Hey, not-for-profits! Profit from this.

Those of you who follow me online know that I live a double life. As well as creating Social Issues Marketing campaigns here at Acart, I am a social marketing blogger at Osocio.org, one of the best-known sites dedicated to featuring and critiquing cause campaigns.

Last month, Osocio announced its Campaign of the Year for 2010, chosen by a panel of ad and cause bloggers from around the world. I’d like to show you that campaign, along with the four runners-up, because they demonstrate some of the best strategies and tactics available to cause campaigners in the social media age.

First, the winner:

This one was no surprise to me. Embrace Life is not just a PSA, it’s a viral phenomenon. Originally a regional safety campaign in the UK, it attracted the notice of worldwide mainstream and social media through its pure and authentic emotional delivery.

And yet, when the video first launched, it was confined to a non-sharable format on the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership web site, severely limiting its sharability. But then Marc, the editor at Osocio, and I both started lobbying the owner of the video to put it on YouTube. You can see the drama in the comments section of this post, from over a year ago, on my personal blog, Work That Matters.

The lesson here? Sussex Safer Roads Partnership wanted to use the video as a lure to their web site, and making people visit to see it seemed like a logical plan. But that’s not the way the online social world works — it’s just one click too many. People want to access content on a familiar, open and sharable channel. Like YouTube. Where Embrace Life has, as of this writing, had 13,399,920 views.

Runner-Up: Naughty Graffiti

Since this is a corporate blog, I won’t embed this one. The reason it was so successful is because it really is naughty. It’s a brilliant animation featuring a bathroom scribble of male genitalia that has no luck with all the crude renderings of female counterparts drawn on the walls because it doesn’t have a condom. When a helpful woman using the facility draws one on the little fella, though, a line-art orgy begins.

The lesson? Sex in advertising is always effective in getting attention, but it’s even better if it is relevant to the topic, and pushes boundaries in a way that is humorous and non-sexist. This is a perfect example.

Second Runner Up: It Gets Better

This was not a campaign so much as it was a movement. Dan Savage, author of the no-holds-barred Savage Love sex advice column, posted a video in response to the suicides of gay youth in the United States. The message was one of hope for those who are bullied and marginalized by friends, family and society. And it became a phenomenon, engaging responses from around the world, including celebrities — gay ad straight alike — and even some Canadian politicians:


The lesson here is that crowdsourcing can work for a cause campaign as long as your message is simple, engaging, accessible and timely. And this issue has truly come of age.

Third Runner-Up: The Majestic Plastic Bag

A personal favourite of mine, this was an extremely entertaining online video with a harsh message about where many of California’s 19 billion plastic bags used per year end up — in the sea.

This is high budget stuff — done by DDB LA and voiced by Jeremy Irons — but it is worth it. The video earns four precious minutes of attention through “>great writing, detailed execution, and a perfectly straight delivery. Many causes could learn from this class act.

Fourth Runner-Up: The Guide Dog Interviews

Another fantastically thought-provoking online video, but this one took the form of reality TV. They actually tricked people into interviewing for a job based on what guide dogs do, and recorded the candidates’ real reactions to the job description. It’s fresh, it’s funny, and it gets people thinking about an important issue in a completely different way.

So what are you waiting for? There has never been a better time for social/cause/fundraising/N$P marketers to get their message across to a broad public. The social media landscape is a meritocracy, where organizations who seek to educate (rather than sell) enjoy a huge advantage because they have so much more emotional value than a mere consumer product.

This is your day. Seize it.

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