A picture is worth a thousand words.
The previous statement might just be the perfect one to remember when taking part in the crucial world of advocacy advertising. While advertising, in general, involves major reliance on presentation of images to the public – be it in billboards, television screens, magazines, or the auditory pictures given through radio – a foolproof advocacy ad will trigger emotions in people that commercial advertising simply cannot.
But what is advocacy advertising? Advocacy advertising is a strategy or advertisement, among others, that attempts to influence the public’s opinion on important controversial issues, including political, economic, health, environmental, and social issues. It can urge the public to support a cause, or fight against something (mostly the patriarchy and poverty). Simply put, the intention for these paid messages is to bring light to certain issues or topics. Not only do they influence opinion, however, but create hype and raise awareness about these important issues as well. While other organizations are fine with simply getting information across about their cause, other organizations may ask for donations for, say, cancer research, transitional housing, or material needs for children living in rural areas.
That being said, it’s a completely different experience watching a heart-warming McDonald’s commercial about childhood friends in the midst of browsing channels on the television, and seeing a heart-wrenching spread about domestic abuse while flipping through a magazine. Seeing the former would trigger the romantic in most people, making them wish for the same kind of movie magic to happen to them in real life. Maybe a spur of the moment, “Now I want some fries,” will pass through their train of thought. The latter, on the other hand, especially if done correctly, will flip a switch in the audience’s heads and pull at their heartstrings, occurring in a light bulb moment that will make them think, “Oh. This is really happening,” and, most importantly, “How can I help?”
Popular themes used in advocacy advertising include animal cruelty (with People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, easily known as PETA, at the top of the list), smoking (TheTruth.com, Action on Smoking & Health, and so many more worldwide), and different environmental issues including the worsening conditions of greenery brought by deforestation (with Greenpeace International leading many of various campaigns). Recently, there is an increase in anti-domestic abuse campaigns to alert people of the ongoing fight against physical, mental, and emotional abuse happening in numerous homes worldwide. Some of these ads are strategically placed above the seats in local train carriages (PNR, LRT, MRT), a perfect place considering the amount of people who use the railways to access certain points in the city.
While images set the emotion and all in all feel of the message, the tagline is just as well an important aspect in the sense that it is the cherry on top of a beautiful, heart-wrenching cake. The public sees the big picture, and feels the vehemence in such a triggering and sensitive issue, especially in the case of the more viral and widespread ads that share their view on taboo issues. But once they finally lay their eyes on the copy – the shorter, the greater the impact, it seemed – they would, once and for all, feel the urgency, the need for change, and, maybe, help do something about it.
Many companies, national and international, therefore have started joining the rising trend of advocacy advertising, be it cars that promote their anti-pollution features, or fashion brands against killing animals for fur usage. It not only raises their publicity and attracts consumer audiences to support their brand, advocacy advertising also, step by step, helps build a positive future.