Awesome or inappropriate? “Happy” in the Philippines

I absolutely despise aid marketing campaigns that show heart-wrenching suffering in the form of malnourished, crying, brown babies.

I’m a firm believer that we should show empowered survivors who are managing to overcome horrible disasters but could need assistance doing that. From that perspective I should absolutely love this video that shows people dancing to the song “Happy” in Tacloban, one of the areas hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan. However,  I do feel a little uncomfortable with it. Maybe a bit too much?

I’m not quite sure what it is, but the gap between the music and many of the images might be just a little too wide for my personal comfort zone even though – or because – a lot of the video is really funny.

From a professional point of view I’m having mixed feelings: I think the video is a terrible idea from a fundraising perspective, if you are trying to raise additional funds for the Philippines. After all, it looks like they are all having a jolly good time in their devastated city.

However, if you take the longer view, and view this video as an accountability tool towards private donors, then it might be gold. If you are donor you might see this and think: “My money has made a difference!” and give again to the next disaster (in the Philippines).

I’m very ambivalent about this video. What are your thoughts?

  • Yes, fully agree with you.
    On a visual level the video is entertaining and wants me to get up and dance.
    However are people dancing and smiling in the middle of devastation as a measure of how effective aid is? Hardly.
    Having recently returned from the Philippines (and still managing one of our teams there) I was also surprised to see flowerbeds with the words “Thank you *a certain NGO*” in big letters built as part of a livelyhood program funded by said NGO.
    It might look good, and hey it might even go viral but does it help the people in need or does it help the NGO to feel better about themselves?
    I also thinks that it makes working in disaster hit areas on a whole look whimsical.
    But maybe I’m just a grouch. Who knows.