Digital & Social Media

From Ice Cold to Cannes Gold


What Happened: It’s not often that you get to participate in a three-time Cannes Lion-winning campaign. But this year, chances are you (and more than a few of your friends) helped make one winner an unqualified success. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge won gold in both the Branded Content category (winning for Cyber and PR) and the Grand Prix for Good.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was created to spread ALS awareness and elicit donations to research. Participants filmed themselves either dumping a bucket of ice water on their head or pledging to donate to the ALS Association (or increasingly, as the campaign went on, doing both), and then challenging friends to do the same within 24 hours. The challenge ultimately raised more than $220 million for the ALS Association, funding eight major research and patient support initiatives.

What This Means for Brands: The Ice Bucket Challenge combined a few key elements to create a viral campaign. The challenge itself was a choice between a humorous stunt in the name of spreading awareness, or giving to a good cause – both choices made participants feel good for doing good. “Challenging” friends to follow suit framed these two options as a dare – and refusing a dare would be far worse than an ice bath or parting with a few dollars. The challenge aspect also helped ensure that the campaign spread, eventually reaching major celebrities. And the user-generated videos are easy to make – and even easier to share, thanks to social media.

While brands will have to be original in how they approach an awareness-raising challenge, they can learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge’s set-up: choosing between two good options, making it fun for participants to enlist their own social networks, and tapping into current trends (like UGC and short videos) to help make the campaign spread like wildfire.