Microsoft and IM. Using “Cause Related Engagement” to Validate Interactive Advertising & Data Collection

A series of questions need to be broadly addressed about the proper dimensions for interactive digital marketing, including privacy, individual autonomy, economic fairness, and ecological balance. But some NGO’s (see list) are so so eager to partake of the interactive advertising spoils, they partner with (or permit) digital marketers to engage in practices which should be questioned–not condoned.

Take the “I’m Making a Difference” campaign from Microsoft. The company has tied-in its digital advertising campaigns with “cause” marketing efforts. As Microsoft marketer Mich Mathews explained this week at its Strategic Account Summit:
“…people are driven to get engaged in topics they feel very personally passionate about. So another path that we’ve been exploring is this thing called cause-related engagement. We’re using better technology in our communication services to help people speak up for social causes that they care about. What you’re seeing here, is a new initiative from Windows Live. We start a conversation using IM, Microsoft shares a portion of the program’s advertising revenue with some of the world’s most effective organizations that are dedicated to social causes.

With every instant message, customers help address the issues that they’re feeling most passionate about. It could be poverty, child protection, disease, environmental issues. All you have to do here is sign up and start an instant message conversation, then every ad you see in your message window contributes to the grand total that we’re going to send to the cause. This program is really inspiring people to get involved and make a difference.

Now, even though the campaign to date has largely been un-media, it’s already gone as great pass-along, which illustrates the power of mixing great content with a compelling cause. And in the first months we’ve had hundreds of thousands of new sign ups to Messenger and an increase in page views per user, which, of course, is great for our advertisers, and even greater news for those charities who are involved.”

But before charities and nonprofits agree to be involved with such efforts, they need to fully vet both the privacy issues and the overall impact digital marketing will have on society. If we are to have a global digital medium that fully supports a civil society, NGO’s must be leaders in shaping the new media environment. That means being conscious and responsible–and not just blithely accepting the money.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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