Advertising is not a profession many look up to. It clearly doesn’t rank high up in the ‘most sought after’ or respected professions. People hate advertising for several reasons: the all-pervasive, commercial nature of its messages, its tendency to exaggerate or dramatise trivial benefits and so on. Some mistakenly blame it for fuelling consumption of ‘unwanted’ or unnecessary things. But there’s no denying that advertising can influence behaviour and action. And be used in good causes.
DDB, New York has initiated one such campaign which uses all the principles of advertising for a good cause:
It is attempting to eliminate the#FirstWorldProblems hashtag on Twitter – the first mission to wipe out, instead of promote, a trending hashtag. #FirstWorldProblemsshowcases concerns that seem important to those living in wealthy, industrialized countries, yet are, in fact, trivial compared to the issues faced by those struggling to survive in many parts of the world. Though meant in jest, these tweets about “problems”–such as having to get up to change the TV channel or a phone charger that won’t reach the bed — also reveal a lack of sensitivity or awareness about serious social and health concerns and the ways that social media users can help alleviate real problems.
The idea is based on a real insight (like most successful campaigns to sell packaged goods or services) on how people behave on Social Media. And if an insight is a penetrating observation about consumer behavior that can be applied to unlock growth, the DDB team has used it to unlock growth for Water Is Life a non-profit organization addressing the global crisis arising from the dearth of drinkable water around the world – an issue that leads to malnutrition, infection, and even untimely death.
It is a statement about the misplaced priorities of some people lucky enough to live in developed countries. And the creative execution packs a punch. The DDB team travelled to Haiti to film a variety of locals reading aloud a series of #FirstWorldProblems tweets and providing brief commentary on the Twitter users’ “struggles. Here’s the anthem.
Instead of stopping at creating an awareness-raising anthem film, the campaign also involves the ‘responses’ series – a master stroke. Each resulting response video is now being tweeted to the original#FirstWorldProblems author with a simple call to action: Donate to help solve real problems. A collection of these responses has been edited into a 60-second video.
It seems to have touched the right chord and found the right response:
first world problems read by third world kids. very powerful, very moving, and makes me feel like a douche. huff.to/SIjXUC”
— Chris Robinson (@gingerboyo) October 7, 2012
Will the campaign completely eliminate the hashtag on Twitter? Unlikely. The platform is ideal for vain, vacuous tweets and that will continue for some time. But will it make a few right thinking people cringe before they post such tweets and stop? Will it make some of them actually contribute to the Water is Life cause? I think so. See, advertising is not so bad after all.