And now for something completely…serious
In a departure from my usual tone of light-hearted silliness, I’m inspired this week to talk and think about something serious. I’m talking about the St John Ambulance ‘Helpless’ ad.
I first saw this as a forward from one of my colleagues at Ipsos ASI and then subsequently saw it in various emails. This was last week.
And I’m still thinking about it.
Many campaigns that seek to raise awareness about social issues can often be described as ‘hard hitting’. This one certainly has. So, I’m asking myself: Is this what makes them more thought provoking? I’m certainly still thinking about this video (‘How to look your best the morning after’) from over the summer.
That’s another piece of incredibly powerful content. In both cases, for me at least, the emotional response is palpably physical. Emotion is undoubtedly a powerful tool for generating both cut through and response. As we see regularly in our biometric testing, there can, when done right, be a real benefit.
But is there such a thing as too emotional? For me personally, I’d say yes. I considered delving YouTube for more examples (after all, it’s not like there’s a shortage), but I must admit that after watching these both a couple of times, I’ve had my fill of ‘hard hitting’ for the day, maybe for the week. This content has staying power, but I suggest that it is possible to overdose on this type of message. And I worry that overdosing on the emotional response can lead people to turn off. It’s important to get the balance right.
Enter ideas like the ‘Test yourself’ campaign, which built on psychological research. This type of approach can be powerful too, but not quite so overwhelming. I won’t give away the secret, just in case you haven’t seen it yet.
Another one in the important but more light-hearted vein was the British Hearth Foundation ad from earlier this year, which starred Vinnie Jones.
What is important in both of these cases is a break from the ordinary, utilising unique situations to keep important messages top of mind, but without relying on the punch to the gut.
I like the St John Ambulance campaign. I think it’s an important message and a clever way of putting the importance of First Aid into context. I’m also a strong believer in knowing First Aid (and am a St John-trained first aider).
But I urge anyone who is considering a campaign addressing a social issue like this to think carefully about media laydown (to avoid the overdose) and to ensure the ‘hard hitting’ is hitting hard for a reason and not as a default approach.