Sunday, 27 January 2008

Tasty Delicious Enable Happiness

I've been tagged twice in the last week or so with two memes and it really is only sporting to participate. The first occasion started with the gifted Marcus in Munich and with whom despite inevitable titanic struggles over the meaning of meaning I'd love to work with some day. I just know we could push ideas further than I''ve ever had a chance to push before. So I'm crossing my fingers on that one. In the mean time Marcus has asked me to name five bloggers that I'd wish to be a little more like. Also I've been graciously tagged by Johnnie Moore who really is quite brilliant and curmudgeonly in a likable-professor way. I also suspect that he's closer to the meaning of it all even though he'd probably dislike that compliment.

Johnnie has invited me to share eight random facts/ habits and pass the meme onto a further eight. Well in the interests of symmetry and breaking rules (The best to the brave) I'll only do five and intersperse those five facts and five cross-meme links with some snaps I've taken today. Just in case that has confused those I've linked to it means that ideally you should pick up the meme mashup and do both as well.... if you like of course. So here goes.

First off is the admission that I was born in Germany and have a Maltese mother and an English Father so truthfully I don't really buy into any nationalism at all and see the planet as all mine wherever I choose to tip up. It's kind of liberating to discard a passport and inherit a planet. I also see how easy it is for different countries to start saying the 'we' word when lets face it, 'we' are all in this together. Particularly as the planet heats up. So shape up. I'm tagging Rob Campbell on this one simply because on top of living in Singapore and loving Asia like myself, he's given me some of the best laughs on the net if only for the comments section on his blog which is just ace.


Second I guess I can fairly admit to taking off more time than any planner I know and have made good use of tropical beaches, tropical rum and more books than I should have really ever had the time to read. I majored in Politics during this time and had just one of the best mentors to guide me on which books to read and where. I also picked up my McLuhan habit around during this period and can't see why he hasn't been canonized. Its all there in much the same way that Stephen King inventor of planning's writings were more pure from reduced clutter and yet at the same time so prescient. I'm linking to Faris on this one because its one thing to be super clever, its another thing to be a regular and likable guy with that much brain power kicking around. Duty of Genius and all that.


That's bubbling sugar above, and is used to make those toffee fruits I've talked about. I think I'd like to share my favourite place in the world. Its Luang Prabang in Laos. Laos is an unreconstructed Communist country and possibly one of the richest (spiritually) countries in the world. The people unlike those in Thailand have been sheltered from breakneck economic growth and is the only place in the world I've seen folk on motorbikes tugging friends along on bicycles at a sedate pace while holding a conversation. This is when I realised that a slower life is what we're all looking for. All I need are a few books in Luang Prabang and I'm content. My next tag is John Dodds. John is a top bloke with one of best marketing bullshit detectors as well as a good sense of humour. Even if he does do work on the side for MI5.


What else. I've quite a track record in marriage and relationship guidance. Even though I'm a walking disaster at managing my own relationships I seem to have a face that enables people to confide in me in a way that suggests my advice is valuable and I'm grateful for that because it makes me feel that I can be trusted. I hope its because I'm a bit more direct than is good for me in most instances but its fair to say I've rescued more relationships than I care to think about now that I start to dwell on the matter. I'm going to link to Charlie over at Tantramar for this one because he's one of the cleverest and most creative people I know. Now that I think of it he's just the sort of person that What If should be talking to because he's done more stuff than any of us put together.

Finally I think I want to share that I once had a gun pulled on me in Stringfellows nightclub in the 90's. Its one of those improbable stories that litter my life and was completely unanticipated but I remember thinking how sobering it was to be on the end of a barrel and how for once in my life I just kept my trap shut in the interests of not making it onto the front of the tabloids the next day. Good story though if you ever catch me with nothing to say. I think my last link for this occasion and completely unrelated to that little factoid should be Fiona because she needs a little prompt now and again and is shaping up as a lovely blogger.

Countdown


I"m not so bothered with George Bush as some. I feel a wave of mild embarrassment each time I see him pretending that what is happening isn't happening. I'm embarrassed for his poor grasp of geography, his shunning of history and lately a reversal on GOP economic theory by advocating 'trickle up economics' with the stimulus package. Now they say it's because poor people are more likely to go spend the cash, and the cynicism this reveals for trickle down economics is only now manifest. Have they been fattening their wallets all this time? Selling cheap loans to people who will spend the next decade paying them off?. Keynesian economics is now evidently being practiced by POTUS and the mantra of free market economics as the unfailing driver of good, is a boil waiting to be lanced.

This doesn't mean I'm not horrified by the grotesque spectacle of Bill Clinton pulling tricks I never thought I'd see in order to gain reentry into the Whitehouse and of course his desperate wife Hillary who looks way past her time and a little ugly like Giuliani with his never ending repetition of what he did for N.Y. But don't let that colour your impression of my politics because my favourite candidate so far has been Ron Paul of the Republican party for his ruthless pursuit of presenting the unpalatable truth to the U.S.

It is however increasingly looking like Barack Obama's time and I see potential in him to lead the country forward in a way that the United States both deserves and desperately needs. It's time to rid the U.S. of that unholy alliance of the fundamentalists and neoconservatives because its just obscene listening to those pro lifers support the war in Iraq.



Via Rebecca Mackinnon

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Connecting Peoples

Earlier today I was passing that blood bank bus I've mentioned before when talking about brand utility, and I thought I'd do my bit and load up the People's Republic with some of my own juice as I had a pint or so to spare.


This nice Gentleman took all my details and loaded them up on the notebook.


And the nice nurse checked my blood pressure and took a sample to be on the safe side.


And I got on with taking a few pictures as the people on the bus were all the generous giving sort. (I don't count myself. I was looking for shameless blogging content).


And Bob's your uncle. No mess, no fuss, just juice. Which sounds like a line doesn't it?


And that was my Saturday afternoon, apart from buying some Stella McCartney's Adidas for a girl I haven't yet met, because I do that once in a while.....meet someone, figure out if I've bought the right size and if it looks like it will work, say 'here's something I bought earlier'.

Seriously though if there are any ladies out there who are really into this the Adidas 'Stella' the store on Wanfujing is doing 50% off and I can only justify buying the one item on the off chance of meeting a close fit, even though its easily the sexiest and most futuristic female clothing I've ever seen and it doesn't seem to be shifting over here. Its like Prada/Miu Miu meets Adidas. Which isn't a bad thing. Its still pricy but a half price sale is a fair chunk off. Go check out the current collection.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Snakeskin feel, golden touch

Yeah I know, I kind of like its unashamed sleaziness, but then as I said way back here I thought the Razr which was the must-have mobile phone of 2005 is the product that Motorola slashed its corporate wrists on. Via Maddison Boom

Joy Island


I've just come across the astonishingly talented Chinese Photographer Joy Island. Not bad for someone who started taking photos in 2005 is she? With creativity like this it shouldn't be too hard to breath some life into brands that all too often are sclerotic and asphyxiated with a marketing bullshit that has crushed the life, tonality, voice and ability to inspire or provoke thought, through endless quantitative measurement of the difference between idea free and idea less.

Great brands are about ideas, not about doing everything possible to avoid an idea, and we need to let let talented local Chinese creative people and artists connect at this level. Creativity doesn't come from an Apple Mac it comes from people. The brand idea that sticks out often gets hammered in, here in Asia, but with photography like this I just know that China has a brilliant future as long as the creativity is protected.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The Digital Divide


Get over to those top folk from Minneapolis, Zeus Jones, for a little more detail on a wonderful post about the digital divide as they see it. It's a compelling chunk of writing and for me has all the makings of a hallmark digital anthropology post.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Brilliant News


Famous Rob (Mortimer) has secured a job offer and is now set to blaze a brilliant career in advertising. Rob lives in the North of England where planning options are very much less frequent than London. He's done a brilliant job of getting to this stage, and the agency that hires him will be benefiting from a terrific eye for marketing communications. I believe from his carfully considered reviews of British advertising that he will be responsible for some lovely stuff in his career. Rob we salute you. Well done.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Speechification

If you haven't been checking out Speechification yet, then you should. The soundclip that goes with their post about Tony Blair's official portrait is every reason why the site is shaping up as one of the most engaging podcast resources on the net. There's even a player embedded so you can listen up pronto. The chilling point about the painting above, according to the artist, is that it depends on the viewers politics how the poppy is perceived. As I said. Everything is contextual. I'm betting Lauren is going to love this one too.

The brand idea that sticks out gets hammered in.




I just found this post lurking in my drafts folder from way back and thought it might be a reasonable opportunity to pop a pic I took on the Nokia N95 a few weeks back to add some spice.

I'm all for localization. I don't know anyone else who believes as much as I do that the tired old mantra of "think global act local" is more often both an oxymoron and an excuse for marketing economies of scale. OK, so as I said in this post, everything is contextual but for those who argue in favour of brand message uniformity at all costs, why doesn't that apply to the product itself. You may for example wish to try the McDonalds coffee I talked about over here, which in China is like amphetamine treacle and tastes most awesome; way superior to the coffee chain from Seattle that I can't bear to mention.

There's a whiff of intellectual brand bankruptcy hanging in the air for those who endorse brand identity uniformity as more important than product conformity. And no I'm not talking about adapting the product to local tastes because the coffee at McDonalds in China compared to say McDonalds UK is the equivalent of the difference between that Turkey you roasted over Chrimbo and the Turkey Twizzlers y'all rebelled over a while back.

I've been talking about brand adaptation a fair bit recently and for the life of me I can't see why a country as large as China can 'adapt' itself to working with say Microsoft Windows ("oh no" they cry. "Its not Chinese enough" - erm excuse me? Even I can operate Windows in Chinese because the layout is so familiar) or an iPod. I do believe that if the iPod was presented as a concept first, the local ahem marketing and agency 'talent' would be all over it with design changes and modifications to 'localise' it.

OK, there is a time and a place when sensitivity towards local culture and taste makes great business sense but the knee jerk reaction to adaptation is killing too many good ideas and its not as if the alternatives are standing out much better is it?

I'll say it one more time only. The brand idea that sticks out gets noticed. Just like that bloke in the picture above who is mesmerised by the flares they use to show off to the clubbing crowd that somebody has ordered Champagne. It's not rocket science is it?

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Everything is contextual

Update. Many of the photos in this post have been lost so I've deleted them. I hope it still makes some sense.

Particularly when it comes to advertising or otherwise we'd use the ads from yesteryear, year in and year out.... and they would work. I'll be fleshing out that theme at some point but in the mean time here's more China Syndrome.

The local bank cards don't have a 'chip' but do have a six figure PIN which makes a lot more sense than a four figure PIN. The one above was at the hotpot restaurant from this QIK video and has been given some love and affection with stick-on hearts and pseudo bling. A bit like putting a sprig of parsley on top of food. erm not!


These steamed dumplings and cakes (Xiaolongbao) are still found all over Beijing from little vendors that keep the feel of food more interesting than elsewhere to me. I've been
going on a bit about street food of late.


This is the first ad that has impressed me in China. I"m hoping its local as the brand is a local glasses retailer. There was a French version next to this poster, so it might well be international. 

Its also beautifully art directed. Seen in the Oriental Plaza, Beijing.


These little fellas (Motuoche) run around Beijing like the Tuk Tuk's of Bangkok, although far less ubiquitous. The example above is in mint condition and used solely by a restaurant to ferry its customers to and fro. It was all glinting and sparkling in the sun.


Well you might have caught on to that whole Ferrari brand extension thing over at Rob's which prompted me to take a look around their shop. They actually sell a Ferrari branded telescope on top of other pointless crap!! Its a top quality telescope with a Ferrari (which I think has like Prada, not the most attractive logo) badge on it. Ferrari are fucked if they need the few extra dollars that this retail shit provides. It would be a shameif they were the first luxury car brand to do a Pierre Cardin/Burberry. I know there are people who have made a bazillion in China (as indeed elsewhere around the world) who aren't very discerning but this is just plain crass.

La Pargay above however have got something going on. It's a talented local Chinese designer. Their clothes are really innovative and have a particular identity - that to my mind taps into the Mongolian roots of Northern China. The retail staff also remind me of Mac Cosmetics who have always hired interesting staff over classically beautiful assistants. Also the ladies in this shop were definitely wearing the most risque clothes I've seen women wear in Beijing. Its not summer yet so maybe things will change but the girls clothes here rarely reveal their upper torso unlike the girls here and which I hadn't really thought about till I took a look around La Pargay. These people are one to watch fashion lovers... You heard it here first.

I'm completely in love with I.T the clothing brand above. They are from Hong Kong and apart from doing very noticeable advertising. I like the cat aping the model in the lower right hand corner. I've done something I only do very rarely which is buy 3 of an item because I know I will love them forever.

These special edition Adidas caught my eye and were the "Special of the month". I'm not sold on what looked like under closer inspection a cutting edge pedometer on the tongue. Trainers like this do look OK with a baggy casual suit or something, a la Alexander McQueen some years ago. Sort of like a loud sneakers modest clothes look.

Lastly I think I've found the origin of toffee apples. I've never come across these in any other culture but these toffee fruits look splendid on their display pillars, and particularly at night when they are illuminated.

Yes I know this is a bit of a crap post but the work is piling up, and I'm getting deeper and deeper into a lot of local and international brands and finding their context here in China. We're also waiting to hear some news on that pitch I've mentioned to a few of you and which deserves a post once the dust has settled because doing marketing communications in China, as in lots of Asian places, is often way different from other places around the world. Sometimes I think the biggest challenge is overcoming that whole consensus thing which is responsible for what can only be described as consensual communications. The internet seems to be the only place where reality can be externalised. Albeit through virtual persona sometimes.


Update: I subsequently discovered that La Pargay is Italian. Just trying to champion local stuff when I see it!

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Just The Watches

I visited this place first back in September and at the time it struck me how extraordinary the sheer range of watches were on sale. I took this QIK video earlier at the Silk Street Market which is kind of like MBK in Bangkok. Its depressing isn't it, how much effort goes into pumping out enough timepieces to keep our insatiable 'consumer' appetites fulfilled? Each of those watches has so many hundreds of component parts and must be at least days, weeks if not months of time from drawing board to supply side distribution and retail all around the world.


Thursday, 10 January 2008

Wanna See My Lunchbox?


In a dramatic turn and subsequently bizzare twist of events it turns out that the owner of the mysterious Hello Kitty Lunch box over at Robs was in fact none other than Marcus Brown of Munich (formerly Southampton). The Kaiser, not widely known for his sweet 'Kawaii' side 'fessed' up that the lunch container was his regular victuals pack with a sheepish face over here . The scandal dubbed 'Kittygate' in the raggedy end of the digital press has rocked the male dominated blogosphere with underhand and pernicious jabs that Marcus is a pussy, so there was little else a chap could do for a chum other than come to the rescue with a picture of my own lunchbox. Beef noodles or no beefnoodles. Barbera who took this snap with an unsteady hand from laughing about the rapidly expanding waistline had to be coaxed into keeping a aim so do excuse the indulgent smiles that come about as middle age spread takes another innocent victim.

Qik

Some of you have been viewing my Qik videos already, so I thought that now was as good a time as any to introduce them formally. I first came across Qik on Robert Scoble's blog and I thought it was a neat feature having the live video to internet on a Nokia N95 which is the smart phone I'm using. I also thought it would compete with some of the other video to net features like Kyte.tv or Ustream but as I've been using it I've also come to appreciate that its a cinch to use and has one extra feature that gives the broadcasts currency; there is a check box to send a link to my twitter account immediately. So it's kind of fun getting twitters back from friends about what they imagine I'm doing to whom in that hot tub in the second bathroom of the Hutong I'm intending to move into. Evidently my twitter chums have quite vivid imaginations!


Sunday, 6 January 2008

Yen Countdown





The PRC, being run in a top down sort of affair has allocated a district in Beijing solely for the artist community. It's called 798. I don't normally approve of art-under-duress but on New Years Eve I made an exception.

video

Beijing Strategy


The fifth to seventh floors at the Xie Dan shopping complex called Beijing Stategy are as good a place as any to check out where the hip kids are at, in the same way as say Harajuku would be the place to trend-watch emerging fashion changes in Tokyo. Its interesting to see what these young folk are wearing, what they are into and how they behave with each other. Although its mainly a 'teen +' fashion hangout, if you dig a little deeper into the boutique end on other floors you'll get to see a slightly older female customer looking for more sophisticated outfits. They're of the type that like to dress impressively but don't have the budget of hitting say The Place or The Peninsula Arcade at The Peninsula for top end luxury brands. Some of them are just smarter too! Beijing is a great place for buying clothes that look terrific but aren't necessarily designed to last forever. I guess this is somewhat indicative of the disposable society the West created I'd point out. More on that later because I've got some thoughts emerging on that one. I can't wait for oil to hit 200 bucks a barrel.

Anyway, while walking around Xie Dan which is one of at least three locations in Beijing that has a whole shop dedicated to Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas, I then stumbled across a shop called Boing Boing. I wondered at the time if they knew about one of the worlds top blogs and took a quick snap. So I was a bit bloody surprised to discover shortly afterwards I had been linked to by Boing Boing and saw my traffic stats go through the roof. Wanna take a peek?

Anyway, those peeps rushing over here to check out the crumpled porcelain beer cans will be unlikely to pay more visits and if truth be known I'm not looking for traffic, I'm looking for comrades as I mentioned to Johnnie, Damiano, Jamie and John last year at the Endurance in Soho. But it was quite a learning experience to check out the oodles of data that Google Analytics provides such as who came, where they came from, their ISP, what they clicked on, how long they stayed, where they went to next and all that stuff which very few bloggers ever talk about but is for me one of the reasons why I can 'head held up high' say I like a bit of quant now and again, as I said in one of my tweets that I've just discovered has been fed into a site I've never come across before. Once again I'm compelled to reminds folks that McLuhan said the third world war would be an information war with no division between civilian and military which sounds like fun doesn't it? (Churchill also said something similar and prescient).

Thursday, 3 January 2008

China Central Television Building (CCTV)


I took a taxi ride out to the new CCTV building over the Christmas break. They have recently connected the two main pillars in a feat of engineering that can only be truly appreciated by standing under it, walking around it and hopefully the next time I go by sneaking into it.

Architecture for me is a love affair and I've been folllowing the Dutch mastermind for the CCTV building in Beijing for a while now. His name is Rem Koolhaas and this latest project is truly the only building since the the Guggenheim in Bilbao, which I've felt has challenged and then extended my appreciation and meaning of the building form. I was close to trembling while standing under that huge overhang - but maybe that was the hangover too. Its all steel and feels like a Airbus A340 is suspended over your head. Here are the pictures from my N95 mobile phone camera that really don't do it justice.

It appears to defy general gravitational and architectural balance guidelines. I'd really like to hear what Owen Hatherley of Nasty Brutalist and Short thinks of this design. I feel that this qualifies in some respects as as good example of brutalist with other design nods and dimensions that I'd love to hear Owen's erudite (and quality socialist I might add) views.

The shot below is really pushing the zoom feature on the N95 to the max. The slightest movement shows up on the final shot but I think it starts to give a feel for all the safety netting suspended underneath the overhang as it was conjoined recently.

I couldn't help but look at all the lovely media space waiting to be made beautiful. Or at least let Beijing use it as a graffiti space. Its huge and rusting at the moment.

It needs to be walked around to appreciate all its angles.


If you look really hard. You can see the construction workers walking on a little horizontal section at the point where the sky meets the upper part of the joining section. Or put another way the other side of where the sun's glare is.


Just seeing this building means I have no choice now but to buy a decent camera. Any suggestions very much welcome. You might be able to see what I'm trying to capture. Expect more Beijing architecture. There are some amazing pieces around the city for the Olympics.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Burn Down The TV Stations



This is pretty much what I've been advocating for the new advertising agency business model in my post over here and first aired over here. Its gets simpler the more I see people explain what I'm trying to attempt as it becomes more self evident of where we are heading.

Roughly speaking, ditch the interruptive messaging and get experimental/useful/collaborative across lots and lots of relevant communities in Lo Fi - Also be prepared to fail plenty and as a consequence succeed more demonstrably by embracing the upside of risk. Lo Fi is the new Hi Fi. Collective participation is more authentic than corporate brand synthesis. As audiences get smarter, the big switch comes closer. Its just a matter of time.

By way of the impressive Johnnie Moore