Some of the most successful charity-lead advertising campaigns ever produced

Are there any memorable charity focused advertising campaigns that spring to mind for you? It might well be one that was aired on TV. It’s fair to say that like big brands, charities also depend on the media to promote the work they do, in order to attract additional donations and allow them to continue making an impact with their mission.

We’ve picked our top four controversial, daring, and majorly successful charity run advertising campaigns ever generated.

Dogs Trust

If we look back to 1978, one of the most rememberable ads of all time was created. The-then Chief Executive of the animal sanctuary charity, Clarissa Baldwin, coined the idea for the advert — ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’. The campaign, which was designed to remind people about how we must act responsibly in terms of dog ownership, not simply buying one to then drop it off at the pound on 2nd January, has been used each year since. In recent years, X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke, and actor John Barrowman, both avid dog lovers, have presented a video for the charity, stating the famous phrase.


People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals have been slammed in the media on numerous occasions for going ‘over the top’ with their advertisements. In the past, their campaigns have been subject to claims of objectifying women and disrespecting the suffering of victims from atrocities such as the Holocaust. PETA’s ads, which, through daring imagery and controversial content, have certainly shown the real fuel-powered ability of advertising. One of the most successful campaigns by PETA included the scantily clad former Baywatch star, Pamela Anderson. In the photo, the blonde model has her body parts marked out into the different parts of a cow that are considered meat. The caption reads, “All animals have the same parts”. The campaign was banned in the Canadian city of Montreal as it was considered degrading to women.

Worldwide Breast Cancer

With one in two of us expected to get cancer in our lifetime, it should come as no surprise that there are more than 600 registered cancer charities across the UK, raising money to battle this cruel disease. SU2C, a project run by Channel 4, is one charity, who, through the use of entertainment, is helping to boost awareness. However, #knowyourlemons is undoubtedly one of the most creative campaigns. The hashtag developed by Worldwide Breast Cancer included 12 different lemons, with a small detail on them, including ‘hard lump’, which distinguished signs of breast cancer. Through a host of outdoor banners and educational posters, the campaign reached an audience of more than 160 million people in its first three weeks.


Back in 2003, following the launch of their, “there are no silver spoons for children born into poverty” campaign, Barnardo’s received almost 500 complaints before the ad was banned. A baby with a cockroach climbing out of its mouth, a baby with a bottle of methylated spirits in its mouth, and a baby with a syringe hanging out of its mouth were all juxtaposed with an image of a child born with ‘a silver spoon in its mouth’. The charity later apologised for any offence in which they had caused through their advertising campaign but did not refused to submit that it was unnecessary. They also went on to report this marketing strategy had performed significantly better than any in the past, receiving six times the amount of donations.

Some of the main reasons people suggest why they don’t give to charity include that they already give enough, their money won’t be enough to make a difference, and that it isn’t their problem. Therefore, charities have a challenge on their hand — if they are going to attract donations, they need to be clever. In most cases, that is exactly what these campaigns are, forward-thinking bate that attracts a bite.


Gary Peeling is MD at Where The Trade Buys, one such company who is placing an emphasis on becoming an industry leader within sustainable printing. The commercial book printing business has significantly invested in becoming an FSC partner, helping talking care of forests and the people who live in them. The company has bases in London, Sunderland and Surrey.