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Charity advertising

Sitting on the tube on my journey to The National Brain Appeal office, my mind has been full of what we need to tie up before the end of the year, my daughters’ increasingly long Christmas lists and plans for the festivities. It’s easy to let thoughts wander and to gaze upwards to the line of adverts that run along the carriage.

This morning, there was a Shelter advert bearing the number 80,000 for the amount of children who will be homeless this Christmas. Next to it was another, showing a little girl who’ll freeze in the Syrian winter.

A lot has been written about the charity adverts that set out to shock the viewer. For many, these adverts sit uncomfortably, jolting us out of our musings and wonderings, the thoughts that social media refer to as #firstworldproblems. “Charities have gone too far”, many say; “we don’t want to think about that, particularly at Christmas” is the undertone.

This recent article ‘Don’t change the rules for charity ads’ rang true for me. Responding to the Advertising Standards Authority’s announcement that they’re considering a tougher stance on charity adverts, the article argues why these visual stomach-punchers continue to be of importance.

These adverts are designed to challenge the viewer – to shock, to provoke and to guilt. An advert that makes you uncomfortable isn’t stepping over the mark – it is fulfilling its very reason for existence.

“Charities aren’t selling chocolate or washing powder but are asking people to take action to help them confront the world’s most challenging problems” the article writes and I agree. The best charity adverts might not be the ones that are the most palatable; they are the ones that make the biggest difference.

We don’t currently advertise but it’s something we are thinking about as we approach the beginning of a new year. It is a sad fact that patients will be in The National Hospital throughout the year and will be facing times of uncertainty. How we communicate this in the right way is a key question, how we support them is even more challenging.

Looking back over 2013, I think The National Brain Appeal team can feel very proud of what we have achieved: my personal highlights include the launch of the Small Acorns fund, the highest amount we’ve ever raised in the London Marathon and the return of our flagship event, the Pyjama Party.  

 Thank you for your support and friendship throughout the year. If I don’t see you at the Carol Concert this week, from all the team, a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Theresa Dauncey, Chief Executive, The National Brain Appeal

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