Category Archives: TEDActive 2013

Ads Worth Spreading: A Brief from TED

“We’re all gathered here to celebrate Ads Worth Spreading,” announced co-hosts Cindy Gallup and Abigail Posner, dressed head to toe in Zara, or “recession-chic” as they called it. “We are going to see the creative approach about how we think TED can spread its own ideas.”

But the conversation quickly took on a bigger and broader question, as conversations at TED often do. What we were really here to talk about, Cindy revealed, is what the future ads worth spreading will be.


Earlier in the week, Google’s Creative Director Ben Jones had discussed the opportunity to create impactful and meaningful content within the context and the mediums that the world of digital media has to offer. What happens when we ask people the really fundamental questions, like the Doador Sport Campign, for example? How can we create structures that people can and want to participate in, with platforms like Kiva or calls to action like Amanda Palmer’s TEDTalk? How might we create brand ambassadors though the content we create, as Heineken has done with its #Dropped experiment? With so many new kinds of content and mediums with with to capture peoples’ attention, Ben says, “amazing is always on the other side of yes.”

So what should advertisers be saying yes to?

“We need to delve deeper into the nature of our relationship to the different digital spaces that we play in,” Abigail says. Instead of just putting content on a mobile screen, she explains, how can we leverage the insight that mobile is a way for us to build and share culture?

From Cindy’s perspective, we also need to be saying yes to advertising. She points to an almost universal, fundamental belief that advertising is a bad thing. This belief, she points out, exists here at TED, among consumers of advertisments, and among advertisers themselves. We can’t leverage the great things technology and creativity have to offer if we continue believing this to be true, she notes. “The future is about creative collaboration in a way that assumes positive intent on both sides, and that enables us to do our best work together,” says Cindy. “Despite what everybody else thinks, we absolutely have the ability to change the world, just as much as any other speaker you’ve seen on stage this week.”


Over the course of this week at TEDActive, advertising gurus, AWS nominators and judges, as well as the winning ads themselves, came together around TED’s Ads Worth Spreading initiative to think about creating some new ads worth spreading to solve some of TED’s biggest challenges. Ads Worth Spreading began in 2011, to “recognize and reward innovation, ingenuity and intelligence in advertising,” that is, ads that spread an idea through powerful and meaningful connections with their audience. This year, ten winners embodied powerful and transformative work with the power to change the world. You can watch the winning pieces here.

With facilitation led by IDEO, winners, nominators and leaders alike, split into three teams, each handed a brief and three days to design a compelling pitch, the winner of which would be awarded $25K in seed funding by TED to bring this idea to life. The outcome reflected the curious, innovative and proactive spirit that TEDActive is all about.


Think Globally, Act Locally
Create a campaign that tells people how to become a part of the volunteer community of TEDx.

How can TED better tell the stories of local change and engagement? How can we reach everyone who wants to get involved with TED and make a difference in their communities?

Tom Wong (TBWA) and Ben Jones (Google) presented for the group. Ben shared how during dinner the night before, he sat next to Ilwad Elman, a young woman who grew up in Ottowa, but returned to her home country of Somalia after the assassination of her father, to carry on his human rights work with her mother through their Elman Peace and Human Rights Center in Mogadishu, and has used the TEDx platform to connect with her community and others around her ideas. “This isn’t just playing around with a brief,” says Ben. “This is incredibly, incredibly important.”

TEDx is a great gateway product to get involved with a much larger brand, explain Tom and Ben. “We want to help turn TEDx organizers from a power to a great big superpower. Local action, global impact.” This group had several concepts, including TEDxMe, which makes everyone a TEDx organizer at an atomic level and lowers the barrier so that anyone can immediately do so through personalized TEDx playlists. Another, called TEDxEveryday filters personally-tailored TEDx talks to the user based on the amount of time they have to watch. A third (and there were several beyond this) entitled BatSignal, was a way to connect TEDx communities to help each other with common challenges. This collection of offerings centered around a core belief that “local is not measured from where my feet are, it’s measured from where my heart is.”


Youth and Education
Design a strategy to help create awareness of the TED-Ed ecosystem and its potential. 

How might we reimagine the current TED-Ed videos to reach the common person, strike chords in people, and generate emotional investment?

John Mescall (McCann Australia) and Kate Smither (Ogilvy & Mather) shared a plan for unlocking the TED-Ed potential. “There are 2 billion youth in the world. They’re curious souls, but they’re at a time in their life where they’re put into a school system, told to be less curious, not ask why or why not.” From ages 0-9 and 18-18, we’re told to go out and try things, make things, do things. But from ages 10-17, we’re told to sit, be patient, absorb, and wait.  Where TED-Ed can play is in this middle section, where students are made to wait.

You’re not ready. Wait your turn. Pay your dues. You’re just a kid. This is the message we’re telling kids at a time when they’re most excited about the world. What we need to tell them, say Kate and John, is to be impatient. “If you have something inside of you, go learn about it, go do it. You do not need to wait your turn or be taught something by the system.” What their team created was an unlockable device, aimed at 14-year olds. To unlock it, you need to know something you might not traditionally know until age 17 or 18. You can wait to play the game until then, says John, or you can be impatient and use TED-Ed to learn what you need to know to unlock it. “Kids have never been more ready to blaze their own trail and make their own destiny.” And here’s how.


The Ripple Effect
Tell the story of the ripple effect of one idea, to inspire others. And build a clear incentive for people to push ideas forward. 

How might we amplify an idea that can change the world, bring it to the attention of people with the ability, drive and imagination to make a difference?

When an idea worth spreading spreads, what does it create? Georgia Challis (Wieden & Kennedy) and Jesse McMillin (Virgin America) presented for their group. “TED is about ideas worth spreading – big, inspiring, touching, brain-expanding ideas. They’re so big, they can feel daunting to the rest of us.” How do we help those of us who aren’t going to stand on the TED stage understand the key role they have in spreading an idea. How do we compel them to be more than just viewers?

Georgia takes us through their treatment, a action-inspiring piece that shows the impact that sharing can have on the proliferation of an idea. We see a speaker on the TED stage, ready to begin a talk, but seemingly struggling to begin. Then we see someone share his talk online and he begins to proceed. Then another, then another. The shares are powering his talk, making him come alive. “It takes many people to deliver a TEDTalk,” says Georgia. “One person stood on stage, a million people spoke. Share TED.”

After each pitch had been presented, the group talked about the potential for implementation of each idea. Not able to decide on a final one (they were all so great!), the folks at Ads Worth Spreading decided to take the ideas back into TED for further discussion. Stay tuned!

29 Tips to get the most out of TEDActive (from attendees)

A good experience can be elusive. It takes the right combination of people, the perfect ambiance, a memorable moment and a touch of spontaneity. At TEDActive, good experiences are abound. Why? Because we create the perfect environment with room for you to play and experiment and we fill the room with the smartest, coolest kids. It’s up to you to add the special sauce — your charm! Below, our veteran community shares their favorite tips help you have the best TEDActive experience (and these tips are so good, they could apply to any event or social gathering). And if there are any repeats or variations on a tip, you know they are super important.

1. Only ask people what they are passionate about and not about their job. — John Marston.

2. Immerse yourself in the spirit! — Norberto Amaral


3. Roll with everything, don’t analyze. — Rachel Langdon

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4. Do not miss a speaker (to work out, sleep in, make a call) because it will end up being the one everyone talks about. — Felicia Kamriani


5. Meet that interesting person by asking them what they love to do. — Kat Haber


6. Embrace the giant badges and don’t be taken off-guard when someone calls you by your first name. The undertone of hospitality is a key takeaway. — Chris Carpenter


7. Remember that nobody is a pure extrovert or introvert. We are all somewhere in-between… in my experience TED Active provided a warm and safe environment to explore my own personal limits – and stretch them a bit… — Chadburn Blomquist

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8. Dive head first into all of the new ways to greet one another. When we’re from all over the world, we can handshake, hug, kiss each other 1, 2, or 3 times, bump fists, bump elbows, or hip bump! do it all! — Kelsey Rhodes


9. Bring out as much of the extrovert in you as you can … all the time, for the whole week … sounds like an effort, but I guarantee it will pay off!!! Start by striking up a conversation with EVERYONE… we are ALL interesting people! — Jose Fernandez-Calvo

6942672149_04fc5bdc8e_b10. Bring something to share, whether it’s tangible or not.  (And lots of business/calling cards) — Jennifer Arzonetti


11. Book an early flight in and a late flight out. You won’t want to leave! — Brian Smith


12. Take a moment at the end of each day to note down the insights you have gained and promise yourself to engage in even more conversations with new TEDsters the following day. — Henrik Ahlen


13. Put. Down. The PHONE! Look up, look around, look into things, and dive into any experience and opportunity you see. Serendipity abounds at TEDActive! — Grace Rodriguez


14. Remember that Thursday morning is pajama/bathrobe day! It’s a good idea to bring your own, in case the hotel doesn’t have robes! This is an IMPORTANT one!  — John K. Bates


15. Use every opportunity to introduce yourself with a handshake. In buffet line, coffee line, registration line, gift line, demo line, beanbag buddies, ski line…. introduce yourself to everyone with a badge… pretend your going to summer camp when you were 10… — Aaron Tang


16. Try to get *some* sleep. Miss conversations late at night in order to be coherent during the day. I have to do this, as I can’t cope on less than seven hours sleep. — Stephen Collins


17. Eat, eat, eat! The food and snacks have historically been very healthy and very good. You will be amazed at what a week of healthy eating and snacking will do for your brain as you put it through its paces. Share that good food with strangers…sharing good meals with interesting people is a real treat. — Chris Carpenter


18. Don’t be or allow wallflowers. — Douglas S. Coleman


19.  There is NOTHING you can do that can prepare you for your first event. Just be present and enjoy every moment. — Jon Yeo


20. If there are fireplaces, great conversations, music and laughter will ensue. Stick by one. — Ash Donaldson


21. Get as much sleep as possible BEFORE the one week! — Martin Venzky-Stalling


22. Don’t worry about planning too much during TED week. Lots to do and better to just roll with it on the fly while there… — Aaron Tang


23. Find your locals (those from near to where you live), to make ongoing connections; possibly more importantly, find those from far away and make friends from the other side of the world. — Stephen Collins


24. Shut off the phone. Use every opportunity to start a conversation. Stay at least until Saturday. — Stefan Krueger


25. TED Activator’s are remarkable people – asking “What do you need?” could lead to interesting adventures for you and them. — Rahim Sajan


26. Bring a simple gift (or two) which you have a connection with (you made it, or it’s a unique local product), gift wrap and have ready. Opportunities will appear. — Douglas S. Coleman


27. Learn new dance steps and teach some too! — Yashraj Akashi


28. Pack light. Some years the TED goodies have been ‘overly generous’ and I’ve been glad to have an empty bag. — Ash Donaldson


29. Bring little, expect to leave with lots. — Aaron Tang


Grace Hawthorne of Paper Punk launches a new Kickstarter! (+ 7 ways she gets inspired)

Remember Grace Hawthorne’s colorful, hands-on Paper Punk social station at TEDActive 2013? She’s back with a brand new exciting project. This week, she launched a Kickstarter for “Urban Fold: Build Your Own Paper Block City,” a Paper Punk kit with everything you need to construct the city of your dreams from paper. The kit comes with 700 pieces inside: 48 easy punch-n-fold shapes, 697 cool stickers, a poster and planning mat and a storage box. Rewards for supporters range from sweet postcards and stickers ($10), to a complete Paper Punk Urban Fold set ($33) and even an all-you-can-eat folding, constructing, crafting buffet for you and 350 of your friends ($8,500).

And why should everyone Paper Punk? “Making things is not only the way we connect and truly learn about ourselves and the world, but it’s an easy antidote to our over saturated digital lives, Grace says on Kickstarter. “Making a Paper Punk tastes like a cupcake and looks like a cupcake, but it’s really broccoli for your brain.”

We wanted to peek into Grace’s super creative and savvy brain. We asked her for her favorite sources for creative energy, and here’s what she said:


One of the things I do before I go to sleep is scroll through lots of fashion, design, art, and museum Instagram threads to see what caught people’s eyes that day. It’s fun to see patterns emerge from the disparate images passing by.


The most influential artist of the 20th century who coined the term ‘readymade’ is my hero. His provocations are still relevant today and constantly remind me that possibility lies in perception. His best quote: “I don’t believe in art, I believe in artists.”


I’m constantly humbled and charged by things I see and experience in nature. It’s a gift when you’re able to catch and savor those seemingly insignificant moments. Nothing on your iPad compares.


My favorite movie ever! And I can’t really articulate specifically why because for me the film sums up the human condition in its entirety.


If I’m not feeling good/happy/inspired, all I have to do is play the piano (Debussy), play the cello (Bach), or blast my eardrums (Black Crowes…getting excited to catch their show in December!).


I’m so dang lucky to be there because every time I teach, I learn and stretch myself. The’s intention about transforming people is a mission larger than themselves…that’s when you know you’re at a place you can call home.


I love touching and seeing stuff in a real store, any store! All the textures, colors, scents, shapes, etc are all research for me. My favorite places to walk the aisles include: Home Depot, Molly Stones, Michaels, Saks.

BONUS: As an extra boost of inspiration, she has this huge Wall of Affirmations in her studio space.