Ad Council and Other Nonprofits Ramp Up Social Media Efforts

Alterian and the CMO Council recently released surveys where each found more than 60 percent of marketers are shifting to social media/online and away from more-traditional advertising. And nonprofit players appear to be moving in a similar direction.

“More than half of our 50 campaigns have a social media program of some kind now,” said Ellyn Fisher, director of corporate communications for the New York-based The Ad Council. “That certainly wasn’t the situation just a few years ago.”

The Ad Council’s most-recent initiative provides a case in point, helping the Arthritis Foundation build buzz before “Arthritis Awareness Month” in May. With an assist from New York-based design firm Avasio, the nonprofit has launched a micro-site,, for the campaign. The site features a message board for arthritis sufferers to swap treatment ideas, a risk assessment quiz, and a bevy of other educationally driven tools.

The organization’s pages for Facebook (7,910 “fans”) and Twitter (1,770 “followers”) are also being leveraged in an effort spearheaded by social media agency YouCast. For instance, two :30 video clips from recent PSAs can be viewed on the Facebook page, said Deb Neuman, chief external relations officer for the Atlanta-based Arthritis Foundation. Neuman – who has spent seven years working for multiple nonprofits – said social media marketing is quickly growing in her niche.

“Social media is [powerful] in how you can help people engage with your cause,” she explained. “And we’ve seen that in the foundation.”

On Feb. 2, a handful of campaign-specific videos were put up at Arthritis Foundation’s YouTube channel. “[The foundation] also just finished a user-generated contest on YouTube,” said Fisher from The Ad Council. “[It] is going to do something similar to coincide with ‘Arthritis Awareness Month.'”

A larger awareness drive will run intermittently for three years, Fisher explained, while including display ads developed with the help of creative agency Y&R. Banners started running last weekend over networks such as AOL and MSN, she said, as well as on sites like,, and, among others.

An e-mail with a link to the Web site and one of the clips was sent earlier this week to the Arthritis Foundation’s list of more than 50,000. “The problem with arthritis is that it makes people fear the pain associated with moving,” Fisher explained. “The campaign is designed to be fun, user-friendly, light-hearted. We tested the [microsite] with the ads with the target audience, and they found them to be motivating.”

Another nonprofit, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), has been running a campaign against cyber-bullying that leans on YouTube. The effort entails a :32 clip of an adolescent boy who begins reading a poem about dolphins crying before dramatically changing topics and explaining the unfortunate results of cyber-bullying. New York-based Saatchi and Saatchi – the NCPC’s agency for six decades – created the campaign, which also involves YouTube as an official partner.

“There are lots of nasty comments on YouTube,” said James Cooper, interactive creative director for Saatchi and Saatchi. “If we can get just less people [cyber-bullying] on YouTube, then that was our idea – rather than it being this huge, national campaign.”

The video has been viewed more than 625,000 times since being released about a month ago. “The media costs are next-to-nothing when you do something like YouTube,” Cooper added. “It’s just a really smart way to put some messages out and see what happens, while [collecting] information for future campaigns.”

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