My friend and FIA colleague, Jason Bier called me a few months ago to discuss an invitation to the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Demo Day – a think tank on how technology can help lessen the impact of severe weather. It took us all of a nanosecond to decide that we had to be there and let the stakeholders know how FIA’s technology can help get people out of harms way.
On that day, we found ourselves outside the White House in a line the length of which would rival any Disneyland ride. We shuffled through multiple security checkpoints, including identification authentication, x-rays, sniffer dogs and an undoubtedly very careful character analysis through a one-way mirror. Then we were in – armed with our neck tags and the room number of our first meeting. Except there was no such corresponding room, just hundred of yards of empty marble corridors and closed doors with brass plaques that read – “Personal Security for the President of the United States.” There was no way I was going to knock on one of those doors and ask for directions.
We eventually found our room and spent an interesting morning with academics, first responders, researcher and app developers, brainstorming how we can use technology to lessen the impact of severe storms. Attendees were asked to identify themselves. When it came to my turn there were more than a few puzzled glances, I imagine wondering how an advertising executive was going to contribute to the discussion. I explained that we use that same advertising technology to precisely geotarget people in the path of a severe storm, alerting them within microseconds of receiving a request so that they can get out of harms way. After that, there was an instant and considerable interest in the contribution FIA can make. It must have been well received, because we were invited to participate in follow up sessions.
In the afternoon, we attended talks by app developers and tech vendors mainly focused on how to help communities recover after a storm like Sandy. While FIA technology is centered on how to warn people of impending severe weather, attendees were very interested in what we are doing.
It was an incredibly valuable day. We made some great contacts and got a strong sense that this is the start of an ongoing conversation about how we can use our technology to help protect property and save lives.
Contributed by John Montgomery, COO of GroupM & Chairman of the 4A’s Media Leadership Council