Development organization targets Internet-savvy youth

Using a new website with pass-along features, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee gets its target demo to spread awareness about AIDS.

After realizing that its AIDS awareness campaign wasn’t targeting the younger demographic it needed to reach, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) created a website with viral marketing features that allow youths to pass along personalized messages about the epidemic.

Working with the concept of light – which has a Christian relevance but needed to be modernized – the creative team at Manifest Communications decided to promote the idea that by shining their own light, young people can do their part to bring AIDS ‘out of the darkness.’

‘We wanted to tap into their energy and their enthusiasm,’ says CRWRC communications and marketing coordinator Kristen deRoo VanderBerg of the 18- to 25-year-olds they hoped would spread the message of the Embrace AIDS campaign.

While young people aren’t big fundraisers, a campaign like this can produce valuable results by tapping into their passion, explains deRoo VanderBerg.

On the website, which cost about $58,000 to develop, visitors can use a brightly coloured virtual paintbrush to create a postcard, then send it to a friend; they can also upload photos or videos of themselves holding fluorescent scribbles (a step-by-step guide is provided), and add their own small beam on a world map.

Promotional tactics for the site, launched on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, included the distribution of buttons, documents, bracelets and newsletters throughout schools. With the help of guerrilla marketing agency Smak, they also held light-writing events at the University of Western Ontario and Dordt College in Iowa.

So far, the site has received about 3,000 unique hits, and the number is expected to rise ‘exponentially’ once the word gets out.

‘What we’re looking for is the number of people that visit the site, the number of events getting posted that youth are planning on their own, and the number of photos that are posted and shared with other people,’ explains deRoo VanderBerg.

‘People spend 99 per cent of their time thinking about themselves,’ Jim Diorio, CD at Manifest Communications, tells MiC. Part of the goal was to infiltrate that self-analysis, then help individuals to express it for the cause, he added.’