Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On the Role of Humor in Advocacy


Image from Detroit's College for Creative Studies Ad Campaign. via Facebook

"Doodling is a gateway drug to illustration." "One in five teenagers will experiment with art." This catchy and hilarious ad campaign that apes teen PSA tropes has been making the social media rounds over the last couple of days. Though it's an ad for Detroit's College of Creative Studies, a post from the Philbrook Museum of Art's Facebook page is really what helped the campaign go viral. (Please check out the full ad there- it's really hysterical.) As of this morning, the original post by the Philbrook has been shared over 13,000 times and has over 12,000 likes- making it Facebook's most engaged museum for the day it was posted. Though the social media trajectory is fascinating, I'm interested in how this campaign can help inform our arts advocacy tactics.

Engaging, funny...and true
     Though it's an advertisement, not an advocacy program, the wild success and strong resonance of the "One in Five Teenagers" campaign got me thinking about the role of humor in advocacy. Is humor a strategy we can use to get our message across effectively? The CCS ads are engaging and funny. (I think Don Draper would approve.) What makes them especially great is the element of truth - if you check out the original post on the Philbrook's facebook page, many artists and art teachers are chiming in with comments about how they are indeed addicted to art (or in recovery). I also noticed art teachers clamoring for copies of the ads for their art rooms. (FYI, if you are interested in getting one yourself go to the College of Creative Studies- not sure they have them, but they would be the ones to ask.)

Good for arts addicts- and arts skeptics?
     Obviously this campaign resonates with the proverbial choir who are already art addicts. And I doubt that even something this clever and funny could reach the naysayers - it takes more than that, of course. But the campaign certainly sticks with you, and even if you aren't an art addict you've got to admit it's pretty darn funny. I think humor has the ability not just to draw attention to your product (or in this case, cause), but also humanize it and give it personality. It also shows that you don't take yourself TOO seriously. 

Let's Go Viral
     Americans for the Arts has used humor in their "Arts: Ask For More" campaign by creating arts mascots that parody branding of popular products (think "Raisin Brahms" and "Elizabeth Barrett Brownlees"). Can arts advocates make a funny viral video campaign? Something similarly catchy and thought provoking that really makes you think about arts support? It's a tall order but I bet someone out there is up for the job. After all, I the arts advocacy community has some of the best creative minds out there - I'm looking at you, artists and art teachers! Any ideas? 

If we're successful enough maybe we can get the next generation saying "I learned it by watching you" about arts advocacy! (Maybe I just wanted an excuse to include one of the most parodied PSAs of all time.)

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