Case Study: World Development Movement

The anti-poverty campaigning charity used a gambling theme for its campaign to suggest that bankers who bet on future food prices are gambling with people's lives

World Development Movement
World Development Movement

The dry and complex world of hedge funds, investment banks and financial markets is not, on the face of it, likely to engage the public very much. So the World Development Movement, the anti-poverty campaigning charity, decided to have a bit of fun with its latest project.

The number of people going hungry topped a billion for the first time in 2008 when the price of maize and wheat shot up, something that WDM food campaigner Heidi Chow attributes to financial speculation on futures markets. Prices are rising again and the charity wants to build public pressure on the UK government to support European Commission proposals for the regulation of financial speculation on food.

World Development MovementIn October, WDM appointed the communications agency Forster to generate public awareness of its drive to stop bankers betting on food prices. The resulting campaign used a gambling theme to suggest that bankers who bet on future food prices are gambling with people's lives.

In the first stage of the £18,000 campaign, WDM sent a viral email to 18,500 supporters and food organisations. It showed a blackjack hand and encouraged people to "beat the banker" by choosing whether to "stick" or "twist" as they tried to get their cards to add up to 21.

On 25 November, WDM challenged City bankers to an impromptu game of blackjack outside the London Stock Exchange. The stunt, which attracted coverage in The Times newspaper, was designed to promote the charity's human blackjack game, which went online the following day.

Players could take the role of characters including the Chancellor, George Osborne, a banker, US President Barack Obama, who supports regulation, and Judith Atieno, a Kenyan woman affected by fluctuating food prices.

"Depending on your character and whether you won or lost, the game came up with a narrative showing how food speculation would affect food prices," says Chow.

About half of the 1,000 online players signed up to the campaign. Both games were available through the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. The WDM's own Facebook fan base rose by 30 per cent in November over the previous month.

EXPERT VIEW - Tom Huxtable, managing director, 23red

Tom Huxtable, managing director, 23redAs a vehicle for communicating one of the largely unpublicised causes of a global crisis, the idea is a good one. Gambling with people's lives as a result of exploiting or not regulating food price speculation is a very powerful, persuasive way of presenting the problem, and it cuts through the complex issue well.

However, the execution is frustrated by the dullness and lack of interaction of the blackjack game. Within one or two rounds I had no idea what point the game was supposed to be making: winning or losing each hand should have had significance. In the end, I lost interest.

Call me a traditionalist, but I expect cause campaigns aiming to drum up support to involve me emotionally and rationally. That's where the creative fell down: it communicated the issue well but didn't engage on an emotional level.


Creativity: 4
Delivery: 2
Total: 6 out of 10

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