10 of the best charity TV ads

Mar 30 2023

man looking through camera lens

In today’s world, NGOs and charities play a vital role in making a positive impact on society. However, with rising living costs, securing donations from the public is becoming increasingly challenging. This has resulted in a greater need for charities to build their brand in order to maintain and increase their funding. One effective way of doing this is through the use of emotionally powerful and engaging television commercials. TV ads after all, can reach people far and wide, and may vary from evocative storytelling to DRTV.

In this blog, we will explore some of the most impactful charity TV ads of all time, and how they effectively communicate their message to their audience.

CALM | Suicidal Doesn’t Always Look Suicidal

A collection of home videos shows ‘apparently happy’ people enjoying life to the fullest. However in a poignant twist at the end, it is revealed that all the videos were the final digital memories of people who had tragically taken their own lives.

This powerful campaign from CALM aims to challenge the common misconception that suicide is always evident, and often carries a stigma. Many assume that it will manifest as reclusiveness, crying, and silence. However, the reality is that suicide can be much more subtle, and not immediately apparent to those around us.

The ad captures the stark reality of suicide through the lens of a smartphone, without any professional filming or editing. It is a heartbreaking reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of mental health awareness.

Breast Cancer Now | ‘2050’

A little girl’s daily life is shown as she builds a ‘time travel machine’ using items around her house. As the ad progresses, we see her moth, who has breast cancer, join her daughter in the machine. The girl selects the year 2050, and the ad ends with a message of hope: ‘We believe that by 2050, everyone who develops breast cancer will live.’

What makes this ad so impactful is the touching and creative story it tells. It hits close to home for many viewers, as we empathise with the young girl and her mother’s battle against breast cancer. We root for them both, and for all those affected by this disease. This ad reminds us of the importance of cancer research and the need for continued efforts towards finding a cure.

Alzheimer’s Society | It’s not called getting old

In an emotional ad by Alzheimer’s Society featuring an elderly couple in which the wife repeatedly asks the same question throughout the day, causing her husband to become increasingly frustrated. In the evening she asks him again a final time and he realises why. This touching ad serves as a powerful reminder that the difficulties faced by Alzheimer’s patients are not simply old, but rather a result of illness.

By highlighting the frustration and confusion experienced by both patients and their loved ones, it encourages viewers to approach the illness with greater understanding and compassion. The emotional impact of the ad is undeniable, and it effectively delivers its message in a heartfelt and memorable way.

WWF | One Shared Home

WWF’s ad is a departure from the others we’ve seen. It is fast-paced, direct and delivered with passion. Created with archival and stock footage, the 30″ spot is best suited for a social media campaign, targeting Gen Z or Alphas. The ad’s sense of urgency and fervor reminds us of the climate change protests led by Greta Thunberg.

Save the Children | I Am The Future

Things that most people close their eyes to in the western world are the reality of millions across the world. Save the Children sheds light on the harsh realities faced by children, which many in the Western world ignore. Whether it be the plight of child soldiers, child brides, refugees, or other distressing stories we may see in the news, we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, simply because it doesn’t happen in our immediate surroundings.
In this ad, a child walks through various backgrounds, from war zones to refugee camps, highlighting the immense devastation and pain experienced by those in crisis. This poignant visual serves as a reminder that even from the comfort of our own homes, we cannot ignore the struggles of others. Save the Children’s message is clear – we must be aware of and actively work to alleviate the suffering of those in need, no matter where they are in the world.

Barnardo’s | Life Story

Barnardo’s TV advert gives us a glimpse into the lives of those who exist on the fringes of society. By presenting the perspective of children who had endured a traumatic childhood, we are able to empathises with them and gain a deeper understanding of their struggles. This ad encourages us to consider how we can help enact positive change before it is too late.  

Crisis | A world without homelessness is within our reach

One of the most pressing issues we face in modern-day Britain is homelessness. In this ad, Crisis summarises all the factors that can result in homelessness. The ad’s central message is that a society is only as strong as its weakest members and that we must strive to end homelessness once and for all.

It is a powerful reminder of the humanity of those who experience homelessness. Throughout, Crisis encourages us to recognise the interconnectedness of our society and to work towards creating a world in which everyone has a place to call home.

RSPCA | Christmas advert

In this ad, we are introduced to a little toy dog that a boy receives as a Christmas gift. We slowly see the love slowly fade until it is dirty and worn out. Ultimately the boy discards the toy in the trash. However the RSPCA intervenes, nursing the toy dog back to health both physically and mentally. In the end, once everything is healed, the toy turns out to be a real dog. It’s a thoughtfully crafted ad that carries a powerful message: owning a dog is a lifelong commitment.

Samaritans | Break the silence

Samaritans‘ Break The Silence TV commercial is intense and evocative. It begins with a long period of silence, which creates a sense of discomfort in the viewer. It’s intentionally uncomfortable, but effectively drives home the ad’s key message: Every 90 minutes someone dies by suicide in the UK. People shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.

The prolonged silence may initially leave some viewers reaching for the remote, wondering if there’s something wrong with their TV. However, the plot twist that follows helps to illustrate the struggles faced by those who may be experiencing similar issues. As the lights gradually brighten, the ad symbolises that there are better days ahead if you ‘break the silence’ and reach out to the Samaritans.

Macmillan Cancer Support | Not Alone

‘At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky and the sweet silver song of the lark. Walk on, through the wind, Walk on, through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart.’ 

And lastly, one of the best ads so far from Macmillan. It’s a powerful portrayal of a father’s journey from diagnosis to fighting cancer. The ad conveys the daily struggles and challenges faced by a man living with cancer and how his life is dramatically changed as a result.

These charity TV ads are not just commercials, but they provide us with a glimpse of life from others’ perspectives. They remind us that the things we may take for granted, such as health, family, and shelter, are things that others wish for. These ads evoke emotions that inspire us to take action and make positive changes in the world.

With this in mind, if you are looking to create a TV ad for your charity, feel free to reach out to us, and we will guide you through the process to create the best possible outcome for your video as a DRTV agency. Also check out our other charity video blogs here.

If you’ve already got a video concept for your charity feel free to download our free video brief template and send it back to us with your ideas to get a creative proposal that will come with a concept as well as a price. We will then prep for your initial meeting with story or mood boards!

Free video brief!

Ezo Yildiz

Ezo is a Digital Marketing Assistant at Skylark Media.