More than ten years ago a group of bright eyed students in London watched Dave Trott pace up and down in the front of the room ranting ever louder as he got himself all worked up about the world bank, and the poverty in the world. He was animated, he was agitated and most of all he had his name on three ad agency doors so we gave him our complete and undivided attention. It was at the end of the lecture, and he'd been dropping hints all along. "There's nothing stopping you guys from having a book full of creative things printed now - If you were creative enough to do it." soon followed by : "See I'm your target market."
The subject of the world bank was close to his heart, as he was convinced that the situation could be resolved by smart advertising. In broad strokes he briefed us of the scenario; four of the UK banks are in it, they lent money to the third world. The third world paid it all back already, but are now stuck paying back on the interest and making bad economic decisions in order to make the payments. If the four banks just walked away from that interest one day, the poor countries money could be used on medicine, water, and food for their own impoverished populations. But, one bank won't give up their interest unless all four banks do it. How do you make four different banks march in tune? Why advertising of course. Turn their customers against them, and they'll drop their claim. Those paying attention understood that this was to be our live brief until next time Trott came to lecture.
Trott as scribbled in my scrap book.
As the class strolled out of the room, three teams decided to actually do something. The 'dream team' Jan Dirk Bouw and David Bell decided to attack a bank on Whitfield St. and enlisted my help. Late on evening we stencilled white silouettes of starving children on the street outside the bank and red text on top that read something like: "this bank kills 30.000 children in the third world every day. Ask them why." I snapped a bunch of polaroids of the vandalism, which Dirk kept in his portfolio to show Mr. Trott.
Me and my then copywriter James decided to target the cashmachines instead, reasoning that people had to stand around and wait for the transaction to be approved, and would have time to read a longer message. He condensed the world bank situation to a short paragraph encouraging the reader to remove their money from the four world bank banks, and we copied it onto hundreds of stickers. We spent hours driving to every cash machine between Dave Trott's house and our school sticking stickers on them, and we left a letter in Dave's mailbox asking him to pick up some cash at a machine the morning of his lecture. Dave never got the letter. "You missed your target market!" he said laughing.
Juan from Spain, who worked alone at that time came up with a bizarre contrapment that stamped a message on the pavement as one walked along. He even built a prototype out of a mop, an old shoe and a shovel of some sort and demonstrated it in the lecture hall. It didn't go to well, some people laughed, Dave asked why it wasn't just ink coming out of a shoe that someone was wearing instead, Juan mumbled something about it not being quite finished... Dave turned his attention to the rest of the class. "So, what have you got?"
Some students pulled out their papers of maybe-ideas but Dave just waved it away, "Nonono, have you done anything?" Stunned silence. No. They had not. Someone protested that Dave never actually said they had homework to which Dave simply scoffed: "I gave you a problem, said that advertising could solve it, what more do you need?"
So why am I boring you with this story? Because this brief is always live really, and these days, you can actually do something that will be executed properly.
OpenAd.net teamed up with the Financial Times to create a competition ‘The World’s Toughest Briefs’ - much like the one Mr. Trott gave us so many years ago.
See more at the OpenAd project, one of the briefs was the "Make Poverty History" campaign, where the concept of a virtual G8 protest rally won just last week. You can see the result www.G8rally.com and it will feature at the g8 summit.
But thats not the only thing in connection to g8 going on over the web, Technorati Live 8 is their web-version of the Live 8 concert tour, but with blogging. Live 8's objectives are to double aid, fully cancel debt and deliver trade justice for Africa.
In ten years nothings changed much, there are 30,000 children dying in Africa every day still, even though now there are groups that try to boycott the world bank asking for a 100% debt cancellation. If you missed the opportunity to answer the FT/OpenAD brief, perhaps you could jump on this one, David Sifry reports that Richard Branson will fly five (US based) bloggers to Edinburgh and back with the Live 8 group. The idea is to spread the word on the web as far and wide as we can and together set the mainstream media's agenda. So if you blog, or know someone who does, or know a journalist, or fancy making "ads" in any guerrilla fashion you can think of in your home town about this current event, I suggest you get cracking right now.
Perhaps now Dave Trott's old brief will finally be solved.
P.S. If you do anything out on the streets as well as on the web, I would - and many adgrunts with me - love to see it so send me an email about it. Good luck!