International Marketing Communications

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29 May, 2006, the streets of Switzerland’s cities were transformed into a theatre of war. Youngsters with guns, bloody war victims and black-hooded tortured prisoners took over the streets at local bus stops, shopping centres and train stations. The organisation behind this attack was not an extremist terrorist group, it was Amnesty International.

The children soldiers and tortured civilians were not actually there, but their images were. Real, life-size photographs of these victims of human rights violations were taken by photojournalists in war torn Sudan, and other human rights infringing countries including China, Iraq and Liberia. These shocking photos were digitally juxtaposed with images of local Swiss backgrounds, such as bus stops, to create the facade that the actions were happening ‘here’ on the streets in peaceful Switzerland. Written on top of two hundred different posters was the slogan, ‘It’s not happening here, but it is happening now’. On the chaotic posters there was a small but significant glimmer of hope. It was symbolised in the burning flame, Amnesty International’s emblematic trademark. The small candle represented the possibility that, with the target market’s help and support, these horrific violations could be eradicated.

This paper is an analysis of Amnesty International’s 2006 Swiss campaign ‘It’s not happening here but it is happening now’, an innovative concept created and produced by Walker Werbeagentur located in Zürich, Switzerland. This paper will provide background into Amnesty International and explain the concept, context and target market of this campaign. It will discuss the role of advertising, including the campaign’s goals and key creative ideas, as well as analyse its psychological theory and emotional approach, culminating with an evaluation of the campaign’s success.

Like many other westerners, the Swiss enjoy free democracy and individual civil liberties. They live comfortable lifestyles in safe areas where violence is rare. For Switzerland and other modern democracies, it is all too easy to take these liberties for granted. They tend not to think about, or choose to ignore, people in other countries that live without these basic human rights.

The Swiss value humanitarianism, if they were to see such human rights violations as those depicted in the ‘it is happening now’ campaign happening on their soil, they would most certainly try and put a stop to them right away. But the issues seen in ‘it is happening now’ do not occur in Switzerland, they happen in a world far removed. When human rights violations are not happening close by, it is easy to ‘turn a blind eye’ and forget about the problem.

Looking at the ‘it is happening now’ advertisements made it appear that these violations were happening exactly ‘here and now’. This brought the human rights abuse issue out of the ‘third world’ and into an entirely new context. These shocking images depicted in areas of their cities was designed to change Swiss perspective on human rights and familiarise them with Amnesty International‘s cause.

Amnesty International, established in 1961, actively works to stop human rights abuse around the world. The organisation is independent of all governments and political groups; it has over two million members in 150 countries and offices in over 80 countries. Amnesty International members organise campaigns to stop human rights violations by putting pressure on governments and other powerful groups through public demonstrations, direct lobbying, and other similar techniques (Amnesty International 2009). Amnesty International has a reputation of accomplishing significant human rights victories through its effective campaigns. Its achievements include winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 and being regarded as setting the standard protocol for the entire human...
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