November 2020

Insights from Steve Pacheco

President & CEO, American Advertising Federation

Thanks.  And…Giving.

In the Summer of 2004, I flew from LA to Memphis one morning on what should have been a routine flight. One I had made dozens of times before. Although there was nothing routine about this flight.

My seat mate was Marlo Thomas - the daughter of Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.  She was serving as the National Outreach Director for the hospital in addition to all of her other civic and social work.  What an inspiration she was.

She had just left a meeting in LA where she had been working on a new National campaign that would be a big part of St. Jude’s fundraising efforts that year, and she was flying straight to Memphis to share it with the leadership team at St. Jude. She was so excited about it and she wanted to tell me all about it!

And when she found out I was in Advertising, she asked for my advice on the creative concepts - she was particularly interested in the copy and the visuals because she wanted to get them just right. She picked my brain on the media plan, the timing of the launch, the measurement plans, and how to kick off the PR plans.  It was important to her to get this right.

I was genuinely interested in everything she had to say about this work, and being a life-long Memphian, I already had a built-in fondness for St, Jude (which was founded the same year I was born). I wanted to learn even more, and I really wanted to help. So, I gave her my full attention and provided as much insight and direction as I could before we touched down in Memphis over 3 hours later.  She took lots of notes, marked up copy points and asked for contacts who could help get behind this. 

This new campaign was set to launch just before the Holidays began that year, it would leverage donations and round ups at retailers all across the country.  It ultimately became the St. Jude “Thanks and Giving” campaign and included TV spots featuring celebrities Jennifer Anniston, Antonio Banderas, Robin Williams, Sofia Vergara, Brad Paisley. Michael Strahan and others.  It was powered by more than 60 major brands. 

Now in its 16th year, the St. Jude “Thanks and Giving” campaign has raised over $1 billion to help fund St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and its research efforts, thanks in large part to at-register donations made by shoppers across the nation. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped increase the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since the hospital opened over 50 years ago. St. Jude will not stop until no child dies from cancer.

“St. Jude founder Danny Thomas once said, ‘Those who work for the good are as those who do the good,’ and that statement truly exemplifies the more than 60 partners, their employees and customers who generously open their hearts to support St. Jude throughout the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign,” said Richard Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “During the holiday season, our partners seamlessly integrate St. Jude into their end-of-year plans and offer an opportunity for millions of people to give to continue the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as we work to help children everywhere.”

So, that LA to MEM flight was actually the beginning of something really big. And something really powerful. And it had far reaching impact all around the World. I truly believe their secret to success here was because the entire campaign was based on good people being very grateful for all that they had and wanting to share that gratitude with the children and families at St. Jude.

It would be very easy for many of us to look back on the past 8 months and NOT feel so grateful. But I have chosen to be grateful. I am grateful for the AAF and our clubs and our volunteers and our supporters and our members all across North America. By giving back to our organization, they are ensuring that the AAF makes it through these challenging times. 

They are supporting our World Class programs on Diversity & Inclusion, Education and Lifelong Learning, Advocacy for Advertising and our unique Events & Experiences.  And they are investing in our future by giving generously of their time, talents, and treasures.

So, this seems like a really good time to Thank each of you for all you do for the AAF.

Thanks for giving.

For info on St. Jude’s Thanks and Giving campaign go here >>>


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 Posted: November 2020