Breaking through the Doorbusting

The Thanksgiving turkey was not the heaviest thing to enter my house this holiday.

The annual packet of doorbuster/Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale ads made its annual thud on our doorstep like clockwork this Thursday. The marketers were doing what they do best - driving a sense of urgency into me (the consumer) and trying to convince all of us that the only possible moment to do smart shopping was the day after Thanksgiving.

I have nothing against this marketing tool. In many ways, I am a product of it. I spent most of my Thanksgiving holidays as a young boy getting ready to go to work with my father (a retailer, and in my opinion the best of the best) for the crazy day of post-Thanksgiving sales. And I am pro-commerce; I love a good sale. Clearly, my household contributes to the holiday season shopping spike. But this year, something changed the way I view the annual call for holiday shopping, known as "doorbusting."

It is partially because of #GivingTuesday and partially because of some creative partners at Boncom, who brought us a "doorbuster" of a very different kind.

The conversation around #GivingTuesday is already taking hold around the world. This global community of people, which invites others to think about giving back during the frenzy of holiday shopping days, is making a mark on the digital calendar and the collective consciousness of businesses, volunteer groups, and the philanthropic community. It has been inspiring to watch this grow from a bold experiment sparked by the idea of friends like Henry Timms and Asha Curran of 92Y and blossom into something live and constantly evolving. The movement continues to innovate and find new, creative ways to engage with people around the world.

But the call from Boncom revealed that there was something we had missed: the opportunity to give the traditional newspaper "circular" ad a #GivingTuesday jolt.

What if we took the lifesaving, critical work of some of the best known organizations and campaigns around the world and put them in the same format as the traditional marketing schemes that fill newspapers around the U.S. and the world? I will never forget the e-mail from Jeff Taylor at Boncom when he posed the challenge and wrote, "Let's do this!" He was right. And partners responded.

Some of our most trusted partners worked together with the UN Foundation's Zain Habboo and brought together ideas that would force people to look twice at their ads in cities including Miami, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City. They took up the charge. The goal was to help people find ways to have a positive impact on society similar to how they find deals.

Communications professionals face a difficult challenge when trying to tell the story of public health, peace and security, hunger, and rights - while fighting against the barrage of "noise" that surrounds all of us in media. How do you help educate people about the startling statistics, the urgency, and the needs involved while ensuring the dignity and authenticity that these issues deserve? It is not always easy. And sometimes the need to tread carefully can make creativity more difficult. But in the case of a #GivingTuesday circular, we wanted to provoke a conversation and show people that dollars don't only need to go to big sales; they can have a big impact on the world around us.

Will the #GivingTuesday circular change the way that millions of people look at traditional Black Friday or Cyber Monday "doorbuster" ads? Not likely.

But if it helps a few key people donate differently and think outside the box this holiday season, we will have achieved our goal. Turning a "doorbuster" into a "door opener" is something we can and should help make happen this holiday season.