I still remember it like it was yesterday. My dad (always one of the early adopters) brought home our brand new, round-screen RCA Victor Color television set. He plugged it in, adjusted the rabbit ears and turned it on. With a low pitched hum, starting slowly from a single dot in the middle of the screen, the screen grew to reveal an ABC news broadcast already underway. Eagerly, we three kids leaned in to be able to see “color TV” for the first time. The problem was, the local TV station wasn’t broadcasting in color yet. So we had a wonderful color TV set that we didn’t get to actually see a color program on for about another three months.
Fast forward to the year 2010. We’re all supposed to just think about TV and it magically pops up, filling an entire glass room in our home, right?
Oh sure, we have 1080p high definition on 120 channels or so, but we’re still very much in the dark ages when it comes to the local affiliate commercial break. It seems as though someone forgot to notify the local broadcast channels in just about every US market that the local breaks are still sponsored by local advertisers.
Even though stations happily broadcast the network feeds in hi-def and tout their HD coverage, the local slot is filled with wonderful lo-def mediocrity. Which means for clients and agencies: that $1.5 million dollar TV ad campaign you just authored in hi-def? Well, it is going to be shown in standard definition. In most cases, in the old 4:3 format of older tube-type televisions.
Welcome to 1965 all over again.
So picture me on a soapbox now, screaming at the top of my lungs at every local affiliate that will invest in the equipment to broadcast a network feed, but won’t take the small added step of upgrading their carting equipment, so they can show local spots in hi-def as well. Fine. That’s okay, we’re just the ones paying to keep the lights on.
Following this logic, may I tell my clients that we can’t do their website or handle their social influence because we’d rather not spend the money to pay for an internet connection? I’m thinking, no. They would fire us and move on to someone who would. We spend months poring over our creative product to make it the very best it can be, and then unless we are prepared to do a national network buy, we are saddled with playing that television spot through the digital equivalent of gauze.
This is not a difficult request. But it does take influence. I suppose there are just too many advertisers out there who are willing to settle for mediocrity. Until the silent majority of local advertisers who are willing to settle for less than top quality will take a stand and demand better, we might as well break out the hip boots and Peter Maxx posters.
The social media realm is abuzz over Pinterest and possible trademark and copyright infringements. We’ve seen the articles, blogs, etc. on how this pin-board style portal is enabling millions of people to illegally share all kinds of things they don’t “own”. Is this a big deal? Perhaps it is worthy of debate, but let me ask you this. Who isn’t guilty of sharing things that aren’t technically theirs via an array of other online activities like re-posting, re-tweeting, emailing, and so on. The concept isn’t new; it just so happens that Pinterest is a pioneering proponent for such online behavior. Companies and brands should stop protesting, and start developing their plan for the social site. Is it right for your brand? How can you use it to leverage relationships with customers, especially if they’re women? Don’t waste time debating whether or not it’s legit. In just one year, the site has gone from zero to more than 10 million registered users. To us, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are in good company with our new friend Pin.
Crowdsourcing. All you have to do is utter the word around creative people and you’ll watch a room quickly divide into proponents and naysayers.
Critics love to point at examples like Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Brammo logo project, in which hundreds of designers slaved for a mere $1000. Some designers will tell you that it devalues their thinking; all you have to do is search for the #nospec tag on Twitter to see hundreds of comments opposed to crowdsourcing and specifically to the Brammo contest. (It goes without saying that Bogusky got far more than a thousand bucks worth of buzz out of the competition.)
Another hotbed for discussion of the crowdsourcing movement has been Edward Boches’ blog, where you’ll find more than a few of my comments on the subject as well.
But let’s put aside the debate over crowdsourcing as a source of cheap labor. Let me offer you a better example. One that I think is more pure, more joyful — and in my opinion more promising, as a place where the crowdsourcing movement can lead.
One of my favorite musicians in the world is a singer songwriter out of Austin, Texas named Darden Smith. Check him out. To me, the songs he writes feel like Austin: smart, simple, contemporary, yet firmly rooted in the Texas tradition.
But as much as he enjoys recording CDs and touring the US and UK, Darden gets his greatest joy these days out of something else. It’s a program he created in 2003, called Be An Artist. Professional musicians go into the schools, work with the kids, and before the end of the day, the kids have written a song together. And to hear Darden tell it, sometimes they’re pretty darn good.
But what’s important isn’t the song that results. (Although if you want to check out a few of the songs from Darden Smith’s Be An Artist project, click here.) Is a class full of 2nd graders going to write a better song than a perennial Grammy-winning songwriter team? Um, not every time. And probably, not as often.
But that isn’t the point.
To quote Darden: “Everyone is an artist at something. Everyone is creative. Art surrounds us, from the clothes we wear, the car we ride in, to the music we listen to and the buildings we live in. There’s no escaping it! The Big Three: attention, intention, & the love of doing something. If you have those ingredients, you’re making art.”
Smith isn’t crowdsourcing songs in search of a chartbusting hit. He writes pretty damn fine songs already, thank you.
His motivation lies not in the song that results that afternoon, but in what they’re really creating: a generation of kids more interested in the arts, and more confident in themselves as creative people.
It’s all about the engagement.
Stony Brook University Medical Center captured the Gold Award for best total campaign for an Academic Medical Center at the 2009 Aster Awards. Individual honors went to Stony Brook’s microsite and print advertising. Clients Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Medical Center and the University of Virginia Health System were also recognized for a total of nine Aster awards. In addition, Lewis clients received ten honors in the 2009 Healthcare Marketing Awards.
The headline in Monday’s Tennessean read simply, “Overwhelmed.”
Fourteen inches of rain in two days will do that to a city.
And it’s easy to feel that way yourself when you see entire neighborhoods under water. When a grotesquely swollen river swallows your city’s most recognizable landmarks. When the inventories of entire lives sit ruined at the curb. When you learn that at least eighteen of your neighbors have lost their lives, swept away by the unstoppable water.
In Lewis’ Nashville office, we feel incredibly fortunate that everyone here came through this catastrophe relatively unscathed. I’ve never felt so lucky to have a leaky roof.
As the floodwaters recede, the clean up begins. Despite the once-in-a-thousand years nature of this devastating flood, my hope is that what we remember is how the people of Nashville and Middle Tennessee came together to care for each other.
My fellow Tennesseans apparently have the same hope. Volunteer organization Hands On Nashville’s website has crashed several times this week because so many people want to sign up and help. On Monday morning, the Davidson County Animal Shelter let it be known that they needed food for animals rescued from the flood. By Monday evening, the pile of donated pet food blocked the halls and reached the ceiling. And, this being Music City, shows benefiting flood victims are popping up at venues all over town. The Volunteer State has never deserved its nickname more than it does right now.
But we can always use a few more extra hands.
To donate your time:
Second Harvest Food Bank
Second Harvest needs volunteers to sort food and transport meals for the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. They also need monetary donations.
To donate money: