So I just finished reading this article on Vice Media that completely slams the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Their argument is two fold: first that it does nothing to raise money for ALS, and second that it simply latches onto the continued trend of social media narcissism. I’ve heard a few other people begin hating on this social media activation as well for similar reasons so let me explain to you why you are all wrong.
What is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: In case you have been living without access to the internet or haven’t paid your Verizon Wireless bill for the past 3 weeks, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge has absolutely taken social media by storm. Basically, if you’re “challenged”, you have 24 hours to dump a bucket of ice water over your head or donate $100 to the ALS foundation. If you accept the challenge, you must video yourself dumping the bucket, post the video to social media and nominate others to take the challenge in 24 hours or make the donation.
Now onto my response to Vice and everyone else who don’t see why this is such a good campaign:
The purpose of the campaign: This is a marketing activation. A way of driving attention and awareness for a terrible disease first, and raising money second. There are literally thousands of worthy charities out there, and having worked with many of them over the years, their biggest struggle is generating awareness. How do they stand out from one another, and make themselves and their initiative known? They don’t have the budgets to run national commercials nor would that be a better use of funds than putting the budget for a 30 second spot during “Modern Family” towards actual medical research. The goal of this campaign was to use a silly/funny thing like dumping a bucket of water on your head, to drive attention and awareness for the disease and the various ALS research foundations. And you know what? It worked.
The total estimated reach for this campaign (the amount of people who have been exposed to the challenge) is in the hundreds of millions. That’s like buying 2-3 super bowl ads (valued at $3mm – $5mm a piece). So understand what the primary purpose of the campaign is, awareness, before making such an ignorant comment.
The campaigns effectiveness in raising money: I’ve heard more than a few people start saying, “stop dumping buckets of water and start donating some money.” But here’s the thing, people ARE donating money. Once you see the Ice Bucket Challenge as simply a marketing tactic to drive awareness, there is a direct correalation to the impact on driving donations. According to the ALS Association they have seen some 70,000 new donors since July 29th and a more than 4x increase in donations ($4mm compared to $1mm over the similar period last year). This means the campaign is having a massive impact on the bottom line and is effective. Yes I understand that people should be dumping the bucket AND donating, but for pure marketing purposes the challenge was much more “viral” by using the idea of an “either/or” challenge. In the end, the campaign truly is creating awareness (priority 1), driving an increase in donations (priority 2) and increasing the amount of new donors (priority 3). I’d say that’s pretty effective.
The campaigns use of social media narcissism: So Vice highlights this fad of social media narcissism as a negative trait, and from a societal and behavioral perspective it probably is. However, acknowledging that it is a popular trait, and then leveraging it to your advantage is absolutely brilliant! What is different about that and a fitness brand like Nike+ asking you to post your runs online to “hear the cheers from the crowd?”. At the end of the day they leveraged a behaviorial truth, and turned it into something for social good. If you hate narcissism then stop liking people’s photos on vacation, stop following the Kardashian family on instagram, and stop posting your #TBT pictures for everyone to see. However, until that happens, why not figure out how to take advantage of it for good? Not to break out the biggest 90’s cliche ever, but “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
Summary: Yes, I think everyone should be dumping AND donating. Yes, I think this whole video thing is a bit narcissitic (yes my shirt is off in my video haha). Yes, I’m slightly over seeing all the videos in my feed. However, as a person who has a good friend dying of this disease, I see this campaign as a huge ray of light for the things smart people can do to help charities. This campaign cost almost nothing to launch, and even less to amplify and yet it is having a massive impact on increasing awareness, funds, and donors for ALS Research. If you think that’s a bad thing, then you’re a fucking moron.