This campaign by Save the Children aimed to increase donations for children in Syria and is known for being particularly successful. The original video reached over 55 million views on YouTube and as a result, later campaigns adopted similar themes and principals.
The video begins with a child celebrating her birthday with friends, it then cuts to a video of her playing the recorder , and then cuddling a stuffed bunny. Then things change. You see her being forced to evacuate her home, escaping violence, dodging explosions and ending up in a makeshift refugee camp hospital for her next birthday. Text then appears on screen:
This advertisement uses many persuasion techniques but in a very subtle way, Here are a few elements I picked up on-
One of the key themes of this campaign is the use of empathy. The use of a vulnerable child relates to most people- they think of their own children, grandchildren or even themselves as a child which makes the video easy to relate to and therefore is more persuasive in terms of getting people to donate to the cause due to the use of a similar other. Evidence for effectiveness of empathy on decision making can be seen in the study by Archer, Foushee, Davis and Aderman (1979) where they found mock jurors were more likely to see the defendants behaviour as lawful and believe his version of events if they were asked to imagine themselves in his position.
Another technique that has been utilised, that also helps to create empathy, is story telling. You see snippets of videos across the space of a year from one birthday to the next which creates a narrative that is easy for the viewers to follow. Storytelling is a big part of our daily lives for example gossip or talking about personal stories makes up most conversations, therefore when adverts are presented in a story format it is easier for us to process. This links in with the Peripheral route to persuasion seen in the Elaboration likelihood model (Petty & Cacioppo 1986). Information that is easier to process and that takes little effort, is more likely to be persuading for those who have low motivation and care less about the cause. As a result, story telling is likely to create a temporary change in attitude- which is all you need for a donation!
The Emotional See-saw
The third and final aspect used to elicit persuasion in the video is the ‘emotional see saw’. The happiness experienced at the beginning is gradually withdrawn throughout the video by the viewing of more and more upsetting scenes as the story develops. This switch from happy to sad emotions is known to be more persuasive in terms of compliance, as shown by Nawrat and Dolinski (2007) and therefore is more likely to elicit donations.
Overall it can be seen that this campaign has been particularly successful due to the empathy created through the choice of a child as the main character, the use of storytelling and the withdrawal of positive emotions as the video progresses. Furthermore, throughout the video its purpose is unknown, they do not mention Syrian refugees, nor the name of the charity until the end of the video. This ‘unknown’ aspect is likely to lead to greater viewer engagement, as the viewers are unable to guess what may happen next in the story, so may be more likely to pay attention to it. Lastly, the thought provoking text at the end of the video is likely to elicit emotions in the viewer, making them feel like they should help, because that is what they would hope for if they were in that situation (relating to reciprocity). Together, these techniques are particularly persuasive and likely to result in viewers donating the the cause.
Archer, R. L., Foushee, H. C., Davis, M. H., & Aderman, D. (1979). Emotional empathy in a courtroom simulation: A person-situation interaction. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 9, 275-291.
Nawrat, R., & Dolinski, D. (2007). " Seesaw of Emotions" and Compliance: Beyond the Fear-Then-Relief Rule. The Journal of social psychology, 147(5), 556-571.
Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and persuasion (pp. 1-24). Springer New York.