The challenge of ice buckets

August 29, 2014 9:43 am Published by

It’s the charity campaign sweeping Facebook by storm. People everywhere throwing ice water over themselves all in the name of Motor Neurone Disease (MND or ALS) – but not before nominating others to do the same and, of course, to donate being the primary message.
Yes, it’s clogging up your Facebook Newsfeed, but the ‘ALS ice bucket in your Face…book’ challenge has raised more than $100 million in less than a month, according to Forbes, and all for a good cause. Or is it? Has the ALS challenge single-handedly revolutionized the way in which charity campaigns operate, or has the craze simply watered down future hopes for charities to really engage people with a cause?

While some of us chose to chuck buckets, Pamela Anderson publically declined on the grounds that the ALS Association has a poor record of animal testing. Singer Grimes followed suit and instead donated to the Malala Fund, a charity that aims to empower through education. A cause that I’d naturally be more determined to support. Matt Damon dumped toilet water over his head to raise awareness of ALS and the lack of safe water and sanitation in the developing world.

However, while it’s true that the ‘cause’ or ‘ask’ behind a charity campaign is (or should be) the motive, the uncertainty surrounding ALS, I am certain, is a key ingredient to the recipe of its success. The Independent reported that over half of Brits that took part in the challenge did not know what cause they were supporting. Is it possible that people feel empowered by giving some airtime to usually unseen causes? In other words, people enjoy rooting for the underdogs. A Metro article points towards “self promotion” as the motive for ALS challenges, saying “charity begins at home, not on Facebook”.

I can only imagine the conversations taking place in marketing teams everywhere – “let’s tap into the ALS viral currency” and “how can we recreate the ALS challenge for our clients?” Samsung came up with a corker and posted an online advert with its Galaxy S5 doing the challenge and then nominating rival iPhone 5 to do the same. The variety of videos have been phenomenal, from moving talks from ALS sufferers to Bill Gates and even Homer Simpson taking the challenge.

It has been fascinating to watch the campaign unfold, and I hope all of this pushes MND closer to finding a cure. In my view, fun charity campaigns that boost fundraising and people connecting around the world to do incredible things, is exactly what social media should be used for.

Charlotte

Mila

Vicki & Tony

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This post was written by Charlotte Robertson