A Conversation with Thomas Kolster, author of Goodvertising

 

Thomas Kolster author of GoodvertisingGoodvertisingWhereGoodGrows

Thomas Kolster is the author of Goodvertising, founder of the Goodvertising Agency and the world’s first collaborative communication platform dedicated to sustainability: WhereGoodGrows.

Paul: What inspired your book Goodvertising and what was your purpose in writing it?

Thomas: Despite all the debates, articles, blogs and books out there about new the responsible revolution I really feel like we missed the calling for more creative communication. I miss the confidence, the firm belief that we as an industry can make a real world-changing difference. I can’t help but push for this again and again. We have a pivotal role to play and may I add, that we, as the communications industry, have helped build and set in motion the wagon of consumerism and capitalism that is now driving us towards the edge of the cliff.

We can solve these worldwide problems in a responsible, sustainable and engaging way. Not only do we know the market and the consumers, but we also have an abundance of skills. We've built brands stronger than nations. We have convinced people that they can’t live without buying a razor with an additional blade every single year, something they were blissfully unaware of until we told them their lives would be incomplete without it. We have built powerful relationships with every little boy and girl from Copenhagen to Cape Town, so that they can tell you why brand X is better than brand Y. It’s time that we stand up as professionals and dare to put our talents to good use. After all, we are no better than the messages we put out there to our loved ones, our children, our friends and our fellow global citizens.

Paul: Many of our member causes at Pimp My Cause have big ambitions but next to no marketing budget – what are your favourite campaigns from your book that harnessed the power of creative ideas without the need for much marketing spend?

Thomas: It’s never about the budget. It’s always about the idea. The right idea can supersede any money spent on marketing. As the competition between causes for people’s attention becomes fiercer, it’s never been more important to stand out.

I don’t want to choose one campaign over another, but let me give an example of a campaign I featured in Goodvertising; one I feel really grabs people’s attention. The project by American director Jason Zada, is a personal project that encourages people to think twice about their privacy online. The interactive online experience, an app, called “Take This Lollipop” had 300,000 users within the first 24 hours of the campaign going live. Within just 30 days, 10 million people had liked the app- making it one of Facebook’s fastest growing apps of all time. As of the beginning of 2013, over 100 million people had interacted with the video – clearly illustrating the power of a strong idea. This just shows that if you as a cause want to succeed, you have to either internally prioritize a culture where ideas are encouraged or partner with communication companies that are idea centric.

Paul: As you illustrate in the book, a new media environment creates innumerable opportunities for engaging content such as viral videos – but this often means causes have to find ways to “market their marketing” to get online attention – what are the best ways to make the most out of good creative content with little marketing spend?

Thomas: Yes, it is true that initially it appears as if the new media landscape offers unprecedented possibilities for causes- and as we in the last couple of years have seen social media has succeeded to create strong movements changing the status quo forever. Greenpeace, Amnesty and others have succeeded in taking on big corporations and other organizations such as Avaaz have succeeded in creating a 18 million strong online community; the size of a country committed to people-powered action and democracy.

But one shouldn't be blinded by the digital and social possibilities. It also demands hard work – and it’s increasingly harder to get your content to go viral without spending money, this has a lot to do with the fact that 60 hours of content is added to Youtube every minute.

At the Goodvertising Agency we believe in creating projects that first of all get causes and people to work together towards a common goal and in doing so turning them from target groups into collaborators. Our role is not to talk at people; it’s to get people to talk to each other. We achieve this through a tool we call “Shared Conversations”, which basically helps identify topics of shared value, which is exactly the point of Goodvertising. When you’re creating communication that’s centred around making a difference in people’s lives, the ideas are far sexier, and more exciting and engaging than simply shoveling messages down their throats.

It all comes down to the truth that nobody likes to be told that the life they’re living is wrong or they could do more. There is no right answer for every assignment, but before you choose the oh-so-dull online petition or the typical oh-so-serious black-and-white viral with a voice-over that sounds like James Earl Jones, ask yourself how you can create an engaging conversation that makes a difference, for people, as well as a cause.

Paul: What can you tell us about your new platform WhereGoodGrows?

Thomas: It’s a project I’m really passionate about. The idea behind WhereGoodGrows came about when I was doing the research for my book Goodvertising and I saw first-hand how all of these great campaigns were making a huge difference in peoples lives. One campaign that ran in the States “Digital Death” asked celebrities to pull the plug on their digital life until a donation goal of 1 million USD was reached to fight HIV. One ad showed Elijah Wood in a coffin with the headline: “Elijah Wood is dead”. It took only 5 days to raise the money. But instead of re-using a campaign like that in other countries around the world, it ends up in a book like mine gathering dust on a bookshelf. It’s like asking a gold medallist Olympic athlete at the height of his career to quit athletics. Why don’t we put these campaigns to further use?

WhereGoodGrows is more than just a name. It encapsulates our mission statement. We believe that if we all share communication solutions for good; we can accelerate innovation and ultimately do greater good for people, the planet and business. WhereGoodGrows is the world’s first best-practice collaborative platform that not only shares communications solutions and aims to inspire communications professionals and brands around the world, but more importantly shares tangible results that really work for all stakeholders (people, the planet and business). Just think, if a campaign in Africa for HIV prevention really worked and saved thousands of lives, why not use that very same campaign in India? That’s why we want to challenge the old concept of copyright and ask you to share your work with our Right to Recycle License, so others faced with the same challenges as you and your community can recreate your work with a local spin; only then can we truly do greater good.

Paul: We ask each of our interviewees to browse our profiles of member causes and choose one to give a few words of advice or a creative idea to – which cause would you like to choose and what advice would you like to give them?

Thomas: I absolutely love the thought behind Centre for Social Franchising – which is a kindred spirit of WhereGoodGrows. Its mission is to help the most successful social impact projects replicate. My advice: Go check it out – and support it.

 

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