How Advertising Has Saved Lives

AIDS ribbon
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When you think of advertising, you usually think of a bunch of high-powered executives in flashy offices, coupled with hipsters leaning back in their chairs. It’s all about making money, and rampant consumerism. That’s all down to TV and movies. But there is another side to advertising, and it’s one that rarely gets talked about.

How Advertising Can Be Used to Save Lives

Over the years (well, decades really), there have been thousands of ads that have not promoted the purchasing of goods and services. Instead, they have pushed information; information that is for the public good, and can prevent injuries and deaths.

Some of those ads you will no doubt remember well. One of the most impactful campaigns if the last 10 years has been Truth ( Using a series of powerful events, and publicity stunts, the campaign for Truth has revealed some shocking and surprising facts about smoking. From what goes into a cigarette, to the number of people who die every year from smoking, including passive smoking, Truth has hit home hard. And it has stopped many people from either taking up smoking or continuing to smoke themselves to what would probably be a painful death. 

AIDS Awareness Advertising

In the 1980s, perhaps the biggest life-saving campaign to hit screens around the world was AIDS awareness. At the time, there was little known about the disease, and it was a death sentence. Powerful ads from some of the best creative ad shops in the world hammered home the horrendous truths about AIDS, and how it was transmitted. Later, when the fear twisted the truth, more advertising was created to let people know that AIDS cannot be transmitted outside of sex and intravenous use.

But that’s only the tip of a very large iceberg. Think about how often you have been told something that has later saved lives; either yours or someone you know:

  • Without creative advertising for certain cancers, and in particular breast and testicular cancer, many people would not have caught the spread of the disease in time.
  • Without creative and powerful advertising warning against the dangers of meth use, or other hard drugs, many people would have gone down a road from which it was impossible to come back.
  • Without hard-hitting advertising for road safety, including seat belt use, tailgating, crash helmets, and drunk driving, there would have been thousands of casualties on the roads over the last forty years.

The Impact of Charity Advertising

It’s easy to vilify advertising, because most of it is done for capitalist reasons. Advertising, marketing, and PR are the tools of large corporations, and they use this power to drive profits and make wealthy people even wealthier. But there are always two sides to every story, and although the charitable side of advertising is dwarfed by its other side, it’s still important to note that advertising has done a great deal of good over the years.

It’s also worth noting that when a client comes into an agency that wants to do something that saves lives, everyone working on that account gets very excited. Well, perhaps excited is the wrong word. They are driven to do something that will have a huge impact and hit home. From the creative department to production and account service, working on a project that gives something back to the community is a huge boost to all those working on it. IN a very real sense, advertising that saves lives can also save the psyches of people who have grown weary of working the on car, alcohol, and fast food accounts.

Advertising can save lives. It does save lives. And it plays an important role in the service of the community. If you work in advertising, and someone tells you it's the work of the devil, just remind them of the great deal of good it has done as well.