Do charity adverts have to be shocking in order to provoke a response?

Charity adverts – what do they make you think of? Do they make you whip out your wallet without a second thought or do they make you shudder at the thought of having to part with your hard-earned cash? If you fall in to the latter category then it seems that you are not the only one. More often than not, nowadays charities have to work harder to get their donations, which leaves them wondering how they can act in order to provoke a response. To shock or not to shock? This is the question that is the most frequently posed to multi-national organisations and one in which I fully intend to answer.

Nowadays charity adverts are becoming increasingly shocking. We as the public could be thought of as the cause as we as a nation are turning in to a mob of de-sensitized neandathals. Society has become increasingly violent. It seems that it is taking more and more shocking images in the media, to make us part with our money. A reason for this change could be because of current charity adverts. A few years ago, the images of the starving children of Ethiopia was considered shocking, and these adverts were seen as effective, but over the years it seems to be wearing off. By seeing all the poverty it does not seem real to us; we have become used to the shocking images. We believe that because we cannot see the suffering then it is fictional.

Adverts need to become more shocking in order to fulfil their duty to be effective. Although the format for charity adverts has increasingly gone downhill, we must ask ourselves this- is it us that have driven them to do so? It is possible that the state of our society is mimicked by the adverts we produce? Has it come down to the fact that the only way in which one could be persuaded to part with their money is by going to these extreme measures and drastic action?

If you compare the media of today with that of thirty years ago, you would witness a drastic change in the quality of the programs, from the innocence of ‘Bill and Ben’ and the ‘Clangers’ to the travesty of children’s T.V that they call the ‘Power Rangers’. If you look at it, the peace-loving Clangers, (as cutting edge though they are) would never have thought to bang each other over the head with frying pans or try to karate chop each other across the planet. Society dictates everything; from what games we play to what clothes we wear. Children used to play games such as skipping or hopscotch, but now it is most likely that the games they enjoy the most are games in which the get to disembowel their opponent.

Let us look at an advert for a disease called Trachoma. The image is indeed intended to be shocking. It is of a pair of eyes with barbed wire around them. The eyes are wide open; they look like a pair of children’s eyes. Also, because they are opened in such a way, it looks as if the person has their eyes open in terror, which adds to the vunerability of the person. The reader would also feel more inclined to read on once they have seen the picture because they would want to find out what the person is so scared of. The picture fills up half of the page, and is quite large, so it fulfills it purpose of drawing the reader in.

Below the picture in bold black and white text is the headline “Blinking Hell”. The bold black and white font has a powerful impact, and because it is in black and white this makes a statement; people perceive it to be the truth. The headline is meant to be taken both as a statement of surprise and it is also meant to be taken literally. The reader will be able to see why when they look at the picture. The advertisement is also laid out in the style of a newspaper; this is also another device used to make the reader believe their plight. It has a main picture at the top, a heading and the body text is written in columns below. By the use of personal pronouns in the text, it makes the reader feel responsible for the plight that the victims of the disease have unwittingly found themselves in. “You’ve probably blinked a dozen times since you started reading this”.

This involves the reader it makes them feel as if the person is talking to them signally. The tone of the writing is also sarcastic which makes the reader feel insignificant. It underestimates the disease, after all “it’s not terribly nice, but it’s bearable, and the infection will soon burn itself out”. The text is in small print, but every so often there are words, which are in bold or boxed to emphasize their meaning. Such an example of this is when they say “Imagine, everytime you blink you scratch your eyes.

This tries to make the reader know how it feels to have this disease. It also works in conjunction with the picture of the eyes entwined with the sharp barbed wire. In the text, there are also some words used a lot in order to get the message across, words such as ‘burn’, and ‘agonizing’. All these words are used in this contrast. The tone of the writing changes throughout the piece from going from sarcastic to writing with compassion.