In most major cities, you can’t go for a long walk without passing homeless people. The unfortunate truth is that passersby often ignore them–there is so much tragedy on the streets that it’s easier to just look the other way.
In a new pro bono ad campaign for Crossroads Community Services, a New York City nonprofit that offers support and shelter to the homeless, an ad firm thinks it has figured out a way to get people to finally pay attention: pointing out how giving to the homeless benefits the giver.
When Kathy Delaney, chief creative officer of the firm Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, tasked her team with finding a worthy cause to support, they came up with homelessness, and Crossroads in particular.
“Everyone is just a bit numb to the [homeless]. We’ve become so hardened and so oblivious to their situation,” she says. So the Saatchi team decided to flip the narrative, Delaney explains. “The idea became that it’s more about the giver than the homeless person. Crossroads resonated the most with all of us when we met Edward [Sunderland] who runs it, dug in, and saw the way they were helping the homeless.”
Saatchi dug up studies showing how small acts of kindness are beneficial for health and wellness, and then set about turning the results of those studies into compelling video and images for the multimedia “Good For You” campaign, which includes posters in the subway and on bus shelters, a website, and a Tumblr account. Chalk-drawn portraits of the homeless will also highlight the realities of street life to passersby. Donations to Crossroads will be as easy as possible: A simple text message donation system lets people give $5 to the organization.
A number of organizations and artists have donated their time and money to the campaign, including Publicis Health Media, which brought in over $1.4 million in media donations (like a digital placement in Times Square and taxi video ads), and illustrator Mike Perry, who drew sketch art for the Crossroads campaign in New York’s Tompkins Square Park.
Since most of the media for the campaign is donated, Saatchi doesn’t have too much control over timing. But Delaney says that the campaign will begin with the chalk drawings and bus shelter placements before expanding in December.
The feedback so far, she says, has been “absolutely outstanding.”