Think about pushing the envelope to get potential donors’ attention, and the first thing that comes to mind isn’t usually the Smurfs.
Those beloved blue lumps are as safe as mother’s milk and just as much a part of the lives of little ones around the world.
But shock — and pulling folks out of their comfort zone — does get donors’ attention. And that’s why UNICEF Belgium used Smurfs to bolster its latest campaign, aimed at raising at least $100,000 for UNICEF projects in Burundi, a densely populated African nation.
In a world where images of starving children, flooded cities and war-ravaged countries clog every available medium, what could UNICEF possibly do with the Smurfs to make people notice?
Easy enough — bomb them.
That’s what happens in a 30-second video, part of a UNICEF campaign airing on Belgian television through April, and it’s garnered international attention.
In it, the happy-go-lucky Smurfs are enjoying their idyllic, soundtracked lives, singing, laughing and being, well, Smurfs. Out of the blue, a barrage of bombs falls from the sky, scorching Smurf Village, killing some Smurfs and sending others, Papa Smurf included, running in terror, arms akimbo, with fear and disbelief registering in their eyes.
Even Smurfette is among the casualties. In the last scene, Baby Smurf is alone and crying at the edge of a bomb-wrought crater. The final message: “Don’t let war destroy the children’s world.”
According to Philippe Henon, press officer for UNICEF Belgium, the “Let Children Live in Peace” campaign came about because TV viewers, and potential donors, are jaded. “We’ve learned that people are no longer moved by traditional ways of campaigning and/or traditional images,” Henon explains.
In addition to raising funds, which in this case will go toward rehabilitation programs for former child soldiers in Burundi, the multichannel campaign aims to “inform and sensitize the Belgian public to the situation of children in war zones and countries affected by armed conflict,” Henon says.