E-Mails Spark Signatures for Nature Lobby's Petition

The New York Times came through for nature lobby Environmental Defense in an online campaign designed to gather signatures in support of new global warming legislation.

Handled by New York ad agency Green Team, the effort garnered 73 percent of its 6,527 signatures as a result of e-mails sent last month to subscribers of the New York Times' “Today's Headlines” online newsletter.

“We're so happy with the results of the e-mail blast that we're looking for ways to use it for other Environmental Defense campaigns,” said Kristine Kane, senior account executive at Green Team. “Hopefully, these people will become active members of Environmental Defense because that's really what's important for all organizations.”

Green Team's campaign is one of several outreaches undertaken yearly by Environmental Defense. Based in New York, the 37-year-old environmental rights nonprofit has more than 400,000 members nationwide.

The recent e-mail campaign was part of a paid online effort run June 7-23. The first e-mail containing an HTML ad dropped June 16. The second, with a text link, was sent June 23. Both went to a list of 4,023,530 people registered to receive each day's headlines from the site at www.nytimes.com.

Besides e-mails sent to the New York Times list, banners were run at www.usatoday.com, www.yahoo.com and www.salon.com. The banner ads, including one standard version and the other a skyscraper, featured run of site on USAToday.com and Salon, but were content-triggered on Yahoo.

The banner was headlined, “The Senate vote on global warming is only days away. Now is the time to speak up. Support the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act.” A smokestack belching fumes with the sun in the background was the accompanying visual.

Clicking on the banner or the ad in the New York Times e-mail took visitors to the petition page on the site at www.undoit.org.

“What we wanted to do was experiment with new ways of reaching a general audience not exposed to environmental issues or activism,” Kane said.

In all cases, the call to action was clear: Visitors were asked to sign an online petition meant to persuade President Bush and members of Congress to support the bipartisan McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. The bill is awaiting a vote with no fixed date in sight.

The petition explains the bill's provisions and features a cover letter with reasons for enacting it into a law creating national caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

Lobbying for this climate-change law requires petitioners to submit name and contact data. They can opt out of receiving more news from Environmental Defense.

The results of Green Team's online effort were minor compared with the total number of signatures gathered by Environmental Defense: nearly 323,000 to date. But the organization is still far from its goal of 1 million. All petitions will be e-mailed to Bush, senators and members of the House of Representatives.

Green Team's work on this campaign cost $6.45 per signature, including $1.60 for the New York Times' e-mail. The amount was based on planned and actual impressions, click-throughs and signatures — for action per click — as well as the amount spent compared with signatures obtained.

Kane said the click-through rate was 0.21 percent, more than double the average of 0.1 percent typically generated from banner campaigns. The New York Times outperformed, with a click-through rate of 0.27 percent. Its conversion rate — those who clicked through and signed the petition — also was higher, 44 percent versus 33 percent for the overall campaign.

“This is really great for a nonprofit, and it wasn't even an incentivized message,” Kane said.

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