How A Campaign To Eradicate Poverty Created 8 Years Ago Is Going Viral Today

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There are some wonderful and powerful campaigns that been created to challenge the way we think, change society, and make the world a better place. Campaigns are created every day, and they are forgotten every day as the new ones come to take their place.

When we think about any advertising campaign that has shared a lasting message, it can be tough to think outside of our consumerism-geared mindset (McDonald’s “I’m loving it”, L’Oreal’s “You’re Worth It” for example) to conjure up images of nostalgia or emotion in relation to a campaign created to bring about change.

There is one campaign that recently caught our attention and when we did a little more investigation, it turns out the series of powerful images were from 8 years ago!

In 2007, a relief organization based out of the Netherlands called Cordaid who are committed to building flourishing communities and whose expertise lie in disaster response, and sexual and reproductive health, launched a campaign called ‘Small Change, Big Difference’.

It was designed to mobilize everyday people to be aware of how their contribution can make a lasting impact on the lives of those bound in poverty, especially in disaster areas.

The idea for this campaign came from years of working with Kenyan people who were affecting by drought-stricken areas. They had come up with innovative ways of farming, entrepreneurial ideas, and new ways of living that would enable these Kenyans to weather the worsening drought conditions.

They created a series of 4 images with Kenyan men and women as models holding accessories with contrasting statements written on them. Cordaid worked with Saatchi and Saatchi to create the bold visuals, and 8 years later, it seems they are still resonating.

Cordaid took notice of how these images have suddenly gone viral (thanks to social media) and released more information about the campaign.

“When we started the campaign in 2007 we wanted to draw consumers’ attention to the fact that the money we spend so easily in our daily lives can make a huge difference to people living in disaster areas. Such a campaign would be an excellent way to draw attention to the basic needs of these people, we reasoned,” said Cordaid’s Judith Maat.

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She also explains how they came up with the idea for the images.

“We went to the northern part of Kenya, near Maralal, where we’d been working with local partner organizations for over 10 years. One of these organizations introduced us to the local Samburu people, a nomadic tribe related to the Masai and who had always been at the mercy of extreme droughts,” she said.

“Working closely with trusted partners and local communities we developed our idea of portraying these beautiful people in situations that were completely alien to them: posing with the type of consumer goods that people in developed countries spend money on so easily.”

None of the “models” had ever even seen a fashion magazine before, yet they were happy to oblige. During 2007 the pictures were displayed on billboards, in shopping malls, and distributed in public areas like bars and restaurants. It seems they spared no expense spreading the visuals and hitting home with the message.

In a beautiful twist, Saatchi and Saatchi won a prestigious Cannes Silver Lion Award and they auctioned it off and gave the proceeds to Cordaid.

Judith Maat says while the images were widely hailed, there were also some negative reactions, which proved the conversation was worth having.

“There were plenty of compliments, but there was negative feedback too, which, I must admit, was a little hurtful. But perhaps these contrasting reactions also help to explain why the images are still shared so often by people and organizations that find them online. Their simplicity and powerful, confrontational value keeps triggering bloggers and organizations that want to raise awareness,” she said.

They are meant to almost ridicule wealth inequality which still exists 8 years on from the campaign’s inception.

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Aside from the starkly contrasting visuals in the campaign, Cordaid also released information about each model and their back story.

Elisabeth Leonkokwea is the woman in the blue dress posing with the bag and the watch. She is in her 50s, and looks after 4 children by herself as her husband passed away years ago. Two of her children are married and don’t live at home. She lives in the Samburu Province in Northern Kenya. Elisabeth told Cordaid she is always worried about how she will produce food for her family as the drought keeps killing off her animals, and in one of the worst droughts in 2005, she was forced to walk for days to find water for her children.

Tirinti Letonginei is part of a Maasai people in Northern Kenya. She is the woman wearing the orange dress holding the sunglasses. She only has enough money to send one of her children to school, despite having nine children altogether. During the big drought of 2005, many of her donkeys died and that affecting her daily work. She now has to do most of the heavy-lifting herself when she finds water for her family.

We also see two men, one holding a pint of beer, and another holding a bottle of aftershave, two common items used by men around the world. The contrast of how little it costs to support these men and their families as opposed to spending money on frivolous luxury items is a message that still applies today.

What a testament to the power of creating a campaign that stands the test of time. Let this not take away the importance of Cordaid’s message about poverty, as they say you can still donate to their cause even today.

It is easy to use our status, our bank account, or our lack of power as an excuse not to be able to make a difference in the world. But now that we know a small contribution goes a long way to helping families whose lives hang in the balance and depend on international aid and innovation, we are no longer excused.

To read more about ‘Small Change, Big Difference’ click here.

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