TOMORROW: It would be easy to say that the idea for 4th Amendment Wear came from the headlines, but how did it all start?
Tim Geoghegan: Well, just about every creative I know walks around and jots down notes and ideas that they have but never actually develop. About a year ago, I was going through a scanner at an airport, and you had to take your shoes off before passing through. I was standing there, looking down at the socks on my feet, and I thought “that would be a great place to put the 4th Amendment”, not as a protest really, but as just a statement. So that was just an idea that I had drawn out in my own notebook.
When the TSA started implementing their full-body scanners and they became a major news story, I was working with Matt, and I had told him about that idea I had.
Matt Ryan: Yeah, the whole TSA thing was a media storm, all over the news. And whenever we talked about the idea, it always just came back to the socks. We thought it could be quite cool if we could actually use the technology that they’ve been installing to somehow try and get messages on there. And then it evolved into “okay, these scanners are checking for metallic content, and that’s what shows up on the monitors.” Then it all evolved into several days of development and coming up with metallic ink.
TOMORROW: How much of a challenge was it to get that ink just right?
Tim: Well at first we envisioned it to be some kind of foil thing, where we’d use foil print.
Matt: It took a lot of research, a lot of phone calls, including to the actual technicians who built the TSA scanning machines. We needed to work out how much metal content was required to actually show up clearly on the scanners. Then we needed to locate the right kinds of metals and have them ground down and formulated into the ink. Then it was a matter of doing sample tests with screen printers to see if it was actually going to hold up and be workable as a T-shirt.
Tim: It took a number of attempts to get the formula right, but when we finally got a really clear image back and we were pretty excited about that.
TOMORROW: Did you ever do any field tests, so to speak?
Matt: We were basically doing it ourselves to start with; I had quite a few of the shirts through hand luggage one day, but nothing too bad. (laughs) We never got pulled aside or anything like that.
TOMORROW: What about getting the message out? Obviously, it’s not like you can do a multi-million dollar TV campaign.
Matt: No, we didn’t have much of a budget at all with any of this. We started off by using social media, a few Facebook ads, and we tried to get some PR behind it. We targeted bloggers, prominent political activists, we’re talking about a very, very select group of people. But it all happened pretty much instantly. We put it up one night, and the next day there was this huge reaction that happened with it.
It was quite mind-blowing actually, because in no time at all we were hearing from Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News and many others. Everyone was extremely interested in what we created.
TOMORROW: What has been the response from the TSA?
Tim: Well, you know, the TSA has never really done anything. We were pretty afraid, and I was thinking “That’s it, I’m going to get body cavity checks for the rest of my life.” But one thing about 4th Amendment Wear is that we weren’t trying to undermine the professional jobs that these people at the TSA are doing. It would be a different story if we were trying to obstruct the machinery, but we weren’t out to battle the system, we wanted to make a message and encourage discussion and debate. Personally I’m fully supportive of safety measures that keep people safe when travelling, it’s just that when it gets to a level that could possibly infringe on people’s rights that it becomes troublesome. It’s something that we all need to consider and think about.
TOMORROW: One of the criteria that the Tomorrow Awards judges use to select the winners from the shortlist is something that called “the Tomorrow Factor” which is basically the likelihood that a particular entry will pave the way for similar cool things that agencies can do. Where do you see this idea?
Matt: Well, the main lesson to be learned here — and I know it might sound cliché — is that anything is possible. If you have a good idea that you strongly believe in, and you get some momentum behind you, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from getting the attention of all the major news networks, major publications, the major blogs everywhere and everyone talking about this with a budget of absolutely nothing coming from nowhere. It truly does make you feel like anything is possible.
Tim: What originally brought me into the advertising business was the fact that you can reach millions of people with some truly brilliant artists, writers, photographers, technologists and so on. But whereas before you needed to have deep pockets to attain that kind of reach, today with tools and technology like YouTube and Twitter, you have everything you need to reach millions of people all on your own. You don’t really need the infrastructure of agencies and clients. You can go out there and get your own clients, or even be your own client. It will still be hard work, but you end up building your own thing.