Why the Ad Council’s Generous Nation Campaign Doesn’t Inspire Generosity

My high school English teacher, Mrs. Hunter, despised double negatives. She insisted that anything nearing a double negative failed to communicate a writer’s meaning, and annoyed the heck out of the reader by requiring her to struggle to find that meaning. And when Mrs. Hunter despised something — in her most vocal, dramatic way — you remembered it forever.

Nothing proves her right more than the Ad Council‘s new Generous Nation campaign, heralded by the "Don’t almost give" tagline. Here’s why:

  • The campaign construct
    • Almost giving happens when good thought and intentions don’t turn into actions.
    • Don’t almost give. Give.
  • The problem
    • Huh?
    • Almost, in my book, nears "not" — and so the double negative classification. What are they talking about?

However you classify it, I think this is just a weak campaign. The Ad Council is striving to engage donors and volunteers despite the lack of a current crisis. They are right on target on acknowledging the difficulty of keeping folks active during this down time in an unbelievably crisis-packed few years, and in wanting to engage novice donors and volunteers who were stirred by recent crises to pitch in. But there’s got to be a more powerful way to do so.

When I see that message, "don’t almost give" — I don’t even get it. It takes me several minutes, plus a review of the campaign website to place the phrase in a meaningful context. It’s only when I spend several minutes to review a few of the campaign TV ads that I get it. And that’s much far too much time and effort to expect from target audiences.

Frankly, I’m surprised. The Ad Council has a tremendous record of success in the impact it generates via its public-service oriented ad campaigns. And why not, since the folks who donate their creative skills to campaign development are the best and the brightest in the ad industry.

But they’ve missed the mark with this latest campaign. Television, print, radio and Internet ads launched this week. I’ll be interested in seeing  what results.

But the Ad Council does triumph with some of the engaging features incorporated into the campaign website, including the voiceover that runs during a very effective black-and-white slideshow of opportunities to help. I’m moved by these photos, and the simple verbs than are projected on these images — feed, prevent, help, support…  Maybe sometimes less is more?

Another effective component is that audiences can easily take action immediately, through the site, to:

  • Get involved with charities that align with their interests
  • Find local volunteering opportunities via zip code search
  • Donate to more than one million charities.

Almost there, but not quite, Ad Council. Remember that your campaigns will have the greatest impact if they are concrete, clear and generate an immediate emotional reaction. Don’t almost make it easy for your audiences. Make it easy.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this campaign. Just make a comment below.

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Nancy Schwartz in Advertising, Case Studies, Don'ts, Fundraising: Innovations & Research, Nonprofit Communications, Taglines | 6 comments
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