The Ten Billion Dollar Brainstorm (For a sustainable transport media campaign in Penang Malaysia)

 penang - RM40B


Brainstorm: Communication concept for Sustainable Penang/New Mobility dialogue

 “RM 40 billion is a lot of money to spend FOR NOT SOLVING MY PROBLEM”.


  • get some of mah hui’s stuff here – at least a nk
  • Note: to see the Malaysian Ringgit currency values in dollars, just divide by 4.

I’ve been told by several people that your BCF project is not getting massive public support, both in general and in terms of the response you had to your initial outreach campaign to get support for your petition.  I personally am impressed by the fact that up now you have 1400 people who have taken the time to try to understand your message and then stepped forward and signed up for this, and am all the more impressed when I think about how abstract the issues are in this case.  It’s a pretty sophisticated set of issues, and a truly labyrinthine task to actually get in far enough on the site to express your views, so not everybody will jump on that without much forethought.  Simplicity should be our best ally
Of course if your cause involves saving a puppy that has fallen into a deep well, with a little bit of luck and skill you can get tens of thousands of signatures in a very short period of time.  But what we are looking at here is a little more complicated than a Save the Puppy campaign.
Well that just got me to thinking about a communications concept in support of the thing that we wish to achieve, which is mainly that of stopping this insane proposal (I am choosing my words here) which will cost (one way of the other) the men, women and children of Penang something on the order of $10 billion.  (I realize that for some of us $10 billion is not a great deal of money, but if this comes in the form of an anchor tied around the neck of every citizen of Penang for the next decades, it begins to look like a pretty important number.)
Quickly before I get into my concept. I want to say how much I have enjoyed and been impressed by some of the graphics efforts coming out of this group. And I really believe that it is an excellent idea to keep on pushing this campaign. If not, we lose – since it not only a question of being right and saying it carefully in word. The key concepts, the whole thing in fact, needs to be sold and sold and sold.
So off we go to my lousy idea.

What about this?

So now for the first small steps of my brainstorm proposal:

  1. MESSAGE: “RM 40 billion is a lot of money to spend for NOT solving my problem”.
  • Get it right and nobody will ever forget it.
  • Pretty striking message – and all the better when it can be backed up via reference to your great Introduction video,
  • Now how you get that abstract comment in a few powerful words is a real challenge
  • Worlds + images, fortunately for us)
  • So how do we bring this message down to earth in our case.
  • What if we shorten it to . . . “RM 40B later and . . . “? (OK, that sucks.)
  • Thanks to Mah Hui to planting the RM40B idea into my head.
  1. WHO: So suppose we add to this, a series of recognizable images of people in situations in which they clearly have not been helped by the 40 billion. And here your imagination and experience can go wild.  Here are a few examples to get the ball rolling:
  • an old lady waiting for a bus in the rain where there is no bus stop
  • two children running across the street with traffic to get to school
  • a man in a wheelchair in front of a bus door which is not equipped to take him
  • a man shouting out the window of his car in traffic as an example of road rage
  • a delivery vehicle parked in a designated bicycle lane
  • something showing a trishaw driver???
  • Blind person with a cane needing to cross street in traffic
  • Young girl on a motor scooter in dangerous traffic situation
  • Something showing a Hawker??
  • Heavy structure and shadow of monorail or elevated LRT
  • A woman on a bus being crowded by a group of men
  • , etc.
  1. MEDIUM: if we get it right this will be immediately recognizable on posters of different sizes, buttons (like that nice Keep it on the Ground pin that I liked so much), TV, social networks, media interviews, etc., etc.
  • We want people to be touched by what they see and want to discuss (and criticize also off course) the overall image, and then the special messages.
  • Aural Signature? Here is one trick which we would do well in stealing from your great “Introduction” video. The sound clip that accompanies the initial projection of the logo.  The kind of woosh noise as the logo appears. Great! Something like that for this too.

That’s about it for now. Anybody up to discuss this?

Please don’t shoot the piano player, he is doing the best he can.

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About the editor:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as an international development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and sustainability activist who has worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change, civil society and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport in Cities | See Britton online at and @ericbritton

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