I just finished reading Jane McGonigal’s terrific book, Reality is Broken. It’s a great read if you are interested in game mechanics, psychology and human emotion. But she also wrote something else in the book that caught my attention. On page 312, when speaking of the game World Without Oil that she designed, she said:
“It’s the project that inspired me to define my biggest hope for the future: that a game developer would soon be worthy of a Nobel Prize.”
Now, back when Donkey Gong was the apex of game development, that notion probably would have seemed pretty silly. But if you read Reality is Broken, you won’t dismiss the notion quickly. McGonigal makes some pretty convincing arguments for the power of games. But the reaction I had to her audacious goal was: What would it take for an ad agency to be worthy of a Nobel Prize?
It takes a bit of a cognitive shift to get your head around the idea, doesn’t it? How could people responsible for these gems be mentioned in the same sentence as Albert Schweitzer, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, Jr.? But that’s a false argument. The Nobel Prize is awarded on the merits of the candidates, not against a benchmark of selet former winners.
But back to the question: What would it take for an ad agency to be worthy of a Nobel Prize?
Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about winning CLIOs or Cannes Lions or other ad agency industry gongs. We’re speaking of the actual Nobel Prize.
What would it take to get into consideration? Interestingly enough, I think ad agencies are perfectly suited to do something like this. Here’s what we know ad agencies are good at doing:
- Telling a compelling story
- Getting people to take action
- Coordinating global efforts
- Changing people’s existing perceptions about an issue
- Delivering an emotional impact
- Using a variety of channels in a coordinated effort
- Leveraging passionate, motivated people deeply invested in their work
That would seem to be a pretty good list of traits for getting global attention, and action, on behalf of an issue. Surely there are people in the advertising industry with the clout to launch such an ambitious venture. So what’s keeping this from happening? Maybe it just needs to be said out loud for starters. It’s easier to imagine something once you see it on paper (or on-screen as the case may be).
Now, ad agency types aren’t always well known for their largesse, so I’m under no illusion that this will be easy. But there is hope. CP+B and Hyper Island just launched this effort, called 72 Hours for Peace. What is it:
Hyper Island and CP+B launches a creative commons database of ideas for positive global change. During 72 Hours, all Hyper Island students join forces to generate ideas, create solutions and explore ways to leverage technology to encourage peace within their communities.
Ok, that’s a start. But let’s think bigger, aim higher. What if we kept the idea of winning a Nobel Prize, but set the goal to win it in 10 years. That completely changes the optics again. Now how might that work?
Perhaps this initiative is driven by the AAF, 4A’s or some other, global, advertising organization. Each year a different agency would be chosen to lead the initiative, with employees volunteering their time. Each year the torch would be passed to another agency. The 10-year time frame gives the idea an epic scale beyond a one-time, focused event or even a campaign. This would be something much bigger.
From disarmament to racial tolerance to political detente, there are plenty of topics to tackle. Perhaps the best part of this is that success is assured. Even if the Nobel Prize proves elusive, the effort will still have made an impact of some kind. Perhaps this is all wishful thinking. Ad agencies have plenty to keep them busy without tilting at windmills. But maybe just thinking this way would change an agency’s approach to tackling a client’s challenge. It’s worth considering.