TED Ads Worth Spreading: Advertising Can Change the World

By Jack Myers ThinkTank Archives
Cover image for  article: TED Ads Worth Spreading: Advertising Can Change the World

TED has evolved from a conference that for almost a quarter-century attracted a who's who from the technology, entertainment, design and Silicon Valley investment communities to the small confines of the Monterey Conference Center.

Today, under the guidance of curator Chris Anderson, it has become one of the world's most successful and innovative media companies. With $41.7 million in 2012 revenues, TED now encompasses a truly multi-experience range of assets under the umbrella of Ideas Worth Spreading.

· TED's Annual Conference, moving next year to Vancouver, curates 50 of the world's best ideas, presented to a diverse audience of 1,700 people who each pay $7,500 to attend. Ted's global talent search for presenters covered 14 cities.

· TED.com, with more than one billion TEDTalks viewed, is among the web's most popular and critically acclaimed sites, with TEDTalk translations available in 94 languages. The TED app has been downloaded more than 5 million times.

· TEDx Events, with 5,461 events held globally in the past two years, has introduced the TED experience to thousands of people from Asheville to Zimbabwe, with more than 22,000 TEDx Talks to date.

· TEDGlobal is now centered in Edinburgh, Scotland, and draws a unique audience and presenters who engage in a collaborative exploration of possibilities for humanity and theuniverse.

 TEDActive, held synchronously with TED, engages 700 members of the TEDx community, TED's volunteer translators, educators and a diverse community of "thinkers" who join together to view a simulcast of TED live presentations, share ideas and formulate ideas and actions.

· TEDFellows identifies extraordinary innovators globally and funds their visions, advancing their careers and lives.

· TEDPrize, won in the past by BONO, artist JR, the City 2.0, astronomer Jill Tatar and explorer Sylvia Earle, this year was presented to educator Sugata Mitra. The $1 million award will be usedto advance Mitra's vision of Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE).

· TED also incorporates outreach programs and events that include TED-Ed, TEDWomen, TEDYouth, curated TEDTalks, TEDWeekends, TEDBooks, TEDRadio on NPR and the soon-to-launch TEDTV.

A step-child in the TED family of initiatives is TED's Ads Worth Spreading, an annual competition supported principally by You Tube that recognizes great advertising. This year's ten TED Ads Worth Spreading are shared below with links to each ad. They're creative, innovative, unique, humorous, engaging and important. But the Ads Worth Spreading program, entering its fourth year, is not included in TED's 85 page annual report and the ads were not featured at this year's TED Conference. Although lunches honoring the agency creative teams behind the ads were held at both TED and TEDActive this year, attendance was limited to the few TED attendeesfrom the ad community and the winners were only briefly announced at a mini-event within TED called TEDU, at which TED attendees are invited to share presentations to the TED community (TEDU is one of my favorite TED experiences).

The TED Ads Worth Spreading initiative is intended to seek out "the smartest, strongest ads that don't just sell a product or brand, but express an idea. The dream behind the Ads Worth Spreading initiative is to find companies that want to communicate ideas to their consumers in the same way that TED wants to communicate with its audience." TED's vision is an important one, recognizing that advertising is the vehicle through which the most important ideas can be spread. The award, however, is not dissimilar to the many other advertising awards presented each year that focus on creative and clever communications of ideas rather than the power of the idea being communicated and their potential positive impact on humanity.

This year's TED and TEDActive, (I was fortunate to attend both, splitting my time between them),were my 26th and 27th TED conferences. I'm a TED loyalist and advocate. Chris Anderson and his exceptional team (June Cohen, Bruno Giussani, Tom Reilly, Ronda Carnegie and many others) have built a media company that far exceeds any other media company in making positive contributions to the world. TED redefines media business models, developing revenue models that will be followed and copied by many other companies for generations. TED will serve as a role model for future case studies on the media business of the future.

When it comes to advertising and content, I admit to having a strong bias. Throughout the 1990s, I led a research initiative on the economics of prime time network television programming for ten leading global marketers, including General Motors, Coca Cola, AT&T, MasterCard and Campbell's Soup Company. The initiative led to the funding of Turner's Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, nominated for Academy and EMMY Awards; ABC's Gail Sheehy's New Passages; the World Music Awards; and several other programs that were intended to combine positivemessages with marketing communications. For the past two years, I've been a partner with Morgan Spurlock in Cinelan, which has produced for GE more than 100 three-minute documentaries on innovation and inventions that are enhancing humanity (www.focusforwardfilms.com). Innovative content strategies can communicate important marketing themes, be a powerful tool for motivating people to embrace and support behavioral change, and advance initiatives that are positively impacting on humanity.

While TED honors advertising that is creative and worth spreading based on innovative and breakthrough creativity, I believe TED Ads Worth Spreading could be more focused on ads that give voice to solutions and genius ideas that are positively contributing to humanity. The reality that TED Ads Worth Spreading were not considered to be worthy of spreading to the TED community at TED and TEDActive this year (even to the few attendees at the awardsluncheons) argues for a repositioning of the ads in a way that TED leaders would be proud to share and spread as visibly and aggressively as possible. In turn, the ad community itself should feature TED Ads Worth Spreading at industry events, trade association meetings, websites and dedicated gatherings. Today, I fear too many of these groups consider the Ads Worth Spreading awards to be competitive with their own award initiatives.

The transition would be simple – instead of searching for the ads that are worthy of spreading for their creativity in communicating a message – the search can focus on advertising (in all formats) that successfully enhances humanity. Many of the ads below achieve that complex goal. They're all truly great, and worthy of the few minutes it will take you to watch them. I hope TED Ads Worth Spreading are an integral part of the main stage program.

 TED Initiatives » Ads Worth Spreading

These are the 10 winners of our third Ads Worth Spreading challenge. The dream behind this initiative is to find ads that communicate ideas with consumers in the same way that TED wants to communicate with its audience. See last year's selections and learn more about the initiative by downloading the Ads Worth Spreading report 


Dell – Annie 01:02
A persistent fifth grader named Annie decides that she's going to fly. With the help of her Dell laptop, imagination and ingenuity, she brings her dream to life and shows the doubters that where there's a will, there's a way.



Melbourne Metro Rail - Dumb Ways To Die 02:59

Safety warnings aren't especially memorable, but this quirky, animated bit is hard to forget. While setting fire to your hair or poking a grizzly bear are dumb ways to die, ignoring safety rules around trains is the dumbest of all.



Coca Cola - Security Cameras 01:31

Security cameras around the world capture some of the lowest moments in human behavior -- but, they also capture some of the most beautiful. A sweet reminder that kindness, bravery and love are everywhere.



Rainforest Alliance - Follow the Frog 03:09

So you want to save the rainforest? You could give up your job, your family, your life, and start a movement with the local tribesmen of Nicaragua. Or you could follow the frog.



Dodge Ram - The Farmer 02:02

In the poetic words of Paul Harvey, "On the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, 'I need a caretaker.' So, God made a farmer." A moving tribute to the hard work of the American farmer.



The Guardian - Three Little Pigs 02:00

If the fairytale of the "Three Little Pigs" was to take place today, how would a 24-hour press cycle and social media change the story? Discover a new twist on an old tale as today's media dissects the supposed innocence of the pigs.



Channel 4 - Meet the Super Humans 01:28

In life, we all have obstacles to overcome. But, the champions of the Paralympics didn't let anything get in their way. This powerful ad shines a light on the incredible strength of human determination.



Expedia - Find Your Understanding 03:18

Travel can take you out of your comfort zone and change your perspective. On this trip, Artie Goldstein travels across the country to attend his daughter's wedding, a journey that tests him and ultimately changes him in unexpected ways.



GlaxoSmithKline - The Crowd 01:00

GlaxoSmithKline takes a creative step forward to highlight their role in the Olympics as an anti-doping agent. Experience the adrenaline rush of an athlete on a global stage whose drug of choice is the crowd.



TNT - Daily Dose of Drama 01:45

In a quiet square sits a red button and an arrow prompting you to push it. Suddenly, sirens blare, an injured person is carried out by stretcher, black cars zoom up and a shootout ensues. A real-life daily dose of drama brought to you by TNT.

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