Amnesty International Creates Fading Portraits with Water

In marketing, it is essential to raise awareness, particularly when the issue is sensitive and demands attention and action rather than just attraction to a product. That is when marketing becomes a tool for an actual social issue. But in many many cases, the people behind the campaign need to understand that in our society and world where many problems go without any initiative against them, it is important to convey that we must take action rather than throw money on advertisement.

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The background: the global times we live in now are very difficult and we have an extremely high number of people disappearing, which Amnesty International wants to address and raise awareness to. In this case, their target audience is everyone, meaning that some unique form of advertising should be used, one that takes even a mere glance to notice. This requirement often causes the agencies to make campaigns bigger and more expensive than usual, when the solution usually lies in a simpler, unique and easy to understand metaphor that goes straight to the point.

When the campaign is louder than the message…

Berlin’s Preuss und Preuss and Amnesty International, in order to depict the disappearances of people around the world, chose portraits of missing people drawn water which will dry up on the pavement, conveying that once a person is kidnapped, it is hard to find them again. Choosing a location like Berlin is very wise, as you need to focus on bigger and diverse cities which would actually bat an eyelash on global social issues.

However, this message in the ad is left unclear: are they trying to convey how fast do disappearances happen and how we need to take action or raise awareness on it, rather than the difficulty of finding those people? The confusion is highlighted by the fact that after interviewing parts of the audience of the campaign, these just stated that the idea was “a cool thing” – which could not have been further away from the message Amnesty was trying to convey.

The presentation of the video detracts from the campaign as well by falling under clichés. It has generic music and the introductory text, which is supposed to draw the viewer in and introduce them to the material, conveys nothing of who actually is taking action. This mystery in the beginning may even push away the viewer.

Missing pieces

Of course, very often what matters is the company behind the message. Amnesty International are a very big name and have done many things for human rights, reporting undiscovered issued which are happening around the world (and have also been criticized just like any organization), so they need to attract more and more public eye if compared to the average company. But at the end of the day, what is it that Amnesty International wants from the audience? The people to be found? Yes. Raise awareness? Yes. But this advertisement, besides bringing attention to the issue, conveyed nothing of action. It only stated how people vanish like the water on the pavement, and the holding of portraits of the lost people were more of a prop unfortunately, rather than clearly stating that they are who went missing.

The attention of viewers shifted to the advertisement tools themselves – which were very creative – rather than the cause. In Amnesty’s case, this type of campaign was not exactly the best choice.

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Advertising Agency: Preuss und Preuss, Berlin, Germany
Creative Director: Michael Preuss
Copywriter: Nicolas Blättry
Art Director: Vera Brych
Graphics: Dailin Spiegelberg, Romy Mertins
Consultant: Franka Eberlein
Producer / Director: Maximilian Duwe
Released: October 2014

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