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Doing something with nothing

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  • Empty "soup" cans were sold in partner supermarkets and food outlets.
  • Billboard activity
  • Retail/POS activity
  • OOH
  • POS units being prepared for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank

Even in the most developed countries, there are members of society who fall through the cracks of the system. Recent economic events have exacerbated the situation, forcing many people out of work and throwing them into the poverty trap. Some have lost their homes, and are forced to live in temporary hostel accommodation. In almost every country in the developed world, the disenfranchised poor are forced to exist on or below the poverty line.

When the state welfare system is unable to cope, charities are forced to step in to ensure that basic human needs of food and shelter are met. The Rhode Island Community Food Bank is one such charity that attempts to provide food for those who would otherwise be forced to starve.  Its mission is to provide food to people in need and promote long-term solutions for the problem of hunger. In 2009, the Food Bank provided the equivalent of 15 million meals.

The Food Bank's network of 122 emergency food pantries served, on average, 52,000 people each month in 2009, a 30 percent increase over 2008.

Of those receiving assistance at food pantries, four out of 10 are families with children under age 18.

The challenge facing this particular charity was not only a simple question of raising funds, but it also needed to highlight a problem of which many Americans may not even be aware - that according to official government figures, around 50,000 Rhode Island households are unable to afford adequate food. This amounts to nearly 12% of the state.

Looking to target 20-40 year olds for donations, the charity created its own brand - "Nothing", and marketed it like another food product.  Teaser advertisements bearing the slogan "Nothing Is Coming" appeared in key OOH locations, TV and radio spots. "Nothing" also entered into partnership with supermarket chains, and advertised in-store.

Shortly afterwards, the campaign revealed a tin of soup - branded "Nothing", accompanied by the message, "nothing can end the hunger in Rhode Island".  At the same time, 40,000 of these cans were distributed to local partner retail outlets, where they were stocked in POS units reminiscent of regular grocery products. These empty cans - that were really money boxes - could be purchased for US$2.99. Sale of one tin raised enough money for the charity to deliver 10lbs of food to those in need.

The charity also hoped that individuals would choose to use their tins to collect money for further charitable donations.

In a series of street activations, members of the public were invited to take part in a series of "taste tests", in which participants were greeted with an empty plate. This simple, powerful message proved remarkably effective in generating sympathetic responses and understanding. These taste test reactions were filmed, and used in a series of TV commercials. The videos were also hosted on the charity's Youtube channel.

The campaign aims to raise US$300,000 this year, enough money for the Food Bank to distribute one million pounds of food and serve 50,000 people.

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Brand Owner:
Rhode Island Community Food Bank
United States
August 2010 - ongoing
Nail Communication
Media Channel:
  • Big idea

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