Oxfam getting back to basics on TV

November 16 2009 - Mark Phillips

I wasn't that impressed with the old lady using her special vomiting power to fight the giant spider of injustice that featured in Oxfam's Be Humankind campaign last year. The huge distance from their cartoon to the real world was a big jump that I didn't think many people would take.

It was re-cut with bright red no's coming from the old lady's mouth a few months later, but even in this new guise I don't think it raised much money. And I'm not surprised we haven't seen it (or anything like it) since.

But Oxfam have recently come back to TV with an approach that gets back to basics and should help actually engage supporters.

it looks cheap (in a good way). Use of stock footage of floods in Bangladesh interspersed with their own film of Sufia, a young woman who saw her 5 year old son get washed away, presents a disaster in simple human terms that we can all relate to.

But what donors really want to see is how the constant threat of a flood in low lying regions is being tackled and Oxfam use the ad to actually show us what's happening. We see homes being built on land that has been raised above flood level. Sufia and her neighbours are doing the digging. All Oxfam ask for is £1 a week to get the work underway.

Climate change is a massive problem, but by taking time to show us an intelligent approach to reducing it's impact, Oxfam actually empower us as donors.

I think the ad resembles a traditional DM appeal with the problem shown alongside a priced solution. 

The only problem for me is the forced inclusion of the "brand" in the batman style flashes emphasising key points in the script. They seem only to have been inserted so the corporate ID can be featured again and again. The result is the script is over long and key points of emphasis are lost. I'd rather this was removed and the actual cost of a tool the people might use be featured instead.

We need to remember that people give THROUGH charities, not to them. And after a long run of rather abstract ads (which also includes the I'm In campaign), Oxfam are starting to get their TV work back on track by featuring the people I want to help in a way that I think is rather sensible. 

It makes me glad I never canceled my direct debit.

  • The batman flashes are a bit distracting all right. And a bit to concepty – you just know that in the creative presentation this script was titled ‘Here & Now’. And god knows you just have to have a ‘concept’ – even when there’s really no need.

    Still, it gave you a good excuse to link to a cool Batman clip.

  • Ed

    I agree – much better ad from Oxfam; finally they are actually showing the real problem and what they do.

    The DM Team must have recently won a battle with the brand bods – and not too soon, a great charity with huge heritage was becoming a bit of a joke – a cartoon charity.

    Just that last battle to get rid of the stupid cartoon words, and Oxfam will be back – and the other international charities will have to up their game again.