Feeding The Hungry With Nothing

An ongoing campaign for the Rhode Island Food Bank proves that you can accomplish something with nothing.

According to numbers distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 50,000 Rhode Island households, or 11.7% of all households in the state, can't afford adequate food.

Not surprisingly, The Rhode Island Community Food Bank saw a spike in demand at its pantries.

Nail Communications was tasked with creating a campaign that encouraged donations, especially from a younger demographic of 20- to 40-year-olds.

The agency created more than just an ad campaign; it crafted an entire brand and hit consumers in another venue that stores aisles of food: the supermarket.

The campaign first began with teaser radio, online, outdoor and supermarket circular ads that stated; "Nothing is coming," along with the Web site,

Two weeks later, reveal ads featured a soup can, illustrated with an empty soup bowl, a "Nothing" label and copy that said, "Nothing can end hunger in Rhode Island."

Coinciding with the ad reveal were 40,000 empty cans of "Nothing" that went on sale for $2.99 each at nearly 200 Dunkin Donuts, Whole Foods, Dave's Marketplace, Eastside Marketplace, Clements and Brigido's Fresh Market locations.

TV ads that ran on local stations and were archived at featured average Rhode Island residents sitting down for a taste test. When their plates are revealed, they're empty, leaving participants unsure of what to say and how to react.

Each can has a slot for collecting money and bright labels that highlight the Food Bank. The Rhode Island Food Bank hopes that many consumers will take this initiative a step further by collecting money in their "Nothing" can and delivering it to the food bank. The agency learned that schools and other stores were using the cans for this very purpose.

Cans are purchased much like any other supermarket item; you put in your grocery cart, it gets scanned at the register, you pay $2.99 and go home. Of the $2.99 purchase, $2.79 goes directly to the food bank, after taxes. This small amount of money is enough for the food bank to bring in and distribute 10 pounds of food. Many stores have already requested second and third rounds of "Nothing" inventory.

"Our biggest campaign challenge was the organizational effort: getting stores to agree to sell the cans and securing corporate funding to support some of the media effort," said Jeanette Palmer, account manager at Nail. "Once the pragmatic details were in place, development of all of the advertising and related videos took about four months. There was some paid TV and outdoor media, underwritten by the Citizen's Bank Foundation, though most of it was donated," continued Palmer.

The Food Bank leased the URL for $1 from New York artist Mark Tribe. The campaign aims to raise $300,000 this year, enough money for the Food Bank to distribute one million pounds of food and serve 50,000 people.

Those who live far from participating stores can donate money online. Every donation of $25 can feed a family of four for three days. These are serious metrics.

"Nothing" is being done about hunger. And it's turning out to be something substantial.

2 comments about "Feeding The Hungry With Nothing".
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  1. Jeffrey Jones from Word.Jones, August 9, 2010 at 3:16 p.m.

    Smart. Spot on, as they say. Integrated. Brilliant.

    Clarity with purpose, unlike saffron-colored toilet paper being unfurled hither'n yon, with no affiliation whatsoever with Christo and Jean-Claude.

    Thanks for bringing this on board, Amy.

  2. Dave Kohl from First In Promotions, August 9, 2010 at 4:55 p.m.

    Great ideas all around!

    On a side note, I'd love to be the one that finds out how so little money seems to feed so many people via these charities so that I dont' have to spend so much on food. Maybe I'm not buying right.

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