Former IAB GM Launches For-Profit Activist Web Community

The former SVP, General Manager of the Interactive Advertising Bureau once spoke of the power of online advertising. Now she’s shifted gears to tout The Power of Peace, her for-profit social activism Web network. Sheryl Draizen has also made another change, altering her name to Sheryl Daija. Her new venture launches today with a “Not Made in China” initiative, which aims to bring holiday toy shoppers to its site for a list of retailers and manufacturers offering products produced outside China, the origin of recently recalled toys.

The operation will be supported by ad dollars. Indeed, the site could benefit from the rise of cause-related marketing, which has brands attaching their names to the green movement, children’s education, or other popular issues. There are no paying advertisers on the Web site yet, but Daija said advertisers will be able to buy display ads or sponsorships direct from The Power of Peace once its user-generated inventory is built up.

“The fact is we are going to have to be a little bit more conscious of the kinds of companies that will be advertising on our site,” she said. “What we see is marketers aligning potentially with [social causes]… People are much more interested in buying products from brands that have a social conscience.”

The Power of Peace had already decided to focus on China’s environmental problems before toys with dangerous chemicals or parts began making the headlines, said Daija. By showing consumers that refusing Chinese goods could eventually reduce the toxins spewed into the air from the Chinese factories producing them, the company realized the holiday gift connection could help promote the cause of improving China’s environment.

“Basically, we accelerated [the Not Made in China list],” said Daija, CEO and founder of The Power of Peace. “We didn’t want consumers to be without it for the holiday season.” The “shopping guide” is a list of about 130 companies.

The effort could also help drive potential members searching for retailers selling non-Chinese products to the site. Still, when ClickZ News spoke with Daija yesterday, paid search advertising wasn’t in the works to promote the list.

In addition to providing posters and site images for retailers to display, the Not Made in China campaign will also involve lobbying Congress to require all e-commerce sites to display the country of origin alongside products for sale. That could be a daunting task, but Daija believes, “consumers have a right to know.”

As a former public voice of the largest online ad industry trade group, the notion of lobbying Congress as opposed to approaching online retailers or e-commerce industry groups may seem like yet another change for Daija. However, she doesn’t rule out pushing for industry self-regulation. “I think that we’ll reach out to everybody,” she said.

The Power of Peace is a tiny operation, with three staffers based out of New York. Their goal is for the site to become a portal for social “interactivism” by connecting people to organizations, regional communities and groups associated with specific causes such as the genocide in Darfur and the plight of child soldiers around the globe.

“The goal is to open up activism to everybody, those people that don’t know how to navigate it,” said Daija, who expects both young and older audiences to visit the site. Like other social sites, PowerOfPeace.com invites users to create profile pages or groups, be matched with causes that relate to their stated interests, donate to organizations, and enter a contest to design a global flag. A map feature will allow users to view regions of interest to learn about local cultures, listen to local music and even purchase products associated with sustaining that area.

The company has yet to partner with any non-profit or advocacy organizations, but Daija said she expects The Power of Peace to join more strategically with some in the future.

Existing sites including Idealist.org and the teen-aimed YouthNoise already help connect people to volunteer and activist organizations. Pure social sites such as MySpace and Facebook — because of their pervasiveness for many Web users — could be seen as an even more potent means of pushing issues and organizing activist efforts. For instance, liberal activist group MoveOn recently has used Facebook as a protest vehicle against the social network’s new ad format, which some believe infringes on users’ privacy.

Daija expects her firm may partner with such organizations in the future. “We’re not about competing with the current organizations that are out there,” she said. “We want to bring exposure in a format we think will create greater audiences.”

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