Marketers Rally for Japan Relief Efforts

From P&G and Coca-Cola Product Donations to Charity Bracelets by Lady Gaga, How the Big Names Are Reaching Out

By Published on .

Scores of marketers and organizations have announced relief efforts to help the hundreds of thousands of survivors of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan last week who have been displaced, with no home or city to return to.

Proceeds from Zynga's effort will go directly to the Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children's Emergency Fund.
Proceeds from Zynga's effort will go directly to the Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children's Emergency Fund.

Japan continues to struggle with recovering victims, rescuing survivors and preventing meltdowns at nuclear power plants. Although the official death toll is still around 2,000 as of today, according to the Associated Press, that number does not account for the estimated 1,000 to 2,000 bodies that washed ashore Monday in the Miyagi prefecture, the northeastern region of Japan hit hardest by the earthquake. And the body count is expected to skyrocket in the coming days -- the Miyagi police chief estimates 10,000 people are believed to have perished in his province alone, while thousands are still missing in Japan's other affected areas.

According to Japan's Foreign Affairs Ministry, more than 90 countries and regions and six international organizations have extended offers of assistance. In a rush of solidarity, marketers have linked up with organizations like the Red Cross, or in some cases started up or contributed to additional relief funds. Here's a roundup of companies offering relief efforts to Japan.

Red Cross rehashes texting effort
Like its effort after the Haiti earthquake last year, the Red Cross has again turned to text messages as a way to raise funds. The group quickly began promoting the use of its existing short code, 90999, and keyword, REDCROSS, as a means for donating $10 to relief efforts in Japan. A spokeswoman said the group decided not to create a new keyword for Japan donations, as it did to aid Haiti, because the public is already familiar with the existing REDCROSS keyword. The Haiti keyword, established in the hours following that disaster, attracted more than $32 million in donations in less than two months.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross said the organization had received more than $1.2 million in donations via text message to support Japan.

Monday's promoted Twitter trend, #HelpJapan, was donated by Twitter itself. A Twitter spokesman said the social-media site was able to move the advertiser who had paid for today's slot to another day later in the month.

According to a Red Cross spokeswoman, Twitter reached out to offer the promoted trend. The spokeswoman said that #HelpJapan began circulating early Friday morning, following the earthquake. "Japan is on the minds of all humanitarian-minded Twitter users anyway today, but we hope having this hashtag trending at the top of Twitter helps to keep people in Japan trending at the top of our collective hearts and minds," she said. The Red Cross plans to continue using #HelpJapan in its updates on the relief response.

Among other contributors to the Red Cross, Kraft said it is donating $200,000 to the effort, which is accepting donations on behalf of the Japanese Red Cross, for immediate relief and longer-term recovery. Apple has set up a page in its iTunes store that allows users to contribute via a page to the Red Cross in amounts between $5 and $200. The New York Yankees donated $100,000 to relief and rescue efforts in Japan, the total of which will be split between the Salvation Army and Red Cross teams on the ground in Japan.

Procter & Gamble Co. in a statement said it has committed up to $1.2 million for earthquake relief efforts in Japan, including monetary and product donations. Product donations include diapers, feminine hygiene, hair care, pet care and skin care. "We will continue to provide assistance as requested by our relief partners and local government officials," P&G said.

Star power
Harnessing Twitter, pop starlet Lady Gaga, who had previously raised money for Haiti earthquake relief, announced that she designed a charity bracelet, the proceeds of which will all go to the relief efforts in Japan. She designed a white wristband that says in English and in Japanese, "We pray for Japan." It's retailing for $5 on her website, but individuals can choose to add an additional donation. All proceeds go directly to undisclosed relief efforts.

Group-buying site LivingSocial has teamed up with GlobalGiving.org for a donation campaign. The 24 million members who peruse LivingSocial's sites for deals will now also see a simple web banner directing them to Global Giving, which is working with Save the Children and the International Medical Corps to provide on-the-ground support in Japan.

Zynga has created an in-game donation drive, whereby players of "FarmVille," "CityVille" and some of its other social games can plant special crops; players will be charged via credit card and proceeds will go directly to the Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children's Emergency Fund.

Hearst Magazines is encouraging employees to support the efforts of Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Save the Children and Unicef by donating through its internal news site, Hearstlink.

Reaction from Japanese companies
Sony Corp. said it will donate $3.6 million to help relief. A disaster-relief fund will collect donations across the Sony Group from employees worldwide, and their contributions will be matched by the company through a matching gifts program. The company said it will also donate 30,000 Sony radios to assist the relief of earthquake victims. Sony added that it had to close six manufacturing facilities, including ones that make Blu-ray, CD and DVD discs and lithium ion batteries.

Among other Japanese companies, Nintendo also said it will donate $3.6 million to relief efforts; Namco Bandai is donating $1.2 million; and Sega is donating $2.4 million.

Many of the gaming companies have either shut down servers used for multiplayer gaming or announced delays in shipping new games because of the earthquakes. Other have halted release of games because of content. Game publisher Irem, for instance, canceled a game called "Disaster Report 4," which opens after an earthquake has struck.

Coca-Cola Co. has pledged $7.3 million in cash and product donations to the relief effort. That contribution includes more than 7 million bottles of needed beverages such as water, tea and sports drinks, said a Coke spokeswoman. Coca-Cola Japan and its 12 bottling partners will provide the beverages to national and local government authorities and other community groups for distribution. The company has also activated free dispensing of products from selected vending machines.

In an effort to free up communication channels, Coca-Cola Japan is supporting the government's request to conserve energy by converting TV and radio advertising into public service announcements to encourage energy conservation. Two major carriers, AT&T and Verizon are now offering free calls and text messaging to Japan. They also are making the 24-hour Japanese news channel, TV Japan, free to subscribers.

McDonald's Corp. said it will donate $2 million to relief efforts. The funds will be channeled through the International Federation of the Red Cross. McDonald's previously donated $500,000 -- matched with donations from Arcos Dorados, the company that operates nearly 1,700 McDonald's restaurants in Latin America -- to relief efforts in Haiti.

Starbucks hit by disaster
Starbucks and Domino's did not confirm any relief efforts, although they have historically contributed relief during previous disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. Domino's has donated primarily to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and also has participated in matching-funds programs. The pizza giant has donated to relief efforts for Sept. 11, the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. A company spokesman said Domino's generally strives to donate and deliver food to rescue workers and victims displaced by disasters.

Starbucks said that it has some 900 stores in Japan, 100 of which are closed due to moderate, and in some cases, significant damage. A spokesman for Starbucks said: "The American Red Cross is accepting donations through the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Fund. Starbucks will continue to work with The American Red Cross to assess needs and best direct our corporate support."

Crowdrise, Edward Norton's philanthropy startup, has started a relief page for a goal of $15,000 in donations.

Public-relations firm Edelman said it has set up a matching Edelman Foundation employee contribution fund through the Red Cross for victims in Japan. Employees can donate directly to the Red Cross via the firm's corporate microsite, and Edelman will match up to $50,000 of employee donations to the relief fund.

Not all marketers participating in relief efforts did so without snags. Microsoft's Bing hit a snag with a social-media effort it began last week on Twitter related to the quake, but after hearing negative feedback from consumers, it donated $100,000 to the Red Cross.

This article was compiled from bureau reports by Ad Age staff.

In this article:
Most Popular