Skip to main content

American Greetings Ad for Sesame Workshop


Elmo’s World of Slick Cause-Related Marketing

I confess I don’t have the experience abroad to judge if it’s a good idea to take Sesame Street… the 38-year-old American children’s TV show… to places like Egypt, Bangladesh, and South Africa. And I’m not sure to what degree the shows “work” in those countries.

(In fact, neither are Sesame Street’s producers. Here’s what their president and CEO Gary E. Knell wrote in their 2005 annual report: “As we’ve said before, we don’t pretend that media can, by itself, solve the many problems of the world, but we do believe­­­—and research confirms—that they can contribute to the solutions.”)

I do, however, have a background in cause-related marketing and this 2-part ad, which appeared in BabyTalk Magazine in May 2006, leaves me cold.

As we’ll see, even though it has the veneer of cause-related marketing, it’s actually just an advertisement for one of Sesame Street’s licensees. American Greetings… the greeting card giant… was a Sesame Street-licensee when this ad dropped.

The headline on the greeting card, which blocks the handsome young fellow’s head, tells us to “Throw an Elmo birthday party for your child, and help give the gift of education to children around the world.” (By the way, in surveys, consumers consistently say they dislike it when advertisers obscure, even partially, people’s faces like this.)

On first reading I assumed that maybe they had put together some kind of package like Trick of Treat for UNICEF or Share Our Strength's Great American Bake Sale whereby kids and their parents would raise funds for Sesame Workshop at birthday parties, with American Greetings providing the sponsorship grease.

That would have been interesting.

Instead… as you read the fine print… you learn that Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit which produces Sesame Street and other children’s shows, applies the money it earns from its licensees to underwrite the production of versions of Sesame Street in other countries.

Sure, and when I fill up on gas at CITGO stations kids in Venezuela are able to go to college.

Now mind you, Sesame Workshop’s licensing income is substantial. It was right around $50 million in both 2004 and 2005. I’m not judging how well Sesame Workshop uses their resources or if extending their brand in this way is in keeping with their mission.

But efforts like this cast a bad light on the tens of thousands of legitimate cause-related marketing campaigns and relationships. Moreover, it makes me question the judgment of Sesame Street for letting this one get through.

I do not like this slick ad from American Greetings.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Three Ways to Be Charitable

I’ve spent a big chunk of my career working with or for charities. Many of my dearest and ablest friends are in the charity ‘space.’ And the creativity and problem-solving coming out of the nonprofit sector has never been greater.  Although I’ve had numerous nonprofit clients over the last decade or so, I haven’t worked in a charity for about 12 years now, which gives me a certain distance. Distance lends perspective and consequently, I get a lot of people asking me which charities I recommend for donations of money or time. My usual answer is, “it depends.” “On what?” they respond. “On what you want from your charitable activities,” I reply. It sounds like a weaselly consultant kind of an answer, but bear with me for a moment. The English word charity comes from the Latin word caritas and means “from the heart,” implying a voluntary act. Caritas is the same root word for cherish. The Jews come at charity from a different direction. The Hebrew word that is usually rendered as charity is t…

Top Eight Cause-Related Marketing Campaigns of 2007

Yeah, You Read it Right. It's a Top 8 List.

More cause-related marketing campaigns are unveiled every day across the world than I review in a year at the cause-related marketing blog. And, frankly, I don’t see very many campaigns from outside North America. So I won’t pretend that my annual list of the top cause-related marketing campaigns is exhaustive.

But, like any other self-respecting blogger, I won’t let my superficial purview stop me from drawing my own tortured conclusions!

So… cue the drumroll (and the dismissive snickers)… without further ado, here is my list of the eight best cause-related marketing campaigns of 2007.

My list of the worst cause-related marketing campaigns of 2007 follows on Thursday.


Chilis and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
I was delighted by the scope of Chilis’ campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As you walked in you saw the servers adorned in black co-branded shirts. Other elements included message points on the Chilis beverage coas…

Five Steps To Nurture a 30-Year Cause Marketing Relationship

Last Monday, July 22, 2013, March of Dimes released the annual results of its campaign with Kmart... now in its thirtieth year... and thereby begged the question, what does it takes to have a multi-decade cause marketing relationship between a cause and a sponsor?

In the most recent year, Kmart,the discount retailer, donated $7.4 million to the March of Dimes, bringing the 30-year total to nearly $114 million. March of Dimes works to improve the health of mothers and babies.

Too many cause marketing relationships, in my estimation, resemble speed-dating more than long-term marriage. There can be good reasons for short-term cause marketing relationships. But most causes and sponsors benefit more from long-term marriages than short-term hookups, the main benefit being continuity. Cause marketing trades on the trust that people, usually consumers, put in the cause and the sponsor. The longer the relationship lasts the more trust is evidenced.

There's also a sponsor finding cost that…