The other day, two links came into my stream at the same time. One was for this poster to quell the violence in London. The other was for this site to solicit aid ideas in support of East Africa’s famine.
One presented a message. One offered utility. The ad went in one direction only. The site encouraged participation and user-generated ideas. The one-way message seemed to scream “look at me, aren’t I clever?” The request for ideas, which may or may not work, simply said, “we’re not sure what to do, but maybe together we can figure something out.”
Don’t get me wrong, I like ads. Including this one. I’ve spent a good deal of my career making them and celebrating their ability to inform, inspire and entertain. I admire the craft that goes into executions that are both beautiful to look and a pleasure to read.
But something about this juxtaposition dramatizes the point that ideas that say are far, far less meaningful or motivating than ideas that do.
Obviously the poster is a parody — one of many — of the famous 1939 Ministry of Information banner, which may or may not have worked to promote morale in the middle of World War I. So yes, it’s a bit unfair using it make my point. Nevertheless, it serves as a reminder that we need to build things that involve our community, invite participation and lead to action rather than simply say things. Especially in times like these.