October 5, 2011
Zak Mroueh and Mark Sherman have taken Torontonians by surprise emblazoning their powerful yet simple message throughout the city.
Albert Einstein, reflecting on the problems of the, world mused, “We can’t solve problems by using the same level of thinking we used when we created them.” When Zak Mroueh, President and Creative Director of a Toronto-based advertising agency, looked at the problems of the world, he likewise concurred: “The world needs more creativity in dealing with the problems it faces.” Mark Sherman, Executive Chair of Media Experts, a media strategy company, also thought, “Companies can harness the power of their collective to heal and improve society.” Zak and Mark set out to leverage the creative potential of the advertising world and direct it towards social change, founding the People for Good campaign (www.peopleforgood.ca), which launched across Canada on June 29th.
The campaign is a multifaceted endeavour involving media ads and a variety of initiatives. Upon visiting the People for Good website, one is presented with a list of “Good Ideas” submitted by other users. Some of the ideas, like “make cookies for your neighbours,” are simple — almost trivial — and seem ill matched to deal with the current problems of the world. However, as Mahatma Ghandi once wrote, “Life is full of seemingly inconsequential acts, but it is absolutely essential that we do them.” This is never more true than in the case of the small acts that we need to enrich our lives.
“Caught up in our hectic lives and routines, coupled with the stresses and distractions of modern living, many of us have stopped noticing those around us. We’ve stopped caring,” says Mark.
In “The Good Experiment” section of the website, visitors can share and view webcam testimonials of people who have agreed to try to commit one good deed for seven days. The introduction reads, “[S]tudies show that when you do something nice for someone else, it gives you a natural high….” Indeed, a large study revealed that volunteering often offered a 44% reduction in early death — an effect greater than exercising four times a week.* One participant, George, resolved to say “good morning” to everyone he walked by. Another participant, Tracy, put an extra $2 in the parking meter adjacent to her car because it had run out and the parking enforcement officer was making the rounds.
Media experts like Zak and Mark specialize in creating buzz and thinking outside the box to solve problems. Imagine the power that has us all humming the jingle of a fast food chain or wondering how they get the caramel inside a candy bar redirected towards social change!
“Advertising is often seen as an intrusion, asking us to buy something or buy into something,” says Zak. “The People for Good campaign is certainly intrusive, too, but we intrude with a different kind of message. The only donation we ask for is generosity.”
People for Good has caught on, even having attracted celebrity attention. Radio ads feature the talents of Canadians such as actor Jason Priestly and entertainer/musician Lisa Loeb. We all have our spheres of influence. It is said in business that we will encounter 250 people every month with whom we can share and spread ideas.
Mark and Zak say, “[We] took stock of what we could do as two business owners. If every Canadian business did the same, the potential for change is limitless.” The People for Good website welcomes visitors with “We’re People for Good. And our goal is to make the world a better place, one good deed at a time.” With the creative talents of Mark and Zak at the helm, I’m sure we’ll all soon be humming this tune.
People for Good Ten Tips for Good Deeds
1. Smile at a stranger — or wave at your fellow subway passenger
2. Open and hold the door for someone
3. Give up your seat on the subway, bus, or streetcar
4. Buy a coffee for your co-worker
5. Surprise your colleagues with freshly baked brownies
6. Cut grass or shovel snow for your neighbour
7. Help a stranger change a tire on the road — or put in a coin in expiring parking metre for someone you don’t know
8. Return a grocery cart after someone has used it or let a stranger ahead of you in a store line
9. While on Facebook, just pick up the phone and give your friend a call
10. Simply say ‘‘Thank you’’ to someone who helped you — and really mean it
Zak Mroueh and Mark Sherman are definitely exemplary People for Good.