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Changing the Conversation to Poverty

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Once a year, gets thousands of blogs big and small to unite and talk about one issue. This year's conversation is on poverty. Because mental_floss has a soft spot for smart guerilla marketing campaigns (and especially those with a social bent), I thought it might be interesting to showcase how various ads have forced people to confront issues of poverty. Here are a few of my favorites from Ads of the World.

1. Garbage Pail Art

poverty.nutrition.jpg pov.bobbin.jpg

I know I rarely think about street-side trash bins doubling as food sources for those in need, but this silverware setting and the nutrition facts label are such smart and simple ways to recast things we take for granted in a different light. Staring at both of them made me want to raid my pantry and give to a food bank.

2. Grate Food

pov.israeli food banks.jpg The Israeli Food Bank spotlighted the issue of homelessness in a similarly unique way, by placing dishware in sewer grates. While the print campaign used plain dishes, the ones actually used on Israeli streets were printed with messages. Apparently, the campaign confronted citizens with the issue and forced them to rethink the staggering numbers of homeless in Israel in recent years.

3. Putting the Spotlight on the Homeless

pov.testcard.jpgWhile the first two sets of campaigns definitely talk around homelessness through the hunger issue, the one here is pretty direct. I'm not sure whether confronting clientele in this country with a tabletop tent (left) and such a startling image of abject poverty would be good for business, but it certainly got the point across in rich coffee shops in Mumbai: that poor children are inhabiting places you can't even imagine.

pov.tent3.jpgPerhaps one of the most effective campaigns in terms of getting a reaction to the homeless issue was this one in France, which we've written about before. Here's the recap: In late 2005, distributed 300 tents to destitute Parisians sleeping outdoors. Equipped with the rapid-deploying tents (which didn't require poles or pins), the homeless gathered in small groups of eight to 10 along the Quai d'Austerlitz and the Canal Saint-Martin. The prefab shelter, which bore the Médecins du Monde logo, drew immediate attention to the number of homeless people in the area and provoked such incredible public outrage that the city was forced to act. A rare off-season government session was convened, and officials admitted that Paris' homeless shelters were vastly overcrowded. They immediately announced the allocation of nearly $10 million for emergency housing.Médecins du Monde

4. An Ad with Legs


As hard as the table tent campaign was to look at above, I found this one even more heartbreaking. The group, Jaipurfoot, helps indigent people who've lost limbs or had amputations get artificial limbs and prosthetics at no cost. The innovative signs always start from the shorts up and are placed on trees and poles around the city.

5. A Campaign for Change

mccann-domund-postcard.jpgI thought this Peruvian ad to get people to contribute to a hunger campaign was absolute genius. The whole goal of the campaign was to collect small change from people at grocery stores, so while they were waiting in line, clerks would hand them these scratch off cards. (The cards show a scrawny stick figure, and when scratched off make the person full.) But once people had the coins out, they figured they might as well donate them to the cause. According to McCann, the 2-day initiative in Peru achieved the biggest donation amount in the entire history of the Domund hunger fund's existence.

Of course, if you're looking to make your own small contribution in the fight against poverty, BlogActionDay has a few ideas, including donating to, the microloan institution where you can make as little as $25 loans to small businesses around the world. The goal is for them to pay you back with interest, and then for you to reseed that cash into another small business, if you're willing.

If you don't have time or cash to spare, John Breen has miraculously made that possible as well through his webpages TheHungerSite and While the first simply has you click a button to contribute food (the cost is covered by the advertising banners on there), the second is a trivia game that helps build your vocabulary as you win rice for the needy. It's an ingenious concept, and all of the rice is distributed through the UN's World Food Programme. In any case, all of this is more to make you think about the issue than anything else. I know just looking up all of these ads has made me want to give; I'm curious how the day will change others.

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Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.


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