By  on September 29, 2010

For years, the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign led by Evelyn Lauder, who also is senior corporate vice president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., has lit up its mission by bathing buildings around the world in pink light. Now the group is also taking a more intimate — and more direct — approach to getting its message across via the soft glow of a video screen.

This is the third and the most ambitious year of an effort by the Estée Lauder Cos.’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign to harness the power of social media on the Internet to build awareness. That effort will culminate at 5:30 p.m. today in an event sponsored by Bloomingdale’s on the main floor cosmetics department of the 59th Street flagship in Manhattan, co-hosted by Lauder and Elizabeth Hurley. Customers will be invited to enter a temporary video booth set up for the occasion, and make a pledge of their determination to aid the fight against breast cancer. The pledges will be shared on a widget created for the campaign, and some of them will appear on a special Web site,, which is more like a blog platform.

The inspiration for the pledge drive grew out of a public service ad conceived by James Gager, senior vice president and group creative director for MAC Cosmetics, La Mer and Jo Malone brands (see related story below) and Toni Lakis, vice president of MAC Design. The photo, shot by Michael Thompson, shows a woman covering her naked breast with her hand. It illustrates the slogan “Connect. Communicate. Conquer.”

Marisa Thalberg, vice president of global digital marketing at the Estée Lauder Cos., and her Internet crew were looking for a hook on which to build Web content and were looking at the ad. “We knew that this image was really designed to communicate the idea of a woman taking control of her breast health, being empowered for self examination,” Thalberg said. But on second glance, “we realized that a woman with a hand across her chest could also connote a woman taking a pledge, and we thought that was a very interesting idea from a social media standpoint.”

A widget was created that could be embedded on multiple sites, both the official Web sites and the Facebook pages of the individual brands. The mechanism enables women to write in a pledge and send it via Facebook or Twitter to someone else.

The power of the ad visual was plugged into the social media world with one move. “We came up with the idea of recreating this image and having bloggers, influential bloggers, from all different spheres of blogging, pose,” Thalberg said. “These are real people — not models — who are social media influencers.”

In the end, 12 people from nine blogs posed naked with an arm over their breasts. The resultant pictures will be on display and the bloggers will be present at the Bloomingdale’s event. The bloggers come from different walks of the blogosphere, such as finance-expert Amanda Steinberg of DailyWorth.

In addition to the Lauder brand sites in North America, the overseas subsidiaries are also participating. “We’ve truly created a global campaign,” Thalberg added. The implications of the geographic reach were not lost on Lauder. She said the key point of the pledge campaign is that it will attract so many ethnic groups from around the world. “[Breast cancer] does affect every ethnicity,” she said, adding that the goal is to attract “a variety of points of view and philosophies — people worried about their mothers, people concerned about their daughters and their unborn grandchildren, their unborn granddaughters.”

The campaign also involves every aspect of social media. The Bloomingdale’s booth is video equipped, in which someone can visually record their pledge and share it via YouTube. The campaign will be tweeting through the Breast Cancer Awareness Month of October, and a Twitter Girls’ Night Out party will be held on Monday, Oct. 18. “We are really tapping the major social channels — Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube — to really spread the message,” Thalberg said.

As in years past, the buildings will be illuminated and practically every Lauder brand has contributed special merchandise to sell and generate funding for the overall Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The Lauder corporation, its brands and its retail partners have all together generated $45 million of the total $290 million raised to fund research work since 1993.

One of the most passionate retail partners has been Bloomingdale’s, which has raised $1.4 million since 2005. That was enough for the store to sponsor a grant and a researcher on its own. Michael Gould, chairman and chief executive officer, said, “We have the ability to raise our voice on an issue that we consider important. At the end of the day, what we can do for others is more important than how many lipsticks we’ve sold.”

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