AmEx Interactive Effort to ‘Shake up’ the World

Membership, it turns out, still has privileges for American Express “Cardholders.”

That famous tagline was phased out a decade ago. But only those with Amex plastic in their wallets will be able to participate in the company’s new “Members Project” online initiative, created by interactive agency of record Digitas.

A part of the “Are You a Cardmember?” campaign, the celebrity-encrusted Members Project asks people to visit membersproject.com, where they can suggest, discuss and vote on “innovative, achievable projects that will have a broad, positive impact on the world.” Projects can be geared toward arts and entertainment, business and finance, education, environment and wildlife, fun, health and fitness, and community development.

The winning project, as voted upon by a panel that includes comedian Ellen DeGeneres, volleyball pro Gabrielle Reese and musician Wynton Marsalis, will receive up to $5 million in funding from AmEx. The amount of money the company spends will depend on how many AmEx holders sign up on the Web site; AmEx says it will donate $1 for each Cardmember who logs in, but it is capping its benevolence at the $5 million mark.

The Web site has been up and running since mid-May but television advertising for the campaign began June 1. A TV spot uses the line, “You don’t have to be famous to make a difference — just a Cardmember” and features celebrity Cardmembers from past American Express commercials as well as a regular-looking fellow described in an AmEx press release as being “Tim from the office next door.” In one spot, after the assembled celebs suggest global initiatives as potential projects, “Tim” suggests something more close-to-home and simple: Keeping clean New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee.

This surprised Lake Winnipesaukee lovers who were watching TV over the weekend and couldn’t believe their ears when the commercial aired. Commenting on the forum at Winnipesaukee.com, some said the ad was clever, but one noted Tim’s Winnipesaukee maintenance plan is not among the more than 2,750 projects listed on the Members Project site.

It’s not too late for New Hampshire’s biggest lake: The Members Project Web site will collect project ideas until June 17. Then begins the selection process, conducted by the panel of experts, which will end June 28.

After that AmEx will announce the Top 50 projects and then the Top 25. Between July 17 and July 22, Cardmembers will be able to vote online for the top five ideas. On July 24, they’ll get to vote for the winning idea, which will be announced August 7.

AmEx’s “Are You a Cardmember?” campaign launched in April, replacing the “My life. My card” campaign that was started November 2004. Prior to “My life. My card,” American Expressed ran the “Do more” campaign.

When it first announced The Members Project last month, AmEx said the idea will allow its Cardmembers to “come together as a community by submitting and sharing their project ideas for making a positive impact in the world.” That idea fits in with the Are You a Cardmember? campaign’s goal of illustrating the values inherent in carrying AmEx.

“Our Cardmembers make up a unique community — one that is highly engaged and passionate — and we know that they care about the world around them,” said Jud Linville, president of American Express Consumer Card Services Group, in a statement. She said The Members Project will have the company’s “community of Cardmembers” working together “and collectively shaking up the world just a little bit to do some good.”

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