Friday, February 29, 2008
I waited for a bus today in the cold for what seemed like a millennium. Which gave me plenty of time to ponder this shelter ad and wonder what the heck it was for. Ear buds to block out annoying litanies from your mom? A new line of orange fashionwear? Turns out it's a PSA from The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. According to their website, the admirable goal is to engage men as partners in the fight against domestic violence. This ad is meant to appeal to men? Guess McCann SF won't be landing the Viagra account anytime soon.
Of course, the agency probably isn't solely to blame for this campaign misfire. Nonprofit clients can be hell to work with--bogglingly opinionated and unremittingly directive even when they're getting ad work for free. I've sat around plenty of conference room tables with uber-educated lawyers or academics who wield impressive command of world politics, global economies, a thousand other subjects I haven't a grasp on, yet don't know they are clueless about the art of persuasion. "If we don't tell men to respect women, how will they know we want them to do so?" I can just hear a state-pensioned communications director say. The first rule of working with nonprofits, I've learned, is not to get started by discussing a brief. It's to (gently, gingerly) administer a 101 course in Why Ads Aren't Legal Docs: The Case Against Spelling Everything Out.