Sixty-thousand festival-going activists, several celebrity hosts, a few world leaders, and one Rihanna: these are some of the highlights from this past Saturday’s Global Citizen Festival, which was back for its fifth year on Central Park’s Great Lawn. Using the tool of music to promote activism, this daylong concert event is no ordinary festival — for one, there’s no alcohol, and, more importantly, tickets are free for those who lobby and tweet on behalf of the Global Citizen organization.
Thanks to an appointment that put me in New York last weekend and a friend whose love for Kendrick Lamar is just shy of her fierce drive to promote equality (who had an extra ticket), I wound up being one of the bobbing heads in the sea of Global Citizen goers.
This was my first time attending the festival. Waiting on a line that wrapped around the park for over an hour and a half, I’ll admit I entered with some reservations. But these doubts soon disintegrated when I finally emerged from security on to the powerful view of thousands of tame concert-goers who had come together for music and social progress. Dreamy late September weather and performances from additional headlining artists such as Chris Martin, Usher, Ellie Goulding, Demi Lovato, Cat Stevens, Metallica and Major Lazer, made for a great day.
This year was also Johnson & Johnson’s first year partnering with Global Citizen, the brand’s first time ever appearing at a music festival, actually. To advance the Johnson & Johnson-Global Citizen health campaign, pathos-fueled videos played while powerful stories were delivered by various speakers. Chelsea Handler, Jada Pinkett Smith, Hugh Jackman, Salma Hayek Pinault and Neil Patrick Harris were among the list of distinguished guests who shared moving stories.
Johnson & Johnson’s more immersive activation was a step and repeat designed by a local NYC artist where festival goers could have their picture taken to promote Johnson & Johnson’s social charity app, Donate a Photo. This activation is not to be confused with a simple Instagram opportunity as this is an app where actions speak much louder than “likes.”
Here’s how Donate a Photo, which I consider to possibly be the most genius and tastefully branded app of all time, works: for every picture you post — “donate” — from your account to the app’s main feed, Johnson & Johnson donates one dollar to a charity of your choice. You’re able to donate one photo a day and if you want, share your post on Facebook or Instagram. To date, a total of 1,548,661 photos have been donated from the US, UK and Japan to help 101 different causes. For clarity, the app is tastefully branded in the sense that products are not once mentioned anywhere; Donate a Photo is solely about raising awareness for the brand’s nonprofit partners.
Some research, or finagling on the internet, led me to actually getting in touch with the app’s manager, Jacob Lepiarz. Created in 2013 in partnership with digital marketing agency RGA, Lepiarz explained the objective they had for the functionality of Donate a Photo:
“It had to be a simple, minute-worthy action, something that’s super quick and easy to do. We wanted to be inherently social… But, we also wanted people to see and share the impact of their actions. We know people are more likely to take action if they can see the tangible impact of their actions. And then finally, we wanted to leverage existing behavior… so, when we looked at the suite of existing definitions and constraints, leveraging a picture upload was a natural fit. People love to share.”
Lepiarz went onto explain his vision for the app, which currently has 200,000 users: “We want to continue to expand and get more people in the community, because we really do consider it a community. And, we’re going to continue to innovate the app itself… we’re making it more engaging, more fun to use. So, increasing awareness but also improving on the application itself so people will want to donate more and do more good.”
Global Citizen’s audience was indeed the ideal audience for Donate a Photo to connect with. While I was at the festival, I spoke to an Najwa, an employee from SharingBox, the company hired to take pictures at the step and repeats. Najwa estimated that around 10,000 photos had been donated, and the festival was hardly underway when we spoke.
Johnson & Johnson’s partnership with Global Citizen represents a harmonious union of organizations with global ideals. Between going to a music festival for the first time and creating Donate a Photo, Johnson & Johnson is a brand that’s definitely making inspiringly bold moves right now.