Monday, 19 April 2010

McCann

McCann are taking a bit of a kicking at the moment. Senior staff being poached, clients in New York bailing out and all the usual shit one is accustomed to hearing about from the agency that used to by and large run Coca-cola worldwide and probably got a bit too fat on it.

I do urge you to read "For God, Country & Coca-Cola". It's freaking ace. It maps the brands distribution in advance of U.S. troops securing Europe, city by city during the second world war. It's one of my absolute favourite marketing stories and one that inspired me when pitching Coca-cola in Asia because I concluded in Vietnam, that with under the counter Coke sales in Ho Chi Minh, the beverage had succeeded where the US marines hadn't. Not a bad USP.

The creatives did good work on the "Freedom" positioning. I still believe its got legs today. Actually they went off piste and did some nuts stuff that would put CP&B to shame but Asian clients are reluctant to be first. In some ways it's the pressure of growth. Best work comes in a downturn.

Anyway, McCann aren't totally shit. I've bumped into two kick ass digital transmedia pieces from their Israeli office that are well worth your time.



I always know it's good when I think that's how I'd do it. Modest aren't I? Here's another.



PR brief anybody? So well done Nir who I think had a lot of input in this.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

David & Goliath



Somebody on the Linkedin Planners page asked a question.

"Do you need a British accent to be a good planner?"

For fun I answered it. So this is a cut and paste job from last night though I'm even more pleased that I found a Carravagio to portray the drama.



The answer is no, but it helps. A better question would be why do British planners do so well? London is the home of planning so there's some heritage equity there. The accent has some Hollywood stereotypes. Villainous, Effete or Intellectual. All three help. Then there's the way the accent commands attention. I once read a script to a C Suite in Germany and the CEO said 'shit that sounds so much better in English'. 

But the real value of a British accent. And this is my hypothesis after watching American Planners in action, is that we have a pattern of inadvertently telling the unpalatable truth. One only needs to say Should George Bush be up for war crimes? Do Corporations commit ecocide? Are sales the only benchmark for great advertising? and there's a collective bowel movement around the meeting table. 

By the time the speccy Brit has shuffled out the room; maybe, just maybe, someone switched-on recognises it's not all about saying awesome all the time but about being a bit uncomfortable. 

Eternal optimism does indeed rock. But rock throwing is eternal. 

Ask David. 

Fuck it. Ask Goliath.

Goldman Stock - Hit By A Rock


For the first time since crony capitalism did a great rock and roll swindle on main street culminating in 2008's stand and deliver in the Whitehouse, it seems some judicial teeth are being bared. 

Frankly I didn't think the home of capitalism pie had the stones for it, but this story isn't going away any time soon. Goldman's stock looked like someone dropped a rock on it yesterday as shown above. It looks like they stitched up a young and cocky French patsy (The fabulous Fab) who appears, despite his gleaming education to have been in over his head.

As we've all learned since the word subprime entered the vernacular, a bucket of nuclear waste debt was extended to another financial firm by Goldman to distance them from the act of actually picking  the radioactive synthetic CDOs which they then shorted while ostensibly recommending long to their clients.

At worst their reputation just took a serious blow but the obvious head on the platter is their big Kahuna Lloyd Blankfein who conveyed that Goldman through capitalism were doing God's work. Even thought it's not exactly a footnote in Matthew 20:12 that Jesus lost the plot only once when casting the money changers OUT of the temple.

It's a helluva story.

Janelle Monae


In terms of inspired dancing style I don't think anything as stunning has been done since Michael Jackson's Thriller. And that's just the co-dancers looking like they're having a ball following Janelle Monae. The track is a bit spesh and the star of the piece is freaking fresh. 

As in yummy bucking candy fresh. 

Addis Ababa springs to mind but only Doddsy knows the bare bones of that tale. H/T Mike

Thursday, 15 April 2010

First Warning.


The first time I heard this I'd been in a funk for about 10 days. Ordering McDonalds delivery so that the brown paper bags were piling up on my bed and I was tipping the delivery guy to go and buy me some fags because when I don't want to see anybody the most taxing thing is polite chit chat. I'm neither polite, and I'm not interested, and so by that I mean  I don't want to speak to the maid, the security guard, reception and I especially don't want to deal with stuff like friends and if you really want to see a grown man cry get my family to call up to see if I'm OK.

Anyway.

Have you noticed I like to say anyway?

Well anyway, Inland Knights say "anyway" better than any mother fucker on the planet. It's like a precursor to bringing out a pistol. I say a Glock, but it could just as easy be a Beretta or a Mauser (when they made pistols). It's like 'anyway, now I shoot you' without actually saying anything, but if you want to verify the validity of that statement you need to check the tune out. It's called Back Chat.

Anyway. The first time I heard this I'd been horizontal for a while and I guess I must have fallen asleep listening to Doug Rushkoffs podcasts, but by the time I awoke I had no idea what the fuck was going on. I recognised the track but it was also really alien. The last time I had a track play games with me like that, was waking up to ELO's Strange Magic which comes close as a description but not close enough because I thought I was having a religious experience on that occasion.

This time I didn't need any epiphany. I wasn't debating whether this was the Good Lord speaking to me so I just leaned over to iTunes and reset it back a few minutes while I adjusted to the rude but welcome musical intrusion into my life. I realised it was special and got out of the 'pit' as I like to call my crib on these occasions and went to blip.fm or Youtube to see if I could track it down.

Somebody once wrote that ABBA were the last band to sing optimistic pop songs. Of course there are exceptions but in general they were our last gasp before we consumed ourselves. Now you may choose to propagate that machine unthinking or otherwise but that's not what makes me tick, so when I listen to ABBA I actually hear the dwindling voice of an age. You can call it the seventies or whatever but no group will ever have the audacity to sing  like ABBA ever again or at least until the Long Now Foundation  start to make an impact on this smear of mathematics we call culture (One for Steak in Kidney).

So when I heard RIng in Swedish by Abba I tumbled out of the pit to find it so that I could always play it when I needed it and on demand. I needed it in the cloud under a book mark. Ring Ring in Swedish is a culture remix that always existed. Who knows how the song was originally written. It's probably in Wikipedia but the point is that it sounds more authentic than ABBA in English. For all their preternatural and superlative laden, hippy white bread drippy pop aspirations, when ABBA sing why don't you give me a call in Swedish, it's unpretentious and feels more exposed than making a buck in English and somehow taps into what we all felt as young people (before SMS and email) waiting for a phone to ring so that we could know we exist.

As opposed to the brass patina and distressed leather cynicism of middle age when one knows you will eventually call and we extract the quid pro quo of doo lallying in the first place.

Word.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Brand Karma

A few years back, one of the few people in Asia that I noticed was subject to a fair amount  opinion in the offices, bars, karaoke joints, award shows and massage parlours of advertising (maybe not the last one) was Craig Davies. A lot of people had a lot to say about Craig when he was Regional ECD for Asia and Africa.

But until he interviewed me as Global ECD for JWT in Knightsbridge back in 2007 I had no opinion. But I got lots now so listen up. First off it was a very tough interview. The questions got harder and harder not easier and I couldn't believe that he knew more than enough about my rapidly moving world to assess whether I was any good.  For example a  memorable question was 'what do you think of Andrew Keen?'. This was in the thick of all the social media Web 2.0 hype at the time that is pretty much mainstream now that Facebook is something most people can relate to.

Difficult to be moderate on that question. Well difficult for me as I can't stand Andrew Keen. I replied that he was more an opportunist peddling shallow arguments for a living than having conviction. 

Risky move. Craig was both reading his book and by any definition is not only a professional but probably one of the most senior and accomplished professionals too.

I didn't stop there (do I ever?). I said that the cult of the professional was responsible for millennia of disastrous decision making. That professionals were often intoxicated with their perceived talents and that  the ability to self produce, present or publish instantaneously and globally had shown that amateurs talents were astonishing us time and again.

Anyway, I walked out of that interview not knowing if I'd said the right thing or not but somewhat comfortable that at least I'd been myself. I got the job after a bunch of other interviews and then got to see both Craig and the Guy Murphy (the Global PD) in action , working  and collaborating together. In my experience a lot of the heavy hitters who get to the top of the agency business have eaten so much crow by the time they've shinned up the greasy pole, they have some of the most formidable political skills in any business period. But no longer really love great ideas or often don't know what a kick ass contemporary idea even is. 

That wasn't the case with JWT and one of the reasons why I have such strong faith in the agency is that I was lucky to see people like Guy and Craig who are quite understated, still quite young and really enjoying their work in action. Quite refreshing, and I like to think that JWT"s improved reputation and ongoing successes is something I spotted a little early on from reasonably close observation in London.

In any case, Craig has now relocated to his home country of Australia, and has started something that is both simple in it's aim, but is I believe an important idea. I wont say any more as there's an introductory video for you to watch. This ties directly into what I feel is a huge opportunity for brands (corporations) to shake off the lethargy of undifferentiated, link tested, politically correct but morally stultifying blandness and start to stand for something. Something I wrote about more at length over here. Watch the video and come join us on Brand Karma if it strikes a chord.

Monday, 12 April 2010

SoundCloud - Samurai.fm

I've noticed SoundCloud being punted around elsewhere and really like the visual interface. For people into breaks, minimal tech, glitch and all that other good stuff it can take a while for a track to warm up, or rather lots of any given track is given over to mix/play space for DJ's to do their thing. SoundCloud helps to fast forward to the next disruption in the track so I can figure out if I'm really into it. Also it's a really good showcase for new DJ's or just to have a dig around in different genre's like the mix below which although  bit on the industrial side for my usual taste is nevertheless the background music while I type this post out.

The thing that makes me take SoundCloud proper serious is that my long standing favourite streaming mixes station Samurai.fm have had a redesign and are using SoundCloud to embed the mixes now. It sort of tells me that they are fast becoming the de facto music platform (within my genre tastes) for me now that I've lost Last.fm to CBS. Though you can always check out my music profile over there as once upon a time it couldn't have pleased me more and I assume it's frozen in time from then.

I used to pay their subscription when it was voluntary but after years of use from when they were audioscrobbler I'd have thought CBS would know how to send an email out to introduce themselves and their business model. Oh well plenty of examples of big companies mismanaging 2.0 platforms. This mix is Dub, Glitch and DnB. 

I hope the embed fits.

Sub-Sonic Symphony - A Journey Through DubStep, Glitch & DnB by Agent.Smith

Tumblr Stats


I may have exaggerated a bit about quantitative data in that post earlier which should be retitled "If it's measurable and you add no meaning to it, you're probably wasting my time". Anyway, my tumblr stats have taken off. They look very different to this blog's stats which I last took a snapshot of over here. Take a look.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Is Social Media About Being Opaque?



Something occurred to me during the Nestle chocolate meltdown in Social Media the other day. I picked up on the story from @jamiec and took a wonder over to the Facebook page seeing straight away that the language used might well be one of the last examples of unvarnished corporate sentiment we'll get to see. It's the language of 'fuck you' isn't it?


So among other digital dropped jaws, I tweeted that part. It was picked up State-side where it started to do the rounds. I can't imagine too many multinationals making that mistake again. It's inconceivable that a Facebook fan page will instruct its fans how to behave and even more damagingly resort to biting sarcasm.

From this it's clear that many are still naive about what makes for participation in social media. Who are still drawing on legacy sentiment from the past. That is the mechanistic and 'professional' corporate bullying tone. Invariably a top-down, hierarchical monologue model (both internally and externally).

But somewhat surprising to me about the whole affair is the sheer hypocrisy of the blogging and digital social media community. The people who jumped on the band wagon who profess to understand social media. These are people who seemingly claim to partake in its values and yet who time and again dodge being transparent, authentic or  in current parlance, human.

Sure it's one thing to gasp in surprise at Nestle's coming out party. But the number of bloggers who are missing a human side to Nestle's use of Palm Oil by Indonesia's deforesting Sinar Mas conglomerate didn't escape me. New meeja's transparent schadenfreude at Nestle was easy to see and yet seemingly opaque when it came to their own positions on the issue. You do have a position right? It's only human after all.

It's one thing for Nestle to parade their sensitivity to local issues by creating say regional flavour variants of Kit Kat in Japan (how Kawaii), but it seems the locals of Indonesia's Riau province on the island of Sumatra are taking a good pasting while trying to protect the land from deforestation by Sinar Mas. All three Youtube clips are still below two thousand hits despite Nestle + Social Media search terms on Google being around half a million.

What does this tell me? It tells me that the sit-on-the-fence, have no controversial opinion, follow-the-dollar attitude that contributed to the decline of advertising's reputation is spilling over into social media. I just don't know how y'all can profess to being authentic, human, transparent and 'keeping it real' if you have no opinion on the issue. Which isn't about Nestle messing up in Social Media. It's about the deforestation for palm oil in Indonesia. Or did we just hijack it so we can wave it in the face of the next corporation to put us on the pitch list and who are stuck in the 20th century so that we incentivise them to work with us? 

Transparent, human and authentic us.