UN refugee agency unveils daring awareness campaign in Canada

16 May 2007

The United Nations refugee agency is running a provocative international advertising campaign that employs shock tactics to raise awareness about its work and drum up public support for those who have been forced to flee their homes.

The United Nations refugee agency is running a provocative international advertising campaign that employs shock tactics to raise awareness about its work and drum up public support for those who have been forced to flee their homes.

The pro bono TV campaign, launched in Canada earlier this month and also running in about a dozen countries in Europe, South America and Africa, was created by the Toronto office of the BBDO advertising agency, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which hopes the drive will help raise $1.8 million for the agency this year.

One of the TV spots features a computer-generated snail being pulled from its shell with a pair of tweezers. The tag line reads: “If you think taking one snail from its home is disturbing, you should know it’s already been done to 21 million people.”

BBDO also produced print and radio advertisements dealing with the theme of home and using sarcasm to get the message across. One of the ads features a photograph of three refugee women shielding themselves from a sandstorm with nothing but their clothes and a blanket. “Refugees are so lucky,” the headline says, explaining how high-end appliances cost so much compared to the simple tarp, wood and cardboard materials used by the homeless.

Jonathan Wade, UNHCR’s fund-raising officer in Ottawa, said it was agreed from the start that the campaign would be designed to attract the attention of urban professionals. “These are the elusive 30 to 45-year-old professionals who are generally well educated, well read, but have not had direct experience or knowledge of refugee issues,” he said.

“We are very gratified that BBDO has offered to leverage the power of advertisement to help refugees,” said Jahanshah Assadi, UNHCR representative in Canada, praising the individuals involved in the campaign.

The UNHCR office in Ottawa has received calls from print and broadcast media asking to run the ads, which picked up five awards at the annual Canadian Marketing Awards in March, before the formal launch of the campaign.

 

♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.