Web Ad Campaign Seeks Tsunami Relief and Ad Inventory Donations

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the American branch of the United Nations Children’s Fund, has mounted a wide-reaching Web advertising campaign to solicit donations for tsunami relief efforts in Asia.

“We really started right after it happened,” said Tatiana Shulzycki, Internet marketing manager for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, referring to the earthquake-triggered disaster. “We immediately put our in-house designer to work on the banners.”

The organization, which had developed contacts in the Web publisher community for a previous effort surrounding the Iraq war, called on those media companies in the wake of the disaster, soliciting ad space donations.

“We jumped into action pretty quickly and were pretty proactive,” said Shulzycki. “Now, a lot of properties are coming in and asking if they can donate some remnant banner space.”

While Shulzycki says the ads are running on too many sites to count, she cites CNN.com, NYTimes.com and Salon.com as some of the most well-known space donors. Ad-supported software firm WeatherBug is also serving ads for the charity.

Shulzycki says the organization developed 20 different banner ad sizes, all with similar creative. They feature a photo of a child survivor of the tsunamis against a blue background with the text: “Tsunami Crisis: Help UNICEF Respond.” The call-to-action reads: “Donate now to protect children at risk unicefusa.org.” Clicking on the link immediately takes users to the donation page on UNICEF USA’s Web site. The group is also digitizing a video public service announcement, and will make it available for publishers that stream video content and advertising. UNICEF USA has made all of the creative available via a page on its Web site at unicefusa.org/tsunamibanners.

Paid search is also a big part of UNICEF USA’s online outreach. The organization received a grant through Google’s Grants program, and is buying disaster-related keywords on the search giant’s network. It also hired an outside consultant to manage a keyword campaign on Yahoo’s Overture. The organization is in discussions with Overture about getting funds for the campaign donated.

The group is surprised by some unprompted efforts companies have undertaken. Yahoo links to UNICEF USA, among other agencies, on the front page of its site, and Apple.com links to the group on a page dedicated to the relief effort.

UNICEF USA’s Shulzycki says she doesn’t yet know how much traffic campaign has generated for the group’s site. “We’ve distributed the banner to the publishers, and we haven’t had a chance to make inquiries about reports,” she said.

According to researcher HitWise, UNICEF USA’s Web site saw a substantial leap in traffic for the week ending January 1. News and media sites sent 14.7 percent of that traffic, said HitWise.

Search efforts have so far yielded a click-through rate of between 3 and 5 percent, said Shulzycki. According to HitWise, Google was responsible for 9.76 percent of traffic to unicefusa.org in the week ending January 1. It’s not clear whether organic or paid search listings were responsible.

Since the disaster, the group has raised $20 million, with $11 million already deployed in the region. Shulzycki said “the lion’s share” of that money was raised online.

“We’d encourage other publishers who are wanting to reach out in some way — in addition to donating, which is the best — to donate some ad space, if they have it,” she said.

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