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The Altruism of Ads Worth Spreading

TED Talks Reward Positive Advertising And Offer A Few Tips Along The Way

 “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.”

- TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. TED Conferences, LLC. Retrieved February 13, 2010. (Primary source).


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In a world contained by capitalism, advertising plasters every empty space the eye seeks. Sometimes it seems our only light relief lies in the respite of blinks between the blinding chatter of TV ads and the purrs of hyper-sexualized Amazonians, smouldering down from loud billboards. Luckily, we have arrived at a point in time where we are becoming more and more immune to the Demon Head-Advertiser’s alchemy of crude subtly. We hope, therefore, to no longer be patronized by the peddling of adverts still sticky and wet with the sweat of the bastardization of propaganda, product and pornography. No more can our thoughts be branded. No more will we describe our desires in parrot fashion.

We have become accustomed to the ceaseless shrieking of corporations, as they strike out at society’s subconscious. Neatly muted, of course, by sickly sweet mouthpieces well trained in rhetoric and poorly paid in paper; How can you refuse bad food from a kind-hearted waiter?

That’s where TED has stepped in.

It now looks like the kitchen is cleaning up its act, and TED has created the perfect platform to showcase precisely how far the world of advertising has progressed in positivity and innovation.

Founded in 1984, the organization has sought to illuminate the face of Big brother, describe it, and ask some questions, meanwhile celebrating the overtaking of Orwellian technology. Their online talks help to promote forward thinking in all areas of life, from the hidden power of a smile to the philosophy of success.

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It’s safe to say most organizations in touch with society, whilst not necessarily acting altruistically, have begun to steer advertising in a more moral direction. This allows them to train their focus on connecting with the viewer on a transparent, emotional level, demonstrating shared principles and ethical goals.

For the past three years TED has hosted the competition Ads Worth Spreading, with enormous success. Showcasing the very best of advertising, that, at a mere glance, seems saturated with artistic and altruistic talent, revolutionary skill and craftsmanship. Successful candidates have created ad campaigns that captivate viewers in a way that transcends classical concepts of advertising, by pushing boundaries and adjusting their aim from product to principle.


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Parodic humor has been harnessed to engage the audience in a good few examples , such as, Follow the frog, Click, Baby, Click, and Let’s Save Africa. With the exception of Click, BabyClick, the informal, down to earth style of these award winning adverts really speaks to the viewer eye to eye, putting it all on the table. It is this quality that I think differentiates them form the generic advertising formats of past decades. No more does it feel like we are being subliminally manipulated, rather offered a product or idea, and left to decide for ourselves.

The TED team specifies that:

This is not an award show. The ads chosen are reference points meant to reflect the best of advertising today and help others lift their game by rising to an industry-wide challenge.

They reward the innovative with exposure to their global audience throughout the competition, and host the winner’s ads on their site for the duration of following year. This system benefits everyone involved. Let’s not forget that, although the task relies on deviation from archaic advertising, customer outreach is still the driving force behind these campaigns.

So when all’s said and done, TED accomplishes another foot forward towards a benevolently, flourishing world. In turn, this encourages companies inspired, to evolve their brands for the better as to remain in touch with a maturing, ever enlightened society. We all win.

To have a look at last year’s finalists click here

And if you have the time, it is definitely worth watching a talk or two. But be warned, they can become quite addictive.


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The Altruism of Ads Worth Spreading Reviewed by Leo Donnelly on Friday, March 06, 2015 Rating: 5
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