Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Two Genius Ideas

Two things have come to my attention in the last few days that truly deserve to be recognized for their... yes, I know it's an overused word... "genius."

First is the idea behind the new book, "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman. I learned about it last night when Weisman appeared on The Daily Show, and I bought it at Borders two hours ago. Obviously, it's too early to say whether the book itself is brilliant or ridiculous, but the idea itself is noteworthy. Ever since George Carlin pointed out its inherent stupidity in a stand-up routine (transcript here), I've bristled at the phrase, "Save the Planet." The planet has been around for billions of years, and it will continue to exist until as asteroid smashes it to bits. "Saving the Planet" is really about saving the species. Us. Homo sapiens. A tiny blip in the billions of forms of life that have existed here over time. A species so intelligent, it has figured out a way to exterminate itself.

Recognizing our self-centeredness in imaging that the world was somehow created for us, Weisman decided to blow it up by writing a book about how the world will react once we're gone. For example, once there are no people to man the pumps in Manhattan, the subways will flood and the infrastructure will go down rather quickly. Earth goes on. The only way to save the species is to communicate how indifferent the planet actually is to our well-being. Now that's irony.

Second is this ad campaign. I'm jealous of the lonely copywriter in the corner who thought of it, but more important, I'm amazed at whoever got the client to approve it. Agencies think of stuff this good (or almost this good) all the time, but it usually gets killed. The initial client contact will love it. But as time goes by and it moves up the flagpole, one starts to hear: "Don't you think this is too negative?" "We want something edgy, but this is too edgy." "I like the idea as a whole, but can we tone it down a little?" "You mean you want me to associate my brand with something that looks like Frankenstein? That's not strategic."

They're wrong. Almost every single time. This kind of thing works. The name monster.com has nothing to do with employment; it doesn't matter. Some of the best-selling books in the world refer to their own readers as "Dummies"; it doesn't matter. This is creative and strategic. And just frickin' funny.

3 comments:

Vegas Gopher said...

Had to be European. No way any US company pays to produce this. I admit, if I didn't know it was for wind power at the start, I'd have been a bit lost. But the second viewing would have been golden.

Stephen Dashboard said...

I agree with gopher. And it is whip-smart writing. All the time I'm thinking "who is this guy?" "what is this really about?" And then boom, payoff. Sweet.

Marc Conklin said...

I think it wasn't until the umbrella that I finally got it, then it all made sense.