Advertising an Issue, Then & Now

While we can laugh at the 70’s style , the ‘crying Indian’ ad is still legendary in environmental circles. It rallied a nation to care about their environment, and to support creation of clean air and water regulations.

What strikes me today is how light the pollution and litter look.

The Issue has Changed & So Has Marketing

Compared to what washes up along the Potomac River today, the video’s litter looks cute. At this year’s annual river cleanup, volunteers removed over 300,000 pounds of plastic bags and bottles, foam cups (all light weight materials) in three hours. Walk the shore a week after and it’s covered again; the tide of trash is relentless.

The Ferguson Foundation has been working on river cleanup for 28 years. When I first took part in 2003 they called their effort “Trash-Free Potomac 2013.” They’ve since dropped the date. But the work goes on, and it really engages people to care about the river.

But there’s worse things fouling the waters. Excess ‘nutrients’ from farms, sewage, run-off and lawn fertilizers are choking our streams, rivers and bays with aquatic plant overgrowth and algal blooms. This disturbs and eventually ruins habitats, and can even create dangerously toxic conditions. 

Few people take time to consider how lawn chemicals, street run-off or farm waste are affecting their natural environment. There are campaigns to educate the public, but they aren’t as widely seen as the public service campaigns of the 70’s.

This video by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is probably only viewed by people on their mailing lists or or those who seek them out. Too long for TV, it’s not likely to reach as broad an audience as our Indian, above.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years. Habitat destruction, poaching and pollution have eliminated half of the living creatures on the planet.

“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is a consequence of the way we choose to live. Nature, which provides food and clean water and air, is essential for human wellbeing.”

That we need marketing to convince us the the natural world is essential strikes me as absurd, but in our busy-busy world it’s somehow become the norm to take the natural world for granted.

One of the biggest challenges today is the multitude of media channels, unimaginable in the 70s. Network TV no longer reaches families – people from multiple generations -watching the evening news together at the dinner table.

Messages must be targeted not only in content but especially by delivery. I recently marketed a musical event relying heavily on Twitter and Facebook, and missed a swath of an older audience. Not a mistake I will make again!

If you had to mount a campaign to protect your favorite cause, where would you start?

How would you prioritize the audience? What channels would you choose to reach them, and why?

Visual Information: Impact of Vacinations

In a clear and compelling illustration, these charts of disease incidence before and after the introduction of vaccines show dramatic decline in illness from measles and polio.
Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 9.44.31 AM

This data from Project Tycho and the Center for Disease Control shows the numbers of infected people by state and year, (at the scale is cases per 100,000 people.) When the vaccine is introduced there is a brief lag and then marked decline in cases.You can see more examples HERE, including hepatitus A, rubella, whooping cough and small pox.
Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 9.47.44 AM

US Lagging in Broadband Access

The US Ranks 16th Among Developed Nations for Broadband Penetration

Data Suggests It Will Continue to Fall Behind

From BROADBAND NOW: According to the 2013 analysis by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) an international organization designed to stimulate world trade, the US now ranks 16th (down from 14th in 2010) for wired broadband penetration behind Korea, Canada, and New Zealand.[1]While there are several factors that can skew these statistics such as geography and population density, the problem of the US falling behind in broadband penetration is only exacerbated by inadequate competition.

Based on further data collected by the OECD, the US now ranks 24th out of 31 participant countries when it comes to the speed as which broadband penetration is increasing. [2]

Change in broadband penetration across OECD countries between 2010 and 2013.
Rank Country Penetration 2010 Penetration 2013 Percent Change
1 Switzerland 37.1% 43.82% 6.71%
2 Greece 18.71% 24.7% 5.99%
3 France 31.4% 36.99% 5.58%
4 New Zealand 24.49% 29.45% 4.95%
5 United Kingdom 30.48% 34.89% 4.41%
6 Portugal 18.92% 23.15% 4.22%
7 Finland 26.36% 30.46% 4.1%
8 Belgium 30% 33.99% 3.99%
9 Hungary 18.66% 22.25% 3.59%
10 Czech Republic 13.73% 17.02% 3.29%
11 Germany 31.26% 34.53% 3.26%
12 Slovak Republic 12.02% 15.16% 3.14%
13 Spain 22.22% 25.3% 3.08%
14 Ireland 20.31% 23.31% 2.99%
15 Canada 30.06% 32.84% 2.78%
16 Austria 22.96% 25.64% 2.67%
17 Korea 34.43% 37.05% 2.62%
18 Chile 10.21% 12.75% 2.53%
19 Poland 13.07% 15.44% 2.37%
20 Denmark 37.34% 39.69% 2.35%
21 Norway 34.24% 36.59% 2.34%
22 Netherlands 37.78% 40% 2.21%
23 Australia 23.43% 25.64% 2.2%
24 United States 27.11% 29.27% 2.15%
25 Iceland 33.28% 35.12% 1.84%
26 Mexico 10.09% 11.87% 1.78%
27 Japan 26.28% 27.83% 1.55%
28 Turkey 9.43% 10.66% 1.23%
29 Italy 21.32% 22.41% 1.09%
30 Sweden 31.75% 32.33% 0.57%
31 Luxembourg 34.11% 32.65% -1.47%

References and Footnotes

  1. 2013 Data Set:
  2. 2010 Data Set:

Soapbox Time: the Midwest

I was born in Michigan and now live among highly educated East Coast types, who refer to my homeland as ‘flyover country.’  As if that weren’t bad enough, when something happens in Minnesota, they may gesture vaguely north and west and say “out there in Mich-zouri, right?”

Enough with this verbal and geographic ignorance! I can hardly imagine Michigan and Missouri in the same sentence, they are such different places. The American Midwest is an awesome slice of territory, upon which we all depend for food, fuel, industry, and even culture (seriously. click the link).
Most of us are a little vague about what the Midwest is. Fortunately this post from Vox goes into glorious detail about my home region. The current Census definition is based on the area’s evolution from ‘Northwest territories’ to ‘North Central Division,’ which now includes the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Those pale pink states, plus Oklahoma and Kentucky do not qualify.


we even have our own ships

That is a serious chunk of real estate, smaller than Australia, but larger than Mexico. It’s function as the breadbasket is due to the lucky confluence of climate and excellent soils plowed down by the glaciers which also carved the Great Lakes.

The population is slightly larger than France. And if it were a country, it would have the 6th largest economy in the world, sandwiched between Russia and Brazil.

So, think about that next time you enjoy your corn (in the form of soda, beef, packaged food, gasoline, and so much more.)