The Business of Poverty and Charity: Advertising Inequality

Anne F. MacLennan

Global concerns about the health and the growth of economic markets consistently overshadow growing poverty. Mediated images or discussion of poverty is generally relegated to crisis reporting and the impact of unemployment rates on the economy.  Thoughtful discussion of the impact of poverty is often denied in wealthier countries, redirecting attention instead to the extreme poverty of developing countries. This work explores international representations of inequality through advertising campaigns designed to combat or eradicate poverty and solicit charitable donations for the support of the poor.  There is a strong tendency to blame the “loser” or victim, in this case the poor, within the larger narratives of poverty.  Constructions of a “deserving” and “undeserving poor” exist within Western culture, despite the arrival of social welfare policies in many countries.  The impact of these ideas will be assessed in this work using advertising from China, Chile, Mexico, France, the U.K., New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, the United States and Canada.