American Red Cross Holiday Site Captures Edgy Trend

  |  December 23, 2010   |  Comments

Old school charity organization takes cue from an off-color website meme.

The American Red Cross doesn't care if donors make mushroom soup or salad nicoise for dinner. And it doesn't care how they feel about what President Obama has done so far. But to keep up with the times during the holiday giving season, the old school charity organization is taking a cue from a website design meme made popular by and the more recent was designed to answer the question, "Why the heck should I give to the Red Cross?" Like the dinner and Obama sites, it provides a seemingly infinite number of responses, serving up a different one every time the user clicks "Gimme another reason."

One reason to give: "Because even cats like Nudge, who saved a husband and wife from a house fire, are honored as 'heroes' by the Red Cross." Each fact-based reason is accompanied by an "I’m convinced" link leading to a donation page, or a pithy "Gimme another reason" related statement. Nudge's tale is matched with, "I'm more of a dog person."

The dinner site, created by advertising copywriter Zach Golden, is simple yet addictive, allowing people to click through an endless array of evening meal possibilities, which link to recipes for those dishes. The more recently launched Obama site, created by a group of supporters, went viral before this year's midterm elections, and features a series of accomplishments under the Obama administration.

"Because the American Red Cross is such a venerable brand - but it can sometimes be viewed as very traditional - we wanted expressly to tie it to a fresher, edgier meme…something familiar that said 'yes we are traditional, but we are very present in the digital sphere,'" said Amy Vickers, SVP of strategy at Razorfish, the agency behind the effort. "That's why we recognized the meme and [the American Red Cross] responded to the meme."

In addition to modernizing its brand, the organization aims to emphasize its local relevance. When people think of the Red Cross, they often think of a large international emergency response organization. But with over 500 local chapters across the U.S., the charity distributes assistance to local communities. To help get that message across, highlights localized reasons for giving, such as "Because every day the Red Cross is responding to house fires - including 550 in the Phoenix area last year."



Said Vickers, "We're trying to amplify how they're actually delivering services and connecting individuals to the local impact of that."

Though the site uses a "database of facts that are localized," explained Vickers, that content cannot be targeted locally - yet, anyway. The site was conceived of and developed in less than six weeks, and its expected shelf-life is unknown; however, if the organization wants to upgrade its customization capabilities, said Vickers, "We will key off of IP to localize the site."

The WhyShouldIGive site is part of a much larger annual holiday giving campaign that launched in the fall, involving PSAs, print ads, search advertising, e-mail, and other elements. According to an annual Holiday Giving report from Convio, which provides digital marketing tools to charities and nonprofits, donors with online relationships with a nonprofit will give almost $100 more than average - $378 vs $281 - this year.

The site is being promoted through the American Red Cross local chapter network, and in social media through "key social media evangelists" like celebrities, said Vickers. Along with primary Facebook and Twitter accounts, the organization's local chapters also have their own individual social media presences.

"Charities inherently get social media because even large charities are grassroots driven," said Vickers.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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