Anti-Social Marketing Makes Me Dislike Your Charity

Enough With the Ever-Present, Guilt-Tripping Street Teams

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Peter Madden
Peter Madden
I've had it. The warmer months bring out summer breezes, cold drinks and on every corner in Philadelphia (and I'll assume New York, Chicago, San Fran and elsewhere) the worst form of marketing out there -- those clipboard-wielding gremlins who need me to support their cause.

There oughta be a law! I've logged 10 miles crossing streets to avoid them, won countless Oscar awards in the just-got-a-cell-call-and-too-busy-to-stop-and-talk-when-I-come-upon-them category, and given enough (fake) smiles to make Ponch (of CHIPs fame) jealous.

No, not today or any day will I be helping these folks help the children, the environment, the animals or anything else. While I'm at it, it's not much better in the burbs, where Little Leaguers, Girl Scouts, Band Geeks (hey I was one, people), and more shake tin cans at me as I'm entering any number of stores to purchase something I actually need. Guilt, of course, is free, in these situations.

Before you blast off a missive to me about how I'm the Scrooge of Small Agencies, let me advise that last year my agency donated countless hours of pro bono marketing work well into six-figure-category on behalf of a number of great causes. I spend a number of hours on boards helping organizations from the Philadelphia police to kids in the inner city. Not to mention the dollars we give to causes we as an agency believe in -- Coaches vs. Cancer, Alex's Lemonade Stand, Surfrider Foundation. The list goes on. Bully for us, right?

Yet, I'm attacked, accosted and assailed every 50 feet in the City of Brotherly Help Us Out. As I walk by another clipboard with my head down, invariably I get an "Aw man!" from one of these hippies. Speaking of, today's environmentally conscious clip-boarder saving the planet yelled at me as I moon-walked by him. He said, "I know you used to be a hippie!" He was referring, of course, to my incredible mane that I swear isn't a weave or a wig, at least not this month. Any more of these interactions, though, and I'm sure to start pulling it out. How will I ever get that Prell sponsorship I've been dreaming about then?

It's anti-social marketing and does it work at all? In my opinion, it's a brand killer. Unscientific statistic: I bet that for every dollar raised, the gremlins have pissed off 50 people. Where exactly does that get them and their cause?

And where does it end? In this economy, who's to stop the financial adviser from shaking down potential prospects on the streets? Or creative directors from showing off their portfolios in front of Starbucks? How about lawyers literally chasing ambulances!? There's no end in sight.

For those spirited folks who are out there with a pen and faith in their cause, I don't mean to upset you. Hell, better to be on the street helping an organization you believe in than hanging out trying to get the top score in Halo. But there's gotta be a better way. Get your real social media on and spend your time outside relaxing, instead of making the general public even more uptight than we already are.

I think my personal decision will be to print up cards that I can pass out to these well-meaning folks that say the following:

"I appreciate your efforts on behalf of what is undoubtedly a well-meaning organization. Still, as Flavor Flav once opined, "I can't do nothin' for ya' man." I give as much as I can to organizations I know and respect. And when more than dollars are needed, I give my time. So the next time you see me as I'm running to a meeting, don't guilt trip me -- just give me a pound and slap me on the back. You may have heard this once before but I truly gave at the office, among other places!"

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