Friday 30 May 2008

Why I've been quiet

Well primarily I've been flying , and I still have a little more to do although I'm hoping to squeak in another Tamil Nadu run if time permits (God I love India) but I'm also having difficulty accessing, posting and uploading pictures of my blog here in China.

I'm very aware that I've dipped out on some memes that came my way, not responded to a gazillion emails or interesting comments on my blog, and even failed to write some pieces I was asked to. There are naturally reasons for this and I anticipate things will be back to normal sometime in the beginning of June.

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Who do you want as the next U.S. President?

Some time back a very bright friend of mine who commits his formidable intellect to social entrepreneur projects came up with an idea that has been waiting for the internet to come of age. We all know that the decisions made in Washington D.C. (or is it Crawford Ranch now?) have an impact around the world that is disproportionate to the population of the U.S. vis a vis the rest of the world .

It's always been the case that the U.S. election is the only political show in town that counts, and for those U.S. residents who feel it's an exclusive affair to holders of U.S. citizenship well the rest of the world disagrees and I can assure you the last 7 years have been deplorable. We're not happy and it impacts directly on our live, and now here's your chance to be heard.

The good news is that the global community now has the opportunity to express who they wish to represent them in the next presidential election through the good work of Joey Baxter and his friend at Community Counts. So if you remember this post from some months back, the site has been built and is ready to rock and roll. Now is the time to sort out the year of the rat. The votes break down neatly by geographical location too which adds some relevancy to your choice of candidate.

Go here and make a point for a few seconds if you can.

Monday 26 May 2008

Web Features

Window cleaners at the Sheraton in Shanghai. Now if they were particularly obtuse Sony Pictures would be all over them with writs. Or if they were clever they would P.R the hell out of this. I understand the idea came from a brainstorm with the workers. Thus dismissing that solipsists debate to the refuse area where it belongs.

Via the excellent Shanghaiist.

Monday 12 May 2008

Brand Tags

One of my favourite communication bloggers, Noah from Naked in New York has developed the sort of simple Web 2.0 interface that has way more validity than a lot of expensive research. Its called Brand Tags and allows tag clouds to coallesce from text inputs by people such as ourselves. Go and have a play and while you're at it remember that if a brand is a collective hallucination then this particular emerging brand has an awful lot of 'collective' going for it.

I just remembered that Noah probably wrote what he needed to create this interface himself with the self taught PHP/MySQL explained in this post over here. He's very clever like that.

Thursday 8 May 2008

West to East

Coming back from Xidan on Monday riding my electric bike, I did some drive by filming of the North end of Tiananman Square from the Western to the Eastern part where I live by the forbidden city. It's a little wobbly as I'm a bit of a porkster at the moment and trying to keep my balance too. As you can see I nearly got taken out around 40 seconds in because those Audis are driven by government officials and need not stop for anyone (although they are largely well behaved). I filmed this because I wanted to convey how huge Tiananman Square is and give some feeling of the impending seat of power on the planet if it isn't already psychologically.

I've gone up and down, and round and round this area time and again because I live so close and to do so, is to take in what China is all about. You may notice there isn't a single piece of advertising and while its not as warm as Time Square or Trafalgar Square you can't help respecting its scale and solemnity. As we draw towards the end of the fundamentally erroneous (and by logic, morally wrong) adventure in neoliberal capitalism, all we have to hope for in the long run is that this power shifts towards goals that are good for the collective. Either way its a Chinese world.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Monday 5 May 2008

Prove It

The best marketing clients in the world are those who are prepared to be brave. They balance their experience of what works historically against their judgment or instinct for what might work. In my experience they are highly demanding but are also the most rewarding to have.

I think we're living in quite profound times and not only for marketing communications, if anybody corners me privately on the implications and similarities of ubiquitous connections and say telepathy/extra sensory perception.

I don't believe the revolution will be twittered. I think it is being twittered and it's still early days yet. That doesn't mean the current slew of marketing automatons should rush to be prematurely involved and start interrupting peoples fun - That's not fast strategy that's dumb strategy, and a waste of carbon footprint between servers. It's a good idea to hang out with folk before you try and make money from them.

Why not try thinking of it differently? As Rob Alexander (I think) of JWT in London says 'We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in, and start being interesting'.

It's worth considering as Clay Shirky puts it: "Here comes everybody"

Then Charlie Leadbeater says: "In the past you were what you owned, Now you are what you share"

Let me paraphrase that "We are what we share"

I'm no longer surprised how excruciatingly dull marketing people can be. They used to hire their agencies to be interesting for them, but since they squeezed that equation to the lowest common denominator, it is now difficult to distinguish between the marketing department and their agencies. They're now frequently both dull and in all too many circumstances regrettably loathe each other. It's rare, particularly in Asia to hear 'I've got a brilliant client' from senior ad folk. Tell me if you believe I'm exaggerating or plain wrong, that's what the comments are for. If not, doesn't this suggest that it's time to change?

Interrupting content is the 20th century model for marketing communications and it still works to the extent that many people put their cognitive surplus into 'vegging-out' in front of the telly - Maybe they are the ones who work so hard executing, that they then have too little time exploring the internet to grasp what's going on. If I'm being charitable some of the most time pressured clients are too busy dealing with today to think about a very different tomorrow.

Do remember though that Hip Hop didn't start with the Record Labels. It started in the projects of New York and was home made. Its now the dominant music form globally. Because that number, who are chilling (or slumped) in front of the telly (and constantly ask me incredulously 'where do you get the time to blog?') are diminishing noticeably as the internet becomes more interesting. It's the clients who are smart and courageous enough to take a bet on the quantitatively unprovable yet instinctively worthwhile that are likely to be the new stars of tomorrow.

Here's 30 seconds of interesting content. I filmed it, edited it, added music and uploaded it all from my Nokia N95, as I was exploring my phone features. All the marketing folk have got to think about is how to facilitate that process or be part of the digital-content-topography for enjoying it without interrupting it, delaying it or annoying the much more demanding 21st century participant.

Disclaimer: I didn't take the dancers back to drink Cristal and dance around chrome poles like the air hostesses in Iron Man's corporate jet after.

I'm quite interesting enough thank you.

Untitled from Charles Frith on Vimeo.

And here's some proper content from TED if you're still paying attention.

Sunday 4 May 2008

Clay Shirky

Unfortunately is a website that is banned in China. But I've just had a chance to see the Clay Shirky video and it's worth a post if only to share.

Saturday 3 May 2008

What's your magic?

There was a time when this sort of solid gold presentation was only possible to people who ponied up 500 quid at a conference, but is now available through the generosity of folks like Iris and Contagious with their 'Under The Influence' talks (held reasonably enough in London pubs) and of course Iain Tate of Poke who are probably the hippest and thought leading digital agency in London. This is magic.

Friday 2 May 2008

Thursday 1 May 2008

Stephen King - JWT

Have you ever wondered what the father of 'Account Planning' looked and behaved like? I first heard of the existence of this video in JWT London's weekly meeting and recall Guy Murhpy's (JWT Global Planning Director) face lighting up at the description of 'hammers' as examples of product parity in utility.

I then saw it for the first time at the launch of
'A Master Class in Brand Planning' with Merry Baskin and Judith Lannon back in November, and was taken aback at how plannery Stephen King was. Which of course makes complete sense. Here we can see the enthusiasm for the abstract from way back in this marvelous clip that Guy has released and which also includes the remarkable Jeremy Bullmore who shared with me the inside story on that JWT clothing allowance that John Grant talked about over on Brand Tarot here. Jeremy told me in London before I came to Beijing that the allowance was a tax break and that it was a choice between a lawn mower or a clothing allowance and not as suspected an elitist perk for the Toffs. I think this is as good an example as it gets of confirmation bias, narrative fallacy, silent evidence, and epistemic arrogance which are all weaknesses that planners should be conscious of struggling against when forming conclusions.

The Economist

I need to call The Economist in London or Singapore by June 9th in preparation for a subsequent telephone call with the brilliant 'Nonsense'. I've found a little countdown widget from a really good new Web 2.0 site for the Lynx Effect that will help me remember (and you too if you need a widget to remember something).

The Forbidden City

I've yet to actually venture inside the Forbidden City despite living next door. I'm waiting for a crystal clear day and some swotting up on the history first I keep saying. However earlier this evening I was reading Rachel Clarke's excellent blog which I follow because she is doing grown up stuff on social media metrics as well as gaming and advertising too. Rachel posted about a Canon Eos/Rebel XT competition which is a camera I bought recently, and that I'm having a lot of enjoyment with. Anything that makes me look vaguely proficient is always welcome and this sucka sure takes care of me. Here's a little run round the Forbidden City walls on my lekky bike which I have reason to believe may resemble the Hoffmeister bear on a girly bike when I'm riding it!

Breaking News

Easily the biggest news of the year for Social Media in China is the just announced 430 million dollar investment by Oak Pacific Interactive for Xiaonei the Chinese Facebook. I posted just recently about China 2.0 over here, with inexpensive ways for brands to get involved with social media, but these guys have just thrown an incredible amount of money into this small start up despite a) the Social Media model is unproven in China b) a revenue model is yet to be harvested from that.
This is the equivalent of Google's purchase of Youtube in 2006

Whether this proves a sound investment or not (and its hard to see why a way to make it work wont be found) this is another example of the shift from interruptive messaging of the traditional monologue model of advertising to the dialog model we are seeing all round the world. Advertising may not be broken in developing economies as Russell points out quite correctly, but as long as the shift of eyeballs to computer screens continues it's possible that the massive passive is diminishing a lot quicker than us Asian planners may have first anticipated.

For a comprehensive and authoritive analysis check out Kaiser Kuo's blog post on Ogilvy's Digital Watch.