A Bad Ad in a Good Cause

It can be hard to divorce the assessment of an adverts ability to connect with the mind of consumers and influence their behaviour from the subject matter of the ad.

But I saw the following advertisement recently and it grabbed my attention, shook me and made me hate it. So, much as I can see how the cause is a worthy one, I have to assess it purely as a piece of communication if I’m to understand what I think it is that doesn’t work and why.

The ad opens with a classic British comedy-sketch-style set up. I suspect my associations with comedy shows like The Two Ronnies and Not the Nine O’Clock News were triggered and my unconscious was primed for an entertaining, dopamine-releasing pay-off.

My unconscious was in for a disappointment.

Whilst, I could personally identify with this unhappy scenario, I found the characters portrayed smug and dislikeable.

Ultimately, the ad seemed to be saying that the deceased would be remembered for wanting to be buried in a motor bike styled coffin, not because he wanted to give to charities.

I think the combined effect of dislikeable people, parodying a sad situation and managing to be singularly unfunny left me totally alienated by this advertisement.

Despite knowing the song well (who doesn’t?), the organ rendition of Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell at the end passed me buy on the first couple of viewings and, in fact, may only have been triggered by seeing the You Tube title for it.

Perhaps I was so confused or alienated by this stage of the ad my mind was no longer interested in decoding what was happening.

Ultimately, the new unconscious associations I’m being invited to form are between this organisation that I’ve not been aware of previously (“Remember A Charity”) and the dislikeable people and humourless comedy of the ad.

No doubt someone in an advertising agency convinced the charity that this advert would be really funny when they shot it, and that humour was an effective device for raising awareness of more profound and worthy topics.

But decisions about donating in a will may be taken at any time, and are statistically unlikely to coincide with seeing this ad. So the advert needs to be memorable and create positive associations between charitable giving and writing a will.

I sincerely doubt this ad will have the desired effect.

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