Can a YouTube contest get you pumped for Fashion Cares?

It's a classic idea: run a contest, sign on a few celebrities, all in the name of a good cause. But can the largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser in Canada get people interested in sharing their stories on YouTube? With months before the media campaign begins, this PR component aims to create a catalogue of user-generated content in time for the gala.

Canadian TV personalities are popping up on YouTube under the group ‘Why ACT Now?’ – a first attempt at tapping into user-generated video with a PR contest strategy. Already posted on a YouTube-hosted contest group site are videos by CityTV and Fashion Television’s Jeanne Beker, CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos and Adamo Ruggiero, of Degrassi: The Next Generation fame.

The contest aims to get people sharing personal experiences and provocative thoughts about HIV/AIDS to create awareness about the epidemic, and to raise the profile of Fashion Cares – a major fundraising gala by the AIDS Committee of Toronto (hence the capitals in ‘Why ACT Now?’). The contest, created by the Toronto offices of GCI Group (HQ’d in New York), offers the winner a makeover on May 12, 2007 in preparation for attending the gala that day.

In the past, Fashion Cares has attracted about 5,000 people and lots of favourable media coverage. CityTV has been the traditional broadcast partner. CityTV will begin airing the special 20 Years of Fashion Cares on Dec. 28 at 9 pm in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, with a Jan. 1 10 pm airtime for Winnipeg. Star! aired it on Dec. 13. AIDS Committee of Toronto director of marketing and development Kevin Hartley says a larger media campaign is in the works with details TBA.

Fashion Cares’ 20th anniversary gala event was featured in DecAIDS, a one-hour documentary by Toronto-based Peace Point Entertainment Group (a shareholder in gay specialty network OUTtv) that aired on Global Nov. 11. Next year’s event, for the first time, will be produced by Kingdom Entertainment president Chip Quigley (who’s also headed productions such as the International Emmy Awards, Conan O’Brien in Toronto and Chicago, and Conde Nast’s Fashion Rocks TV special on CBS).