Good News: Apollo 13 > COVID-19

Ron Howard’s 1995 movie Apollo 13 stands as a stirring reminder of the transcendent power of well-applied engineering. In one critical scene, Ed Harris playing NASA legend Gene Kranz learns of the imminent failure of the onboard CO2 filters. He eyes his engineers and admonishes them “Well I suggest you gentlemen invent a way to put a round peg into a square hole. Rapidly.”

In real life, a young Irishman named Colin Keogh is playing a similar role right now with the Open Source Ventilator project. The OSV is the latest initiative from The Rapid Foundation, a charitable organization Keogh co-founded at University College Dublin six years ago. The Rapid Foundation distributes 3D printing know-how to developing countries so people can apply low cost technology to solve problems.

In this case, the problem is daunting: the global ventilator shortage.

Low-cost robot designer Gui Calavanti launched the OSV on Facebook on March 11. Since then, more than 300 doctors, engineers, designers, nurses and venture capitalists around the world have contributed to the project. Major corporations like Accenture and Deloitte offered their R&D infrastructure for ideation and production, all in an effort to create a low-cost, rapid build solution using readily available materials and 3D printers.

And they’ve done it.

In one week, they’ve designed and built a working prototype they hope to get validated by Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) next week for use on Covid-19 patients. The 3D printing uses Polylactic Acid (PLA), a non-petroleum-based bioplastic derived from corn starch that can be manufactured anywhere.

Their timing is remarkable. And a godsend in the face of this pandemic.

The independent, U.S.-based Society of Critical Care Medicine estimates the pandemic will create demand for 960,000 ventilators. These machines augment patient respiration in severe cases of Covid-19 where lung inflammation can quickly become viral pneumonia. Ventilators literally make the difference between life and death, but they simply weren’t available. Soon, they can be.

Much like Dr. Jonas Salk declined to patent his polio vaccine in 1952, this open source project continues that laudable approach making their solution available to all.

To Mr. Keogh and all the participants applying science and innovation in the service of humanity, slainte.

Making Innovation an Advantage

HackSee this? This is a hack Ryan Summers developed for the CGI team working on the Dolby job. It’s a GPU cluster: a series of five $600 boxes that could soon disrupt the world of render farms. A standard motion graphics render farm has roughly 60 nodes, each with one processor and four cores, for a total of 240 cores. In contrast, each of these five GPU’s contains around 2500 cores. They don’t need cooling, they require far less power, and they’re infinitely scalable; all huge advantages over current render farm technology. GPU’s like this were developed by the gaming industry to process heavy math. Ryan’s repurposed them for our needs to generate more renders, quicker and cheaper

As an industry solution, these types of GPU’s are not entirely ready today, but in a few months, they could be. And that’s the point; until the industry generates software to catch up to these processor speeds, Digital Kitchen can leverage this technological advantage to make us more competitive in the marketplace. While others have lower cost margins based on how they’re structured, getting more done more quickly helps us to close that gap.

Innovative thinking like this doesn’t only relate to hardware. As technology reinvents itself on increasingly shorter cycles, all sorts of opportunities will become available to anyone paying attention. Most of us recognize we no longer need to build websites from scratch; we can customize existing platforms already coded for security and responsiveness. We no longer need to settle for a stock shot or set up our own second unit shoots; we can access a community of DP’s on something like https://genero.tv/ and get a bespoke shot reasonably quickly and for a fraction of the cost. Hacks like these won’t work for everything, but in the right situation, they lend DK a real advantage.

But that advantage relies on embracing change and innovation. As it does for any company. After all, it’s at the heart of no less than Steve Jobs’ famous mantra: stay hungry, stay foolish, stay curious.”

Let’s…

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EMBRACING THE PURPOSE OF OUR WORK

Digital Kitchen makes main title sequences. We install remarkable digital environments. We create content, programming, and marketing. Oh, and we’re a production company.

All of this is true. But none of it is as critical to why we exist. What matters is not what we make, but its purpose.

Our most lasting and meaningful work serves as solutions, as strategic, creative answers to a real business needs.

Carnival came to DK with wearable Bluetooth technology they hoped would change shipboard commerce; we showed them how it could change the entire cruising experience and helped them garner a $2b investment from their board.

Second & Seneca was a tired old office building left behind by the new tech startup rental market; our lobby installation with its animations from a wide variety of local graphic artists gives the property modern relevance.

Narcos was an unknown Netflix series set during the early 80’s rise of drug lord Pablo Escobar; our main title condensed ten dense episodes of characters and storylines into an accessible, minute-long reflection of the era’s wealth, violence, and vintage glamour.

This is how we will talk about DK moving forward; as an organization that applies experience design to transform businesses through creative experiences. By doing this, we take away the distracting, and ultimately fruitless debate around what we do and instead focus on the far more meaningful why we do it. We focus on our purpose.

 

Because people always want to know ‘why?’

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The Best Business Development Plan is Great Work

Creative enterprises develop business three ways: through personal relationships, by expanding existing relationships, and by attracting new clients. And the best way to attract new clients is with great, noticed work.

Digital Kitchen has a considerable creative legacy, but like anything of value, it requires constant maintenance and upkeep. So when we’re not producing a lot of work, our reputation dims.

Great, ambitious work must always be our focus because it attracts great, ambitious clients, the ones looking to innovate beyond expectations.

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A Creative’s Place Is Out of Home. And On Line. And Programming. And Publishing…

For the cover story of the current issue of Adweek, Janet Stillson interviewed a number of CMO’s regarding what they want most from their agency and media partners.  Anyone familiar with this type of article can guess the CMO’s broad stroke responses: a heightened call for that reliable industry workhorse, innovation, and complaints of how it seems scarce as hen’s teeth.

Frankly, that should come as no surprise, particularly given the actions taken by two CMO’s featured in the article, who were both specifically looking to spur innovation.

Laura Klauberg, VP of marketing at Unilever, told how for the 2009 upfront, she had MindShare brief their media partners on Unilever’s key branding initiatives, to clearly identify both their messages and desired consumers.  She believed this knowledge would spur better thinking, but thus far, she admits the results have been mixed.

Christine Kubisztal, media strategy manager for Walgreen’s, went the opposite way; she left her agency partners out of the game entirely and went directly to the media sellers.  Her thinking?  “It’s tougher when there’s a middleman.  I’m tired of trying to get them to go to media sellers and bring stuff forward.”

Creativity Has More Uses Than Duct Tape

Creativity Has More Uses Than Duct Tape

Interestingly—despite citing the need to have their agency partners step outside their comfort zone–neither CMO considered doing that themselves by involving their brand’s creative teams.  Instead, they approached programming or media sales organizations hoping to find big ideas, despite the fact that neither employs dedicated creative staff.  No wonder their results were ‘mixed’—how can you expect creative innovation from professionals who have honed their skills in other areas?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to bring in the people you charge with creating and extending your brand idea platform and have them collaborate with your media partners?  That way you’d start with both left brain and right brain talent and have a far greater likelihood of developing media innovation.  In fact, the more you consider the exponential changes affecting our industry, the more evident it becomes that everyone needs to ‘step outside the comfort zone.’

You want creativity?  Hire a creative.

You want creativity in any specific discipline?  Pair that creative with a specialized expert.

Creativity is not a skillset; it’s an approach to problem solving.  Yes, advertising creatives learn to develop thirty second television ads, but they could just as easily learn to imagine interesting cross promotions or engaging multi-media programs or even new media platforms altogether.

When I consider the gaming, social networking, syndicated videos and web development that we produce at Element 79, a very real truth emerges:

we are only a traditional agency to traditional clients.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Social Media: Now Bigger Than Web 2.0 From a Marketing Perspective

The ever-astute Mike “Bear” D’Amico raised a fair question after a recent post, asking “So, just to get my lingo down, is social media no longer considered a part of Web 2.0?  I thought the interactivity and social nature of wiki, digg, facebook, etc. was the whole 2.0 thing.”  Obviously you thought that because you are so wrongheaded, Bear…

No, no, no–heavens no!  Mike makes a very good point: considering that Social Media is a direct byproduct of Web 2.0, why have so many marketing people leapt past the revolution of interactivity to focus almost obsessively on social media?

First, they haven’t entirely.  The deep, easy interactivity that Web 2.0 provides creates ongoing opportunities to forge deeper, more engaging brand experiences for consumers, so marketers won’t be walking away from that anytime soon.  But the huge draw of social media lies in its numbers, its tonnage, its ratings points.  Specifically, Americans have adopted wholesale changes in our media consumption away from TV and print, to phenomenon like Facebook, MySpace and the blogosphere.  And we’ve done it with breathtaking speed.  With some estimates putting the percentage of daily media activity in social media as high as 30%, advertisers need to innovate ways to meaningfully enter these platforms, because the one media principle that endures remains to “fish where the fish are.”   Today, more people surf online, deeply engaging with social media.  Sure, Web 2.0 heightens those engagements, but social media are the end result.  And this huge new platforms spells opportunity–or oblivion–for advertisers.

To Quote the Rolling Stones: "It's The Singer, Not the Song."

To Quote the Rolling Stones: "It's The Singer, Not the Song."

 

In a way, Web 2.0 is to social media as Illinois is to Lincoln: the rail splitting abolitionist made his home in Springfield, but his reputation and place in history live on a nation level.

When any cultural trend grows this large this rapidly, marketers pay close attention.  Social media provide advertising it’s biggest new creative platform since the launch of the modem-equipped PC.  Aside from these, advertising creatives have kept themselves busy polishing formats and incrementally innovating techniques first developed decades ago.

But social media is fresh snow that beckons all of us to carve the first glorious tracks through it.  As an online friend put it, if you missed the digital dance five or six years ago when Web 2.0 first rumbled in, here’s your chance for a reboot.  Because social media is huge.  It’s still new.  And no one owns it yet.

Get busy Mike…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

From Passive to Active: An Industry Imperative Straight Out Of The Poisonwood Bible

Passive voice robs writing of vitality, sapping ideas of their strength and grasp on reader attention.  Writers should strive to excise Passive Voice, replacing it with more muscular, more engaging, more descriptive Active Voice.

I’ve banged that grammatical drum for two decades, to the point of self-parody.  But increasingly, I see this passive vs. active debate transmogrifying from mere copywriting to encompass every aspect of advertising.  As an industry–and particularly as practitioners from the traditional agency world–we need to replace passive thinking with active thinking.  As the world of communications and consumer behavior changes, we must change too.  That requires a new active mindset that questions assumptions and encourages innovation.

Too many creatives still value edgy executions over edgy platform mixes.  Your TV spot may look incredibly cool, but if you haven’t introduced it in some new manner or added content and extended the experience to new and hopefully interactive platforms, what did you really accomplish?  Maybe slightly bigger ripples on the lake, but even those disappear pretty quickly–it’s a busy lake with a lot of different traffic.

Experience applied passively is no more than habit; experience applied actively truly breaks new ground.  All that wonderful video storytelling experience many traditional TV creatives possess remains vital, useful and differentiating when they apply it actively, pushing the delivery experience as well.

This Is Not A Book On Advertising.  At Least, Not Intentionally.

This Is Not A Book On Advertising. At Least, Not Intentionally.

In Barbara Kingsolver’s richly-imagined novel The Poisonwood Bible, the mother character looks back at her horrific experiences in the early-60’s Congo and how much of her family’s loss sprung directly from the intransigence of her husband.  Pushed to her breaking point, she simply walks away from their pathetic mission outpost, and her preacher husband…  “I moved, and he stood still.  But his kind will always lose in the end.  I know this, and now I know why.  Whether it’s wife or nation they occupy, their mistake is the same: they stand still and their stake moves underneath them.”  You got that right Barbara, whether wife, nation…or agency: rote behavior leads to failure.

Advertising agencies face increasing challenges regarding compensation, resource management, and results delivery.  Passive reliance on the old ways will doom us to failure.  Active innovation and opportunity generation deliver the possibility of new revenue streams, new markets, and new category benefits.  And unlike our brethren in the financial world, ours will probably remain a free market, without government intervention, stimulus packages or bailouts.  The agency  organizations most open to active thinking will thrive.  The passive ones will provide the lions share of lost industry jobs.  Time to start thinking.  Hard.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79