Red Nose Day…Takes a Nosedive


red nose day

This year, the U.S. was introduced to Red Nose Day – a campaign that originated in the U.K. dedicated to raising money for children and young people living in poverty by simply having fun and making people laugh.  Since 1988, Red Nose Day has raised more than $1 billion in the U.K. Through several different advertising platforms, companies like NBC and Walgreens (the exclusive retailer for Red Nose Day) attempted to educate the nation about Red Nose Day and encourage donations to the Red Nose Charity. NBC spearheaded the event and hosted a live three hour show on May 21st featuring all of Hollywood’s biggest names – Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Seth Myers, Neil Patrick Harris and more – which helped raise more than $21 million. Unfortunately, while the U.S. was able to raise a significant amount of money for the charity, the campaign paled in comparison to the numbers the U.K. has been able to put up in years past.

Two things interested me about this campaign. First is the amount of media space donated to promote the initiative. From print and digital space to airtime for spots to billboards, media partners such as Outfront Media, Conde Nast, iHeartMedia, Rolling Stone, Spotify and more generously donated their coveted ad space to promote the NBC program and the entire campaign. According to AdWeek, “NBC puts the value of the donated media ‘in excess of $10 million.’” I’ve seen media companies donate space before – back in 2012 a number of them made sizable donations to charities to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy. To me though, because this was a scheduled event (whereas nobody could have predicted the damage that Sandy left behind) it impressed me how much these media partners stepped up.

What also interested me about Red Nose Day was that even though over $10 million dollars was spent to promote Red Nose Day and the telecast on NBC, ratings for the program were nothing short of disappointing. Even though over $21 million was raised, the three-hour charity comedy show received just a 0.8 rating — down 27% from the previous week’s primetime lineup — among adults 18-49, and averaged a modest 3.2 million total viewers (U.K’s program saw over three times that amount).

This started to raise a few questions. Was it a lack of brand awareness? Did people not know about the telecast? Or perhaps people simply skipped out early for the holiday weekend. A quick poll of the Ebben Zall office went pretty much like this: “I’m writing my blog on the Red Nose Day show” “…the what?” It was hard to believe that while the event is so popular in the U.K., the U.S. would fail to bring in a large audience.

In my opinion, the show should have been on another night. Even though it was in prime time, by Memorial Day, many people have said goodbye to TV until after the summer. Their favorite shows have just wrapped up and they’re ready to enjoy summer and being outside again. Honestly, any show would have put up disappointing numbers that week. Also, the campaign needed more brand awareness – more in your face advertising. With a lineup of celebrities ranging from comedians, actors, reality TV starts, country artists, rock artists (the list goes on and on!) there’s no reason people would not be interested in the show NBC put on.

So until next year, Red Nose Day. I’m looking forward to you not only raising a lot of money – but a lot of ratings too!


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