The most creative charity advertising campaigns of all time

If you are going to catch the attention of the public, you need to stand out like a sore thumb. Successful marketing campaigns all have a unique selling point — something that helps them differentiate from others — and something that helps them be remembered.

Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ campaign is so unbelievably simplistic yet comparatively effective. St James’s Gate stout manufacturer Guinness, on the other hand, went for a more humour driven advertising spiel, when it popped a trout on top of a pedal-bike alongside the caption, “a woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle.” Both of the aforementioned campaigns were enough to cement the world-wide companies a place in the history books. For these businesses, creating a piece of clever advertising is important, but it isn’t as crucial as it would be to the likes of a charity. People know what Nike sell and people know what the ‘black stuff’ is. However, do people know what Enable, Darkness into Light, or the Percy Hedley Foundation do? 

Enable is a charity in Scotland who helps children and adults living with learning disabilities. Darkness into Light is a charity in Northern Ireland that helps the community connect together following bereavement through suicide. Meanwhile, the Percy Hedley Foundation is based in the North East of England and through their work they support families living with disability.

Charities throughout the world depend on the media to promote the work in which they are carrying out in order to attract additional donations which ultimately allows them to continue what they are doing. Throughout history there are a variety of advertising campaigns which have made serious traction in terms of their success. Here, we examine some of the most controversial, daring, and majorly successful charity run advertising campaigns of all time. 


People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals have been slammed in the media on numerous occasions for going ‘over the top’ with their advertisements. In the past, their campaigns have been subject to claims of objectifying women and disrespecting the suffering of victims from atrocities such as the Holocaust. PETA’s ads, which, through daring imagery and controversial content, have certainly shown the real fuel-powered ability of advertising. One of the most successful campaigns by PETA included the scantily clad former Baywatch star, Pamela Anderson. In the photo, the blonde model has her body parts marked out into the different parts of a cow that are considered meat. The caption reads, “All animals have the same parts”. The campaign was banned in the Canadian city of Montreal as it was considered degrading to women. 

Dogs Trust

If we look back to 1978, one of the most rememberable ads of all time was created. The-then Chief Executive of the animal sanctuary charity, Clarissa Baldwin, coined the idea for the advert — ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’. The campaign, which was designed to remind people about how we must act responsibly in terms of dog ownership, not simply buying one to then drop it off at the pound on 2nd January, has been used each year since. In recent years, X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke, and actor John Barrowman, both avid dog lovers, have presented a video for the charity, stating the famous phrase.

Worldwide Breast Cancer

With one in two of us expected to get cancer in our lifetime, it should come as no surprise that there are more than 600 registered cancer charities across the UK, raising money to battle this cruel disease. SU2C, a project run by Channel 4, is one charity, who, through the use of entertainment, is helping to boost awareness. However, #knowyourlemons is undoubtedly one of the most creative campaigns. The hashtag developed by Worldwide Breast Cancer included 12 different lemons, with a small detail on them, including ‘hard lump’, which distinguished signs of breast cancer. Through a host of outdoor banners and educational posters, the campaign reached an audience of more than 160 million people in its first three weeks.


Back in 2003, following the launch of their, “there are no silver spoons for children born into poverty” campaign, Barnardo’s received almost 500 complaints before the ad was banned. A baby with a cockroach climbing out of its mouth, a baby with a bottle of methylated spirits in its mouth, and a baby with a syringe hanging out of its mouth were all juxtaposed with an image of a child born with ‘a silver spoon in its mouth’. The charity later apologised for any offence in which they had caused through their advertising campaign but did not refused to submit that it was unnecessary. They also went on to report this marketing strategy had performed significantly better than any in the past, receiving six times the amount of donations. 

Some of the main reasons people suggest why they don’t give to charity include that they already give enough, their money won’t be enough to make a difference, and that it isn’t their problem. Therefore, charities have a challenge on their hand — if they are going to attract donations, they need to be clever. In most cases, that is exactly what these campaigns are, forward-thinking bate that attracts a bite. 

Article provided by UK based booklet printing specialists, Where the Trade Buys.


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