It seems ultra churlish to criticise the work Grey has done for the UNHCR. But I’m going to anyway.
It’s a nice film highlighting the IOC team of ‘Stateless’ refugee Olympians. It’s a good cause – these are people who have endured extreme hardships and it’s great to see them celebrated in this way. Isn’t it? Well yes but….
Let’s be hard-headed about this for a moment. What is the film looking to achieve? It must have cost a couple of hundred grand to make. So, what’s the ROI? The words ‘sign the petition’ appear on screen for most of the duration. What petition? And what will the petition achieve? What am I supposed to do? How will that help? How many refugees will enjoy a better life because of our response?
In the old world where we talked about advertising, sometimes we also talked about objectives and strategy. Bit old fashioned now. We sometimes used a shorthand “get..to ..by”.
Embarking on a communications campaign, a neat start point was to describe the strategy in this way; get (a group of people, typically defined in a way to identify what makes them our target) to (take a particular action – like maybe buy our stuff, make a donation, put us on their shopping list) by (effecting a change – like shifting their opinions or telling them something they didn’t know already in a way that provokes a change in behaviour).
When you watch a piece of content, it should be possible, with a little imagination, to work backwards and post-rationalise the get-to-by behind it. That’s where the UNHCR film – like so many well-intentioned campaigns for good causes – fails. There’s nothing I’m going to do as a result of watching this film which will improve the plight of refugees, nothing that will strengthen UNHCR’s hand in improving their lot and nothing that will contribute to covering the substantial costs of making that film. Sorry, it’s an indulgence.
It’s made worse by the fact that Grey has a bit of previous here. Grey Singapore’s I SEA app won a Cannes Lion this summer but caused sufficient outrage to make them return it to the organisers. It was described as “an app that crowd-sources the search of the sea for migrants by giving access to the satellite image of the sea to smartphone users.” But if you logged on, there was nothing there. Nothing. It appeared to be a nice idea, but the reality was bogus.