Guest Column: Think The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Is Wise? You're Wrong

The campaign has only served to increase traffic on YouTube, not create awareness about the disease or raise funds for ALS, says Tom Cyrus, Marketing Strategist

e4m by Tom Cyrus
Updated: Sep 8, 2014 8:43 AM
Guest Column: Think The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Is Wise? You're Wrong

About the Ice Bucket Challenge, Matthew Herper wrote an article titled “Think the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is stupid? You're Wrong” in Forbes some days ago, which inspired me to choose the title of my new article.

Perhaps, the Ice Bucket Challenge can be considered the most successful online viral campaign on social networks, that has quickly led many users into a bucket of ice. It is a fun, exciting and easy-to-do activity, which has of course been of most concern for people.

Everyone seems to be involved in this challenge. Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and many unknown people have joined the campaign. Even if  this is not enough, people who do not believe in peace are following this campaign as well. On August 20 George W Bush joined the campaign and it is not very unlikely that Ahmadinejad will also do the same. Gaddafi and Laden would have also joined this trend, had they been alive.

However, it doesn’t matter what it really looks like. The purpose of this campaign has gone to the margin since the founders of the campaign had not elucidated it. Now, many active users of social networks are looking for a bucket and everyone indeed is trying to share his or her unique video with a high probability of hits on YouTube.

I do not believe that people, even many of those who have joined the campaign, know much about ALS. The Ice Bucket Challenge is more like the Wazzup of Budweiser, a campaign that managed to spread a new way for pronouncing What's up among Americans, but it could not help Budweiser beat its German opponent Heineken. Probably, it could not even compensate for the cost of Wazzup Campaign. For the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign, however, I believe that this challenging campaign is facing a major challenge. After the ice bucket fever diminishes a bit, we should ask ALS Association “Hey, Wazzzzzup?”

But what’s the reason for despair over this cute campaign? My experience has shown me that very cute campaigns lose sight of the ultimate goal, and despite the loud cries they let out at first, At the end they have a low and frail tone about the money they had made.

In a brief exchange of ideas about this campaign I had with Al Ries, he said:
The ice-bucket challenge got buckets of publicity, but not that much money. Furthermore, it didn't say anything about why the ALS Association needs the money. For sufferers? For finding a cure? Or for what? Having said that, the challenge itself is a good example of the power of a "visual hammer" in developing interest in a brand. More companies should create such innovate ideas.

But really, is our goal of starting a creative campaign, making cries? Making cries will be useful only when it turns us into high-flying eagles in our business, but not into a mouse which idiotically runs on an unknown path alongside other mice. The path of every business, even those of nonprofit businesses, should lead to earning money and of course, to making profit.

Today, ALS Association released a report about the total sum it has received this year, which is not more than a few million dollars compared with what it received last year:

Washington, D.C. (August 27, 2014) — As of Wednesday, August 27, The ALS Association has received $94.3 million in donations compared to $2.7 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 27). These donations have come from existing donors and 2.1 million new donors.

Now that this campaign seems to have got ubiquitous, we should expect to get so much more. Today, August 28, at the time of writing the final version of this article for which I have been seriously researching about and analysing the campaign, something about six million videos from different people who have joined the campaign have been uploaded on the YouTube. The most visited video belongs to Bill Gates with more than 17 million and 700 thousand hits. Ironically, Bill Gates was challenged by the founder of Facebook, but his video has been viewed millions of times more than Mark Zuckerberg's.

But why am I claiming that this campaign has been unsuccessful in receiving funding? We just need to use the rule of thumb. Millions of people have visited the videos of this challenge on the YouTube and nearly six million videos have been made; but only two million and seven hundred thousand people have helped. It was supposed to earn money through this campaign, not to increase the YouTube traffic.

In my opinion, based on what has been mentioned above, this campaign, rather than aiding the ALS Association, has been more helpful for famous figures. Making these videos by the prominent figures return to occupy the minds of their audience, even if for a short while.

But as far as I know, none of them have said anything to sympathise with people suffering from ALS after their freezing experience. Even in the video that Lady Gaga has taken, the audiences witness a sexy action rather than a social one, and due to her indifference when she pours ice water on herself, no informative response is conveyed to the audience.

It’s very interesting that when you want to search “Ice Bucket Challenge” on the YouTube, phrases like “Ice Bucket Challenge Bikini” or “Ice Bucket Challenge Fail” are also suggested. Although this successful campaign has not ended up in a significant amount of money (do not forget that millions of dollars are just for big people, not for institutes or societies), has it at least been successful in transferring the feeling of patients with ALS? It, nevertheless, seems that bikinis have been more noticeable cases.

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