Salvation Army - This Ad Cost Nothing

Northern New Englanders weren’t aware of The Salvation Army’s breadth of year-round services, like homeless shelters and rehabilitation centers. They were simply “the guys ringing bells during the holidays.” It was our job to change this perception … with an advertising budget of zero. They didn’t have a budget for advertising because 83 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to the people who need it most. An impressive number in the nonprofit world. We decided to embrace this message and create the first true community campaign.

With the help of over 50 businesses we launched thousands of guerrilla executions in Portland, Maine, supported by print, online and TV. Businesses became the medium. And any space was potential ad space. Storefronts became outdoor advertising. Dirty cars became mobile billboards. Rocks and mirrors were point-of-sale ads. And ordinary pizza boxes, coffee sleeves and retail bags turned into branded content. The campaign brought a community together. And it did a lot of good for an organization that is “Doing The Most Good.”

Time Warner Cable donated media for the campaign. We shot the entire spot in three hours.

Over twenty businesses in Portland donated window space for the campaign. We chalked walls and strung tarps from businesses with a little more space to give.

Some ideas were created for specific businesses. A popular pizza joint gave us permission to brand check presenters with a wood burner. We stamped over 3,000 pizza boxes with soy based ink. Thousands of coffee sleeves were also stamped and handed out on coffee cups at shops all over the city.

People even donated their cars to the campaign. We dirtied up their windows with a mix of water and clay dust. The cars were parked all over town for the week.

A high end furniture store wanted to donate window space. We decided to make them a cardboard chair instead.
Hundreds of rocks were painted red and branded with hand written messaging. We placed them in businesses all over Portland.

Some businesses even let us advertise in on their bathroom mirrors.

Print ads ran in local publications. Space was donated and referenced in each.

Banner ad space was also donated by local businesses. Every ad drove people to It provided an explanation of the campaign, plus thumbnails of the guerrilla tactics and the commercial. And of course ... the all important DONATE button.


Client: The Salvation Army of Northern New England
Agency: The VIA Agency
ECD: Greg Smith
Sr. AD/Editor: Pat Sperry
AD/Designer: Chris Avantaggio
CW: Mike Irvine
Illustration: Lirra Sheibler