At least two adverts have blinked across my TV dulled eyes lately, which feature an outfit called The British Skin Foundation. Call me a cynic, but I assumed that this was a made up marketing organisation, but I was wrong.
The British Skin Foundation is not, as its name would suggest, a cadre of Doc Martens sporting neo-fascists, but an organisation that “exists solely for the purpose of supporting research into skin disease”. Quite snazzy they are too, with their web presence refreshed by Baigent Digital. According to Mad.co.uk “the BSF provides information and support for sufferers of skin diseases, and conducts research into new treatments and skin-friendly products by companies such as Dyson and L’Oréal”.
The British Skin Foundation seems to have 11 “corporate partners”, which way back in August 2006, if …THE WORLD’S LEADING…” blog is to be believed is actually 11 product brands. Four belong to Garnier, for example. Also P&G support the charity.
This clearly is a charity which has opted to climb into bed with the marketing guys from Gillette and elsewhere. But there is a moral dilemma here, and a tightrope to be walked. If these commercial relationships are genuine ethical partnerships, then this is all to the good. In return from the halo effect of something vaguely scientific and worthy being associated with your brand, the corporation gives the charity publicity and money. And if the BSF uses this revenue to genuinely combat excruciating conditions such as eczema then it seems churlish to complain.
Of course this is nothing new. I’ve worked on impotence treatments, for example, which have had relationships with The Men’s Health Forum, and the Impotence Association (now the Sexual Advice Association).
But there is something here which makes me feel uneasy. The British Skin Foundation is being used as a blatant credibility booster for skincare products, and I think this diminishes the credibility of the Charity. It’s one to keep an eye on. See for yourself how the charity is used in this commercial.