A critical analysis of charity advertising in the UK

Most international charities in the UK use advertisements to raise money and engage with a variety of different stakeholders. Charity advertising comes in many forms: television, newspaper and magazines, social media, radio, pop up banners, posters and more. In the past charities have been criticised for their shock tactics and using images of suffering to generate emotions of compassion and pity. They have also been accused of dehumanising those depicted in the photographs and unnecessary use of stereotypes. This criticism often warrants questions such as: how should charities portray the people they are trying to help and what is the damage of these representations?

The aim of this research project is to analyse charity advertising across various marketing formats. The first study will examine adverts within UK national weekend newspapers from March 2021 to August 2021. Further studies will examine direct mail, email marketing and more. The project will build a database of UK charity advertisements to enable a critical analysis with a particular focus on visual storytelling and how images and textual representations affect the way we see those “in need”. The databases will be available for for students, researchers and practitioners to make their own analyses.