Ashton Kutcher, Twitter, H&K Help End Malaria

25 April 2009

In one of the biggest examples to date of the new ways people hear about things and get involved (beyond hearing from traditional media channels like TV, radio and newspapers) Ashton Kutcher and CNN use the power of Twitter to drive awareness by millions of the campaign “Malaria No More.”

It all started with a magical number – 1 million followers – who would be the first to get 1,000,000 people to follow them on the microblogging sensation taking over the world, Twitter.   Ashton, we are so on a first name basis, has been a huge ambassador for spreading the fun and power of Twitter, providing people with a fun peek inside his world but also guiding people toward causes and events that do things to help the world.  As people love competition, both Ashton and CNN were both gaining big followers recently, with the big 1,000,000 finish line (or starting line perhaps) coming strong.  Both Ashton and CNN were approached to celebrate the winner to the big magical number with a donation (and related awareness) to fund the purchase of mosquito nets to help combat Malaria in Africa.

The traditional media (like CNN) was attracted well, like flies, to the competition and covered the race as well as the related finish line donation.  The big day happened last week and Ashton showed up on Larry King to talk about his win and of course talk about the Malaria No More campaign.  Both Ashton and CNN donated $100,000 to purchase 10,000 bed nets for the campaign.  (watch the video here)

Inspired by Ashton’s feat, Malaria No More wants to build on this momentum and use Twitter to generate even more awareness leading up to World Malaria Day this Saturday, April 25. Their ultimate goal?  Fund 1 million bed nets in the next five days.  A tall order perhaps, but as the CNN race demonstrated, combining social and traditional media can yield impressive results.

On Thursday, Ashton announced that 100 of his best Twitter friends (including the likes of Oprah, Sean “P Diddy” Combs, Jimmy Fallon, Ryan Seacrest) will tweet about malaria on World Malaria Day, driving extensive awareness and hopefully traffic to the website for people to make as little as a $10 donation to help the campaign.

This campaign has a ton of key learnings for us to think about.  First off, of course, is the combination of social networking (like Twitter) with traditional media (CNN) to maximise both channels and work in tandem to drive awareness and traffic to a campaign site.   Secondly, celebrities actually leveraging their star power to shine the spotlight on an issue that doesn’t somehow benefit them is extremely powerful.  There also is something to be said about a challenge, a goal or some big number to reach – people like being involved and being a part of a movement so the 1,000,000 goal worked well.  And the Malaria No More website does its job by having a simple homepage to guide people to easy ways to read more and to donate (sometimes sites can be so busy that they lose people who took the time to visit).

Full disclosure – Malaria No More is a nonprofit organization near and dear to our hearts here at H&K through our current work with a broad malaria coalition (in conjunction with the Football World Cup 2010 in South Africa).

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