Subscribe to advirtues

Enter your email address:

Archive for Cause Advertising


#X to Pause Your Conversation

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Think about how often you receive a text while you’re driving. What’s your reaction: text back or ignore it?

The scary thing is almost half of teens and adult commuters admit to texting and driving. In 2011, 1.3 million car crashes involved cell phones. So whose job is it to stop you from texting and driving? Your parents?

AT&T took on this parental responsibility as a brand in 2010 telling teens “it can wait” using television ads that showed real stories of teens’ final texts before dying in a car accident. They were scary and impactful.

Their 10 minute PSA even won the Silver Integrated Lion at the Cannes advertising festival in 2011 (preview below).

As you may have seen for yourself, these ads were memorable. But the issue AT&T faced was if people actually listened and remembered in the moment while driving.

After this campaign ran for two years, 97% of teens said they knew texting and driving was dangerous, but 77% remained confident they could still text and drive safely. Do scare tactics really work?

The campaign attempted to take the advertising further by encouraging teens to take a pledge online to stop texting and driving and share their pledge via social media. AT&T was really trying to make a difference but it wasn’t until recently that they found a way teens could really take action.

Introducing: #X

If you receive a text with #X, don’t reply. Don’t get offended. The text conversation is just paused, thanks to AT&T.


AT&T added to their “It Can Wait” campaign by creating this shorthand for people to use before driving.

You simply send #X to a friend before getting into your car to drive to let them know you can’t talk until you’re done driving. AT&T used the Top-Down Influence approach Gini and Geoff talk about in Marketing in the Round (p. 61).

For the next phase of their “It Can Wait” campaign, they used influencers to accompany their ad campaign. AT&T posted on their consumer blog announcing what the new challenge was about and explaining how consumers can tell others they are not going to text and drive using the app or #X.

They used other influencers such as teen celebrities like singer, Demi Lavato, and James Maslow from Nickelodeon as spokes people. James tweeted to reach his over 3 million followers (@jamesmaslow) :

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 10.38.44 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 10.38.34 PM

AT&T also created a website,, where consumers can watch videos, see what celebrities are saying, make a Meme, read related buzz articles, see the live twitter feed, and even make the pledge themselves. The site is important because it is separate from the main AT&T site.

This site is not trying to sell you their products, but engage their consumers in the conversation around their positive initiative.

The recent change to the campaign moves away from scaring consumers and emphasizes the use of #X and targets teens heavily instead of just the general population. And they communicate the message through relevant social media and young celebrities.

Part of their social media campaign around “It Can Wait,” focuses on what is waiting for consumers at the end of their drive. They encourage consumers to take a picture and tweet what was waiting for them. This new approach engages teens much more than the “It Can Wait” campaign back in 2010, as evidenced by the over 5 million pledges now on

it can wait

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 2.21.33 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 2.21.54 PM

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 2.22.15 PM

Ironic, isn’t it? One basic way marketers learn to engage consumers is to “start a conversation” with people. AT&T did just the opposite of that!

They essentially told their consumers (and even their competitors’ consumers) to stop using their service. That sounds ridiculous. They could potentially lose money due to their consumers not using their service.

But that is what makes this strategy effective. Consumers will most likely think AT&T cares about them and their well-being over their competition.

Either way, AT&T has been successful at reaching millions of teens in an effort to stop something that threatens our lives on the road every day.

Do you think AT&T customers even care about their positive initiatives when choosing a service provider? Is AT&T’s call to action, #X, a long-term solution to end texting while driving or just another way for the brand to be perceived in a positive light?

Beginning in 2014, Hollywood studios will no longer be distributing 35mm film to theaters. While the majority of theaters have already made the switch to digital projectors this is not the case with drive-in movie theaters. There are only around 350 drive-ins left in the US; very few have been able to afford the $80,000 digital projectors per screen.

The Honda Motor Company recognizing this problem, launched Project Drive-In with the goal of preserving a piece of American culture and, specifically related to Honda, American car culture. The company pledged to donate five digital projectors to the unconverted drive-ins that receive the most votes on the Honda website. In addition, Honda is asking people to spread the word via social media such as Facebook and Twitter, pledge to go visit a drive-in, and contribute to Project Drive-In’s Indiegogo page. Through such donations, Project Drive-In has been able to save an additional four theaters and counting.

To allow even more people to experience drive-ins, at certain Honda dealerships around the country, there will be pop-up drive-ins featuring complimentary screenings of the film Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.

Honda could have easily just donated the projectors to the drive-ins and written a press release congratulating themselves. Instead, they decided to invite the community (both local and far) to rally around this cause to preserve a venue of joy. In his book, Raymond A. Nadeau asserts that, “brands can step into this new emotional territory and become people’s partners in their search for meaning…” This partnership exceeded Honda’s goal as a tide of generosity from individuals worked in concert with Honda to preserve the magic of the dive-in theater.

One of the most popular brands is striving to make a difference in the world.  Coca-Cola recently placed specially made vending machines in India and Pakistan.  These machines are called ‘Small World Machines’ and actually serve as a live communication portal between people in the two countries.

India and Pakistan have been enemies for over 50 years and no one has been able to establish peace between these two countries.  Coca-Cola has taken a novel approach to attempt to bring the people of these countries together.

Coca-Cola used a special technology that allowed people to make direct eye contact and touch hands.  The machines were placed in shopping malls in Lahore in Pakistan and New Delhi in India in March.  “When the machines came on, there was just this really powerful energy – laughter, smiles, cheers,” said Jackie Jantos Tulloch, Coke’s creative director.  Afterwards, they were rewarded with a free can of Coke.

Following the warm exchanges between Indians and Pakistanis, Coke-Cola produced a video showing what happened.

It’s admirable that Coca-Cola made such a bold move and really tried to make a difference in the lives of others.  There are opportunities for brands to reflect greater diversity and equality all around the world.  More brands should lean in to make a social stand and help make the world a better place.


Inner Strength

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Raymond Nadeau author of Living Brands states that one of the most important things is “a brand that reflects culture and collective dreams and pushes those dreams to the forefront of changing social mores.” Brawny Towels does this by taking a hard subject for most consumers and showing them that those who have served our country are true heroes and their stories are ones to be heard.

P&G’s Brawny Towels partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project and created the I am Strength campaign to help injured Warriors and their families adjust back to civilian life. This cause-related marketing campaign is taking place over Facebook and it is donating $1 for every like on the Brawny Facebook page with a base donation of $250,000.

Brawny’s goal is raise an additional $350,000 to their 2012 donation of $500,000, which would total $850,000 donation to families of the Wounded Warrior Project.

This campaign also includes a Wall of Thanks, that is a separate tab on Brawy’s Facebook page where consumers can go and write a message to say thank you to those who have served. This wall is also a collection of profile pictures and users have the ability to find friends who have signed the wall. The tab also has a short video that features a hand full of veterans who are a part of the Wounded Warrior Project.

This campaign received a silver award from the Cause Marketing Forum’s 2013 Halo Awards that took place this May at the CMF’S Annual Conference in Chicago, but was also a finalist in the Best Transactional Campaign, Best Social Media Campaign and Best Print Creative. Even though the campaign received a silver metal, Brawny Towels have a heart of gold.

Mary Kay Cosmetics has been committed to improving the lives of women for the past fifty years through The Mary Kay Foundation- donating more than 31 million dollars to education, prevention, and services for domestic violence against women.

In the most recent initiative, Mary Kay demonstrates relevant and engaging cause-related advertising in Don’t Look Away, a national campaign aimed to promote safe & healthy relationships for young women and end relationship abuse. The online commercial addresses the issue of abuse in a candid, informative manner told from the perspective of abuse victims. This viewpoint makes Mary Kay’s cause relevant and resonates with the target audience- young females. More importantly, Mary Kay offers a support system for young females seeking relationship advice through the confidential, national texting service (Loveisrespect). Mary Kay’s service offers help and advice by texting “love is” to 77054, fostering engagement, trust, and intimacy with consumers while at the same time solving the problem.

Nadeau, author of Living Brands, argues that technology provides us with new ways to create a dialogue between brands and people. Mary Kay’s Don’t Look Away encourages a dialogue between the cosmetic company and consumers that promotes positive social change to improve the lives of women around the glove; a core competency of the organization.

In 2007, World Wide Fund (WWF) began an culturally smart advertising campaign to educate the Chinese populace about the wildlife & ecoregion conservation. WWF hired Dentsu China, who in turn charged art director Yan’gang Wang & copy writer Lili Su, with the complex task of communicating the need to employ more sustainable and ecologically friendly approaches to China’s activities as an emerging yet powerful global economic and cultural player. The message is simple and encourages individuals to be conscious of the consequences of their personal consumption and development through incorporating cultural symbols and trends.

The Dentsu team composed three provocative print ads linking man-made violence to wildlife through incorporating tattoos (which is a symbol of a person’s commitment to their beliefs in China).  After a basic analysis it is easy to see that this campaign is communicating on many different levels for many different audiences.

Surface Level Tiger Tattoo; Male Left Pectoral; Slash wound; blood    Eagle Tattoo; Male (?) back, right shoulder blade; gunshot wound; blood     Shark Tattoo, Male (?) abdomen; stab wound; blood
Intended Meaning      Violence against wildlife is violence against human life; Violence against wildlife is violence against human life Violence against wildlife is violence against human life
Cultural Meaning Power (or ability to accomplish progress) is in danger of unchecked manmade violence. Freedom & happiness is in danger of unchecked manmade violence. Sexual potency and vitality is in danger of unchecked human manmade violence.

After viewing a video from China Daily, in which the recent growth in positive Chinese attitudes regarding tattoos is discussed and attributed to the import of Western values, it may concluded that this campaign specifically targets Chinese male youth. Not only are these youth more accepting of tattoos, but as males entering a predominately male (and still socially conservative) economy they will encounter industry practices that may be harmful to the environment. Through linking the modern Chinese consumer’s interest in self-expression/conviction with interest in the environment, this campaign evokes the traditional Chinese value of the concern for the community over the concern for the self by including wildlife as part of the community. Well Done!

Cause-related marketing is a popular term to throw around board meetings and stakeholder newsletters, but few companies can truly execute the concept well. Campbell’s has succeeded in creating a relevant, socially responsible, and forward-thinking campaign for the holiday season in their partnership with Feeding America. This is a great opportunity for a corporate and non-profit business to interact in a mutually beneficial relationship, while also creating awareness for a serious social issue. Feeding America states that an average of one in six Americans faces hunger and consistently goes without meals for several days.

Campbell’s follows the rules of creating a great cause-related campaign by  1) collaborating with an appropriate cause, 2) being very transparent about their donation intentions, and 3) gaining positive exposure by taking their campaign to the innovative digital scrapbooking site, Pinterest. Campbell’s has created a massive online version of their classic green bean casserole, where users can take part in adding to the visual impact of how many people could be fed simply by pinning and participating.

Other marketers could learn from Campbell’s positive example and create a relationship between their brand and consumers that is based on trust, respect, and a shared vision. Being honest with consumers is always in the best interest of the company because it leads to brand loyalty, which ensures a longer life of the brand and better business.

The Campbell Soup Foundation was initiated in 1953 and has a long history with philanthropy and donating part of their profits to worthy causes, as opposed to companies who have recently jumped on the bandwagon by treating a partnership like the cool or socially expected thing to do. Campbell’s is a leader in creating positive, wholesome messages that set an excellent example for other marketers in both their advertising content and partnership message by striving to create a positive difference in the community. They are a corporation with values that projects an image of warmth and heartiness which reflect not only their casseroles, but their goal of helping families in the holiday season through their donations to Feeding America.

Coors Light Busboy Ad

The Better Business Bureau, the organization that presides over the Beer Institute, recently ruled that the Coors Light Bus Boy ad unintentionally violated the Beer Institute’s Advertising and Marketing Code. According to the code, “Beer advertising and marketing materials should not portray or imply illegal activity of any kind.” In the ad, there is a male that is constantly picking up Coors Light beers in a bar setting. After a while, a waitress notes that the “new bus boy” is doing a great job of cleaning off beers on the tables, to which the boss responds “I didn’t hire a bus boy”. While the underlying or intended meaning of the ad is that Coors Light is so good that people will go to crazy resorts to get it, an additional meaning that Coors Light is worth stealing is the reason for the criticism towards the ad.

While I wouldn’t have really taken such a literal meaning from the ad, I believe the rationale of the Beer Institute is understandable. While Coors itself doesn’t really believe that they have done wrong, they have agreed to stop running the ad as a result of the Better Business Bureau’s ruling. Alcohol advertising is a part of the overall institute of advertising that gets a lot of criticism for unethical advertising. I commend the Beer Institute for creating a non-legal but authoritative ethical standard in an attempt to change this reputation. If we as advertisers continue to create standards for ourselves and regulate ourselves, I believe we will be able to eventually gain credibility and positively impact people’s attitudes towards advertising while performing our business related roles.

I also believe that as advertisers we must look at our ads from several perspectives before we publish the work. While Coors intended to sell their product using a humorous story, there are ways to use humor without portraying or romanticizing illegal activities. If we could really scrutinize our work from an ethical point of view, we could avoid wasting time and money airing ads that won’t be approved our self-regulating structures. By taking time at the forefront to view the ethical impact of our advertising messages, I believe we can avoid a lot of time wasted and financial loss in the future.

In an effort to promote the importance of keeping our nation’s beaches clean and trash-free, Barefoot wine decided to do something a little unexpected when it comes to advertising.

They have long been a part of promoting beaches that are “barefoot” friendly and free of litter, and along with sponsoring the “One Beach” video about keeping our beaches trash-free, as well as their 2011 Beach Rescue Project, they have opted for a nontraditional ad: a 14×10 foot outdoor poster created entirely of 18,000 pieces of beach trash and mounted in the busy, touristy city of Venice Beach, California.

From their many beach rescue events, to their extensive promotion of doing your part, and their partnerships with Surfrider Foundation, they have found their niche in the world of social responsibility and are definitely trying to get people thinking about the effects of their actions.

One Beach

As you can see, the outdoor advertisement stands out from any other ordinary poster or billboard and truly sets the agenda that littering, especially along our coastline, is not okay. Barefoot Wine realizes something needs to be done about this issue in order to turn the problem around and promote cleaner beach environments that are safer for wildlife and tourists alike.

The outdoor advertisement, which promotes their movie while also promoting their brand, influences individuals in a creative way by showing them just how dirty some of our nation’s beaches are. Barefoot Wine’s ad was created to draw people to the ad and capture attention, creating buzz about the topic along the way.

Although the advertisement definitely looks cool, most people who stumble upon this ad while at the beach will have a relatively low level of motivation to process its message. However, the fact that the ad stands apart from other traditional outdoor billboards and posters, takes the peripheral route when it comes to processing information. Consumers form positive attitudes about the advertisement’s message once they realize what the ad is made out of and true intent of the ad’s meaning. Those who are motivated enough by the ad’s message will actually take it a step further and watch the complete 30 minute “One Beach” video on YouTube, which details the extent of the issue.

It is pretty rare to see shock advertising done in a way that actually gets people thinking about a socially responsible topic, such as recycling and reducing waste, but the local California company definitely created an ad that is getting people talking. After commenting on Barefoot Wine’s facebook page, they even sent me a message with more information on the stories behind their One Beach film and campaign, which feature even more amazing details about the people in the video and the steps they are taking towards helping our environment and beaches than I had originally thought.

All in all, the interesting and socially responsible ad by Barefoot Wine really does a great job at persuading consumers of the need for a solution to this problem. Although they are indirectly promoting their wine brand, they are creating buzz about a topic that many people do care about, leading to positive emotions and feelings about the brand in the end. The fact that they truly do care about this initiative is very evident when looking not only at their advertisements, but also at their website and social media pages. The hope is that people passing this particular ad, while walking down the boardwalk, will form a positive attitude towards the brand’s message and advertisement, eventually increasing their liking towards the company as a whole.

Barefoot Wine: Beach Rescue Project

AdWeek Barefoot Wine Ad

Barefoot Wine Dive Deeper: Stories Behind One Beach

We’ve all heard of cause advertising, right? You know, like when you see a big name brand that has partnered with a non-profit organization. Well, this trend is nothing new, we’ve all seen it, believed it, been skeptical about it, or probably had every other thought possible about it.

Over the course of the cause advertising trend, consumers have begun to become cautious of these programs. For example, AdAge writer Scott Pansky discusses how KFC raised over four million dollars last year through its “Buckets for the Cure” campaign. However, both KFC and the nonprofit organization suffered from a lowered brand image, simply due to the fact that many consumers questioned the partnership. On one hand you’ve got greasy, fried, unhealthy chicken and when consumers purchase that KFC will donate to support breast cancer research, a fabulous cause that is finding a cure to support a healthy lifestyle… That seems a bit odd if you ask me. In this specific case, it led many consumers to question why KFC was doing this. Was it simply to use breast cancer research as a way to generate sales?

Since there have many questionable partnerships ultimately resulting in skepticism, it has caused many to say that cause-related marketing (cause advertising) is dead. But, is it really?

In a Cone Inc. study (2010), cited by the Nonprofit Brand Institute, it was found that 59% of Americans are more likely to buy a brand that is affiliated with a nonprofit organization. 50% are more willing to donate, 49% are more likely to participate in an event for that nonprofit and 41% are more likely to volunteer for that nonprofit. So, this obviously proves that cause-related marketing is not dead. In fact, it greatly benefits the brand as well as the nonprofit. So, what needs to be done to reach the consumers in an effective way so that they don’t question the partnership or become skeptical of it?

The big question is ‘”Can we build deeper relationships with our customers (retailers and end users) through a cause relationship and still increase sales?”’ The answer, yes—this trend can be extremely beneficial for advertisers, but only if the campaign is done correctly.

There are two things that advertisers need to focus on. First, the cause must be a good match for the company, brand, and target audience. It needs to be relevant. Second, there must be an alignment within the business. Leadership roles and other employees must all be on the same page and understand that the goal is not only to drive up sales numbers, but also to make a lasting impact with a meaningful organization.

Pansky sums it up pretty well, “The bottom-line message to the C suite is that creating effective, meaningful cause relationships is a long-term process that will help them create a brand legacy, not merely a quick sale. It’s about employee recruiting and retention, and creating the next generation of leadership that not only embraces the corporate culture but also helps to create a better tomorrow for consumers. Marketers need to embrace the idea that this is not a quick-fix marketing solution but a long-term commitment to a cause that is relevant to a long-term relationship with your customers. It’s not a date, it’s a marriage.”

Cause advertising campaigns are a great way to be socially responsible. It is wonderful that companies and brands want to help nonprofit organizations that benefit great causes. I think it is pretty obvious that if a company is partnering with a cause, they are on the right track towards being socially responsible. Companies aren’t just in it for themselves anymore—they are trying to make a difference in things that really matter.

So, we know that cause-related marketing is good, but why does it actually make an impact with consumers? What makes these campaigns so different from standard run-of-the-mill advertising campaigns?

Well, to start with, consumer’s values play a huge role. For example, let’s say that a consumer values the environment and wants to help preserve it; in this case, a cause advertising campaign for a certain brand of paper products benefiting The Nature Conservancy may hit home with this consumer and make them feel very strongly about that brand. This also ties into personal relevance. Going back to the KFC example, maybe a consumer knows someone that is fighting breast cancer, so they may be more likely to purchase a KFC meal rather than Popeye’s.

While the campaign needs to reach the consumer in a meaningful way, a brand that partners with a great cause is also improving their brand image. If a consumer already has positive feelings about the cause, those positive feelings may be transferred to positive feelings about the brand. This can also be demonstrated with attitudes. If a consumer has positive feelings towards a cause, when they view the advertisement that relates to that cause, they will probably have positive feelings towards the ad. When a consumer has positive feelings towards the ad, it impacts the attitude towards the brand.

If the campaign is successful, consumers will develop a positive attitude toward the brand, categorize the brand with other favorable products, and ultimately develop brand loyalty. While all of this is being done, the companies as well as the consumers are helping to make an impact by supporting great causes. It can definitely be argued that cause-related marketing is not only beneficial, but also socially responsible.

With that, I will leave you with the new Coca-Cola holiday campaign developed by Leo Burnett.


(You must have known that it would be cause advertising, right!)

Working with the WWF and the new “To The Arctic 3D” IMAX, Coke will be “whiting out” it’s billboards and soda cans to benefit this great cause.


Articles Used:


Follow AdVirtues on Twitter!