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The Questionable Methods of Charity Advertising

Is there still a place for charities to use negative imagery to pressurise people into donating?

Bachelorarbeit 2014 24 Seiten

Medien / Kommunikation - Journalismus, Publizistik


Table of Contents

1. Abstract

2. Introduction

3. Television

4. Marketing

5. Authenticity

6. Methodology

7. Findings and Discussion

8. The Future of Charity Advertising

9. Conclusion

10. Bibliography

11. Appendices
11.1 Participant Information Form
11.2 Consent Form
11.3 Audience feedback

1. Abstract

This paperis an evaluation of the techniques that large organisationsmay use to influence members of the public into donating, exploring how often how often these practices are used and if this format is actually ethical.The purpose is to identify the underlying moralities of charity advertisementsin modernity and to ultimately decide whether such mode of practice should be in some way altered or rectified.

The methods used to collate empirical audience research are bothqualitative and quantitative approaches collated to form part of the main results. Itbuilds on previous work of other academics adding to their research. My main aim is to identify whether positive or negative video advertisements that have more of an effect on the viewer and to classify what type of effect these variable tableaux actually have. Previous research has been undertaken in this way through the form of imagery (Deborah A. Small 2009),as a result this research develops the idea further but through a different medium to fill a gap extant academic knowledge.

2. Introduction

Branding is a big part of creating the face of a charity advertisement (Stuart, 1993) and plays an influential role on whether people choose to donate; it is usually designed to appear genuine, kind and sincere. Condisering the Water Aid UK logo as an example- it incorporates a water droplet leaking from the side,similarly the Oxfam logo is a light shade of green which has connotations of peace and the environment. Delving further into the more intricate marketing techniques these particular charities use to attract donors enables an assessment to be madeas to whether or not the charities are being completely upfront in the way they attract donors. Although any kind of advertising can be said to encourage people to buy into their brand, it’s the way in which charities do this which will be focussed on; to understand if the primary mode of charitable manipulation isthrough negative imagery and if over time this is changing.

The main focus is to explorewhether the emotional imageryused in adverts on TV has a direct influence on persuading peopleto donate, or if it has the completely opposite effect, as people begin to behave less emotionally and more analytically (Hsee and Rottenstreich 2004).The expressional images presented on TV are used to generate compassion in the hope of the audience creating a relationship with the brand and starting to form anempathic interaction with the victim of suffering (Warren and Walker, 1991).

As stated by Diamond (2005) who is part of the Economic & Social Research Council ‘Giving to charity is seen as a positive social or ethical thing to do. It is generally accepted that helping often has an element of reward as well as altruism, these rewards include economic, social and emotional benefits’ this shows that donating can be genuinely constructive and selfless whilst simultaneously expressing the more selfish, but equally valid, motive of the donor feeling good about donating (or getting a tax break for it) – which allies to the guilt the negative advert perhaps intended to inculcate into the viewer in the first place. However, building on the theory of emotional contagion from the Journal of marketing research (2009) , the way in which people are marketed to in the hope of the charity gaining a pro social response isn’t always morally correct and there’s deeper reasoning as to why these methods are being used.

The video ads shown by charities are presented in the hope of encouraging altruistic motivations (National Council of Voluntary Organisations), in past years charities have wanted the general public to pity the victims being depicted by decoding what is seen in a sympathetic way; making the people shown in the ad appear helpless. For decades the public have been constantly reintroduced to the now almost stereotypically tragic images of small, skeletally thin or oedema-bloated, malnourished and starvingblack children in Africa. Examples from a glut of materialinclude the 1975 Save The Children posters, saying: ‘As you’re going to parties, we’re going to funerals’ and Oxfam (founded in 1942) even admit ‘When the industry first started out, a large helping of guilt was the order of the day’ (Willmer, 2013). The stigmas this PR creates about these people’s cultures and backgrounds may show them to be weak, just as the audience are made to feel somehow responsible for this destitution by being confronted with the plight of distant others. Nonetheless, with campaigning being the most valued asset to charities (Burt, 2012) such techniques may no longer have as much of a hard hitting effect, causing ‘compassion fatigue’ among viewers (Ong, 2008).

Susan Sontag states in On Photography: “Tophotograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder - a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.” Thus, are these images simply immoral or should there be no issue, as the method of displaying the suffering of others is a plausible way of gaining the much needed capital to improve these people’s lives; by the direct result of engendering pro social behaviour (Small et al, 2009). It might be argued that as these people are suffering, it is surely dishonest not to show it – but this is not this paper’s argument – it is that the repeated tone of charitable advertising promotes confirmation biases about the general and continued helplessness of large tracts of humanity – when the situations in most nations are much more nuanced than this and the global climb out of poverty and ignorance, particularly for the ‘bottom billion’ proceeds apace going by any number of metrics, from proportions of people earning less than $2 per day decreasing to female education becoming accepted. Enclaves of horror and grotesque poverty exist everywhere, but my argument is that is disingenuous to present this as normal.

It is not to be forgotten that policy makers are also approached by charities for investment. As film can be a very powerful tool in presenting a situation in need of dire attention, Malcolm Gladwell writes in The Tipping Point: “There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it”This has obviously brought about changes for charities, as demonstrated through this thought provoking medium (TV) people can be persuaded by a 10 minute short film that what’s being shown is a viable cause (Stanley, 2013) – or even shorter adverts between programmes.

3. Television

According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), charity advertisements have been deemed to be some of the most offensive. Their most recent survey (2011) shows that 16% of viewers find adverts offensive, this figure rising to 30% when including children. The audience are presented with methods that may not necessarily relate directly to the cause, but interfere with their own interests, making them feel uncomfortable. As highlighted by Tom Crompton in the TED Talk: The Conscience Industry “there are different groups of values which social psychologists see as being the guiding principles in life, which underpin our attitudes and behaviour” the audience are presented with situations that conflict with their own moral mechanisms in a bid to get a reaction (the reaction being a regular donation). It is also debatable whether causing offense is sufficient cause for criticism to be levelled by a standards authority, whether one person’s offence gives the right to recourse. Some writers and broadcasters have written variations of: “saying ‘I’m rather offended by that’ is little more than a whine, having no meaning, purpose or reason to be respected as a phrase – you’re offended – so what?” (Stephen Fry) – and we might take this line with those claiming to be offended by poverty; which is quite an offensive thing to be offended about – so perhaps the phrasing of the ASA’s survey question was a little misguiding or misguided here.

‘Television circulates texts and discourses on a global scale. However, its consumption and use as a resource for the construction of cultural identities always takes place in a local context’ (Barker, 2008) this insinuates that no matter where people are spread out in the world, they are affected by what they see from their home base. This phenomenon has been referred to as a ‘filter bubble’ – propping up biases irrespective of locality. This is why TV is a powerful medium in directing a globally recognised message to a target audience as visuals exert a positioning power (Boholm, 1998). Traditionally people have been classed as inactive decoders (Hibbert et al, 2007), where they choose to donate purely from the short ad they’ve watched. This label surrounds the pro social group of people due to them sometimes not questioning what they’ve seen and been told, but instead readily accept what they’re being shown as the correct and truthful situation. As they believe charities are doing work for the greater good they trust the charities must be un-biased; therefore don’t question what percentage of their donation is actually going towards the cause it is said to be and any debate is diminished by the almost sanctimonious tone some groups can take (Barthes, 1977).

Media over time has changed and adapted in terms of the way it targets its audiences, as they become increasingly regionalised; creating global disjunctures and new global connection similarities (Appadurai, 1993; Smith, 1990). TV is among one of the favourite ways of broadcasting a message, unlike print Media, it can connote more variables aesthetically and audibly, which in terms of media imperialism allows a deeper connection to be made as it competes through a capitalist system (Schiller 1969, 1985). Reading and viewing print adverts in magazines and newspapers is usually a single experience, in that it is one person viewing the text on their own and they have no one to share that particular experience with, television however is a communal way of receiving such mode of storytelling (Kellner, 1992).

According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (2014) 22% of all mail directed to us through the post is never actually opened, with a much higher proportion of charity mail staying unopened. TV is a much more direct means of getting a message to an audience, especially if a group is trying to engender a pro social response(Mattelart and Mattelart, 1992).

As TV has become a socially shared experience and point of interaction, whether with friends, family or peers, during the ad breaks a group is more likely to talk (as they’re not talking over the programme) and discuss what is being depicted. As Ducheneaut et al found (2008), typical conversation among people viewing together was largely shaped and carefully crafted to fit in with the flow of what they’re collectively viewing. This talking point means they can socially decode a charity advert together and comment on the tragic footage being viewed. Even if people can’t afford to donate, this ties directly in with Bolantski’s (1999) idea being the crisis of pity as he discusses what the audience do when they can’t directly act upon what they’re being shown through the Media. He argues that the viewer can actively be involved by speaking to others about what they have seen; by the direct result of being presented with dominant values (Kellner).

Whilst viewing a charity Ad the audience are already at an advantage which exerts a positioning power. This may in turn conjure guilt amongst the group watching the Ad as it is to some degree insinuating that the public have more than them so should give more, also as stated by The Uncultured Project (2013)the extreme forms of poverty shown can actually insult donors as “it assumes donors can’t rationally understand and empathize with the situation this suggests the only way to get a donation is to tap into the primal human emotion of shame and guilt. At worst, it exploits those who are particularly sensitive and emotionally vulnerable to being distressed by such imagery”. Consequently this can have the undesired effect on the viewers as a collective group as it gives them the chance to comment negatively among each other, making points for example about how displaying a crying child may insult the poor.

By bringing major world events into the private domain of the viewer, such as the homeless Syrian children appeals (2013), it may lead to pressuring the public into donating as they are watching appeals which are encoded (Hall, 1981) with urgency as they happens simultaneously with an on-going crisis. As Lull states (1997) ‘When the television is on, it cannot be escaped from, so that watching television has to be a collective family experience’ meaning that the audience essentially digest whatever is being shown. This contrasts somewhat with noted linguist Noam Chomsky’s position, who says ‘watching television is inherently isolating, even when done as a group you watch alone’. Stuart Hall (1981) reiterates the circuit of television in his diagram - which flows from production to distribution, to circulation and then reproduction. It is a never ending cycle and the dominant hegemonic ideologies are constantly reproduced and reinforced through this rotation to ensure messages are constructed in a way that serves those of the main distributors; so they’re somewhat said to be ‘guiding’ us. Chomsky’s famous propaganda model reiterates this. Advertisers want us to identify with a preferred meaning that will be able to be constantly reiterated without rejection for fear of subjecting the victim.

This may lead to people feeling that they’re having images forced upon them through a ‘branding of suffering’ (Vestergood, 2008) and the medium can lead to psychological numbing, whereby because people have been faced with the same emotive imagery year after year, the discourse can no longer construct an experience meaningful to us; causing ‘compassion fatigue’ (Ong, 2008) or making the viewer look away (Geller, 1989). This doesn’t necessarily mean that the viewer doesn’t sympathise, but they simply blockthemselves from feeling somehow guilty. As Crossley points out (1998) ‘Emotions constitute a point of view on the world and a mode of being that we exist in and through’ this relatively reinforces the belief that identifying with a person involves emotional attachment. Nevertheless this reintroduction of stereotypical imagery could have an adverse effect, as Downs states (1972) ‘even the most powerful symbols lose impact if constantly repeated’ - eventually becoming meaningless.

Radio advertising (which began in 1922) is the more traditional form of advertising. When TV advertising came into place (in 1955) there was a chance for aesthetics to be brought to life by emotive visuals combined with voice, music and sound effects to force people to engage with the scene empathically (Radley 2002). This in turn decodes what is being represented for the audience so that when watching an ad the audience don’t take apart what’s being shown; as it’s all already there being presented for them in a visually competent format. The only issue with this is that the format has been created to serve producers and not the interests of the viewer. This view can be referred to as the ‘hypodermic needle theory’ constructed traditionally by Theodore Adorno, his theory displays a metaphor of the Media injecting the public with ideologies in which the audience readily receive them like a ‘drug’ (Edwards 2003).

However, audiences are changing and are seen to be knowledgeable as they begin to process information systematically (Bagozzi and Moore, 1994). Texts are polysemic and carry multiple meanings, as society is developing people are learning to question texts and feelings of scope insensitivity (Huber, 2009) more openly, rather than placidly accepting them. To stop viewers becoming susceptible to purely emotive charity appeals, Ofcom (2012) have put various rules in place which are ‘designed to prevent the abuse of charity impulses’.

There has been a demand for more positive images through the politics of representation to be advertised, as West (1993) highlights that television generates cultural diaspora of black people which forms ‘invisibility and namelessness’ as it stops black people from being able to represent themselves and they’re instead being tarnished with negative stereotypes; being that black people are vulnerable and in need of our help – also called black reductionism. This could then be developed into Claude Levi-Straus’s theory (1950) of binary oppositions which helps to illustrate the idea that idealistic forms of segregation are being shown here through stereotyped roles; the people being presented in the advertisements are opposite to the generalpublic in nearly every single way. For example a black child on TV adverts would typically be half-naked and extremely poor in comparison to adverts showing smiling white adults and children, well-fed and dressed and considerably well off – though an inverse of this representation is sometimes used by charities opposing child abuse. The way in which the audience deconstructs the videos may lead to them assuming black people (in predominantly emerging countries) are needy and destitute to a man. Essentially, the distant sufferers are being represented as helpless victims (Dogra, 2006) but it may however allow for reflexivity of the audience in which they could consider themselves as being potential sufferers (Silverstone, 2007) – or indeed those distant sufferers as autonomous and healthy human beings.

When we’readvertised to in such emotive formats, such as Water Aid showing malnourished/ homeless children, one has to ask: why shouldn’t these images be shown;these situations are happening and it is real. As Radley (2002) argues it forces people to engage with their own emotions, if people aren’t presented subjectively in this wayaction may not be taken by the viewer. While this is true, it doesn’t answer the question of effectiveness of these campaigns – or of a ‘combined’ campaign showing a negative circumstance being ameliorated by a charity’s actions. Oxfam, for instance, may be looking towards new techniques. PR Week conducted a recent survey showing that 47% of the public are not more likely to donate if they’re shown shocking images and author Regina Yau suggests if you use positive campaigns it will engender good will. However, according to charities such as Save the Children still tend to reinforce disturbing imagery on the TV ad’s as it makes UK donors more willing to give. This shows that TV ads as a global phenomena have a choice in how they want to present their brand and message.

4. Marketing

Marketing is one of the most influential ways of making a person want to donate, the way in which people decide who to donate to is at least in part a resultof the advertisement they favour most, as they have a preponderance of what’s referred to as ‘choice architecture’ (Thaler and Sunstein 2008). If people don’t feel enough pressure on them to make an immediate decision, then the charity may lose the attention of the potential donator within the 30 second TV ad (Briggs, 2002) and they may simply ‘channel hop’. Despite negative imagery not being favoured by the public (Griffin, 1993)there is still evidence which suggests it’s an efficient way for establishing imperative action (Chang and Lee, 2009).

When looking at a typical Oxfam Advertisement it may simply show images of young child, but the voice overs can appear slightly manipulative, for example “give a child some corn, and she won’t go hungry… but what about tomorrow and the next day?” Viewers being faced with these kinds of personal stories it may stimulate guilt by association (Batson, 1990) with the viewer – though it has also been suggested that the more individual the story the better the response – for instance showing an many images of suffering in a refugee camp garners less response than profiling a few people living in said camp. These forms of aggressive marketing are used to compete with other charities but may undermine genuine support. As written on TheCharity Times website (2009) ‘With the voluntary sector a growing force in British society, competition between charities for limited resources is becoming stiffer’ therefore people are starting to ask more questions before donating to make sure they’re giving money for the right reasons. For example, in The Wealth Collection on an article surrounding Charity Shopping they say ‘Charities will produce the information they have in order to attract funding, It’s up to donors to look for the information they want’ (Lumley); insinuating that charities primarily produce material which will provide them with a return.

More people donate when a child is shown rather than an adult (Eayrs and Ellis, 1990) and when an individual is shown rather than a group, this allows the audience to have the chance to form an emotional bond with them and has more of an effect in terms of gaining a direct result of money being donated; demonstrating insensitivity to the scope of human suffering (Huber in Donate Different) – or possibly a lack of capacity to process human suffering at scale, leading to revulsion . In research conducted by Deborah A. Smalls it was found that the more text present on screen about the individual, the more a person was likely to undertake pro-social behaviour (Batson 1990); as the viewer felt they knew more about the sufferer they then felt they could help ‘alleviate emotionally evocative human suffering’. According to her emotional contagion theory sad expressions will cause sadness amongst the viewer therefore it will make the viewer feel emotionally better if they donate, to relieve the negative emotions – a sort of catharsis.

According to research undertaken by the NCVO in 2003, 2 out of 3 adults in the UK donated and from the Journal of Market Research it was estimated that Americans gave more than $306billion in 2007 (to more than 800,000 charities). This establishes that the public are able to be selective, as the average donation per month (per person) was £12.32 they can consider where best their money will be utilised. This is why the marketing techniques used by charities are vital and may be seen as being forward, as they’re trying to radically gain support due to there being such a huge range of competition.

Research carried out by Gallop Politics (November 2013) found that the majority of Americans saw 25 as the ideal age to have a first child, making this age group’s brooding instincts ripe for exploitation. As it is predominantly women that donate as they react more with compassion (Hoijer, 2004) and those who’re above the age of 24, the techniques used by the marketing departments are likely to focus on the ways they think they can get a proactive response from this type of viewer. Baring in mind that women aged mid-twenties onwards are likely to be thinking of having a child (and are likely to be in a stable earning job) from this point onwards in their lives, if advertisements of young children in need are shown, it’s likely their maternal instinct will take over and this will factor heavily in making them want to give. The way this group are being marketed is referred to as the identifiable victim effect (Kognut and Ritov 2005) and emotions are said to be ‘closely intertwined with immediate behavioural inclinations’ (Metcalfe and Mischel, 1999), as the demographic audience and socio-economic status (Radley and Kennedy 2001) is predominantly determined beforehand.

Often charities can only increase support by actually losing an equivalent amount through marketing; so they’re essentially gaining results by increasing advertising expenditure (Burt, 2012). This is why charities don’t necessarily have the time or money to play around using campaigns that may or may not work, but instead choose to use hard hitting ones that they know will have an effect. Charities such as Oxfam however, do release regular “Effective Reviews” detailing whether a project has been successful overall and gives a greater insight to the environment the people they’re helping are living and working in; creating social factors (Louie &Obermiller, 2000). In terms of marketing, being transparent in their actions is a positive move as it shows where they have actually succeeded or failed in their aims and in creating these reviews it features an analysis stage and statistical tools. One of the projects that had been randomly chosen to be assessed was the Paddy Farmers in East Sri Lanka Project, in which it was noted ‘While there is no evidence of an increase in the security of rice availability in Batticaloa, there is evidence that supported households have a more diverse food and crop base than those in Ampara.’ Although the majority of the work had a beneficial impact, they recognised key points which needed to be further considered such as ‘Investigate the reasons for the differences in impact on several measures between supported households in Ampara and Batticaloa districts.’ Such regular reports enable a potential donator to find out where and how their money could make a real difference post-donation as a pose to the limited information they receive on an advert beforehand.

With nearly 3 out of 4 donors leaving and never coming back (Barry, 2014), one of the main attributes charities want to attract when marketing is donor loyalty. According to the Target Group (USA), the majority of people who give once or twice to a non-profit charity group don’t then become loyal donors. Consequently managers of non-profit organisations may have incentives to manipulate their reported programme to ensure that they gain further reinvestment, being force fed information on a national scale is what Slovic refers to as Statistics fatigue (2006). It is a ‘Buyer’s Market’ so charities are under increasing pressure to invest in customer loyalty. Donors may constantly look for reasons or ways that charities may be taking advantage or neglecting them e.g. through a lack of contact and communication of where their money is being utilised and who it is helping directly. This is because many people don’t actually want to part with their money, therefore may be constantly scrutinising the organisations to make sure they’re satisfied with whether their donation is effectively helping. Stats from have recently highlighted ‘The average retention rates of a newly acquired donor were 33%...Today its 27%‘(2014) this is why charities need to create communal relations to ensure the customer is satisfied with the end result. This might be argued to be a somewhat short sighted attitude to non-profits – as Dan Pallotta argued at TED last year: ‘Who cares if ‘only’ 50% of money raised goes to alleviate the suffering the charity is trying to expunge if the 50% which went on that demonic term ‘overhead’ or ‘costs’ – including advertising and pay – meant that 50% given was $100 million? And if you only put 10% into overhead, then the money for the cause was only $10 million… which pie do we prefer to share out?’

Research carried out by Huber (2009) showed that people donate to alleviate emotionally evocative human suffering, however people perceive the most recent crisis to be the most intense; subsequently this type of immediacy bias makes it an easier decision for donators to decide who to give to. When a larger scale tragedy happens within our day to day lives it gives a charity more leeway and there is less money needed to market the event with hard hitting campaigns as it’s in the interest of other sectors to cover. Take for example the Tsunami in 2004 that killed 230,000 people (Daily Mail Online, 2004), flood appeals were made more noticeable as the Media and news networks covered them as a whole; giving them more urgency than other causes. Nonetheless using emotional appeals is a tactic that will always help the persuasive elements of advertising for on-going circumstances (Shimp, 2012; Moore, 2010).

5. Authenticity

Charity advertising has been characterised as the ‘Old devil no one can avoid’ (Chang and Lee, 2009) and the truth is often manipulated in order to gain a pro social response from the viewer. It has been suggested by Baudrillard (2003) that postmodern culture is artificial and the audience have lost the ability to distinguish between the natural and the artificial; as a photograph is simply an interpretation of the real (Sontag, 1979). He states that the image of what we see is a ‘clear-counterfeit’ of the real as such productions are said to misrepresent the simulacra that pave the way into determining the real; he highlights how there is ‘no longer any distinction between reality and its representation; there is only the simulacrum’. This suggests that the media simulate a pre-constructed representation that they want the audience as the decoders to readily absorb. The environments seen on TV are as Meyrowitz (1986) refers to a global space; meaning electronic Media alter our sense of the situational geography of social life as this is a virtual world that’s breaking traditional bonds between geographic place and identity.

Charities may be selective with what they choose to show and therefore may only present segments of the truth, with the average TV viewer watching up to 47 advertisements a day (Daily Mail Online, 2011)an impression has to be made to generate the most immediate and effective response. According to the Fundraising Standards Board (FSRB) who acts as an independent public complaints system, they therefore try to implement values such as being legal, honest, open and respectful, to assist organisations in the hope of implementing the best practice.

The validity of the mise-en-sc è ne shown in an ad may be true of that moment but that particular footage will have been selected to give the audience a certain perception, to try and target people who could become potential candidates (Burnett and Wood, 1988). The producer is in control of the attitudes of the audience by selecting how they want to tell their characters story, it is then down to the audience to make a moral judgement about what they’re being shown (Silverstone, 2007). Nonetheless there are places people can get more information, such as the nationally recognised They produce regular assessment’s to make it easier for the public to donate, they take charities accountability and transparencies into account and allocate the most appropriate star rating for the public to select from.

Fundraising consultant Penelope Burk argues that consumers are being ‘over solicited and feel they’re being asked for money too often while provided with only token acknowledgements and little meaningful information about how their money is used.’ This leaves donors asking questions such as whether their contribution will make a difference and if the charity is actually trustworthy. It may be argued that some donors have slightly unrealistic expectations of a charity: expecting that it take your money, keep costs very low, donate everything to the cause and tell you in depth what your specific contribution did is somewhat divorced from reality. Realistically, everyone’s contribution goes into one or several big pots. While it may cost £10 to buy a mosquito net, it might be seen to be somewhat ridiculous to wish to know precisely which mosquito net your £10 has bought. In turn this makes smaller charities suffer even more, as they don’t have enough capital to keep reinvesting into marketing and recruiting potential donors; hence it’s the larger and longer established charities that tend to receive donations due to having exposure to publicity over a longer period of time; it would appear the longer they’ve been around, the more trust worthy they are. According to the Small Charities Coalition (2014) there are a number of ways charities can promote themselves to create that initial confidence and trust that doesn’t set out to generate compassion and pity (Small and Verrochi, 2009). Such ways to prove legitimacy include having an online presence so potential fundraisers can read up on what work they’ve been doing, making their own governing document to provide details of who they’re doing good work for and by registering with HMRC to receive recognition of charity purposes.

Latest statistics from the NCVO say most people believe 50% of donors money is spent on marketing, whereas in actual fact on average only 7% is; proving there are scepticisms of representation (Sontag, 1994). People are often uninformed, for example for every £1 given to Oxfam (Oxfam UK, 2014), 43p goes towards development work, 36p goes to emergency response, 9p goes towards running costs, 7p goes towards fundraising and 5p goes towards campaigning for change. The Telegraph Online (2013) however claims Oxfam (who have a £386m turnover) are still spending 70% on charitable activities. Whether this is true or nota charity releasing stats like this and carefully labelling them in sections relevant to their own interests provides them with a broader genuine platform and such factors offer audiences their transparency which may influence people into donating, rather than using hard hitting and emotionally evocative campaigns.

Knowing the origin of an image’s structure gives truthfulness and genuine appeal such as Roland Barthes’s (1960) idea of sub codes and lexicons, whereby if the image contains symbols it will form part of an optimum view. Trust plays a huge part when donating to charities and it only takes a few wrong turns to stop people from donating for life. One example in the UK where trust had been broken on a national scale was in May 2008 where the BBC hosted a phone-in for the charity Children In Need. The public watching the live show at home on their TV’s had faith that when ringing in to give money, it would go directly to the cause it was said to go to. As people rang in when the lines were actually closed the money was still kept but not donated and the BBC was found of holding back £100,000 for their own interests. It is instances like this that make the public lack faith in charities and may see the methods which many saw as plausible before, now in fact inefficient and ineffective.

The motivations for donating can differ from person to company. Some donors are genuinely altruistic and are dedicated to helping others, whereas other more conglomerate donors may have other interests pursuing internal incentives. Businesses corporate social responsibility (CSR) often now take part in exchange relationships with larger charities , where helping each other involves negotiation and exchange of time for money, though the relationship may be formed for more economic reasons. Charities such as WaterAid have been working with the private sector for over the past 30 years and it benefits companies to donate money as then they aren’t raising as much capital; resulting inless tax being paid and it makes the company appear generally responsible to other organisations. This is good for the conglomerate company’s image as it presents them as addressing wider social issues which ultimately satisfies their own incentives. On the other hand however the charity can see this as a chance to utilise generous amounts of funding they wouldn’t have otherwise had. The ESRC are quoted as saying that charities may “treat” themselves by hiring expensive staff and that the charities professional fundraisers may be more concerned with reaching targets than carrying out initial aims, which doesn’t actually improve the welfare of beneficiaries.

As Farside points out (NVCO, 2005) when discussing psychological factors, manipulation may come in the form of offering to satisfy both altruistic and selfish goals. This links back to branding which is used to increase visibility of products, by creating a specific representation of the charity it enables some of the market share to be taken away from main competitors.

6. Methodology

The research I undertook was to look at the type of effects charity appeals from Oxfam and Water Aid had on the viewer. I showed two 30 second segments of video from each of the charities (both a positive and negative section from both Oxfam and Water Aids ad’s) to distinguish which one was more likely to induce the viewer into wanting to donate.

In terms of ethical considerations I had to look at whether participants were comfortable watching the ad’s and in a location that suited them, when taking part in the research project there was no one else present in the room to ensure they didn’t feel pressurised to answer in a particular way. I selected 6 male and 6 female participants whose ages ranged between16-37 and all lived within the same region (Yorkshire). To recruit participants I used the snowballing effect (Brook, 1957) where I asked a select few to invite other people they know to take part.

The participants were asked to consecutively watch the first 50 seconds of each of the four YouTube clips set up on different tabs of a computer screen, the clips were of: A negative Water Aid Ad story (about how 4000 children die per day) followed by a positive one (The Big Pipe Project), then a negative Oxfam Ad (Sufia’s story; the effects of climate change) followed by a positive one (Lift lives for good). There was then a fifth tab respondents were told to click on straight after watching the four clips to complete the online questionnaire. The data was interpreted by statistically analysing which video ad had the most prominent response to the respondent.

To ensure the validity of responses, one of the factors that could have affected respondent’s answers was the other comments under the video clips by other YouTube viewers. To avoid this being an issue the participants were asked not to scroll down when watching the clip (and to full screen it) and when they had finished watching it they were directed to click straight onto the next one.

7. Findings and Discussion

Linking back to the Literature Review, the research below builds on that of Deborah A. Smalls (2009), where she studied the link between emotive imagery and how it generates consumer sympathy, this research however builds on that and identifies the link between emotive videos and whether it makes people want to donate. Deborah’s results found that the majority of her participants were sympathetic towards the child depicted in the images she showed audiences and were willing to donate.

However from the results I collated I found that more people were likely to donate to the positive appeals and 72% said that negative charity appeals were a pressurising way of being marketed to. The results also showed that 80% of the participants preferred to watch the positive appeals and 46% said that the negative appeals made them feel either ‘Sad’ or ‘Very Sad’.

At the end of the questionnaire there was a space provided for participants to include additional comments. One respondent commented that they felt that their ‘donation wouldn’t actually get to the person it was supposed to help’. This view is supported by David Moyesas he reiterates in his book Dead Aid, even after the billions of pounds that have been generated for Africa, poverty still continues to grow and he states that by just pumping in financial aid it isn’t going to benefit the continent. Another respondent wrote that the ‘children being depicted are shown in a light so different from our own, they portray them as almost coming from another world’ The cultural geographic entities (Said, 1980) makes the distant sufferers seem so different from our own cultural norms and values (orientalism) that they appear somewhat alien to us which could be reinforced to further generalise stereotypical motivations.

The research shows that videos aren’t more effective than print imagery in generating a pro social response and this is due to people feeling like they’re being more pressurised. When someone is presented with an image they can view it in their own time, whereas when watching a video advertisement most respondents claimed the undesirable way in which it was presented to them made them react negatively and it didn’t make them want to give a donation.

The active audience paradigm (Morley, 1949; Barker, 2008) states “the active audience ‘tradition’ suggests that audiences are not cultural dopes but are active producers of meaning from within their own cultural context” This links in with the results that have been collated as it shows the audience can think for themselves and it appears that they were actually offended by the negative style of being communicated with; creating compassion fatigue.

The results transcend into showing that, the positive methods charities use would generally have a better effect in making people want to donate. The negative techniques may conjure guilt among the audiences as the research shows that this has a negative effect on the viewer emotionally through the form of video.

8. The Future of charity advertising

It’s important to recognise the global trends of audience’s views on this topic as they’re becoming increasingly fragmented - as McQuail states (2000) ‘social origins and ongoing experiences are important in understanding audience-media relations’.

As new markets and commodities appear, for - profit market sectors push to triumphantly stay the most established, with TV – or at least viewing video media on a screen - appearing to be staying at the centre of consumer capitalism. According to Nielson Media Research (1999) 99% of Americans own at least one TV set and 74% have two or more, with over one billion sets worldwide. Further research by (2011) shows 29% of households worldwide own a TV, meaning that the content of whatever is broadcast has a large target audience – to say nothing of the hundreds of millions now streaming TV and video to their smartphones, tablets and laptops – where avoiding any adverts are the order of the day. The biggest question that surrounds this topic now is whether emotionally blackmailing campaigns will continue to bear relevance in acquiring new donors - or will it be positive and constructive appeals that tend to feature and gain an increasingly productive response.

According to Alex Haxton, Director of Operations at ‘Emergency World Relief’ consumers are now more sophisticated in their response, they know that the images they’re being faced with are tactics being used to purely manipulate them - and they’ve become wise to this gambit. Due to this, new approaches are being evolved for a more light-hearted or less gratuitously miserable approach.

Compared with the obviously dated and traditional methods of targeting audiences with negative imagery, the Oxfam website has recently turned to more positive ways of gaining donations and is focusing on the positives rather than the negatives. For example the ‘Lift lives for good’ campaign on the Oxfam homepage shows the ‘people in need’ rising from the ground and being lifted into the air, which implies they’re advancing and developing; the audience therefore don’t have as much as a pitiful outlook on them and it gives the impression that constructive movements are taking place and they can help to actually empower them. The British Heart Foundation also created an advertisement (in 2011) about how to save lives by knowing CPR, featuring Vinnie Jones acting to the well-known British hit ‘Staying Alive’. Save The Children (May, 2014) also tried a controversial way of gaining attention by, instead of guilt tripping the audience, they showed what happened when they tricked a group of models into reading statements about deprived children as they were told to read the facts in a sexual voice, with the underlying theme being that sex sells.

Apart from new methods emerging there are also new technologies advertisers are looking towards for more innovative ways of getting the message across. For example a new concept has emerged as part of an anti-bullying campaign, creators of have been able to design a ‘secret message’ for children and a warning for adults by using a type of reflective glass that presents different images of the same picture when looked at from different angles. The child, being of a smaller average height will read a message written especially for them of where to get help (to them image of the child is bruised) whereas the adult will read a different message about being aware of children being abused (and the child’s face is fine). New concepts like these prompt ideas of what future techniques charities will adopt as our technology evolves, such as 3D TV; this will give them greater positioning power to be able to give the viewer a more intimate experience with a deeper account of the depicted person’s life. Another popular and free method most charities are using is Twitter; @WaterAid has been using the hashtag #TheBigDig (2014) in the effort to raise funds to help people have drinking water Malawi which is so far proving successful in raising awareness.

Although there are always crises happening worldwide, no matter how aware people are and how much they’re marketed to (whether the methods are manipulative or not) - there will still always be people who purposely choose not to donate, no matter their income.

Strutton et el (2004) identified some key reasons he describes as ‘Techniques to insulate own beliefs to non-donators’ These include the denial of responsibility where we are not personally accountable for the people we see on TV, denial of injury which is the idea that no matter whether people donate to the causes they’re being presented with, other people will still be suffering regardless and what they can afford to give it won’t make a difference, denial of the victim, meaning that life is meritocratic and we should help ourselves before helping others and that charities should appeal to other/ higher loyalties such as governments or other contributors. This shows that not all tactics work and all in all people still have the choice whether to give or not, with the commonly held idea in mind being that ‘charity starts at home’ implying we should help our own before we help others.

9. Conclusion

In conclusion it has been found that although TV ads purposefully use negative imagery to gain a pro social response, the way in which the information is presented through specific marketing techniques isn’t always morally correct. As Deborah A. Smalls wrote (2008) ‘expression matters most when people are thinking with their hearts and not scrutinising information’ imagery constructed through the form of video can therefore have an effect which signifies to the viewer that their direct input is needed to alleviate the situations being shown.

When referring to a negative image, i.e. that of a child in distress, as philanthropy advisor Martin Brookes states (2010) controversy is being sewn into the third sector and new reforms are needed.

The implications of my findings show that expression in negative videos does not necessarily generate pro social behaviour but the implications of this show that respondents felt it may however still influence others. The limitations of the research include the fact that it wasn’t carried out on a national scale, meaning that different regions may react differently to how the respondents I used answered and the inherent biases in drawing respondents from my social circle, even when using a cascade effect to increase the range. As the rate of donations is actually decreasing (Brookes, 2008) there is the need for different, innovative method to be considered. This cycles neatly back to the ways in which a charity is branded; whether it presents itself as a happy proactive brand or one that gains money through guilt association.

My writing is not intended to discredit the exceptional efforts that charities work extremely hard undertaking. My aim was to research whether they can ethically justify the modes of communication repeatedly used to pressurise people to donate to a particular cause. Taking all factors into account the research (2014) indicates people do not wish to be targeted in a way that makes them feel sorrow towards the individual or guilt for living a more privileged lifestyle. Instead audiences should be presented with alternatives such as how exactly their money can have a positive effect in embracing the lives of not only the children, but the people of all demographics in need of support.

10. Bibliography

Books, Articles & Journals

Barker, C (2008). Cultural Studies. 3rd ed. London: SAGE Publications. 135, 327, 334, 453.

Bolantski, L (1999). Distant Suffering. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 32.

Bishop, D. (2013). Improving Socio-Economic Conditions of Paddy Farmers in East Sri Lanka (Oxfam). Effectivness Review. English Report Summary (1), Evaluation.

Briggs, A and Cobley, P (2002). The Media: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Edinburgh : Pearson Education Ltd. 47, 284

Bruno S. Frey, AloisStutzer, Incebrary (2007). Economics and Psychology . 55 Haywood street, Cambridge: MIT Press. 20.

Deborah A. Small, Nicole M, Verrochi(December 2009), Journal of Marketing Research , American Marketing Association, 777-787

Moyo, D. (2009), Dead Aid, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Oxford

Diamond, P (2005).ESRC Seminar Series. Charitable giving and Donor Motivation .1 (Section of National Council for Voluntary Organisations), London.

Dimberg, U, Monika Thunberg, and Kurt Elmehed (2000)“Unconscious Facial Reactions to Emotional Facial Expressions,” Psychological Science, 11 (1), 86–89.

Edwards, M (2003). Key Ideas In Media. Cheltnam, UK: Florence Production Ltd. 158.

Fetherstonhaugh, D., Slovic, P., Johnson, S. M., & Friedrich, J. (1997). Insensitivity to the Value of Human Life: A Study of Psychophysical Numbing. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 14, 283-300.

Joffe, H (2008). The Power of Visual Material. London: SAGE. 85.

Kogut, T., &Ritov, I. (2005a). The "Identified Victim" Effect : An Identified Group, or Just a Single Individual? Journal of Behavioural Decision Making, 18, 157-167.

Kogut, T and Ritov, I (2005). Journal of Behavioral Decision Making: The identified victim effect, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 158.

Loewenstein, G. (1996). Out of control: Visceral influences on behaviour. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 65, 272-292.

Loewenstein, George and Deborah A. Small (2007), “The Scarecrowand the Tin Man: The Vicissitudes of Human Sympathy and Caring,” Review of General Psychology, 11 (2), 112–26.

Meenakshi Gigi Durham, Douglas M. Kellner (2001). Media and cultural studies. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 177-197.

Moyo, D (2010). Dead Aid . Oxford: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 37.

Huber, M; Leaf Van Boven, A. Peter McGraw (2009). Donate Different. Colorado: University of Colorado at Boulder. 3-20

Sontag, S (1994). Against Interpretation. United States: Vintage. 304.Sontag, S (1979). On Photography Susan Sontag. 27 Wrights Lane, London: Penguin Books. 153-154.

Trussel, J. (2003). Assessing Potential Accounting Manipulation: The Financial Characteristics of Charitable Organizations With Higher Than Expected Program-Spending Ratios. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.32 (4), 616.

Tsoutsoumpi, M (2013). Audience Reception of Charities. Houghton Street, London: Media@LSE,.5-11.


Amy Willmer Oxfam Blog: 02/02/14)

Alex Haxton article Guilt by association: 05/02/14)

Anti-Bullying Special Glass Ad Concept: 03/04/14)

ASA, Are we being too charitable?: 03/04/14)

BBC Phone in scandal , Keeping Children in Need’s money: 05/02/14)

BBC Ethics guide: 05/02/14)

BBC, What is it that offends people about advertisements ? 01/05/14)

Bright Side of News The evolution of TV: 06/03/14)

British Heart Foundation Staying Alive Ad: 01/05/14)

Charity Fundraising: (accessed 04/04/014)

Charity Navigator: 06/03/14)

Code Computer Love: Shocking Advertisements in the Voluntary sector: 06/03/14)

Daily Mail Online Tsunami 2004: 01/05/14)

Daily Mail Online Average TV ad’s per day: 02/02/14)

Fundraising Standards Board Complaints: 02/02/14)

Gallop Politics What age women have children: 06/03/14)

Institute of Fundraising Code of Fundraising: (accessed 05/03/14)

Jean Baudrillard On Simulation (Date accessed): 03/04/14)

NP Engage (Donor Retention 2014): 01/05/14)

Ofcom regulations: 03/04/14)

Ofcom regulations of charities broadcasting on radio: 01/05/14)

Oxfam Charity Identifying the homepage: January-April 2014)

Oxfam lift lives campaign: January-April 2014)

Save The Children 1975 Print Ad Campaign: 01/05/014)

Save the Children Campaign Sex Sells Video: (accessed 07/05/14)

Stanley, K. 2013, The Guardian Online Charities persuading policy makers (accessed 05/04/04)

Small Charities Coalition: 05/04/014)

TED Talk The Conscience Industry:;search%3Acharities(accessed 29/04/14)

The Charity Times Charity competition becoming stiffer: (accessed 03/03/14)

The Telegraph Online Charities Wasting Money: 05/02/14)

The Wealth Collection (Charity Shopping): 05/02/14)

The Uncultured Project Reasons charities need to drop the guilt: (accessed 06/02/14)

Water Aid Charity Website:

Audience Research Clips

Water Aid Advertisement (1-50 seconds) Negative story- 4000 children die per day: by participants between 28/03/14–04/04/14)

Water Aid Advertisement (1-50 seconds) Positive story- The Big Pipe Project: by participants between 28/03/1–04/04/14)

Oxfam Advertisement: (1-50 seconds) Negative Story- Sufia’s story, Climate change: by participants between 28/03/14 – 04/04/14)

Oxfam Advertisement (1-50 seconds) Positive Story- Lift lives for good: by participants between 28/03/14 – 04/04/14)

Online Questionnaire: by participant 28/03/14)

11. Appendices

11.1 PARTICIPANT INFORMATION FORM Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

You are agreeing to take part in a research project which will help to examinethe different types of charity advertising and how it affects the viewer. There are four different clips of charity advertising you will watch, straight after each other. Watch only the first 50 seconds of each clip before moving on and then complete the survey questionnaire on the fifth tab of the computer screen directly after. You can pause the clips at any time for reflection or to make notes, but make sure you carry on watching the clip from the same point when you press play again.

The Order of clips:

- Water Aid Advertisement 1
- Water Aid Advertisement 2
- Oxfam Advertisement 1
- Oxfam Advertisement 2

Watching the clips should take no longer than 5 minutes.

And then go on to complete the:

- Survey Questionnaire

When completing the online questionnaire you can go back to the clips to recap on what you’ve seen, but do not view the clips after 50 seconds.

Any questions are to be put to the researcher before the process starts, as they will not be present in the room.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Name of Participant: Date: Signature:

Name of Researcher: Date: Signature:


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthaltenAbbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


ISBN (Buch)
670 KB
Institution / Hochschule
University of Leeds – Leeds Trinity University
Charity images advertising




Titel: The Questionable Methods of Charity Advertising