Why typical advertising has no impact on nonprofit marketing
At Non-Profit Humour, a strangely familiar tale of a nonprofit organization that was lulled into a state of stupidity by an ad agency: Advertising campaign reaches Mrs. Betty Turner, 93, and 17,678 people who don’t care.
In this satire — and despite the realism, it is satire — an organization runs a meaningless awareness campaign that costs a lot and has absolutely no impact:
The campaign, which lasted an entire week, was seen by an estimated 17,679 people and many hundreds of cats and dogs. Since the Foundation’s website doesn’t have web metrics Snidely says they couldn’t actually tell whether the ad campaign had any impact, but she’s optimistic that the ads made a big impression on the public.
It’s all too common. A nonprofit is persuaded that “awareness” is a powerful thing. So they develop a multimedia campaign built on abstract concepts (sometimes including opaque wordplay and/or weirdly photoshopped images). After paying the agency for developing the ads, there’s little budget left, so the impacts are spread thin.
The agency then counts “impacts” — which means how many people might have seen or heard the campaign: If the publication running an ad has a circulation of 15,000, that’s 15,000 impacts. Never mind that the huge majority didn’t see the ad at all, they merely had access to it. And if that ad is abstract and lacks a clear challenge or call to action, even most who see it will be unaffected by it; it’s just more noise in their noisy days.
Counting impacts yields pretty big numbers, so they report the large number as if it has any kind of meaning, creating visions of 15,000 people who are now fanatical supporters, when in reality, there are zero new supporters, and awareness was raised in about three people — like the woman in the story who was hit by a falling billboard.
If you’re serious about recruiting people to join you in your cause, you will not waste time or money on vague awareness campaigns. You’ll do measurable, donor-oriented marketing that actually brings supporters in the door.