Non-Profit Startup’s ‘I Killed a Man’ Clip Goes Viral

In case you haven’t seen the taped confession of a real-life drunk driver who killed a man, here it is. It’s gone viral over the past few days.

Unlike Werner Herzog‘s recent texting and driving film, this clip is not a PSA but rather a prime example of content marketing via website/startup/”social movement” Because I Said I Would.

Matthew Cordle really did kill a man while driving drunk, and he really was indicted today. His attorneys downplay the concept of the video as a defense strategy, but they also told the press that that a severe sentence “would send the wrong message to people trying to take responsibility for a crime.”

Interesting. So what is Because I Said I Would?

It’s legally a non-profit organization which “executes charitable projects in support of other non-profit organizations” via promise cards, or free pieces of paper, complete with the org’s logo, on which users can write promises to give or trade with friends, late loved ones, and others. The idea is that you’ll get the card back once your promise has been kept, and all users are encouraged to share the experience on social media.

The site’s founder is a marketing vet and his project has earned quite a bit of media so far. In order to help spread the Cordle video around, the company created the hashtag #SaveYourVictim—and while the site does include a store where one can make donations and buy t-shirts, the confession video page encourages readers to donate to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The dramatic editing and emotional music make the spot look a lot like a traditional ad, but it’s not technically selling anything beyond Because I Said So founder Alex Sheen‘s ideas about personal responsibility and discipline in the form of inspirational messages spread via social media. One thing the video doesn’t make clear is that Cordle was set to go to court anyway: on the night of the accident his blood alcohol level was measured at twice the legal limit, and Sheen writes that the purpose of the well-produced clip is to prevent more people from drinking and driving.

What’s going on here? Is this a new model for non-profit marketing and public relations? What can the organization do with all this newfound attention—and can its approach work in the for-profit world? Should we even ask that question?

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