AUSTIN, TX: Creating a new "media space" from existing consumer behaviour has helped the American Red Cross engage the digital audience in an innovative way - and without the need for a large budget.

Kathryn Brown, an evp/senior director at BBDO New York - the American Red Cross's agency since 2011 - discussed this topic at the 4A's (American Association of Advertising Agencies) Transformation 2015 conference in Austin, Texas.

"We saw a white space," she said, "a good idea that [could be] made quickly, be inexpensive and deliver a targeted new audience." (For more, including selected campaign results, read Warc's exclusive report: BBDO links the American Red Cross with Bitly.)

More specifically, the agency aimed to exploit a "really, really simple" characteristic of the digital ecosystem: that people enjoy sharing content they find interesting or amusing.

"We know what it's like to really love something and want to push it out into your social ether," Brown said.

"Our thought, though, was, 'What if we have the American Red Cross actually capitalise on that behaviour? What if we could use the actual everyday things going on to create a new media space - a new media channel - to drive this message with a new audience?'"

From there, a tie-up took shape with Bitly, an online service that turns lengthy URLs into shorter links for sharing - and which introduced a bespoke service to do so on behalf of the American Red Cross.

This partnership was active during the 2014 holiday season, including "Giving Tuesday", the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving and the largest donation day for non-profits.

"We wanted to create a social link-shortening tool that allowed us not only to have people share articles with character limitations, but also to use it as an advertising vehicle with the American Red Cross, and spread that awareness and ultimately encourage donations," said Brown.

The "" sharing service achieved both of these objectives by adding a banner above related social-media messages which linked to information about the American Red Cross.

"And it took off [through] social channels," Brown reported. "Facebook and Twitter remained the number-one and number-two referrals to, showing that it really did take on an organic life of its own in those [arenas] as we had hoped."

Data sourced from Warc