Changing the Conversation to Poverty

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Once a year, BlogActionDay.org gets thousands of blogs big and small to unite and talk about one issue. This year's conversation is on poverty. Because mental_floss has a soft spot for smart guerilla marketing campaigns (and especially those with a social bent), I thought it might be interesting to showcase how various ads have forced people to confront issues of poverty. Here are a few of my favorites from Ads of the World.

1. Garbage Pail Art

poverty.nutrition.jpg pov.bobbin.jpg

I know I rarely think about street-side trash bins doubling as food sources for those in need, but this silverware setting and the nutrition facts label are such smart and simple ways to recast things we take for granted in a different light. Staring at both of them made me want to raid my pantry and give to a food bank.

2. Grate Food

pov.israeli food banks.jpg The Israeli Food Bank spotlighted the issue of homelessness in a similarly unique way, by placing dishware in sewer grates. While the print campaign used plain dishes, the ones actually used on Israeli streets were printed with messages. Apparently, the campaign confronted citizens with the issue and forced them to rethink the staggering numbers of homeless in Israel in recent years.

3. Putting the Spotlight on the Homeless

pov.testcard.jpgWhile the first two sets of campaigns definitely talk around homelessness through the hunger issue, the one here is pretty direct. I'm not sure whether confronting clientele in this country with a tabletop tent (left) and such a startling image of abject poverty would be good for business, but it certainly got the point across in rich coffee shops in Mumbai: that poor children are inhabiting places you can't even imagine.

pov.tent3.jpgPerhaps one of the most effective campaigns in terms of getting a reaction to the homeless issue was this one in France, which we've written about before. Here's the recap: In late 2005, distributed 300 tents to destitute Parisians sleeping outdoors. Equipped with the rapid-deploying tents (which didn't require poles or pins), the homeless gathered in small groups of eight to 10 along the Quai d'Austerlitz and the Canal Saint-Martin. The prefab shelter, which bore the Médecins du Monde logo, drew immediate attention to the number of homeless people in the area and provoked such incredible public outrage that the city was forced to act. A rare off-season government session was convened, and officials admitted that Paris' homeless shelters were vastly overcrowded. They immediately announced the allocation of nearly $10 million for emergency housing.Médecins du Monde

4. An Ad with Legs

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As hard as the table tent campaign was to look at above, I found this one even more heartbreaking. The group, Jaipurfoot, helps indigent people who've lost limbs or had amputations get artificial limbs and prosthetics at no cost. The innovative signs always start from the shorts up and are placed on trees and poles around the city.

5. A Campaign for Change

mccann-domund-postcard.jpgI thought this Peruvian ad to get people to contribute to a hunger campaign was absolute genius. The whole goal of the campaign was to collect small change from people at grocery stores, so while they were waiting in line, clerks would hand them these scratch off cards. (The cards show a scrawny stick figure, and when scratched off make the person full.) But once people had the coins out, they figured they might as well donate them to the cause. According to McCann, the 2-day initiative in Peru achieved the biggest donation amount in the entire history of the Domund hunger fund's existence.

Of course, if you're looking to make your own small contribution in the fight against poverty, BlogActionDay has a few ideas, including donating to Kiva.org, the microloan institution where you can make as little as $25 loans to small businesses around the world. The goal is for them to pay you back with interest, and then for you to reseed that cash into another small business, if you're willing.

If you don't have time or cash to spare, John Breen has miraculously made that possible as well through his webpages TheHungerSite and FreeRice.com. While the first simply has you click a button to contribute food (the cost is covered by the advertising banners on there), the second is a trivia game that helps build your vocabulary as you win rice for the needy. It's an ingenious concept, and all of the rice is distributed through the UN's World Food Programme. In any case, all of this is more to make you think about the issue than anything else. I know just looking up all of these ads has made me want to give; I'm curious how the day will change others.

October 15, 2008 - 5:44am
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