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‘Donate the Bars’ charity campaign finds noble cause for your video’s blank spaces

One in 6 YouTube videos has black bars—and they're doing something about it.


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Posted on Mar 14, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 2:21 am CDT


International ad agency J. Walter Thompson has cooked up a clever and charitable ploy to make use of the black bars that appear on either side of YouTube videos when they’re shot vertically and uploaded to the platform.

The agency announced on Monday a global rollout of its “Donate the Bars” campaign to christen SXSW. The campaign will enable creators to upload a vertical video to, integrate promotional messaging from one of a slew of charities on either side of the clip, and then publish it straight to YouTube.

J. Walter Thompson partnered with Mashable, charitable MCN Good Amplified, and leading digital network Studio71 on the endeavor. Big-name creators who are slated to participate include Matthew SantoroCody SimpsonAlli Simpson, and Monica Church. Participating charities include the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Bob Woodruff FoundationTeen Cancer AmericaChallenged Athletes Foundation, and more.

Given that one in six videos has black bars—even though YouTube did enable fullscreen vertical playback on mobile devices in July — the initiative provides a platform for charities who often can’t afford the ad space that they need, said Good Amplified Founder and CEO Amber Lawson in a statement.

And the campaign isn’t just for YouTube’s brightest do-gooders. If you’re at SXSW this week, head on over to the Mashable House to shoot a clip of your own and donate black bars to the NGO of your choosing.

Illustration by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Mar 14, 2016, 9:33 pm CDT