A common pitfall for social-cause advertising is that all too often, companies focus on image rather than content. When Coke went down to Columbia and got a bunch of villagers to paint Coke bottles, harvest rain water and sell them to really rich American socialites, their ad campaign read more like a company giving itself a high-five rather than a genuine social campaign. Sure, they helped out to a village in dire need, but the message was unmistakably about brushing up Coke’s image as a company with a social conscience rather than as people who generally care about poverty. Remember KONY 2012? A promising campaign, KONY and Invisible Children imploded on itself in like a week once the disappointing facts about IC and their questionable executives were released. At its core, KONY was a campaign that went after a highly marketable target in Joseph Kony, the ruthless Central African warlord, and not the actual reasons of strife in the region.
The Rotary Miracles’ collaboration with JWT Kolkata is a great example of socially-conscious advertising done really well. Over the past couple years, Rotary helped India eradicate itself of polio, made 5,000 free heart surgeries for children possible, as well as establishing e-learning services in over 10,000 schools. Not bad, huh? In this particular campaign, the focus of is on child labour, and the idea of education as a liberating vehicle for Indian children. Child labour is a dark mark on India’s growth and modernization with over 60 million child labourers currently working under inhumane conditions.
While there are a couple variations of the ad, the story is more or less the same; a stop-motion cartoon of a child drawn onto a small hand. The child toils away at work until a larger hand touches the small hand, allowing the cartoon child to safely jump from the workspace to a computer desk. The ad is all it needs to be; it’s cute but not fluffy, and the simplicity of the design is poignant and direct. This campaign is very clearly about the issue of child labour and not about a company brushing up its image; Rotary’s logo only briefly shows up at the very end of the ad. The finishing touches here is the choir of children echoing in the background and it only adds to the charm of the ad without cheapening the message in a “save the children” type way.
What’s important here is that JWT, an international ad giant went with a local approach; Rotary is an international company, but at no point does this ad feel like rich foreigners with a white savior’s complex coming to India to help children and look awesome while doing it. Using JWT’s local Kolkata agency gives the campaign an authentic lustre that makes no mistake in defining the real purpose of the message: helping children jump feet-first from deplorable workplaces into modern and accessible digital classrooms.
Check out the excellent ad here: