A truly fantastic ad

December 10 2008 - Mark Phillips

The latest Barnardo’s ad is fantastic.

That’s not just in comparison with charity ads,that’s in comparison with all ads.

It isn’t often that a charity advertisement is so powerful AND so well positioned for those it sets out to help.

I say this because I had the chance to speak to a young person who’d got into trouble (in their even younger days) about their thoughts when they first saw it.

“I was tidying up when it came on and I just sat down and watched it. They (Barnardo’s) know what it’s like. They know that you know you are screwing up every time you do something mad or stupid, but you can’t help yourself. You have to prove that you don’t care, when deep inside you do and
you want someone to help you stop what’s happening to you.

“If I’d have seen that ad then (when I was in trouble), I would have called them. I think its really good. It actually made me cry. It captures just how terrible you feel inside in a minute clip. It will make people understand and want to help.”

The position Barnardo’s takes is a difficult and complex
one. They are not just dealing with the immediate protection needs of very
young children who have suffered from physical or sexual abuse. They are
working with older children that have lost our sympathy and gained our
loathing. They work with the children that many members of society feel they
can describe as feral, parasitic and as vermin.

Barnardo’s chief executive, Martin Narey, sums up their position in a recent interview on the subject of Baby P.

“It saddens me that the probability is that had Baby P survived, given his own deprivation, he might have been unruly by the time he had reached the age of 13 or 14.

At which point he’d have become feral, a parasite, a yob, helping to infest our streets. The response to his criminal behaviour
would have been to lock him up – but we believe these children deserve

We are not seeking to justify the behaviour of rowdy and sometimes dangerous young people but by helping to explain it, we can make progress in preventing it.

Until we recognise that offending might in part be linked to levels of child poverty in the UK – levels which should shame a country of our affluence – we have to be resigned to that offending continuing.”

You can read more at Barnardo’s.

An old colleague of mine, Pip Wilson, who was General Secretary of Romford YMCA, takes a similar position on the Shannon Matthews case in his blog. It’s not about fundraising, but I read it regularly to help keep my feet on the ground. Just like Martin, Pip has worked on the front line for years and it’s thoughts like this that remind me why I do my job…

“In the UK there has been a court case regarding a child called Shannon Matthews. Her Mother, Karen, has been found guilty of the kidnap and neglect of her own child. My mind has been lingering on this person, this case in general. Here are some scrambled thoughts out of my soul.

Outside the court the senior policeman stood and said that this woman, Karen Matthews was pure evil.

Why does this happen?

Police have worked their socks off to get the case through court and that is great. Their factual evidence helps to convict and then they stand outside court giving opinions. I don’t like that. Every-time they do this. There is no need. They have no right to do it either.

I believe her behaviour was evil. I believe so much of her activities sound anti social and neglectful. She brings few skills to being a successful parent. She is not evil.

I feel she is a very sad and dysfunctional woman. And the men around her too. It has been well promoted that she has seven children by five fathers. She lives on benefits of £350 a week and tries to get £50,000 by kidnapping her own daughter. She is in a mess. She is dysfunctional. She is deprived. She is needy. I don’t feel she is evil.

I work and have worked worth beautiful humans like her all my life. If you live in a tough community, have you ever lived in a tough unrelenting community where humans struggle to cope with life? Live on the edge? Scramble around for money on the edge of crime?

If not, go and hang out with some young humans who are younger versions of Karen Matthews. Go and meet their parents and you can feel the same inadequacy. I feel their pain. Ringing in my ears is a recent tearful fumbling “….. I feel so vulnerable …..” out of the lips of one on the road to Karen Matthewsness.

1 So there is the police statements outside of court. They can be stopped by policy and procedure now.

2 Then there is the demonising of inarticulate, poor, dysfunctional humans who God loves and Jesus died for. I hate it. HATE IT!

There are certain newspapers who set the standard in this. Feed the minds of ‘evil’ instead of ‘care’ (dare I mention LOVE?). Journalists who sit on their comfortable chairs in front of their nice computers. Coming from their comfortable suburbia – writing dribble about humans they know nothing about – from communities they only investigate. And minds are polluted nationwide ……….

Here is a link worth feeling sick about – HERE

I am thinking of one young mum. As hard as nails. Swearing and cursing at me, in normal conversation. I call her by name. I sit down next to her. Share a joke. Tell her she is beautiful. She smiles and swears back and smacks her child on the back of the head and curses at him.

I have feelings of love for her. She is a rough diamond. I don’t know what I can do to help. But I do know that if I needed any help she would cough up a fiver without a blink of an eye. Because, behind the F’ing and blinding there is a heart of gold. Gold struggling to get out and live. She doesn’t have any of the knowledge you will have. When things go wrong in her life she doesn”t know where the handles and buttons are to press – to make things happen – to seek help.

When things go wrong for you – you will have humans who you can call on. With money. With life skills. Will unconditional love – I guess. She has dysfunctional humans around her. Like all of us – she needs love around her.”

It’s easy to slip into the rut of thinking that giving donors what they want, is simply presenting the most sympathetic case studies in a personal way with an ask that is 20% higher than their previous gift. it’s not. It’s about more than that. It’s about creating ideas that show the truth and empower people to make a difference to the things that really concern them. This ad does this. This ad is brilliant.