Day two of TED featured talks that covered topics from the origins of the universe to a new web-enhanced education model, eradicating polio in the world's poorest countries and the troubled Spider Man show on Broadway. But the program also include talks from some names much more familiar to the ad industry, including Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, Ford executive chair Bill Ford, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock and Bill Gates.
Spurlock spoke about his film, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a postmodern take on brand ubiquity - Spurlock generated funding for the film in exchange for pointed product placement. "I've spent last few years putting myself in situations that are difficult and dangerous," said Spurlock of his previous projects like Supersize Me and his TV show 30 Days which saw him do stints in prison. "But nothing could prepare me for anything as difficult or dangerous as going into the room with these guys,” he said, pointing to a slide with the names of several familiar ad agencies and industry players. Spurlock showed a video of his early pitch sessions that also included some well-known ad industry faces, like Medialink's Michael Kassan and others, all of whom, said Spurlock, backed away from the project. The film's one fatal flaw, he said, was transparency, which ended up being the main point of his TED address. "Transparency is scary, unpredictable, risky," said Spurlock. "When I started talking to these companies they said, yes we want you to tell a story, but we want you to tell our story."
In the end hundreds of companies turned the filmmaker down and Spurlock said he realized he had to "cut out on my own" and started working with marketers directly, signing on 17 brands including Mini, POM and Jet Blue. According to Spurlock, the risks of transparency have already paid off for brands involved, with the project gaining 900 million media impressions before the film's official release. "If you train your employees to be risk averse they will end up being reward challenged," he said. Spurlock had earlier announced he was selling naming rights for his TED talk; the lucky company that ended up sponsoring it for $7100 - tech company EMC2.
Bill Ford focused on the coming global gridlock crisis and asked Ted goers to help Ford generate solutions. Ford talked about his lifelong dual passions of cars and the environment. "I've worked for Ford for 30 years and more most of those years we've worried about how to sell more cars and trucks. But now I worry about, what if all we do is sell more cars and trucks."
As green auto technology is improving, said Ford, another huge problem is looming - the loss of freedom of mobility due to gridlock. He pointed to stats that forecast that the number of cars on roads will jump from the current number of 800 million to 2-4 billion by 2050. Today, said Ford, the average American spends a week a year in traffic and compared that already depressing number to the situation in growing economies like China, where an average Beijing commute is already five hours. The current transport system, he said, cannot deal with growing human and automotive populations. "Four billion clean cars are still four billion cars," he said. Solutions, he said, must transcend things like more roads and rails and focus on an internet of things approach - "smart roads, smart parking, smart public transit. Integrated systems that use real time data to optimize personal mobility on a massive scale."
He pointed to early efforts like Abu Dhabi's Masdar City and its driverless electric vehicle system which allows subterranean travel, and Hong Kong's Octopus, which ties together all transport mechanisms - parking, buses, trains, etc - into a single payment system. He pointed to Ford's efforts to create a smart vehicle network, through which cars can take to each other about traffic patterns and parking and the link. He said the system is being tested and will be "ready for prime time soon."
Pepsi's Indra Nooyi, who noted that only 5 percent of TED speakers have been CEOs, gave a pretty standard though well-received rundown of the Pepsi Refresh Project. She talked about Pepsi's Performance With Purpose initiative, which considers the company's activities in the context of the goals of environmental sustainability, human stability, which aims at creating healthier products, and talent sustainability. When the company launched PWP, it generated hundreds of ideas from its offices around the world, one of which lead to the Refresh Project.
For an afternoon session, Microsoft founder turned humanitarian Bill Gates took the stage as a guest curator. He introduced four speakers that he personally chose for how they inspired him.
The four speakers addressed development in emerging countries, education, disease eradication and the history of the world. Historian David Christian tackled the history of the world in his 18 minutes, asking, how does a universe governed by entropy create complexity. Amina Az-Zubari, a development worker in Nigeria's ministry of education talked about the significant gains made in that country on childhood education, maternal health and infant mortality. Epidemiologist Bruce Aylward told the gripping story of the attempts to eliminate polio forever in the last few countries where it lingered. With the disease - long gone from North America - striking the poorest people around the world, Aylward called polio eradication the "ultimate in social justice." Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, talked about flipping the current classroom model so that students can learn the basics at home, online, and spend class time interacting with peers and teachers on specific problems. Khan is the former hedge fund manager who began posting videos to YouTube to help his cousin learn math and went on to launch the Khan Academy, an online hub of self-paced learning that currently has over 2,000 videos on everything from simple addition to line integrals and vector fields. Khan Academy learning has been tested in California schools, where Khan says it has freed up time in the class for simulations, hands on learning and games and where student-to-human-learning time ratio can be much higher. As an alternative to the one-size fits all classroom lecture, the method "humanizes the classroom by a factor of five or ten."