Our soul won’t be sold

Soul stabbinbg logo. It's not a principle until it costs you moneyThe email came from another local agency. Can you please give us all the access to the client site, passwords, login info, account data etc. The client was copied on the email.

It wasn’t just any client, it was one of our oldest. One who we helped them birth their business, outgrow a location, move, go through many management changes. Dropped everything to make things happen for them- without rush fees. Their business was like a second home, comfortable, inviting. We know the staff by name and they know us.

Getting the dear john email hurt. The conversation that followed hurt more. The client was crying.

Our activism had collided with their politics.

For almost 20 years we’d been their champions, and they’d been ours. But, now that was all coming to an end. Because we won’t sell our soul to the machine, and they became a part of it.

The loss of their account won’t damage us at all financially. They may find out that they will pay a lot more to work with the competition. They may find out that the drop everything and get this done costs a lot more. It might not get done as quickly. They may pay for the learning curve of a new agency- or, they may just listen a little more, and do things outside what their comfort zone allowed before and feel absolved. These things happen.

But, when it comes to our soul, if anything, we’ve hardened our resolve to continue to fight the machine, to make things better in our community.

Because as the legendary ad man Bill Bernbach of DDB said “it’s not a principle until it costs you money.”


Torture isn’t OK in 3rd World countries, or the local jail

Dayton is the county seat for Montgomery County. That means the county lock up is here. And, it’s run by the local sheriff. He’s also the chairman of the county Republican Party, which is sort of a conflict of interest, since in Ohio, on election day, the Sheriff has the last word on election issues.

We’re engaged in the community. Our Chief Creative Officer, David Esrati, has maintained a blog since 2005 that is widely read. It’s part of our “practice what we preach” philosophy, using WordPress for content management. Because of his provocative and informative, take no-holds approach to covering local issues, he’s developed a network of confidential sources. When the local jailers got caught in a cover up over pepper-spraying a restrained inmate the Sheriff called it an “isolated incident.”

A month later, it happened again, and a source asked David to investigate. Finding a way to get the video that the victims lawyer couldn’t, we put together a video to expose this heinous practice and begin the push for a full fledged investigation into the conditions in the jail. The post is www.esrati.com/deadly

As a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business, the oath to uphold and protect the constitution is inviolable, no matter how it risks keeping our doors open.

The video:

What’s the secret to better schools?

You won’t find a team of people at The Next Wave that believe educational “drill and fill” is the answer to solving tomorrow’s problems. But, that’s what our schools have been reduced to. In poor urban districts, like Dayton’s, they bought chromebooks for a 1 to 1 initiative, but won’t let the kids take the computers home, won’t teach them to code, and won’t encourage media/content production, the keys to the future economy.

We want to see kids engaged in creative personal exploration, but the currently mandated educational standards are all modeled on tested proficiency of a “common core” which leaves little room for creativity. The district is plagued with funding issues, high teacher burnout/turnover and challenged to compete with charter schools.

Our Chief Creative Officer sits on the Technology steering committee, and has tried to push for open source tools, providing the infrastructure to bridge the “digital divide” and to make the district differentiate itself from charters. Somehow, the message just isn’t getting through, nor is the district capable of selling its strengths to the community, causing a loop of bad PR, lower housing values, lower property tax revenue, less resources, more bad PR.

We crafted a video giving an overview of our turnaround strategy- one that involves rethinking the school year, how we approach the common core, and how to sell our community on a different way to learn. We did this on our own dime. It started a conversation. We’ll see if the discussion moves forward.

Don’t raise taxes to fund private school boards

Every large institution in Dayton, our home town, decided it would be a good idea to raise income taxes on the poor people who live in Dayton. And put a ton of money behind the campaign to pass the tax levy.

There was “no organized opposition” to the levy, which diverted $4.5 million a year to a private school board for pre-schools. We thought that the money would be better spent by the local public school board- that we could at least un-elect. And, our school district actually runs really great free pre-schools.

How to get the message out, with no budget, no time, and overwhelming odds? Facebook. Our campaign spread like wildfire, and while the levy still passed, it was much lower than the passage rate of any other levy they’ve put on the ballot. We still don’t know how much they spent- since the secret PAC that ran the big dollar campaign never filed their after election campaign finance report. We know their average donation was $1873. That’s more than three months rent for most Dayton residents.

We spent $300 running the ad on Facebook, 15,000 views in less than 4 days. 150 shares. Just imagine if we’d had a tenth of their $218,478.19 pre-campaign spend. And, they spent a lot of it outside the city, despite plenty of local talent.

Introducing bike sharing to Dayton

Anyone in the business of advertising in the decade from 2000 to 2010 should have been keeping a close eye on Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the darlings of the industry. Adweek even made up a new award- Creative Director of the Decade to give to Alex Bogusky at the end of 2009. So when The Next Wave Chief Creative Officer David Esrati had seen Alex introducing B-cycle, a joint venture between CP+B, Trek Bicycles and Humana Health Care, he reached out to Alex and asked what it would take to bring B-cycle to Dayton Ohio.

Through one-on-one selling to university presidents, economic development gurus, the director of metroparks, and bringing a prototype of the early bike to the first Miami Valley bike summit, Esrati built the case for bike share. His blog posts built awareness, and his constant lobbying for the program brought the system to town, 6 years after he started talking about it.

Alex Bogusky and David Esrati in Boulder

Alex Bogusky and David Esrati in Boulder

Alex Bogusky left the industry, and Trek is the only remaining partner, but David and Alex stay in touch about other things, looking for opportunities to collaborate.

And Dayton’s Link bike share system is being well used, and growing.

Free green basketball nets change the world

Free green basketball nets change the world

The Sticker Elect Esrati put on the poles with the free green netsAds won’t make your life better. That’s the promise of what ads sell.

Political campaigns promise all kinds of things, but rarely deliver, and certainly not before they get elected.

So when our Chief Creative Officer was running for City Commission, he decided that instead of buying $3 political yard signs, he’d buy $2 basketball nets, paint the bottoms green, and go hang them for free, anywhere in the city. The sticker on the pole told the kids who to call when they needed a replacement.

Late at night, early in the morning. He’d go clean up courts that hadn’t seen a broom in years, cut weeds out of the cracks, even paint some backboards, hang some new rims. It took time, but, the kids in the community ended up with better places to shoot hoops. To fund the campaign, he went to barber and beauty shops, and sold a poster talking about the abysmal conditions of the city courts for $2 each. The video was made by two high school students who were interning at our office as part of the YouthWorks program. It’s not up to our normal production standards, but it tells the story.

He lost the election, but guilted city hall into investing over a million dollars in repairs to the city basketball courts. Four years later, and 500+ nets, he still goes out and climbs the ladder. He’s hung nets on other continents too. As our friends at Zeus Jones always say “actions speak louder than words.”