• 11.02.12

Advertising’s Creative Elite, Gates Foundation Unite To Back World-Changing Ideas

A group of organizations working for good receives a creative boost from adland’s top creative players.

Advertising’s Creative Elite, Gates Foundation Unite To Back World-Changing Ideas

The ad industry often gets a bad rap for existing solely to persuade people to buy things they don’t need. True as that might be, there’s a significant tide within adland that’s shifting toward using its collective communicative powers for good. The “Aid is Working. Tell the World” creative ideas challenge is one such initiative.


Led by the Cannes Lions, the ad industry’s foremost awards show, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the competition called for creative ideas to help the public engage with the issues involved in overseas aid and illustrate how development investments are paying off. The challenge was spurred by Bill Gates’ belief that relatively small investments have already changed the future prospects for billions, but that keeping the public mobilized requires world-class communication.

Now, 10 grantees have been chosen from more than 900 entries submitted from 85 countries. Selected simply on their merits (submissions were anonymous), grantees are awarded $100,000 to develop their ideas as part of the Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations initiative, which aims to overcome challenges in global health and development.

As well, the grantees, hailing from Australia, Italy, The Netherlands, and USA, now have the opportunity to work with the Cannes Chimera, an elite group of world-leading creative thinkers consisting of 2011 Cannes Lion Grand Prix winners, to further develop their ideas. Members of the 14-strong Chimera–including Nick Law of R/GA, Mark Bernath of Wieden & Kennedy, Aaron Koblin of Google Creative Labs, and Amanda Clelland of Droga 5–will work with the grantees at the Gates Foundation’s campus in Seattle mid-November. Grantees will then have the chance to submit their refined idea for an additional $1 million in funding.

Chosen projects include Wieden+Kennedy New York’s Echo Project, which proposes to develop devices that measure actions indicative of foreign aid success; a mobile monitoring and evaluation tool that shows how aid impacts the lives of people at local level through first-persons stories and open data, from The Netherlands’ Stichting 1 Procentclub (1%Club); a Wiki-style platform that packages solutions-journalism (specifically New York Times Fixes columns) into mini-case-studies for educators around the world to embed in, and across, their curriculum; an original television series from USA-based ProSocial telling the stories of aid workers around the world; New York-based Galewill Design’s proposal to translate the complicated language of foreign aid into simplified messages using a one-of-a-kind digital translation tool; and an interactive children’s e-book series for tablet devices that tells the personal stories of children whose lives have been touched by aid efforts from Seattle-based Habitat Seven.

Grant applications for a second round of “Aid is Working. Tell the World” are now being accepted through November 7, 2012. Open for all to apply, submissions for The Grand Challenges Explorations program should focus on mobile, data, young audiences, and the progress of development.

[Image: Flickr user Simone Tagliaferri]

About the author

Rae Ann Fera is a writer with Co.Create whose specialty is covering the media, marketing, creative advertising, digital technology and design fields. She was formerly the editor of ad industry publication Boards and has written for Huffington Post and Marketing Magazine.