Fraser, United Way Plead: ‘Free the Asparagus’

Los Angeles—With an ever-growing number of charities using the airwaves to ask for help, a new campaign for the United Way may be the first to poke fun at the sheer volume of causes looking for a handout.

“I was trying to come up with something and I just said, ‘Hey, it’s not like we’re asking people to free the asparagus,’ ” said John Krueger, creative director of Fraser Communications, which has produced irreverent TV, radio and print ads for the Los Angeles area as well as print ads for national use.

Krueger’s brainstorming led to a mock music video modeled after “We Are the World.” Using the same urgent tone and pained faces, the assembled singers ask viewers to have pity for the plight of vegetables bound in rubber bands and plunged into cold water.

“They are green, young and free/Growing wild, peacefully/Then we cut ’em down/Bind them around/And stick them in cold water to their knees/So please/Free the asparagus,” sing those assembled. While most are unrecognizable faces (including an albino Johnny Winter look-alike), among them is Ed Asner, who has sometimes been ridiculed for lending his name to numerous causes.

The video abruptly ends and yields to a voiceover that says, “Any organization can ask for your money.” It then goes on to suggest the United Way stands apart from the pack of charities.

“We are using humor not to mock but to get attention,” said Renee Fraser, agency president and CEO. “We saw this as a good way to get the message out in a crowded environment.”

The Santa Monica, Calif., agency also created radio ads with actress Sally Struthers pleading for the protection of plush animals. Another radio spot has Asner decrying the plight of mosquitoes “who are being killed at an alarming rate.” Both themes are echoed in print work.