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Be Bold. Use Your Head.
By: Dallas Baker
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“Meaningful work” is a term that gets tossed around by self-righteous ad guys quite a lot. Rarely does it truly translate to what most of the world outside of advertising would consider meaningful. For work to cross that threshold, it must align with people’s long-held beliefs on a cellular level, or change them altogether. That usually starts with telling a great story.
The idea that every brand, product, or organization has a story to tell is not really new. The best advertising has always embraced this simple axiom. It can get lost, however, when we fail to determine the true purpose for our work and we target easy goals, like mere “awareness.”
When we aim higher and our purpose comes searing through in our concepts, that’s when real vision is galvanized. Boston agency Small Army’s campaign against cancer, called Be Bold, Be Bald!, is a great example.
Small Army was just five years old in 2007 when co-founder and Creative Principal Mike Connell lost his two-year battle with cancer. The agency did what so many of us who have lost loved ones to the disease have done: They looked to their talents for a way to pay meaningful tribute to their friend.
The team had been inspired by the courage and dignity Connell had shown in his fight. They set out to do more than raise money and awareness to fight the disease. They were determined to help others connect with the fight against cancer on a personal level. They needed a concept that would strike an empathic chord with those who were fighting cancer with the same courage Connell had shown.
The answer, like most big ideas, was remarkably simple: hold an annual event where supporters wear “bald caps” to draw attention to the cause, and to provide a glimpse into the strain on dignity that accompanies this fight. The fundraising element of the program was so powerful that the group earned more than $250,000 in just two years and drew alliances with organizations like Livestrong® and other national groups. Now, it’s a nationwide annual event and it’s growing.
This year, participants will wear their bald caps on October 21 and pledging is already underway. The money and awareness raised is only part of the tribute to Connell and anyone who has fought cancer. The lasting difference comes in the understanding gained by participants and casual observers alike. By anyone’s definition, that’s meaningful work.
So, if you have ever wanted to shave your head in a show of solidarity with a cancer patient, you now have a more approachable option. It’s also a lot easier to recruit friends and family to participate. And, you’ll forge a personal connection with the daily struggle cancer patients face without needing the courage it takes to really go bald.
That’s a level of commitment even we self-righteous advertising people ought to be able to muster. Who’s in?

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About the Author
Dallas Baker is an experienced copywriter and creative director in San Francisco. Connect with him here.
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