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Money and the machine: Talk dirty to me

by Lila Allen

August 9,2010

Ever since Krispy Kreme released the Cheerwine-infused doughnut a few weeks back, life’s been just a little brighter: there’s a bounce in my step, a bluebird on my shoulder, and my pants love me so much now that they’re hugging me tighter than ever. (Note to pants: Blood flow cutoff imminent.) I want to give back! I want to share this joy with the world! But before I officially start my fundraising campaign to put a Cheerwine doughnut in the mouth of every man, woman, and child in the nation, I’d like to first explore my options.

From YourCause.com to Kickstarter, the web these days offers a plethora of small giving sites to choose from. And it’s no wonder — President Obama raised over six million dollars from individuals giving online in increments of $100 or less, and over $500 million from online donations total. It’s Regular Joe meets convenience, instant gratification, and a likeminded network, all at once: a recipe for success. Political fundraising will never be the same.

But back to doughnuts. If I’m serious about raising this money, I want a site with incentives. I want a site that is fun, interactive, and makes people feel good. Crowdrise, a new fundraising social media site created by Fight Club star Ed Norton, promises all of these qualities as users create profiles, interact, post photos, compete, and win prizes. And it does all of this with hilarious and biting web copy.

According to the site, “Crowdrise is about volunteering, raising money for charity and having the most fun in the world while doing it. Crowdrise is way more fun than anything else, aside from being all nervous about trying to kiss a girl for the first time and her not saying something like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’” The networking and communication features available on the site allow users to fundraise competitively, earning titles such as “Tsar,” “Dame,” or “Doctor.” And on a regular basis, the site selects a “Featured Human Person” to profile (though the writer consoles, “Please always assume you’re having a worse week than the Featured Human Person.”)

Next to the copy web users are accustomed to finding on more traditional giving sites, the language found on Crowdrise may seem borderline irreverent. But to a certain audience — the dark-humored, blog-reading Tweeters of the world — this voice is a breath of fresh air. It’s also one that is seeing incredible success, from the over-the-top flirtations and boasts of Old Spice’s Isaiah Mustafa (“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”) to the ridiculous ramblings of Groupon. In a meta-advertising way, product confidence is so outlandish that it reaches the point of satire. As Mustafa stated in one of his Old Spice viral videos in which he exalts Gillette’s Pro Glide Razor, “This has in no way been a cross-promotion for an affiliated Old Spice sister company. That would be in poor taste.” Tongue-in-cheek self-overpromotion, ironically, feels more authentic than the pretty and predictable prose of yesteryear.

Audiences seem to appreciate these recent creative approaches to money making, at least partially because of their own potential for engagement in the process. On July 15, Old Spice created 184 videos based on @s provided via Twitter. Responding to Joe Schmo and Alyssa Milano alike, Old Spice demonstrated an ability to perceive and deliver to the demands of a general public. In a similar way, Crowdrise works because of a user’s ability to connect via competition, messaging, and participation in something communal. Humor and viral trends find their efficacy in the sense of fraternity they create in otherwise disconnected groups of people. These advertisers have tapped into some of the most basic of human needs: not only to laugh, but to be “in” on the joke, to be a part of something larger.

Beyond appealing to the needs for laughter and community, the writers for these campaigns have made the mundane new and exciting. Because at the end of the day, we’re still talking about deodorants and charities. Which makes me think that this doughnut thing could really take off — now, to find a bare-chested, towel-draped hottie to be my spokesperson. Gentlemen?

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