Letters, July 12, 2010

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ESPN'S LeBron show raises ethical questions

RE: "To Get LeBron, ESPN Cedes Control Over Ads, News" (AdAge.com, July 7)

"ESPN seems to think the 'unique' arrangement works both from a business and editorial standpoint." No doubt it does work from a business standpoint, but no one with an iota of respect for a free press can think that giving the subject of coverage control over who covers them works editorially. Call it what it is: an infomercial. Not that this is necessarily new for ESPN, the way they "court" other luminaries (Bret Favre being the most egregious example). How can anyone take ESPN seriously if this is how they're going to continue to operate?

This is certainly a new proposition that presents some sticky questions. But I think it is a poor comparison when LeBron James equals Lindsay Lohan, and ESPN equals E! That hypothetical stretch is wrong for many reasons. I doubt even E! would pay for an interview with Lohan. On the contrary, Lohan's agent will be begging for airtime in order to try to rehabilitate his client's image.

Take note: Millennials more than 'slacktivists'

RE: "How to Get the Social-Media Generation Behind Your Cause" (AA, June 28)

I am thinking that a creative turn of phrase like "slacktivism" shortchanges who these young people really are. We should be thankful for the ability to get them to press the like button or change their status, but many of this generation do so much more (more than many in my very old generation). This week we have 118 high-school students in my small South Carolina town building five Habitat for Humanity homes. They are from Maryland, and this is a week out of their summer vacations. Let's not stay on the band wagon that is shortchanging the youth of this country!

This phenomenon of "slacktivism" is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to cause marketing for both companies and the causes with whom they partner.

The (huge) blessing: Awareness is increasing, and consumers clearly care about causes and expect today's companies to both support causes themselves and provide a means for their customers to do the same. Huge win in my book.

This presents an opportunity for much social good to occur and for companies to create a more meaningful relationship with their customers.

The curse: The risk of cause-washing is imminent, as companies rush to take advantage of this trend without thinking it through strategically. As the prevalence of this type of campaign increases, so does the level of scrutiny with which consumers evaluate them.

The most important statistic out of this report? "64% of young adults say they would get involved with a marketer's program if they believed the involvement was large enough to make a difference."

Marketers, pay close attention to this. In order for our cause-related campaigns to be authentic, we need to move the "slacktivist" further down the continuum of participation.

Don't just ask consumers to vote, get them involved. Educate. Provide matching donation funds that require consumer donations or volunteerism. AmEx Members Forum is a great example of this.

Consumers (especially younger ones) are asking for more meaningful and authentic affiliation with causes.

Let's do ourselves, the causes we support and our customers a favor and pay closer attention to the integrity of the cause-related programs we create and execute.

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