Thinking outside the billboard

We make a point to work with as many non-for-profit organizations and charities as we can because we believe it’s important to give back to the community that has enabled you to succeed. From building Web site to designing fliers and collateral, to helping host events, we really enjoy running the campaigns that help fund a good cause.

When we heard about a text message and online donation campaign that an Austin, Texas-based marketing agency ran to raise money for a homeless family, we were impressed. Not just by the cause, but in the creative, and perhaps death defying way they pulled it off.

Marketing firm T3 was brainstorming of ways to help its client, a local mission that provides food and clothing to the homeless and working poor. After setting up a text message donation platform for the organization, the creative firm decided that they’d either go big or go home.

So they went big. Or should I say high. Billboard high. With their “I Am Here” campaign and the goal of removing any stigma or tendency to look away rather than help, T3 kicked off the campaign with a stunt that people had a hard time ignoring. They put a homeless man up on a billboard. And when I say they put him up there, I mean in the flesh. For two days, the man and the mission’s founder stood at the top of a billboard soaring over I-35 in Austin.

How does such an idea actually come to fruition?

By believing that it was possible and following through, said the creative director of the project, Kate Donaho. “We decided to keep pursuing it until someone said no. Nobody did.”

When you’ve got a worthy story that you and other people can believe in, a strong campaign message,  hard-working creatives to dig deep for PR on a tight budget, and just a little bit of gumption, why not? The heartwarming story of this family, told through the high rise platform, quickly permeated the Twittersphere while all other forms of traditional media happily covered the campaign, including 230 news outlets and 30 markets,  and T3 gained media value of more than $500,000.

The campaign was a success. Only about 2% of the 20,000 people who Tweeted and reTweeted the story actually texted a donation, but what they were trying to do was spread awareness for the client. Mission accomplished.

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