Why tugging at our heartstrings is no longer enough to make us open our purses


Charities have been doing it for years; they have mastered the art of creating impactful adverts that elicit an emotional response. But increasingly it seems that this is no longer enough to spur us to respond financially and make much needed donations to their worthy causes.

Take the new campaign by Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde). Their highly emotive Make a Child Cry campaign video begins by showing a series of young children crying… really gut-wrenching sobbing! It then pans out to reveal that they are actually in a doctor’s surgery receiving medicines, ending with the call to action: “Make a child cry. Save his life”.

The campaign theme is clever. It provokes interest because charities usually ask us to help them stop children crying. Instead this campaign uses the insight that many children cry at the doctor’s to draw attention to the fact that one child dies every 7 seconds from lack of accessible healthcare across the globe, and asks us to donate money to allow them to visit a doctor – it’s better to see a child cry because they’re receiving healthcare than to have them die from a preventable disease.

Although the campaign aims to tackle a hugely important issue, so far it has had fairly modest traction; the website states that since its launch on June 13 “4,880 children have cried thanks to your donations”. With £20 buying 10 malnutrition kits, £55 buying 180 anti-malaria drug treatments and £100 buying 480 measles vaccinations, simple mathematics suggests that those donations have come from a few hundred people at most. Yet the campaign video has had nearly 34,000 views.

Not every healthcare campaign manages to capture massive levels of awareness and engagement. The modest response so far to Make a Child Cry should take nothing away from the fact that Doctor of the World have produced a moving and authentic campaign based on a key insight to try and draw attention to a real issue.

This isn’t the first time Doctors of the World have lunched unusual and attention-grabbing campaigns. Their award winning 2014 Ebola campaign, “More Than a Costume” and “The Gift of Life” (launched at Halloween and Christmas respectively), asked people to donate a real Ebola suit and as part of this they also succeeded in making the Ebola Healthcare Worker the Time Magazine person of the year for 2014.

But while Make a Child Cry tries to make us view children’s crying as a good thing for a good cause, ultimately perhaps it’s because we’ve seen similar visual imagery in a multitude of charity campaigns over the years that it is yet another video so many people have watched and then moved on from without donating.








Doctors of the World is an international humanitarian organization that provides essential medical care to excluded people at home and abroad while fighting for equal access to healthcare worldwide. If you would like to find out more about the campaign or donate money to Make a Child Cry, visit the website: http://www.makeachildcry.com/uk


Charlotte Shyllon, Director and Partner, Healthcare
Maren Thurow, Senior Account Executive, Healthcare