I can't remember the last time I saw a commercial as impactful as this British PSA for Save the Children. Created to raise money for midwife training programs in underserved communities around the world, the ad spells out the stark reality of this need with unflinching clarity. A Liberian woman lies in a hospital bed giving birth. The baby is born, blue and silent. A woman lays it on a table while the mother shakes. Text appears on-screen: "For a million newborns every year, their first day is also their last." You gasp.
Then a fucking BOSS MIDWIFE RUBS THE BABY BACK TO LIFE WITH MIDWIFE POWERS and the ad is like, "Basic training for midwives can help end first day deaths. Text BORN to 70008 to give £5." Oof.
Agency and client are unapologetic about the provocative creative. "This is a shocking piece of communication, and it is deliberately designed to make an impact," said Mat Goff, managing director at adam&eveDDB. "One million children dying every year on their first day on Earth is a shocking statistic. So many lives like that of Melvin can be saved simply by having a trained midwife present at the birth. Hopefully it will have the impact that children like Melvin and mothers like T-Girl need."
Added Sue Allchurch, director of marketing and communications for Save the Children: "The 'First Day' creative is a step away from our usual brand advertising, but we felt that a shocking and impactful creative was needed to raise awareness of the scale of the issue and to give the bigger picture of the changes that Save the Children wants to make in the world—stopping children dying for good and helping them fulfill their potential."
I hope very much that issues of consent were fully considered and attended to in the creation of this commercial (AdWeek mentions that the footage was filmed last year in Liberia, "not specifically for an ad")—that the woman pictured was aware that her footage was being used and that she approved of how widely it would be distributed. However, I have no reason to distrust Save the Children, which as far as I can tell is a highly credible organization.
Supposing its creation was ethical, this ad elevates effectiveness to an art form. It sets up a need, evokes a deep emotional response, and just when the viewer wants to help more than anything, provides a pathway of almost zero resistance. Masterfully done.