The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.
Aug 24, 2010

Last night I heard about the Kohl’s Cares program — where the retailer is giving away $10 million in $500,000 chunks to 20 schools.  By diverting advertising funds into philanthropic projects, Kohl’s has joined other companies such as Pepsi who are also re-allocating advertising budgets. For example, so far, Pepsi’s Refresh Project has donated $1.25 million to 31 different charities.

This fundamental shift in focus–from interrupting people to helping them–is something that most businesses aren’t ready for. As someone who has played the corporate game for more than a quarter century, I’ve witnessed first hand the nasty corporate politics that ensue when budgets are discussed.  Nothing is more dangerous than a middle manager with a threatened budget.

But there’s something more important than corporate politics that execs must consider with such a shift. Past advertising budget transfers have simply shifted money from one way of interrupting people to another. But “giving” instead of “paying” is a totally different animal, requiring a shift in employee skills. Advertising requires lots of creative and media-buying skills. Philanthropy requires those skilled in administration.

Philanthropic projects come with added responsibilities. Anyone who gives to a social cause must also ensure that the money is being spent wisely. Philanthropy requires a long term commitment, something that companies with big ad budgets have never had to worry about when simply writing a check for advertising services.

This trend to combine philanthropy and advertising (philanthrotizing?) is worth watching. Will it work? Only time will tell. But in a tough economy, where corporations are viewed as pariahs and shoddily run local governments are filing for bankruptcy, philanthrotizing may create an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Photo Credit: Wonderlane

Filed under: Content Development


Some say corporations are being portrayed as “evil” entities intent on raping consumers for every penny they’re worth, and I think it’s pretty obvious these philanthropic endeavors were born to counter that portrayal.

If that’s the case, do you think the emphasis will ever shift back to interrupting if/when corporations are viewed in a more positive light?

Greg Thomas

Greg Thomas
August 25, 2010


I’m not sure if “…these philanthropic endeavors were born to counter that portrayal.” Corporations are in the business of making money. If they feel that advertising doesn’t give them the bang for the buck, they will find other, more effective ways. If goodwill is a byproduct of that switch, so be it.

August 25, 2010

Twitter Trackbacks…

August 25, 2010

Ron, Excellent job as usual! What a wonderful concept: Instead of “telling” people who you are (as a company), you show them- and not just with empty words. The impact could/should be profound. The only other concern (“added responsibility”) is the amazing care that must be taken in which groups are given these funds because, sure as rain, the moment a company donates significant funds to one group, there will be a PR impact to be managed about the group they have chosen to identify with.
BTW: LOVE the line, “Nothing is more dangerous than a middle manager with a threatened budget”!

Norman Naylor
August 26, 2010

[…] their budgets from boilerplate outbound activities to other innovative concepts, such as philanthrotizing, as demonstrated by programs such as Pepsi’s Refresh Everything and Kohl’s […]

RonAmok! » Communications Myopia
October 28, 2011

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