The Elie Wiesel Foundation was in the middle of overhauling its website when mtv-U contacted the organization to ask if Elie Wiesel would appear on the network's Stand-In program and speak out against the genocide in Darfur. It was a great opportunity for the Foundation to raise awareness of the situation in Darfur and to reach the target audience (college students) for the Prize in Ethics.
In exchange for Elie Wiesel appearing on their program, mtv-U executives agreed to post links to the Foundation's website from their site and include a "ticker" at the bottom of the episode, directing students to the EWF site. There were only three problems with this partnership -- the new EWF site was still in process, the old site was unacceptable for this type of publicity and the Prize wouldn't even begin accepting entries for another two months.
Within a week, we launched a fully-functioning splash page that mimicked the design of the still-in-process site we were planning to launch in two months. The splash page provided basic information about the Prize, provided a mechanism for soliciting email addresses from students, professors and supporters, and let our supporters know that the website was about to be updated -- without actually labeling our site as "under construction."
The splash page was launched the day before the first airing of the mtv-U episode and within a month we had collected more than 1400 valid email addresses. These addresses were used to announce the start of the contest period and distribute deadline reminder emails
As a result of this effort -- and other unique marketing strategies -- The Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest 2005 brought in 40% more entries than in the previous year and reversed a three-year trend of decreasing entries.
In addition, the revival of the Prize helped to pave the way for an innovative essay contest partnership with Oprah that coincided with the re-release of Elie Wiesel's Night.
Click here to view Elie Wiesel's mtv-U Stand-In appearance at the University of Miami. Click here to learn more about the Oprah essay contest.