The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Fish Where The Sharks Fish?
January 10, 2013, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

So a long time ago – a very long time ago – I wrote a post about the illusion of compassion, more specifically, how some companies claim they want to help the disadvantaged but act in ways that makes you question that claim.

This isn’t an anti-capitalist rant, as I’ve said a lot of times, money isn’t evil – it can make amazingly good things happen – the issue is always how you made it and what you do with it.

However I recently came across an issue of Bloomberg magazine that surprised me.

Sure, the front cover – and main story – was about India’s poor, however of the 105 pages in the magazine, there was a total of 10 full page [some, double page spreads] ads for charities.

Now 10 ads for charities in a magazine of over 100+ pages doesn’t seem a lot does it … but when you remember that there are only about 30 odd pages dedicated to advertising, you realise that approx 1/3 of all the ads in that edition of the magazine came from charities asking for money.

We saw ads about planting trees … helping the hungry … stopping malnutrition … saving the planet … making medicines available to all … you name it, we got it.

Now I have no beef with charitable organisations advertising for donations, even in highly expensive business magazines like Bloomberg, I’m more interested in why they all felt this edition was the right edition to be in, after all :

1. I buy the magazine regularly and rarely see that many charitable ads.

2. Going into an edition with so many ‘competitor’ organizations adds even more barriers to getting donations, that is unless you’re one of the ‘flavour of the month’ charities.

I’m assuming the reasons cover issues including:

1. Bloomberg offered special rates.

2. It’s approaching Christmas, a great ‘donation giving’ time.

3. Many of the organisations are supported by big business & this is their way of being seen to ‘help’.

4. Some of the organizations are more associated with political purposes than charitable.

But why didn’t the charities – and Bloomberg – get together and do something a bit more pro-active?

Why didn’t they do a story on the importance of charities and create one, all-encompassing and simple way to donate?

Why didn’t the charities say that for that edition, any donation would be equally split amongst all of them?

Why didn’t the charities ask for help that went beyond money but instead services, advice, infrastructure or distribution?

Hell, why didn’t Bloomberg say that for every copy of their magazine purchased, they would make a donation on their behalf?

I have my thoughts on why this didn’t happen, but it again highlights how too many charities [1] focus, at least in terms of their communication, on getting donations rather than getting help to accomplish their ultimate goal and [2] aren’t inventive enough in terms of getting donations or accomplishing their ultimate goal.

But then to be fair, those issues are not only limited to their industry and the reality is, they have probably shown more ingenuity in who/how to target their audience than 99% of mainstream advertising campaigns.

26 Comments so far
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I happen to know some people at Bloomberg, would you mind if I was to ask them about the points you’ve raised and attempt to get some answers for you? If not for you, for me, I’m intrigued.

Interesting ideas to drive the potential revenue from the ads by the way.

Comment by Lee Hill

That would be interesting to know, though if you were to ask Alex Jones, I would imagine he’d say Bloomberg owned all the charities featured in the magazine and they’re a front for extortion and money laundering activities.

Comment by George

I think Alex Jones would view Santa Claus as a front for the New World Order.

Comment by Rob

I would love that. Thank you Lee.

Comment by Rob

I agree with Lee, I think your ideas are great, but while you say charities should use their communication to drive more than just revenue acquisition, the reality is few charities have one, all encompassing problem to solve and so raising money allows them to address a range of ssues that all act as obstacles towards their higher goal.

Comment by Pete

I know this wasn’t the case with human and I agree there are other things charitable causes could do with their communication to help their cause, I’m just saying revenue raising may be easier for them to focus on and have more breadth of benefits for their organisation.

Comment by Pete

You don’t have to explain Pete – that’s a really good point. I suppose I’m just saying that like the situation we had with the Greenpeace stuff years ago, some charities seem to focus on raising cash rather than looking for ways to address the fundamental problem they are fighting for/against.

Not all, but some.

The reality – at least for me – is that the ultimate goal of a charity is to make themselves extinct by fundamentally stopping the issue they’re fighting for/against from being an issue ever again. I’m sure they would all agree with that, but I have seen some organisations who seem to have adopted the stance that their role is to keep the issue alive rather than stopping the issue from ever happening again.

So don’t apologise, I definitely agree with you and maybe I should have made that point more obviously in the post.

Comment by Rob

Call a spade a spade Pete, you disagree with Rob.

Comment by DH

I’m not disagreeing, I’m jut providing some additional context.

Comment by Pete


Comment by andy@cynic

Isn’t it true that proportionately, rich people give charities less money than the poor?

Comment by DH

I think that’s right but are you suggesting they should advertise in the Big Issue? Not sure that logic works out even though the Big Issue is the sort of innovative idea I think Rob is talking about.

Comment by Pete

If you think about who actually buys Big Issue… it’s not such a bad idea.

Comment by Marcus

Dear Pete.

Eat my shit.


Comment by DH

True, but higher %’s doesn’t always translate to higher revenue which is why they have to court the wealthy, even if they’re tighter with their handouts than Rod Stewart. Allegedly.

Comment by Rob

I should explain the rumour is Rod Stewart is notoriously tight with spending money. Not with charities, but spending money overall.

Comment by Rob

I’ve been told I’m a charity case. Where’s my money?

Comment by Billy Whizz

didnt the clinic tell you that?

Comment by andy@cynic

a post about charity on the week the wifes family come to stay? coincidence or is campbell nostrafuckingdamus? for music and fashions sake, lets fucking hope not. got to fly, got people who could fuck up my life to win over. again.

Comment by andy@cynic

If only they were around a few years ago.

Comment by George

Thinking pure comms here, there’s a suspicious amount of swallowing crap briefs going on. As you say in your post Rob, charities in the 21st century could be going beyond just begging for money and plugging themselves into society as a “layer” rather than a “player”. And can’t the agency folks who handle this stuff grow a pair and deconstruct a brief beyond “let’s do an expensive award-winning ad to raise them £1 million to show how kind-hearted we are”?

Comment by Adam D'Souza (@adamdsouza)

I couldn’t agree more …

What pisses me off is that agencies say they’re all about solving ‘business problems’, but the business problem for a cancer charity isn’t raising money, it’s stopping cancer and while they can argue that cash allows the R&D to go on [plus, the brief from the client was ‘help us make cash] there are a bunch of other things they could maybe do/encourage that might influence the ultimate goal they are trying to achieve.

Of course it’s easy to say all this from a pedestal and I appreciate there’s a bunch of factors that drive this ‘lowest common denominator approach’ but with a good client and some good folk, it can be done as Droga5 have shown and – to a lesser degree – cynic.

Comment by Rob

My guess would be that the separation of ad sales and editorial is the reason nothing better happened. So it would be up to the agencies to do it.

As for charities, I’ve often wondered why they think of their supporters only in terms of donations of cash. I’m sure individuals as well as companies could donate expertise that would be even more valuable as you have demonstrated.

Comment by Duncan

Fair point Duncan though in my experience, it’s often the editorial team that are against these sorts of thing – viewing anything the ad sales department does as tamperers of ‘their brand’. Though to be fair, that is often the case.

Comment by Rob

In my view, charties spend too much time making aware of a problem, getting us all guilty and hopefully riled, without giving us an opportunity to feel we’re physically able to do something about it – donations isn’t that, it’s an impersonal direct debit you emotionally feel is a drop in the ocean.
I always liked Gossage’s couponing to get people to directly put pressure on the government, somehow, I imagine people be more likely to take direct, easy, effective action than spending money, especially when a big barrier to donation is the (in some cases correct) belief that much of the money never gets to the people or isssues it’s actually for.

Comment by northern

Yep, it’s like adland – instead of identifying a solution, they just keep advertising the problem. Mental.

Comment by Rob

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