All Kidding Aside, Humor Can Be a Useful Engagement Tool
In a new Water.org campaign video, Matt Damon makes light of himself in hopes of drawing attention to the need for greater access to clean water and sanitation. And it seems to be working. Could humor work for your next campaign for your cause?
Matt Damon is on strike. He is not going to the bathroom until everyone has access to clean water and sanitation, he said in a video for a new Water.org campaign “StrikeWithMe.”
Essentially a fake press conference where Damon announces his restroom abstention and takes questions from the media, the video is a spin on the traditional public service announcement, using humor to get more people’s attention and support for clean water.
“We’ve been experimenting for two years now on how to get people to care,” Damon, a Water.org co-founder, told Fast Company. “Statistics like ‘every 20 seconds a child dies from a preventable water-borne illness’ are shocking and true. But people aren’t shocked by statistics. And they don’t want to share them with their friends.”
Although it’s satirical, the video is a twist on the idea that compelling stories lead to greater audiences and action.
“Stories are more powerful than data because they allow individuals to identify emotionally with ideas and people they might otherwise see as outsiders,” University of Virginia psychology professor Timothy Wilson told The New York Times in an article on individual voting preferences.
Facts such as more people having cellphones than toilets, for example, can get lost in the fray among a population largely accustomed to plentiful sanitation options.
YouTube and other social media channels are flooded with people and organizations calling out for attention, “so the challenge becomes what makes you different enough that you’re going to be able to stand out in that crowded space,” Steve Drake, president of SCD Group, Inc., told Associations Now last year. “You’ve got to have an emotional appeal.”
The shock appeal of Damon’s “press conference” seems to be working for the StrikeWithMe campaign. The video has gotten more than a million views on YouTube, and on the day it launched, web traffic to Water.org doubled from its previous highest numbers, Fast Company reported.
Matt Damon in his Water.org viral video, "Matt Damon Goes On Strike!" (YouTube screenshot)