Thursday 30 August 2007

My blog's WELL BIGGER than yours

By way of The smell of fish and chips

This reminds me of two recent clips mashed up (I cringe using those words) together that I've come across. One is the Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip musical video below, and the other was a viral for Rayban I think, that used a kid doing a wheelie just as in the one above but with an endline something like, "Never Hide".

Update: Here it is. I found the Ray Ban viral.

Brunch Bites

Mike Butcher organised one of his Brunch Bites yesterday and I popped along thinking it might be a good idea to broaden my digital gene pool. It was held at the Dana Centre which is housed by The Science Museum in South Kensington. I thought it was a lovely place for this type of event as there is plenty of room, gratis Wi Fi and for me it's a convenient couple of tube stops from Victoria Station.

I was hoping to catch up with Steve Bowbrick as I spotted him attending on and/or facebook but it looks like the King of Shaves won't get a chance to see my longest beard yet, and instead I got a chance to say hello again to the Buddha of digital suburbia, Lloyd Davis and the frighteningly erudite Al Robertson who is coming close to the final edit of his book.

The people I got chatting to might have been unrepresentative 0f the 30 or so folk there but apart from one programmer, absolutely everyone around me was connected to the mobile phone as media business. In particular I'm thinking of the wonderfully geeky Imp of A consuming experience who is the most techy blogger I've met.

Brunch bites is an excellent occasion for dipping into other digital worlds and seeing people get together to talk and network. The coffee was generously paid for by Trusted Places who must be the obvious candidate to use if the location has to change for the next occasion! Pop along if you get a chance.

Monday 27 August 2007

Bank Holiday Special

Paul over at life in the middle is giving away his old bike which is still in good working shape but needs a little love, care and the wheels turning more frequently since he got a new one. All you have to do is leave a comment and say how you would pay it forward which is a very nice gesture I think. Sustainability, environmental concerns, recycling, health and ethics all in one fell swoop so if you don't need a bike yourself let someone know. I'd be pitching for it myself but I'm probably not going to be in London long enough to be a deserving recipient.

I also just came across this Hip-Hopera (its not Hip Hop, more Afro American culture) called 'Trapped in the closet' which still doesn't quite describe how cheese TV and Soul by R Kelly can transform a well worn narrative structure into something quite spectacular. Its a seminal recombinant-culture art form in the making. Like Noah who tipped me off about it, I would have thought this could never appeal to me, but it does.

One last picture because I love the way that Second Life (now that its passe) is still developing really good avatar art like this. There's something ethereal about the bling that just floats a little in the air. I've lost the original exhibition where this example is on display, I think it's in New York but if anyone knows I'd love to link to them.

Thursday 23 August 2007

We make art not money

Once in a while a gem of a podcast comes my way, and this is fresh off the feeds from IT Conversations. It would be wrong to pigeonhole this from its title "Artistic Entrepreneurship & Technology", a University course that the interviewee Dr. Elliott McGucken, a physicist teaches. It doesn't even come close to covering the ground that is completed in this heartwarming and contemporary podcast.

If you love the story form, from The Matrix, Star Wars, The Godfather, Lord of the Rings to classics like The Odyssey or want to tap into your artistic value, however that articulates itself, listen to this. Should you feel that there is more depth to this life than just making money and instead want to see why it is so much more important than the futility of the greedy then take time out for this podcast. Personally I need to get hold of a copy of John Bogle's: Battle For The Soul Of Capitalism after listening to this ace find.

Update: Lauren reminds me that the first two or three minutes are not the best of starts. Hang in there :)


Just came across this picture on Johnnie's excellent blog and I've unashamedly swiped it because its a pretty good visual for the topic of recruitment. Last night at Pimms Pantones and Poptones with The Design Conspiracy I met John Dodds who has pretty much said the last word on the topic of recruitment over here. There are always exceptions (as with anything in life) but its worth reposting his comment in its entirety.

The recruitment process (across all industries) in the UK has been appalling for decades. It’s partly/largely down to the reliance on recruitment agencies whereby you farm out the acquisition of your most important assets to people who couldn’t get the job in the first place, don’t really understand your business and make their money on churning applicants.

They use phrases like “the client had decided to change the brief” (I was with Lauren a few weeks back when she got rejected for a temp position with that excuse - again after a series of interviews) and, of course, “you’re overqualified” as their standard get out of jail free excuses.

Wake up people! Do it yourself! It’s too important and now, of course, through this medium, we get to know people and their talents much more intimately, can cross reference them simply and the only fee we pay is some occasional abusive blog comments which frankly some of us deserve. - John Dodds

God is not a woman

I always thought that God is surely a woman but I've been proved wrong. He's live and unleashed, and more importantly he's blogging in his capacity as universal CEO and tackling big issues such as "Jerusalem is a problem worth talking about". Here's what he has to say in his introduction:

With 22 operational subsidiaries employing the services of over 11800 Million members of staff, most of whom spend a lot of time trying to kill each other, it’s easy to loose touch with the needs, fears and desires of 6.6 billion potential customers.

The purpose and mission of this personal blog is to offer both staff and customers a behind the scenes, no hold barred look at the way I, the Lord God Almighty, go about daily business; offering more transparency, more accountability and more visibility to my mysterious ways and explore some of the challenges facing a modern day deity.

Hell, it isn’t easy being God. Benchmark me.

Check him out over here

Saturday 18 August 2007

Socialising Media

What's the point of it all?

I've been asked this time and again by a bunch of folk ranging from London planning honchos who don't have enough time to explore web 2.0 or friends who fired off a volley of concerned emails during a patch when I'd seemingly gone underground. I will however first off make a rough and ready psychographic division because not everybody is the same when I make this case.

A narrator or writer I came across (I'm struggling to remember where) asserted that there are roughly speaking two types of people plodding around the planet at present. Cold war survivors and the ones after, lets call them Post-Coldies. This has only a little to do with age as its a mindset that can easily be absorbed from say parents and different environments. Cold war people have been bombed by mainstream media (MSM) into believing that the world is divided into good and bad, and have trouble dealing with shades of grey or the texture and subtlety between. Go easy on them because its pretty close to a brain washing experience, but in principle a generation of Soviet 'evil empire' rhetoric, contrasted with Western neoliberal capitalist propaganda as saviour of the world leaves them with a sharply divided mindset that is wholly binary and extends to extraordinary statements like communism has failed and only capitalism works. Or "isn't it great the polar caps are melting, let's consume some more refrigerated ice cream".

Cold war survivors are a guarded bunch. MSM and their parents taught them to be that way. They manage their online identity with Stalinist control, feel uncomfortable with online pictures of themselves, default to using very spy-like online monikers, never use 'include message in reply' in their emails and compartmentalize their offline lives with a strict policy of not mixing say work friends, then family, and life friends. They also tend to tell default fibs if different groups happen to enquire about each other, but they are not being malicious.

I guess they're just trying to shore up their separate offline identities that they manage in this increasingly complex and connected world. This was necessary to hold the whole cold war mentality together. People who aren't paranoid or under fear of invasion make for lousy misguided patriots so it's in the interests of the State to make sure a climate of them and us prevails. It's not completely impossible to envisage the current attempt to exchange reds-under-the bed, with the now ubiquitous terrorists of today. But that's probably another post about propaganda's resemblance to heaps of contemporary advertising that I'm saving for later.

Anyway, the point of all this social(ist) media immersion is, in my view, to drive all that online activity offline. The most rewarding experience of virtual friendships is to meet those same people in real life. I started to be convinced of this through hooking up with big chunks of the London plannersphere. But take the argument even further, and the MMORPG or video gaming community is a good example. Its not hard to see that the apex of their digital community experiences are the championships and tournaments they hold in conventions centres from Seoul to South Dakota.

Another good potential example of this might be for Last.FM to create Last.FM bars. These would be bars where the community can have a say over the music, ranging from discovery mode, to play-me-the-classics-I-love. This used to be called a Juke Box but it was quite limited.

I can think of lots more examples.

So all that anthropological primate grooming with pokes, vampire bites, blogging and twitters pretty much self actualises when we get to have something like a cup of coffee or a beer with people of a likemind. Simple isn't it?

I got thinking about this again earlier because I see that PicnicMob are trying to get a large group of people together in one city and have an online picnic. By working out what your interests are they will seat you next to someone similar. Personally I quite like meeting people who are into stuff I haven't come across but I'm sure you see my point. The irony is that the Post Coldies are pretty much trying to create, with all this social(ist) media, what the Coldies have already being doing all their lives; albeit with global reach, greater transparency, less small talk and networking at the speed of light.

Its not for everyone but I am reminded that Marshall McLuhan predicted that
electronic technologies would lead us back to an oral culture.

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Commercial Break

Quite a few of you have asked me about the signature I use on my email and where its from. I found it on Pajamas media which is a U.S. right wing blogging syndicate that I read. Many might be surprised that The Huffington Post or The Daily Kos isn't content that is more reflective of my political leanings towards Socialism. I love that word Socialist, it gets right up the noses of those who shriek at the word Liberal.

I read these right wing blogs mainly because the content is invariably material that I disagree with - but that doesn't mean always. My political mentor and close friend taught me the value of this exercise a few years back. As hard as I tried I couldn't win any political arguments with him as he was well versed in the hypocrisy of the both the left as well as the right (if those terms mean anything anymore). I fondly recall him saying that both sides wanted to tax the living hell out of him and just spend it differently.

Its my view that planners should able to cut through subjectivity and aim for objectivity by understanding the arguments and not the sentiments. Interestingly I've found that the picture above is deeply ambiguous depending on who reads it, as is the title of this post. Any thoughts?

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Dangerous Data

Jason Oke of Leo Burnett Toronto pretty much demolishes the idea that people tell the objective truth during quantitative questionnaires in a post today. It blows up the myth of veracity by demonstrating one of the most flaccid of urban legends. Any study which suggests that men are more promiscuous than women flops miserably by failing to acknowledge two really important factors. Firstly it takes two to tango and secondly many men exaggerate their sexual activity. Or maybe the figures have been 'inflated' by other elements? There's a time and a place for quantitative questionnaires and so in the interests of trying to make them workable I always say quick and dirty is a good rule of thumb.

I make no excuses for making a post with the most puns on this occasion.

Sunday 12 August 2007


It was on my first trip to Burma in 2001 that I knew something was going on in a global cultural sense that I should try to understand. I was traveling light from one military checkpoint state to another when I saw the only sign of dissent in the whole country. It was a gang of youths dressed in cheap baseball hats and basketball vests playing of all things the unmistakable genre of Rap in Burmese. They were doing no harm but for sure they were saying things suck in Burma, and that's a fact because in Burma they really do.

I guess the reason for my incomprehension was that I didn't 'get' Hip Hop or Rap. I thought it was the lowest common denominator of music to dance to. Anyone could do it. A couple of gang gestures, a bobbing head and some Yo Yo exhortation meant that anyone was down with the bad asses. But it wasn't working for me. I couldn't see why people loved it so much and would frequently walk out of clubs in protest, as I always do if the music is rubbish.

Then I got some education.

Some years on from that Burma trip I was with some friends and invited to hang out in a bar on Royal City Avenue (RCA) in Bangkok called Hip Hop. The crowd were an unpretentious and friendly bunch and the music was really rather good when the DJ dropped a Diana Ross Hip Hop mix that blew me away and I knew what the problem was. I'd been listening to bad Hip Hop for all those years.

A conversation with a very smart DJ friend of mine helped also to clarify that Hip Hop was a culture, a movement and not just a genre of music and so now I have no problem hitting a bar for Hip Hop, but like all my music tastes I'm just a bit fussy about what I expose my ears too and need something that makes me think as well as feel.

Well yesterday I came across yet another brilliant Smashing Telly recommendation called The Hip Hop Years. The Origin of Hip Hop. Its on another level and sucked me in for the full 2 hours and 20 minutes 7 seconds. Its completely delicious and to ignore this fine documentary is probably on a par with ignoring the impact that Rock & Roll and Punk had on popular culture. Hip Hop is constantly reinventing, has embraced all genres of music from death metal to classical and brings young people together from the South Bronx to Burma.

But the reason for this post is that I've noticed something while globe trotting and parachute planning in a few countries. I've never come across an African or Afro Caribbean planner. There are plenty of great Indian marketing folk that I've worked with, but I'm starting to get the feeling that planning is predominantly a middle class, Indy music loving, Caucasian pursuit and that is most definitely not a good thing. As I've made clear elsewhere homogeneous advertising is made in homogeneous agencies. As far as I know only two three London planners have expressed an interest in the world's largest and fastest growing music genre and it leaves me asking a difficult question. Are we OK in advertising when it comes to rebranding a toothpaste from Darkie to Darlie but failing abysmally when it comes to black culture? Because if so, we are not representing.

Educate yourself and watch this seminal video.

Wednesday 8 August 2007

Saints & Sinners

I pretty much owe my discovery of planner blogs to PSFK some time ago when my back was against the wall looking for trends in of all places Korea. If it hadn't been for their generous linking to other blogs I'd have never discovered the best blog ever and also picked up on some of the themes that I've always held close but had never really found likeminds with which to share ideas and discuss. PSFK began 2007 with a conference on trends and inspiration in New York, and then followed up with a mid year gig in London which I attended and wrote about. They are now kicking off again with a top lineup of presenters and panel discussion in LA on September 18 next month.

Readers of this blog have been offered a
50% discount to attend which is only available for a short while and I'd recommend any folk who are in that neck of the woods to take advantage of this while it lasts. So without further ado here's the link and I'm pleased to highlight that Piers has also invited some provocative speakers such as Missy from Suicide Girls who is going to talk about her empire and Blair Witch creator Mike Monello among others. There's more details here if you cant book in time to take advantage of the discount because its still worth going.

I'm confident that this conference which is already garnering attention for snipping out the word marketing will be cut from the same cloth as the London gig in June which was a definite taste of where our business is shifting - because shifting it is.
I'd love go again (and I may still depending on scheduling) if only to see George Parker speak because I'm increasingly convinced that he's the new sage of Idaho after being the first to call out Crispin Porter on their recently canned Man Laws and Orville Redenbacher campaigns. He was the first and I think the only industry person who had the balls to say it wouldn't work without going anywhere near a focus group or pretesting results.

Monday 6 August 2007

Long Play

Late in the afternoon last week for no apparent reason the phone started ringing off the hook with work things. So I dragged my sorry rear into the West End mainly to get off my well honed reclining-position as earlier I'd been sucked into responding to Robs post to cover my partially exposed butt on brand values. Frankly I was close to bailing out Stateside for an overdue meetup, but a combination of a delayed reply that I've been waiting on, filed in 'the dog ate my emails' folder, and a sudden offer to get stuck into some charity rebranding tipped me over to taking on a gig on that meant a 4am start the next day up in Glasgow doing groups. These included in the afternoon, some young men who don't necessarily think too much about being electronically tagged while keeping a curfew - yeah Punk Planning my friends.

So far its been an exhausting but eyeopening experience and since the kickoff I've also covered Cardiff, a small mining village in the county borough of Caerphilly as well as Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham and Gloucester today. I should wrap up in a few days time but until then I've started to ask myself if the idea of an open source C.I development methodology might be an effective way to meet the objectives of keeping a very disparate bunch of people that range from local government, charity workers and young folk in need of a helping hand onboard and 'buying into' a process which one guy memorably articulated as 'reeking of insincerity' when referring to the the way 'brand' talks.

Here's the deal; most of the people that I've spoken to are really sceptical of anything that relates to marketing and the reason for that is they actually do stuff rather than waffle on about it like a lot of us ad tossers do. Its also increasingly evident that as with any change management a shiny new badge can be a reasonably useful point to coalesce around for a new direction. The reality is that unlike that rare and mythical beast called a proper brand (people getting mugged for Levis in 80's Moscow and ditto for iPods in the 3rd millennium) they probably will never be more famous than say top of mind prompted-recall within a specific charity segment, even if as I have discovered time and again since last Thursday they are off-the-richter-scale for complexity in stakeholders and financial solutions. Not to mention diversity of projects and doing a lot of hands on work.

I'm probing some architecture, platform and proposition dimensions that are not far removed from interrogation of (deep breath) third party projection of the meaning-of-meaning for say deprived young'uns with low attention spans - you get my drift? OK I'm exaggerating a tad, but that whole brand personality malarkey isn't moving mountains for me if people have to think about it. I mean personality is surely something people can spontaneously remark on and unwittingly have, acquire and possibly nurture. Surely its not something that can be scored from the nearest council estate corner gathering, and falls neatly between say a "chav" brand and one that "tells you what to do" as one group earlier today outlined when discussing those "Just do it" people. I guess I'm taking shots at some of the FMCG navel-gazing research gigs I've had to oversea in my time. But there is some overlap with whats going on here.

So in the interests of suggesting a kick-ass methodology for a participatory media process that embraces uncertainty and welcomes the digitalocracy of the web I thought I'd run the idea past you folk in case anyone else has thought about the idea of opening up the development of identity architecture real-time on the web. The immediate pluses for this method are that everyone gets a say and feels that they have been part of the consultation process, one or two egos/agendas don't hijack the process as invariably happens when settling on a least contentious communication platforms. Any thoughts? Is this taking 2.0 a bit far? Could it all go peaches up or as I really suspect, the P.R from the process could be worth considerably more than a years communication budget, given that nobody has ever done it before and that somebody will surely be extremely upset about the loss of control - which is a good thing in my book.

Other than that there are a quite a few other things kicking off and I'll leave you with the best post for ages. If any of you wannabes want to know what planning is about then check out this slice of action that absorbs people of our stargazing ilk who can't ever help stop thinking - albeit in my case pretty uselessly. It also gives me a chance to use that picture of ChinaD0II that has been lurking on my desktop before I dig out some of the great podcasts I'm still gagging to tip y'all off about.

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Is Smirnoff Full of Shit?

Rob Campbell of cynic - a conversation starting company has called me out on my previous post and quite fairly suggests that Smirnoff are only interested in the purity of their distillation process and not the purity of the environment that we live in. I still live in hope that what we are seeing may well be a small but nonetheless tectonic shift in the future of branding values.

I'll be very disappointed if its a case of
greenwashing as has been extensively documented by my esteemed colleague and one of the smartest planners in the business John Grant, on his ace blog Greenormal. But it remains to be seen if Diageo, the parent company of Smirnoff is to use this as an ignition point for their brand. Otherwise it would only be appropriate to add the usual film disclaimer at the end of the commercial that: Any characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are fictitious, including any resemblance to the issues raised in The Stern report relating to climate change where the polar caps melt and large statues will be covered in water because of our reliance on fossil fuels, best dramatised with the use of oil rigs in advertising.

I think I need a stiff drink now!

Get over to Robs blog for some of the best conversation on the net. He's the future of marketing communications and is fearless about his beliefs, even if that means he has to go right to the top.