d come along a few years later, when more people we’re creating films rather than simply viewing things online (you’d never need to post a 56K dial up link today) it would have spawn lots of imitations. Amazing how much digital media has changed the way we campaign in just 5 years.

    I’d also include ‘Time to Collect’ which was produced by Christian Aid, during the Jubilee 2000 campaign – It was banned from being shown at the time for ‘being too political’. At the time of course, the row meant more people heard about it than would have seen it, a nice tactic for a cash-strapped NGO

    • Nick Osborne February 12, 2010 at 11:51 am #

      Cheers for your additions Tom. I have to put my hands up and claim ignorance about those ads due to my Antipodean origins, but I’ll add your videos along with the ones already up.


  1. Campaign ads - the best and worst. Part two - political ads - Dot Comms - February 12, 2010

    […] This is the follow up post to the advocacy ads blog I posted yesterday. […]

  2. Best advocacy videos « The Thoughtful Campaigner - August 18, 2010

    […] 6 months) to share a link to this blog post by my friend Nick, who had a go at listing some of the best advocacy campaign ads. In the end he settled […]

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