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Malarious: Donation-Gating Content


This post was originally posted on Armchair Advocates.

I stumbled across an interesting campaign recently that I’d like to explore. It’s called Malarious, and it’s an effort between the website College HumorMalaria No More and comedians. They created a teaser video for 25 smaller videos that are only available if you donate to the nonprofit organization (anything $1 or more).

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This is fascinating on a variety of levels, so here we go:

1) Celebrities are a perfect tie-in for a non-sexy cause like malaria.

This makes sense to me, there aren’t as many mission-related tie-ins, so a celeb angle is a good one. Of course you could try to get a big brand that is in the medical industry to sponsor a cause marketing campaign, but honestly, malaria hardly affects the developed world and it’s hard to connect, so something unrelated is acceptable here.

2) Metrics, por favor?

I cannot find any information online as to how this performed, in terms of a case study or results. It launched over a year ago and their teaser video has fewer than 200,000 views on YouTube and barely any enthusiasm in the comments. Granted, most traffic drove to the site and not to YouTube but it still seems low. The level of celebrity in the video should guarantee a million easily. Quick researched showed that many of the celebrities did cross-promote this campaign on their social channels. I hope it was a guaranteed part of the participation to help market the concept. The website’s “meter” seems to suggest that they have perhaps only gotten 10K people to donate. Seriously?

3) The charitable piece is straightforward.

You donate as much money as you want, directly to the charity, which you can investigate if you’d like. College Humor is providing the platform, the celebrities lent their talent/names. This isn’t gambling with the public participation or purchases, it’s just a straight gate between you and content. So many brands tease the public with their “we’ll donate up to X amount, it’s up to you” strategies and it always seems like an odd case of dangling a reward of doing good (which may work but feels slimy sometimes). College Humor gets the brand connection without placing their money on the line (but clearly an in-kind donation), getting the publicity merely by association. But this also means they don’t care how well it does, they want credit and PR (of which they got quite a bit) but don’t actually have any incentive to drive traffic. The celebrities aren’t necessarily incentivized either, only the charity should be motivated to make sure users see the website. This is a fascinating model and I was so intrigued to see if it would work, as these are some HUGE names (Rainn Wilson, Ellie Kemper, Elizabeth Banks, Nick Offerman, Ed Helms, Joss Whedon), so the content does seem worth of download.

4) Gated content?

I also found some of the supposedly “gated” content on College Humor’s YouTube channel and funnyordie.com, so perhaps it wasn’t as locked down, OR perhaps they started releasing a few as previews to draw people in.

5) Rethink social messaging.

Although the microsite for this campaign is filled with social sharing icons, the messages in those shares are not effective. The Twitter one especially includes no information about the campaign, no hashtags. None of the shares have any specific videos mentioned (like celebrity names or content), and the email one doesn’t even work. Always optimize the social sharing options you offer for maximum effectiveness!

Overall, if this level of celebrity couldn’t make it happen, what would? Is there a future for content gating campaigns? Have you seen it done elsewhere?

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PS – For the record, I did donate and some of the videos are hilarious, others were lackluster. So maybe they weren’t enough? I didn’t find too many comments/reviews that would have encouraged or discouraged participation. I’ll let you decide for yourself.

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