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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.
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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.
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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.

freighter

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.)

The “Selfie” Phenomenon

While the self-portrait has a long and venerable place in the history of art, the democratization of media in our young century collided with our first-world self obsessions to create a robust trend.   Chosen by the OED in 2013 as Word of the Year, “selfie” has charged into the English language with remarkable vigor.

The first recorded use of the hashtag #selfie took place on Flick in 2004, but the word didn’t really catch on until 2012. Since then, the use of ‘selfie’ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has exploded, growing by over 17,000 percent.

Consider these stats:

selfiestats

Click on the above to see the whole graphic, which is chock-full of amazing selfie info!

Now we have smart phones specifically designed for taking selfies, including this one from SONY, who created the info graphics in this blog.

And feel free to post your favorite selfie in the comments below.

Here’s my latest favorite:

I grow broccoli, therefore I am.

Addressing Stereotypes in Stock Photos

enhanced-buzz-wide-20979-1392163420-30Getty Images teamed with LeanIn.org to create a collection of stock photos intended to represent women in a more empowering light.

LeanIn.org is the foundation launched by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Women, Work and the Will to Lead. The book, published last year, challenged women and the business world to step up to increase female leadership. An accomplished executive with business and government experience, Sandberg points to solid research on the stubborn stereotypes that discourage female leadership, and calls on women not to give in to those traps, but rise above them.

enhanced-buzz-wide-24504-1392163397-11The project with Getty is certainly welcome and I might say long overdue. Anyone who has worked with stock photography for the past decade or so has no doubt seen much improvement from the 90s, when smiling white men were the office norm, and the only people of color were gardeners or laborers. Today it’s possible to find images of people of various ages, ethnicities and even disabilities.

But like any media stream, the available stock photography reflects our culture and its resistance to change. Stock photos of women have developed their own tropes, many of them unfortunate. So the LeanIn collection, while populated with remarkably pretty people, is quite a few steps forward. The images feature women  at home, at work, in the world, working, leading, using technology and in hands-on careers. There are girls being bold, reading, using tools and taking charge.

An article in the NY Times points out that we’re becoming more image-based in our daily communication, using our smart phone cameras, Instagram, Pinterest and similar tools. Getty CEO Jonathan Klein notes that “imagery has become the communication medium of this generation, and that really means how people are portrayed visually is going to have more influence on how people are seen and perceived than anything else.”

original-11250-1392253880-5It’s as true as ever: seeing images of ourselves reflected in the culture supports our confidence as accomplished women. Until I browsed this collection I didn’t realize just how much I needed to see an artistic woman instructing a group, or a confident girl looking me straight in the eyes!