HANDS ACROSS AMERICA
Returning from a fact finding trip to Africa in June of 1985, Ken Kragen was asked "It wonderful what you are doing for Africa but we have lots of people in need right here at home. What are you going to do for America?"
His response was "Hands Across America" the largest public demonstration ever created. It brought together more than 6 million people in a continuous hand holding line from New York to California for the purpose of raising money and awareness of the plight of the hungry and homeless in this country.
"It's just impossible enough to be possible!"
The idea for "Hands Across America" was given to Ken Kragen by a PR executive working pro-bono on "We Are The World." He said "Don’t laugh but what if we put a continuous line of people together holding hands from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic?" Kragen responded, "I’m not laughing. It’s just impossible enough to be possible."
In the years since Ken Kragen has often said, "It’s much easier to do the ‘impossible’ than the ordinary. You get people’s attention and support when you do something that makes them say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you’re attempting that!’"
"Hands Across America" certainly had that ‘WOW’ factor. It brought together American’s of all races, religions and political persuasions in an unprecedented show of unity. It directly raised $34 million dollars to fight hunger and homeless in America and it resulted in at least a billion more from the US government and private organizations. Most importantly it opened the door for the media to report on the plight of these people. Something they rarely did until then.
View more of Ken Kragen's charity events...
CISCO SYSTEMS NETAID
In the fall of 1998, Cisco Systems approached Ken Kragen to help it capture world attention at the Telecom Conference in Geneva in the following year. Cisco needed a dramatic and completely unique marketing event to increase global brand awareness and clearly differentiate it from its top competitors. Cisco’s internal marketing team had developed a number of concepts, but none was really compelling enough to capture the imagination of the industry or a worldwide public.
Kragen immediately developed the idea of staging an unprecedented global charity event, merging Cisco’s Internet technology with The United Nations’ war on poverty. In one marketing strategy, Cisco would gain visibility, brand awareness and market share. This was an unprecedented concept at Cisco.
Together with Cisco’s dedicated and talented professionals, the team spent a full year organizing and staging a truly significant and defining event for the Millennium. Cisco willingly increased its initial commitment of $3 million dollars for a "new" marketing event to $27 million dollars for "NetAid."The “NetAid” website was launched in September of 1999 by three of the most powerful and influential leaders in the world: President Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Nelson Mandela. A month later, major concerts were staged at Giant Stadium in New Jersey, Wembley Stadium in London and the Palais de Nations in Geneva. These events were broadcast on television and radio in 150 countries around the world
The effect on Cisco proved to be significant and long-term. The return on investment realized from this single event far exceeded the expectations executive management thought possible by a marketing strategy. Perhaps equally as important is the long-term commitment Cisco and its executives made to this very compelling world issue.
"Nothing like this has ever happened before. 'NetAid' represents a defining moment for the Internet. The talented producers who put together the creative side of 'NetAid' ... are the spark that ignited the phenomenal chemistry of this project. The power to end extreme poverty is now online."
-1989 Statement by John Chambers, President & CEO of Cisco Systems, Inc.