Cause "Pick" of the Month:
Michael J. Fox Foundation breaks the "rules" yet comes up with a winner!

When I wrote "The Art of Cause Marketing" I tried very hard to keep it from becoming a list of "rules" that should be followed when preparing a cause ad.

David Ogilvy, who was often unjustly reviled by young advertising turks as a fussy creator of lists of rules responded as follows to that charge in Ogilvy on Advertising: "I hate rules . . . I may say to an art director 'research suggests that if you set the copy in black type on a white background more people will read it than if you set it in white type on a black background.' A hint, perhaps, but scarcely a rule." I therefore determined to make my volume a source of hints.

Two of these "hints" that I promoted quite emphatically were the avoidance of humor and celebrity presenters when dealing with serious cause subjects, such as crippling diseases.

However, in the words of noted Creative Director Paul Silverman (quoted in British Design & Art Direction's publication Copy Book ): "Anything brilliant can break any rule."

For an ad in a recent edition of the New York Times Magazine for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the group quite understandably used their founder, the popular actor who is also afflicted by the disease.

Consistency of Image

But they have used him brilliantly, with a full understanding of his image, and the source of his most effective characterization. He is a short-of-stature actor with a wry sense of humor about it. Based upon his many comic portrayals, we have come to expect Michael to speak in that tone of voice. He has used it consistently even when describing the process of his disease.

And so, this ad is not just a celebrity lending his fame to a cause; it is a celebrity with an intimate knowledge of the cause. He is speaking in a tone of voice that is consistent with his persona, and which, although it provokes a smile, (and is therefore memorable and intrusive,) seems quite appropriate to the serious intent of the ad, (which is to attract visitors to their web site, and contributors to their research fund.)

It should also be noted that the ad is consistent with Fox's courageous and almost matter-of fact attitude about his illness. The wry humor in his approach is in stark contrast with the "pathetic victim" portrayal employed by so many fund-raising ads for crippling diseases. Fox's confident and humorous approach makes him a very positive role model for all Parkinson's sufferers, and he is to be strongly commended for it.

This is the exception that breaks the rule, but it does it, as we have noted, brilliantly. Therefore, it is our "Pick of the Month!"

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