CBS EcoMedia Lets Consumers Gift Brand Ad Dollars To Nonprofits

CBS EcoMedia founder Paul Polizzotto found a clever way to increase philanthropy by getting brands to shift advertising dollars in a program called Viewers to Volunteers, launched in early March. Now he says he wants to bring the business model to publisher sites.

Viewers to Volunteers is an initiative that empowers people to give to a charity without spending their own money.

Viewers earn points that equate to real-life financial contributions underwritten by brands purchasing advertising on CBS platforms when they watch or share advertiser-sponsored videos on their smartphones, tablets or computers. The company curates and creates content about various issues.

The points are directed by the viewer to a list of nonprofit organizations of their choice, to date, directing more than $600,000 to about 150 nonprofits, many of which are local.

Polizzotto wants to extend that effort on the publishing front.

"Rather than ask the audience to come to the experience, we want to bring the experience to the audience," he says. "My long-term goal is to create a network of partners that can allow us to leverage more ad spend for more people."



Polizzotto calls the business model "permission-based advertising," enabling the CBS division to become one of the fastest-growing since being acquired by the network in 2010. The model shifts ad dollars spent by Toyota, Bank of America, Anheuser Busch and others from competing networks to CBS, and then shares a percentage of that spend with nonprofits, such as Arbor Day Foundation, Meals on Wheels America, Stand Up To Cancer.

When the brand shifts more of its broadcast or digital ad business to CBS, the CBS EcoMedia division "carves off a piece of the increase" and shares it with nonprofits. The money gets put into a pot, and the app allows the consumer to choose the nonprofit that will benefit from the increased investment.

Jeff Honea, SVP executive creative director at CBS EcoMedia, is working on a campaign to spread the word about the recently launched Web site and app across broadcast, radio, social and paid search on Google. CBS EcoMedia announced in September it was collaborating with documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock to create original content to stream on the app and site.

Aside from nonbranded keywords like "companies giving back to the community" and "eco environment," the search campaign focuses on keywords related to nonprofits. He says its early days, but the search campaign aims to drive brand awareness, online traffic to the site, and adoption of the app and the business model.

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