Cause-related marketing has been a part of the digital landscape for as long as the .org domain has been in use online. Charities learned early on how to adapt chat and text messaging as a channel for donations and how to adopt crowdfunding platforms for fundraising campaigns. They have also been active users of social media for awareness and membership recruitment since the early days of Facebook and Twitter.
Now, non-profits are expanding their use of digital channels in news ways, as seen among some of the recent Webby for Good winners. The awards are a collaboration between The Webby Awards and WP Engine highlighting projects created to promote social good.
Some of the recent Webby for Good winners bypassed traditional cause-related marketing messages altogether and rather than create videos or events, experimented with guerilla marketing techniques, building original apps and products. One fake escort-service site drew attention to the plight of sex workers, while a DIY electronic spy kit helped highlight threats to digital privacy.
Charities to help the homeless are a fixture among cause-related marketing efforts, but the Dutch agency N=5 decided to take a high-tech approach to this social issue. The Amsterdam-based agency came up with the Helping Heart jacket after staffers saw an interview with Dutch queen Maxima where she noted the homeless need money for more than immediate needs. While searching for a way to facilitate meaningful donations, the group realized the increasingly cashless society made people less likely to give money to homeless people on the street.
The creatives came up with a design for a wireless payment system that allowed passersby to tap a credit card onto a patch on a homeless person’s coat instead of giving them cash. The sensor would channel a donation to an account that the coat wearer could then redeem for food, housing or other necessities at a local shelter, which administered the money.
In order to produce a prototype in only three weeks, N=5 built an app for mobile phones to process donations of one Euro every time the card was tapped on the coat and 3D printed components to house the receiving terminal on the coat. N=5 partnered with Stoelen Project, an Amsterdam shelter, and the financial company ABN-Amro to create the prototype.
The experiment drew attention and coverage from media around the world. Several companies, including Kickstarter, are working on an expansion of the program, aiming to produce the coats at scale and take Helping Heart’s concept worldwide.
Girls of Paradise, Mouvement du Nid
Agency: McCann Paris
McCann joined in the debate over a measure criminalizing the act of patronizing prostitution, where the Gallic attitude of tolerance had left out the clients’ responsibility from the debate over criminalizing prostitution. The agency partnered with Mouvement du Nid, an NGO that protects women from abuse and sex trafficking and found some sobering statistics in its research: due to abuse at the hands of clients and pimps, prostitutes had a mortality rate 40 times that of the French population average and 60% to 80% suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Based on that insight, the creatives targeted an awareness campaign to bring that fact to the clients’ attention: “to change the angle to say: if you pay for these services you’re guilty too, not a cool macho French man who’s doing something innocent and fun,” said Riccardo Fregoso, executive creative director.
It would have been easy to point fingers and demonize prostitutes and their clients, but after a couple of months of research—including interviews with prostitutes and clients—the McCann team decided to go for a factual approach, and let the women tell their own stories.
The group set up website and telephone line for a fake escort service called Girls of Paradise, where all the escorts shown were victims of violence, many of them murder victims. When prospective clients called to set up an appointment, they were routed to a call center staffed with former prostitutes who informed them their chosen woman would not be available and why, then engaged them in conversations about the reality of the prostitutes’ lot.
The women, who were volunteers, “were very galvanized by the experience,” said Fregoso. The men were often shocked and several said they would change their behavior. The campaign had a huge PR impact as well, with approximately 60 million media impressions without spending anything in media.
More importantly, said Fregoso, the campaign “created a true debate around the effective responsibility of clients” and affected the lobbying and discussions just before the passage of the law in 2016. Fregoso acknowledged that these guerrilla tactics could backfire if not executed carefully, but he added: “Is there a way to do something good and impactful without exposing yourself? Without personal involvement you can’t be effective.”
I See U, Space10
Agency: Great Works
Techies talk often about security and privacy in the digital age, so when it came time to start a conversation around the subject with this audience, the bar was set pretty high for Great Works. The agency hit the mark with a combination of high-tech and DIY.
Space10, an innovation hub co-owned by the retailer IKEA, sought out ideas from Great Works when it sponsored a series of exhibits and workshops at Trailerpark Festival, a 3-day arts and technology event. “The Spying Society” was one of the themes in Space10’s Trailerpark I/O series, and Great Works set out to do a project that would stir the audience and spark conversations about the idea of surveillance and privacy.
“It’s highly creative people, techy people. … It was a pretty high starting point,” said Christian Langballe, Creative Director. “We had to come up with more creative outputs.”
The output was an NSA-meets-Ikea kit that allows the user to assemble an antenna that can eavesdrop on nearby conversations, then turns snippets of sound into visual images and projects GIFs into a hand-held touchscreen. The kit used open source software, a ready-to-assemble parabolic microphone and a Rapsberry Pi, an affordable, credit-card sized computer favored by hobbyists and beginner coders. Following the instructions, the user could assemble a microphone, connect and run the computer, and start eavesdropping.
Privacy is “sort of scary to think about,’ said Langballe. People can have very extreme opinions about it, so this effort wanted to remain humorous and defuse some of the tension.
“We wanted to be somewhere in the middle and raise awareness and raise some questions. Make that easier to talk about, basically,” he said. “We didn’t want to answer questions, we wanted to raise questions.”
The kit was also purposely built to provoke a response in the user: “It was important to us that it look like an old school kit, something from Star Trek,” said Langballe. “When people see it, they get it.”
Great Works built a traveling exhibit with an “eavesdropping room” that included a large screen showing conversations and sounds picked up around the festival. The agency got the word out via influencers and social media and created a website with information on the project and a contact form to order kits.
The resulting contacts and conversations have helped Great Works build a database with a large amount of input that the agency is working to leverage in the future, said Langballe: “It’s a powerful tool and you have to be humble and respectful,” he said.
More than a thousand people preordered the kits and they ran out. Great works had not planned to put the kits into production, but Langballe said the agency has seen interest from a number of organizations as far away as the UK. Educators have noted the kits could serve as an introduction to technology and privacy issues for schoolchildren, he said. Conversations with various organizations are ongoing.
The deadline for this year’s Webby Awards submissions is December 15. Click here for more information and entry requirements.