Videos that could be described as “obscene” or “offensive” aren’t particularly hard to find on the internet. Or even on YouTube in general. If they were, parents wouldn’t need to install specialized software on their computers to keep their kids from watching them, and offices wouldn’t monitor and block web traffic to keep employees from browsing something they shouldn’t be on company time.
In essence, no one would describe the internet as PG-13.
That said, one does not expect to find these words applied to a video from a non-profit. Especially one promoting organ donation. Most of the time we think of heart-breaking stories of loss, punctuated by the hope and emotional power of knowing that in death, organ donors have saved the life of someone else. Maybe a few cameos of people living new and re-exhilarated lives having received new organs.
This video I found this week definitely has those. But it also has Coleman Sweeney — the World’s Biggest Asshole:
Why I Love This Video
I love seeing non-profits, charities, and government programs go out of their way to create something special. Most videos I see, especially from non-profits, are a bit formulaic. They either share stats around their cause to appeal to the more numerically minded viewers:
Or they tug at the heartstrings to appeal to more emotional viewers:
And with good reason — these video formats work. They have been successful on television since commercials have been telling us that for less than the price of a cup of coffee per day, we can help X save Y.
But what I love about the Coleman Sweeney video is that it’s different. Donate Life America skipped the usual emotional angle and decided to play with shock and humor as ways of drawing in attention, and took it one step further by offering us an uncensored look into the life of the World’s Biggest Asshole. As Forbes breaks it down, Donate Life America has created something that appeals to a notoriously difficult group of people to engage with — millennials. And how they accomplished this goal isn’t difficult to see.
Talk to Your Audience The Way They Talk to Each Other
The real crux of why this video is so successful is because it speaks the right language. Rather than starting the video with flowery language around saving lives, the video takes a page from Dollar Shave Club’s marketing:
From the rubber testicles hanging from Coleman’s truck, to the underwear theft at the laundromat, Coleman is not your typical organ donor, and this is not your typical marketing material for a nationally-recognized non-profit organization. The video is raw, unrelenting, and to the point. Coleman Sweeney is an asshole. But even an asshole can save a life if they’re an organ donor.
Simple. Powerful. Hilarious.
While this video is an excellent example of thinking outside of the box when it comes to raising awareness about a cause, Donate Life America isn’t the first use of unexpected humor we’ve encountered in the video marketing world. While less obscene than Coleman’s story, Metro Trains commissioned Dumb Ways to Die as a method of promoting railway safety:
And in the process created a viral hit with over 137 million views, and a mobile game with millions of downloads. All in the service of keeping people from getting hit by trains. Which, you would think is a pretty simple mission. It’s a dumb way to die. See what they did there?
The World’s Biggest Asshole has created a memorable piece of content by applying the same thinking that Metro Trains used in their campaign. They spoke to younger viewers in a language that they can relate to, laugh along with, and feel connected to.
And you don’t have to be an asshole to see the value in that.
Now, normally we would end off a post asking for examples of your favorite video that relates to today’s topic. But something tells me that asking for your favorite example of “offensive and hilarious” content used in marketing will quickly have an adverse affect on our comments section. So in light of that, I would love to hear if you’ve found any other non-profits trying something different with their video marketing — swearing optional!