Thursday, April 10, 2014

a couple of observations on 'f*ck the poor'

I've been intrigued by this 'social experiment' conducted by Publicis in London on behalf of The Pilion Trust, a charity which supports people living in poverty and the homeless.

The premise being a public intervention that challenges people's behaviour and attitude towards 'the poor' and possibly also around charity street collections in general.

The basic idea is - on the surface - reasonably clever from a behavioural standpoint.

Problem. It's very easy for people to ignore calls for charity donations in the street.

However by calling people's self image as caring types into question - the 'collector' wears a sandwich board proclaiming 'f*ck the poor' - bystanders are jolted into action.

Our old favourite cognitive dissonance comes into play.

Because our self-image as caring citizens is not always matched by our actual behaviour.

Until it is provoked by a point of view that contradicts how we see ourselves.

Later, we see the collector with the sign flipped to read 'Help the poor' as he asks for donations. Of course, this time people ignored him.

While the experiment does prove the point about human nature, to an extent, it's been roundly panned by the ad commentators as gratuitous creative award-bait.

From a marketing standpoint I'd possibly argue that it's not necessarily worthy of advertising awards either.

Principally because of the absence of two factors.

While the confrontational nature of the piece means it's salience factor is indisputable.

I would be hard not to notice.

However at no point does the 'collector' appear actually attempt to collect.

What a missed opportunity to convert the attention into a dollar (or pound)!

Coming back to cognitive dissonance.

When confronted with that disconnect between their actual behaviour and their self image people would be almost guaranteed to make a donation in order to re-align.

But they are never asked.

Secondly, the complete absence of any branding whatsoever (even after the bystanders are moved into action) does not make it easy for them to donate - the guy does not appear to represent any organisation, he's just some random nutter.

Without the frame of a brand it's going to be very hard for our befuddled shoppers to have a reason to 'buy' and - more importantly - for the Pilion Trust they get no benefit, in a brand sense (or donations) from the activity.

Sure, the clip has gathered up a significant number of YouTube views but, of course, the evidence to support how this regularly and predictably converts into donations is thin on the ground.

I only say this because it's disappointing to see good creative ideas, grounded in truth that fall over in execution through a lack of some basic marketing chops.

The fatal flaw being in it's own dissonance.

It's a behavioural intervention ('new' paradigm) in one active arena that has been constructed in order to attempt (old paradigm) to change the 'attitudes' of spectators in another - passive - arena.

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