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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The United Way got this one very wrong.

I was in the car tonight with the radio on as background noise. I heard a baby-like voice talking, so I turned the radio up in time to hear a commercial that said something like this:

"I cry because I can't talk. But if I could talk, I would tell you that at the daycare where you drop me off everyday, they put me in my seat and leave me alone all day. I would tell you that I'm not learning anything."

It was an ad for the United Way of Central Indiana's Child Care Answers service. And it made me angry.

Here's the TV version of the ad:

The radio version was more offensive, I think. There was no cute baby to distract me from really hearing the words.

The service is a good one (at least the idea is -- I've not actually used the service myself). It can help parents make informed decisions when choosing a child care provider for their precious charges. That's a good thing.

What is not a good thing is the United Way's decision to stick the knife in the collective gut of every working mom, to play on a parent's fears and guilt, instead of appealing to their desire to make the best choices for their children.

The United Way could have taken this path to getting the message out:

"We know that you want the best for your child. Our Child Care Answers service can help you determine what that is when it comes to choosing a child care provider."

If they wanted to use the voice of child, they could have had the same child in a vibrant care setting saying "Thanks Mom for using Child Care Answers."

The ad goes on to say that even if you are using vouchers to pay for child care, your kid deserves quality. What that says to me is that United Way knows their target audience includes economically-challenged families, likely single mothers, for whom the question to work or not work isn't about being able to afford a summer vacation or a new minivan, but who work to keep the lights on and food in the refrigerator. In my book, that makes sticking in the knife and turning up the fear and the guilt even worse.

I've been a supporter of the United Way every year for the past 7 (since I went back to work and began having my contributions deducted automatically from every paycheck). I believe the work they do in my community is important. But their misguided efforts in this ad campaign will make me think a little harder about how they go about doing their business and how much I want to support that.


kimybeee said...

i didn't watch the video - i am sure it would make me much more angry than the aspca commercials do. but my family chooses not to support the united way. we support several charities throughout the year through local people that we see the true fruits of the labor and funding. i think more often than not the "big" charities become about the photo ops and the media blitz and we just refuse to play.

i work at a huge hospital that goes all out to support the campaign and i just toss my paper in the trash. they give away gift cards and ipads and all kinds of other stuff to be the biggest contributor in the area. how many people would that ipad feed or that 50 dollar gift card from walmart. my husband also works at a huge company that supports the campaign too - he is better at ignoring it than me lol i just get angry that dollars are wasted on crap!!!

i feel that if you don't contact the united way and let them know how you feel about their advertising, that you are doing your community a disservice!! i would be all up in that mess lol lol lol let us know how it goes!!

Anonymous said...

One way to change how your company chooses to spend its own budget on its United Way campaign would be to voice your concerns on their spending to the people running the campaign. Who knows, maybe they'll listen.

As for the child care ad, just like every other ad out there, it will speak to people in different ways. If it helps educate a family out there that not all child cares are created equally in this state and no matter your income you have choices, then good work was done.

People assume all child cares get inspected or have basic regulations. If this ad helps parents ask questions of the people providing their care, there's no harm done. Our jobs as parents are to be our kids' advocates.

As for the guilt - it will be there whether someone points it out or not. It doesn't mean there aren't choices and resources to help do what's right for your kids.

It's a great topic to discuss, though, not enough folks talk about child care, maybe this will help.

Michelle@Gotchababy said...

I heard that commerical too, Amy, and it took awhile to get to the point. I like how you reframed it- much more positive!

Rebecca said...

Yes, definitely agree with Michelle's point. Your reframing of the information with MUCH MORE positive spin would be so much more effective. You should contact them... they probably have no idea how parents might be taking the current ad -- and as an active donor, your words may not necessarily fall on deaf ears. We have our youngest in daycare a couple days each week, and he started when he was around 2. There was enough guilt hanging over me at that point, and we already knew how wonderful his daycare/preschool was. I'm sure parents of younger children who are going at this for the first time would appreciate a positive experience in finding quality daycare, rather than doing so feeling guilty and fearful of making a "wrong" choice. Great catch, Amy! :)