Most ads don’t go much deeper than describing the newest high-caloric low-priced feast being touted by your local fast-food joint. But advertising can do more than spread awareness about innovative new combinations of cheese product and textured beef protein. Case in point: A blog called Osocio posts nonprofit advertisements from around the world, including this Swedish spot that imagines what would happen if HIV/AIDS were as widespread in Sweden as in Ethiopia, and this moving rap about underage sex trafficking in the Philippines.
Advertisements are like manipulative, shiny baubles that flit along the edges of our attention. And while it’s nice that some ads are being used for good, it seems that all they can really do is pique our attention for a brief moment before we get distracted again. The problem with these huge problems—the AIDS crisis, cancer, the genocide in Darfur—is that we need more than a piqued awareness to do anything more effective than feel guilty. But proper action must come from more than a 30-second television spot. Even if it is really well produced.
Also check out this article on the innovative nonprofit ad agency Serve, from the November-December 2006 issue of Utne Reader.