When advertising is NOT appropriate

Advertising is often the go-to tool for raising awareness about an important issue. It can be an incredibly effective and powerful way to spread the word about important issues and products, such as HIV awareness, diabetes monitors, tobacco and alcohol risks, and other health-related concerns. If it weren’t for mass-market multi-media campaigns informing us about public health and safety concerns, the world would be a much more dangerous place. But what if the outcome of advertising and telling people about the issue actually led to more harm being done than good? 

It’s not something any changemaker intends to do, but sometimes shouting loudly about an issue can lead to unintended consequences - the obvious being that the issue gets worse. When we hear about something bad, the good in us wants to do something about it and our first action is to start raising attention and telling people about it, sometimes at scale through a mass media campaign, but that isn't always the best option. 

In this article, we explore when it is right to market or advertise an issue and when it isn’t, and what you should be thinking about when you add advertising, marketing and communications to your changemaker toolbox.