Review: Creative for a Cause – 7 June 2010

I was pretty unfair to judge Creative Sydney on its launch- all launches are somewhat glamourised, pretentious affairs, where networking is about judging a book by its designer cover.

This forum was a better indicator of the philosophies behind the festival -idealistic, but still achievable and definitely more ‘Everyday People’ -friendly than the launch party.

Last night’s program showcased some AMAZING projects and ideas. Alas I only have room to talk about two speakers.

I was a little skeptical with the first speaker being in advertising, but he soon showed he was worthy of serious attention.

Barry Mowszowski may be confident, but he also seems earnest. He really believes what he’s saying. Big companies can play a role in helping those in need. Consumers can expect more from the companies they give their money to. With his enthusiasm, I can’t help but believe there is hope too.

An advertiser who works with Coca-Cola and Heineken, he is already aware of the reputation he has to work against. During the fires, Australian firefighters were given bottled water without anyone knowing about it (except that those who saw the labels on the bottles they were consuming). Heineken created an ad campaign that encouraged self-awareness instead of irresponsible drinking (which it had helped cultivate in the first place).

Yes, you could say that the altruistic actions of these companies are a little tokenistic given the scale of problems that they are contributing to.

But look at the Tap Project or the Million program. The Tap Project charges patrons at restaurants $1 for tap water – which it then gives to UNICEF to provide clean water for those who don’t have that privilege. The Million program encourages students to stay in school by providing incentive- the students are rewarded points for attendance in school, performance and behaviour and these are exchanged for talk and text time and downloads.

Barry argues that companies should consider cultural KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), not just shareholder driven, ‘business’ KPIs. The wider community benefits, and the company still benefits. It may have to lose some of its profit, but it will be investing in the future generation of customers, the ones who demand more than just a physical product.

Hear hear!

One more question from the skeptics: Will Coca-Cola etc ever own up to the responsibility of obesity in its customers, or other health problems that it has helped create?

Not likely. But baby steps are possible. It is about always trying to do just a little bit more.

Chris Ying from McSweeney’s was more frank and demanding on the role that businesses must play in helping the community.

We are a disorganized publishing house – but even we can still help. People have no excuses. There is always room to help.

Let me list the mammoth good that these guys, in their ‘little rat-infested building’, do:

  1. Voice of Witness series – an oral history series where people who have gone through systemic human rights injustices can record their stories and get paid for their contributions.
  2. Dave Eggers’ ‘What is the What’ and ‘Zeitoun’ – proceeds go to non-profit organizations, including building a secondary school!
  3. 826 Valencia – free tutoring centres for kids.

They say that they don’t have a mission statement or such – just that the books and projects they seem to fund tend to be those that lend themselves to charity.

“There is room in almost any business model to give money to charity.”

Instead of using techniques to increase profits, use it to be charitable.

Simple concept, huh?

Let me leave you with something that cracked up every single person in the room (and made me cheer A LOT inside).

When the 826 Valencia project found out that the zoning restrictions prevented the free tutoring to be run unless “they sold something”, they didn’t think that it was an insurmountable task.

They simply built a PIRATE STORE.

Because obviously there was a lack of businesses selling pirate attire in the region…

There are a million ways that don’t work and a million excuses. But you only need for it to work in one way.. Isn’t that the proverb?

There are some happy pirates walking around tonight!

Click here for the CREATIVE FOR A CAUSE Creative Sydney session being reviewed.


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One response to “Review: Creative for a Cause – 7 June 2010

  1. thanks for reviewing guys, its good to read some of what I hoped to catch…

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