REFRESH EVERYTHING: Pepsi to Shun Super Bowl Ads and Save the World

Nothing kicks off a new year quite like the countdown to Super Bowl.  For non-football fans, the advertising arms race to create the biggest, baddest and boldest TV commercials is an all-consuming media maelstrom. We learn something about America, for better or worse, every year during that Sunday sports spectacular.  Super Bowl commercials create  inescapable social memes (Budweiser frogs, anyone?), launch household pitchmen (from Wiliam Shatner to the GEICO gecko), and even inspire watershed cultural moments (Madonna’s interracial kiss during the Pepsi “Like a Prayer” ad).

That’s why Pepsi’s new advertising push for Super Bowl XLIV is so big, so bad (as in good), so bold…and so brave.  This year, the soda-pop juggernaut’s television advertising budget for Super Bowl is $0.  Yep, you read that right.  In the biggest showdown between social-media marketing and traditional TV ads to date, Pepsi will give away over $20 Million in advertising dollars to fund “good ideas, big and small, that make the world a better place”–and it’s all happening at their new do-gooding website. The Pepsi Refresh Project will disperse grants in the amounts of 10 5k grants, 10 25k grants, 10 50k grants, and 2 250k grants every month of 2010.  The best part?  It’s all interactive.  Anyone over the age of 13 can submit an idea, along with video, photographs, and anything else to convince voters to click your button.

Wait, voters?  It gets even better.  Pepsi will accept up to 1000 submissions every month, and host a public vote so we can pick the winners.  Remember Mountain Dew’s Dewmocracy campaign?  I think the Refresh Project just blew it out of the water.  We’ll have to use Facebook, Twitter, Flyers, Foursquare, and whatever else we have at our disposal to win.

Got a great idea?  Wanna make things better?  I do.  It ain’t easy being a Michigander these days.  We’re hurt, we’re struggling, and many of us are hungry, out of work, or scared to death.  I’m here to propose a challenge to all of you Urbane Blog readers out there.  Let’s win this thing for Michigan.

If you’re still reading this blog, it’s because you care about where you live.  You love Metro Detroit, and you’re connected enough to think about improving our quality of life, and sustaining our economy.  This is our chance.  For all those times that you’ve wished you could change your world…now we can.  Power to the people.

In the next month, we’ll be using the Urbane Blog as a forum to come up with some great ideas for Pepsi Refresh grants.  Stay tuned this week for more information about how to get your ideas to us, and how we’lll vote for our favorites every month.  If your idea wins, you’ll have the full-throttle marketing machine of the Urbane Way behind you–logistics, proposal-writing, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, video…if we have it, we’ll help you get the word out, and get our people voting.

Stuck on ideas?  Yeah, me too.  There are six different categories on the Refresh Everything website: Health, Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, The Planet, Neighborhoods, and Education.  Below, you’ll find a few sample ideas for each category to get your brain cells moving.  You can also check out the Pepsi Refresh Project Blog for a ton of really cool ideas, plus a toolkit to help you figure out how to put it all together.

Jan 13 is just about two weeks away.  Together, we’re so much stronger than we are alone–and this is our chance to do some good.  Let’s band together, and make it happen.

Sample ideas:

Health: Obesity is a crucial health problem.  Can we help fund an after school fitness program in our community?   Or connect local farmers with schools, so cafeterias begin serving organic and fresh food at lunch?  What about free phys-ed classes for senior citizens?

Arts & Culture: Every artist needs a place to live and create, and most of them are penniless.  We could start a land bank to buy abandoned and foreclosed properties in Detroit and surrounding areas.  Then, we could lease the properties for really cheap to artists from around the world.  The caveat–they have to sign a 3 year lease, and pledge to clean up, repaint, install new floors…whatever it takes to make that home liveable.  What does that create?  A community of creatives, a neighborhood reborn, and houses restored uniquely and with care.  When the artists are ready to move on, they can be kept in a trust for other creatives, or sold on the open market.  Or we could start a movement to build public sculptures all over our downtowns.  Create a Heidelberg project in the streets.  A community School of Rock program to teach the next generation of rockers, guitars included.

Food & Shelter: There’s plenty of empty buildings in the area, and thousands more men, women and children without homes this winter. We could rent these buildings out and turn them into temporary winter shelters for our local homeless.  Or start a Sunday dinner soup kitchen so every hungry person in our community could get a delicious warm meal one night per week.

The Planet:Let’s help Royal Oak go solar!  We could request a grant to outfit houses, storefronts, and restaurants with home solar panels or windmills.  Or what about starting a massive city-wide recycling project?  Or even painting 100 rooftops white to reduce energy costs.

Neighborhoods: Community gardens. We could request the money for tools, buying the land, bulldozing an abandoned building, and seeds.  Plant wildflowers, or even a food garden.  That food could be donated to a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.  Or renting space in an empty storefront downtown for a kids’ community center.  A greenway connecting Royal Oak, Berkley, Ferndale, Clawson, etc. (like the Dequindre Cut) for bicyclists and pedestrians only.  Even safe bike racks in all of our downtown areas.

Education: Operation Kid Equip is just one charity that helps get school supplies to Oakland County kids without the means to get what they need for school–from pencils to backpacks.  That’s one cause we could certainly support.  Or what about starting our own Big Brothers, Big Sisters chapter with Urbane residents and friends?  Or adopting an elementary school in Detroit, and helping them clean up and build a new playground.  Is there empty land in Ferndale that could be recreated as a Field of Dreams for local kids?

Start dreaming!  And please leave your comments and ideas here.  We want to hear all the input, thoughts, inspiration, questions, and directions you can give.

This article brought to you by the good folks at Urbane Apartments Royal Oak Michigan, Urbane Apartments Ferndale Michigan,Urbane Apartments Birmingham Michigan, and Urbane Apartments Dearborn Michigan

  • Karen Evans

    This is *awesome!* Props to Pepsi for getting out of the ad game (for the most “popular” ads that air during the Super Bowl, it is often the case that people cannot recall the product/service that was advertised, even a day later! But, for this, people will remember Pepsi in a very good way).

    Love all of the ideas above, too. I would add, to Education, improving educational programs for teen mothers in the metro-Detroit area. A program that would impart parenting skills, create a community, provide health services, provide childcare when moms go to school and/or get a job, etc., particularly if based on solid research, would do so much for those women and for their children. Even creating a business where the moms could work and become educated — something that itself would provide a beneficial product/service — would be a wonderful first step.

    Look forward to hearing more and helping if I can!

    @KarenEvansTM