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We are Earths Tech Support, declared Randall Kirk, Executive Chairman of the Board of Directorsand former CEO ofIntrexon. Intrexonis one of the biggest developers of synthetic biology (or engineering biology) applications in therapeutics, agriculture and chemicals. Kirk gave a keynote speech atSynbio Marketson synthetic biologys struggle to break into mainstream markets and its revolutionary new approach for industrial biotech in the food, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and materials sectors.
Before these new technologies can save the world, they need to be accepted and get to market. Companies must overcome the usual hurdles in finding investment and meeting regulatory requirements. They must find compatible scale-up partners and face new challenges in communicating the benefits and safety of their novel technology to society.
Partnerships for Success
Collaborations are beginning to blossom in synthetic biology. The field is often likened to the silicon chip industry. In its infancy, a single company would design, build and use their own chips. Now, companies outsource the design, building, testing and manufacture of chips along a structured value chain thanks to standardization of parts and uniformity in the field. This took years to achieve. Synthetic biology companies are currently developing their own unique tools to perform new feats in engineering biotechnology. Standardization is the dream and, to achieve this, companies must work together to break into the market.
A striking partnership at the conference was that ofAMSilkandAirbus. The airline industry has a problem: they must increase fuel efficiency by reducing weight of their aircraft without compromising on safety. Composite materials are an alternative to hefty sheet metals and AMSilk produces a durable but lightweight material: synthetic spider silk. AMSilk is interesting for its energy absorption, which is important for safety of the aircraft, Detlev Konigorski of Airbus explains. This partnership could help Airbus develop safe new materials while helping the carbon footprint of the airline industry.
One of the kings of collaboration isGinkgo Bioworks. Ginkgo uses several automated platforms to speed up and precisely carry out genetic manipulation, growth and testing of cells. To build their analytical power, they collaborated withBerkeley Lights, whose technology allows functional screening of thousands of cells simultaneously, increasing throughput.
Ginkgo has used this actively in their healthcare collaborations, such as a recent team-up withSynlogic, a microbiome therapeutics company developing living medicines. Ginkgo used its platform to increase the potency of SynlogicsE. coli-based drug in non-human primates in less than a year. Ginkgo CCO Matt McKnight wants to build on these partnerships by partnering with early-stage companies. Theyrecently announced a $350 m platformto build companies using Ginkgos foundries. He foresees more partnerships in the synthetic biology space in future, I think we shouldnt have full stack engineering biology companies. In any discipline, we dont see this. People work together.
Chemicals giantBASFis also interested in partnering with synthetic biology companies. Markus Pompejus, Vice President for Innovation and Scouting addressed the conference in Berlin citing the companys wide range of products. In principal, many products could be produced with biotech methods. Synbio is a research topic, but biotech is the application, Pompejus says.
Partnering may be off-putting for early-stage companies who want to maximize ownership of their company and the topic came up repeatedly at Synbio Markets. Where do you draw the line? Where do you co-develop with customers or should you do it more yourself? asks session chair James Hallinan ofCambridge Consultants, an expert engineering firm.
Depends where you are, says Alexandre Zanghellini of protein design companyArzeda, The later you partner, the more value you capture. You certainly want to keep the process propriety until the point where it can be scaled, then partner with marketing, scale up and development partners.
Talking Tech and Selling Solutions
Synthetic biology exists at the nexus of biology and nearly every other field. Its less a field of study and more of a precision engineering approach to traditional biotechnology using standardized tools and platforms. Kirk argued in his speech humanity has been using synthetic biology for thousands of years, using crop breeding as an example of humans precisely selecting and breeding desirable traits to engineer better strains of corn, for example. Now our role in the world has changed.
Weve been doing it for 12,000 years and weve been doing it without thinking of the consequences. Synthetic biology allows us tremendous specificity and potential to solve world problems by targeting individual species, he said.
How does this help us synthetic biology products access new and existing markets? Every process has biology in it, McKnight says.InscriptasCCO Jason Gammack thinks the solution lies in getting a few tangible products to lead the way. We need to make the products tangible. In the US were in hyperdrive mode. Two years ago, there was very little. Now,Impossible Foodsis in Burger King, says Gammack. Gary Lin ofPurple Orange Venturesthinks we need to raise the profile of synthetic biology among the public, adding One of the hard challenges, we need policymakers and government funding to support this. The amount of capital gone into this space is a drop in the ocean.
The issue spills over into the regulation of gene-edited technologies, especially in Europe. We recently had a debate on CRISPR plants, says Nadine Bongaerts-Duportet ofScience MattersandHello Tomorrow. The European Union regulations says CRISPR-edited crops are defined as genetically modified (GM), while those edited by radiation exposure are not. Bongaerts adds, The difference between UV exposure and CRISPR [as gene-editing methods], everybody understands the regulations dont make sense. How do you, with a positive message, make sure everyone gets it? All the panelists agree that building trust is key.
The trust us, were scientists approach doesnt work because people dont understand the technology, according to Gammack. I would fault all the synbio community, says Kirk. We look at polling data on GMO attitudes, I thought healthcare would be the first area [accepted]. In terms of polling, people have the greatest acceptance to insect disease vectors, he says, citing IntrexonsOxitecand theirGM mosquitoas an example.
The messaging, particularly around GM and especially here in Europe, is a minefield. From our perspective, we need to be mindful of potential roadblocks, says Lin, GM in food is the most difficult to grapple with. Part of the process is creating awareness of what the food process looks like. Transparency and openness about the technology is a major factor in getting this technology to market.MonsantosFlavr Savr tomatodisaster is still fresh in peoples minds. Public acceptance to this technology is a must before the market can be broken into reliably.
We need to understand emotions and backgrounds of people we talk to, to link our advancements to the incentives they care about. We should not over-hype, because if you can be critical and open about it, people will trust you, says Bongaerts.
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Getting the Most from Biotech: Precision Engineering and Partnership - BioSpace
Christmas is behind us and the new year is upon us, there may be some time to find a new read.
So here are a few books I will read, or atleaststart. What attracted me to these books is how they approachthinking about thinking: Each tries to tease out why our general understanding on a subject is so often wrong; they explore better cognitive frameworks that could help us comprehend issues more clearly; they consider unique perspectives in securities trading, national security, genetics and artificial intelligence.
On to the reading:
No. 1. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky.
The professor of biology and neurological sciences at Stanford University (and a MacArthur Fellowship winner in 1987) takes a deep examination into the most basic question of human behaviour: Why do we do the things we do?
He probes the things that influence and determine behaviour: neurology, endocrinology, structural development of the nervous system, culture, ecology and the millions of years of evolution. Why we do what we do turns out to be even more complicated than you might have imagined.
No. 2. The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator by Timothy C. Winegard.
Forget sharks, terrorists or guns: Mosquitoes have killed more people than all other factors in historycombined. Of the 108 billion humans who have ever lived, almost half 52 billion have died from mosquito-borne illnesses. For 190 million years, the mosquito has been waging a war against the rest of the planet, and for all of that history we have been fighting a mostly losing battle.
This has long been one of my very favourite topics; I am thrilled there is finally a book dedicated to it.
No. 3. The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution by Gregory Zuckerman.
This is my nominee for finance book of the year: I read it,reviewedit and interviewed the author forMasters in Business. All thats left is to reread it slowly and deliberately, with no purpose other to enjoy the tale of how one brilliant man saw the markets in a different way from everyone else.
No. 4. Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity by Jamie Metzl.
What will happen to children, lifespans, the plant and the animal world when humans begin to retool the worlds genetic code? Metzl tackles the risks and potential rewards to tinkering with the determinants of life as if theyre just another piece of software.
No. 5. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt.
Investors know that unconscious bias is at work all the time, undermining our goals. What we may not realize is how bias infects our visual perception, attention, memory and actions. The author suggests solutions to managing our biases, but I remain skeptical we can get past our own error-prone nature.
No. 6. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World by David Epstein.
Among top performers, specialization is the exception, not the rule. Thats the startling conclusion of Epstein, a journalist with Sports Illustrated and ProPublica. Considering some of the worlds most successful athletes, artists, inventors, scientists and business people, he found that it was the generalists who excelled, not the specialists.
No. 7. The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre.
What colleagues, institutions and competitors do you trust? How does counterintelligence and disinformation affect how we make decisions? These issues are explored in this nonfiction tale of the three-way Cold War game of espionage between the US, the UK and the Soviet Union.
No. 8. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino.
Tolentino looks at the basic building blocks of social media and how we use it to deceive not so much others as ourselves. This series of essays tracks among other things the evolution of the internet from a band of enthusiastic geeks and hackers to the trolls and agents of agitprop that have taken over.
No. 9. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Dont Know by Malcolm Gladwell.
Communication breakdown is the focus in this tour of errors, miscommunication and lies. One of our eras most engaging storytellers, Gladwell roams from Fidel Castro to Bernie Madoff and lots of folks in between. His big premise: the default condition of our species is to assume others tell the truth. This makes all of us vulnerable to the deceptions of politicians, salespeople and con artists.
No. 10. Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence, by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb.
What happens if we rethinkthe concept of artificial intelligence as a drop in the cost of prediction? That is the question tackled by the three authors of this book, all economists at the University of Torontos Rotman School of Management. The conclusion is that AI, instead of complicating human affairs, may improve decision-making.
The rest is here:
Ten books on thinking about thinking - Moneyweb.co.za
That next day, Drake preferred sleeping over eating. But then, thats common with newborns. Tarah and Eric would wake him for feeding, careful to make sure he got plenty of nourishment.
By Saturday, these experienced parents became uneasy. Drake was just too lethargic. It was harder to wake him for feedings. The OSullivans called Drakes doctor and were assured there was nothing to be concerned about; Drake had been healthy when he left the hospital two days ago. And, the doctors office assured them, they would be checking him again on Monday at a scheduled office visit.
But the OSullivans disquiet grew by the hour. By Sunday evening, Drake would not open his eyes or respond to them. He was growing limp and struggling to breathe. The OSullivans rushed Drake to the hospital where the staff flew into emergency mode. Too sick for care at the local hospital, Drake was stabilized for transport to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Greenville Memorial Hospital. Just 72 hours after birth, Drake lapsed into a coma. And no one knew why.
That unforgettable night was the beginning of a long journey of test after test and a diagnosis by elimination.
Drake continued to decline as each negative test pushed aside another horrible possibility. You would think that eliminating terrible diseases would be a good thing, says Eric. But that just meant we were looking at something very rare.
Finally, blood tests revealed an ever-elevating level of glycine in Drakes blood, a symptom of an extremely rare, genetic metabolic disease called nonketotic hyperglycinemia or NKH.
The words nonketotic hyperglycinemia meant nothing to Tarah and Eric. But the next words were clear: Drake had a less than 10 percent chance of survival.
The diagnosis was like a starters pistol for the OSullivans. From that moment, everything would be a race against time to save Drake.
After 28 days of tests, monitors, tubes and wires, Drake was released to go home. There, as Tarah explains, Our house became a sort of lab. There were blood tests, feedings, medications and monitoring day and night, 24/7. Glycine became the OSullivans obsession as they tried desperately through medication and diet to moderate Drakes levels. They began to search for information, research, treatment, medical advice anything to save his life.
The OSullivans contacted anyone who might know about NKH, have a related research project or could tell them more. They learned that NKH affects fewer than 500 people worldwide and has no cure. There was no research underway, and no funding for research. And because there is no medically recognized cure for NKH, all treatments are considered experimental and not covered by medical insurance. Period.
So Tarah became a lay scientist. She read everything, called and emailed medical researchers and established the Drake Rayden Foundation to raise awareness for NKH, fight for better treatment and support research. She entered a world of genetics and vectors, glycine and metabolic pathways. Tarah had quit college just shy of completing her business degree. Now she desperately needed the scientific expertise that would help her understand the disease and find the cure.
Tarah decided to return to college.
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The Face of Science - Clemson World magazine
Illustrations by Lisa Larson Walker, Franco Zacharzewski, Natalie Matthews-Ramo, and Sarula Bao.
Future Tense started experimenting with publishing science fiction in 2016 and 2017, but we really invested in it in 2018, publishing one story each month. That year was capped off by Annalee Newitzs quirky and urgent When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis, which won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year. Our hope was that these glimpses into possible futures could provide a thought-provoking parallel to our coverage of emerging technology, policy, and society today, inviting us to imagine how the decisions were making today might shape the way we live tomorrow, illuminating key decision points and issues that we might not be giving enough attention.
In 2019, buoyed by the enthusiastic reactions of our readers, we published 12 stories by a diverse array of talented authors. Every story is paired with a response essay by an expert who provides additional context and delves into themes and challenges raised by the fictionand each story comes with arresting original illustrations in a plethora of styles, from bracing realism to mind-bending abstraction and surrealism. Each quarter is organized around a broad theme, giving us the chance to create a dialogue among the pieces and underlining our conviction that the future is a spectrum of possibilities, shaped by our collective decisionsnot a fait accompli or a foregone conclusion.
This October, we celebrated another milestone, publishing our first anthology, Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow, with Unnamed Press. The book, which collects our short stories from 2016 through 2018, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus. We launched the anthology with scintillating public conversations with fiction authors, experts, and others in Washington, San Francisco, New York, and Phoenix.
Were more convinced than ever of the power of science fiction to expand our sense of empathy for people whose identities and day-to-day experiences are vastly different from our owneven beyond the bounds of what we currently consider human. This year, many of our authors grappled with issues of difference, exclusion, and inequality; with bullying and abusive behavior, from the schoolyard to the space station; with the dangers of alienation in digital spaces, and the opacity of technologies designed solely for profit; and with radical possibility and hope, from giant nutritious plants grown in space to entirely new forms of music and self-expression enabled by technological change. In a moment where the future seems impossibly turbulent, leaving us feeling powerless, science fiction can help us get our heads around the complexity, reminding us of the human minds, relationships, and problems buried under branding, hype, and jargon.
Future Tense Fiction will continue in 2020, with a new story, essay, and illustration each month. The first theme of the year (we couldnt resist): politics.
You can find all of our stories on the Future Tense Fiction landing page, and sign up for the Future Tense newsletter to get notified whenever we publish something new. (Its been on hiatus for a little while, but it will be back in 2020.) And dont forget to follow Future Tense on Twitter.
Thoughts and Prayers, by Ken Liu: A family grieving in the wake of a mass shooting finds themselves in a maelstrom of abusive, inescapable trolling powered by cutting-edge artificial intelligence.
Response essay: Whats in It for the Trolls? by digital culture researcher Adrienne Massanari
Mpendulo: The Answer, by Nosipho Dumisa: Two genetically modified young people navigate bullying and prejudice, and discover the secrets locked inside their DNA, in a world wracked by anxiety after a pandemic.
Response essay: Why Are We So Afraid of Each New Advance in Reproductive Technology? by journalist Sarah Elizabeth Richards, who often reports on reproductive technology and genomics
The Arisen, by Louisa Hall: A fairy tale from a future where truth-checkers, an elite caste implanted with chips that suppress emotion, are charged with sorting official fact from distortion and fiction.
Response essay: What Are Facts Without Fiction? by librarian Jim ODonnell
The Song Between Worlds, by Indrapramit Das: An overprivileged teen dragged to Mars on a family vacation stumbles beyond the cushy confines of their resort and encounters an entirely new form of musical performance.
Response essay: What Would Sound Be Like on Mars? by astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz
No Moon and Flat Calm, by Elizabeth Bear: A team of safety engineering students in a spacefaring future are plunged into a real disaster.
Response essay: How Will People Behave in Deep Space Disasters? by disaster journalist Amanda Ripley
Space Leek, by Chen Qiufan: An astrobotanist for the China National Space Administration, assigned to a distant space station, contends with stifling family expectations while researching how to successfully grow food off-worldand deals with a sudden, deadly crisis.
Response essay: What Will Humans Really Need in Space? by architecture professor Fred Scharmen
Zero in Babel, by E. Lily Yu: In a world where on-demand and even DIY genetic modification is commonplace, a young woman struggles to keep up with the punishing cycle of high school trends.
Response essay: The Future Will Grind On, by law professor Diana M. Bowman
What the Dead Man Said, by Chinelo Onwualu: A woman returns to her hometown in Nigeria after her fathers death, opening old wounds, in a future entirely reshaped by migration and climate chaos.
Response essay: The Scars of Being Uprooted, by journalist Valeria Fernndez, who frequently covers immigration
Double Spiral, by Marcy Kelly: An at-home DNA testing company turns to targeted advertising after a privacy scandal and a spate of new regulations, and a researcher at the firm uncovers a shattering conspiracy.
Response essay: Crossing the Germline, by bioethicist Josephine Johnston
Affordances by Cory Doctorow: People from all walks of lifefrom migrants and hapless teens to tech CEOsfind themselves in the clutches of terrible algorithms and search for ways to evade, confound, and even reclaim these technologies of oppression.
Response essay: Not Just a Number, by artist and educator Nettrice Gaskins
A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Robot Walk Into a Bar, by Andrew Dana Hudson: A rabbinical school dropout and a seminary dropout start a company that trains algorithms to be sensitive to issues of faith and beliefand find themselves in an escalating series of ethical conundrums.
Response essay: A.I. Could Bring a Sea Change in How People Experience Religious Faith, by Slates Ruth Graham, who often writes about religion
Actually Naneen, by Malka Older: In a future where artificially intelligent nannies are the norm for the wealthy, a mother copes with complicated emotions when her familys nanny becomes buggy and perhaps obsolete.
Response Essay: What Role Should Technology Play in Childhood? by digital humanities professor Ed Finn
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All of the Sci-Fi Stories We Published This Year - Slate
Like many Americans, I was shocked that our president ran what amounts to a transnational mafia in bed with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs who benefit from Russian President Vladimir Putins war for totalitarian control of Ukraine against a free people who have struggled and suffered so much for their freedom.
We might be even more shocked if we had the transcript of Trumps call with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey and friend of Putin, which led to our betrayal of the Kurdish allies who did most of the hard ground fighting against ISIS for us. The ethnic cleansing of Kurds out of northern Syria is a crime against humanity and should have been included in the articles of impeachment.
But while we are focused on the vileness of Rudolph Guiliani and other mobsters, experts and pundits discussing these events completely ignore the massive, glaring questions of how to prevent such things from happening again. Even impeachment and conviction in the Senate, which will never happen, would not solve problems far bigger than Donald Trumps serious abuses of powers.
We need amendments to protect the professional civil service (especially in law enforcement and foreign affairs), to counter corruption in the federal government (e.g. by requiring tax-return disclosure), to clarify grounds for impeachment, and to limit pardon powers. It is staggering that even these problems so directly linked with current controversies never come up in mainstream coverage.
And this is only the beginning: We all really need to stop focusing solely on this impeachment, despite the cowardly way many Republicans are trying to defend Trump with conspiracy-spins drawn directly from Russian propaganda.
To solve the roots of this polarization that is making too many Americans on the political extremes prefer ideology to reality, we need constitutional change to end the dominance of two major parties with automatic runoffs, to rotate primaries between all states so Iowa and New Hampshire no longer go first every time, to prevent gerrymandering and dark money in our elections, to establish uniform national voting and count procedures, set Supreme Court terms and ban the filibuster in Congress. It is colossal collective folly that we focus only on the symptoms while ignoring the root problems that prevent fair elections and perpetuate endless gridlock in D.C.
Even before the Ukraine news broke, we were largely ignoring many other urgent issues that will have much profounder effects on our children and grandchildren. Climate change gets deserved attention, but there are several other dangers that, taken together, could harm human prospects even more than climate change, although they get virtually no attention in this country.
The regime in China, which now holds more than a million of its people in concentration camps in a genocidal effort to erase an entire minority culture, is creating a nightmare of totalitarian control a hundred times worse than anything Orwell ever imagined. At home, its facial-recognition cameras are everywhere and all its people will be increasingly monitored via data collection.
China also is pressuring many other countries in Asia and Africa to obey its commands, and the strong-arm tactics we have seen used against the NBA and Asian journalists are only the tip of the iceberg. It will not help our grandchildren much to be saved from climate change only to live as slaves under a global tyranny run from Beijing and Moscow.
Yet, almost no Americans understand that we are going to wake up in a couple years to discover that China has invaded Taiwan and that NATO will not do anything to stop it because we want the money from trade.
Similarly, because of the gridlock in D.C. caused by constitutional flaws, you may wake up one day a decade from now to discover that the American government is defaulting on a federal debt that maybe exceeds $50 trillion ($50,000 billion) in 15 years or less, sending the world into a new Great Depression which finally cements Chinas dominance in the aftermath.
That is, if loose nukes getting to terrorists or pandemic diseases originating in the worlds poorest nations or cybercrime viruses running rampant do not take us into economic armageddon first. Remember this as Democrats and Republicans promote the new brand of moronic isolationism rather than seeking new arrangements to share essential tasks effectively among our allies.
This staggering collective blindness is a result of the deepest flaw of all in our social system: In the 20th century, as television and radio appeared, we were content to allow mass media to be delivered on a for-profit basis. For a long time, editors and producers felt responsible to cover stories that people needed to hear because of their objective importance, whether they grabbed high ratings or not.
Today, that ethic is so completely gone that CNN, which I have watched since it was founded, covers almost no global news at all. In fact, for more than four years, it has covered almost nothing but American federal politics.
Fox also has focused almost solely on American federal politics, with a few other cherry-picked stories to appeal to its base like an occasional immigrant committing some crime or some stupid campus activists trying to no-platform a right-wing speaker. Their international coverage is limited to things that might seem to boost Trump, such as a happy Turkish general proclaiming the safe zone in northern Syria that is, a zone made safe from Kurds in the same way that the Trail of Tears made eastern states safe from the Cherokee. This propaganda machine heavily influences the nation now.
More broadly, internet medias focus entirely and solely on what is trending or popular with its group of viewers, which will include few events beyond our shores. Most Americans never see a major newspaper with fact-checked journalism; they finish high school without learning about current world affairs or even the basics of American civics, such as key numbers for parts of the federal budget or the history of main tax rates, the federal deficit, projections for Medicare, etc. let alone elementary critical thinking that would enable them to distinguish reliable sources from total crap.
Combined, these problems mean the death of democracy through completely manipulable voters. Both could be fixed by fairly simple constitutional reforms to improve our mass medias and education requirements.
The stupidity resulting from only-trendy media is so colossal today that even domestic issues that are massively in our face everywhere get only the most superficial analysis. Federal anti-monopoly laws have not been seriously updated in almost 100 years, and yet we wonder how Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook can own more and more parts of supply chains, buy up all competitors and abuse power in service of profit.
When a small handful of corporations own most of the systems on which our lives totally depend, sell all our private information to insurance companies and marketers, and crush any dissenting opinion with their ability to manipulate what people view, it will be much harder to unwind this plutocracy. Yet it never even occurs to us to discuss the smallest countermeasures, like EU-style laws protecting data privacy.
Of course, this will not matter much if Google has unleashed a smart Artificial Intelligence system that does more damage than climate change. Or if genetic engineering to enhance human capacities has become so common among the richest 5 percent across the world that they have become a new species poised to control the rest more decisively than was possible in the past.
Our chance to control these threats with smart laws and global partnerships will be distant memories by then. But you did not know about this danger because not enough celebrities have tweeted about it!
We all need to refocus on the fundamental structural flaws that are disabling our political system from making effective laws and preventing too many Americans from learning the most basic things they need to be responsible citizens. We cannot fix the substantive problems without working political tools, and our tools are so broken that we neither diagnose most of the problems nor fix them.
What would we think of a mechanic who is so outraged by an expensive broken car headlight that he does not notice that the steering column is broken and that the tools he is taking to the headlight are rusted through? First things first: fix the political system and fix the education of citizens by fixing the Constitution.
Call a marketing campaign a stunt and you could be heaping on praise or derision. Droga5 has been famous for them, including a faked graffiti tag of Air Force One. And sometimes the stunts are more like bad pranks. Samsung's outer space selfie promotion literally fell apart when it landed unexpectedly in someone's backyard.
But let's (mostly) pass on the crash landings and, instead, celebrate some of the great marketing stunts that brands pulled off during 2019.
Battle for the Bowl
The Super Bowl has developed an underlying second form of competition: that among the advertisers. Which is understandable, given the millions they spend to create and produce extravagant television spots to catch some attention from consumers.
One of the notable stunts, in the form of an advertisement, was the Bud Light commercial that pit the Bud Night against the world of Game of Thrones. (One created by Droga5, by the way.)
It was a strange crossover in which a major beverage company recruited characters from a big media property hit to kill off the brand mascot. Because sometimes a beer can come across a little flat.
Broadway bound Skittles
If the Super Bowl is the ultimate performance medium of marketing, like a visual slam poetry competition, then the marketers for Skittles have gained fame for everything they do outside of their game day ad. In 2018, it was having four potential ads and then, finally, only one of them airing during the Super Bowl, but then only to one person.
This year, it was another stunt.
Yes, a Broadway musical with a song called Advertising Ruins Everything. People paid hundreds of dollars to see it. Genius and twisted work.
Don't drink the yellow water
You can see plenty of spats in marketing that are contrived and dull. Others can be pretty clever. Here's a story of one that involved Vita Coco coconut water, with thanks to Rebecca Jennings, who wrote about it at Vox.
Self-proclaimed artist and, apparently, amateur MMA fighter Tony Posnanski had written a HuffPost piece, arguing that coconut water was disgusting and then tweeted to Vita Coco that "I would rather drink your social media persons piss than coconut water."
Never throw down a challenge if you're not ready for it.
It apparently threw Posnanski for a loop as he responded with two tweets:
Gotta offer respect when you've been bested.
The woman in the photo was Lane Rawlings, who was the social media person, according to Vox, and, yes, the liquid was her urine. Posnanski did give his address, but the company sent its new product, which supposedly tasted like coconuts rather than coconut water.
Times Square takeover
How do you promote the stage version extension of the wildly popular Harry Potter novels? By taking over 51 display screens in Times Square on a single night and establishing what might be the largest dedicated multimedia presentation in history.
The presentation stretched over four blocks. The secret world of magic isn't so secret.
This turned out to be a pre-April Fool's prank, but was still a good stunt. Apparently people get a bit concerned about people giving accurate heights on dating sites and apps. Tinder decided to announce a height verification feature.
Ad within an ad within an ad
If meta concepts disturb you, or if you just find them annoying, you might want to pass this section by. Actor, writer, and partial Aviation Gin owner Ryan Reynolds was in an unusual Samsung ad:
During an ad for Samsung TVs that shows an ad for his latest movie, an ad for Aviation Gin appears. As the director says, "You bought an ad for your gin within an ad for your movie within an ad for Samsung TV." Reynolds: "Yes. It felt like the right thing to do."
Dismissing the bigger competition
However, as smart as some of these stunts have been, all respect to Burger King, which, in the U.K., has spent a year hiding a McDonald's Big Mac behind every Whopper. The point was that the latter was bigger than the former. You can't see the Big Macs because they're hidden.
It took an entire year to build up to the denouement. And the line, "Thanks you Maccy D's for having our back in 2019."
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
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Here are the 6 Best Marketing Stunts of 2019 - Inc.