02 Feb

Am I the only one? (the ‘blind beggar’ viral)

I first saw this promo video  / ‘viral’  only a month ago, despite the fact that it was produced four years ago…

I had certain thoughts and feelings on it then, but forgot about the vid after a while. However, my memory was jogged when it appeared in a LinkedIn group I follow, where it was – in the main – praised for; ‘great story telling’ …. being ‘beautifully executed’  and ‘a lovely idea’…. ‘showing raw emotion’ …. ‘really nailing the importance of a well-crafted message’

Seemingly the loner is this debate, I strongly disagree. As soon as I saw it (the first time) I responded quite violently, albeit internally.

To explain: originally, I watched it under the headline (on a friend’s Facebook wall) ‘People ignored a blind and homeless man’s sign until a stranger changed its words’ and thought it was genuine, shared content of a thoughtful act.
When I realised that it was simply to promote an agency I felt duped.

To be fair, as it went on – long before the ‘reveal’ –  I knew it was too polished to be ‘real’ (too much switching of angles, a well-chosen emotive soundtrack… and why would the blind guy instinctively reach out to feel for the woman’s shoes, twice, unless it was a story-telling device from within a script?).
However, this didn’t lessen my revulsion when the ‘Purple Feather’ logo popped up.

To find out at the end that, effectively, the emotion raised by the blind-homeless-guy-helped-by-good-samartian story was simply a vehicle to sell the services of a digital agency, was galling. I found the whole thing mercenary and a little underhand.
If you’re going to – quite literally – use the blind, homeless guy, at least add a link to the RNIB (or a similar charity) at the end.

The video certainly wasn’t ‘raw’ or ‘genuine’: it was a set-up for a promo video, with script writers, a production crew, cameras, sound mixers etc.

In truth, the agency could’ve chosen a million and one other ways of doing this.
A positive (and less crude) spin might’ve been to get hold of those ‘golf sale’ sign guys, and see the reaction to different messages/messaging on those boards (not quite perfect, but just offering an alternative of some kind).

There’s many ways in which a well-crafted message or ‘changing your words’ can help. Just look at the way Mastercard turned the message ‘spend more money on our credit cards’ into ‘it’s worth it for that once in a lifetime experience’ AKA ‘Priceless’.
Or how about this – if talking about charity messages – from a few years back, from Stand Up To Cancer :

The point is, there are so many different ways of highlighting the importance of a well-crafted message that Purple Feather didn’t need to resort to the tactics used.

With 18 million views, it clearly resonated with some people (although you have to wonder whether it was effective in bringing in new clients or whether many viewed this as a piece of art: a story to pass among friends), but for me, not so much….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *