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Branding Aid

5 May 2012

“Aid is working – Tell the world how” is how the Grand Challenges in Global Health page starts (If you’re wondering who is behind Grand Challenges, you don’t have to look farther than BMGF). It’s an invitation to explain to people that global health and development do work. A recent article on Alertnet Reuters page by Megan Rowling ask, Can the advertising Industry Give Aid a Makeover?

Good question, Megan.

This isn’t a new concern in the aid industry (though i imagine the BMGF are the only ones to partner with a group as prestigious as the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity). Aid and development agencies have been rebranding for years. USAID and UKAID have rebranded themselves over the years. In fact, Brand Out Loud, offers specialized rebranding services for aid organizations.

But rebranding isn’t going to change action. Jimmy Kainja argues that, Rebranding Aid Won’t Make It Effective or Transparent.  So what, exactly, is everyone hoping from aid rebranding? Who is the message for? And why does it matter?

This round of rebranding is very much about getting the public onboard with spending. There is a push to explain to the public (i use this term loosely to refer to #firstworldpublics) to accept that aid is working. An independent study by the Institute of Development Studies found that the British public has no idea where aid money is going and what it is doing. And the government wants to spend more money on it.

In the U.S., Americans tend to think of themselves as particularly benevolent and generous.  In 2010, the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity released the newly renamed “Index for Global Philanthropy and Remittances” showing that global giving and remittances were “resilient” as reflected in the 17% increase in giving since 2007, and it ranked the U.S. as the biggest global giver. Charities Aid followed on their heels, releasing a report based on Gallup WorldView data that Americans are the most generous when it comes to contributing time to strangers and money to the global south. Popular media articles referenced the “long legacy of Americans’ generous nature”, and philanthropy and charity as an “inherent part of America’s cultural fabric“. The U.S. has “done more good on this Earth than any other nation in history”, with a “a long history of sticking up for and fighting for the oppressed and helping those in need”.

Yet, overall, the U.S. government gives very little in foreign aid. Although OECD countries have pledged to spend .7% GNI, the U.S. regularly only spends .2% GNI. Overall, that’s $25 billion out of $9.7 trillion dollars.In contrast, the UK gives $8.7 billion euros (or $13.92 billion of $1.48 trillion). In contrast, the BMGF gave away $2.4 billion in 2010 (down form $3 billion in 2009). The estimated net worth of the Gates’ is around $60 billion. And they plan to give it all away. They can do that. They’re not a country. So why this sudden urge to rebrand themselves?

Well, regardless of their reasons, i think Jenna Marbles might have a few tips.

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