Fast Food Workers – Social Media Share

by Granate Sosnoff on 3rd April, 2014

Partnering with this fast-breaking campaign mostly with social media. We’ve been successful with bumping up engagement by about a thousand percent and audience up by over a third and still building… some of our artier posts here. The workers are fighting against widespread wage theft in the industry with lawsuits across the country and for $15 and a union.

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UN ad campaign on women

by Granate Sosnoff on 23rd October, 2013
TAGS: , ,

Campaign so worth checking out – Actual Google autocomplete results. Take a look.

UN ad campaign

Advocacy media – one up from the Simpsons?

by Granate Sosnoff on 29th June, 2013

Drugs are bad. You shouldn’t do drugs.

This is what Mr. Mackey, the guidance counselor on the Simpsons, tells Bart Simpson and his classmates.

But it’s not so far from what many a nonprofit imitates in their advocacy.

It’s not pretty but it happens. And because we are who we are it ends up on a bumper sticker, your social media and shared elsewhere.

And as our president said a campaign ago – “we can do better.” 


My friend is the epitome of the tireless, brainy, activist-leader. She’s involved in complex work in Africa investigating and organizing to stop “land grabs.” Land grabs are when financial groups and corporations swoop into (usually) poor countries and buy up or lease large swaths of fertile land for investment not development. These mostly foreign groups are involved in a variety of industries, with a majority focused on export crops – including palm oil for biofuels.

Investors claim to be improving economies and livelihoods for impoverished communities, but investigations into the benefits are negligible. Worse, the projects often cause great harm to the environment, loss of work and food production and displacement to the people already living there.

It is a very troubling global trend impacting Africa particularly hard. Not a brand new issue, the fight against what’s been dubbed a global “land rush” is underway by environmental, land and human rights activists. Unfortunately the work isn’t unified by a single vision and messaging.

SIDEBAR: My friend’s group works on a shoestring budget, even after impressive wins and courageous strategy that put a halt to the largest land grab in South Sudan and stalled out a huge land grab in Tanzania that would have displaced over 170,000 people. They don’t get the kind of funding name brand nonprofits get, even with the notable strides they’ve made. The money seems to go elsewhere.


By chance I stumbled upon a very slick video made by a much, much, larger international group working on land grabs. It shows what appear to be first-world people who suddenly find themselves without homes. Shown with various belongings, like couches on the street and the like, and doing things like brushing their teeth and sleeping (in clip after clip) out-of-doors while a song by Coldplay plays in the background.

Copy appears and states things like: “imagine getting kicked out of your home.”

The problem with the campaign is that it isn’t about the widespread tragedy of poverty and homelessness that occurs in first-world countries every day (like the areas shown in the video) the video is addressing “land grabs” that most often take place in Africa, South America, Papua New Guinea… but no word is said about these places. And nothing points a finger at the corporations and investment groups taking over the land.

There are no answers to who, what, why and where.

The message is: land grabs are bad, you wouldn’t want to be displaced. The secondary message is: aren’t we awesome for being a part of saying it’s bad.

“Drugs are bad, you shouldn’t do drugs.”

And there you go.

I’d like to think we’re more than one up from the Simpsons’ guidance counselor when it comes to this stuff, but sadly others think differently. It’s not a lack of money that is the issue, it’s a lack of creativity and respect for our intelligence.

Just like regular bad advertising.

Selling a better world

by Granate Sosnoff on 21st March, 2013


No – Official Trailer (HD) Christopher Reeve, Gael García Bernal – YouTube.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. This is your brain on drugs. Just say no. You’ve come a long way baby.

I have a love/hate relationship with slogans. Trapped behind a Volvo in Berkeley and faced with the bumper sticker “War is never the answer” my response is: what if the crossword is a three-letter word for extended battle?

In the right context, slogans and iconic imagery do some heavy lifting in getting messages across and motivating a crowd.

If you want to see that in action or if you have any interest in communications for advocacy, please go see “No,” the Oscar-nominated film about an ad man’s social marketing campaign that helped end Pinochet’s reign of terror in Chile.

Brief history: Pinochet’s brutal 17-year regime started after a U.S. supported military coup that overthrew and caused the death of Salvador Allende, the first elected Marxist president in Latin America. Pinochet’s military dictatorship was notorious for torture, murder and corruption.

But “No” isn’t a continuation of “Missing,” it’s a story about an ad man with a leftist background who gets talked into producing a series of 15 minute segments for late night television to combat the government’s dominant messaging and control of the media.

It’s a one-time opportunity leading up to a yes/no referendum for Pinochet. And even though it’s widely held that the election will be rigged, bystanders from the West are watching, and there is hope for change.

Prior to engaging the ad exec, the allied social democrats and leftists produce a moving docudrama that shows the violence, repression, and suffering they believe will motivate the masses to come out and say “no.”

The ad exec pooh poohs the effort and states: “esto no vende.” That doesn’t sell.

Much to the chagrin of the stalwart leftists involved, he then produces a spot that at first looks a little cheesy (it is set in the 80s) – think Coke meets New Freedom mini-pads, with a catchy jingle.

The rest is storybook, movie history. The ad man takes the aspirational slogan-jingle “Chile, Happiness is Coming” to a battle cry level, infuses the creative with more meaningful content and inspires a majority to give showing up a chance and saying no a try.*

For people involved in advocacy communications it’s a potent reminder to keep asking: What will motivate your audience? What are you offering them?

After almost two decades of murder, disappearances and repression, an ad man in Chile played a pivotal role in changing history with a catchy jingle, rainbow logo, people on horseback and scenes of a bucolic picnic. That’s a powerful tale for progressives here.

The movie showed a winning strategy that combined both the ugly truths (images of loss and repression) within a frame of smart motivation (hope for a happy future) to get to a new dawn moment.


*No, it’s not exactly how it happened, but it’s one aspect of the winning campaign. Apparently the filmmaker got some flak (NY Times article). But it’s a good movie and the message is worth heeding.

Kony 2012 – sigh to the critics

by Granate Sosnoff on 10th March, 2012

Like everyone, I’ve seen the riveting 30 minutes. And yes I got a tear in my eye. I praise the excellence involved in communicating a difficult issue to a wide audience. Of course it is a simplistic argument. Of course it is mostly first world, white heroes, but it is something that, above all, worked. It’s moving a massive group of people to think, discuss and do.

How much effort goes into multimillion-dollar campaigns that fall flat?

How often do activists spend most of their time talking with each other rather than engaging a larger audience?

There are multiple ways to     get     things     done.

And who is being harmed? Would critics rather that young adults turn their full attention back to internet fun like “sh*t people say” or world’s cutest dog and kitty photo and share those?

Kudos to Invisible Children and their approach to make a warlord famous and thus real to a huge audience. I watched it with my daughter who asked me to order the action kit the way she would ask to see a Harry Potter movie.

Innovation, high production values, engagement: people respond to it.

Every marketer, communications person alive wants to “break through the clutter” and emerge like Kony 2012 has. This campaign is a star and can coexist without diminishing other important, long-term, policy-shifting work that is going on.

What’s a great name for a nonprofit organization, project, or campaign?

by Granate Sosnoff on 12th January, 2012

The names we gravitate to are memorable, not too similar to names of other groups, and (hopefully) original and not copyrighted already.

Trends are odd factors in naming. For a while “like google” entered every conversation. And while some groups are perfectly suited to it, not many sound right with a Swahili name.

Your group’s name needs to “feel” right, and sticky in the right way.

One client came to us, a research group with the name “Technical Assistance for Prevention Outcomes and Measurements,” they went by the lovely acronym of “TA-POM.” We came up with the name, “Prevention by Design” which suited them to a T and greatly improved morale.

We created the campaign “Voices Not Victims” to say in shorthand that violence prevention can be more effective with communication and advocacy rather than with reinforcement of the idea of a victim. One is positive and hopeful the other continues fear and immobility.

We like to turn things on their head to get a point across like with “Respect is what’s Sexy” a campaign that took the tired concept of “asking for it” and spun it around.

Unlike a logo or other defining image, a name more often “nails it” rather than embellishes all you are trying to say. We take you through a process to get at the nugget of who your group is. Sometimes it’s more organic than listing out options, sometimes it gets blurted out by an unlikely candidate during the time we are working on it.

Then it’s back into the creative cave to work on a logo…

PETA and their ads

by Granate Sosnoff on 28th November, 2011

Seems like PETA is more focused on naked starlets against fur than an overall agenda for animal rights and their ethical treatment.

They’ve gone from showing lab monkeys in cages and bunny rabbits in make-up to this. Arguably the ads are more pleasing – but besides getting attention what are they doing? Who wears fur? My mom once a year in the early 60s. Visiting Contessas?

And are lab animals, the fur industry, and pet-eating in Korea really a larger problem than big, dirty, greenhouse gas-producing chicken farm/factories in America’s heartland?

I think that most of us with any exposure to it can agree that the meat industry is disgusting. But a large population eats meat and is going to keep eating meat.

We would dearly like to eat meat that is safer, less factory-based, and oh I don’t know, something less gross than what exists and closer to the ritual killing of that water buffalo in Apocalypse Now.

A kind of harm-reduction model of animal farming and butchering – a groovy Michael Pollan/Alice Waters meat production. Maybe sometimes with a Rabbi. Small producers, organic, local…

Getting us all to become vegans is going to take a while. We know PETA’s mission, it wouldn’t kill them to work with us a little and launch an interim plan that includes a more ethical treatment of animals in a sometimes meat-eating world.

In the world of advocacy and nonprofit communications, marketing and advertising you find…

by Granate Sosnoff on 31st October, 2011

Overused stuff:

The word “real” – “real change” really.
Stick figure logos. Of any kind.
The term: “making a difference.”
Overdone images of diversity at all costs, ie. trying to show “one of each”
(in every ad a la college recruitment brochure).
Art that you feel you’ve seen over and over again.

Underused stuff:

Proof that a group has contributed to any positive social change.
Having actual diversity at an organization (particularly upper-level).
A clear call to action – what do you want people to do?
Art that makes you smile, wonder, think.
Writing that inspires, questions, propels.
Humor. Yes it’s a crap sandwich sometimes. Minds that have a hard time wrapping themselves around something new. Still there’s usually something to laugh about.

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