Voices from Hopenhagen: Copenhagen With an "H," by Tham Khai Meng of Ogilvy & Mather


Images courtesy of Hopenhagen/Ogilvy & Mather.
This guest post was written by Tham Khai Meng, Worldwide Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, as part of the Voices from Hopenhagen series.

In explaining the genesis of the name "The Beatles," John Lennon famously wrote, "A Man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them 'From this day on, you are Beatles with an A.'"

With its roots in such a story, the name of the band came to reinforce some essential characteristics of the thing it was naming: free imagination, inspired irreverence, and a dose of whimsical humility. Name and band were fused - and the John, Paul, George, Ringo foursome by any other name would not have been so sweet. More than mere descriptors, some names have their own intrinsic power. They can become synonymous with whole concepts, cultures, and philosophies. And if they happen to possess a little self-affirming lore, they will be all the more legendary.

To use the example du jour: The "Beatles with an 'A'" story sets the stage for creation, and as for cuing broader ideas, "The Beatles" is now tantamount to rock'n'roll.

Hopenhagen, I think, has right to aspire to the same kind of power.

While no one came to us on the back of a burning pastry, we, too, have our genesis tale. It all began when the United Nations asked the International Advertising Agency to help raise global awareness of COP15. Shortly thereafter, about eight global agencies set to work on the project, and at Ogilvy, I created our own little UN among ten of our offices to farm for ideas. After the first seeds were planted, I got on the phone with Andy Dibb and Will Awdry, my colleagues from London, to discuss our progress.

The three of us started tossing around the idea of optimism, and we agreed that there was a special need for it during tough times. Here at Ogilvy, I'm always working to build a culture of pervasive creativity, so I asked the lads, "What if we started building a culture of pervasive optimism? And then what if we asked the people of the world to act in ways that would justify it? What would happen if we reframed our crises as opportunities - and started to make the most of them?" Our muse arrived on this train of thought. "Here we are waiting for the magic bullet to come out of Copenhagen - and yet the place has the antagonist in its name! 'Coping' is the antithesis of hoping... Don't cope, hope!"

And friends, from that day on, we were Copenhagen with an "H." We may have traded a flaming pie for a rhyme, but we think the outcome is just as savory.

As a good name should, ours reinforces the mission: Hopenhagen brands a movement that brings together people who share the optimistic belief that "we can save ourselves from ourselves" and "when people lead, leaders follow." Ultimately, the movement is propelled by the conviction that global prosperity and planet-saving go hand in hand.

While Copenhagen is in Denmark, Hopenhagen is everywhere. But as "The Beatles" example reminds us, the real evidence of a name's greatness is that pie-in-the-sky, synonymity with a huge global phenomenon - like rock'n'roll. So, what do we hope Hopenhagen comes to stand for? We're thinking carbo'n'eutral might do...

Help turn Copenhagen into Hopenhagen at hopenhagen.org.

Check out all of TreeHugger's coverage of the road to Copenhagen in our COP15 Pre-Game feature.

Tags: Activism | Copenhagen | Denmark | Global Climate Change