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A couple of days back duckrabbit and Pete Masters,  head of web at MSF UK,  sparked off a pretty heated, but good natured debate about a cinema advert that MSF have been running in the UK.  Its part of a wider debate about how charities communicate with the world that the think tank POLIS have been exploring.

My hope is that the debate has been as helpful and insightful to Pete as it has to us.  To me it proved one thing, that we are all on the same side, caring desperately, and wanting to make a difference.

I’m printing Pete’s final response to the debate here in full. It’s rare that an individual in a UK charity is seriously prepared to engage publicly in this kind of debate (afterall 8000 people are going to read about it on duckrabbit). God bless you Pete, it’s what swung it for me:

‘Wow, what an amazing response. Thank you all…I think Ciara hit the nail on the head for me. I also hate spin and ‘PR’. I think that the work MSF does should speak for itself and as long as we present it well, the donations should roll in… Unfortunately that’s not always the case. To build on Mark Page’s comment, for how long can we keep upping the ante – what will it take to slap his face?For me personally, the most inspiring comms from NGOs are straight up testimonies from patients and from field workers. But not everyone’s the same and it is vital that we continue to try new things as long as we continue to respect the dignity and privacy of those people represented or depicted. If we remain stagnant and MSF suffers financially, then we help no-one.

I understand that this ad has provoked a lot of criticism (along with a fair amount of praise), but I think it is extremely important we allow ourselves the opportunity to fail while trying new ways to get people to engage with what we do and the people we are trying to help (as long as we are not wasting donors money along the way).

If MSF had not made this ad, but instead produced a more traditional story, would it have been more effective? We cannot know really. But, what we have learnt by trying a new approach, from you guys and the many others on other blogs, twitter, facebook, by email and by word of mouth is priceless.

More than anything, I hope that whatever has inspired such full and frank debate online  has also inspired “the debates across cinema car parks and front rooms” that Pete Brook talks about.’


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duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White. We specialize in digital storytelling.

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