The Book of Tens 2010

Book of Tens: Cause Campaigns

Proving That Adland Can Put Its Heart Behind Bold Marketing

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Credit: AP Photo/Evan Pinkus
We're used to seeing a lot of pink in October, but this past October will be hard to top. Be it linked to the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen, 2010's effort may be the biggest marketing campaign ever as judged by consumer impressions. And as off-putting as it may have been to see every team in the National Football League accessorize in pink or have gate attendants for Delta rattle the cup for charity, for sure, few could not be aware.

Pepsi grabbed headlines last year when it announced it would bypass the Super Bowl in favor of this cause campaign. A year later, the campaign is still in full swing and Pepsi plans to make it bigger in 2011, expanding it to Europe, Latin America and Asia as it continues in North America. The program garnered more than 2.8 billion impressions from earned media through mid-October and attracted 51 million votes for 7,000 projects. It all resulted in $11.7 million in funding for 287 ideas from 203 cities and 42 states.

This effort by Procter & Gamble Co.'s Dawn, which began more than two decades ago, even before the Exxon Valdez oil spill, gives dish detergent and money to wildlife organizations to rescue victims of oil spills. Dawn was in the perfect place, and on air with Earth Month ads, when the massive BP spill hit the Gulf Coast. All of which points out why this is one of the best cause programs ever, a perfect match with the brand's longstanding equity of being tough on grease but gentle on hands (and birds) -- and an evergreen PR program.

The Members Project deserves props for getting cardholders deeply involved in the corporate charitable effort. Beyond this, American Express has turned a program aimed at shoring up its penetration among small businesses into something decidedly cause-like, through such things as "Small Business Saturday" ads urging people to support local merchants the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Unilever has big plans for Pureit, a water-purification brand now in India. Here, the marketing is the cause. By 2020, it wants Pureit to provide clean drinking water to 500 million people (7% of the world's population) and be profitable. It's part of Unilever's broader sustainability plan, which sets 50 often hard-to-achieve goals toward halving absolute environmental impact, while doubling sales. And it shows clear business rationale. Neither Unilever nor developing markets can grow fast without major environmental efficiency breakthroughs.

An oldie but a goodie, this program launched by General Mills gets a lifetime achievement award for continuing to work for decades, including generating $49 million for schools last year. The Minneapolis-based food company has expanded reach of the program through partnerships with Nestlé, Kimberly-Clark Corp., S.C. Johnson and others as it continues to leverage substantial old-fashioned word-of-mouth through Parent Teacher Organizations nationwide.

Another oldie but goodie outpouring of Minnesota nice. It's easy to forget that Target has been giving away 5% of pretax profits to charity since 1946, well before cause marketing had a name. Today, that program generates more than $3 million in charitable donations weekly.

In August Procter & Gamble Co. launched a novel way to promote its 6-year-old Children's Safe Drinking Water program -- a "Blogivation" initiative in which every click on a widget on a participating blog generates the donation of one day of purified water. So far, the program has generated 50,000 days of water through 272 blogs on the way to the goal of 100,000. More broadly, CSDW has provided 2.5 billion liters of clean drinking water since 2004 and is growing fast, as it's expected to provide more than 1 billion liters in the fiscal year ended June 30.

Another system of microsponsorships -- 100 awarded in four rounds so far ranging from $500 to $4,000 for individual small causes -- seems to have the legs that can carry it for a long time. It lacks the star power or spending of Pepsi Refresh, but also has a certain grass-roots feeling that's hard for a big brand to generate. So far, it's generated 250,000 website visits and 100,000 votes for the causes -- 66% of them from heartburn sufferers and nearly 60% of them Prilosec OTC users, according to agency Bridge Worldwide, Cincinnati.

Two billion dollars is a big number any way you cut it, and that's what the Walmart Foundation pledged this year to give to food banks in food, cash or equipment by 2015. It's giving away $1.5 million of that through a social-media program launched in November and running through Dec. 31 in which 100 metro areas compete for six grants through their "friends" liking the program's Facebook cause page. It does, yes, smack of organized panhandling via social media, but also generated substantial local media coverage.

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