Blogs & Comment

Nothing is worse than taking advantage of tragedies

Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer at JWT MEA 

“There are numerous instances when doctors recommend that a patient be forced to throw up to save them from life-threatening situations. The trouble is, inducing vomit is a messy affair, involving sticking your fingers far enough down your throat and removing them fast enough to, well, you know the drill. So, with the awards season upon us, I’d like to introduce the medical profession to a new and hygienic way of triggering the same effect. All it takes is to initiate a search in the huge database of ads linked to human tragedies and national disasters, narrow that down to “award entries” and expose the patient to the case studies that unfold.

It is frankly nauseating that the slightest whiff of a cataclysm of some sort, be it natural or man-made, makes armies of creatives and assorted admen rub their hands with glee at the potential medals haul it represents. But the creative and corporate arena is unfortunately awash with cause-driven advertising that is notorious for its duplicity and false compassion, the worst type being what is often ludicrously labelled as “awareness campaigns”.

In my career, I have seen campaigns aimed at “raising awareness” of hunger in Africa, sectarianism in Lebanon, gender discrimination in the Middle East, AIDS in AIDS-stricken countries and fleas in pets. Now you could bundle these in a category called “priests preaching to the choir” but the truth of the matter is that it should simply be “scam of the worst kind”. This is because there is nothing worse than taking advantage of tragedies for the sake of fame.

I’d like to see agencies, mine included, put their money where their mouth is when it comes to CSR, NGO and “awareness campaigns” efforts. I would like all companies to make it a rule that their staff must follow up on charity entries with actual volunteer work for a year, and that award shows make it compulsory for such entries to give a minimum contribution to the cause concerned.”