10 years ago, non-profit videos were different. They were on brand, on message, had voice-over narration and showed children suffering terribly. It turns out, people don’t especially seek out this content to watch (although arguably still effective in fundraising with older demographics).
With the rise of online video, there’s been a trend in the industry to create art, or entertainment that people want to watch.
After looking at 2012′s top non-profit videos (mainly 1M+ views) nearly all are one of the following:
Here’s ten that we thought made the biggest waves in 2012.
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10. Sorry, we’re going to need that back…
Views: 70,000 (in 2 weeks)
GetUp is an Aussie group that knows video. In 2011 they created “It’s Time” a simple concept with a brilliant ending that racked up 7 million views. They’re masters at reframing issues to make people think. In this video GetUp imagines how the government’s decision to divert aid might play out in office. It’s sad, funny, and convincing.
The team at GetUp raised $100k from this video.
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9. How to Grow a Moustache with Nick Offerman
Organisation: ManMade.com for Movember
To promote Movember, ManMade went manly. Actor Nick Offerman teaches the ways of the ‘stach, and eats a raw onion. It’s a style reminiscent Will Ferrel in Anchorman, Old Spice, and Dollar Shave Club.
Movember raises money to fight prostate cancer. You’ll notice this video doesn’t focus on–or even mention–the cause. It’s a trend becoming more common in cause related marketing. If you want to read more there’s a link, but Nick doesn’t smash you for your money.
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8. Boyfriend Went Vegan (Semi-NSFW)
Organisation: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Last night, this got boo’d. Fair enough.
In true PETA fashion the ad is controversial. The intended message here is “Men: if you go vegan, you’ll be better in bed”, opposite to those that equate veganism with being unmanly.
Some feel that the ad implies violence against women. Two thirds of YouTube ratings are thumbs down, and facebook social plugin shows around 75% of comments are negative sentiment.
Despite the complaints, their core demographic must be responding because year after year they continue to create provocative media like this. And they get attention.
PETA spokesperson: “The piece is tongue-in-cheek. People who watch the ad all the way through see the woman has a mischievous smile. She’s happy to go back with him. It’s playful.”
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7. Africa for Norway
Organisation: The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund
This won last night’s “People’s Choice – Comedy” award.
Inspired by the 1980′s “We are the World” and “Do they know it’s Christmas?” Africa for Norway shows a western audience exactly how silly some good intentioned aid ideas are.
Beginning with a hilarious intro from celebrity rapper Breezy (remember 50 cent’s “global movement’?) the video carries the fake appeal through the very end, and onto the website. The campaign goals are listed there, but I can’t help but wish there was an opportunity for supporters to take meaningful action beyond the joke…
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6. Dumb Ways to Die
Organisation: Metro Trains
Does Metro Trains qualify as a non-profit? This one is too good to keep off the list on a technicality!
Last night’s Melbourne audience was especially familiar with this cause marketing campaign. It’s a morbidly cute, catchy tune that rose to 6th most downloaded song on iTunes (globally). Creatives behind the campaign said kids are more concerned about not being seen as dumb by peers than dying, thus the chorus.
It’s a full 2:21 into the video before safety around trains is even mentioned.
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5. Girls Going Wild in Red Light District (Semi-NSFW)
Organisation: Listed at the end of video, I won’t ruin the surprise.
Here’s another video that waits to reveal it’s deeper message. After dancing along with the crowd, you’ll feel like you got punched in the face at the end.
The experiential marketing blends a real life campaign with online reach, just like the next one…
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4. Smoking Kid
Organisation: Thai Health Promotion Foundation
“Smoking Kid” and “Girls Going Wild in Red Light District” both have the benefit of organic search—people stumbling on it looking for something else. This one gets a traffic boost from the 2010 news clip of a child who smokes a pack a day (17M views).
When smokers are lecturing others about the dangers of smoking, you’re doing it right.
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3. Kony 2012
Organisation: Invisible Children
Clearly, a few people have already expressed their thoughts about this video. Some remember Kony as the biggest trainwreck of 2012; for others it’s the pinnacle of digital video storytelling.
While it may have simplified the plot, advocated military intervention, and came from a western lens, it certainly got people to listen and take action. My feeling is that the charity world only took the warnings, and none of the lessons.
Tell a story.
Make it personal.
Make it beautiful.
Know your audience.
Invest in video.
Here’s something you might not know: Invisible made $12.6 million (net) from the campaign. That’s more than any single year income for the organisation.
Invisible did make Kony famous. Perhaps the guys will tackle climate change next?
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2. First World Problems Anthem
Organisation: Water is Life
“When I go to the bathroom and forget my phone.”
“When I tell them no pickles, and the add pickles.”
This video piggybacked off the popular twitter hashtag–but flipped the context. It’s funny, relatable, and hits hard. The video finishes with short simple ask. Here’s the top-ranked comments:
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1. Rachel Beckwith’s Mom visits Ethiopia
Organisation: charity: water
This might restore your faith in humanity.
It’s the most emotional video of the bunch, and on Thursday at #net2melb, many of us were in tears. Charity: water have put out over 200 videos… this is the best I’ve seen yet. It’s different from the other concept pieces created by agencies; it’s slower, beautiful, and moving. In light of Rachel’s death, and the subsequent outpouring of support, I feel equal parts devastating sadness and joy.
Charity: water have done an amazing job communicating their mission. They explained it clear enough for a child to understand, and want to help. They built an online fund-raising platform that works easy enough for Rachel to start her campaign. And in honour of Rachel, they shared her story, made the media, and raised $1.2M. Now they’re showing the impact and saying thank you to donors.
It’s an amazing story. Kudos to Rachel’s mom for sharing, and to
@jazzyjamieleigh for her beautiful work filming and editing on deadline.
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Are you surprised the big orgs aren’t in there? Don’t be. Creating a video with viral appeal is nearly the opposite of the way many established organisation operate: it takes risk, buy-in, and requires more attention to the audience than internal politics. Young, scrappy orgs with a clear identity lead the charge in digital video, while established organisations are sticking to what has safely worked in the past, like grants and direct marketing.
Will your organsation make a viral video? Statistically speaking, it’s unlikely. But if you’re authentic, concise, and focus on your audience, you’ve got a better shot than the others.
What do you think? What charity videos do you remember from 2012?
Comment below or share this post for a chance to win Seth Godin’s newest book “The Icarus Deception”, a book about risk, beauty and passion. One winner randomly chosen, shipped anywhere in the world.
Master storyteller Ira Glass gives this advice to creatives:
“Do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that your will be as good as your ambition”
Today is my first week of a 4-day work week! I’m talkingt Fridays off to (hopefully) do a lot of creative work. I’ve never worked on a documentary, I’ve always wanted to, so what better time than now?
Big thanks to work for the flexibility, and to my wife, friends, family (and commenters) for the encouragement to be risky, chase dreams, and tell stories. And thanks Mr. Ira Glass, for this: