Gloom and Doom are Downers
A few months ago, I saw a full-spread, anti-slave labor ad that featured shackled hands, one on each side of the two pages. Attaching them was a strip of paper that formed a chain holding the pages together. It was an arresting image that seized my attention.
Then it got even better. It got interactive. When you laid the pages flat, the chain broke.
But then it got worse. Underneath the broken chain was a message: “Ending slave labor is not this easy.” There was a tiny “ILO” logo in the upper right asking you to visit the International Labour Organization’s Web site to find out “how to help.”
I loved the handcuffs. I hated the message so much I blogged my disappointment. (Hat tip to osocio.org blog, formerly Houtlust Blog, for running the ad — that’s where I first saw it.)
Here’s why I hated it: I felt powerless to help because even the ILO admitted it was not easy to do anything about slave labor. How can I have faith that it will possibly overcome the problem? What in this ad makes me believe I could possibly make a difference? Nothing. I just felt weak and world-weary.
What if instead the message said, “You just took the first step to ending slave labor. Now take another one. Visit www.ilo.org … .” I would have felt inspired, not tired. I might have donated money or time.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I am not a fan of fear-based, gloom-and-doom messaging. I think it’s a downer; a downer as in diminished donations, dispirited advocates and doubting audiences. Feeling depressed yet? Me too.
That’s my point. In this edition of my forgotten fundamentals column, I want to focus on hope. And not just because my state is flooded with Obama ads — which I happen to think are very good, regardless of your political stripe. I want to focus on hope, inspiration and aspiration because they are the basis of a long-term relationship.