Thursday 30 September 2010


Television is a drug. from Beth Fulton on Vimeo.

Via Jon also worth considering is this.

Jetzt Geht's Los

Our beloved Marcus is hitting the road. He's walking from Munich to Hamburg to meet Peter Figge of Jung Von Matt who I have it on good authority is an absolute top geezer. Put the internet's best story teller on the start of a long journey and who knows what's going to happen? I don't but I'll be hurling twitter abuse at him along the way. It should be interesting. 

The story starts here

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Bytes versus Bites

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

I'm into Food Sovereignty and La Via Campesina and Raj Patel at the moment so while I really like the design thinking that goes into IDEO's the future of the book, particularly the fluidity of the non-linear narrative as opposed to a thousand tabs opened up in Chrome or whatever it is we do to suck in a gigabyte a day, I'm struck by the yawning gap between the technology fetish of the geek advertising crowd, and the more engaging grounded topics of the real challenges of the 21st century.

I keep asking myself is advertising trivial?

Here's Raj, he can talk for 30 minutes or longer in a very engaging manner over issues that will, whether we ignore them or not be of consequence to us all. There were consequences to Wall Street excesses, though that didn't get in the way our trivial pursuits. Here's a taster because I know you are time starved?

Not that it's a competition or anything, as I'm a HUGE fan of Naomi Klein but in this New York interview attended by the Brooklyn Food Coalition Raj's compelling explanations are even more riveting than Klein who probably writes better if was being even handed or just nice. Anyway, here's an hour and half of two people who are a credit to the 21st century. I hope you get time to listen to this and through your own non linear narrative more of both.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Xerox Art

A few years back my good friend Joe Sidek from Penang in Malaysia,  introduced me to an elderly gentleman who apparently was the instigator of Woodstock back in 1969.

The excitement around Elliot was that the director Ang Lee was going to make a film about him which I thought was exciting though my full knowledge of the event was limited to cultural references and dare I say, a good friend of mine talking about a guy on stage at Woodstock alerting the attendees to avoid the 'brown acid'. Chris chose a bad trip to invoke this piece of history and while it seemed of little comfort at the time, in retrospect it was a kind thing to support the notion that maybe our distress wasn't entirely due to repressed psychological emotions that are the challenging hall mark of the psychedelic experience. Put it this way if you're curious about that last statement. It's near impossible to take that particular voyage without being fully confronted with the infinite beauty and/or ugliness of who we are but don't let that scare you off. You've your career to think of.

I like Ang Lee. I'm more into Asian interpretation of this trip than Hollywood. There's a good reason for this....It's called bias. But if you can park my bias next to the Lexus for just a few minutes, I'm obliged to point out that I struggle to fall in love with anyone who isn't moved by the compartmental spotlight of social roles in Chungking Express, the operatic opressive futility of And the Spring Comes or say the longest uncut fight scene in the Korean Palm d'Or winner Old Boy

Looks like me in that fight doesn't it? 

Naaa I thought not. 

The give-away is I didn't get up off the floor. I also didn't have a knife in my back but hey, I was just grateful I hadn't been thrown off the balcony; spinal injuries scare me a lot more than a good kicking.

That's enough about me. Have you ever tried Octopus? It's tasty...... It's just that I hear Octopi have an IQ with the chutzpah to start questioning how smart Dolphins are. 


Old Boy is borderline genius. It's so full of life and joyous, gutsy film making that there are a few trying errors which are either confusing or hard to ignore. Which one you suffer, is largely dependant on how much you trust yourself. A topic, believe it or not which loops back into that trip I mentioned earlier.

I can see I'm shirking my duty in this post. I'd love to fill it up with cheeky Asian film references but that's not going to do is it? OK, one more before I spill the beans.

I wanted to use the example of John Woo's Hardboiled because of his clear influence on Tarantino in Reservoir Dogs but as I can't find the exact clip, I'll leave you with 'In the Mood For Love' by Wong Kar Wai.

The definition of a good movie for me is when I ache to be part of that time and like Taking Woodstock this movie throttles my aorta to the point where I don't believe I know how beautiful life is unless I've witnessed white collar Asian girls in 1950's (ish) Hong Kong for real. Which I haven't but I do know it exists from film like this. It's almost intolerable how stylish Wong Kar Wai splashes his Pollock like proclivity to portray the female form in ....In the Mood for Love.

Getting back on track I should reveal my hand. I don't think the digitally duplicated form of anything is fair game for IP or intellectual property. Anybody with half a brain would challenge me on that but as I've spent a few years thinking, there's no more room for me to wiggle so.

If it's on the net. It's free.

I'll come back and polish off that statement and the usual spelling/grammar later. But my friends who champion the rights of artists to earn the same as CEO's (or more). They're wrong. The artist is uniquely privileged to understand why. Look at what fame and wealth does to the artist.

Apologies for the rough nature of this post. I'll edit when time permits.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

The social is political

I said back here that I see an impending political discourse coming in socialised media. The costs of extracting wealth just above, just below or at ground level and then distributed around the planet are either too damaging environmentally or physiologically  for us to ignore. I'm surprised to see this ad airing in the States even though it hits that sweet spot between Big Pharma and big Agra called Medical Practitioners. Even so, in my experience nobody takes on big lobbying pockets like the fast food industry. This is war isn't it?

Paradoxically I'm a reluctant fan of McDonalds for reasons I've written about at some length here , here and here. Like I mentioned earlier I believe we're going through brand puberty because the mono-dimensional brand personalities and values of the 20th century aren't going to cut it with the challenges we face in the 21st. I've said it before but it's worth repeating. If you're brand isn't social in the broadest and most inclusive sense, it probably hasn't got anything to say. If McDonald's ignores this, or responds with a corporate swagger, it's increasingly looking like a brand consigned to history.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Wing Nuts

I've been using mIRC (proto Twitter) since 1995 and I believe it was me who first coined the phrase "right wing nuts" as I noticed everyone on #politics picked up on it immediately and then it entered the general discourse. Not a lot of people know that. 


Bacon Tastes Good - Pork Chops Taste Good

We're long past the point of anthropomorphizing brands. The idea that Old Spice might have a proper personality when it started would have seemed risible. To this day extraordinary individuals still impose themselves on great branded communications through their entrepreneurial cojones, product obsession and unsurpassed love of customer service.

Now of course back here on planet earth where the average tenure of a Marketing Director is under two years the onus on those individuals is to deliver in the short term and NOT DROP the ball. This is largely why we have the wind tunnel effect and something more insidious than product parity. 

Personality  Parity.

But let's not point the finger too much because if we take a good look in the mirror, we advertising agencies have traded off the right to challenge our clients for an unseemly all out internecine warfare to pursue the last possible buck left in the bottom of the bucket.

It's not hard to see the reasons for this, but the point is that we live in remarkable times so why are we engulfed by the unremarkable when it comes to communications? We have an increasing number of brands talking back to us in real time. The implications for this are unrecorded in history. So how do we bring this potential to life?

Ah yes. Give it a minute because the effect is worth considering.

The thing is we're human, we're always anthropomorphising stuff; projecting ourselves, applying our value system to 'the other'. Cars have long been female in the UK and the older the better. It seems the more curious the peccadilloes they had, the more we were attached to them. That doesn't apply so much in the age of what I might call the neo-neoterics the obsession with the new.

Of course it's not as if we need to apply the Geneva Convention to objects but there is always a sliding scale where say humans are top of the personality food chain, then animals, then products, then services, then hedge fund traders.

Getting back on track we're confronted by the uncharted waters of deeper and more meaningful communication. Now personality goes a long way, but the reality is the construct of the corporation and its paralytic fear of diminished quarterly results means it's unlikely that most brands are going to get a life in the near future. If you get close enough to some of the most hard working clients the sheer pressure of work restricts their ability to know precisely what a life is (they pay people to find out) and which is why there are often so many dumb perambulations between and after idea and execution.

The point is that personality isn't an accessory. It covered our butts while going through brand puberty but the age of a more meaningful existence isn't just possible. It's looming awkwardly and is going to separate the wheat from the chaff. The middle will consist of those brands that have always used layered and constructed fear to sell their wares and while many will survive in some way, shape or form they will increasingly look crusty and sclerotic compared to brands that have a ball swinging value-set. One that costs them something from time to time; costs them likeability, costs them money, because most importantly it finally earns them respect.

They are going to achieve this through the simple yet infinite scope of dialogue as opposed to the top down, controlled and linear monologue broadcast models of yesteryear.

How that personality manifests itself is a highly contextual subject dependant on a lot of factors that requires a post in itself, and which would still not provide a definitive answer. However the reason for me revisiting this less than revolutionary subject is because I see the scope for brands articulating their personality through their politics.

It's been done before

This anti sweatshop brand was getting close recently but economic timing was bad and franchise extension was, well, over extended.

I don't want to harp on about this because if there's one weakness I have as a planner it is that I see the potential too early too discern the reality. Time and again I've been excited about what's round the corner and tried to implement before gestation had completed. I noticed that the presentation I gave to low income Asian marketeers from multinationals a couple of years ago is only now starting to realise itself in India.

While it might not be prudent for a brand to immediately take a political stance, the age of the corporation as it emerges blinking with moral fatigue from the 20th century is fast becoming an anachronism. We need to be having a discussion about what exactly brands stand for if a non conformative position or a set of values becomes strategically imminent. The reason for that is entirely business-like. It's a profitable and identifiable stance to take and if you think that online group purchases known as Tuangou in China, are an interesting phenomenon, just you wait till INACTION becomes political. The potential for global boycotts of brands that don't play ball has yet to emerge, even though precedents exist with some of the most crippling action taking place in times before our hyper networked world.

This isn't a post that negates the value of brand utility (an important post to factor in if you weren't so busy and have kindly got this far anyway) but it is one that says if your brand isn't social, it probably has nothing to say. That's an impoverished strategic weakness in an age of product parity and one that will cost a lot more (and a lot quicker than we're used to).

Words are what distinguish us from any other life form on the planet and possibly the universe. Words could arguably be the reason our neo cortex accelerated into action at some point in our evolutionary story, and I put it to you that if your words are increasingly circumscribed by a language that is unremarkable, then the quickest way to get out of that is to take a stand, pick a cause and stick to your guns.

I'll leave you on a Biblical note John  1:1

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Bloated Asia

I'm really pleased to have come across this today as it stimulates some of my own thinking and saves me boring you with too many words ( OK Andrew?). A little background for my motivation on this subject is that each time I walk past local schools, as the children are piling out, I'm noticing that the number of fat kids is rocketing and in some instances constitutes the majority of the students.

Obesity is a problem now, and it only took one generation to make the jump. 

The leap between skinny and irreversibly fat kids took only a few short years in Asia. I've noticed it from Beijing to Manila but here in Thailand it feels particularly poignant as I remember a time when 7-Eleven had hardly any dairy products and people didn't know what cheese really was. These days if I want to re-conjure up the elegance of a thin and beatiful race from the early nineties I need to head out into rural Thailand closer to the villages and the paddy fields, where I'm magically sent back to that bygone era. One where rice is the staple diet and a few morsels of meat with lots of vegetables keeps them looking so fabulous.

As an adman I find this troubling and yet another hurdle (on top of sustainable wealth creation) to reconcile doing good work with good intentions.

Paul French who I've long admired as a thoughtful China commentator is interviewed here by another China afficianado Jeremy Goldkorn about his new book Fat China. They both dissect the issue in a manor which is contextually interesting even if you're not in Asia but interested in adding dimensionality to what's going on with expanding waistlines of the Occidental races: Europe, U.S and Australia. 

The most compelling point for me if you can't spare 10 minutes to watch is that, we advertisers idealise children as chubby when selling to Mom children's food and drinks, and  yet when they turn to 'Pepsi' teens we suddenly try to sell them the Heroin-teen-chic matchstick-thin lifestyles when biologically the toothpaste is out of the tube if one is serious about reversing the obesity process

This is morally wrong and a point I hadn't thought of before; one I'll never let slip by again.