Media in the Mixer

From fighting poverty to breast cancer and natural disasters, cause media efforts that are making a difference 

A cause marketing effort can entail anything from a one-time donation of cash and services to an ongoing partnership. It can effectively tie a brand to a cause forever. It can make doing good a sustainable enterprise.

"There are millions of companies out there and a part of their whole culture is to give back," says Liz Heller, CEO of Buzztone, a marketing boutique. "Their mission statement is about giving something back in some way. They've written that into their business plan."

And consumers respond. A recent Alloy Media + Marketing survey found that 33 percent of college students prefer buying socially conscious brands such as Ben and Jerry's, Seventh Generation, and American Apparel.

Whether a marketing effort focuses all its attention on a cause or incorporates a brand, it requires a clear branding message and a great execution. Here, Media profiles several efforts to do good, ranging from sophisticated interactive campaigns to ideas that started with just one person.

Above the Influence

Ads intended to keep teens off drugs can't just wag a finger. A new multimedia campaign not only engages and asks what influences them, but also offers an online venue for interaction.

"Above the Influence" was created by FCB, New York for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in collaboration with The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The campaign includes TV and print ads.

"We felt that this notion of being 'above the influence' was a great way of empowering teens," says Kim Corrigan, executive vice president, director of client services, FCB.

The campaign, created pro bono with a dollar-for-dollar match from media companies, has reached about 80 percent of teens, says Bob Denniston, director, national youth anti-drug media campaign, ONDCP.

The site had about 3.7 million clicks in its first three months. A game on Shockwave tracked 1.2 million plays. Two months after launch, the campaign achieved 56 percent awareness.

"We've averaged about eight minutes on site for teens," Denniston says, "which for a federal anti-drug Web site is great."

Action Against Hunger PSA

Freelance copywriter Stefanie Wasserman wanted to make a lasting contribution to victims of the 2004 tsunami in South Asia. She and some friends talked about creating a public service ad for a nonprofit, but nothing coalesced. Two months after the disaster, Wasserman found clips she had saved from the Brooklyn Puppeteers' Cooperative. Inspired, she wrote a script about a girl whose family doesn't return from a fishing trip on the day of the tsunami.

Wasserman and collaborators created a PSA to remind people that Action Against Hunger, her chosen nonprofit, would help tsunami victims even years after the disaster. The puppet theater bit, created pro bono except for distribution costs, helped raise millions and won a 2006 Telly award. "There are thousands of other opportunities that we do all the time that actually aren't so interesting," Wasserman says. "It's nice to have an opportunity to do something that puts another message out there."

Cook for the Cure

Would anyone buy a pink KitchenAid mixer? When part of the purchase price goes toward breast cancer research, some customers purchase more than one.

Cook for the Cure, a campaign by Digitas and KitchenAid to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, has raised $3 million since 2001. This year it won a gold Halo award from the Cause Marketing Forum.

The program auctions off dinners with celebrity chefs and trips to a culinary school in Tuscany. Visitors to the campaign site can download free party kits and throw dinner-party fundraisers. In 2005, the campaign raised more than $700,000.

The campaign developed naturally from the KitchenAid target audience's love of cooking, says Justin Newby, director of promotions, Digitas.

"It's that grass-roots, growing awareness of it and doing it in a way that's not too commercial that works well," says Brian Maynard, director of integrated marketing at KitchenAid.

And those pink mixers? Actress Kate Capshaw once ordered six. "She was giving them to every woman in her life who was important to her," Maynard says.

Alloy Media + Marketing, which specializes in the youth market, works with two nonprofit organizations that give kids the tools to do good in their communities.

"This [relationship] is one where no money is changing hands, but there's a lot of value changing hands," says Samantha Skey, senior vice president, strategic marketing, Alloy.

The groups, Do Something and YouthNoise, offer kids an online space to create communities and organize their own projects. The sites also post tons of content, all tied to doing good. Alloy provides marketing support and counsel for both organizations and promotes their initiatives online. In return, the groups allow Alloy to target their kids for market research and leverage their content for Alloy's in-school properties.

Online organizations like these can gather meaningful metrics about young people, Skey says. "Now that civic actions are being executed online, it's easier than ever to measure," she says. "It's sort of an effort of YouthNoise to take them along that engagement spectrum, from 'click to save a tree' to 'recruit 20 people to plant 100 trees.'"

This spring, Do Something and Alloy polled youth online to gauge opinion on lowering the voting age, a survey prompted by comments on Do Something's message boards. This year, YouthNoise and Alloy plan to launch a teen networking site focusing on social causes.

Just Cause

MTV peered into the minds of young people and learned about their desire to do good  and also why many of them aren't doing it.

The Just Cause survey, available at, found that 70 percent of young people believe it's important to help their community, but only 19 percent describe themselves as "very involved." So what's stopping them? Many said they don't have the time, or don't see themselves as volunteering types.

"Those companies that are out there that want to engage young people...can position themselves as helping young people remove the barriers to doing the things that they want to do anyway," says Ian Rowe, vice president, public affairs and strategic partnerships, MTV.

MTV is using the survey to inform its "Break the Addiction" campaign. Tips about how to be more environmentally friendly appear during popular shows. User-generated content and viral video are in the works.

Projeto BIRA

When the husband-and-wife researchers who comprise Projeto BIRA decided to publish a book about games kids play in Brazil, they wanted control over content, appearance, and price. The 200-page, full-color book had to be affordable to the poorest school in Brazil.

The researchers teamed with a nontraditional publisher to find Brazilian companies that fund cultural projects. The book, which describes dozens of imaginative games and toys, mostly from the Amazon, was approved by a federal committee in January but has yet to secure complete funding.

"Normally, if people look at kids doing something [they think], 'Okay, this is kids' stuff, this is not important,'" says researcher Renata Meirelles. "Sometimes a toy or a game is an excellent way to open [adults'] eyes, because it's something that everybody has already done and understands."

Meirelles and David Reeks give video presentations to schools and community centers in Brazil and the U.S. They're considering making DVDs of their short films, some of which have won festival awards, for distribution to schools.

After the South Asian tsunami struck in December 2004, search engine marketer Gregory Markel thought about how search could help alleviate the suffering.

Through Google Adwords, "I set up a bunch of send people to the donation page for the tsunami," Markel says. Shortly thereafter, Markel launched, where search engine marketers can meet nonprofit organizations that need help guiding users to their sites.

"If even just 1 percent of those visitors donated $10, it would actually generate more money than if I had just...donated directly," says Markel, president of Infuse Creative.

So far, volunteers have logged about 374 hours through SEMcares.

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