What’s the big idea?

I’m a fan of former Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper. In a world where the UN has become a breeding ground for contempt against Israel, watching Prime Minister Harper stand up and defend Israel made me proud. So when the Prime Minister came to speak to the Jewish community in Montreal, I was excited, but also nervous — would he receive the audience and the welcome he deserved?

Sure, people would want to hear the Prime Minister speak, but is that a big enough event — a large enough contact on their radar screens — to cause them to commit to coming? Maybe. But “Maybe” is really never good enough to ensure success. Fortunately, Rabbi Saul Emanuel, the Executive Director of the VAAD of Montreal who invited the Prime Minister to speak, was wise enough to hire a professional to help with promoting his event. 

My friend Emmanuel Amar and I worked together on this to come up with a big idea. As Napoleon so aptly said: “small plans do not inflame the hearts of men.” We had to transform “just another speech” into a once in a lifetime event. Something that would compel attendance. Secondly, we had to confront the ugly truth of marketing: ads can’t create energy and emotion, they can only tap into it. Hype is what happens when ads try to create their own energy. Persuasion is what happens when ads tap into a pre-existing desire.

So what was the desire that we could tap into?  And how could that be channeled into making Prime Minister Harper’s arrival a must-attend event? It was simple. It was why I was excited Mr. Harper was coming in the first place: here was a man who used his position and influence to take a principled and unflinching stand to defend Israel and Judaism within a political environment that was sickeningly anti-Semitic. 

So we made the event about THAT.

Once we hit on that, coming up with the Big Idea was easy. We would make the event about awarding the Prime Minister a medal for his defense of Israel. He would be the inaugural recipient of the King David Award (a name we made up for this event), for the defense of all things good in the world. 

With that, the regular old speaking event transformed into a must-attend, big-deal award ceremony.  It was a smash hit. A smash hit to the point where Chief Rabbanim from around the world sent videos of congratulations. Even the Israeli Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, sent a video of congratulations. The gala was sold out weeks in advance. I was told that Mr. Harper teared up while watching the main video of the evening.

The head of the Prime Minister's advanced security team told me that Mr. Harper was "elated" at the way the event turned out.

By the time I woke up the next morning I received this note:

“The thanks goes to you Morty for all the hard work and effort you put into the evening, including the videos! I am grateful for the collaboration.”

Farhaan Ladhani, Senior Advisor, Digital Outreach, Office of the Prime Minister (of Canada)

The marketing message became the powerful motivator we hoped it would.

Below are the videos we created to honor PM Harper.

Rabbis from around the world give Prime Minister Harper their most heartfelt thanks. This video was shown during the event.

PM Harper shows his support to the Jewish Community throughout the years. This video was shown during the event.

Morty SilberComment