"Save the Children" Makes a Dystopian Short Film

A new ad by NGO Save the Children imagines a modern day London ravaged by war. Can science fiction convince people to help the children of real, war-torn countries?

The question posed by the video is clear: What if London were Syria? "We hope the video will resonate with members of the public, particularly those who don't know much about the situation in Syria so they can really understand the plight of innocent Syrian children," said Jake Lundi, Director of Brand and Communications at Save The Children. "The message to the public is just because it's not happening here, doesn't mean it's not happening."

But the video is noteworthy not just for its message, but its format. The message, after all (which doubles as the ad's closing tag line) is far from unique. Charities have always dealt in language that appeals to empathy. But the creative decision to convey that message in the form of a second-a-day video – a style of documentation previously reserved for fun viral videos – is significant, especially in light of recent talk of apocalypsticles, distasteful clickbait, and the frivolous touting of war imagery for pageviews.

Is the union of virality and human suffering as unholy as it seems? Some have argued that disaster porn can serve as a gateway to good, responsible journalism. Videos like this suggest it can make for an effective commercial, as well.