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.

Quotes for the week, ending 15 August 2009

“We’ve just had a demonstration of democracy.”

Senator Arlen Specter, after a person attending a town hall meeting shouted at him. The man was escorted out of the room, at a Harrisburg Community College.

“The Obama administration has delivered … a message of tough love. We are not sugarcoating the problems. We’re not shying away from them.”

Secretary Hillary Clinton, summing up her trip to Africa

“The Internet disrupts any industry whose core product can be reduced to ones and zeros ..it is the biggest virgin forest out there”

Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of education startup Knewton

“Doing sustainability is fine, but being sustainable is where we want to wind up.”

Michelle Bernhart, author of “The Rules of the Game” in an upcoming edition of IABC’s Communication World magazine, interviewed by Natasha Nicholson.

“FriendFeed, in my mind, is the new RSS reader.”

Robert Quigley in Old Media New Tricks

“Macaca Day, for those of us who make our living from video on the Internet and elsewhere, is a holy day – the day that marks the birth of YouTube politics, and reminds us that citizens with cellphone cameras and a YouTube account – or at least an election.”

Dan Manatt, at Tech President, on the infamous comment by senator George Allen during the election campaign

“Google Voice “is merely symptomatic of that larger question.”

Ben Scott, public policy director of Free Press, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group in Washington, on the investigation on whether the carrier (AT&T) and handset maker (Apple) had anything to do with banning Google’s voice application from the iPhone.

“This is a decision based upon consumer experiences, child protection and our strategic investment to build up MSN Messenger.”

Geoff Sutton, GM of MSN Europe, on the decision to shut down Microsoft chat rooms in 28 countries.





Twitter and the politics of Iran

Follow up to my previous post on Iran.

People have devised two ways for people caught in the middle of the crisis to anonymously post to Twitter.

In related news -related to the perceived power of Twitter over censorship — the State Department apparently asked the folks at Twitter to postpone a scheduled maintenance shutdown. According to this AP report the request was made “to keep information flowing from inside Iran amid the growing crisis over its disputed election.”

Oddly enough, as this is is being posted, Twitter is down for maintenance! On the Twitter blog, they had this to say:

“our network partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran. Tonight’s planned maintenance has been rescheduled to tomorrow between 2-3p PST (1:30a in Iran).”

As Andrew Sullivan observed in the Atlantic, The revolution will be Twittered.

Cross-pollinating content benefits you, me, Mark and Rupert

Two things made me think about how content might begin to flow across networks.

The first was watching Charlene Li at South By Southwest (the video) ask about ‘what will it take Faceboook and MySpace, Google and Yahoo play nice, and allow us to migrate data backa and forth.

The second a news item I heard Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson talk about, where The Guardian is letting developers access its API use its Open Platform to re-purpose content.

This is where all media organizations have been hesitant to go, because they see their content as the crown jewels. I don’t blame them, for now. But what happens when content tends to get created by people outside the organization? By freelancers, by citizen journalists who are so coveted by everyone from the CNNs of this world to local newspapers. Wouldn’t they want to take their content with them, to their Facebook page or blog? Facebook is learning this the hard way –via Facebook protests like this!

It’s coming to a point when cross-pollinated content –for want of a better term– will be more valuable than the original. That’s why the mash-up video is so much more compelling than the original ad, the curated content and the RSS feed more rewarding than a visit to the source.

If you take this blog post and add a new dimension to it, add a few links, sidebars and comments, my readers might find it more interesting than the original piece. Yes, we are going to bump into copyright issues, but along the way we are going to learn to ‘play nice’ as Charlene said.

Speaking of which, just today, the copyright owner Rob Cottingham, emailed me to say how much he loved the use of his cartoon in a post about Twitter on IABC xChange. He asked if I could give him credit, which I promptly did. Just that small gesture of asking and not suing made his cartoon and my post that much more valuable. (The one used above is his as well and perfect for the SXSW conference I referenced.) Who knows, Rob’s cartoons, Noise To Signal, might influence someone to think harder and bring more clarity to a topic becuase he decided to let his content migrate into mine.

Maybe Murdock and Zukerberg could learn something from Cottingham.

Dire warning against dumbing down education in Arizona

As soon as details about budget cuts affecting education in the state (K-12 funding to be cut by $ 900 million, state university funding by $243 million) became known, the voices calling for such short-sighted actions have begun growing.

A few students put together a Facebook group, and an information-rich web site at SpeakUpNow.org

It includes a short video on Vimeo – watch this, links to members of the state legislature, and other ways to get more voices be heard.

I write about this not just to track how social media is being used to bring people together for a common cause. I have a personal stake in this. I work at Arizona State University, one of the three universities that will be forced to take drastic steps (massive layoffs and astronomical tuition increases) if these cuts go through.

Personal stake #2: My  son is a freshman at Northern Arizona University and I would not want to see Arizona dumbing down its education even further.

This is serious stuff folks.


See how they have responded: