Sightsavers, the charity that works in developing countries to prevent avoidable sight loss, enlisted the actor and writer James Corden to front a campaign to coincide with World Sight Day last October.
The campaign included a spoof advert called The Feel Bad Four, directed by the photographer Rankin. The video took a tongue-in-cheek look at different techniques charities adopt when they produce adverts.
In the film, Corden tries four techniques that typically feature in charity advertising: guilt, comedy, empathy and shock.
Realising that none is working, he eventually "levels with" the audience and tells them in simple terms about blindness in the developing world and how easy it is to cure it.
The charity hoped that this humorous approach would help to spread the word about the fact that there are 39 million people in the world who are blind, even though 80 per cent of blindness is preventable or curable.
Sue Adams, director of UK fundraising and marketing at Sightsavers, says: "Using comedy was a new and, some would say, brave approach for Sightsavers. However, as organisations such as Comic Relief show, comedy can be a powerful vehicle with which to address serious issues. We hoped to bring the issue of preventable blindness to an audience that previously might not have engaged with our more traditional approaches."
The charity says it was important to get the right balance of comedy to engage the viewer without ridiculing the subject, and to ensure that the butt of the joke was Corden, rather than the charity's message.
Sightsavers calculates that more than 8,500 unique visitors viewed the campaign website, www.sightsavers.org/feelbadfour, while the total audience reached by print media was more than 2.5 million. The charity has also experienced a 3 per cent increase in likes on its Facebook page, and attracted 199 new followers on Twitter. One retweet from Corden resulted in 4,182 click-throughs.
"Looking back on the campaign, we've been delighted with the results," says Adams. "In hindsight, using Google adwords and out-of-house support for seeding the campaign might have grown our social media activity further. This is something that we would like to invest in for future campaigns."
EXPERT VIEW: Jim Campbell, creative director, Strudel
As we all know, the key to a successful digital campaign is good content. So how good is this one, featuring as it does the multi-award winning actor and writer James Corden delivering comedy to the camera lens of the multi-award winning Rankin?
Pretty good, I'd say. As campaign names go, The Feel Bad Four is snappy and lets the public in on fundraising jargon, which is something I haven't seen much of in this sector.
However, I don't go along fully with the notion that, if comedy works for Comic Relief, it will work for any charity campaign. If you're considering this approach for your next campaign, proceed with care.
It's a risky strategy that seems to have worked for Sightsavers. If The Feel Bad Four doesn't work, make 'em laugh - but don't forget the real message. I'm tempted to give this 9 out of 10, but then I would feel bad.
Total: 10 out of 10