Let it not be said that Bing, Microsoft's search engine -- excuse us, "search delivery system" -- doesn't have a sense of humor about itself. Or a heart. On the June 7 episode of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, the host character said Bing would donate $2,500 to cleanup and relief efforts in the Gulf Coast every time he mentioned the company's name. He -- and guests James Carville and Jonathan Alter -- did so approximately 40 times, amounting to a $100,000 donation to the "Gulf of America Fund," a partnership between the host and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
"We're always looking for ways to promote Bing to build brand awareness," a company representative wrote Marketing Daily in response to e-mailed questions. "We approached Colbert about the idea and worked with the show to make it happen. We thought it would be an innovative branded entertainment campaign, where we could do something good at the same time."
Of course, turning over one's brand to a comedy program can result in potential embarrassment and ridicule. At one point during the program, Colbert says: "Bing is a great Web site for doing Internet searches. I know that because I Googled it." (The host also counted Carville saying, "Bing Crosby," Alter saying, "Bing cherries" and his own testament that he would get so many donations he would be "rob-Bing them blind" as brand references.)
"We gave Colbert all leeway to execute the promotion," the representative wrote. "Colbert and his writers had all final say regarding when, where and how Bing was mentioned during the show -- and getting zinged by Colbert is a rite of passage as far as we're concerned."
The representative characterized the foray into programming an "experiment" that could lead to similar promotions in the future, although nothing concrete has been determined. "Similar to all other branded entertainment campaigns, we're able to reach people and build buzz around the Bing brand while associating with a great brand like 'The Colbert Report'," the representative wrote. "Donating to a good cause was an added bonus in this campaign."