I was driving to hockey training at some stage this last month and was taken by the billboard you see below. It is on the corner of Nepean Highway and North Road, in Melbourne, Victoria (Australia – for the international readers)
It stunned me.The first thing that got me about the billboard, which made me think this wasn’t any ordinary billboard, was that it is advertising a church service. Wow. When was the last time that the church (who I assume have a fair bit of cash) was buying advertising space on a huge, prominent billboard? Probably since the town crier was a favourable professions for kids to consider when leaving uni.
But the thing that got me most about the billboard was what it was telling me to do. It simply says ‘Sunday at St Michaels’ and then just gives me a time (10am on Sundays) and a space (St Michaels, 120 Collins St). And that, is it. No website to remember to look up. No phone number to ring. No special deal to remember or deadline to beat. No price to compare and no competition to rate. It was just a simple time and space. It presented me with a simple proposition. What was I doing on Sunday, at 10am? And, if the answer to that question was nothing, then why not come to 120 Collins St?
Naomi Klein, in No Logo, talks about how we are subjected to thousands of advertising messages a day and the impact that has on our world. I want to take this to the next logical conclusion. If we are subjected to thousands of messages a day, we are also subjected to hundreds of possible ‘things’ to remember. I’ve riffed about mental illness and anxiety before, but one of the key things which seem to cause it is a large amount of thoughts flowing unabated through one’s mind. Now, if you only abosorb 1% of all the messages that you are exposed to that equates to about 30 things a day you are trying to remember. I’d imagine it would be tough at the best of times. Let alone if things are busy and you’re struggling to find time to scratch yourself anyway.
The church has created something quite special in the world of advertising and provided a lesson for the rest of us to learn when it comes to self organising ourselves into communities of practice and expertise. Earlier in the year, Pat Allan, Melina Chan and I organised an event called Trampoline. It was a great lesson for the three of us in creating a time and space for people to congregate around to share their experiences and ideas. The greatest take out of this for me was that successfully creating a space for people to be themselves and providing a time for them to do it is a powerful tool in the modern era. Here in Melbourne, we have seen this power a number of times now, with Melbourne Jelly now established on every 2nd Friday at Kisla Interactive HQ in Fitzroy (thanks in large part to the great work of Pieter Peach and Maxim Shklyar) and Social Media Breakfast ticking along every Friday morning at Mr Tulk (again, thanks to the work of Kate Kendalland Lucio Ribeiro).
In the world increasingly becoming a mixture of self organising systems and traditional hierarchy, the ability for people to organise a time and space where people can meet and connect is beginning to show real pay off when it comes to taking action and getting things done in small, quickly organised cell groups. Who said the world couldn’t function without hierarchy? The billboard reiterates, we’ve been doing it for a fair while now. The church had it right thousands of years ago.