A couple of months ago some friends at Made by Many and Good for Nothing in the UK decided they had to do something, or at least try to do something, about the severe famine in East Africa. In Kenya and Somalia a child dies every six minutes. The worst drought in 60 years plagues the region. And the world isn’t paying much attention.
So Made by Many and Good for Nothing started the 50/50 project – the idea being to get friends and partners — advertising and digital agencies mostly — to launch 50 projects in 50 days to raise at least $1 million, perhaps much more, for relief. Today is the official launch day for many of those projects. October 16.World Food Day.
Our project at Mullen is called The Good Belly Project. We realize that we can’t actually transport food to East Africa. We can’t secure a fleet of helicopters. We can’t establish an on ground presence.
So here’s what we did. We launched a social-media powered fundraising partnership with 17 of Boston’s top restaurants and their customers using Instagram. Every time a customer takes a photograph of their restaurant meal and shares it, the participating restaurant will donate $1.00 to the Good Belly Project, which transfers 100 percent of the proceeds to UNICEF’s East Africa’s relief efforts.
Yes there’s a kind of absurd irony in posting photographs of gourmet meals in order to help people who are starving. But at the same time there’s a logic to it. It’s the ideal time and place to remind people who have plenty to eat how fortunate they are. It taps into an existing behavior – food porn is pretty prevalent on photo sharing networks like Instagram. And it gives the participating restaurants something in return for their contribution. A bit of visibility and cred for supporting the cause.
I hope you’ll join us over the next few weeks. You can frequent the restaurants that have offered to help. You can post food porn images. And you can, perhaps, realize how fortunate you are to have food in your belly and maybe write a big fat check to help those less fortunate. Feel free to make that donation here, at the Good Belly Project.
Good Belly Restaurants (links and addresses):
- Abigail’s American
- Bambara American
- Bergamot American
- Bon Me Truck Food Truck
- Figs Beacon Hill Pizza
- Figs Charlestown Pizza
- Fillbelly’s Food Truck
- Hillstone American
- Isabelle’s CurlycakesBakery
- Island Creek Oyster BarSeafood
- Kingfish Hall Seafood
- KO Prime Steakhouse
- Market by Jean GeorgesAmerican
- Naked Pizza Pizza
- Rialto Restaurant + BarItalian
- Sibling Rivalry American
- Stephi’s On TremontAmerican
I can’t help it. I look at everything through the filter of either creativity, innovation or advertising. So while watching Martin Scorcese’s new documentary about George Harrison, I found this to be one of my favorite anecdotes. Paul McCartney recalls what it was like to prepare for a recording session.
Now, keep in mind that in the 70’s most advertising agency creative teams would insist on two weeks to copy and layout. Didn’t matter whether it was a full campaign, or a single ad. The Beatles, meanwhile, could generate a song a day. On demand no less.
The second part of the story, of course, is about collaboration. John and Paul would show up a week later with their seven or eight songs, all of which were news to their band mates, and within a matter of minutes George and Ringo would be adding riffs and the backbeat, making the idea, the song, the music better.
I imagine that anyone who has ever played in a band knows that this is how it works, or should. But I couldn’t help but be inspired by these recollections from Paul as he talked about his non-writing (at the time) partners. “They’d go ‘uh huh.’ And George would be like, ‘I can see what you’re doing. I’m one of you.’”
That is how collaboration is supposed to work. It’s the epitome of celebrating the idea instead of the person who came up with it. It’s a great great lesson for all of us working as part of a creative team in the new on demand world. If you’re not the one who makes the idea, be the one who makes the idea better.
Decades later, The Beatles still inspire. Think I’ll go and dig out some old LPs. Oh, and if you have not seen Martin Scorcese’s new two-part documentary George Harrison: Living in a Material World, you must. It’s on HBO right now.
I’m on my way to Minneapolis at the invitation of my friend Tim Brunelle, CEO of the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association, for MIMA Summit 2011. From everything I can gather he has an awesome session planned. Google’s analytics guru Avinash Kaushik and Wired’s Chris Anderson both keynote; the list of speakers is impressive; and the sessions are all designed to inspire action.
I’m doing a session with the prolific and omnipresent David Armano. It’s called Group Therapy for Would Be Innovators. We both decided to eschew Powerpoint, panels and pontification. Instead we hope to conduct a large group discussion that covers the following
- What does innovation even mean inside an agency?
- Can agencies actually create value beyond service?
- Should they think in terms of creating their own products?
- Does the service model get in the way?
- How can culture, space, and team structures help
- Is the role of CIO even necessary?
- How much should you invest in innovation?
For some reason innovation appears to be the new industry buzzword. As a result it gets overused, applied to everything, and sometimes pursued with no clear purpose. My thoughts on the subject are simple.
We need to innovate for three reasons.
To keep up with changing consumer behavior.
In just a few years our consumers have turned into content creators and distribution channels. Our old media connected information to them. New media connected them to information. But social media connects people to each other. That means agencies have to invent new ways to engage. We have to master transmedia story telling. We need to get better at gaming dynamics. It takes new kinds of work, teams, briefs and processes to be effective and that is a form of cultural and organization innovation.
To create new products and IP
Who says an agency can’t invent the next Groupon or Instagram or Kickstarter. Our companies are filled with talented, creative, idea generating people. But most of us can only think like service companies. It’s why people like Matt Britton, who created Crowdtap, had to take his idea outside of his agency. Granted some of us are trying to do this with internal labs or various kinds of internal spinoffs, but it takes a software mindset rather than an agency mindset. You need to be faster, more agile and comfortable with prototyping.
To assure long term growth
We spend an inordinate amount of time maximizing how we deliver current services to current clients. Pitches drain our time and energy when we try to sell current services to new clients. It’s often a challenge to develop new services, products or IP for clients who came to us for a different reason. So maybe we ought to carve off at least a percentage of time, money and resources to invent new services or products for either our own firms or client companies who are willing to experiment with us. If one thing is certain it’s this: in transformative times incumbents rarely survive.
None of this is easy. We have to get buy-in, plant seeds, change people, discover new partners. But it beats sitting around watching other people do it first and admiring their accomplishments.
I’m hoping the MIMA sessions yield some great discussion and inspire some new ideas. Wouldn’t it be great if next year we were listening to someone in this year’s audience present their latest innovation.
I feel very fortunate to be among the 400 people invited to attend Google’s Zeitgeist 11. So many great talks and genuinely inspiring ideas. Here are a few of my favorites.
The brilliant Robert Reich on us and them. He talks about why we can’t (or won’t) solve unemployment or address poverty among families with children. Reason? Us and them. They are not one of us. They are not in our community of concern. They are not people with whom we share interdependency. Too bad he’s not running the country.
You may never have heard of Jean-Philippe Vergne, Professor, R. Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario. But he will give you an entirely new perspective on the value of inviting your users, customers, community into the creation of your brand and company. He argues that pirates and hackers actually make things better. Those in control not so much.
And finally, this young dude, Adam Braun. It’s not so much that he took up a cause, though he did. Or that he built 40 schools around the world, though he did. Rather it’s the idea that he has re-defined not-for-profit, labeling it “for-purpose,” and applying for profit principles and practices to Pencils of Promise.
There were many other great speakers and endless conversations about possibilities. You can find more of them on the Zeitgeist YouTube page. If you want to be totally blown away, watch some of the young minds talk about what they’re up to. You’ll either think you wasted your youth entirely, or that you better get on your kids’ asses real soon. If you’re a news junkie, check out Koppel and Ariana going at it(gently but still) in this panel conducted by New Yorker editor Nicholas Thompson.
Thanks to Google for sharing all of this content with those of us who attended and the many more who didn’t. Watch. Learn. Be inspired.
Imagine being hooked up to an IV bag. Only instead of saline it’s filled with a high concentration of inspiration. And instead of the bag being set on a slow drip, it’s turned all the way to the right, to “fire hose.” That was Google Zeitgeist 11. Themed Each of us, all of us, it was brilliantly choreographed by the fine folks at Google who assembled an amazing cast of characters, all of whom managed to thread the theme through their presentations.
Robert Reich crystallized all of America’s problems and solutions into the simple need for creating communities that build empathy and interdependence. (Is this the potential of social media?) Will write a post on that later.
Ariana Huffington and Ted Koppel presented opposing views (sort of) on the state of journalism. Koppel arguing that the news media only gives people what they want rather than what they need. Ariana’s position is that truth (objectivity doesn’t really exist in journalism) is better achieved by crowdsourcing, curating and greater participation rather than through the filtering that Koppel calls for. Especially when foreign governments and one reporter’s sources can game the system.
Jean Phillippe-Vergne brilliantly compared similarities among The Dutch East India Company, the BBC, AT&T, and National Institute of Health to show how new categories initially operating as state sanctioned monopolies become much better when the “pirates” influence and change them. Think back to the days when the British government had the BBC presenting (almost exclusively) religion and classical music. Supposedly it was good for you. Every one of those categories and organizations initially thought it was best served by aligning with government protection. But was it?
There were stories of success from moguls like Ted Branson and Eike Batista; examples of innovation from technology enthusiasts like Dr. Jay Parkinson (brilliant idea to be a digital doctor); and amazing demonstrations of passion and purpose from the likes of Dave Eggers (826 Valencia) and Robert Hammond and Joshua David who co-founded Friends of the High Line.
Over two days, presentation after presentation by young artists, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs filled attendees’ heads with all kinds of possibilities.
Through many of the presentations I detected a similar formula working again and again, both for its creators and for those of us in the business of marketing them. Here they are:
Listen to your dreams
Every presenter who had a success story to share, from Dave Eggers to Nathan Sawaya, had a nagging urge to do something that would make a difference. Granted Zeitgeist 11 featured only those who succeeded, but many did so against huge odds and despite skepticism.
Avoid the naysayers
This ran through almost every great story. So many people, from young entrepreneurs (Scooter Braun) to successful artists (Miral Kotb) had to free themselves from people who told them they were insane or that their idea would never work. You can’t have that negative energy around you and accomplish anything of significance.
Include the community
You would expect this at a session whose theme is Each of us, all of us. But in case after case – crowdsourcing designs for The High Line, for example – ideas got better when multiple constituents were involved and communities gathered behind a purpose.
Tell a story
We still need marketing. Whether you launch an idea on Kickstarter, sell your vision to one other person, or put up a website, the story you start and re-write as you go becomes a powerful magnet, attracting attention and inviting others to share it.
No one among the presenters knew exactly how they’d accomplish their goals when they got started. They just knew that they had a goal. They figured out how to navigate there way there as they went. Early failures simply turned into lessons that that helped build the strength needed to persevere.
Google that shit. At least that made Adam Braun’s list. To me it’s simply a reminder that we have a multi-billion dollar infrastructure that connects and enables almost anyone with an idea. Answers, resources, community are all there for our using and sharing. Master the tools and platforms and you have new ways of creating a business. Just look at what Dr. Jay Parkinson did.
When you come home from something like Zeitgeist 11 one of two things happens. You instantly get caught up in the reality and demands of your day job and your new found jolt of energy dissipates . Or you actually rethink what’s possible and actually do something. In which case the energy builds. I’m definitely going for the latter.