In the fall of 1998, Cisco Systems approached Ken Kragen to help it capture world attention at the Telecom Conference in Geneva in the following year. Cisco needed a dramatic and completely unique marketing event to increase global brand awareness and clearly differentiate it from its top competitors. Cisco’s internal marketing team had developed a number of concepts, but none was really compelling enough to capture the imagination of the industry or a worldwide public.

Kragen immediately developed the idea of staging an unprecedented global charity event, merging Cisco’s Internet technology with The United Nations’ war on poverty. In one marketing strategy, Cisco would gain visibility, brand awareness and market share. This was an unprecedented concept at Cisco.

Together with Cisco’s dedicated and talented professionals, the team spent a full year organizing and staging a truly significant and defining event for the Millennium. Cisco willingly increased its initial commitment of $3 million dollars for a "new" marketing event to $27 million dollars for "NetAid."


The “NetAid” website was launched in September of 1999 by three of the most powerful and influential leaders in the world: President Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Nelson Mandela. A month later, major concerts were staged at Giant Stadium in New Jersey, Wembley Stadium in London and the Palais de Nations in Geneva. These events were broadcast on television and radio in 150 countries around the world

The effect on Cisco proved to be significant and long-term. The return on investment realized from this single event far exceeded the expectations executive management thought possible by a marketing strategy. Perhaps equally as important is the long-term commitment Cisco and its executives made to this very compelling world issue.

Nothing like this has ever happened before.  ‘NetAid’ represents a defining moment for the Internet. The talented producers who put together the creative side of ‘NetAid’ ... are the spark that ignited the phenomenal chemistry of this project. The power to end extreme poverty is now online.
— John Chambers, President & CEO of Cisco Systems, Inc. (1989)

View more of Ken Kragen's charity events:

We Are the World & Hands Across America