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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Charities and NGOs must strive to present "a more diverse cast of characters"


Shocking images are being used less but more needs to be done

International charities are using emotive images less in a bid to garner support.

In a new report - A critical analysis of charity advertising in the UK - national newspapers ads and stories were on the whole found to be less evocative, but there is still an imbalance of images focusing on Africa.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) carried out the study over a six-month period in 2021, examining 541 images 17 national weekend newspapers in the UK.

All the adverts were characterised as supporting issues in countries overseas.  

Key findings included: more than half of the images (56%) supporting international causes focused on countries in Africa.

Some 50% of the characters depicted in the adverts are of women and children. Whole family units were under-represented, with only one image out of 541 images including a mother, father and child.  

It also found 21% of the characters were of children. A previous study in 2005/6 found 42% of all characters focused on children. 

However 11% of images were deemed as ‘pitiful’ or using ‘shock tactics’. The adverts were from two organisations and portray children who suffer from trachoma and a cleft condition. 

Associate Professor David Girling, from UEA’s School of Global Development, said: “This research proves that charities are making significant efforts to improve the representation of people in countries overseas. 

“It is good to see that there are more professionals involved in development work portrayed in the images used by charities. It is also positive to see the reduction in the use of children as helpless victims. 

“Saying that, most of the images of children are still passive and often with their mothers. Charities and NGOs must strive to present a more diverse cast of characters and consider the negative impact of Afro-centric representations of people in need.”



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