I must admit, I’ve been surprised by some of the ads I’ve seen in the last couple weeks. It seems that the most powerful, memorable ads are all coming out of the not-for-profit sector promoting various social causes. It’s great to see the cause-based organizations embracing the power of social media and experiential marking, putting out great creative work, and getting the attention they need. Here are the four most impactful ads that have come across my newsfeed recently.

1.  The Dress

It was only a couple weeks ago that the Internet went crazy trying to solve the most important mystery in ages: Is the dress black and blue, or white and gold. The dress, pictured below, divided the Internet into teams fully entrenched in their sides, something not seen since Team Edward vs. Team Jacob.

150226215539-black-blue-dress-super-169

Capitalizing on this topic, the Salvation Army in South Africa put our this ad, highlighting the startling statistic that one in six women will be the victim of domestic violence. It kind of puts into perspective what the real conversation should be.

TheDress-domestic-violence-ad

2.  The Billboard

Keeping on the topic of domestic violence, the UK organization, Women’s Aid, used technology along with traditional out-of-home advertising to give the perfect demonstration about how to help fight violence in the home – don’t turn a blind eye to it.   The billboard showed the face of an abused women, complete with black eye, swollen lips, and bloody nose. A camera equipped with facial recognition software watched as people walked by. The camera monitored people as they passed by, and as they looked at the billboard, the image began to change. The more people looked, the more the faced healed. You can see more detail about how the billboard worked in the video below.

To learn more about Women’s Aid, visit http://www.womensaid.org.uk

3.  Kids Read Mean Tweets

Jimmy Kimmel, host of the late night talk show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” has had a lot of success with its segment, “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets”. In this segment, famous people read real tweets, written about them by the public, and are always extremely mean and offensive.

The organization, The Canadian Safe School Network duplicated this segment by replacing the celebrities with teenagers, but keeping the tweets just as mean spirited as Kimmel’s show. The clip starts with a laugh track, but as the tweets are read, gradually dwindle leaving the audience with the realization that maybe this isn’t a joke after all.

Visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/kids-read-mean-tweets–3 to see how you can help support this campaign.

4.  Guns With History

Many people believe that gun violence in the United States is reaching an epidemic level. States United to Prevent Gun Violence, a not-for-profit created an experiential campaign called “Guns with History” by opening a gun store in Manhattan. It seems counterintuitive to their mandate, but instead of selling the features of each gun, the salesman told the story of each gun’s deadly past. From Sandy Hook to the story of a little boy shooting his nine-year-old brother, the customers learn about the innocent lives taken as a result of gun violence.

Their website, www.gunswithhistory.com is a mock up of an online retail store that lists their catalogue of guns, complete with specs and news story of a life that was lost due that particular gun.

I wrote about the anti-vaxxer movement a while back, found here. At that time I focused a lot on the science and research surrounding the issue. Since then hundreds of people have been infected with the measles virus, most notably from an outbreak that occurred recently at Disneyland in California.

So it’s not the blog that’s back with a vengeance, but measles itself. The disease was declared eradicated 15 years ago, but has seen a resurgence as a result of the anti-vaxxer movement. There has been considerable media coverage since the outbreak highlighting the fact that all of the infected have been non-vaccinated people.

It seems that the anti-vaxxers are changing their strategy a bit. The rhetoric they use is shifting from the very specific and very disproved, “vaccine’s cause autism”, to more vague arguments like “I just don’t like the idea of injecting kids with chemicals.” The challenge with this is that it’s more difficult to disprove these ideas with scientific evidence. The problem with these ideas is that they are completely illogical. This tactic is becoming commonplace with health advocates who promote non-science-based health awareness, such as the Food Babe. They use fear-mongering tactics with easy to remember philosophies like “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it”. Unfortunately, this is promoting ignorance over rational thought. Following this line of reasoning would result in starving to death. You couldn’t even eat a banana as its chemical composition is fairly complex.

 banana

 A lot of parents have also made the faulty assumption that measles isn’t dangerous. They go on TV and say things like “Well I don’t know anyone that has died from measles.” While this might be true, it serves to highlight a really important point – vaccines work. The reason death rate due to measles is so low is because most people have been vaccinated. They try and create conspiracy theories like “The pharmaceutical industry is making billions of dollars of vaccinations.” Again, this might be true, but the follow up question should be “…And?” Why does it matter if a company is making money from vaccines? Even if you live a healthy lifestyle on organic foods and homeopathic treatments, those businesses aren’t giving their product away for free either. In fact, the health and wellness industry is worth over one trillion US dollars. The fact that someone is earning a profit should not compromise the safety of your children.

I understand that this isn’t a black and white situation. Most parents aren’t trying to be negligent.  They are legitimately doing what they think is best for their kids.  But that doesn’t change the fact that what they are doing can be harmful to their kids, and the kids of others.  So where do we draw the line between individual freedom and community safety? I don’t support government-mandated vaccinations, but I have heard of movements to get non-vaccinated children banned from schools. This seems harsh, but also fitting. If parents believe so strongly that they shouldn’t vaccinate, then they don’t have to.  But they don’t have the right to endanger the lives of others, so they’ll have to change their lifestyle to homeschool their children, so the rest of society doesn’t have to be jeopardized.

A good resource to get information on vaccinations is an upcoming awareness campaign called Vaxaware. They will feature a series of web videos being launched very soon. In the meantime, check out their facebook page for updates:

http://www.facebook.com/vaxaware

plug

For the last year or so, I’ve been working on the biggest project I’ve ever taken on.  The task was to create a product that has a marketable aspect.  This could mean writing a book, producing a documentary, or in my case, organizing a fundraising event.

I struggled for quite a while trying to come up with what type of event I wanted to organize.  The easiest concept would be a gala dinner, but no one really likes gala dinners.  Even if you support the cause, you’re stuck sitting a table full of strangers making awkward small talk about what the name of that little orange fruit is that’s always used as a garnish.  It looks a little like a cherry tomato, but it also might be some kind of large berry.  Then you politely chuckle at the keynote speakers jokes.  I don’t deny the effectiveness of gala dinners, and many organizations love to support them, but I don’t think I would enjoy dedicating a year to planning one.  So if a traditional fundraiser was off the table, what then?

One of the things I’ve come to realize, is that as much as I love movies, I could never relate to the “traditional” high school experience depicted in Hollywood and on TV.  The main reason is that I loved my high school experience.  I never dreaded bullies, or jocks, or the cool cliques.  When I look back now, one of the main reasons I had such a great experience was because of the sports I was able to play.  While I played most sports, track and field, and badminton were my sports of choice.  The competitions, trips, and even the 7 a.m. practices all made high school a great experience.  The benefits go far beyond just the fun and games or even the health benefits that came with playing sports.  I think that more importantly, it’s the intangibles that have left the greatest impact on me.  Being able to participate in sports helped teach me how to set a goal and have the determination to work hard to achieve it.  I learned to have the confidence in myself – that I had the skills to reach my goals.  I learned how to be part of a team and the satisfaction of winning.  One of the greatest lessons I learned was how to pick myself up after falling on my face.  Literally.  In front of a giant crowd.  In front of my crush. I didn’t win the race or the girl, but I did come back the next year to win the Provincial Championships.  My feelings toward sports made it an easy decision to make my event support Kidsport Winnipeg, a not-for-profit which works to remove financial barriers so all kids can participate in sports, where currently one-third of all Canadian children can’t play sports due to the financial costs.

So now that I have a cause I wanted to support, that left me with having to figure out an actual event.  The gala dinner was still in my head as it seemed the most obvious choice.  But what if I could make the dinner fun?  Let’s play some games at the dinner.  Since I love rock climbing, maybe we could bring in a climbing wall for people to climb.  Then I realized the event I wanted was backwards.  Instead of a dinner event with climbing, why not a climbing event with dinner?  This was how Climb for Kids was born.  From there the event grew into a 24 hour climb-a-thon which also includes a Guinness World Record attempt for the record of “The Fastest Time to Climb the Height of Everest on an Indoor Wall (team)”.  There will be games and maybe even some live entertainment.

Climb for Kids is two weeks away and the year of stress and excitement is almost over.  There have been a ton of people helping me get through this and I can’t thank them enough.  There’s a lot that can still go wrong.  I could fall on my face again – in front of a crowd of people and my crush.  Or maybe I can make this climbing event unlike any that’s been done in Winnipeg before.

If you would like to help give kids the opportunity to participate in sports, you can make a donation to Kidsport Winnipeg by clicking here.  Under the comments section, simply write “Climb for Kids”.  All donations over $25 will receive a tax receipt.

For more information on the event itself, visit the website here.

*Deep breaths.
Two more weeks.
*Deep breaths.

cfk logo 2

My last blog post was about the attacks on our rights to freedom of speech.  It’s been just over a week since the violent attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo, and now most of the dust has settled.  One of the things that has become clear is that people believe that freedom of speech is a fundamental right.  One in a half million French citizens took to the street to show their support for Charlie Hebdo and to show they will not be threatened into silence.  This was the largest public display of support in the countries history.  The latest issue of Charlie Hebdo had people lined up for hours to get a copy.  They even printed three million copies of this issue, up from the normal 60 thousand.

This photo shows just a fraction of the people who gathered in Paris, France to show their support for their freedom of speech.

paris arial

There are however, several groups who would argue otherwise.  Obviously, the extremists who perpetrated and supported the violent attacks are on this list.  The Pope also recently spoke out about not making fun of religion.  The French government, despite joining the march in the street, recently arrested a comedian for making an offensive Facebook post.  The UK is proposing banning communication apps such as Whatsapp and Snapchat because they can potentially be used by terrorists.  A Saudi Arabian blogger has been sentenced to 1000 lashings for promoting atheism.  The United States is trying to once again pass CISPA legislation.

The lesson we can take away from this?  Free speech is what everyone wants, unless you are a person or organization with power to lose.

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks in the world of free speech.  First, Sony was the victim of a cyber-attack in which the hackers release confidential emails and even leaked several movies ahead of their release date.  The attacks allegedly came from North Korea as they took offense to the movie “The Interview” being released.  The Interview starred Seth Rogan and James Franco as they embarked on a mission to assassinate North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un.  Then, just two days ago, the office of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirist newspaper, was attacked by several gunmen in retaliation for the magazine’s depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

These attacks need to be taken seriously.  Not for the obvious, tragic loss of lives, but for another reason – they appear to be working.  After vague “9/11” threats were made against anyone that showed The Interview, theatre owners cancelled the shows and Sony ended up pulling the movie all together. After about a week or so, Sony began to back pedal claiming it was the theatres who were refusing to show the movie, and in the end, a handful of independent theatres and online streaming serves showed the movie.

In the case of Charlie Hebdo, they were no strangers to the threat of terrorism.  In 2011 their office was fire bombed after they published a cover depicting the Prophet Muhammad.  Following the attack, one of the editors said, “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.” A philosophy that seemed to represent the entire newspaper.  Now, in the aftermath of the shootings, the media and all their talking heads are theorizing about all the ways this could have been prevented, should the rest of the world be afraid, and is this representative of Islam as a religion.  They have no fear of showing the gunman walking down the street, cutting the clip a second before a wounded police officer is executed on a sidewalk.  What many outlets are not showing are the covers of Charlie Hebdo.  Even online magazines trying to capitalize on the tragedy with lists like “10 insane Charlie Hebdo covers” aren’t including the various covers depicting Muhammad.  Showing the violence of the gunmen, while not showing the newspaper covers only glorifies the violence without revealing the true absurdity of it.  Fear of offending people means terrorists 1, media 0.

For the curious, this was the cover that resulted in the magazine being firebombed.

muhammad
The text reads: 100 lashes if you don’t die laughing!

And this was the scene from “The Interview” that North Korea was so upset about (spoiler alert).

Freedom of speech is the most important freedom we have.  It is only through freedom of speech that we are able to fight for any and every other freedom.  The only way we can ever change the world is to question it.  No person, group, idea, or belief is above being challenged.  None.  There will always be someone who doesn’t want to hear something, but we need to move past the notion that censorship is acceptable to spare someone from being offended.

The families and friends of the victims should know that the staff died as heroes fighting for our freedom.

Here are some tributes from fellow cartoonists that have come out in response to the attack.

NBA I can't breathe

The last couple of weeks have been a riot.  Literally.  It looks like things have reached a boiling point in the States after Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American teen was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer this past summer.  This sparked a series of protests as the African-American community saw this as another example of an unarmed black person killed by a white police officer.  Things escalated quickly when the police responded to aggressively to protests with military equipment used in Iraq.  Fast forward to November 24 when a grand jury chose not to indict Wilson for his actions, resulting in the destruction of several stores and police cars as the community protested and rioted.

Protests began emerging in cities across the U.S. with people using the slogan “Hands up.  Don’t shoot”, a phrase referencing the fact that many witnesses stated Brown had his hands raised in surrender before being shot.

Just over a week later, a separate grand jury chose not to indict Staten Island police officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner, another unarmed African-American.  This event was caught on video as Pantaleo can be seen putting Garner in a choke hold as a group of officers tries to arrest him.  The video also captures Garner repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”, which has been adopted by protestors as their slogan.  Several players even showed their support publicly by wearing T-shirts with “I can’t breathe” written on them for their pregame warm up.

There are two major problems I see with the situation.

First, both Brown and Garner weren’t innocent.  Brown had just violently robbed a convenience store, and Garner was resisting arrest.  Using these victims as the face of the movement gives critics some ground to justify the actions taken by the police and state that all of these events are merely isolated incidents.  Including even one example where the police may have been justified allows the opposition to throw out all of the other legitimate examples of racism and extreme police actions.  This leads to the second problem.

Who wants to wait until another innocent, unarmed African-American is killed?  How many people have to die before it is recognized as more than a bunch of isolated incidents?  The momentum exists now – use it.  The conversations are taking place right now because of the protests.  The violence and looting is only helping critics change the framing of the conversation, so protests remain peaceful, I believe that significant change is possible.

Here’s a time lapse video of a recent protest in NYC with more than 10,000 people marching.

I call them the Holy Trinity.  The Father, Jon Stewart, The Son, Stephen Colbert (the spinoff of The Daily Show), and the Holy Ghost, John Oliver (because he’s a pasty English guy).  I’ve previously written about Stewart and Oliver, so it’s time to finish up.  Unfortunately, this post is also a farewell as there are only a handful of shows left for Colbert.  Ironically, its Colbert’s success on the Colbert Report which is the reason he’s moving on.

After nine years, several books, multiple awards included Emmys, a Peabody award, and a Grammy, Stephen Colbert is leaving the Colbert Report to take over the hosting duties of Dave Letterman on “The Late Show”.  While he is taking the Colbert name with him, the right-wing caricature he portrays will not be making the transition.

Despite playing a caricature, Colbert has made an impact in the political world testifying in front of Congress on the issue of immigrant farm labour, and even attempting to get his name put on the primary election in South Carolina to run for President of the United States.  I’ve always felt his strongest contribution to the world of politics was his exposure of super pacs and just how ludicrous the Citizens United bill is.  The bill stated that corporations are people and money equals free speech, therefore, corporations are allowed to make unlimited financial donations to political causes.  These politicians and corporations are then able to take these unlimited donations and hide them using super pacs, in essence, a legal form of money laundering.  Colbert demonstrated just how the system works by creating a super pac of his own.  The situation is best illustrated in this video:

The Colbert Nation may be coming to an end, but it’s s on its own terms.  Here are two of my favourite moments from the show. The first takes place during a dark time on the internet, the peak in popularity of Rebecca Black’s song Friday.  Colbert put the annoying song to rest with a guest appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s show.

Finally, my all time favourite moment, they time Colbert broke character talking about his super pac.  Enjoy.