Debate: Are charities going too far in using shocking images in advertising?

Shock advertising has been criticised for generating temporary outrage, but it does work for some charities

A WSPA photograph of a bear on a bile farm
A WSPA photograph of a bear on a bile farm

Rob Dyson, PR manager, Whizz-KidzRob Dyson, PR manager, Whizz-Kidz

In an increasingly crowded market, charities face a tough time getting their voices heard so they can inspire the public and potential partners to donate and fundraise.

At Whizz-Kidz, something we're passionate about is giving a voice to the young disabled people we work with, and we always portray them positively. Our emphasis is on what is possible with the right mobility equipment and training. We understand the need to create a strong case for support, but we believe this is best achieved without compromising young disabled people's dignity.

Colin Lloyd, chair, Fundraising Standards BoardColin Lloyd, chair, Fundraising Standards Board

Most of the time, charities get it right. Innovative campaigns are delivered on tight budgets, communicating both the cause and the vital need for funds.

But when an advert crosses the indefinable line and upsets the public en masse, the impact can be immense. Donors, beneficiaries and funders alike may disengage, leaving a long shadow over the charity's reputation and brand.

With the public indicating that charity adverts are a common cause for concern, charities must tread carefully and find the line that lies between a strong, emotive campaign and one that offends.

Rosie Chinchen, director of fundraising, WSPA UKRosie Chinchen, director of fundraising, WSPA UK

For WSPA, emotive copy backed with images of an animal suffering from cruelty or neglect is how we move people to want to help. But if the image is too shocking, you risk losing potential supporters.

Most of the time I decide which images are suitable. Sometimes it's possible to let the individual decide - for a recent WSPA mailing, we sealed the graphic images in an envelope and warned of the content.

Strong images have impact and can move your audience to react by giving. Too shocking, and the only reaction you'll get is them looking away.

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