“Cards of Change” is a transit portal for people who get the pink slip. It was launched recently by a small team that left TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles, California. Tom Van Daele, former creative director atTBWA/Chiat/Day, and founder of Unknownlab, is behind this unique concept that puts people back on the re-hire radar.
I liked the branding around this exercise and how re-cycling your old card becomes the first step to a new tomorrow. When someone gets laid off, he usually has a stack of business cards that would normally go into the shredder. Tom’s advice to people is not to do that in a fit of anger and frustration. And that’s where “cardsofchange” comes in.
What you first have to do is strike-through the contact information on your old card, pencil in your new digits and add a small mission statement for good measure. Next, scan the card or take a real close-up picture; that’s the image you need to upload when you sign up at the “cardsofchange” portal.
Once your card goes online, it’s part of a gallery that employers and head hunters can access for potential re-hires. Your link on “cardsofchange” can also be shared across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Reddit and other social networking sites.
I mailed Tom to find out more. This article has excerpts of the chat I had with Tom, on the “cardsofchange” launch.
1: Isn’t the downturn a good leverage point for ideas like “cardsofchange”?
I think this was an idea waiting to happen. A few of us lost our jobs because of the economic downturn, but all of us are affected by the recession one way or the other. Also, when people get laid off their survival instincts kick in - that's when the most creative and innovative ideas happen. Disney, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard were all started during a recession. I don't think this is coincidence - we believe in chemistry and things happening for a reason.
2 : How did your team come up with the “cardsofchange” platform?
We were working for a client who wanted to do a promotion that was linked to the recession. While 100’s of stores were giving people ‘a financial bailout plan’, what they were all trying to do was sell them more stuff they didn’t really need. With a promotion linked to the recession, we told our client that they could do something meaningful - as proof that they support and want to help the people that got laid off. As against merely wanting to sell more stuff.
The client loved the idea but eventually could not implement “cardsofchange”. The idea had so much charm, the team at Unknownlab just decided to produce and launch it on our own. We believed it was something the world could benefit from – and certainly benefit our new agency as well.
3 : What’s the initial response from the people who have signed up?
Getting people to upload their card and admit they were laid off is not an easy task. There is still a great stigma about being laid off, but in the current economic situation we're all in the same boat. Honestly, some of the most talented people in the industry are finding themselves jobless. It takes time and effort to upload your old business card, but the whole process of writing about your layoff and the change in your life is definitely therapeutic.
You could look at the site as a Twitter or Facebook status feed – they are all short “tweets” of positive change – but the big difference on our site is the human component - people who have actively have gone out of their way to be part of this positive movement.
4 : Is “cardsofchange” only for the advertising fraternity?
Anyone can upload a business card; it's not exclusive to members of the advertising industry. We sent the idea out to some close friends at first, who sent it to their friends, who sent it to their friends; then the press heard about it and picked it up. The early movers were all people we knew and that were somehow related to the advertising industry; yes, all recently laid off. But looking at the larger picture, the website is not designed for creative people only.
Those who do take the time to find an old business card, write a positive message on it, take a picture and upload it are the ones that provide the silver lining to “cardsofchange”.
5 : Re-cycling your old card is a great way to reboot, isn’t it?
Your business card is your identity for the time you work at a company. When you get laid off it's like losing your identity. You lose confidence in yourself, you don't know who you are and what to do with your life. The fact that this idea came up in this crisis is because never before were there so many talented people on the street. The people that I talk to on a daily basis that lost their job are the people that I would hire in a heart-beat. These are people with attitude and brains and a will never to give up. They now have a voice through “cardsofchange”. Honestly, we couldn't think of a better, more poetic medium to restart your life.
6 : Can the reach of this idea go wide? Can it go global?
If you look at the upload section of the website, you will see all the industries that are represented. Somebody from the Detroit car industry, a doctor in Thailand or an architect in the Middle East - all are welcome to join and spread some good news. Currently, we’re at more than 100 cards – but are expecting a lot more – knowing that we are now getting 3000 unique visitors on the website on some days.
People who have signed up are really from all around the world - USA, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, all of mainland Europe, the Middle East, Bahrain, New Zealand, Thailand and Philippines in Asia. The same goes for visitors to the site - from the submissions, we can really see that this recession leaves no country untouched.
Since your article is being published in India, I would even welcome people from India to sign up and upload their images.
7 : Tom, where do you go from here?
This project has the ability to become a portrait of our time, a mirror of this great recession and how it forced people to think differently. How not to color between the lines, how it forced them to rethink the way they were living, spending, treating themselves, each other, the environment - the world around them. One plan that we're working on for the future is to eventually turn all these cards on our website into a coffee table book. Something tangible – something offline – something real.
At the end of the day, we all hope that this recession will be soon be over and that no more people will lose their jobs, their homes and their lives. If we don’t see any new cards on “cardsofchange,” it will be a good thing. And when that happens, let's hope people continue to spread some good news. The world needs it now, more than ever before.
Unknownlab is a strategic and creative partnership bringing together award-winning marketers, creative entrepreneurs and technology executives. Unknownlab leverages emerging design and technology talent, marketing innovation and product development and uses it to push brands forward. Unknownlab drives business through innovation. Innovation that drives conversation.
Unknownlab is founded by Tom Van Daele, previously Creative Director at TBWA\CHIAT\DAY. Unknownlab is headquartered in Santa Monica, California and operates around the world to offer a global mindset paired with local, cultural integration.