Thursday, 29 October 2009


China's ability to make knock off copies on luxury goods is sometimes frighteningly close or at least visually. I bought this iPod copy recently for US$37 (8 Gigabyte) and while it's got lots of drawbacks such as slow boot up, quicker battery fade and slow processing plus no interface. It does  have a few advantages. It's got a radio and I couldn't care less if it was stolen like my last two were in Hong Kong. No shadow of a doubt.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

What I'm Listening To

I've long been a fan of DJ Stewarts mixes from Bed Supperclubs Electrofrequencies in Bangkok on Monday night to his latest sets on UB Radio. To be frank. He's on fire at the moment with some of the best mixes I've heard him make in all the years I've been rating him as one of the finest DJ's in the business. You can download his UB Radio Sets over here. Breaks, House and Tech for those who need some taxonomy (or ontology if like me you're struggling to separate the two).

There's a feed over here you can pop into your iTunes for the cream. It's free..... as indeed "Everything should be (free)"  and which one of the sets (Flamgini at Funky Dojo) asserts.

Feedburner Statistics

A Star Is Born

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Cool Bananas

I just got back from another stunning bike ride round the island I'm living on. I'm very conscious these days that as oil prices spike and the threat of hyperinflation from printing money in the United States and the United Kingdom leaves us potentially looking at an impending breakdown in the food distribution system. It leaves city dwellers with enough food for two days as explained in this TED video I blogged about a week or so ago and so any opportunity to reconnect with nature is fascinating me at the moment and I"m slowly researching what kind of foods I could grow on the island as well as what is available in the wild such as these bananas. Even if my instinct is wrong and my views are alarmist, I just think it makes good frugal sense to see what can be relied upon and so I'm usually taking a bunch of these home with me for the return cycle journey. 

It's very satisfying and strangely I seem to be leaning towards a vegetarian diet or at least one with a 100 or so grammes of meat a week. I also understand from a tweet earlier that a vegan in a Hummer has a lower carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius because of the intensive farming required to breed cows for food.

I'd like to raise chickens here but after the last round of avian flu the government has put strict rules in place to prevent this. I'm sure that will be ignored if events take over legislation. In any case it's very rewarding as these bike rides for wild growing bananas take me through some of the steepest inclines on the south side of the island and I'm in better shape than I have been for at least five years when I last visited the Gym regularly. I look a bit like a Frenchman sometimes when I come home on the KLEIN bearing bananas instead of onions. Tropical living my friends ;)

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Google Wave

I've been invited on Google Wave and I'd quite like to road test it. For those of you who don't have my gmail address and wish to have a go at using it, just drop me an email to my spam account which is cefrith at hotmail dot bomb. 

On Success and Failure

This may be a minority view that is indulgently and definitively littered with self referential contradiction, but I do know that Mr Armano has a similar perspective, so I'm not alone on this and so here goes. 

The propensity to indiscriminately use the word FAIL on twitter is surely incongruous with our times? Don't the brilliant (and arguably culturally important) W&K urge us to embrace failure

Surely there's so much to be critical and deeply concerned with in these pressing times that deserve a real sense of urgency and even justified anger?

What like?

Well, there's a strong case for George Bush and Tony Blair to face a war crimes tribunal for a judgement of truth about weapons of mass delusion? ..FAIL.. 

We appear to be living in a consumption frenzy (particularly in consumer Consumer CONSUMER electronics) that logically concludes with our species consuming ourselves. 

Haven't thought about that? BIG FAILURE$

Aren't you mad with the Burmese authorities preventing aid getting to their people after a devastating cyclone? FAIL....

What's your view on the earthquakes in Indonesia happening so alarmingly frequently that hardly anyone comments on them? 

Not important?  *FAIL*

What about serial typhoons in the Philippines then. Is that a {FAIL}? 

OK, then what's your view on our melting ice caps that will take out the Maldives alarmingly soon while our our internet carboon footprint exceeds that of the aviation business globally? ~ FAIL~. 

Something a bit closer to home and perversely a bit more intangible? What about the printing presses floating Sterling and Dollar currencies so we can hold the undeveloped world in an economic hologram trap of poverty and squalor? Ever thought about money as simulacrum? You should do. You really should and thus.....FAIL$ 

A toothless United Nations? FAIL# 

US & Israeli (both nuclear powers) largest ever war exercises under the leadership of a Nobel Peace Prize winner...Not bothered? FAIL%%%

Look around you. Noticed the greed, obesity and commensurate starvation? ^FAIL^

The list goes on and on doesn't it.

Shouldn't these be the issues we need to be indignant about? The ones we should SHOUT and CAPITALIZE our tweets for instead of a failed iPhone app or a subjective and erroneous view on a logo that is fully explained here and here but not here.

I don't care if your consumer electronics FAIL on YOU.

...and go easy on the gratuitous linking too because guess what? The information age means there's far more interesting stuff on the net than a person could ever hope to devour. It's the real reason you've stopped reading books isn't it?

If you like something. I'm happy for you. If something is pissing you off write a blog post or something but please stop filling up my twitter stream with garbage sentiment and garbage subjectivity and do share with me more of the trivial stuff like if you're having a nice cup of tea or have just broken wind in a lift. 

And please.......don't ever capitalize those letters with the solipsist rage of an ostensibly pampered and self indulgent confusion with tardy marketing comprehension.

Update: I see the infinitely more authoritative Anil Dash has similar feelings.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Synovate in Sok Kwu Wan

I've had my problems with Synovate in Asia. The first time I commissioned them (actually it was Asia Market Research who they bought out during the project we worked together on)  to do qualitative research followed by U&A studies for the Volkswagen brand. 

The groups were a disaster. Poorly turned out, we were actually down to two respondents in one final group in which I quickly realised that the two female respondents had different models of the VW Passat. One old and one new. This is an unmitigated catastrophe for a neutral research setting in deeply hierarchical Thailand where animistic Buddhist tradition teaches that people have better lives (such as owning a new car model and not the old car one) because they were better people in their last lives. 

In any case mistakes happen but I had no option other than to recommission the research. Unhappy client, unhappy agency, grumpy researchers.

On the upside, a lot of those learnings contributed to my belief that there is a better way to do meaningful research and which I have written about more fully over here. However I was sorely reminded of the research mindset (or the type of people that research companies frequently hire (often creative wannabes without a creative flair) when I stood in for Rob at the emerging markets presentation last year where I talked about the social communication mobility opportunities for low income customers. One speaker from Synovate stood at the podium as if she was delivering a lecture and reeled out a papyrus dry presentation that reminded me of every reason why square duffers should be kept at  strict arms length from the creative industries.

Even in dull data there is a story to be told which can be brought to life. If I recall correctly the presentation by Mindshare was much more engaging and I discovered killer facts such as many young Thai people  in upcountry (rural) Thailand often buy magazines more for display value than for reading. Something I never knew before and I have more than a cursory understanding of the culture as I speak reasonably fluent Thai (along with a smattering of Khmer, Laos and Burmese) and have traveled extensively throughout the kingdom. Anyway, isn't this topic of magazine display much like a whole generation of iPod fans who don't even really like music yet love to have the badges of modernity with white ear buds and so forth on display?

But I've had reason to think there is hope for Synovate recently. A few weeks back I saw something really clever that I really really like from them. I was cycling around the island I live on and stumbled on the fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan pictured above from afar. 

In one of the outdoor restaurants there was a poster which blew me away. Context is everything and you need to picture this quaint little fishing village with lots of Chinese day visitors and the occasional Caucasian including me milling about to appreciate a great example of connection planning. We're not talking hyper commercial setting and yet I felt it was one of the best ads I've seen in ages. Now we can quibble about the message style, but I think it's brilliant. Imagine if you will. I've just taken a cycle trip to God knows where (I"m still exploring the island) on the southern and less populated part, and out of nowhere I stumble across a research company that I am very familiar with. At first I was confused. Did they have a satellite office in nowheresville?

The copy reads.

Brilliant isn't it? A two bit village on a largely ignored island and I come across some copy which applauds not only people like me who really can't help but sniff around the corners of the planet or the internet but also applauds the sort of clients who prefer to take an unusual boat trip or ferry to somewhere isolated for famous seafood and setting. It's like climbing mount Everest and finding a flag at the top with "Synovate woz 'ere but we respect your mountain climing skillz"

Just so you know, the only way to get here really is mountainous bike riding with gorgeous scenes such as this.

Descending the steep paths at speeds which I intend to film they're so scary and difficult to describe and then finally enter quaint fishing villages peppered with boats and restaurants or take a ferry from Central or Aberdeen on Hong Kong main Island.

I was impressed and even though I still think the research industry is largely conning the advertising industries clients by selling safety management and not risk management (I've written about it extensively and commented on it recently over at a Simon Kendrick's 'Curiously Persistent' blog here). 

Simon is a researcher who I do have respect for as he's not frightened to concur with what is self evident to a lot of people who are desperate not to drop the ball during their 18 month tenure of a marketing position. I don't mind that this is the modus operandi of most marketing clients but please don't try and talk up the creativity game when we all know it's not creative to knock out 95% of the advertising vying for our attention during the ad break. And most importantly because wanna be creative stiffs annoy me, keep the research people from whittling away a reasonably idea down to a bland idea with squares who should be actuaries or accountants. Anyway good start Synovate. What's your next move?

Update: I see Synovate Hong Kong were voted best market research agency by the industry.

Russell Davies - Newspapers 101

I've been meaning to do a write up on one of Russell Davies signature posts recently about small pocketable items. Stuff we like to carry round in our pockets with memento or souvenir value and which may also have a utility of some sort. It's a lovely post because it touches on some thoughts I'd been having about minimalist lives which in principle amounts to humans, the clothes we wear and a thing. The thing would be the artificial extension of man. The thing that separates us most from other species in that we utilize tools (and more complexly social objects). It would be a smart device and we're already seeing the emergence of such a device with increasingly powerful iPhones that have the ability to process augmented reality and do quality fry ups. OK I"m kidding on that last point but the collision of Smart Phone and Netbook design is a hint at the future and I suspect that some collision of recombinant-culture-technological-forces, with ever increasing miniaturisation points towards the likely utility of that, and which we will likely carry around in our pockets. I'm guessing hand bags will probably be extraneous accessories which females are unlikely to dispense with and frankly I'm quite fond of bags myself but in principle the clothes aren't so necessary in a hot climate. Or at least less of them.

In any case go and read Russells excellent blog and some of his seminal posts such as this recent candid and very funny post on dancing which is quintessential Russell, as well as 'more ideas, less stuff' or brand polyphony which back in the day (some four years or so years ago) was a real challenge to the traditional received wisdom of how marketing communications worked and when the reliance on USP or proposition testing was ubiquitously held as the most effective and valid methodology.

In any case the reason for this post is that Russell has unearthed a gem of a book for young people on the newspaper industry, by Ladybird and which chimes just nicely with todays business model for a business in transition (to put it mildly).

Brilliant isn't it? I know I shouldn't but this Ladybird parody arrived in my email via Cambodia of all places not so long back and I think it echoes quite nicely with what that whole straightforward and clear renaissance in language theme which is the signature of progressive marketing communications in London. I love it very much, but which of course in this instance is meant to be (and is) hugely funny. I'm very fond of progressive London's aversion to business bullshit, and which of course I was most certainly guilty of at one stage in my career although I never repeated that grubby little number 'heads up' because it's just annoys the hell out of me as if someone is doing me a favour sharing information that they otherwise wouldn't. Anyway, this is more charming I think.

Real Time Search

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Shameless Self Promotion

I've just discovered that my Campaign magazine mention for Top Ten advertising blogs last year isn't on my blog. I've put it here to send a link out rather than upload the scan every time. It was terrific to have the vote from my peers in London and I appreciate your interest in my thinking and writing.

Christian Poveda

I'm a heavy consumer of podcasts and this radio obituary for the award winning photographer Christian Poveda is a definitive reason why BBC World Service is in a class of its own.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Creative Brief - 1969

When toying with the idea of going client side, rather than immediately changing the agency and fixing something that isn't broken (Like Camper Shoes) I've often thought I'd just let the professionals get on with their job. Much like this brief from Mick Jagger to Andy Warhol.

Via Garrick

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Rory Sutherland

Advertising is in good shape with Rory at the helm of the IPA. Possibly the best-fun lunch companion a bloke could hope for (or at least he covered my disreputable ass, with deliciously wobbly London Underground noises, while I was bunking off one memorable afternoon from JWT in Docklands). Thanks for doing the, I'm-on-the-tube background-noises-blag, when my boss called to ask where the hell I was Rory.

 Anyway, you can find out for yourselves with this TED video quite why he's a true anarchical thinker. Exactly what we need..... and just in the nick of time.

NB: I also saw Rory speak at the launch of Stephen King's book where he turned up with ostensibly no notes and cleaned up with the crowd in JWT's bar at Knightsbridge. Here's more of one of Adland's best. We're lucky.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Never Hide

Ray-Ban have my absolutely all time favourite brand positioning. Even though I had my Chanel and Ferragamo sunglasses both stolen in Hong Kong in the last four months so I'm currently on the cheapos I bought from Monkgok market though I'm not sure about them. 

The music in the spreadable media above, is my kinda tune too. Does anyone else know the  rationale behind the never hide endline/positioning for a sunglasses brand? I'd be interested to know if I'm way off.

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

She comes in colours everywhere - (Social media metrics)

I'm prompted by Litman Live's post on measuring digital social networking (AKA Social meeja) to write something I've been threatening to do since mentioning it over on James Cherkoff's Collaborate Marketing Blog over here. So while it's still relatively raw and would most certainly benefit from input by my peers I'd like to set out the fundamental difference in change of media metrics that I feel warrants inclusion.

It's not just what we're measuring that has changed it's how we measure it which needs most thought. So here goes. Firstly the old media metrics were based upon eyeballs (and of course ears for radio). Those eyeballs were demographically segmented and given a value that varied mostly when the value of the content (or demand) deviated significantly other than channel rates (or sub media aperture) which were otherwise pretty consistent. So that value remained largely stable (other than variance codependent on the content being interrupted) as the eyeballs pressed the remote from channel to channel. Easy to measure, largely static if we discount channel surfers, and a piece of cake for the traditional monologue media model to have an idea and/or put an estimated value on. Then came the mouth and the keyboard. Both output devices that fundamentally disrupted the monologue model creating a feedback mechanism on the content, the future of the content and most powerfully the mechanism or platform for communities to coalesce.

The days of one to many (broadcaster to audience) have changed and we should have grasped that a long time ago with the introduction of that very same remote (whose maker died in 2007) and then video recording (fast forward commercials) and on through to the PRV. I've not included the internet which has had the most impactful change on information consumption since writing was introduced and possibly the telegraph wire, although McLuhan afficianados may well argue the depth of media immersion by radio was the first cool media experience given that the telephone was largely of a personal nature - sceptics of that process need look no further than the wide scale nationwide panic in the United States during Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds which was consumed as a lifelike real time reporting event of an invasion by aliens (trainspotters will enjoy reading that the motive behind this broadcast was the propaganda mafia in government in collaboration with big  business and that this has led to a largely docile and pliable population whose consent is manufactured as Noam Chomsky termed it). That's what we do in advertising. We manufacture consent and so it's this topic which crosses over with my propaganda posts over here.

I digress (don't I always?). It's beyond words that the traditional media companies have been providing exhaustive study after thinly post rationalised study conclusions to point to advertising working pretty much as it always has done despite fast forward behaviour but few seem to have welded the findings of Robert Heath's low involvement processing (and commericals at up to and beyond X32 the usual speed) but that's the reality isn't it? 

We've hoodwinked outselves into believing the research boys who we pay to alleviate the jumpy nerves of clients, who to be fair are looking to manage risk rather than the opposite of that axis or spectrum and which is that most over used word in the business "creativity".

I certainly understand our clients motives in this context, but it does remain the elephant in the room when the question of how FMCG comms actually work is ignored and all the time an impressario figure of 'creativity' is being lobbed around the room as if the emergence of Bauhaus, or Logical Positivism or more pertinently Surrealism or Dadaism were being given birth too. 

Let's not forget it's risk being managed, and not creativity within that context.

Putting that aside (I know, I know) we now have in the 21st century a good old fashioned interactive experience to media immersion comsumption patterns like we did in the old days as Faris astutely points out, like crowds joining in with sporting and entertainment events or even the collusion of the audience in assesing how, where, when and for what events are structured. Feedback mechanisms existed in the pubs, working mens clubs, work places, markets, cathedrals and bazaars of old. 

Humans have never stopped communicating though the two was dominance was briefly interrupted by the anonomaly of 20th century communications and the hugely powerful communication broadcast model where we knew we had the great unwashed by the short and curlies (or not) as witnessed by the massive power surge when an entire nation flicked the kettle on for a cup of tea during the break.

That isn't the case for those wishing to lift their heads above the parapet of the chunky media erosion we are witnessing but  alas power is an intoxicating potion for the media big cheeses and is most perncious because it fails to recognise its own demise. Which it will.

You may wish to reference the word "empire" and the adjective that precedes it for further evidence (Roman, Greek, Ottoman and so forth).

It's all (relatively speaking) lower involvement now (compared to the cool media of radio and cinema) and arguably there's a generation of millenials who have figured out (or wired their brains) how to only go into information-finding-mode when the context is right (relevant content plus "contextual offer" or alternatively seeking out digital distribtion through search or from historical use). 

Outside of that information buying mode they're filleting information and ignoring the bones though that doesn't mean that data intensive low involvement processing is NOT occurring. There's a hell of a lot going on and even skimming the breadth of issues in a post is a stretch.

But for the purposes of assessing digital media immersion value, from social media to straight forward content consumption it feels to me that a colour coded 'depth of engagement' model needs developing. Typically we used to put a static value on a set of eyeballs but (and here we have to use common sense) the value of those eyeballs are fluctuating between video engagement, news content, blog content (itself having two or three levels of engagement if commenting commences) and messenger, Skype, webcam (check out Camfrog if you want to see where Asian youth is taking this medium) and much much more.

What's needed in any content assesment media metric valuation exercise is not so much a fixed value but a broader and more nuanced measuring process that can tolerate fluctuations or indeed change of media consumption through to multiples of parallel processing of media apertures. 

It goes something like this: Facebook - I'm colour code Blue because that is how much we charge our sponsors/advertisers/brand patrons to be part of this media immersive experience as we know that within this so called but misleading 'social media' environment (digital social networks is more accurate) the value of participating either through messaging (distractive not disruptive) or integration (sponsorship, placement, brand utility) is colour coded Blue as indeed now applies to Myspace, Orkut, Friendster et al. Then the remaining variable for immersion metrics to assess is TIME spent (at what level or colour of immersion). Now we know that a lot of things can be happening at anyone time including leaving the computer or screen on while we go and shave the cat or weigh a bone for the dog to chew on. Maybe even take a nap and wake up the following morning but in principle these anomolies of media use average-out rather rapidly and diminish in importance when viewed across an entire population or indeed the planet (Thanks Google)

So the principle of colour coding digital social network media immersion then has to be applied to the other different levels of immersive experience. Let's say blogging because I'm a blogger. Let's call Blog reading a Green experience. It may well transpire that the time I spend reading a blog and then the (arguably) deeper immersive experience of leaving a comment, note, soliloquy or insult) then changes the colour code which morphs into Turquoise (zum beispiel as the Germans might say) for the additional effort of joining the conversation. 

Green is (in this example) less expensive than Blue coded Blog-content-reading but Turquoise (joining in) is more expensive than the Blue because the level of immersion and emotional involvement is so much deeper when articulating thoughts. This also applies to some of the inane comments on Youtube but then online video media immersion is for example colour coded Red which is another category of media immersion in and of itself.

We may also find that there's a crossover or overlap for two different types of media providing a similar value of immersion and thus we can just stick to colours when describing it rather than endless lists of infinite combinations of media consumption (Note media consumption is the only time I use the C word)

In any case. I've no idea (bring out the neuroscience imaging boys) whether reading an online newspaper is less or more immersive than watching a Youtube clip (although I suspect McLuhan's segmentation of hot and cool media is still pertinent, though more fecund for todays complex media topography). 

But the point is that until we start to define how immersive these tens or hundreds of different media immersions we experience daily, there's surely no point trying to evaluate the utility (or price) of digital social networks which in some ways encapsulate most of the media immersive experiences out there, including twitter, video, newspapers, photos and messengers. The reason I delineate those experiences on their own is the staggering number of people who prefer to avoid the twitters and facebooks of this world, quite content to check their mail, watch a video and read a newspaper as seperately as if they were a video, cinema and telephone in the 20th century. They are our anthropological benchmark for media immersion and not so much the smorgasbord of digital social networks though they too need evaluating both broadly and then with a number of colour coded sub categories when skipping through to too different experiences.

Lastly it feels like this is a good time to raise something I've been banging on about for a couple of years which is that the really smart media owner is going to give the data that we citizens create about our media consumption patterns to ourselves. It makes an awful lot of sense that since we've been going on about the engagment economy for quite some time that we simply start to pay for that engament based upon citizens having full control of their data and are able to barter its value for goods and services such as news and video. 

If Rupert Murdoch were truly part of the 20th century instead of stuck in the 5th (what a cocksucker) he'd realise that emancipation of information is the surest way to create loyalty instead of the indiscriminate media looting that is going on now at his own expense. 

Serves him right and one should keep an eye on Google who are way ahead of the game in liberating  and ceding control of media consumption data to the individual along with visionary ideas such as personal computing device awareness of what TV content is being watched while engaging with the computer.... so that digital advertising that has context can be created. 

And y'all should appreciate by now that context is my baby.

Authors note. Any editorial mistakes including tautologies can be addressed in the comment box below. Any thoughts?

Update: Doc Searls has done a fine post which has some similar threads of thinking over here. The Intention Economy?

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Trailer For My Biopic 2009

Via helge Tennø

Watch This

For one reason or another (bad mathematics and bad people) I ran out of cash recently and after putting down a deposit on my accomodation, I realised I was in a tight corner so I was forced to pull strings I've avoided pulling for some years and managed invoke a vegan diet of roots (like sweet potato), bean sprouts and plantain. Quite a modest one at that too. 

But the brilliant learning from this process (every cloud has a silver lining) was that I finally did what I've put off for years which is go a little bit hungry or experience it for longer then I've ever had the courage to endure before. I've realised now that I CAN control my four decade long obsession with Chocolate and Coco-cola and McHashpatties&syrup

Well I'm back on course now so no need to fret, but somehow I'm kind of enjoying even skipping on, or at least moderating my favourite things including those McDonalds breakfasts which I've talked about here with more links in the post.

In any case my parents are the sort of people who brought me up with a number of decent values that I treasure and one of those is that wasting food is obscene and which is one of those values I walk the walk on whatever the context wherever on the planet. I urge you if you haven't given a thought about how cities are fed to watch this powerful TED presentation and recognise the compelling conclusion reached. Rengineering our economies and lives is possible if we use nutrition as the lynch pin, and as I think we'll be compelled to do so, in the not so distant future with the global dynamics such as the impending dollar collapse and rise in oil prices (ergo food prices)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Timeless Marketing Classics - Charles Frith

I wrote this for Graeme Harrison's post about planners favourite books and it was not only a little late for submission to his blog post when the inspiration finally struck me but it was also written about 3.30 am underneath that nightclub (pictured above and taken on the worlds first 5 Mgp camera "i-mobile" by Samart in Thailand) and hastily bashed out on the Apple Macbook Air that was stolen by taxi 1878 because I can only write from the heart as I need to believe what I'm sharing, and so this took a long time to reach the conclusion I've lightheartedly but with complete sincerity given. 

I thought and thought and thought about it and finally concluded I couldn't recommend most business related books as I've learned more from Dostoevsky and Tolstoy then any papyrus dry Peter Drucker or soundbite drenched Seth Godin. 

Anyway here is Timeless Marketing Classics - Charles Frith 

This is probably going to upset a few people, and I guess it is a shocker of a confession to make, but I've been thinking about what I"m going to write for a couple of weeks since Graeme asked me to share which books have been most influential on my thinking. I'm currently reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin about Lincoln. I bought it because on the back it says that when the Whitehouse Press Corp (the toothless gravy train riders of the last eight years) asked POTUS about what book he'd be taking to the Whitehouse, Barry Obama answered without hesitation that it would be the Lincoln account of how he pitched all his enemies into some sort of forward moving equilibrium that earned him a near deity place in history. The time its taking to conclude on those books is eating me alive because two weeks later and I still cant think of more than one book to recommend.

Well let me tell you folks. I USED to be a prolific reader. I read and I read and I read for consecutive decades of my life. I think I even did the whole bottle-of-rum a day while page turning and inhaling rather thick American political history for a year or so on a tropical beach nearly a decade ago now.

In any case, I urge you if the chance avails itself to carve your way through Kissinger's political autobiographies with the trilogy best captured by the middle tome, YEARS OF UPHEAVAL. It's possible to come away from that book and think bombing ones way to defeat in the Mekong Delta along The Ho Chi Minh Trail, and Laos and Cambodia without a thought for the millions of South East Asians who suffered and died in this political ideology war fought in a proxy country.

Doesn't America always fight it's wars in proxy countries? Did we get stuffed on the Marshall plan with France and Germany accelerating ahead before the 50's had ended?

And you may know I never do capitals so pay attention and bookend that one with say a little Ayn (pronounced Ein people just like Ein, Zwei, Dreis. Jawohl?) Rand's Atlas Shrugged, before maybe dancing around the ballroom with a few odds and sods of Kennedy (does Camelot ever not stop dancing?). 

Also. Don't understimate Caro on LBJ (Master of the Senate is good and part of another tour de force trilogy) and for random arcane stocking filler one upmanship, say, a history of British postwar Prime Ministers - Nobody ever remembers Sir Alec Douglas Home do they? It's the curse of being so popular at Eton with his peers despite as they observed, never really having done anything to earn it. That's the British for you.

You've probably clocked me by now as bullshitting wildly on political literature while failing (and flailing) markedly to put forward a single seminal marketing book. And that's my problem. I've been thinking for a couple of weeks about the books that influenced my work the most and the embarrassing conclusion is that I only have one measly offering because if there is one genre of the printed word that is invariably padded to the max, faffs on about irrelevant stuff or convincingly puts forward a good point and then goes on to spend the rest of the book in short gasping breaths excitedly explaining why it's so right. And boy it really does feel right. It's the genre called Business books which include most marketing books. So here goes:

Advertising and marketing books are pants. 

I've read a fair amount although nowhere near as much as nerdy pants Rob Campbell in Hong Kong. If you want a big hung like a zebra bibliography of any and every marketing book ever written check out Rob's blog because not only is it impressive. It's so extensive it's bloody funny if you ask me. Trainspotters rule. Aye.

So it's just my opinion but I'd have no hesitation in recommending not placing too much faith in the latest biz book pulp pot boiler of the day. They might seem on the money but they age a little too quickly for my liking and let's face it business is just business so it's not like it changes fundamentally from decade to decade although it is just about to. Mark my words.

However there is one that has shaped pretty much everything I have done and everything I have thought about since commencing the oddysey of pretty much never thinking about anything else ever again without contextualising it within the trade of creative planning - and which I'm not particularly brilliant at but nevertheless love doing 24/7.

So.... some years back, but this side of the millenium while working at BBDO Dusseldorf, the planning library had a copy of Robert Heath's seminal: The hidden power of advertising. How low involvement processing influences the way we choose brands. and which others can't get their head round and I doubt ever will (apropos point three)

This book is like business poetry for me, because what it does is take the most tedious, stupor inducing "last-reason-why-anyone-would-get-into advertising", spittle smeared end of the short straw and lays out methodically how information commutes and computes and thus works. It's only one end of the spectrum because I'm assuming we're all wannabe artists or creative groupies of one sort or another and understand that side perfectly well.

L.I.P. applies to so much of life, from Derren Brown to Information Warfare that if it looks a bit pants on first skim then you might not be ready for it just yet. It's only when stuck for words, in the shit holes of the global advertising parachute-planning gigs that I've taken the odd cheque for, that the same questions keep coming back again and again. I've asked myself repeatedly:

"How does this pants advertising work when ostensibly its patronising dribble, chock-full of superlative people with superlative white teeth and superlative family and friend dynamics?"

Robert Heath's book shed's much needed light on how frequency and repetition in the low involvement spectrum makes it all work. It's not pretty but I didn't make the rules up for that propaganda/fear marketing end of the spectrum (more over here) although I'd love to implement them to change peoples behaviour towards sustainable wealth creation. Easily the biggest business opportunity of the 21st century as "the" John Grant I think would endorse.

So anyway, the other book I recommend?

Ha Ha. I don't. Well I just think marketing books blow chunks as a rule, and I can't champion enough, how valuable it is to be interested in as much as possible. Try everything if you can, and as my politcal mentor memorably said. "Try it twice because maybe you got it wrong the first time round". I've been known to try things I'm not sure about more than that so I know whereof I speak as Ludwig might have put it.

But I work in advertising so don't listen to me in the slightest. I'm sure all the books listed in Graeme's posts are fucking ace. I mean that too because I'll be sniffing over them like the planner afficcianado I evidently hanker to be now that I've quietly dropped the Enfant Terrible of planning USP, that I was gunning for a few years back.

Be careful what you wish for they say.

In any case I will throw a couple of amuse-gule books to be sporting. Dale Carnegie's "How to win friends and influence people" is a gem and not only for business either. It's where I learned the cardinal rule of listening not speaking and which if I don't know you I'll give you first chance to exhaust your vocabularly.

There is a reluctant second choice though. A book called: "Postmodern Marketing" back in the late nineties when I worked for HHCL which eloquently put forward the case for leaving things to the very last possible moment because *drum roll* we are then aquainted with the maximum amount of information to make better decisions with. Brilliant huh? And so that whole book was a thumbs up with me for that one liner despite the hyper realism, the irony and the humour that signify Postmodernism and indeed pepper this post if we think about the self referential aspect of PoMo which applies to handing this text in so late for Graeme's posts that I've had to post it myself ;)

Update: I'm reading as you know Great Apes by Will Self and unlike when this article was posted POTUS is now Obama and The Lincoln Book was in the suitcase which was in the back of cab 1878 never to return.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Jet Set Flip Flop

If it's good enough for Alex, It's good enough for me right?

Apparently all the style mags are touting this as the metro sex(ual) beach-look for men come 2010. OK I just made that up but flying coach class in flops is the only way to do it these days. Or maybe it's because Taxi 1878 took all my shoes with the suitcase including a modest but cherised Adidas Shell Toe collection from back here, and this jacket back here.

If I really went to town I think I could find photos of most of my stuff but there's no point really. I'll get that post I referred to earlier up later today (Asia time).

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Helge Tennø

A short while ago in my favourite nightclub anywhere in the world which I wrote my next post under (with you tomorrow), a young couple from Italy got talking to me while I smoked a cigarette outside on the stairway.

The girl asked me what I do. Well there was a time when being a planner was too hard to sound-bite without sounding pompous, but I was fortunate enough on this occasion, to have the company of a writer who implied he wrote copy to keep his head above water, and  the girlfriend who worked in advertising as a creative. They were from Milan and so I remembered I'd been there two years ago for the global creative review that JWT takes very seriously and which still takes place I think each quarter. More on that over here if you're interested.

We talked briefly about where was hip and hot, and we had one of those deliciously violent agreements that rapidly settled on South American and specifically Argentinia and Brazil as serving up some of the hottest advertising on the planet. Second choice was that Scandinavia was totally on top of its game, to which I added that it's my belief that the Scandinavians are consistently and coherently pumping out some of the best planning thinking on the globe right now and thus validating the planning discipline.

Arguably this part of Europe is now ahead of London, and New York (with the exception of Lee Maschemeyer and Faris) and in some ways,  as is the Scandinavian tradition, is ostensibly chipping away at reconciling what I recently like to call The Grand Theory.

This is the one planners are (I feel) morally obliged to attempt to pull together the unavoidable yet disparate ends of both wealth creation and sustainable consumption i.e. doing the right thing the right way at the right time with the right people, because surely that is the only challenge worth applying our collectives mind to; The unexamined life not worth living and all that?

Let's be candid. The creative community's core skills and output shouldn't be burdened with this Sisyphean task AND the need to recognise the importance and value of awards in our business and more importantly peoples appreciation of communication well thought through. Our account people are, (and should) be too busy getting on with keeping our collective shit together doing the grown up stuff like running our clients business and keeping them happy.

I was thinking specifically of Helge Tenne from Norway, when I talked about the Scandinavian (Arctic?) circle with the Italians, but I could just as easily talk about both the creative and intellectual coherency eminating from Sweden and Finland too.

In any case (don't I just go on?) this latest  presentation is a great example of the quality of thinking I'm excited about, and which points towards a much more responsible and less opportunistic role for marketing communications in the future, although that isn't the purpose of Helge's presenation specifically.

And if any of that sounds like rubbish (which it probably is) then I urge you to take a tangential tour to this podcast with one of my favourite thinkers Doug Rushkoff and listen to the raw authenticity of the radio medium uncut and sprinkled with idiosyncratic thought-points worth pausing over two if not three times. 

Excellent media in action.

Right. As you were.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Human Behaviour

A few weeks ago I pulled an all nighter in a Filipino Karaoke (don't ask) and I was dumbstruck at how effective the stickers on the stairs (no elevator) were at communicating exactly who was in the building. Like local advertising on steroids for me, as by the time I got to the top floor there was no way to forget the company on the second floor. This however is more fun and inclusive and for me works as VW territory.


Way back here in my ChungKing Express post, when talking about the duplication culture of China and Asia excluding Japan, I tried to imply that while not seeing evidence of real innovation there was definitely an emergence of what I now see more clearly as a technology remix culture as evidenced by the solar panel and telescopic lens that came with my mobile phone now languishing in Bangkok storage until my next move is more clear.

Today I see that LG have taken this great idea of solar panel charged batteries and run with it for the launch of the LG GD510 phone which you can read more about over at the Pattaya Rag Blogspot. I knew what I was trying to convey at the time of my own post which was both critical of duplication culture (or copying if you will) but seeing the LG post has crystallized my thinking and I believe that Asia is emerging as a centre of technological remix culture which in this instance is both a smart idea and one that scores well on sustainable living metrics. Although since my own phone was stolen recently (yes, again) I've suffered from inaccessibility for work related communications but also lapped up the peacefulness and lack of interruptions which tucks nicely into my previous post.

I'm also trying to see the cops tomorrow for the identity parade for my stolen life, but the last time I spoke to the investigating team about it they hung up on me. Which is why I'm writing it here. So now we're clear.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Distraction over Interruption in Social Media (Great Apes)

I'm reading Great Apes at the moment by Will Self and came across this ricochet or crossover point (if you wish) in the text of Mark Earls IPA social big picture draft. 

Mark writes: 

Sociolinguists use the term “phatic” to describe the relational value created by what therefore amounts to the inarticulate ‘grunting and stroking’ involved in this kind of communication : they seem to be a way of keeping communications lines open and relationships alive. Being the Super Social Primate species that we are, we do this kind of thing naturally and gleefully: without prompting, huge numbers of us Brits have taken to texting over the last decade - from zero to 5BN+ texts a month in the UK alone (to put it in perspective £7.8m of donations to Comic Relief this year via short text code). And we do the same with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, to create an even steeper adoption curve. Indeed, the UK beat the US by a few months to the critical point where social media overtook pornography in terms of Internet usage.

Will Self writes:

But perhaps most significant of all is the human attitude to touch. It is this that appears so acutely inchimp. Humans, because of their lack of protective coat, have not evolved the complex rituals of grooming and touch that so define Chimpanzee social organisation and gesticulation. Imagine not being groomed! It is almost unthinkable to a chimpanzee that a significant portion of the day should not be given over to this most cohering and sensual of activities. Undoubtedly it is this lack of grooming that renders human sexuality so bizarre to us.

So where does marketing fit into this picture? Is coitus interruptus the new 'money shot' for interruptive marketing communications or as I've written else where but not elaborated on, is there now a need to explore deeper and further all the dimensions of distraction over interruption? I've got some ideas for this.

One of my main complaints with one of the recent Facebook facelifts is that within the Facebook environment I find it too 'busy' for want of a better word. The distraction quotient was too high and that's not factoring in the interruptive element of the built in messenger service where it's entirely possible to be hijacked from an interruptive experience to a distractive one (or vice versa) and forget completely about the original content immersion (say reading the mail or catching up on all your photos (yes you lot).

I think it's this we need to investigate further and realistically there should be only one aperture for either interruptive or distractive (the two can have a overlapping qualities depending on what preceeded the experience being processed). So there you have it... and I'm way too experienced in telling the truth (you can't handle it folks) to spill the beans where I picked up this thinking on the net but I'll tell you to your face if you ask.

As a more interesting, and humanist aside Will Self informs us (seriously or not I don't know but I do know enough cat and dog lovers to give this thought serious credence). He writes, once again in the Authors Note:

It may even transpire that the behaviours (British spelling) of domesticated humans which reinforce this theory are in fact dependent on some form of morphic, resonant association with wild populations. Wipe out the wild humans and even the domesticated ones who have learnt to sign (some humans have a lexicon of five hundred or more ES signs) may fall motionless. Gesticulation between our two species will be at an end*.

I find that fascinating and it may further explain our enduring fascination with Zoos. 

In any case should the gesticulation across our species with each other, 'fall motionless' our nobility (as a species) is eroded no doubt when we losing opportunities to pet, pat, stroke or even yell melodramatic vulgarities at our favourite pets (a dog say) over spilt milk. We know that personal insult to Canines are never really embraced in the same way as canine does to homo sapien when say compared to harsh exchanges between two humans where the sensitivity is markedly more sensitive and infinitely more long lasting. Without this gesticulation across the species what will we resort to when feeling our way around the subject of venting steam? Are we diminished by throttling every other species around us with which we interact through unfettered capitalism? Are the Chimps more important that we've ever suspected?

...anyway I appear to have been distracted both you and myself by this point. I apologise for that.

* Will Self plays around interchangeably with humans and chimps when reinforcing our genetic proximity.

Update: I've coincidentally stumbled across these two terrific related articles in Fast Forward written by my friend Rob Patterson who is well worth adding to your RSS feeds.