Red Cross Tours Nation to Pump Up Blood Supplies

A need to instill awareness of the daily demand for blood has compelled the American Red Cross to break a marketing campaign to support the largest donor effort in its history.

The multichannel campaign promotes the “Save a Life Tour 2003,” which features two convoys driving through 345 communities nationwide. The tour aims to stabilize the country's blood supply and garner 3 million individual donations by the campaign's end in November.

“The idea of the campaign is to make people aware how easy it is to donate and how simple it is and the little time it takes to make a donation,” said Mark Drossman, creative director at OgilvyOne Worldwide, New York.

A direct marketing agency, OgilvyOne handles the account along with fellow WPP Group PLC shops Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and UniWorld Group, both of New York. While OgilvyOne handles general market ads, UniWorld has crafted culturally relevant messages for African-Americans and Hispanics.

Overall marketing outreach includes mailers, posters, television, print, appointment cards, banners, billboards, brochures, payroll stuffers and the exterior of the trucks.

Creative from OgilvyOne relies on the Band-Aid as a visual icon to celebrate the heroic nature of donating blood. The messaging also stresses the simplicity of a blood donation toward saving a life.

All marketing materials direct people to or 1-800-GIVE LIFE. The Red Cross site urges visitors to schedule an appointment online, hold a blood drive or volunteer for this effort.

Other online features include tracking the convoy schedule, games, facts, current level of donations and information on community participation.

The tour began May 20 in Hollywood, CA. It culminates six months later in Washington. Here, outstanding contributing communities will be recognized for improving year-over-year blood collections.

Support for this initiative also comes from community leaders, sports teams, citizens, businesses and celebrities from the localities to be toured by the convoy.

Local Red Cross chapters will partly underwrite the campaign's marketing costs. Red Cross headquarters also paid for part of the media, with the rest by local chapters, corporate sponsors and via donated time and space.

Driving around the country is one thing. Getting new and existing donors sufficiently interested in the mission is another. So the convoy will include a Red Cross Mobile Museum accompanied by community leaders, celebrities, donors and recipients.

This public education effort is crucial for the Red Cross, which supplies blood and blood products to more than 3,000 hospitals nationwide. Only 5 percent of those eligible donate blood. Each day, 38,000 donations are needed to help cancer patients, children with blood disorders and accident victims.

The Red Cross is at pains to point out that every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Lethargy and fear are the Red Cross' archenemies. Some people simply may not be motivated enough to donate blood. Others may find the effort time-consuming and difficult.

Perhaps the overriding issue is psychological.

“There's the fear of the needle,” Drossman said.

That point is addressed early in the campaign. Each ad execution shows people who donated just a few minutes earlier having returned the activity they were doing before. This includes scenes of riding a bus, putting together a bike and solving a crossword puzzle.

Each donor has a telltale Band-Aid on his or her arm. OgilvyOne's tagline for this is, “Wear it as a badge of honor.” Other lines in the campaign include: “Saved a life between gigs,” “Saved a life between classes” and “Saved a life before catching the 7:22.”

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