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Ads Worth Spreading

September 29, 2010

Today, during his New York AdWeek address, TED curator and Wired editor Chris Anderson announced the Ads Worth Spreading Challenge.

“An open invitation to the global advertising community to reinvent, inspire and engage audiences with a new definition of what advertising can mean in the digital age, using as its platform.”

It makes sense, and it’s a welcome wake-up call for global advertising. TED is partially supported by advertising, and recognizes how as a medium it is not just about consumption, but also about “inspiring and motivating beneficial action”. But it doesn’t reach that level nearly enough, especially on the web. Chris Anderson aptly asked ‘If advertising is so great, why the hell is it largely failing on the web today?’.

So, the business community is invited to submit their best new campaigns, to premiere at TED2011 and be shown on for one week in March for free. Considering the 290 million (and counting) global audience, that’s quite a prize. It’s a chance to prove the value and potential of the ad industry at large, and raise the creative bar.

What’s surprising though is that submissions are in video format only. A shame that the criteria is limiting – why not encourage the possibility of say interactive usage of video, like Google’s Chrome FastBall or Tip-Ex’s YouTube bear hunting phenomenon? I’m sure for practical reasons this might have been difficult. But what makes great web advertising is often work that goes beyond the traditional formats of video and banners (essentially TV and press adapted for the internet), and instead harnesses the creative potential of a medium which in many ways has no boundaries, and can therefore lead to a greater consumer engagement than otherwise. On the other hand, it means that brands will have to focus on their core ideas rather than creative fireworks: as much strategy as show.

Nonetheless, TED’s challenge is necessary and exciting. Bring on the ads worth spreading.

Image from the TED blog.

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