A Raspberry for Linens 'n Things Ad

An Ad that Tries to Do Too Much and Fails

Charities… even sophisticated and well-funded entities… are often guilty of trying to make their marketing collateral do too much. But in this ad for a multipart cause-related marketing promotion, it is the sponsor who muffs it by trying to do too much.

Here’s the list of vendors or corporate partners:

* Linens ‘n Things
* MasterCard
* Gund
* Homedics
* Yankee Candle
* + 2 unknown brands.

Here’s the list of potentially benefiting charities:

* National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
* Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
* Val Skinner Foundation for Breast Cancer
* Breast Cancer Research Foundation
* + other potential but unnamed beneficiaries.

Here are the elements of the promotion:
* Add a dollar to your Linens ‘n Things purchase between October 1-31, 2006 (October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month) and:
- Linens ‘n Things will match the donations up to $100,000
- MasterCard will match the donations up to an additional $100,000
- The total potential donation, therefore, is more than $300,000

Although the ad says “with the purchase of special items, a portion of the proceeds will go to foundations,” and provides the charities listed above, it’s not clear what those donation amounts are. When you go to LNT.com and view the items in the circular a popup box refers only to the add-a-dollar portion of the promotion.

The money, we are told, will fund free mammograms and breast cancer education, which is the primary mission of National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.

All this in a 6x9 ‘ad’ in a Linens ‘n Things circular.

Missing, of course, is which charities get what. Also missing is clarity about the donations apparently generated from the sales of the themed products.

What could have helped? A smarter approach would have been to split this ad up or lengthen it to a full page. Circular pages cost money, of course, and sponsors want to maximize their space. But if Linens ‘n Things shortchange a promotion that does, after all, presumably carry benefits for them, then they shortchange themselves as well as the benefiting charities.

Now, maybe the in-store promotional materials are more clear, but even if they are, this promotion was probably designed in part to drive traffic to the store. This ad doesn’t do that.

It also would help if the whole thing were a good deal more transparent. You couldn’t get all these details in the ad, but it could have directed readers to a micro-website that explains it in better detail and includes links and the like.

All in all, a raspberry to Linens ‘n Things for this overly-complicated ad.

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