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Virtual poppies make a splash on Twitter

Droves of Kiwi tweeps and organisations from the NZ Herald to NZ Music Month have added virtual poppies to their Twitter avatars in honour of the RSA  Poppy Day appeal in a movement reminiscent of the Twitter avatar blackout against the Section 92a copyright legislation, albeit with a much more positive spin.

In what’s being billed as a world first, Tequila\ and ANZ Bank’s fundraising campaign is venturing into the realm of social media by enabling  Kiwis to donate to the Poppy Day Appeal via SMS and rebadging their Twitter avatars with the familiar red flower icon. 

Online badging isn't a new concept (see Twibbon). But pairing that with digital fundraising (as opposed to simply showing support without making a financial contribution) meant upping the ante, according to Ross Howard, Tequila\’s creative director.

He says  it's a difficult process to set up donations as micro-transactions. "Perhaps someone could plug in to PayPal, or use credit cards, but it gets tricky quite quickly and no-one has dealt with this."

Their idea, he said, was to pair it to SMS, and require no login or authentication.

"It's a simple extension, but it has worked really well. You simply SMS your twitter username to a short-code, and within seconds of your $3 contribution your profile pic is on the site wearing the badge. From our all research this has never been done before," he said.

"We think it's an important innovation that is working really well in terms of actually raising funds."

They'd worked with Touchpoint  on some other realtime SMS feed work before (into banners), he said, but never previously personalised or connected to social media.

The campaign has had zero advertising behind it. "We wanted to rely entirely on word-of-mouth and social interactions in just the same way as regular poppies. In this regard it's been performing really well - it's been interesting to see corporates like Telecom and local businesses like Farro Fresh get behind it."

Howard wants to open the concept up to other charity appeals in the future and integrate with Facebook.

"We're continuing to work with ANZ on these aspects - this was just the pilot."

He told StopPress the campaign provided a new context for poppies for a digitally savvy audience who might not respond to traditional street appeals.

"We believe social media is the way forward for fundraising appeals in our increasingly cashless society. We plan to use the ground-breaking donation technology that we have has developed for this campaign with Touchpoint to help build a fundraising groundswell, adding more social networks and charities as time goes by.”

And James Perrin, ANZ head of digital marketing, said the text and avatar options complemented street appeals and physical poppy badges.

“Twitter profile images often represent someone’s personality and adding a poppy to it demonstrates their personal support for Poppy Day.”