All the other responses to my most recent blog seemed to agree with me. But this one didn’t, so I thought I'd give it some space. I love people who agree with me – we all do – but I love it even more when people thoughtfully disagree, because it usually provokes interesting and often helpful debate. A bit of disagreement is healthy as it helps us avoid being bland, or too obvious. And we can always agree to differ.
From CM, Scotland.
‘I found it very difficult to articulate how these ads made me feel. For sure, it was not disgust. I think the idea behind the ads was right. My interpretation is that they wanted to get across that climate change IS serious, and that those who chose to ‘not bother’ about it, are in effect killing themselves…
Perhaps the ‘world’ was not ready for it, but I for one, am. Many charities campaign heavily on climate change, and I don't think we have got it right so far. I find a lot of the campaigning work bland. However the point remains the same, people are jaded to the climate change message and something has to cut through the noise. 10:10 did, in my opinion.’ CM
Ken’s reply to CM
I so agree with you that we’ve not yet got many, if not most, of the big issues we promote ‘right.’ Because they are so big and so urgent, these issues of ours, we should always be prepared to do anything – within reason – to promote them.
But this one, I think, is really, really dangerous. So I hope I can persuade you to think again.
This film, when first suggested to the organisation that made it, must have seemed funny, edgy, ‘in-your-face’. And a great opportunity. But it is the ‘within reason’ bit of what I say above that I think is wrong here.
For in it’s execution it fails miserably. And so it should have been stopped. I’m rarely absolutely confident of anything, but I’m about as sure of this as I can be.
These ads show children being blown to bits. For not agreeing with us. That cannot be right. Not ever. People should never, ever be portrayed as being killed for taking a different view to us. That’s what the worst oppressive regimes in the world do. Not us.
If you look at it in a certain way it’s funny, like some of Frankie Boyle’s* worst jokes perhaps, but funny all the same. The trouble with communication is that not everyone looks at things from the same angle. And from another angle, these ads are reprehensible.
What threats might we issue against a Saddam Hussein or an Adolf Hitler, if we are ourselves seen to be advocating similar extremes?
As communicators, with our passion for the rightness of our cause, also comes responsibility for how we present it. We must be legal, decent, honest and truthful. You are right, we must push our messages as powerfully as we can, of course. But always, always, underpinned by the most firm and fair foundation of principles. KB
*Frankie Boyle is a Scottish comedian famous for telling gags that are particularly near the knuckle. He doesn’t always get away with it, but at least people who attend his gigs know what to expect. People who watch an environmental organisation’s campaign message expect something a bit different from what they got from 10:10.
11th January 2011