“The Thing We Crawled Out of” Gets Angry

We as people are habitual suckers for voiceover. It may be a complex towards a metaphysical contemplation, a need to hear from God above, or an inherent desire for the adventure and significance that narration entails. The escalated nature to voiceover elevates copy–both good and bad — to authority. And authority has the power to inspire, to encourage or to lecture. This beautiful, furling, snarling series by Media Arts Lab for Conservation International accomplishes all of the above.

nature doesn't need people

The 2 minute culmination of shot after shot of the unflinching power of water, is paired with the voice of Harrison Ford as the pissed off, grumpy, possibly murderous personification of our beautiful ocean blue. For a rapturous two minutes, the ocean walks us through our origin story and provides clear premonition of our future state of being and existing on this surface covered by water. First it’s passive-aggressive, then just aggressive and all-in-all a far more entertaining piece of work than dozens of smiling globe cartoons we’ve gotten used to in the past.

Fear is an interesting tool. It is one that history and cinema have told us can unite a divided, politicized, selfish people to move toward common good. And as TBWA & Conservation International have decided on “Nature Doesn’t Need People,” the unwelcome power dichotomy between nature and people should shock surface dwellers to action. In this case, Conservation International would like you to make some better decisions about the way you consume and purchase and destroy.

A threat from an ocean is not an empty one. It needs to be answered.

Our livelihood, our future is tethered to this slippery thing and this series from Conservation International provides a way in which we can feel truly microscopic amidst this microcosm we call home.

From the Good People at TBWA: Media Arts Lab

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Matt Damon Picks Up the Tab

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Where fame exists, cause usually beckons.

Celebrities have long bartered their 15 seconds to promote something near and dear to their hearts. Galas, fundraising poker nights and celebrity date auctions help satiate public desire to live their own private celebrity fantasies, while doing something praiseworthy. It is for better or worse, an interminable feel good event, a consistently endearing exchange.

Feats like Ellen’s 30 days of Christmas and edible hallmarks like Paul Newman’s ranch dressing; remain some of the most popular and lasting of these iterations. Here a celebrity attaches his/her name, voice or likeness to holidays and bottles of ranch, with the proceeds going to the famous person’s charity of choice. It’s undoubtedly the feel good reality of every season. But the malaise of prodigal philanthropy has finally been presented a formidable challenger. We’ve entered a space where a celebrity is asking for a more extreme exchange, one that favors women and water.

Matt Damon, American heartthrob, is the co-founder of the Kansas City based NGO Water.org, an organization devoted to creating and facilitating long lasting clean water solutions in places without. This year Damon struck a new partnership with Belgian brewing company, Stella Artois and addressed the perplexing water issue with fresh insight, cashflow and consumer base.

“Buy a Lady a Drink” is both the new rallying cry and the road the non-profit and beer company have embarked on together. The insight being that the common denominator between sanitary concerns, disparate poverty and education level is the specter of exorbitant time spent by these women fetching water for their families. An estimated 200 million hours/day spent just finding a water source that’s just clean enough. “What happens if we could save them the trip?” Damon postures. What potential could they untap?

It is a tirelessly upbeat question that integrates several ideals of hope—instigating a scenario that begs long-term commitment. An initiative like this could have only begun with Damon’s network and Stella’s initial donation of 1.5 million dollars to constructing accessible water wells: true. But Water.org’s innovative Water Credit program, which utilizes micro financing offering cost-effective loans that not only provides a timeline for repayment, but also fuels a reciprocation and reproduction of the process. It’s in the water credit system where initiative gains leverage and a true sense of staying power.

A campaign like “Buy a Lady a Drink” which stands on persistent insight is unique in that it enters three parties into contract. All of a sudden Stella Artois, Water.org and the communities of India, Ethiopia and Honduras are locked in to face this problem–together.

Now while some may see Smatt-damon-buy-a-lady-a-drink-555313tella’s commitment to these water-starved communities as nothing more than PR stunt and the partnership with water.org as an attempt at corporate social responsibility, a partnership of this level with an organization as well-versed as water.org isn’t as simple as writing a check and smiling for pictures. Whenever the words “microfinance” and “ water credit” are thrown around, there is always someone who is willing to spur the beginning of a larger movement. Such persistent insight paired with extensive proposals like water.org, and you have a pact. A Belgian Brewmaker, a celebrity run non-profit and three developing countries have now partaken in a civil union. Profit and beer mired with good will have effectively fostered an undeterred commitment to global solution.

It started with a super bankable Hollywood face providing greater access and doling out larger responsibility than his celebrity predecessors. Each custom Stella Artois chalice sold will fund Stella Artois/Water.org’s effort to make clean water a reality for up to 5 years a glass.

In this brave new world where beer makers and the guy who brought you “Stuck on You” can bring about enduring impact, where buying a commemorative glass can grant clean, accessible water for a community, it is indeed the combination of creativity and network that can bring about something new and effective. We raise our chalice to one sobering drink and a new relationship that’ll move the great water issue of our age into its fitting conclusion.

buy a lady

Brought to you by the good people at Water.org & Stella Artois:

Reebok + The Potential of Kendrick Lamar

But it checks so many boxes.

Kendrick Lamar: rap savior, Tupac son has made his first withdrawal from his corporate checking account to co-sign…reebok. Yes–Kendrick Lamar–the darling of the rap elite and twitter target of the Harlemite princess, Azealia Banks, has gone ahead and endorsed the people ,who eight years ago, so enthusiastically became the official sponsor of the most sadistic activity known to man.

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And despite the seemingly genuine maneuvering to reframe middle school Kendrick as a fan of some Reebok classic models–let’s face it: the British-born, Massachusetts-based stepchild of German parent company Adidas hasn’t appealed to the youth demo since a certain point guard from Philadelphia posed the unanswerable question.

But here we are–Kendrick Lamar, who at the ripe age of 27 has dropped two of this decade’s most incomparably classic albums–signed to Reebok and embarked on the journey between consumerism and artistic authenticity. In a year where the uber-marketable stars of Drake and Kanye West are trading punches and places to test which sneaker giant to pledge allegiance to, Kendrick is something of an outlier on the intersection between hip-hop and marketability. More prophet than profiteer, Kendrick’s own inclination for the simple Southern California uniform: “White t’s, nike cortez, this red Corvette anonymous” has led him to an almost bare, monastic Compton persona. With his city interlocked on his head, Kendrick stresses content over dress.

So let’s talk content: Kendrick and his Compton digs are shot entirely in black and white by Reebok looks not bleak, but lively. In a context of police brutality, Kendrick acts as the new harbinger for black youth of the ancient hip-hop adage of utilizing artform that is often confrontational, boisterous and powerful enough to overcome immeasurable struggle of racial and income inequality.

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Hey, props to Reebok for airing footage of Black youth in a humanizing, inspirational light. There’s really never enough of that on our airwaves or our broadband. However a  deeper look at Reebok’s “Ventilate” Campaign with this particular lens and this particular artist, inevitably conjures the image and the sound of Eric Garner crying “I can’t breathe” as he breathed his last… And maybe it’s too much. Maybe it is reaching too far to hold a celebrity and his endorsement to this high a bar. Michael Jordan was never held to the fire about the brutal working conditions that produced the shoes that bear his name, David Beckham the same. But that’s the onus a campaign like this, in a time like this with an artist like this carries.

In addition to the “Be Ventilated” tagline, Reebok has gone forth with #ThisisKendrick to highlight their partnership. But for those who have heralded the 5’6” rap maestro as the rightful king of a new era of rap and a seemingly identical and tired era of racial strife and brutality, it has to be asked, Is this Kendrick?

From what we’ve heard on his sophomoric To Pimp A Butterfly, as the maestro navigates communal ill, fame and black/self empowerment as only he is able, we can only hope that the answer is Yes.


Brought to you by the good people at Reebok:

This was the coolest part:

The Whimsical Orphanage

“We all know that children can’t choose their parents. But what if they could? Would that change the way we as parents behave?” It’s written as tried and true advertising strategy, but the creative produced from the insight is sparkling, grim and an absolute gem from Havas Helsinki for Fragile Childhood. In every culture’s folk tales and mythology, the orphanage has long been the symbol of crumbling society. They are often heralded as a cesspool of the particularly craven, morally decrepit of us who walk among those in the least-advantageous context and pry on those most vulnerable in our society. And it’s with that context firmly embedded in our heads that Havas explores the dreams and desires of kids in a 90 second world where kids in the most vulnerable situation can choose their new parents. The production itself looks like it’s birthed right into mid-dream. Questions of: “What do children, especially children with abusive parental figures, dream of?” and “What power does a child hold?” anchor the premise, while the inclusion of a whimsical scenario into the horrid reality of having parents who abuse alcohol carries the intended effect of being punched in the stomach. Like the feeling of losing vertigo or lingering on inevitable misfortune, the children walk out of the orphanage, from adolescence into adulthood–wino parents leading the way. Brought to you by the good people at Havas Worldwide, Helsinki:

The People Coming to you now at The Turn of the Tide: Bogusky’s 72

No one really knows why certain thoughts merit Gandalf references; it simply happens; and we are all better for it. And as welcome was the resurrection of the freshly minted snow-haired sage, the advertising world was brimming with the hope that a power player was about to change industry landscape forever. It got two in the same month.

72s_sun_logo_oThis is a study of two advertising entities, Alex Bogusky’s Fearless (the latest of his social good projects) and 72andSunny. Both shops are renowned for their storytelling and inventive measures in bulking up the creative quotient for fast food and Korean cell phone companies.  Bogusky created Fearless an agency that promotes social good by creating more productive collisions of the corporate, foundation and non-profit worlds. The month of March would also see the players at 72 anteing up and embarking on their own mission to define “brand citizenship” that would effectively tether “good works” to corporate bottom line. Both initiatives reside at ground zero right now, but both come with history.

The entry point for both Bogusky as a senior advisor to Fearless and 72’s promotion of non-profit exec, Jim Moriarity, as head of brand citzenship into this warm, fuzzy gray area of causal marketing can be traced to a force of Mr. Bogusky’s own invention. Bogusky, in his past as an ad-man for Crispin+Porter helped pioneer the “Truth” campaign, championing the power of youth to see the negative facts of smoking and reject it like no other generation could. It was truly remarkable, winning numerous awards for its innovative spirit in its nearly two decade run. Along the way, teen cigarette smoking has dropped to a minute 8%. A change of the guard left “Truth” in the hands of the folks at 72, who have fully realized this youth approach in “Left Swipe Dat” in what may very well be its final iteration.

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Where cancer cowboys and Joe Chemo have failed, Tinder will prevail…at least that’s what the people at 72 believe #FINISHIT

With two of the most creative entities in advertising over the past twenty years hustling and harrying towards a platform elevated past simple, staid corporate responsibility, the anticipation of a new era of corporations selling stuff and maintaining a soul is no longer a hippy/novel concept. Advertisers are long-famed for their unabated desire to remain relevant with whatever culture or generation gap has purchasing power at the moment. The issue with millenials starting to make money–effectively commandeering purse strings–is that they expect more. Some people have made bylines by defining this quality as an entitlement. I’d believe it is an upward propulsion of standards, a constant demand for quality, transparency and weirdly enough: collective good. So in the quest for consistent relevance, advertising is currently pressed by a new purchasing paradigm.

These questions abide with new venture and a new category carved out in the flux between for-profit and non-profit, of this generational need (which this blog is desperately trying to place). Two American advertising entities may be the key to truly dialing into this fever–not to calm, but heighten: not to suppress, but mold through.

An intro video to Fearless and the latest Truth Campaign.

Brought to you by the good people of Fearless and 72AndSunny

Ghostwriting Passion Projects: LA Conservancy Edition

In my freelance work for The Agency (a luxury real estate agency) I thought up the questions and wrote up this blog post for an interview with Linda Dishman, Executive Director at the La Conservancy. 

Here it is below.

As a native Angeleno, Agency founding partner, Aileen Comora, has been a staunch advocate of the Los Angeles Conservancy and their effort to protect LA heritage by the preservation of historical architecture. With decades of grassroots activism, working with elected officials and raising public consciousness on the immense value of our past, the Los Angeles Conservancy is responsible for saving a wide range of historical buildings, from The Wiltern Theater to the oldest operating McDonald’s in Downey, CA. The Los Angeles Conservancy has done a brilliant job of blending the zeitgeist of the present with an appreciation for the essentiality of the past.

Linda Dishman by Shari Belafonte

Linda Dishman, Executive Director of the Conservancy, sat down for a Q&A with Aileen.

What allure is there about the past that we need to save/preserve?

One of the most basic human needs is to understand our world and our place in it. We need meaning and context. As we rely more on technology and virtual connections, and as cookie-cutter development makes cities look more and more alike, we have a growing need for authenticity, character, and distinction. We don’t want our communities to look like everyone else’s.

Historic places fill this critical need. They provide context to our lives and communities. They tell great stories, give us a sense of place, help us learn who we are and what we value as a culture, and embody our shared history. Plus, they’re interesting. Shouldn’t life be interesting?

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Your #Lastoryhood hashtag asking people to post pictures of “What Makes LA Special” has elicited an outpour and diversity of responses. How does your social team choose which ones to repost? Is there an emotional thread that runs through each selection or a more objective rationale to which pictures end up on your feed?

The diversity in the photos people have shared and tagged on Instagram has been great, because we try to reflect the diversity of LA in everything we post ourselves and repost from others. We enjoy showing the different neighborhoods and varying architectural styles that can be found across Los Angeles County. LA is full of hidden gems, and there’s no one thing that makes LA special, which explains the wide range of photos we’ve seen in response to the #LAstoryhood tag.

What neighborhood/historical site is most at risk or need the most public attention?

It’s impossible to pick just one, but in terms of scale and urgency, rampant teardowns and mansionization are on the short list. Older and historic neighborhoods across the region are being decimated by piecemeal, profit-driven destruction and out-of-scale development. These neighborhoods are losing their unique and authentic character, one McMansion at a time.

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Out of the newer buildings/communities in Los Angeles today, is there a structure that’s building the right way, with respect for the history of what they’re building on, while crafting something new and beneficial?

Absolutely—we love projects that sensitively integrate new construction with historic places. The Annenberg Community Beach House at Santa Monica State Beach, Boyle Hotel in Boyle Heights, and the 28th Street Apartments in South LA are just a few examples of rehabbing historic places with sensitive additions. They all give new life and add another layer of history to significant places, while providing great community benefit. We honor projects like this every year with our Preservation Awards, coming up on Thursday May 7th.

What would the Conservancy suggest as a better way to go about urban development?

Our cities need a vision and a plan to preserve and revitalize their historic buildings, and they need to direct growth in a way that reinforces the unique qualities that people love about their neighborhoods.

I worked for the City of Pasadena during the planning that led to Old Pasadena. It was very important for the City to determine the vision and not let individual property owners or developers act in a piecemeal fashion, which is what often happens.

Old Pasadena is a great example of a thriving district whose parking structures and new construction add to the vitality of the area—they don’t detract from the district’s historic character.

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In what ways do you see a revitalization project strengthening and enriching an existing community?

Revitalizing historic places strengthens communities in a lot of ways, but two of the most prominent examples in LA are the Old Bank District downtown and Wilshire Boulevard Temple in the mid-Wilshire area.

Everyone’s heard by now of the great renaissance going on in downtown Los Angeles. What many people may not know is that it’s been in the making since the early 1990s. One of the truly catalytic projects was developer Tom Gilmore’s conversion of three neighboring buildings at Fourth and Main Streets into housing, which he named the Old Bank District. He started the project in 1998, years before big lenders had the confidence to invest heavily in the area. This was one of the key projects that spurred the amazing revitalization downtown that continues today.

In 2013, Wilshire Boulevard Temple completed a major rehab of its iconic 1929 building, which was beloved but had languished for years. Knowing that restoring the sanctuary alone would be only a short-term fix, Temple leaders committed to revitalizing the landmark as the centerpiece of a campus that would serve congregants as well as the surrounding neighborhood, which is predominantly Korean and Latino. They’re now renovating two school buildings and constructing a new building for social services, from a food pantry to athletic facilities. Temple leaders are working with other religious organizations, nonprofits, business leaders, and schools to bring positive change to the area.

What do we stand to lose by forgetting the architecture of Los Angeles’ past?

We stand to lose our tangible connection to our history. We lose our sense of place, our shared cultural heritage, and the countless lessons to be learned from the stories these places tell us. We lose our roots, our touchstones, our mooring. We lose the authentic, unique character that makes our city special. We lose much of our individuality and what makes us human. We have much to lose—and once we lose it, it doesn’t come back.

Find more information about the Conservancy’s annual Preservation Awards here.

A Dollar Here, A Dollar There.

For kids who grew up in Queens, (home to the most diverse neighborhoods in the world according to wikipedia) there was only one unanimous/shared/communal experience: the preroll at College Point Multiplex Cinemas. For two minutes, prior to any thriller, rom-com, action played a message from The Jimmy Fund and The Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

In two minutes, Cronin&Co. and the Jimmy Fund told a better story than the five trailers and the movie to follow. Fifteen years and I still remember the visage of spray paint on the steel beams of a children’s hospital mid-construction. Fifteen years and I remember the embattled, worn yet, tender voices of steel workers talking, “A few bucks from this guy, a few bucks from that guy” as they spray peppered names of the onlooking cherub faces of kids suffering from cancer in the building across the street–anchoring an absolute power narrative.

Fifteen years ago, and those 120 seconds define the quintessential experience and perception of American charity. Blue-collar guys donating a dollar here, a dollar there to help a cause they were irreconcilably linked through a transformational experience. That’s where “Strong As Iron” helped typify American charity canon. 15 years later, it’s hard to find another broadcast spot as emotionally stirring and empathy evoking as this ad for the Jimmy Fund.

So without further ado…

From the good people at Cronin&Co: