I was quite sceptical of the original Ideas Campaign when it kicked off in March last year – with concerns which proved to be well-founded (e.g. their daily changing of their terms and conditions depending on issues raised). There were plenty other issues, and some of these could also be appropriately be raised with regards to this years Ideas Campaign 2.0, the Your Country, Your Call campaign.
I wrote a little on Tuesday about my concern that these campaigns were actually not directed at what we in Ireland need most – action, rather than simply generating lists of more ideas. I’ll also cover tomorrow where I see the greatest weakness of these “ideas campaigns”, but for now, lets look at the common problems with this YCYC campaign vs the original Ideas Campaign.
The first concern that I had was that the Ideas Campaign (IC) initially claimed ownership of all ideas submitted, whether selected to be presented to Government, or not. On the other hand, the Your Country, Your Call (YCYC) campaign only claims ownership of the winning two ideas – but temporarily claims ownership of all ideas during the competition. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the YCYC campaign taking ownership of the winning ideas – for €100,000, that could be considered a suitable payoff for what is effectively still only an idea.
However, unlike the IC, the YCYC campaign makes every idea submitted open for public viewing. While the Ideas Campaign only published a selection of ideas submitted, by having all submissions made public on the YCYC website, they’re now there for anyone else to seize upon.
While you and I may understand the dangers of submitting an idea to such a public forum as the YCYC website, there may be well meaning individuals or groups out there who don’t. There may be those who have the unexpected surprise that having innocently and honestly tried to do some good by submitting their idea, they’ve also made their idea public, so it could be seized upon by others.
Who’s idea was this ideas gathering exercise?
The Ideas Campaign was very unclear at its initiation with regards to who was actually behind the campaign – and we’re seeing this again with the Your Country, Your Call campaign. We know that Presidents husband, Mr. Martin McAleese, is the figurehead behind the idea, but it does appear as if he probably wasn’t around at the inception of the YCYC idea. For example, he isn’t one of the registered directors of the company behind the campaign.
We don’t know either who the financial supporters are of this campaign. We’re told that €2m has been collected to fund the campaign and its prize money, yet we’re not told who collected any of this money. Some clues were provided over the past weekend on Twitter – more details here. Apparently some companies like Diageo, Bank of Ireland, Cisco and Allied Irish Bank and some other unnamed “big names” are invested to the tune of €130k.
While Aileen O’Toole of Amas Consulting initially tried to tell us on Prime Time that the IdeasCcampaign was all her own personal idea, for the good of the country, we later found out that it was actually a project sponsored and paid for by Amas Consulting.
We’re now only picking up tit-bits about who is really behind this YCYC campaign. You have to get the company documentation for the An Smaoineamh Mor company to find out the individuals behind the whole thing – chaired by former Bank of Ireland governor Dr Laurence Crowley, Martin Murphy, managing director of Hewlett Packard Ireland, and Eugene McCague, chairman of Arthur Cox solicitors.
You have to further delve behind the registration of the website domains to find out it is Allied Irish Banks who are behind the registration of the .ie domain name.
You have to read the press release from the company, BrightIdea, supplying the Your Country Your Call website software to find out that someone called Austin Hogan is the program director for Your Country, Your Call. I wonder is this the same “Austin Hogan” who’s entry on LinkedIn says they’re the “Head HR Operations & Technology at AIB”?
Further, you have to pick up on a couple of clues dropped around to find out who the “steering committee” for YCYC is. From Twitter we find that Padraig McKeon of Drury, a PR company, is a member. From The Irish Times, we find that Ferdinand Von Prondzynski of DCU is also on the steering committee. And finally then, though it’s not made available on their website, the rest of the steering committee is made up of Laurence Crowley, Martin McAleese, Martin Murphy (HP), Anne Marie Shaw (Cisco).
Finally, if you look at the Your Country, Your Call, you find out a further company that’s probably involved in this campaign. The Your Country, Your Call LinkedIn group is managed by someone called Zara Sheehin – Senior Account Manager at Agency.com/Cawley Nea TBWA, another PR company.
What’s the government involvement?
Similar to the Ideas Campaign, the YCYC campaign is suggesting that they have government support, but they’re not defining what that support is. We don’t know if they Government is providing money, or even if they’re kicking off this campaign at the behest of the government – another, “hey, look over there” diversionary tactic that our Fianna Fail government is so fond of.
Was it just a “nod and a wink” from some civil servant or government minister over a pint in Doheny & Nesbitts that is the support we’re talking about, or is it something more substantial. Only at the end of the Ideas Campaign did we find out that the government were going to take the best ideas submitted and submit them to a special task force. We have no indication yet as to what the YCYC campaign are going to do with their best two ideas.
Why all the secrecy?
Why do I even have to pose these questions about what Your Country, Your Call is really about? What is it about “idea generating campaigns” in Ireland and their promoters, that requires such secrecy and privacy?
When these people are expecting the Irish people to bear their souls for the ultimate benefit of the campaign themselves (either financially or in self-promotion), why don’t they come out with the information up front?
And why is the main stream media so quick to promote these campaigns without first questioning the who is behind the campaign, what their real motives are, and what the ultimately plan to do with the ideas?
The Ideas Campaign did manage to very successfully smack down any of this questioning with their “no whinging” rule, but why should a promoter of an idea generating campaign be given a free pass when it comes to avoiding negative media coverage?
There is, however, one major problem with all of these idea generating campaigns – and more particularly, how the supposedly “best” ideas are chosen. I’ll cover that here tomorrow.