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AIDS Group Harnesses Viral Power of YouTube to Spread Message

Digital Journal — Any hip organization will extol the virtues of viral videos. Now one of Canada’s most well-known AIDS groups is getting on board the YouTube train by honouring a video message explaining how society should combat AIDS.

Earlier this year, the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) created a viral-video contest which posted the question: Why ACT now? Using YouTube.com as the contest hub, ACT fielded entries from across the country, offering the winner two tickets to its annual celebrity-spotting gala, Fashion Cares.

The winner “embodied the spirit of community and hope that year after year, Fashion Cares endeavours to pass on,” according to the press release. Mark Piercey is taking home two tickets to the 21st annual Fashion Cares, which will be held on May 12 in Toronto’s historic Distillery District. Fashion Cares is Canada’s largest fundraiser for ACT.

Piercey’s video is definitely deserving of the win. After photo flashes of frail African children stricken with HIV, a question is posed: What can be done? He also makes the issue personal, saying, “Being a gay man, I’ve had a lot of stereotypes thrown at me about HIV/AIDS. And we have to make that a thing of the past.”

He ends his short video by demanding action: “We need to let the government know we want something done not only in our country, but also in areas of world that are affected by this crippling disease.”

By using Piercey’s video message as a call to arms, ACT is following the popular and effective trend of including viral videos in their arsenal of marketing weapons. It’s all well and good to send emails and flyer neighbourhoods, but this is the age of user-generated content. As we’ve seen with car companies and potato chip makers, the savvy businesses will take advantage of “crowdsourcing” — the ability to let the public create advertising or products on a volunteer basis.

If any non-profit needs inspiration in the digital age, they should look no further than ACT’s awareness campaign. As well, it helps to sweeten the deal by giving away prizes to any viral video contest. Tickets to Fashion Cares are in short supply, so most likely Piercey and company will appreciate the rare chance to be hobnobbing with A-list stars in the name of AIDS activism.

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