Grey day: a chat with Grey Group on the "idea booth"

Advertising agency Grey Group provided TED@PalmSprings with an “idea booth” that offered some new tools to help spread ideas. We caught up with them after session 10.

Chel O’Reilly: We’re an advertising agency, so we spread ideas, and TED is all about “ideas worth spreading,” so we thought we’d combine our skills with TED’s interests, which really are the interests of humanity. We have this booth where our colleagues are working. We’re saying, “Bring your ideas that you want to spread at TED here, and we’ll talk about them, we’ll see what things we can come up with, we’ll see how we can help you.” And we have some special tools for doing so, which Andy Ford is the brainchild behind.

Andy Ford: I think the reason Grey works so well at TED — as opposed to most advertising agencies — is because we’re people first. The software we’ve developed is not about amassing data. It’s about human interaction. Let’s actually dig in to what matters to people. Find out what they love. Find out what they hate. That takes time, and it takes context. And it takes people who give a damn. That’s the reason I love the partnership. TED gives a damn. Grey gives a damn. At the end of the day, everybody’s got to get paid, but if the world’s not a better place, then, fuck, who cares?

I’ve done a lot of terrible shit in my life. There are a whole lot of products and schemes that I’ve been behind, and that I’m not proud about. But when you get a chance to really do something and to hear the kinds of messages that are here, you figure that these agencies are going to go back and make real moral decisions for the world. They’re going to advise their clients to do things that matter. That’s worth it.

True collaboration does require some giving and taking. But I think to turn Madison Avenue from this place where we spend and we run a program up and see how far we can take an advertising dollar to a place that says we can no longer afford to have our blood in the game. We have to turn Madison Avenue into a place of influence. I want to see us stop taking orders. I want to see us start advising on how to make a difference. Frankly, I think that’s the only way we’ll make it.

Bill Power: I had a great conversation with Jit Bhattacharya of Mission Motors about the need to provide alternative fuel and energy transportation alternatives with as little sacrifice as possible, in order to have the broadest appeal to the market. That’s why his kick-ass electric sport bike imposes little compromise to riders, which is what most people believe is the trade-off with electric or hybrid alternatives to fossil fuel bikes and cars. We’re both hot rod gear heads, so we were in sync.

We talked about the shocking lack of diversity among entry level advertising recruits, and all the possible reasons why the industry has still not found the appeal beyond white college students — in comparison to banking, entertainment, technology, publishing, so on. Coming to TED will hopefully inspire some news ideas so tomorrow’s agency begins to represent a little more closely the consumer population we aim to persuade on behalf of our clients.