National Geographic Advertises Responsible Volunteering Abroad


Figure 1. Compilation  of  National Geographic’s magazine covers relating to environmental topics. Covers range from October 2009 (“The Tallest Tree”), April 2010 (“Water Our Thirsty World”) and October 2010 (“The Spill”).


Figure 2. Responsible Tourism Peru’s advertisement “Responsible Voluntourism.” This ad is apart of the website’s campaign to volunteer and travel in Peru.



Figure 3. Operational Groundswell’s advertisement for “Backpacking With a Purpose,” that supports the “backpacktivist” or ethical travel movement.

The advertisements that appear on National Geographic magazine issues often vary in different cultural, environmental and societal topics that appeal more to the demographics of adult men and less to adult women. This magazine can attract a new audience of millennials by featuring an ad campaign about responsible volunteering abroad and the featured country: Peru. This applies to college students and teens ages 19-25.

Volunteer tourism is a present issue in society that many people fail to recognize. Volunteer tourism may do more harm than good, even when the volunteer’s intentions are purely dedicated to the betterment of society. It is within National Geographic’s reach to bring awareness to these ethical and social issues while informing the public about taking preventative steps to solve the issues associated with volunteer tourism. These issues pertain to the exploitation of children in developing countries, imposing Western ideals instead of listening to local needs, and much more. This can be accomplished with a simple ad, ad campaign, or special edition issue that features this topic.

Research was conducted to draw inspiration for the responsible tourism campaign before starting the creative design process. These other advertisements focus on societal and environmental issues as well as volunteering responsibly. The National Geographic covers (see Figure 1) focused the viewer’s attention on the subject that was impacted the most as a result of the issue presented. For example, one of the covers features the story of an oil spill, and the cover pictures a pelican: one of the marine life animals affected by this disaster. The white space created here helps enforce the dramatic quality of the issue’s topic. The ad for Responsible Tourism Peru (see Figure 2) that advertises “Responsible Tourism” is focused on a subject performing an act of responsible volunteering and is targeted towards teens aged 18-25. There is little white space intentionally created since the ad is a picture featuring a volunteer and his volunteer site. The Operation Groundswell (see Figure 3) ad suggests that they adventure on backpacking trips while creating positive change for communities in need and is targeted towards teens aged 18-25. The ad creates white space that is essential to the adventure aspect. The backpacker is surrounded by nothing except for the mountain ranges and the text. The text appears to be the main focus of the ad since it’s the central focus point.

The intention of the ads to be created on photoshop will be designed with other ads of similar characteristics in mind. All of the ads selected for guidance have an encouraging mood. They all suggest the audience to be responsible and informed about their environment. The National Geographic ads use both sans-serif and serif fonts. The sans-serif font is used for the title of the magazine (National Geographic) and the serif font is used for the headlines. The other two ads use sans-serif text. The colors used in the National Geographic ads are cooler, whereas the other two use warmer colors. The warmer colors remind the audience of a more encouraging and relatable theme rather than the informative and serious nature of National Geographic’s ad with cooler colors.

Not all of these ads were perfect marketing pieces for their organizations. The Responsible Tourism ad referring to responsible tourism was a  visual that represented the actions often performed by “responsible tourists.” However, the organization of the ad and overall aesthetics were short of exceptional. The picture as the background needs to be better organized with the text. The text covers the scene where the volunteer is working, making the picture less impactful. It also focuses more on the happiness that the volunteer creates for himself, not the benefits the community is receiving from his actions. If the ad focused more on the positive effects of responsibly volunteering abroad, then the ad would send a clearer message about the company’s objective. The other two ads did not have pressing design issues.

National Geographic’s covers are provoking its viewers to care about the environment. The magazine is staying consistent to its usual subjects about the world and the positive or negative human-impacts. Responsible Tourism Peru’s advertisement promotes behavior that will better society all while making the idea of volunteering abroad more appealing. It promotes the positive emotions affiliated with responsible volunteering. The last advertisement by Operation Groundswell encourages adventure and enjoyment of traveling and volunteering in the most effective, non-conflicting and natural way.



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