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Pro: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Yay, Not Nay
[Debate] Is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a Form of First World Luxury?
[ Issue 132 Page 11 ] Sunday, January 18, 2015, 01:00:28 Ji Yun Kim Staff Reporter jiyunk@kaist.ac.kr


[Debate] Is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a Form of First World Luxury?

Despite the increase in ALS research donations from the publicity it gained through the challenge, much criticism have also voiced that the challenge is either socially ineffective or more of a publicity stunt in the form of superficial benevolence. Is the challenge truly a socially positive activity or is it in fact a moral luxury only those from the first world can enjoy?


Just about three months ago, an unprecedented charity campaign on social media started to go viral. As of September 2014, the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) Ice bucket challenge - one that encourages people to either throw on themselves a bucket of ice water or donate to the ALS Association, has proved to be one of the most successful media-marketing charity projects in the 21st century. Like most Internet phenomena, the challenge attracted criticism, some inevitable, some not. All in all, however, the massive success of this social challenge seems to be rightfully justified, supported by quantifiable financial and social data.


First and foremost, the ALS association has reaped significant financial benefits from the initiative. The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $114 million, a figure in stark contrast to that in 2013, with $19.4 million raised overall.. If they complete the challenge, they are then allowed to pass the challenge on. This endless chain reaction has resulted in the massive fundraiser and has become an actual help to the association. This data defends the campaign's effectiveness in fulfilling the initial intentions. 

The huge amount raised is not the only testament to the effectiveness of the program. On August 21, during the peak of the challenge, the number of hits on Wikipedia's ALS article soared from 8000 per day to 430,000 hits on that single day. This is an indication of the additional attention that was brought to ALS after the initiative. It has been estimated that the number of people who have actually heard about or participated in the challenge is ten times than those who have made monetary donations. Additionally, this overwhelming spread of the campaign has actually raised much awareness not only of ALS, but also other charity organizations similarly in need. Upon being nominated, many have chosen to donate to a good cause of the charity of their choice instead, or both.. It has become apparent that the initiative is a meaningful opportunity for members of the community that do not usually make donations to think twice about on what they have been missing out. It allowed for personal expression on 'taking action for a good cause' where many were seen being more serious sounding despite the humorous nature of the videos.

The challenge was exemplary even from a marketing perspective with the cause having been clearly stated (spreading awareness and raising funds for ALS research), making the process fun and easy (encouraging further engagement in an unique way), adding immediacy with deadlines, understanding the power or multiplication and spreading, being multiplatform and giving participants a chance to feel good as well as united With these specific marketing strategies backing the challenge, its success is not surprising at all. The initiative has definitely opened up possibilities for future projects of this form to exist. Though some argue that the challenge encourages slacktivism and is not a sustainable way of fundraising, the fact that a charity event went this viral is the biggest gain from this campaign. The challenge redefined how we saw the illness, and the fact that we became more alert about reaching out to the community (no matter what the real motivation may be) is a step towards activism, rather than the detrimental slacktivism. This campaign made sure members of the public realize that ALS or other causes may not affect them, but it still needs to be addressed.

To sum up, the initiative has been a welcomed change from current events, the bombardment of disheartening disasters both nationally and internationally. Perhaps the reason the campaign turned out to be successful is due to our desire to mend our broken hearts and distraught minds. Maybe all we needed was just a moral shelter that would defend us from more miserable news. In the end, however, why the campaign became so successful becomes a trivial matter. What is really important is that the campaign managed to pull through amidst huge amounts of other information that people may rather have kept up with, and that the results have helped the association and other charities financially while raising much awareness for possible long-term donor relationships. When the Ice Bucket challenge inevitably becomes stagnant, I hope that charity organizations continue to encourage care on their cause as well as donations in creative ways, building upon what the ALS association has over this summer.

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