Celebrity Smooch for a Cure created a virtual “kissing booth” on the AmericanGreetings.com web site in celebration of Valentine’s Day to pull in a young, hip audience.  Ten celebrities favored by the targeted audience were handpicked to pucker up for their favorite causes on the AmericanGreetings.com site.  Consumers visiting the site could click on their favorite celebrity’s picture, thereby sending that celebrity a “cyber kiss” which translated into money for their selected charity.  The winning celebrity was guaranteed a $25,000 donation to their charity.  All other participating charities were granted a $10,000 donation.
AmericanGreetings.com was in the midst of a continuing effort to reinvent its image for an Internet-inspired age and distinguish itself from its conservative, straight-laced parent company, the American Greetings Corporation. AmericanGreetings.com, with its stable, but somewhat uninspiring site, had not been as appealing to younger audiences in the face of edgier and fresher competitors such as eGreetings.com and BlueMountain.com.  As the second-largest provider of electronic greetings in the online marketplace, the company wished to showcase its new focus and strength in Internet creativity while boosting visitor site-traffic and establishing a company presence in the corporate philanthropy arena. 
Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide identified Valentine’s Day as one of the most popular card-giving holidays of the year.  Naturally, it was evident that this trend would translate to electronic greetings as well as paper cards.  Therefore, Ogilvy PR determined this kiss-able holiday was the perfect catalyst to inspire Americans to check out the innovative greeting collections located at www.americangreetings.com, while providing AmericanGreetings.com with an opportunity to share its charitable vision.  
  • Drive site traffic and expand the site’s core audience to include Generations X and Y
  • Expose the new brand personality of AmericanGreetings.com to the public
  • Solidify the company’s position as a leading provider of innovative, creative content on the Internet
  • Generate visibility for AmericanGreetings.com and worthwhile charitable causes
  • Showcase the company’s philanthropic efforts
  • Incite consumer trial through traffic-related charitable donations
  • Ensure design of contemporary, compelling and colorful web content to showcase AmericanGreetings.com’s creative capabilities and broaden program appeal for a younger audience
  • Secure “smooch-able” celebrity participants to guarantee media and consumer attention
  • Select celebrities and charities to include a variety of professions, ages and ethnicities to interest the broadest audience possible
This program was targeted toward the overall AmericanGreetings.com audience primarily consisting of females age 25 to 49 with an income of $55,000 to $99,000.  However, Ogilvy PR was also mindful to approach younger audiences. 
Ten celebrities, representing music, sports, television, modeling and media, were recruited with the help of a Los Angeles-based celebrity broker and Ogilvy PR’s entertainment PR subsidiary, Baker/Winokur/Ryder, to participate in the virtual kissing booth called Celebrity Smooch For A Cure.   Each celebrity agreed to partner with the charity of their choice and post their photo on the AmericanGreetings.com web site in exchange for a monetary donation to their cause.  
Actor Neil Patrick Harris, star of the People’s Choice Award-winning comedy, “Stark Raving Mad,” was brought on to serve as the voice behind the program to add credibility and news value.  Neil chose Habitat for Humanity as his charity of choice.  Other celebrity “Smoochers” puckering-up for AmericanGreetings.com included “The Today Show’s” big-hearted weatherman Al Roker, who chose to sponsor The Hale House Center; actress and Revlon spokeswoman Daisy Fuentes, who supported the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital; acoustic rocker and accomplished poet Jewel, who rallied for Higher Ground for Humanity’s Clearwater Project; and former San Francisco ‘49er’s quarterback Steve Young, who tackled a cause of his own in the Forever Young Foundation. 
A pair of red-hot cyber lips marked a special landing page created on the AmericanGreetings.com web site for Celebrity Smooch for a Cure. From February 1-14, 2000, visitors to the site were able to send their favorite celebrity a “CyberSmooch” that translated to money donated to the celebrity’s corresponding charity.  Friendly competition was inspired among the celebrities by adding “smooch-o-meters” next to each star’s photo.  These “smooch-o-meters” measured the amount of “CyberSmooches” each celebrity received. Each celebrity’s charity was guaranteed a total donation of $10,000; however, the celebrity receiving the most “CyberSmooches” had $25,000 donated in their name to the charity of their choice. 
Ogilvy PR created Celebrity Smooch For A Cure press kits, which were distributed to influential print, broadcast and Internet media contacts across the nation.  Top news outlets also received Valentine’s Day-themed kits complete with Valentine’s Day candy pieces.  B-roll featuring web shots of the AmericanGreetings.com Celebrity Smooch For A Cure site and celebrity spokesperson Neil Patrick Harris was created for distribution to broadcast outlets.
Media outreach consisted of aggressive pitching to top national broadcast morning shows and entertainment programs, top daily newspapers, online news and entertainment sites and weekly magazines. A satellite media tour featuring Neil Patrick Harris was coordinated to effectively reach local news outlets across the nation and Harris was booked to participate in two online chats hosted by AmericanGreetings.com online partners, America Online and Yahoo!.  In addition, Neil Patrick Harris was scheduled to relay Smooch For A Cure key messages during radio interviews in top markets.
Celebrity Smooch for a Cure was a winning concept that linked AmericanGreetings.com with deserving causes and highly popular celebrities, thereby helping to improve its image among a younger audience, and raised $115,000 for ten worthy charities.  The program also provided compelling content for banner advertising to drive consumers to the web site and strategically hit markets not cost effectively reached through advertising.  Yahoo! even mimicked the Smooch for a Cure site with a banner on its own home page.
The program positively impacted site traffic and helped generate 3,762,823 page views and more than 54 million media impressions nationwide.   According to Nielson/NetRatings, the number of average weekly unique visitors for AmericanGreetings.com increased 131 percent from the first three weeks of January 2000 to the first three weeks of February 2000.  In addition, Nielsen/NetRatings reported that the total number of page views increased 107 percent from January to February 2000.
Rosie O’Donnell loved Celebrity Smooch For A Cure enough to mention it on her show in conjunction with an appearance from Neil Patrick Harris.  Other broadcast highlights include Smooch mentions on NBC’s “Later Today” and FOX’s “FOX News.”  Print placements mentioning this fun and philanthropic program were secured in The Miami Herald, The Detroit Free Press, The Denver Post, Kansas City Star, The Detroit News, Sacramento Bee, The Orlando Sentinel and Rolling Stone Online.  In addition, Neil Patrick Harris relayed Celebrity Smooch For A Cure key messages during seven radio interviews in top markets including New Orleans, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Providence, Philadelphia and New York.  All media placements cited AmericanGreetings.com and the majority of broadcast placements featured pictures of the Celebrity Smooch for a Cure landing page.