That very idea, dubbed HelpAd, was formally launched last week by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies with the support of SmithKline Beecham, American Express and Virgin Group cola-the first three marketers to sign up.
Paul Simons, chairman of Simons, Palmer, Denton, Clemmow & Johnson, the Red Cross' U.K. agency, said his goal is to raise $5 billion in 1996, based on 1% of all worldwide advertising spending.
"It's a new global media opportunity," said Mr. Simons, who has been working on the project for two years. "It's a commercial enterprise, not conventional fundraising."
When Mr. Doyle, a bearded, balding U.K. construction surveyor with no marketing background, approached the Red Cross, the organization was quick to spot the potential and HelpAd was born.
The idea is that marketers will also benefit from a "halo effect" as consumers, seeing the HelpAd logo on a product, choose it over a competing brand in order to help a good cause.
"The needs [of charities] are going up and resources are going down," said George Weber, secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "We have to tap new sources. The key element [of HelpAd] is it is new money."
In one possible deal, one corner of a tissue box could bear the brand name and logo of SmithKline Beecham's cold remedy Night Nurse. SmithKline would negotiate with HelpAd a fee for placement on the boxes but the money would go to the Red Cross, not the marketers.
"We are still at the concept stage for a lot of our brands, both for purchasing space on other [marketers'] brands and donating space on ours," said John Blakemore, SmithKline's advertising director. "We've got half a dozen opportunities under discussion now with Bob [Doyle] and hope to be one of the first in the consumer launch in November."
Mr. Blakemore said that key factors in assessing the price to be paid will be the sales volume of the product.
A campaign by Simons Palmer to generate interest in HelpAd from international marketers will break in the U.K. advertising trade press starting this week, in Europe next month and in the U.S. in September.
One ad reads: "Forget the Internet and cyberspace. Tomorrow's advertising opportunities will be in tin and cardboard."
A consumer ad campaign is scheduled to break in November to alert the public to the first products carrying another advertiser's brand name and to the HelpAd logo.
"The most important thing is to get the guy looking at the supermarket shelf to [understand Help-Ad and] say `I want the SmithKline product,"' said Jamie Minotto, a former Simons Palmer new-business executive who will be HelpAd's marketing director. HelpAd, with Mr. Doyle as managing director, will be the intermediary in matching marketers who want to buy space with brands willing to donate it and negotiating the deals.
It helps that many marketers, including SmithKline and American Express, already have relationships with the Red Cross.
Mr. Simons said rates will be set on a case-by-case basis and only one brand per category will be accepted. As a guideline, HelpAd has calculated cost per thousand for different media in different markets.
The three main factors determining cost will be sales volume of the brand whose packaging will carry another marketer's message, the size of the territory covered by the brand, and the length of time the message will remain, he said.
"There's a vetting process," Mr. Simons said. "People can't just ring up and book space."
Products perceived as harmful, such as tobacco and alcohol, will not participate, he said. HelpAd organizers have plenty of other suggestions: Aspirin on condom packages, a stain remover brand on a ketchup bottle, or Lego on Huggies diapers.