"Digital Death" Slowly Dying

Keep a Child Alive’s “Digital Death” campaign may be dead in the water. In honor of World AIDS Day on December 1, the nonprofit founded by Alicia Keys (which provides medical care and services for families affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa and India) killed off a host of celebrities from social media until their legions of followers would raise $1 million for the cause. The campaign elaborates, “That means no more Twitter or Facebook updates from any of them. No more knowing where they are, what they had for dinner, or what interesting things are happening in their lives. From here on out, they're dead. Kaput. Finished.”

Unfortunately, this might also describe the campaign. Despite the fanfare around its launch, Digital Death has raised only a fraction of its goal two days in - $183,098 (as of this morning). And a portion of this was raised by ordinary citizens who killed their own social media personas in solidarity.

That the campaign over-estimated the popularity of its dead celebs is an obvious conclusion, but TheWrap cites two other fundamental flaws – the high $10 minimum donation and the fact that the very channel necessary to broadly activate supporters – social media – is the one they must refrain from using. We’d add: 1) the overly ambitious $1 million goal (in comparison, even the venerable Salvation Army has only raised about $250,000 of its $3 million goal for its Online Red Kettle this year to-date) and 2) the celebs’ seeming failure to commit personally to the cause. A few absent Tweets is one thing, but imagine the power a celebrity financial match or contribution could have to motivate his or her fans.

A final hurdle? Decreasing relevance. While our attention shifted to domestic needs during the recession, private aid for global health from American charities dropped by one-third and in-kind donations from companies dropped by more than half (although changes in tracking account for some of the decline). Let’s hope "Digital Death" has a savior waiting in the wings to revive this campaign because the global health need is critical.


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