Saatchi Saves the World

Okay, they’re not really saving the world. But they’re attempting to make a small dent by handing over $50,000 in cash and $50,000 in marketing services to someone with an idea that has the “greatest world changing potential,” whether it be on an individual, societal or global scale. Oh, and guess who gets to judge? Baz Luhrmann, Lou Reed, Philip Glass, and a few other cerebral artists.

Last Thursday night I had the pleasure of meeting the 11 finalists at a swanky stark-white cocktail party where the winner would be unveiled. Amid sushi rolls and champagne I mingled with the innovators behind Wikipedia, Subvocal Speech Recognition (a NASA project that allows neural communication without speech), Photo-Form Tactile Graphics (a 2-dimensional image for blind people), Optical Stretcher (laser beams to detect cancer cells), Bio-Solar Energy Nanodevices (use spinach to convert sunlight to electrical energy) and what I thought was the absolute coolest — “The Frozen Ark Project” — The University of Nottingham’s Institute of Genetics’ initiative to create a DNA archive of all the earth’s endangered species.

The winner of the “4th Saatchi & Saatchi Award for World Changing Ideas” went to Concrete Canvas’s Peter Brewin and William Crawford — two post-grad industrial design engineering studients from London’s Royal College of Art. The innovation: a deployable hardened shelter intended for disaster relief (like, say hypothetically speaking, tsunamis and hurricanes). In less than 40 minutes a novice can transform the 500 lb sack made of a cement impregnated fabric bonded to the external surface of an inflatable plastic inner into–get this– a shelter that can last up to 10 years.

Finally the ad industry does something useful–even if it is just an attempt to help brand Saatchi its party line: “the Ideas company.”