Selling charitable eyeballs: Kiwi start-up Donate Your Desktop looks for the win-win-win with screen rental scheme

An Auckland start-up is combining digital advertising and charitable causes to help improve the world—one desktop at a time. And the founders of DonateYourDesktop.co.nz hope they can soon put the screens of many millions of computers around the world to better use.

Although the triple bottom line concept—people, profit and planet—is nothing new, the founders are passionate about the idea of “personalised digital promotion”. Devised by ex-Colenso digital creative and Spitfire Creative digital art director Nelson Rayner, the DonateYourDesktop.co.nz model allows users to downloads an app that gives their computer a new desktop background daily (as the website says: “Don’t expect ugly promotions either; our branded desktops are attractive full-screen images that should be a pleasure to have as your desktop background”). And user profiling means advertisers (such as HP, Huffer, Subway, MediaWorks, Disney and Cleverbastards.co.nz) are matched with user demographics.

The backgrounds are paid-for promotions, but 75 percent of the fee goes to either Starship Foundation, New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, Oxfam or WWF New Zealand. The remainder goes to Rayner’s limited company.

As director David Hillier puts it, you’re essentially renting out your desktop as advertising space, with the majority of the proceeds going to a good cause and none of it coming from the computer user’s pocket. So the always-hard-up student or businessman who snubs street collectors can become a catalyst for good in the world, without spending a dime, and getting rid of rolling green hills or tropical island scenes.

Hillier says the concept appeals to ad agencies because they are “guaranteed to hit almost 100 percent of your intended audience because nearly everyone is on a computer everyday, whether it’s at home at work or on their lap”.

“This frequency makes the medium great for time-conscious product launches, movie premieres and product sales,” he says. “We thought it was a clever way to redirect advertising budgets to charities.”

If each user receives a branded desktop image daily, one computer can generate more than $13 annually for the chosen charity and if you install the app on another computer, the donation is doubled. This may not sound like a lot but could add up if committed user figures continue to grow rapidly (there are currently over 1000 registered users and almost 16,000 desktops have been donated).

Hillier says it is their goal to reach 100,000 users in the New Zealand market and at that size he claims it will generate more than $1 million for its partner charities a year. It plans to expand to new regions internationally, too.

In an age where advertising is creeping further into each facet of society, this intrusion to home and office life is perhaps balanced by the feel-good factor of giving to charities in need.

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