Logos of charity organisations

“Donate for ill kids,” “Donate to conquer cancer,” “Donate for the less fortunate!” Charity advertising became the main course in the Ramadan advertising feast.

Whenever you switch on the television you will probably watch at least two charity advertisements in a 30 minutes’ span. Making the audience both wonder about their truthfulness, and cringe from the amount of advertising present on TV channels. As according to Mohamed Gouda, the General Director of Media Line company for advertising, that the percentage of donation advertisements on the Egyptian channels reached 35% of the total advertisements during Ramadan 2018.

Bringing to the surface an important question, are these advertisements worth the money being payed to create and air them? For the charity organizations, research has proven that it is a win win situation for them. Since Dr. Sherief Abo El-Naga, the General Director of 57357 hospital for kid’s cancer, stated before that “When we pay one pound in advertisements, we gather from eight to ten pounds in return.”

These organizations need the money to continue their good deeds as the donations are their only source of money. Moreover, advertisements allow them to collect more money which is their main goal not for only helping the poor or healing the ill, but it is important for the organization itself.

In Shariaa law it indicates that people who are doing charity work should have 12% of the money collected, while the Egyptian government has allowed this percentage to reach 20%. Therefore, the money coming from the advertising is essential for the organization’s growth and continuity.

Advertisements have different appeals to convince the viewer to donate. For years, charity organizations have chosen to use emotional appeal to grab both the audience’s attention and money. As it is well known that Egyptians are emotional people who will sympathize with the advertisement and donate easily.

However, it is not the case anymore, the Egyptian viewers became fed-up with all the begging and heart-rending stories in the advertisements. Thus, they have lost their impact.

Moreover, it is not the only appeal that have lost its effect. As during the phone interview, I have conducted with Hesham Dinana, Professor of journalism and mass communication in the American University in Cairo, he stated that celebrity endorsement have lost its power in charity advertising as well.

For instance, this Ramadan 57357 hospital advertisements showed both Tamer Hosney and El-Shab Khaled, each in a separate advertisement; yet, it was not effective and did not create any propaganda nor audience interacted with them. Furthermore, it said to be that they bring the same celebrities every year and the message became repetitive and boring.

Another aspect that turned off the audience from these advertisements were their frequency, duration, and number of advertisements for each organization. Most of the organizations this year have aired more than one advertisement, for example, 500500 organization had four advertisements while 57357 hospital had three.

Unfortunately, the frequency and the advertisement duration had turned the magic on the magician, leaving the audience annoyed from them. Nonetheless, when I asked Dinana why they do not shorten the advertisement, he told me that it is just a bad way of execution. As they cannot shorten the songs used nor give celebrities less time in the advertisement.

However, Dinana said that as the market became saturated with the emotive charity advertising, organizations are trying to think in an innovative way. Professor of journalism and mass communication in the American university in Cairo, Tara El-Kadi agreed with Dinana in the interview I have conducted with her, and said that traditional advertisements like that have been losing their desired impact because people started linking them to negative emotions. Thus, marketers are trying to change the tone of the advertisements from a sad one to a rather cheerful one.

Moreover, advertisers decreased the amount of begging that was present in the last couple of years and shifted the focus from the ill and the poor to other aspects in the advertisements. For instance, Masr El-Khier organization focused on the celebrities themselves preparing meals instead of the needy people.

While Resala charity organization used an animation video clip of talking clothes persuading people to donate their old clothes, to be counted as a pioneering point for the organization. Furthermore, what made the advertisement unique is that they have used humour which was not present in any other charity advertisement before.

In the race of innovation, 500500 organization have manged to reserve a place with its advertisements this Ramadan. They have changed the game of charity advertising with directing their message to the group instead of the individuals. 5005000 organisation focused on the power of the group and bringing people together to make good deeds, which again was not visible in the market of charity advertising before.

Despite the enormous number of charity advertisements on television, social media have a limited share. Matching with what Dinana said, “There is no charity advertisements on social media, as the main donors are people over 40 who are not the main users of social media.”

In addition to that, billboards are not a great way for charity advertising either. They are too expensive as they are a targeted way of advertising and does not reach a lot of people. Thus, they have a low return profit unlike television.

Yet, television advertising is not the only successful way of getting donors, for example both Sonaa El-Hayah and El-Orman organizations did not use any television advertising this Ramadan. Their main source of donation was from booths, call centres, and direct communication with existing donors.

One of Sonaa El-Hayah booth in Concord mall

Ghada Raslan one of Sonaa El-Hayah volunteers said during our interview that the organization did not have financial resources to advertise on television this Ramadan. Though, it did not affect its profits because they were focusing on directly contacting the previous donors they had, and booths in various locations all over Egypt.

Nevertheless, these methods will not be efficient enough for big organization such as 57357, 500500, and Ahl Misr. These gigantic establishments need a continues huge amount of donations in order to keep going. They receive tens of cases every day, which are totally depended on the donations; therefore, they have to be well known to the audience to gather the highest amount of donations possible. Thus, television for now is their perfect way of advertising.

However, unfortunately, when these big organizations succeed in gathering the larger share of donations, it affects the small charity organization that cannot afford such advertisements. Leaving them with fractions of the donations as they do not have a wide segment of donors nor the ability to expand and spread.

Whether people donate or not, these advertisements raised a question, is it ethical to air such advertisements on television? Ahmed Karima, Professor of Islamic Shariaa in Al-Azhar University once said, it is not favourable to use ill, or needy people in such a way as it is degrading and unhuman.

Yet, El-Kadi thinks that it is okay to present ill people in advertisements as sometimes it is needed to present a realistic depiction. Reality is necessary to spread awareness; however, it should be done tastefully and without exaggeration. Moreover El-Kadi said that she is not in favour of using people’s hardships and misfortunes to market for their organizations and get funds. Specially that you have to be sensitive to the different groups and segments in the society and make sure that you do not offend anyone while passing your message across.

There have been some claims raised by the viewers against the usage of kids with burning scares on the last Ahl Misr advertisement. However, El-Kadi thinks that the advertisement was trying to fight certain stigmas in society as many victims have to live with their scars. Hence, this advertisement with its positive tone is helping them to become accepted in the community instead of being ashamed of.

In spite of all these pros and cons of the charity advertisements, we should not forget that these advertisements are not only for collecting donations. For donations are not always the answer but also educating the society and taming their cruel and harsh reactions to victims and patients. In addition, it should raise awareness towards the importance of research, education and focusing on long term solutions instead of the often short ones.

Research indicated that nearly 20% of the audiences donate because of the advertisements, meaning that advertising is still an important aspect for donation collection. Yet, charity organizations must rethink their way of advertising and find new creative human ways for advertising. Moreover, they have to explore new avenues  as television is staring to lose its importance and effectiveness.