War in Context

KNGF is naturally known for the help their guide dogs offer blind people. If someone says KNGF,  the link with guide dogs is quickly made. Everyone knows them: they’re cute, courageous and careful companions. And I mean, who doesn’t like this face?

(excuse the dutch)

Still, how many people forget about this ad within the next 5 minutes, and who many actually donate as a result of their adorable and endearing commercials? We understand the dogs’ value to visually impaired, in making daily routines earlier, but does this really make us more giving or compassionate?

Recently, the nonprofit organization launched a new campaign, that shows us a whole different and new side of guide dogs:

Rather than focusing on guide dogs for blind people, it aims at broadening our perspectives of the company, and the help dogs can offer. We see a man in the middle of a war zone, who finds himself trying but unable to save a woman that is very close, but still too far, from him. It is a heart wrenching scene. It turns out to be a bad dream, that his trauma guide dog awakes him from. Then the broadcast reads:

“Because guide dogs do not only help those who cannot see;
They also help those who have seen too much.”

I don’t know about you, but I was left speechless.

So why is this commercial so effective, especially in comparison to the traditional approach? The answer lies in construal level theory (Construal-level theory of psychological distance, Trope & Liberman, 2010). The lower the construal level of the situation, the more contextually relevant it is to us. The more contextually relevant, the more likely a situation is to impact our mental processes and behavior.

A big current issue and topic of discussion here in Europe are the refugees and the war they are fleeing from. Some people really want to help, some people have some strong concerns and some are torn between the two. On a similar note, terrorism and extremism is getting scarier. The attacks in Paris, suicide bombings, MH17, and more vicious assault are taking place increasingly close to us.  Sadly, war is becoming a part of our reality.

In terms of Trope & Liberman‘s article, war and its results are therefore moving closer to our current life in psychological distance. Seeing the fear in the soldiers eyes makes this KNGH commercial hit close to home, and therefore more touching and impactful.

Now; the emotional connection is there, but are we actually donating (more) after seeing this story? Do you think this commercial is effective in meeting its goal, namely evoking donations?


Susanne ten Brink


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