NEW YORK: American Express partnered with NBC Universal to engage the public about the role small businesses play in the economic recovery with the "Shine a Light" campaign it launched August 18.
The campaign centers on a contest that asks the public to nominate small businesses that have inspired them. The effort also includes media outreach to traditional and online outlets (including blogs), and other online outreach via an iVillage microsite and a Twitter presence, currently in development. The campaign does not have a dedicated Facebook page, but visitors are encouraged to share information on their pages.
PR outreach is accompanied by a TV ad spot that's also on YouTube. The campaign also leverages NBC resources. On the launch date, the program was featured in a Today show segment, and celebrity chef and Top Chef host Tom Colicchio is playing a role, including starring in a video on the campaign microsite. Top Chef airs on Bravo, which is an NBC property.
“[Amex] was looking for ways to engage the public, to give some real life underneath that commercial positioning, which we thought was relevant and right for the times,” said Nancy Smith, VP of global media, content and community at Amex. “This is another expression of our commitment, our respect, and the importance of small business to helping our economic recovery.”
In looking for nominations, the companies ask the public to look to small businesses that have demonstrated innovation during the recession, given back to the community, and demonstrated a “customer first” approach. NBC, Amex, and celebrity judges Ellen DeGeneres, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, and JJ Ramberg, host of MSNBC's small business program Your Business will help select finalists, and then the public will vote online for a winner, announced on October 19. The contest will award a $50,000 grant and $50,000 for marketing support. Those who nominate the three finalists will also receive $3,000 gift cards.
Amex has partnered with NBC for years, including working with them to develop the Your Business TV show. The effort fits within the key small business owner demographic that Amex works with on its Open card, which offers products and services for small businesses. Its Web site features videos, social network links, advice, and other resources for small business owners.
The success of the program will be measured based on the number of people that participate, as well as tracking studies that will look at who is engaged with the program and how it impacts their relationship with the brand.
“Data historically shows when our brand is most relevant, it creates market demand,” said Smith. “We're looking overall to position ourselves as a company that you want to do business with.”
PMK/HBH, which has provided PR support for Amex's experiential programs, is conducting media outreach for Shine a Light. In addition, according to Smith, “the full-spectrum of our agencies came to the table to work with us and NBC Universal” including Ogilvy and Digitas.