Call me ungrateful, but I’ve never liked a single holiday gift Google has ever given me. Over the last five years I have spent at least $10-$15 million with Google and the collective value of the holiday gifts I’ve received in return has been perhaps $150.

I know that holiday gifts aren’t mandatory, but I’d rather just receive nothing than receive the same form letter and $25 schwag sent to everyone else. That is, until this year.

This year I opened the Google holiday gift and initially began my annual holiday gift tirade against Google. The gift is a very small flash drive that you can fit in your wallet like a business card. I figure it must have cost Google $10-$15 to make these. Cool, but is that how you say thank you to someone who probably single-handedly pays the salaries of dozens of your employees?

So I was about to write an angry post about this when something else fell out of the gift box. It was another credit card-sized card and it was from The letter than accompanied the card explained that I could use this gift card online to make a donation to a public school in need.

I went online, registered, and found a science teacher in a low-income school in Indianapolis that needed some cabinets to store his equipment. He needed $69. I applied the gift card and then found out I still had $31 of credit left. Google had given me $100 to give to the public school charities of my choice.

This really excited me for several reasons. First, I love the fact that I get to personally choose where and to whom this donation goes. Even though I had spent a total of five minutes reviewing the different options on the site, it got me into the spirit of giving.

There is a concept in marketing called “the escalation of commitment.” Once you get someone to a small thing (register, enter their credit card info, add to shopping cart, etc), it is much easier for you to get them to do a slightly bigger thing (buy a small item, sign up for a newsletter, etc) and eventually big things (become a loyal customer, refer new customers, etc).

The very fact that Google got me to register, browse, and actually select a charity on this site is a wonderful (and ethically positive!) use of escalation of commitment. The chances are now much higher that I might add $100 more to my account with my own money and continue to support this charity. If you assume Google sent this card to 100,000 customers, and you assume that only 1% of these customers end up ‘falling for’ this escalation of commitment, that’s still 1000 people who have become new members of this charity. Big numbers for any charity.

The second reason I liked this gift was because of the sheer amount of charitable donations involved. If Google gives 100,000 advertisers $100 each to donate to charity, that’s $10 million dollars. And when you consider that most Google advertisers are already middle class or above, and would probably throw any Google-branded gift in a far corner of their office, I would much rather have Google give that $10 million to worthy charities than waste it on junk I don’t need.

Imagine what would happen if this level of ‘charity as a gift’ became the norm in our society. Instead of a dozen ‘crackers and cheese spread’ gift baskets lying around the office, there were a dozen $100 donations to charities. It could really make the holidays meaningful for a lot of needy organizations (and would also reduce holiday weight gain . . . ).

Moreover, once the novelty of the concept wore off, people like me would become jaded again and start to complain about the size of the donation vis-a-vis the amount I spent with the company. So in the future I might write a post thanking Google for its $100 donation, but also chastising them for the smallness of their donation versus the $500 Yahoo gave on my behave. I would love nothing more than to see a “charity donations arms race” emerge between my vendors!

Wishful thinking for now. And for now, I’m perfectly happy with the $100 Google enabled me to give to a few public schools. It makes me feel great, and it helps the community. That’s what I call a great gift.


  1. Alan December 10th, 2007

    Very tasteful.Y! took this route last year. I hope Yahoo does it again, and am glad to hear Google is taking the same approach., we’re not the folks in society who need logo’d blankets and fridges and IPods.Cheers –Alan

  2. vgbzviairh November 26th, 2011

    PrNSYM csagwsmujepe

  3. Anonymous December 11th, 2007

    I agree, a great idea. I’m afraid, though, that the cheese and cracker basket may persist for some time to come simply because many top-spending advertisers are at that level because they have a whole team working on the account. While a food basket can be enjoyed (or maybe not enjoyed, but shared with) the whole team of 3, 10, or however many people, from the SEM VP down to the SEM peon, a charity gift card is harder to share. My guess is that this year, at most companies, the VP or Director was the one musing about Google’s social-minded gift, while those in the trenches of SEM saw nothing from Google.

Leave a Comment

David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.