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New marketing ideas are refreshing and stimulating. They get the creative juices flowing, engender spinoff ideas and perk up jaded consumers. And when a new marketing idea comes along that also has the potential to help people in need, it's like a home run with the bases loaded.

That's the encouraging story of HelpAd, a cross-promotion idea that has the added benefit of helping the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Companies that participate work with a partner company to cross-promote products on the other's packaging-a small ad for throat lozenges on the side of a tissue box, for instance. But as the HelpAd logo with the ad indicates, payment for the space goes not to the host company but is donated to the Red Cross.

There's nothing to stop any two companies from doing this sort of thing on their own, of course, without the charity involvement. But the HelpAd campaign has legs, with trade advertising beginning soon and consumer advertising due in the fall, when the first cross-promotion gets under way.

George Weber, secretary-general of the Red Cross organization in London, also sees a halo effect for participants. The concept may be a little tough to get across to the general public, though. It's not like the marketer donates a dime to the Red Cross for every item sold. The fee is paid upfront. The trick here, and what may determine this idea's eventual success or failure, is to convince the public to support these cooperating products so that more will decide to join in and pay their fees to the Red Cross.

But even aside from the public service benefits, the cross-merchandising idea makes good sense as a marketing tactic. It takes the tricks of the in-store merchandiser-putting the cheese slices next to the hamburger meat, the paper towels with the window cleaner, etc.-and applies them to packaging.

Tying in the Red Cross makes it a win-win-win idea for everyone involved.

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