With the help of the Direct Marketing Association and its members, the Ad Council, which traditionally relied on big-ticket sponsorships from agencies, media companies or other corporations, is turning to a direct-mail fund-raising effort that will target advertising, media and client-side marketing professionals.
DMA President-CEO H. Robert Wientzen had been talking with the Ad Council last year about the potential for fund raising using its powerful brand equity. That conversation had been tabled, primarily because the Council did not have the money to conduct a broadscale direct-mail effort, according to Ad Council President-CEO Peggy Conlon.
"Along came the current tragedy, and we discussed that maybe this is the time to do it, given the fact that the Ad Council is embarking on a very significant campaign to restore confidence in America," Mr. Wientzen said. "And we tried to figure out ways to do it differently, so it could be done quickly."
The fund-raising effort will be conducted at little or no cost to the Ad Council. WPP Group-owned Young & Rubicam's Wunderman, New York, will handle strategy and creative on a pro bono basis, while relying on donated lists, envelopes, printing and other ancillary elements from other DMA members.
The details of the direct-marketing strategy have not been ironed out, since the Ad Council and Wunderman are scheduled to meet later this month. They do hope to start the push before the end of the year in order to fund the council's Campaign for Freedom, its extensive effort to help restore Americans' confidence and spirit during the country's war on terrorism.
The freedom effort "is taking the Ad Council docket and extending it by a mile. We're working with the White House; we're working with the State Department; we're working with Homeland Security," said Julie Dolan, senior VP-corporate development at the Ad Council. "It's a very big role for the Ad Council to fill, and we want to be there and do it right."
Doing it right takes cash. Although all public service announcements put out by the Ad Council are produced using donated media time and agency creative services, there are also hard costs such as staff salaries and talent fees, which the fund-raising effort will support.
David Sable, president of Wunderman, New York, thinks marketing professionals will be willing to delve into their own pockets, given the cause's potential to benefit their industry if consumer confidence picks up.
"I think everybody's going to take a look at it and say, `This is good for all of us,' " Mr. Sable said. "The truth is that we all have an economic reason to want to buy into a campaign that will move the needle."
Ms. Conlon agrees. "Who understands better than this [marketing] community about the power of advertising?"