Droga 5's Million Project: Brilliant Idea, but a One-in-a-Million Shot at Actually Working

Million Project:
Concept: 4 out of 5 bees

Execution: 1 out of 5 bees

First, a quick note on our blog: My wife and business partner started this blog months ago with the idea of commenting on marketing campaigns, and giving our take on what brands are and aren't doing well as the owners of a buzz marketing agency. Well, up until this point, I have had never once blogged myself. I attended a terrific conference last week help by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, a group we're proud to belong to, and not only was blogging the hot topic (along with twitter, facebook, bebo, digg, etc.) but there were a couple dozen attendees blogging live throughout the conference.

Now I'm in for good. I'm ready to walk the walk when it comes to the importance of staying relevant, sharing our expertise, and providing consistent content to the blogosphere. We'll blog nearly every day on marketing campaigns, and if it's not us, our hot young team of associate buzz builders will be on here too. My first post is on the buzz-worthiest concept I've seen in a long time, and as a licensed, experienced NYC educator I'm uniquely qualified to comment:

David Droga's Droga5 agency will be launching a pilot program for the New York Department of Education called the Million Project. Named after the system's million schoolchildren, the program will literally give students exclusive cell phones which will be locked into "school mode" during the day, providing educational tools while keeping the students from making phone calls or sending texts. Moreover the students (and their phones) will be capable of receiving rewards for school performance such as talk time, text time, games, and more, including sexier features like Congratulations messages from Derek Jeter and wake-up calls from Jay Z. The more a student uses the learning applications, the more rewards -- discounts for movies, sneakers, clothes and music downloads, as well as air-time minutes and text messages -- are unlocked. This expensive program, of course, will be underwritten by the DOE but paid for in part by corporate sponsors providing branded content to the schoolkids.

The concept was revealed last week at Advertising Age's Idea Conference and has already generated tons of buzz, including on Ad Age, Esquire, and dozens of blogs.

I admire Mr. Droga's creativity and boldness. I even admire Mayor Michael Bloomberg for considering the bold initiative at a time when cell phones aren't even allowed in NYC public schools. But our schools and students simply aren't ready for an initiative like this. Let me put this in perspective: NYC schools currently have poor to horrible filtering systems in their computer labs. That means that students as young as 8 can easily access pornography. They certainly can spend their time on the internet at schools using backdoor entries for myspace and facebook, and spending time "goofing off" online rather than learning, even when the porn is successfully blocked. And students are sneaking in cell phones, taking video inside classrooms, posting it to youtube, etc. Give a million NYC kids special cell phones? Nope, we're not ready for it, and the pilot program will yield very mixed results because of that. And we haven't even scratched the surface of the sure-to-be controversial element of letting brand marketers access a million kids to market to inside our schools.

I'll give Droga5 a solid 4 out of 5 bees on the concept, but 1 out of 5 on the possible execution. Not in 2008, David. Not yet.