Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Offensive Charity Advertising?

Given my blog entry just last week it's timely to see some research on this front.  A report on offensive advertising issued just this month in the UK by ASA and Ipsos MORI provides the hard numbers behind the sense that charities need to "break through" the media noise, but can sometimes go too far.

The key stat for me?  Only 16 per cent of adult respondents said they had been offended by an advertisement in the previous year.  Perhaps that's too high, but when balanced against the need to ensure vital charitable messages get heard it seems a fair price to pay from my point of view.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Top 5 Reasons Why Charity Marketing Is Different

When the same questions come up several times in a short span of time it usually means it's time to write about the topic. In this case both with clients and friends the topic of charity advertising came up, particularly with respect to why it looks like it does, and why in particular it can be so "edgy", so provocative and (for better or for worse) so memorable?

In no particular order here are the top 5 reasons why charity marketing can be so different:

  1. Charities want to break through the other "noise" of all the other advertisers but don't have the financial resources to do so with the purchase of large media weights. And even if they did have the funds for large media buys it might not be advisable to do so. So charities need to be innovative, "edgy" and perhaps a little provocative just to stand out and break through.
  2. Charities are passionate about their cause. This creates a sense of urgency and almost a feeling of "we've got nothing to lose" in terms of inspiring new donors and prospects to respond and share the sense of urgency. Obviously this creates a willingness to consider more provocative messaging.
  3. Charities are often not as bound by a particular "brand image" than traditional advertisers. Tide, Cheerios or Pampers would take a long time to consider significant changes to their media messages, but charities are less locked-in and willing to try a new direction after one campaign has ended.
  4. For charities that can afford (or have donated) advertising agency / professional creative support, charity ad campaigns present a great opportunity to showcase new thinking for that team. The same sense of mission that motivates the charity often infuses the creative team and results in truly memorable work.
  5. The corollary of the first reason (breaking through the "noise") is that with limited resources charities are forced to be creative in the ways they communicate.  If you don't have much money then by definition you will seek new ways to market your message - after all, necessity is the mother of innovation.
So in the end, charity advertising looks often looks so different simply because it has to!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Charities: The Model of Efficiency?

As governments at all levels decrease support of the charities and non-profits I see both risk and some potential for positive impact on these sectors. However, for the record I believe that strategically guided government funding provides unique efficiencies that no other amount of individual or corporate giving can match.  By its very nature the gifts of individuals and corporations are guided by their unique scope, which is unlikely to be as encompassing as that of government.  For the same reason that schools and roads are deemed public goods and thus funded through taxes, I argue that some degree of government / tax funded support is required to support the public good delivered by way of charities and non-profits. The real debate is how much of these good works should be funded by - if you will - forced donations through the use of taxes.

This debate is informed at least in part by the argument that for-profit businesses are more efficient than charities and non-profits. Certainly that was the case made recently page 9 of the Globe and Mail’s Report on Small Business by Catherine Swift of the CFIB. Her suggestions that reduced government support to charities will result in greater small and medium size business donations is plausible and may actually prove true.  While this doesn't mitigate my concern over sufficient funding for the best organizations guided by a broad strategic view, she also highlights the “more efficient” private sector.

And on that front I argue that the most efficient model is often already found in the charitable and non-profit world.  I’m not suggesting that learnings can’t be found in the for profit world, but here’s why many charities already win on the efficiency front:

  1. Charities and non-profits leverage volunteers – this keeps costs down and multiplies the effectiveness of the organization
  2. Charities and non-profits generally pay less for talent and staff than their for profit peers, and have a reputation for passion and commitment from these same staffers
  3. Charities and non-profits by their very definition don’t seek profit – this eliminates a “middleman” who desires maximum profit as opposed to maximum impact, which increases efficiency
So while I would welcome increased support by small and medium sized business with or without decreased government support, I also hope we won’t confuse this with a sign that these same generous donors are by their nature more efficient than the recipients. The learnings around efficiency can actually flow both ways.