(Ice) bucket loads of attention: how South Africans fell into the latest slacktivism trap


If you’re a regular user of the connection machine known as the internet, you would have come across some bizarre videos of people pouring buckets of ice onto themselves in the name of charity.

You, like many others, may think this unnecessary to carry out in tandem with simply donating to charity – either because you already do on a regular basis, or because the idea of pouring an icy bucket of water over your head in this weather (Winter here in South Africa) is very appealing.

No one’s going to blame you… or do they? A few months ago, South Africa was inundated with #Neknominations, which, in true South African style became #ARKnominations. If it wasn’t you, it was a your best friend being put up to a ridiculous, or in most SA cases, a heart-warming challenge. So, how is an ALS awareness campaign different? To be honest, not all that much.

South Africans seemed to conform this time round and, barring a few pool-side dips here and there, the country’s online community seemed to follow suit like never before. Maybe it’s because secretly everyone’s aware of scarcity and lack of access to fresh water in the country that they decided to ‘file-in’ this time round. In other parts of the world, the campaign was trendjacked — such as the case in Gaza with locals pouring rubble and sand over their heads to bring about their own attempt at additional awareness of the intense civil unrest.

More celebrities and public figures have come out in support and taken part in the #IceBucketChallenge than previous viral phenomenons. The likes of Sir Patrick Stewart, David Beckham and even the Zuck himself have all put their bodies on the line. So, what does that teach us about the campaign? If it’s fun and not too much work people will get involved? If it doesn’t involve excessive alcohol consumption more people will take part? Some believed that alcohol would be the golden key. Clearly not.

The ALS association recently reported that a staggering US$100-million in donations have been made since 29 July this year in comparison to the US$1.8-million in the same period last year, including 300 000 new donors. That’s approximately US$3-million a day. Give or take a few bucks here and there. On top of the monetary value of the campaign, the amount of awareness garnered for ALS is staggering to say the least.

Now imagine that those 300 000 new donors became monthly donors for a fraction of their initial involvement? Imagine the amount of success a charity like that could have with a retention plan for donations?

Unfortunately, with viral novas like this, that’s rarely the case. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they’re helluva appreciative, but like any charity would they’d appreciate it more if you gave month on month. It’s pretty simply really – it’s called a debit order. Any icy-heroes out there sign up for that instead of taking hours crafting your perfect #IceBucketChallenge video? Didn’t think so.

It’s all fine and well donating when it’s trendy, but monthly donations are a lot more beneficial to a charity long-term. Think charitable longevity.

Also, any brand wanting to recreate the #IceBucketChallenge… just don’t. Go back to the drawing board. It’s not worth it. Just stop. Nothing looks more desperate than a brand attempting to rejig or duplicate the success with brand values slapped all over the place. It’ll come across as tacky. Case in point: The Macmillan-jack. Granted it was for a charity of its own, but c’mon… Okay, I digress.

There’s a word for this kind of social behaviour, a term that denotes one of the worst types of activism one can be labeled with: a Slacker or, as the behaviour has been dubbed, Slacktivism.

Did we just become another Slacktivism society in a long line of non-repeat donation nations? I have a sneaking suspicion we might have. I’ll leave that to you to decide.



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