Charity takes starring role as eBay launches celebrity auction website

Amanda Miller, eBay's senior manager of consumer communications, had her "aha!" moment when Justin Bieber's hair was up for bid - earning $40,000 for charity - and searches for Bieber-related items rose 107%.

Client: eBay (San Jose, CA)
PR agency: Edelman (New York/Los Angeles)
Campaign: eBay.com/Celebrity
Duration: November 7 to present
Budget: About $200,000

Amanda Miller, eBay's senior manager of consumer communications, had her "aha!" moment when Justin Bieber's hair was up for bid - earning $40,000 for charity - and searches for Bieber-related items rose 107%.

"Consumers are looking to connect with celebrities," she explains, "but not everyone has $150,000 to spend on lunch with Bill Clinton."

Strategy
In 2011, eBay raised more than $51 million during charitable auctions, but lacked a way to organize the events, causing scattered consumer engagement.

Miller wanted to pull all celebrity-related auctions into a single space "to connect consumers to the stars and causes that matter most to them with a goal of increasing funds raised."

Tactics
After a year of construction, Celebrity.eBay.com launched on November 7. Participating celebrities are given their own profile to display their charity and items for auction, as well as related memorabilia up for bid, recent tweets, and eBay search habits.

Edelman, which has handled all media relations for the company since 2009, pitched the AP an exclusive, leading to national coverage. Celebrities promoted auctions to fans through outlets including Facebook and Twitter.

Results
The initial wave drew coverage in outlets such as The Hollywood Reporter and Mashable. A charcoal drawing of a naked Lady Gaga by Tony Bennett got $30,000. In its first month, eBay Celebrity raised $125,000.

Future
Cultural relevance is key, so eBay and Edelman are working with Bonnaroo to create an auction page for the music festival. By the end of Q1, eBay will integrate a StubHub button on each star's page, a geo-targeted function allowing consumers to see events related to that person.

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