American Express Reinstates 'Members Project'

Amex Members Project

American Express announced the return of its philanthropic Members Project in a new campaign that broke during the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday.

The program encourages people to vote, volunteer, donate, and recruit support for worthy causes, and in return get rewarded by American Express, whether they are a cardmember or not. Two 60-second TV spots feature Geoffrey Canada, a social activist educator and president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone, and Yvon Chouinard, an environmentalist, outdoor industry entrepreneur and founder/owner of Patagonia. Extended versions of the spots are available online.

TV will run through March on programs including "Lost," "24," "American Idol," "Today" and "30 Rock." Online ads broke March 8 and will run throughout the year on sites including Yahoo, MSN, AOL, YouTube, Hulu, The New York Times, CNN and Huffington Post.

Members Project has tools available to help participants promote their favorite charities and tell their friends about all the steps they are taking to make a difference through banners, tell-a-friend e-mails and interactive widgets. Participants are encouraged to become a fan of Members Project on Facebook and to follow the initiative on Twitter at tag #AmexMP, as well as view video content at YouTube.com/AmericanExpress.

American Express began the Members Project in 2007 and renewed it in 2008. But the program was not held last year. "[Last year] was a unique, challenging economic climate and American Express scaled back investment spending in marketing overall," according to a spokesperson. "The company believes it is important for the brand to be visible to their customers, especially during tough times and did maintain philanthropic programs in 2009, but there was no Members Project."

For the first time, American Express is partnering with TakePart, a content-driven social action network created by Participant Media, the company behind the film "An Inconvenient Truth" and 2010 Oscar nominee "Food Inc." The multi-year relationship is designed to help people make a difference in the lives of others through Members Project at TakePart.com/MembersProject. This program encourages everyone to do their part by providing numerous ways to get involved such as volunteering for a local organization, making a donation or voting for a charity to receive additional funding from American Express.

"We've listened to feedback from our cardmembers and have now moved on to the next phase -- empowering others to be successful at making a difference," Nancy Smith, vice president, global media, content and community, American Express, tells Marketing Daily. "Through this year's Members Project program, we are providing various ways to get involved, whether it's volunteering for a local organization, making a donation, sharing stories to inspire others, or voting for a charity to receive funding from American Express."

At a dedicated Web site, participants can explore issues and decide where and how they would like to take action. One aspect of the initiative is a contest to decide which charities will receive funding from American Express. After registering, participants can vote once a week for a charity they think deserves financial support. Every three months, five charities will be chosen to each receive $200,000 in funding from American Express. Charities are chosen to cover cause-related interests across a diverse group of categories that include arts and culture, community development, environment and wildlife, health and wellness and education.

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