Amnesty International: Too Graphic to be Effective?

Earlier today a friend asked me about my thoughts on a BuzzFeed post titled “The Most Powerful Ads Of Amnesty International“.

This post has a compilation of some of Amnesty International’s most compelling and graphic images, such as these two below:

These pictures are heartbreaking, and really illustrate what the brand is fighting for. But are they effective? To answer this, we need to look at a few factors:

Does it grab attention? Definitely. The pictures themselves are very clever, and subtle enough to make people  double-take the image and look at it closely to understand the message.

Does it educate? Sort of. While the message is made clear that torture and inequality is happening today and in America, it’s not exactly clear how prevalent this issue is, or who are the main perpetrators and victims of torture.

Is the call to action effective? No. The call to action in a for-profit is usually to buy the product or service. When nonprofits advertise, however, the call to action varies widely from asking for donations, signing a petition, volunteering, or other actions that fit the needs of the nonprofit’s campaign. In this case, Amnesty International has no call to action. It may be that this campaign was simply designed to educate but there is no push for viewers to learn more, and no resources (like a URL) for viewers to use to engage with the campaign.

Is it engaging? No. Though this factor may seem redundant to the call to action, it is very important. When there is a call to action, the ad needs to have a certain level of urgency, especially when dealing with a tragic and graphic issue like this one. If a campaign isn’t engaging enough, people will not care. But if it is grotesque, it can sometimes shock the viewer, and make them feel like the problem is too big for them to fix. It is important to make sure a campaign gives a certain amount of inspiration so that the audience feels the need to help, and believes that they can contribute to fighting the issue.

If you’re interested in this last factor, I highly encourage you to watch the clip below. This is from Gruen Transfer, an Australian talk show about advertising, and they are discussing a heavy topic of slavery in a commercial with Emma Thompson. The clip is at 19:00 (I’ll try to embed it later with it queued up at the correct time).

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