More Cash For CRUK, But Polar Bears Miss Out
April 1, 2014

More Cash For CRUK, But Polar Bears Miss Out

This is an update to my recent article on “no makeup selfies” in which I described the unexpected cash windfall for charity from a social media viral meme. At the time I wrote that piece, the £2 million that had been raised was eye-watering enough, but this has continued to grow. The last I heard, this campaign had raised £8 million in the first six days and was still growing. The remit had widened somewhat. Instead of being restricted to women posting makeup-free selfies, many women who normally eschew the slap, inverted the concept and posted pictures of themselves with lots of cosmetic coverings. Men joined in by raiding their partners’ (or maybe their own) makeup supply and slapping on the paint, taking the opportunity to indulge in a bit of trans self-decoration – any excuse will do. Pet owners apparently wanted some action, too, and put up pics of their animals, but I think this was subverting the concept a little too much. That is, unless they had a super intelligent and dextrous pet that really could paint its face and take its own photo.

Another interesting side-plot to this tale emerged that had the press hacks drooling with delight. It seemed that a fair amount of money that donors pledged to Cancer Research UK inadvertently went to other charities — in particular Unicef — with some donations intended for CRUK even ending up becoming a request to adopt a polar bear by means of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). How did these errors come about? Well, the most common factors to blame seem to be confusion over the correct text code and that old bugbear, predictive text messaging.

I suppose we have all done it. You miss the often bizarre input from the seemingly illiterate, predictive gremlin and end up sending a load of gibberish to the recipient. In its worst incarnations this has resulted in things like insults or swearwords being sent to mums or bosses. One thing that has to be said for the predictive text “ghost in the machine,” it is inventive to say the least.

What appears to have made the problem worse in the #nomakeupselfie case is that Cancer Research UK and Unicef share a common text number (70099) for donations. CRUK was using the word BEAT or beat to the number for their donations, while the WWF’s Adopt A Polar Bear campaign uses the word BEAR. Unicef used the word DONATE. Somehow thousands of pounds went to Unicef UK where Mike Flynn, director of individual giving, said there was a “genuine mixup.” The charity is working with CRUK to transfer the funds back. WWF said they had not taken any money from the misplaced text donations, as their system works by operators calling back to confirm the donations and take the cash. I like their response. They wished CRUK every success in their campaign, and added “Polar bear selfies are harder to come by, though as far as we are aware none wear makeup.”

Where is all this windfall money going to end up? CRUK say they will put the funds into clinical trials research. Ten such trials will be completely funded. Nine will test for new cancer treatments. The tenth will be the collection and analysis of tumor samples. Any remaining money will be used for other research.

There is a full and interesting response to questions about the campaign on the CRUK website.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email


Eric Hopton is a writer, musician, artist, and photographer. He has a degree in Social Anthropology and has always been passionate about travel, having so far visited 73 countries. His music and sound work has been used in many projects around the world and can be heard on Bandcamp and Freesound, where he has contributed over 1,300 sounds under his sonic alter ego, ERH.

Send Eric an email