Getting People to Buy Into Doing Nothing
If you’ve ever watched the comedy series Seinfeld, you may recall the episode where George and Jerry develop the idea for a TV sitcom about nothing. The premise of the show is literally about nothing, no plot, no stories…nothing. Of course, in true sitcom fashion they sell the idea to the network, the implausible becomes plausible, and hilarity ensues. But is the premise of a show about nothing all that implausible? Could you really get an audience to buy into nothing? One local Tampa Bay company is putting that theory to the test. They’ve developed a “Do Nothing” app that encourages its users to, well, do nothing.
The company is AMA Tampa Bay sponsor, &Barr, formerly Fry Hammond Barr. Their name probably rings a bell because they’re who we [AMA Tampa Bay] turned to for our recent chapter rebranding and website redesign. They’re a full-service digital and traditional advertising agency that offers branding, creative, digital, media buying, and public relations services. They’re also a self-described “group of thinkers and doers who build lasting relationships by accomplishing inspiring things together.” Recently, I had an opportunity to visit with &Barr to learn more about this so-called “Do Nothing” app and how it’s inspiring others to do good by doing nothing.
“Every year around Christmas we try to do something to give back to the community. This past holiday, we decided we want something that will have a longer lasting effect, so we came up with the Do Nothing App,” says Rob McCormick – VP/Creative Director/Managing Director at &Barr. The app encourages people to put their phones down and spend more time doing more meaningful things on a personal level. You can work out, read a book, or as the app’s name suggests, do absolutely nothing.
Here’s how it works: The app basically functions as a timer that records the amount of time you aren’t engaged with your phone. The time spent away from your phone is aggregated along with other app users and relayed to the team at &Barr. The &Barr team will record the amount of hours app users spend doing nothing and, in turn, will volunteer an equivalent number of hours at local charities. Each team member at &Barr gets eight volunteer hours per quarter and can donate their allotment of time at a charity of their choosing. In short, every minute you spend untethered to your phone directly translates to a minute spent by someone at &Barr volunteering for a charitable cause in your community.
Currently, the company is focused on two main charity types: those focused on helping animals and those focused on community development. That being said, there are no restrictions in terms of cause type and every non-profit that can benefit from man-hours is welcome to participate. “We want to open a dialog with app users and hear what charities they want to donate time to,” says McCormick.
It’s easy to see how something like this might quickly grow out of control. There are only so many hours in a day and only so many &Barr team members. To keep things realistic, the app shuts off each day from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am. About the potential of being overwhelmed, McCormick says, “We want to have our partners involved, engage their teams, and this way grow the pool of volunteers.” That certainly makes sense. Effectively, &Barr is using technology to promote personal growth, individual volunteerism, and corporate partnering for the good of the community… all by doing nothing.
The app, which is free, was introduced in June and is available for download on both iTunes and Google Play. It relies predominantly on grassroots marketing, so all you need to do is figure how much nothing you want to do then share your nothing with everybody else using #donothingdogood or via your Facebook page. On a personal note, as I wrote this article my phone was recording my time away, so I just donated a bunch of time to a local charity by volunteering my time to the AMA Tampa Bay. I guess it’s true after all, you really can get an audience to buy into nothing.
About the Author
In 2006 Fany landed in Florida straight from Bulgaria and brought with her two Bachelor’s degrees – Broadcast Journalism and Film Production. With such diverse, yet related academic background, she decided the right thing to do was to get a Master’s degree in “something similar”. So, she graduated from the University of South Florida with her Master’s in Strategic Communications. Currently, Fany is a Production Assistant at AVI-SPL Creative Show Services and is constantly on a quest for learning and gaining professional knowledge to establish herself in the field of Communications.