Friday, July 10, 2009


Today, I got an e-mail from the Bread Art Project, an online campaign for the Grain Food Foundation that supported Feeding America. It said, “Together We Made A Big Difference,” citing the earnings of $25,000.

Cynical guy that I am, I instantly guessed that the site must’ve cost at least twice that. It’s a very cool site, created by Mullen (see earlier blog post HERE).

So wouldn’t they have done more good by simply giving the marketing budget to charity?

This logic makes me think of the RED campaign. Converse, Target, Motorola, Gap, and many other huge retailers participated, not to mention celebrities. Critics of the RED campaign have said that they spent more on marketing than the amount they raised for charity. “They should’ve just given the marketing budget straight to charity. It would’ve done more good,” the critics say.

My response: that option wasn’t on the table. At the beginning of the project, they probably had a choice. The retailers could either send postcards to their databases, asking for donations, and maybe donate some themselves. (And they could’ve blown the whole budget that way.) Or, they could do something bigger. Something that invented new products, that let retailers own the campaign in a bigger way, something that consumers make a statement, and join a movement. They decided to do the latter.

If there’s a marketing budget, it’s a marketing budget. It’s supposed to get spent. And the more good it can do in the process, the better. Is it wasteful? Possibly. Maybe the ROI isn’t there. Maybe Gap should stop paying to make clothes, and use that money to eliminate AIDS in Africa instead.

I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

We can’t evaluate a “marketing+good” campaign on pure ROI for the charity. It’s a muddy mix of Goodwill and revenues that comes back.

Using marketing budgets for “good” is a win for the world. And if it’s also a win for the brand, so what? That's great. It encourages them to do it again and again.

Perhaps the cost of getting famous brands and celebrities to raise $200 million for Africa is $500 million.*

Even if it is, I still say do it. Because the alternative is to spend the full $500 million on a regular ad campaign with zero going to Africa. And maybe fewer people lining up to buy.

* these numbers are completely made up. I'm reading: ResultsTweet this!

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