Hippies or hipsters protesting? Is it the seventies all over again?

‘Peace through protest’ may sound the flavor of the month, or at least the theme of 2011, considering that peaceful uprisings overturned dictators during the so-called Arab Sprint.

But it reality, this is just the old recipe, delivered to our table on new tableware.

I watched a History Channel documentary on Nixon last night, and just seeing the short powerful segments when they cut away to the anti-Vietnam movement across the country made me realize this. You could cut-and-paste the present protest on Wall Street. Except for the bandanas and peace tattoos of the seventies, the similarities are striking.

People are fed up with their politicians (81 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed; confidence in Congress has dropped). They believe that the best way to send them a message is to show up on the street with hand-painted signs and chants.

OK, so we do have web sites, Twitter hash tags (#occupywallstreet) and Facebook, but it is easy to give too much credit to the mechanical tools of movements.

  • It does help when Salman Rusdie helps out with a tweet.
  • It does help when there is speculation that the Nobel peace prize this year may recognize Arab activists.
The revolution will not be televised.   But just watching the images, and the live stream makes you wonder if the hipsters have taken notes from their predecessors.
But what does this kind of speech, and technique forebode? Watch!

Once upon a tree –powerful outdoor activism

What does this look like?

Sure, a dead tree. But what did it give up its life for? Hint: It’s part of an outdoor campaign for forest conservation in China.

You’ll never rip open a pack of chopsticks again, just to play with it in a restaurant.

I just can’t resist campaigns like this where words become unnecessary. The trees were made from 80,000 pairs of used chopsticks, and ‘planted’ in public squares.

However if you prefer words, interactive outdoor is so much more powerful than some of the boring, static billboards we see around town for business schools, restaurants, movies.  Check this out: passers by are encouraged to text in their message, and watch as the words get changed to display it.

Think local, buy local, says Park&Co

You’ve probably seen how some cities (like this and this) have attempted to rein in local dollars and boost their economies with campaigns for buying local. We have our own push here with Local First Arizona, a non-profit group promoting your support of locally owned businesses throughout the state.

But apart from this move to nurture small businesses such as nurseries, nail parlors and ethnic restaurants, there is a lot of money moving out in terms of … advertising. Park & Co have put together a microsite featuring nine agencies (apart from Park&Co), with a push that urges companies to rethink where they s(p)end their dollars.

“You buy local produce, seek out locally owned stores, and drink local wines. So why go to other markets like L.A. for your advertising? Phoenix agencies offer a wealth of talent, from brand strategy and development to internationally award-winning creative, as well as innovative interactive campaigns and Hollywood-caliber film and video production. And you don’t have to look far.”

Park and CoAs Time magazine once put it, the buy-local trend “enhances the ‘velocity’ of money.” But most people only think of products, not services, says Park Howell, who says that it is time to focus on buying local business services, specifically advertising, creative and communications. “We’re promoting our competition because we’re big believers in a rising tide lifts all boats. There’s plenty of business to go around, so keep it local.”

Hopenhagen: inspiring creative, but no offline visibility?

I’ve seen a lot cause marketing campaigns, so perhaps my expectations are high for this one, particularly.

The presentation by Ogilvy Earth (yes they did set up a group with this name for sustainability-related clients) is eye opening,.

It hinges on the word ‘Hopenhagen‘ which initially struck me as yet another clever pun. But it’s been well thought out, to focus on this city less as a destination for activists and tree huggers, and more as a symbol, a buzz word, a starting point for conversations, individual and collective actions…

Two things going for it:

  • An impressive media-backing. Speaking of media, those donating TV, print, radio, online and ‘out-of-home’ media include The Economist, EuroNews, The Financial Times, GOOD Magazine, Google, Harvard Business Review, International Herald Tribune, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, Newsweek, Scientific American, Business India, Time Warner Cable, and a host of others. JFK and Los Angeles International airports, the Thomson Reuters building in Times Square, and even The Wall Street Journal, typically not supportive of such global warming attention, is also in this group.
  • The campaign is bristling with social media elements –with the usual suspects – Twitter, Facebook, a YouTube channel. There’s an interesting ‘passport’ to be obtained. I like how someone has setup a simple way to use the campaign as a Twitter background, at Twibbon.com.  The flash mob, that was also part of the campaign, and turned intio a video,  ‘sunbathing’ is very funny, though it’s not gone quite viral. Watch this:

But while all this is impressive and works well in the digital world, I was hoping to see more real world events, local visibility, community calls to action. Passports and online petitions can go so far.

The city of Copenhagen itself has adopted the campaign. Why stop with that?

  • Why shouldn’t citizens of other cities adopt the idea as well? Or claim ‘sister city’ status with Hopenhagen?
  • Where are the meet ups, the walks, the school programs, the spontaneous –copycat flash-mobs events, even– the engagement of utility companies, art venues, universities, churches and temples etc?

We get so focused on digital media, with its global reach, we often forget to communicate, through local channels, and our human networks. If people can change their Twitter background, they will be ready to change some aspects of their analog life as well, if only for a few weeks.

It’s not too late. If only Ogilvy Earth could get slightly more down to earth …

Love it when a chart beats a logo

GatesWatching last evening’s live webcast by Bill and Melinda Gates, I liked how Bill zipped past Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and the Windows logo, to note that these ‘pictures’ don’t compare to something completely different –a chart showing  decreasing infant mortality rates.

I love it when presentations don’t use graphics as a crutch. (Love it when the first slide is not the darn company logo, as if to remind the brain dead in the audience as to who is presenting! Full disclosure: I have committed this crime myself, and know it sucks!)

Love it when someone stops a canned PowerPoint preso and uses the flip chart instead to draw some crude Venn diagram or stick figure to explain the point. (If you’ve not read The Back of a Napkin, I highly recommend it, as I have done before like a broken record.)

In somewhat ironic news, this month, Gates (who owns Corbis) supposedly ‘expanded his stock photo empire’ with a small stake in Eastman Kodak.

Quotes of the week ending 17 October 09

“the largest-ever social change event on the Web…”

CNN, on the third, annual Blog Action Day. The topic this year was climate change. According to Blogpulse, number of posts about climate change on a given day shot up by 500%

“Sometimes I feel like we’re a colony of ants who’ve come across a cell phone…”

Peter Hagoort, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands. He was speaking of the way the brain processes thoughts and speech in milliseconds, but scientists still puzzle over how this happens.

“This is punitive. This is not just a matter of, ‘This is for the good of the company or the good of the nation.”

Banking analyst Nancy Bush, on the Treasury Dept, demanding that outgoing Bank of America CEO Kenneth D. Lewis returns about $1 million he received so far this year plus his $1.5 million salary for 2009

“iTunes is a pain in the posterior, and I never use it unless I absolutely have to.”

Sallie Goetsch, (she of the Podcast Asylum, a podcast and blog consultancy) in a contribution to For Immediate Release podcast

“Is print dead? No, but it just got a little less tasty.”

Jen Zingsheim, of Custom Scoop, on news that Conde Naste will be shutting down Gourmet Magazine

Quotes for the week, ending 25 Sept 2009

“Lots of traffic, lots of talking, lots of everything. But listening to each other…”

Title card in YouTube video aimed at the leaders attending the UN General Assembly in New York this week. The video-as-open letter was by RelaxZen, a mood-altering drink –that was shipped to every world leader.

“We’ve also re-engaged the United Nations. We have paid our bills….”

Barack Obama, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, on the commitment of the US to change.

“You are only as relevant as their problem, and your pitch has to be empathetic of their situation.”

Nathan Wagner, Relevant Chews,on selling

“But of course we’re meeting all the time. We’re both involved in all the main meetings and talk all the time.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, responding to claim that Number 10 was snubbed by the White House, with regard to a personal meeting between the two heads of state.

“LookingGlass automatically rates each posting as positive or negative, so the Zune HD team could rank comments according to sentiment and see how customers are responding to the product and the campaign to sell it.”

Microsoft statement about its new image management tool that lets companies monitor, analyze and engage in social media, via its Silverlight technology

“These Squidoo lenses are for sale.”

Ike Pigott, at Media Bullseye, on Seth Godin’s rebranding Squidoo as a social engine that aggregates online chatter about a brand or company.  Pigott also calls this a sinister act of piracy! Squidoo already has “900,000 hand built lenses.”


Soundtrack from the Bollywood movie, Blue, featuring Kylie Minogue and Oscar-winning composer, A.R. Rahman –he of of Slumdog Millionaire.