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The Definitive List of Anti-Poverty Campaign Ads

The Definitive List of Anti-Poverty Campaign Ads

I could write you a list of the worst anti-poverty ads of all time in a minute. Writing a list of good campaign ads? That was a little more difficult. I was motivated by an awful poverty porn image attached to an article in the Huffington Post that was written by a staff member of a well-known international NGO (see WhyDev’s twitter for a blow-by-blow). We don’t need poverty porn, and to prove it, I wanted to write this list of campaign ads that went above and beyond. I used the following criteria to include/exclude ads:

  • No Bono
  • No celebrities
  • Dignified representation
  • No stereotypes
  • No Bono

Without further ado, here is the Top 5 anti-poverty campaign ads of all time.

5. Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty”

“Poverty is not a trait of character”. No truer words have ever been spoken with regard to poverty. This ad campaign makes the list not so much for its representation of poverty, but its genre defining impact. Poverty became something to be combated in the “War on Poverty”. I also appreciated that it was discussing poverty not abroad, but in the United States. Poverty is not something out there. It is in every country and deserves your attention without the need to venture overseas.

4. ONE Campaign’s “Poverty is Sexist”

Relying on imagery and visuals without narration, celebrities or cliches sees ONE’s “Poverty is Sexist” ad come in at #4. It is global in its perspective, with a clear (?) message. Poverty is not merely gendered, it is sexist. It’s a fantastic tagline, albeit a little misleading and simplistic. The scene featuring a group of Chinese-speaking men, one of whom tells the only women to take a seat has nothing to do with poverty. However, it has everything to do with the systemic sexism, discrimination and gender inequalities girls and women endure. Although the messaging is a little confusing if you think about it too much, it is a very effective campaign ad.

3. WATERisLIFE’s “#FirstWorldProblems”

I know. I know. There are so, so many problems with this video. But, I still like it for the way it subverts the #FirstWorldProblems. The text spoken by the participants must be pulled from Twitter as it grates too close to the bone. I feel there is a lot of authenticity in this video. The participants are not represented through the poverty porn first world gaze (copyright). They are seated or standing in what is probably their community or home or lived area. This ad manages to make that all important empathetic connection with the viewer through its subversion, and avoids the usual tropes of poverty.

2. Mama Hope’s “Alex presents: Commando”

Part of Mama Hope’s “Stop the Pity” campaign, this is a truly joyous ad. Commando is the greatest Arnold movie ever made with perhaps the greatest puns ever told. In continuing my theme of listing ads that don’t comply with stereotypes of poverty or use of celebrities, the simplicity of having Alex recall the plot of Commando is brilliant. It is a genre-busting campaign that also highlights the reach of globalisation. Plus, who doesn’t like Arnold?

1. AfricaForNorway’s “Let’s save Africa!”

“Is this your first charity appeal?” This ad had me LOLing all day. Although some may argue that Radi-Aid was better, this has white people tears! African children running along, waving, while chasing a car! Tick. African children in a classroom! Tick. If you didn’t know this was satire, it could pass for a bona fide poverty ad (yes, it’s satire). This ad takes subversion to a whole new level. It is inception-like in its ability to plant an idea in your subconsciousness; that adhering to and recycling stereotypes is not a valid rationale for campaign ads. People have the right to be represented with dignity, no matter the cause.

What is your favourite anti-poverty ad?

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Brendan Rigby

Managing Director & Co-founder at WhyDev
Brendan is an education specialist and co-founder of WhyDev. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education exploring complementary basic education and the literacy practices of out-of-school children in northern Ghana. Formerly, he was an Education Officer with UNICEF Ghana, and Director of Venture Support with StartSomeGood. Brendan has also been an education consultant and trainer for Plan, UNICEF, ScopeGlobal and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. He is obsessed with tea, American football and karaoke.

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