Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Media Studies

Supervisor

Dr. Daniel Robinson

Abstract

This thesis explores the marketing, branding, and fundraising activities of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and critically examines promotional texts used to communicate with the public. This thesis is multidisciplinary, combining scholarly work on the topics of history, humanitarianism, marketing, branding, commercialization, representation, and consumer culture. By adopting market logic and corporate strategies from the private sector, both organizations have increased revenue and created a strong identifiable brand. Each organization attempts to balance between the moral foundation or grassroots origins of the organization and the need to raise immediate revenue to sustain operations. This money-morals dilemma is also at play within the promotional material of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as each promotional text inadvertently seeks donations while also addressing the organizations’ desire to mobilize shame to aid sufferers.

Humanitarian action has been dramatically redefined by both organizations to include the act of consumption and speech-acts. It is concluded that some forms of corporate-inspired marketing and fundraising efforts have changed the nature of donor involvement with the cause. Virtuous action has been made easy and thoughtless, disconnecting donors from the potential benefactors of their actions and divorcing action from duty and sacrifice (Eikenberry 2009). This notion is propagated in the promotional material of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as the technologization of action has enabled on-the-spot interventions that have simplified the spectator’s mode of engagement with the cause (Chouliaraki 2010). The promotional material of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also engage spectators in playful acts of consumerism, emphasizing the brand values of each organization (Chouliaraki 2010).