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Putting their money where their hearts are, Chuck fans tell the inspiration behind the Have a Heart campaign

May
14

No matter what NBC announces next Tuesday with regard to bubble show of the year Chuck, some good will come from the campaign to convince the network to renew it.

As of Wednesday morning, $13,255.92 had been donated to the American Heart Association in the name of Chuck Bartowski, the show’s title character. The favored charity of Chuck sponsor Subway mailed a donation acknowledgment card to NBC execs Ben Silverman or Angela Bromstad for each of the 400-plus donations made

No, fans didn’t inundate the network with nuts or other snack food. They didn’t lash out at the network in a dizzying series of online tirades across message boards, chatrooms and Twitter feeds. They didn’t even hang their heads in resignation.

Instead, they put their money where their hearts are and came up with Have a Heart — Renew Chuck. I caught up with just a few of the effort’s founding members.

Laurie Taylor Gregg of New Mexico, a 52-year-old mother of six who goes by the name LTG or chuckling online, said the idea grew out of a discussion on NBC.com’s Chuck forums following the network’s May 4 non-announcement about the show’s fate.

Everyone knew NBC faced a $2 million penalty if it didn’t pick up David E. Kelly’s new WB drama (which it ultimately didn’t), and speculation was that Chuck‘s fate was somehow related to another WB show.

Ideas that were bandied about included a $1 donation per fan to the network, buying air time to make their views known or buying NBC merchandise.

According to Laurie, a forum poster by the name Carl007 suggested a worthy charity instead. Someone else called Thanos05 suggested Subway’s charity, the American Heart Association. It was Laurie who jumped in and created a personalized donation page at the AHA site and set up a blog to show how easily donations could be made in Chuck‘s name.

“People immediately got on board and wanted to participate, and the donations began that day,” she explained. “The following day I spoke with someone from the AHA and explained what we were trying to do, and they have been more than helpful ever since, happily encouraging me to call in for the donation totals daily, and have been continuing to do whatever they can to help us. It may have a lot to do with me choosing a figure of $2 million as our goal and them feeling that this campaign was ‘huge!’ Although they have assured me that they are thankful for whatever amount actually comes in.”

From $215 that first day to over $10,000 in the first week, donations mounted and more fans got involved. Aside from the main blog, there’s also a lively discussion about how to keep things going and grow the effort at the We Heart Chuck Google group.

But why not just send Nerds or nuts or some other item to the network? After all, that’s worked before, right? As one commenter noted, networks make money decisions not decisions based on fans’ emotions.

Doing it this way accomplishes the goal of conveying fans’ desire to see Chuck return while doing something positive.

“It seems to make more sense than spending thousands of dollars to flood the offices of NBC with things that will just be thrown into the trash,” Laurie said.

The response so far has been incredible, says another organizer who goes by the name FuriousFrank.

The campaign’s only exposure has been through online word-of-mouth, the commenter says. The hope is that it will grow as media outlets take notice. And with about 6 million weekly viewers, even a 10 percent response would mean far more fundraising success.

Adds another organizer, ChuckNut, Chuck is a show about an everyman who’s called upon to make a difference in the world.

“I think such a show attracts fans who also want to make a difference in whatever way they can. And because it’s such a fun show and a great escape in today’s bleak times, fans are really pushing for the show to come back, not for just one more season, but for as long as the writers feel they have a story to tell.”

But doesn’t it come down to ratings? Can all the fundraising in the world for a network’s sponsor’s charity really sway the decision makers? These fans believe it can, if only for the positive attention it garners and the message it sends about their commitment to the show.

“Especially in this down economy, showing network executives — and more importantly, advertisers — that fans are willing to part with their money in support of their show really drives home the point that maybe Nielsen ratings aren’t the only way to measure audience loyalty.”

Besides, Laurie points out, citing an observation she read in the campaign’s blog comments, if 20,000 Nielsen families represent 304,000,000 people, then 350 Chuck donors would represent 5,320,000 people. Not a bad showing at all.

In the end, they believe Chuck ought to be renewed because it is quality entertainment that combines many storytelling elements, from comedy and romance to action and drama. And the cast brings it all together.

Will that and a sizeable charitable donation be enough? Stay tuned.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by Brian Howard. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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