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What if Ads We Take for Granted Could Help Give Back?

By on November 22, 2016

Newspaper insert advertising goes way back. Some suggest that the first insert advertisement circular in the United States appeared way back in 1878! The J. Walter Thomson Company was the first advertising agency to hire artists, and began by designing the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ branding for Prudential Insurance that we still see today. Over the years, newspaper advertising has expanded and is now an important outlet for retailers to promote their products and sales.  Even as the media industry evolves, print newspapers continue to feature that colorful, large roll of inserts delivered to doorsteps and readers around the U.S.A.

But what if these ads, rather than getting a cursory glance and then moving into the recycling bin, could do something more?

This holiday season, the United Nations Foundation is sharing this traditional newspaper circular advertising space with retailers in order to promote a growing day of global philanthropy. #GivingTuesday is a day to give time and money to causes which improve the world. This year it falls on November 29, immediately following Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Inspired by a group of creative friends at Boncom, the UN Foundation has created a special advertisement promoting this year’s #GivingTuesday. The circular promotes a range of ways we can give back to our communities and the world. It will be disributed inside four major newspapers across the country, as well as online to catch the attention of Cyber Monday shoppers.

#GivingTuesday serves as a counterpoint to the holiday consumerism which has increased over the years. It is a chance to give back instead of simply shopping, shopping, shopping! The UN Foundation’s circular capitalizes on this by borrowing the language retailers use in their Black Friday and Cyber Monday advertising campaigns. The four page circular proclaims: “Let’s make the amount of disease and suffering in the world LOW LOW LOW!” in big, bold letters. “POVERTY. DISEASE. FAMINE. EVERYTHING MUST GO!”

The UN Foundation’s circular is a creative new way to get the word out about #GivingTuesday! It is intended to disrupt the way we think about giving and getting during the holiday season. At the bottom of the eye-catching circular is a disclaimer: “Warning: This is not your usual shopping advertisement. Did this ad make you look twice? Good, that’s our point. This ad is meant to spark conversation, spur action, and support good. Show you are someone who gives back and not just someone who buys stuff.”

A number of creative partners have jumped into this experiment to help disrupt the way we think about the advertisements we see during this season.  Our hope is that it will help people, who get labelled as “consumers,” think again about we spend our resources and our time during the holidays.  Cause marketers, charities, NGOs and dedicated communicators have worked for years to help us think more deeply about issues during the holidays.  This is the latest attempt to continue to evolve and move forward.  It is an experiment.  And experiments are very much in line with the #GivingTuesday spirit…in both engagement, fundraising, communications and connections with people.

The holiday season has always been as much about giving as it is about receiving. We hope that by refreshing the approach to what appears in an advertisement, we can return to what we have always known about the holidays- it is a time for giving. I can’t wait to see how the world will give back this #GivingTuesday!

PS- To learn more about how #GivingTuesday came to life and how we can get involved, visit givingtuesday.org!

PPS- Visit http://bit.ly/2gHUXWu to read the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s interesting take on the UN Foundation’s #GivingTuesday advertisement.

(Photo Credit:  Chronicle of Philanthropy)



Aaron Sherinian
Washington, DC

I am a Communicator, Dad and Global PR guy who is inspired by the fascinating people in my life. I love the challenges that a new world of communications means for those of us who work across borders and time zones to try and create powerful conversations that will make the world a better place.