J. Walter Thompson Turns Millions of YouTube's Black Bars into Ad Space for Charities

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In the global rollout of its “Donate the Bars” campaign, J. Walter Thompson enlists the support of YouTube content creators and SXSW Interactive festival-goers



The project helps charities raise awareness of the social causes they support and we’re proud to have created an opportunity for them to get the attention they deserve.

J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, one of the world’s best known marketing communications brands, will unveil today the global launch of “Donate the Bars” at SXSW Interactive 2016. The project turns the black bars that appear on either side of vertical videos on YouTube into ad space for charities that need to raise awareness for the social causes they support.

With collaborative partners Mashable House, GoodAmplified and Studio 71, the “Donate the Bars” activation at SXSW will harness the subscriber base of some of YouTube’s most popular content creators and leverage the massive foot traffic of attendees that visit Austin for SXSW every year.

When YouTube users post a video that does not conform to the 16:9 ratio standards, the platform sandwiches the video between two black bars. One in six videos posted on YouTube have black bars on either side of them. “Donate the Bars” leverages these unused spaces by transforming them into ad opportunities for organizations that otherwise cannot afford such premium ad space.

Beginning Friday, March 11, the first day of the Interactive festival, “Donate the Bars” will get to the heart of YouTube’s ad platform: its content creators. The project has tapped several of YouTube’s most familiar faces, Matt Santoro, Cody Simpson, Alli Simpson, Monica Church and more, for their support in "Donate the Bars."

“We’re excited to launch the global rollout of ‘Donate the Bars’ at SXSW Interactive, which has become this Mecca for digital creativity,” said Matt Eastwood, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, J. Walter Thompson Company. “The project helps charities raise awareness of the social causes they support and we’re proud to have created an opportunity for them to get the attention they deserve. It brings sustainability to the digital space in a really unique and socially conscious way.”

The YouTube stars will create their own videos, upload them through donatethebars.com, and donate their bars to one of the participating organizations, including Make-A-Wish Foundation, The Bob Woodruff Foundation, Teen Cancer America, We Are Safe, Good Deeds Day, GiveTheKidsArts.org, UICC Global Cancer Control, Joyful Heart Foundation and No More.

Amber J. Lawson, Founder/CEO of GoodAmplified, said of the effort, “There are so many organizations in our network with real, world-changing missions, but the reality is many can’t afford the ad space they need to raise awareness. Donate the Bars gives nonprofits a chance to connect with audiences that consume digital content every day, and to succeed in a day and age when everyone is competing for eyeballs, nonprofits need to get creative and maximize the power of video on YouTube.”

“We are excited to be part of a project that helps our creators use their influence to support the causes they are most passionate about,” added Ryan Daume, VP, Brand Strategy at Studio71. “'Donate the Bars' is a unique program in that it encourages audience participation regardless of the charity or cause they are most interested in. There are not many cause-driven projects that allow creators to activate their entire audiences in such an inclusive manner.”

On the ground at SXSW Interactive, a “Donate the Bars” photo booth will be stationed at the Mashable House’s interactive lounge. The tens of thousands of tech influencers, celebrities and festival-goers in attendance will get the chance to record their own videos and donate their bars to an NGO.

Everyone can support “Donate the Bars.” To participate, visit donatethebars.com.

J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, the world’s best-known marketing communications brand, has been creating pioneering solutions that build enduring brands and business for more than 150 years. Headquartered in New York, J. Walter Thompson is a true global network with more than 200 offices in over 90 countries, employing nearly 10,000 marketing professionals. The agency consistently ranks among the top networks in the world and continues to be a dominant presence in the industry by staying on the leading edge—from hiring the industry’s first female copywriter to developing award-winning branded content today. For more information, please visit http://www.jwt.com and follow us @JWT_Worldwide.

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Jocelyn Weiss Malas
J. Walter Thompson Company
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