Friday, February 17, 2012

Stephanie Willis’ Post

The post about social concern posters caused me think about the way that children are portrayed in all of those ad campaigns designed to get people to sponsor children or donate money towards feeding them. In the future I would like to work for a missions organization or an organization like Compassion International. Looking into several of these types of organization's approaches to advertising raises some interesting questions. The goal of their ad campaigns is to provoke people to feel an emotional response and in turn, donate money, so it is in their best interest to make people as sad as possible. They often exploit children in a sense to get the best response. They show naked children with distended bellies and flies in their eyes in order to get you to do something. This may be more effective than showing a smiling child, but at what cost? Compassion's blog on poverty asks the question, "So where's the line? How should we express the urgent needs of the children in our programs while maintaining their dignity?". The same question can be applied to many other controversial themes such as human trafficking or animal abuse. What do you think?


  1. One thought. The smiling kids are in decent shape. If I was in the condition of the kid sitting on the ground I don't think I could smile. I guess it depends on what you are trying to do. If you want people to be aware of reality show it. If you are wanting to evoke an emotional response and call to action without offending or shocking, show the smiling kid.

  2. This reminds me of Kevin Carter's Pulitzer-Prize winning photograph of a child stalked by a vulture in Sudan (link here: Carter later committed suicide because he was unable to process the tragedies he saw and to reconcile his own prosperity and fame received from their recording with an overwhelming sense of debt and the inability to change what he saw. Photographs like this affect both audience and photographer.

    It is hard to judge where the line between exploitation and necessity is drawn. I think that a balance between these two options, the sad and the smiling is both effective and ethical. To merely inflict the pain of the sight of suffering children upon the populace seems cruel. But by balancing one with the other, a dialogue of sorts is formed. The sight of suffering says "You must look, you cannot say you do not know," but shots like the last one you presented promise the viewer, "Things don't have to remain this way; there is hope and you can help." And isn't that really what social issue campaigns are all about?

  3. Wow. This is a tough one. Like everyone else that sees magazine adds or commercials with photos such as these, I get a strong reaction, but in some cases it can be over done causing people to quickly switch the channel or flip the page. I too believe there should be a balance between an emotional response and an appropriate depiction of the problem.