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    June 24, 2008

    i'm IM

    I was not planning to post tonight, until I signed onto Facebook and checked out a "gift" someone gave to a friend of mine-a mug with an "i'm" on it. According to Facebook, this was a gift from the i'm initiative, and being a curios marketer, I of course had to check out what this was.

    Okay, now maybe I am late to the game and should have known about this since 2007 (apparently this is when this whole thing strated), but imagine my surprise when the first thing I saw when I clicked on the link was:

    "Money Raised So Far: $1,579,000."
    Yep, you read that right, I double-checked the math, that does say $1.5 million.

    Whoa........what the? Who is raising this much money and online and for what?

    Maybe I should have known that someone pretty big had to be behind this. So maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised when I read the "About Us" section:

    i’m is an initiative from Microsoft. Every time you use Windows Live™ Messenger or Windows Live Hotmail®, our free webmail service, Microsoft shares a portion of the program's advertising revenue with an organization of your choice from a selection of some of the world's most effective organizations dedicated to social causes. We've set no cap on the amount we'll donate to each organization. The sky's the limit. And it's free.

    Wow. You know giving is BIG when Microsoft gets into the act. And I've gotta say, it's a pretty neat way to try to gain a competitive advantage with Gen Yers and young folk.
    The IM wars have been going on for over a decade-AOL's AIM was leading the charge, ICQ, then there was Microsoft and Yahoo getting into the mix, then Google integrated messenger into email and opened Gmail up to people free of special invites, then Skype comes along, and then there is of course the problem of wanting to be on the IM that all your friends are on so you can talk to them, and then they are all on different ones, so you download something like Trillian and talk to everyone at once, and you want to make sure you can IM on your cell phone, and so you have to consider what your mobile carrier's platform supports...

    And on top of that, you've got 15 email accounts: Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, who knows what else, I even still see Erols out there.

    So what's a "we need to DOMINATE everything and Google is totally kicking our butts" Microsoft to do? Get to us young folk.

    "Hey Kids, guess what? All you gotta do is keep doing what you are doing-emailing, IMing your friends, spreading the word on Facebook and such, just let us know a cause you care about and we'll donate a portion of the profits we make by forcing you to see ads every time you talk to your friends to your favorite cause. We know you've basically accepted having to look at these ads cause they are part of everything, but if you're gonna be looking at these ads anyway, why not make sure we share the money we make off you with a good cause? " Genius.
    The "measurer" in me is really curious to know if people who signed on to the I'm Initiative IM more and email more than they did before they signed up for it-does knowing some portion of ads you view go to a good cause motivate you to email more? Does it improve click-through rates?

    On a personal note, I have to confess that I am loyal AIM user for over a decade-might have something to do with my mom working on the AIM development team at AOL since, oh, well, I was 15 or so? Sorry Microsoft, I will have to find some other way to give back, but you go Bill Gates, or whoever is running that place now that Bill is also all into philanthropy!

    Also, a shout out to John Lepp, publisher of the The Naked Idea blog, a weekly look at how charities can communicate better with donors through design. Maybe I'll talk John into guest posting about what's with everyone doing everything in lower case lately-"i'm initiative", iPod, iGoogle, is this some kind of subliminal messaging?

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