Opinion: The Ice Bucket Challenge is heating up

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 22 August 2014

Unless you’ve had your head inside a bucket for the last two weeks, you’ll know what the Ice Bucket Challenge is. You might be sick of it by now, but probably not. Who doesn’t like watching either people they know, big cat businessmen or Hollywood celebrities getting doused in ice for our entertainment? And for a good cause, of course.

It’s not just a hilarious way to pass a few minutes on Facebook – it’s a really smart mechanic for a charity to leverage social, the power of the crowd and online video to make a buck and raise its profile.

It’s not the first campaign to use this metric, but its execution is far stronger, and so are its results.

The No Make-up Selfie got a lot of traction but no-one really knew what it was for. Cancer charities did see spikes in revenue, but the association with one charity and the call to action weren’t strong. People were just doing it.

Movember suffers the same issue – a lot of people grow moustaches in November just because it’s a trend. But just so you know – no one really looks good with a moustache, but, by all means, give it a try. Not everyone does it to raise money for men’s health charities, but to Movember, that’s not an issue. It says the conversion and awareness it generates means the charity and the movement still wins when people participate without fundraising.

There is an element of that with the Ice Bucket Challenge too – not everyone who avoids it will donate, there’s no way to prove it, but I’d bet conversion is high and, if not, most people who last week hadn’t heard of ALS or Yankees player Lou Gehrig, whose moniker is lent to the disease, sure have by now.

I tend to avoid the use of the word ‘viral’ because it gets so misused. But when something as genius as the Ice Bucket Challenge comes along you have to surrender and say that it’s phenomenal viral marketing.

Yes, it will get boring, and yes, the mechanic will be mimicked and lose its power as it gets reused and adopted for other causes, but for now the Ice Bucket Challenge is one of this year’s strongest moments in marketing – and in culture.
Tech giants, celebs and billionaires are doing it and our industry is getting involved too. BCM’s managing director, Paul Cornwell, took a bucket of ice and passed the mantle to Leo Burnett’s Todd Sampson, Ten’s Russel Howcroft and Sean Cummins of Cummins&Partners with the warning that “Sean, it might mess up your hair”.

Sean Cummins has stepped up to the bucket, but no word yet on Sampson or Howcroft yet, but what I’d really like to see is someone pass the Ice Bucket to our very own Paul McIntyre or even James Yaffa, who I’m sure would be delighted to step up in the name of a good cause and a good bit of digital content.

This article first appeared in print in the 22 August issue out today.

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