Pepsi will continue to give out monthly grants until it reaches it’s proposed grant amount of $20 million. That’s all great, but when the awards were announced I began to wonder what it all means. To their credit, Pepsi created a very easy-to-use site, that worked after some initial glitches, and a fairly transparent process (although there are some grumbles of gaming by Pepsi and participants), but, in particular, I keep going back to what Beth wrote initially about the contest, “what’s the theory of change?”
When the contest was first announced it was framed in the media as Pepsi choosing philanthropy over Super Bowl ads. But as Mashable warned, if the campaign worked, “..the company can build brand awareness while also helping out communities across the world. On the flip side, if not executed properly, the company could wind up spending $20 million on philanthropic causes (which is to be commended), without getting the benefits of a buzz-generating ad campaign.”
As Geoff points out, this is quite a delicate dance. He writes, “Perhaps the greatest trend of the moment is the fusion of corporate and philanthropic interests, which in turn is producing growing pains and change. It’s likely that the requirements of online transparency will demand a new era of authenticity in corporate community investment efforts.”
One area of transparency I’d like to see Pepsi transcend is that of their intended outcomes for this effort. Which is it, Pepsi? Are you interested in the kinds of returns that an expensive ad campaign would create? For instance, are you interested in greater sales? Or are you interested in philanthropic outcomes, improved reading skills or greener classrooms or better health outcomes? Or are you betting that that this new form of philanthropy can create a hybrid of the two? One thing I do know is that if it is philanthropic outcomes, then this model needs to be extended beyond the contest to a platform for reporting and sharing results. I need to know, Pepsi, please tell me!