Marketers, Agencies Rush To Help Philippine Typhoon Victims

Relief Effort Focuses on Donations and Encouraging Others To Contribute

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Marketers and agencies are rushing to pledge money and supplies to victims of the devastating Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines, often working through relief organizations like the Red Cross and UNICEF.

BBDO Guerrero: Project #Unselfie
BBDO Guerrero: Project #Unselfie

BBDO offices are particularly active this week in soliciting donations to help survivors of the horrific destruction in the central Philippines region. BBDO Guerrero/Proximity Philippines, based in the capital city Manila that was untouched by Haiyan, today launched #unselfie on social networks to promote donations to UNICEF.

"Simply write #unselfie on a sheet of paper and take a selfie holding this," David Guerrero, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO Guerrero/Proximity Philippines, explained the effort in an email. "Post your #unselfie on your social networking site and help get help for Haiyan survivors in the Philippines. It only takes a minute. But it will go a long way."

The agency's deputy chairman, Tony Harris, tapped the London ad community where he used to be deputy ceo of RKCR/Y&R by setting up a page through JustGiving with the headline "Adland versus Typhoon Haiyan."

Mr. Harris wrote: "Here in Manila, we were fortunate to only be at the outer edges of its passage and the office remains fine. However, some members of staff have had no contact with their loved ones in the provinces and we are praying for them. Further south, the damage is enormous. Cities are completely wrecked and communities destroyed. Many thousands may have died and a semblance of order is proving difficult to maintain."

Referring to U.K. marketers' penchant for blockbuster holiday commercials, Mr. Harris wrote on his page "I hoped that in a week when so many of you have produced such beautiful Christmas ads that some of the festive spirit may touch you and your agencies and you might feel like donating to help the Red Cross who are probably the organisation best placed to help right now. We have more than our fair share of natural disasters out here but the Filipinos remain a happy, kind and resilient people. I hope in asking you I can in some way return the welcome that they have extended to me."

By Thursday evening, his JustGiving page had raised $9,452 from 90 donations, including one from his former London agency RKCR/Y&R and others from well-known U.K. ad industry figures.

Another BBDO office, in Singapore, created a site urging people to take a pledge for a Christmas without gifts, and urge their friends and families to instead donate the money they would have spent on gifts. The site, which features a "NO GIFT XMAS" badge that can be downloaded and used as a Facebook profile picture, also lets people donate directly to UNICEF and the Philippines Red Cross.

The Philippines' economy was forecast to grow by 6% in 2014, but Philippines Finance Minister Cesar Purisma told the BBC that Haiyan's destruction could reduce growth by a percentage point next year.

Communications are crucial—and often disrupted—in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Comcast opened up their Filipino channel so people can get news and offered free calls to the Philippines for phone subscribers. Time Warner Cable is also offering free calls to phone subscribers, and AT&T and Verizon are waiving fees for calls or texts to the Philippines.

Procter & Gamble Co., the Philippines' biggest advertiser, is working with World Vision and Save the Children to deploy P&G Purifier of Water packs to impacted areas needing clean drinking water. The company is also working with the Philippine Red Cross and others to assist with basic needs in evacuation centers, a spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

P&G and Unilever are the only marketers that spend more than $100 million a year on advertising in the Philippines, according to the Ad Age DataCenter's Top Global Marketers ranking. A Unilever spokeswoman said the company is working with partners of the Unilever Foundation, including Oxfam, Save the Children, UNICEF and the World Food Program, to provide a mix of products, services and cash.

"We are also launching a call to action inviting employees to make donations to their global partner of choice, which the Unilever Foundation will match," she said.

Other companies, including Time Warner and Hearst Corp., are also matching employees' donations dollar-for-dollar. Hearst said in a companywide email that it will fully match all donations full-time employees make to the Red Cross and Save the Children by Dec. 1.

"We have matched employee donations in every past major disaster," a Hearst Corp. spokesperson said in an email to Ad Age.

Time Warner is matching staffers' donations, up to a limit set by each division, to four organizations through Dec. 31: Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, AmeriCares and Habitat for Humanity, said Lisa Garcia Quiroz, senior-VP, corporate responsibility at Time Warner, in an email to staff Wednesday.

BuzzFeed, meanwhile, has attempted to marshal the support of its vast readership, posting a story last Sunday on, "5 Ways To Help Those Affected By Super Typhoon Haiyan."

In other relief efforts:

Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, will direct $1.5 million from its World Hunger Relief global effort to provide food to families affected by the typhoon.

McDonald's is making a $300,000 donation to the International Federation of the Red Cross. Ronald McDonald's House Charities will donate an additional $100,000 to its Philippines chapter toward food and water for children and families in the Eastern Visayas Region.

Disney is providing $500,000 and The Walt Disney Company Foundation is matching all eligible employee donations (up to a maximum of $15,000 per employee) to Save the Children and the American Red Cross.

The PepsiCo Foundation is donating $1 million in partnership with the American Red Cross International Response Fund, Give2Asia, Habitat for Humanity and Save the Children.

More specific relief efforts may come later from marketers when it's easier to reach the disaster site. After Japan's disastrous tsunami and earthquake in 2011, for instance, Procter & Gamble worked with TBWA Hakuhodo to provide clean laundry—washed in Ariel detergent—for Japanese earthquake survivors living in shelters.

Contributing: Maureen Morrison, Jack Neff, Shareen Pathak, Jeanine Poggi, EJ Schultz, Michael Sebastian, Laurel Wentz

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