February 21, 2014

​Innovation Key to Relevance in New Attention Economy, Media Experts Say


Pushing the
boundaries is no longer enough. Seventh-day Adventist tech and media
professionals at this year’s Global Adventist Internet Network (GAiN) conference were
challenged to leave the boundaries in the rearview mirror or risk becoming

Speaking at
morning worship on February 13, Pardon Mwansa, a general vice president for the
Adventist world church, told hundreds of web professionals that the “boundary
mindset” and the “expansion mindset” are limiting the scope of Adventist
mission and ministry. A boundary mindset is throttled by traditions; an
expansion mindset is content reimagining those traditions. What’s needed
instead, he said, is a “creation mindset.”

“It’s easier
to go where others have already been. But who is it who has improved this
world? People who have broken the boundaries,” Mwansa said, citing early
explorers, civil rights leaders, and tech innovators.

“We will not
get anywhere with a boundary mindset,” he told 400 GAiN participants meeting at
the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Maryland, United States.

Author and
marketing consultant Martha Gabriel amplified that idea in her February 14
keynote, describing what she called “simplicity plateaus,” where an
organization stagnates at a level of technology they have mastered. “We can’t
stay here. Know the next level you need to conquer,” she said.

And, perhaps
more importantly, she added, know your audience. In today’s “attention
economy,” messages compete for relevance, Gabriel said.

“You need to
understand what makes your audience’s hearts beat faster. If you are not part
of the message they want to hear, you are part of the noise,” she said.

that thrive in the attention economy know that the currency of ideas and
information is no longer enough to succeed. “Ideas alone are worthless. What we
need now are people who make things happen,” Gabriel said.

World church president Ted Wilson, speaks with Togo Pastor Antonio Monteiro. [Photo: Ansel Oliver/ANN] For Adventist
pastor Sam Neves and a development team from the British Union Conference, that
meant not waiting for the church to get behind a comic book style trivia game
called “Heroes.”

The first
Seventh-day Adventist game for iPhone and iPad, “Heroes” was downloaded 3,000 times in the
first 48 hours of its release, tripling the benchmark analysts say a mobile app
should meet in its first week to be considered successful.

On the final
day of GAiN, the General Conference Youth Ministries Department signed a deal
to help support the Android release of “Heroes.”

The game
reintroduces players to heroic biblical characters—such as Abraham, David, and
Esther—while testing their Bible knowledge with quiz questions. Players can
compare scores with their friends on Facebook. At GAiN, a demo of the game
pitted players from the church’s Trans-European Division with other divisions.

“We realized
that to bring a sense of identity to a new generation, we needed to remind them
of who their heroes are,” Neves said. “And what better way, than to use a
medium they are very familiar with?”

Indeed, said
Daryl Gungadoo, distribution and network engineer for Adventist World Radio
Europe, “gamification” is the new frontier and successful companies will find
ways to engage their audience with games.

He cited an
example from Sweden, where a marketing campaign from Volkswagen turned the
oft-loathed speed cameras into a lottery, where people who drive the speed
limit are automatically entered into a pool to win the fines paid by motorists
who speed.

presenter challenged the popular adage that “content is king” in social media.
Sonja Kovacevic, content manager of LIFEconnect in the church’s Trans-European
Division, proposed that instead, “the audience is king.”

audience] prefers to trust someone they know. And they come to know us when we
offer useful content. They come to like us when they enjoy our content. And
they come to trust us when our content is credible, consistent and free,”
Kovacevic said.

businessman and philanthropist Milton Soldani Afonso received this year's
NetAward from Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson. Afonso was key in
establishing and funding the Adventist Church's use of media outreach in South

“Even more
than his money, his vision for the church in communication and technology has
been his greatest contribution,” said Williams Costa, General Conference
communication director.

This year’s
GAiN conference also featured a presentation by Antonio Monteiro, who was released last month from a prison in Togo
after nearly two years of detainment. Monteiro and four others were imprisoned
on charges of conspiracy to commit murder in a case that captured the attention
of the Adventist world church.

In December 2012,
a social media campaign calling for a day of prayer helped raise awareness of
the situation in Togo. Facebook followers interacted with “Pray for Togo”
content more than 50,000 times, while the Twitter event hashtag reached more
than 7 million users. Later, a Change.org petition to release Monteiro reached
more than 60,000 signatures.

received thousands of Christmas cards during a December 2013 campaign to encourage Adventists in prison on
false charges and forced to spend the holidays separated from family.

“I told my
wife, ‘We will plaster them onto a wall in our home,’” Monteiro said, thanking
his world church family for their support during an ordeal he says both tested
and strengthened his faith.