Alejandro Lozada is the Director of Strategy at Cheil Mexico and the first person to come on board the 50/50 Make or Break challenge we've launched with Good for Nothing. His project is 'The Fat Planner', and it's all about backing him as he takes on the challenge of eating nothing but what an African refugee would, for 50 days - the duration of the project. It's very ambitious (he hopes to raise $75,000), very exciting and very very good of him - yeah, even if he is an ad man.
We got him to answer a few questions for us - here you go:
So, first things first: please tell us a bit about yourself - what do you do, where are you from: who is the Fat Planner?!
I was born in Mexico City, and that's where I lived until 6 years ago when I got an offer to move to Buenos Aires for a senior marketing job with Unilever (Sunsilk brand for Latin America). I spent almost two years there, and then moved to a global job for Vaseline in New Jersey (but I lived in New York), where I spent 3 and a half years. The move was motivated by the fact that my then girlfriend lived there, and the long-distance thing wasn't really working. In all, I spent 12 years with Unilever - a wonderful period where I learned a lot about marketing, but mostly about people. The friends I made there I will keep and cherish for a long, long time.
Sometime during the last two years in Unilever, I realized I was spending way more time on politics and project management than doing what I was most passionate about: brand, and communications strategy. Enter my friend Carlos Cantu (Executive Creative Director at Cheil Mexico) and Buz Sawyer (CEO Cheil North America) - and a few months later I am heading up planning at Cheil, back in Mexico City where we are looking to implement Buz's vision of a successful ad agency where ideas come before media.
The Fat Planner is a walking contradiction. I am an industrial engineer who dabbled in finance at the beginning of my career with Unilever, and quickly discovered that I was most passionate about brands and communication. I am a tech & gadget freak who is great with numbers and can be blunt and sardonic and I also possess a very dark sense of humour...yet I'm an incurable romantic who likes poetry and art and is easily driven to tears. I am shy to a fault, yet love being social - once I get a bit of confidence, I love making friends and being with them.
I am very happily married to a fantastic woman who's a market research genius at Unilever, and have two boys who drive me crazy with love and admiration: Emilio who is brave and loves sports (plays wide receiver in American football) and Mateo, who is 15-months old, a dead ringer for me and his brother when little and an unstoppable force of nature.
How did you hear about the 5050 challenge?
I had the enormous pleasure (and privilege) of working together with Ben Malbon (@malbonnington) while at Unilever. He's one of my "must follows" - and I started following his brother Tim soon after. I actually met Tim (@malbonster) at BDW's Making Digital Work in NYC late last year, and became a fan of Made by Many's "making things" philosophy. It happens far too often that we aim for perfection, and arrive late or miss the boat. It was a matter of time until I saw Tim's tweet and decided to join the cause - it is easy to be an 'armchair activist' on Twitter --but trending topics on their own get nothing done.
How did you come up with the 'fat planner' idea: who or what was your inspiration?
Very smart people before me carried out grassroots experiences with great results. Heidi Hackemer (@uberblond) and a few other very smart BBH New York folks started the "Six Items or Less" movement - and that was clearly an inspiration.
After that, Sheena Matheiken (@matheiken) put together the enormously inspiring "Uniform Project" - where she used the same dress over 365 days whilst raising funds for a group of charities. Her work there is admirable, and clearly the most direct inspiration. In fact, my first proposal was to do this for 365 days - I'm not sure I really thought that through :).
You must have a huge network of people you're hoping to tap into to hit your $75,000 target for East Africa. What's your message to them?
Actually, my own network is not at all huge. I know a lot of great people who have connections themselves, and am hoping to inspire them to spread the word and help me get this done. I sometimes fear I aimed too high in setting my $75,000 dollar target - but even that feels like a drop in the ocean when looking at the gravity of the situation. I am committed to this experience (which is already proving to be a lot harder than I thought) and hope to get as close as possible to my target.
What is your social strategy to spread word of your project - which social channels (Facebook, Twitter etc.) are you going to use?
I'm using Twitter and Facebook - much more the former, to try to get people to read and help. I am also going to use my internal network within Cheil to build up and spread the word through them, and hope to get to Paul Polman's desk in hopes that Unilever will endorse me and send it out to their global network. Unilever has always been a socially responsible company and they are actively pursuing helping East Africa.
Do your colleagues at Cheil Mexico know about your project? What was their reaction when you told them, if you have?
Most of them do by now, although I am sending out an e-mail for Mexico, US and Canada tonight to ask for help. The reaction from my colleagues in the board here can best be described as disbelief, followed by a mixture of support and concern. Really great.
If you could challenge someone else to go head-to-head with you on this, i.e have them create exactly the same project and execute on it, who would it be and why?
Tough question. Perhaps fast food company heads and stockholders. The amount of food that is thrown out in their business is appalling.
We think it's absolutely brilliant of you to be part of this - without doubt yours was one of the most fun submissions to Good by Ideas that we saw when we started soliciting ideas. Your original plan was to do this for a full year - do you think you'll continue after 50 days?!
This is the question I dread the most, ha! I'm not sure the 365 day idea was very brilliant of me. My answer today is that I would, if people's reactions are good and money starts flowing in. I also need to visit my doctor, and plan to see him every 1-2 weeks just to make sure that I'm not doing anything irresponsible. My physical health and the reaction of the people will determine if this goes on.
Which other agencies would you like to see be part of 5050?
Anyone who is willing to put in time and sweat. There are some names that I would love to see there, but none that I want to name, because this has to come from truly believing that we can make a difference.
What do you hope to get out of this project?
Getting anywhere near my goal would be hugely satisfying in and of itself. I would also like this to work in my benefit in terms of health, so that would be a great bonus.
I would also like to use this experience to show myself, my family and my friends that all it takes to make a difference (albeit a small one) is to DO SOMETHING - at work, at home, at school, etc.
And finally, what would you like to say to everyone out there reading this post right now?
YES! Please go and read the blog http://dontfeedtheplanner.wordpress.com, and either donate or if they just want to donate, go to my 50/50 project page. Also, please spread the word with your social network and ask them to take a look, and help.
Thanks very much. All the very best, Alejandro!