Red Cross makes bread from butter ads

Charity sees profits in joint campaigns, writes Paul Rodgers
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Advertising supremos Martin Sorrell and the Saatchi brothers, Maurice and Charles, face a new challenge today from an unusual quarter - the Red Cross.

The international charity is breaking into the cut-throat world of advertising with an audacious plan to sell space on one firm's packaging to promote a second company's brands.

The first two to hit supermarket shelves go together as naturally as bread and butter. Hovis loaves with ads for Anchor spreadable butter are scheduled to make their joint debut this weekend.

The butter company is paying pounds 100,000 over the next two months for space on 20 million bread bags donated to the Red Cross by British Bakeries, the country's second largest baker.

The advantage for Anchor is that its target market matches exactly with Hovis customers. Similarly priced ads elsewhere might well be seen by people who buy little or no butter.

The organisers say British Bakeries will benefit too. Its sales are expected to increase as consumers switch to Hovis because they want to support the work of the charity.

Negotiations currently underway could see other combinations, such as ads for SmithKline Beecham's NightNurse on Kimberly Clark's Kleenex tissues and Nike trainers featuring on Pepsi Max cola cans. Up to 50 other companies are thinking of participating.

The danger for the Red Cross is that commercial ad agencies will follow its example and try to muscle in on the potentially very lucrative new medium.

Cross-promotion of products has been done for years, although the participants rarely pay cash for the use of each other's space. More typically, the advertiser will pay for additional ads pushing both brands in traditional media.

Although orchestrated by the Red Cross, the campaign will not see the organisation's distinctive logo on any of the packages. Under the Geneva Convention, it cannot be used to endorse products.

To get around the legal barriers, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has set up a wholly owned subsidiary, HelpAd, to handle the transactions. It has its own logo, a stylised red hand with the word "Help" in it.

The idea was thought up by consultant Bob Doyle while he was working for a peace organisation in Northern Ireland. Next year he hopes to raise pounds 7m to pounds 10m in the UK. Mr Doyle hopes that within the next couple of years the programme could be raising up to 10 per cent of Red Cross budgets in developed countries.

Three-quarters of that will remain with the local Red Cross, while the remainder will go to the international organisation. The money will give both groups more flexibility than cash raised through individual appeals. Money gathered specifically for rebuilding Bosnia, say, cannot be shifted to emergency flood relief in China.