Working together for a common good?

Partnerships are a tricky thing in Social Marketing, especially when the partnerships are between a commercial organisation and a non-profit or governmental organisation. Some academics (see Previte & Fry, 2006 for examples) have argued that any collaboration of industry and non-profits may be harmful. Others, have taken a more balanced approach. Yet, in all industry/non-profit partnerships there is a potential ethical problem of who is making money from what. Take for example the recently launched Lose smoker1The Smoker campaign – a campaign that promotes quitting smoking and is a partnership between Quit and Pfizer. Would it have been possible to produce high quality videos, websites and a great viral marketing campaign without the support of the industry? Both organisations want people to stop smoking – the one by providing a Quitline service, the other by selling nicotine replacement therapies. But, as long as both organisations have the same aim, is it ok to share resources? Maybe in this case, one could argue, is a partnership beneficial to both sides (but arguably less beneficial to the NHS if people ask for treatment which they may not need as a result of the campaign). But what about other cases?
How about the Drinkaware campaigns promoting responsible drinking, funded largely by the drinks industry? How about the MediaSmart campaigns, teaching children how to “read” advertising, funded by the advertising industry? The real question is how effective can these campaigns be, if they are directly opposite to the commercial aims of the supporting industry. Should social marketeers enter into a partnership with this type of organisations? Surely there are no straight forward answers on this, but caution is probably needed.

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