Monday, 31 August 2009

Things adpeople should say

Mythical references to 'adland' like it still exists
'Just like you' football simile
Mention of idea that came about during elite, high-concept technology event
Mention of idea that came about during everyday, ordinary thing because ideas can happen anywhere
Mention of idea that came about when you were being really cool (gallery opening, architecture seminar, fetish party)
TV is dead
TV isn't dead
It's not about __ any more, it's about __
Statistics show
I may be just a ___, but
It's the data, stupid
In terms of
Going forward

-Alex Bogusky (bonus points for just using first name, then acting suprised when people ask for clarification)
-Russell Davies (among planners)
-David Ogilvy (no: among colleagues, yes: among clients)
-David Miscavige (dastardly head of scientology, or impressive master of branding? This is a wildcard)
-Dave Trott (best used with 'I know him' casuality)
-Rory Sutherland (ideally, combine with a droll observation)
-A colleage, segue into self-deprecation

Friday, 28 August 2009

Experiential Shout-Out: Richmond-upon-Thames constabulary

You don't have to be an experiential specialist to do good experiential. Just like you don't have to be a salesman to sell, or a digital specialist to make something that's virally successful (indeed, that last one might be something of a hindrance). Anyway, the Richmond-upon-Thames police force have shown that all you need is a bit of empathy and the desire to put someone in another person's shoes.

In this instance, it also requires a bit of a nasty streak. Let's try and unravel this:

Business Challenge: People are leaving their bags, valuables, other belongs in unlocked cars where they could easily get nicked. We need to persuade them to either lock their cars, hide their valuables, or both.

About Us: We're the police force. We fight crime, but nowadays, you only really notice us when a crime's been committed - which means that people see us as the engine of treatment, not prevention.

The Audience: Anyone with a car. This means that they know what it is to have valuable stuff, stuff you'd feel the loss of, but they've objectively decided that's not a risk worth caring about. The main contributing factor to this idea is that Richmond-upon-Thames is a very pleasant 'suburban place' when crime doesn't look likely. But of course, this isn't the kind of crime you can predict.

Bingo-insight bit: You don't see crime as a possibility unless it touches your life

THIS is the thing - and something that was probably all to clear to the police, considering all the victims they come into contact with.
What's the one phrase you always hear?
"You never think it's going to happen to you"

...but it has every chance to, dumbass. So the police's answer was very simple: nick people's valuables, and leave a note saying where they are and what's happened to them. A lesson learned, but with no lasting damage. It's brilliant!

...and it is, if you think about it, an example of a great experiential campaign. It jolts the participant out of their base-state and into a new one, then gently brings them back, while imparting the message. What's more, it's a great example of the fact that advertising (in all its forms) doesn't have to be fluffy and nice and uplifting. Remember this?
Ooh, scary mister Berkoff.
That was the BHF's "Your Heart Attack" advert/event. Same thing - put the target in a different state for a bit, then pull them back...along with information on how they can avoid it. Almost like hypnosis...

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Digital Digest, 18th August.

Here's some more digital bits y'all

DD w/c 17/08/02009

Hello there. This week’s DD is a mix of the usual new things – plus a few wonderful bits I’ve been meaning to show for a while now. Let’s have a look.

What exactly is happening about Augmented Reality/RFID/Wireless Power? Here’s your answer.
There’s a classic model that’s used to describe how far a technology has evolved from creation, refinement, experimental use and mainstream adoption – it’s called the Hype Cycle. With so many New Things popping up in the last few years, how to know which spangly technology is closest to being realistically used? Well, the analysts at tech firm Gartner have plotted all the Big New Things onto the Hype Cycle, and are sharing the results. The points at the ‘peak’ are the ones we read about in – well, newsletters like this. But perhaps the real slow burners are the points currently languishing in the ‘trough of disillusionment’. Jed, it’d be interesting to hear your thoughts on this!

Yum, charts.
Data visualisation is a big thing right now, and if you’ve had any decks or charts from me recently you’ll notice I’m trying to work it into my way of presenting info. Basically, the mainstream are finally shrugging off Powerpoint – not only that, but they’re starting to take serious notice of the ideas of a man called Edward Tufte, venerable chart theorist. Combine that with a healthy dose of design and you get the new wave of visualisation. There are many sources, but the two I most love are the Guardian Datablog (aggregator of all such efforts) and a blog called Information Is Beautiful. You’d be right to call it nerdy, but these will make you think – and they can help you communicate, too.

Wikipedia Reaches 3 Million Articles (citation needed – oh wait, here it is)
...and that’s just the English version. Worldwise, there’s a hefty 13 million. It’s a great victory for Wikipedia, and comes a few months after Microsoft admitted defeat and acknowledged they weren’t going to make any new editions of the previously popular (certainly great for school projects) Encarta. Wikipedia appears in pretty good financial nick and its reputation as a source has never been higher. I still wouldn’t trust it outright, but we may finally be in a position where we can see that happening within a span of years.
And for comparison, Encyclopaedia Britannica reaches a piddling 500,000 articles.

Another step for convergence – the GPS unit.
TomTom have just released their navigator software for the iPhone, priced at about $80. The big story here is that it means they now see a future where the separate GPS hardware unit is basically obsolete. This was coming anyway – new cars often had them built into the dash – but smartphones accelerate the demise. And why not? A GPS only needs to work to a certain standard to satisfy 95% of users, and that standard has been reached. If there’s no name for it, let’s called it the Mitchell Benchmark. We have also reached it for mp3 playing, for example, and possibly video. The interesting question is: how long before cameras pass this test and disappear?

Facebook for iPhone 3.0
Enough said. It’s an interesting demonstration of what facebook feels its users want – not depth of experience so much as ease of use. And the keypad interface is a lovely touch.

Facebook search is coming, edges closer than ever to twitter
Last week facebook purchased FriendFeed, a lovely site which aggregates all your different social streams of info into one place. The purchase was partly for acquisition, but also bound to be to access their technology, supplementing other moves such as the changing of status updates. This is all intended to occupy Twitter’s niche – and now, with the impending release of real-time search across the whole site, they’ve never been closer. It’ll be really interesting to see if people can find a use for search – and what it is.

How does the internet feel? Find out
Here’s a new attempt to evolve search: combining mentions of data with their immediate context, and trying to make sense of it. And by this, I mean sentiment search. The latest one is evri, who do quite good info-page based search anyway, but have now added emotional search. The other really fantastic contextual search tool (which, I think, works better) is the currently running EdTwinge, which uses twitter mentions and expressions of love/hate to rank the best shows on at the Fringe right now.

Your iPhone apps are spying on you
Here’s the problem/opportunity of the smartphone’s effortless connectivity – you could be sending more back than you realise. In fact, it’s just emerged that people using apps on Pinch Media have signed up to the sharing of age and name, phone number, jailbreak status, actual current location, among other things. Now for the most part, it’s reasonable to say that this stuff won’t be used in a malicious way. But how can you be sure?

Friday, 14 August 2009

What people want from you... and when.

Through good(?) fortune I discovered to my surprise that I was in Pret a Manger at about 8:30 this morning. It's actually embarassingly serene in there - like a nestling cocoon/halfway house between a commuter train and a cafe. People still want to do cafe-chat but they're considerate enough to note that people are still coaxing themselves out of sleep, not yet ready to enter the office proper, and so what you get is the hushed friendliness of intimacy. A loveliness I might go out of my way to experience again.

Anyway, what's interesting to consider is that these people were the same mix of businessmen, arty types &c. as at lunchtime - but with a different mindset. And some pret boffins have obviously worked out that this engenders different needs. Indeed, some people have very specific needs that early in the morning. So I was quite surprised and delighted when, before even picking anything, I was asked "any coffee?". I hate coffee. But this proactive approach was nice, and probably comes as a great comfort to monosyllabic dawn treaders who need only grunt their approval.

To ask that at lunch would waste time and annoy. To ask it in the morning lets the customer (most of them) know that they are understood, and extends a hidden hand of comradeship in the morning battle.

Conversely, I'm told (maybe it was Fast Food Nation that Fast Food places play high-tempo music at rush out to tweak people's subconscious in making them eat fast & get out. You might see that as evil. I don't know - maybe it's that same thing, knowing what people probably want at a given time, and facilitating it.

All I'm trying to say is this: people are different creatures at different times, in different places. So,talk to them in a way that acknowledges their current state. Interpersonal experts tell us to try and 'mood match' with our conversation partner, then you can steer the conversation your way.

Of course, perhaps the really clever-dick thing is to subvert that idea in a way that gives people relief from a routine they may not like. I like to think that the success of the first T-Mobile flashmob (and its ImprovEverywhere predecessors, yes) lies not just in its novelty, but also that it takes place at a train station - friendship and belonging, at the ultimate symbol of Gesselschaft:

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

We're none of us native

There is a phrase now: Digital Native. I think a simple indigenous would be better, but still - it's a funny one. It implies that you can somehow gain citizenry of the magical land called Internet. But think about it - the youngest person in the biz will be, what, 18 now, and if they're lucky they might have been introduced to the internet in 2000-ish, at about the age of 9.

That is not native. Childrens' dialect, accent etc. are often fully developed by then so that if they move countries, they will speak in much the same way. Neuroses, habits, tics and so on - it's very likely that they are set in stone by then. Jean Piaget thought so. To go back to media, most of us were introduced to books and TV by about 2. That is native. To be so fully acclimatised with the modes, methods, manners of speech in a space that you instantly understand what it's trying to tell you (and even then, I'd say it's not always true).

But we have all learned to use the net. We're still not in an age where working people are born into it, that's a fact. Yes, we soon will be - but that's the other thing, isn't it? Do you really think that a 2000 child, hidden away from computers for 15 years, would recognise the 2015 internet? I'm not even confident I would right now - assuming it's even on computers... Is it possible to be a native of a country that reinvents itself ever 5 years?

Oh yeah, and that is this big:

I am, while not native, well acquainted with corners of it. And in those corners, I don't always speak the language as well as I'd like. But this is all good news! What it means is that becoming a digital native or whatever the hell it is, is far, far easier than getting a Green Card. Because there's no one population, all it really entails is two things:
-a willingness to try/learn evershifting forms of communication, BUT,
-always, always keeping one and a half eyes on human nature. Talk changes, what they talk about, why and how to get them to talk about your thing will stay the same. Seems to me that the big booby trap for digital agencies is thinking that digital is any more than a means to an end. Trust me, it's not the end.

It's the beginning ;)

Monday, 10 August 2009

Words, words, words words, words I do adore

(anyone looking for the twitter offer, scroll to the bottom of this post!)
Just finished Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. That's the one where the main character is a Fireman. And Firemen burn books for a living. Now read this bit, and tell me if a man writing in 1953 didn't have just a slight inkling of where the media would be in 2009:
"When did it all start, you ask, this job of ours [Fireman], how did it come about, where, when? ...motion pictures in the early twentieth century. Radio. Television. Things began to have mass."
Montag sat in bed, not moving.
"And because they had mass, they became simpler," said Beatty [that's the fire-chief]. "Once, books appealed to a few people, here, there, everywhere. They could afford to be different. The world was roomy. But then the world got full of eyes and elbows and mouths. Double, triple, quadruple population. Films and radios, magazines, books levelled down to a sort of paste pudding norm, do you follow me?"
"I think so."
Beatty peered at the smoke pattern he had put out on the air. "Picture it. Nineteenth-century man with his horses, dogs, carts, slow motion. Then, in the twentieth century, speed up your camera. Books cut shorter. Condensations. Digests. Tabloids. Everything boils down to the gag, the snap ending."
"Snap ending." Mildred nodded.
"Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut again to fill a two-minute book column, winding up at last as a ten- or twelve-line dictionary resume. I exaggerate, of course. The dictionaries were for reference. But many were those whose sole knowledge of Hamlet was a one-page digest in a book that claimed: now at last you can read all the classics; keep up with your neighbours. Do you see?
...Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a headline! Then, in mid-air, all vanishes! Whirl man's mind around so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters, that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!"

Twitter, anyone? That's another story though. Beatty's argument goes on to claim that because nobody has time or taste for deep thought, books only exist to make people feel stupid. What's more, they are frequently (self-) contradictory, full of nonsense, and socially divisive. Why have them, when people can get their news newer and their pleasure more pleasurable from the joys of modern technology?

Why indeed? Well, here's where a bit of pop-psychology comes in (doesn't it always). As well as direct, kinetic pleasure, the average human is looking for something they can dialogue with over a long period. A sort of one-sided companionship or relationship of commitment. We can see this in the watching of soap operas or time-vacuum dramas like Heroes. And it's why books, like meals, are a little less satisfying if you race through them as quickly as you can. Nevertheless, Bradbury's vision of the future might well have come to pass but what he thankfully didn't forsee was the way that we'd manage to tell stories - indeed, publish whole books - online. It's nice that marketers have in some cases led the charge, probably because we have the money to make it happen. But it's a classic example of taking new media, and instead of turning culture to a grey intravenous mush Bradbury-style, using it to challenge and stimulate human nature. 'Cause no matter how fast technology changes, I don't think that'll alter for another few thousand years.

(append: I shortened that passage so it would fit the internet. How's that for irony?)

There is a book called The Book Of Gossage. It's a collection of writings by/about esteemed marketer and all-round brainbox Howard Luck Gossage, who was said to be one of the best in the biz. Steve Harrison likes him. Alex Bogusky likes him. I want to like him. But it's out of print, and I'd rather buy it from a colleague than So to put it simply:

-You give me a copy of The Book Of Gossage. Any condition is fine; it's what's inside that counts.
-In return, I give you thirty quid (or indeed it goes to a charity of your choosing), AND
-A special, utterly unique, THING, handmade by me. I don't know what it is but I promise it will be something I myself would be thrilled to receive.

If anyone want to pick up this thrown gauntlet, email me, tweet me, or leave a comment.

...and if anyone's got any other (good) books they wanna swap for money/favours... try me :)

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Following trends, making trends

On the way in this morning I saw a poster (ironically on the back of a bus, a form of cheap, efficient public transport) with the VW logo and the phrase 'SwiftShiftSave'. Assuming that it wasn't a reference to the goalkeeping skills of the famous satirist and writer of Gulliver's Travels, I took it in reference to some sort of efficiency message.

"Nice!" I thought, "a car that is only somewhat massively wasteful! Now, when I decide to use a huge metal moving explosion to transport just myself and nobody else, I can do so with a modicum of dignity!".

The problem is that VW are already doing it slightly better with their "BlueMotion saves you money" stuff, which more directly links technology, the environment, and being clever with money. So why they did this weak execution (so weak I can't seem to find it on Billetts) I don't know.

What's worse is that it has to contend with tons of efficiency noise right now, some that is far better:
-Ford ECOnteic (not that great but pretty executions)
-Fiat Eco:Drive (amazing, an award winner and rightly so)
-and let's not forget the old-as-your-grandmother "Hate something, change something" which actually, god forbid, linked the product back to some core brand philosophies so that it was at least somewhat believable. And was really very good.

Me-too advertising sucks. I believe this is an absolute rule, unless it's done its done in a markedly better way, or with some element of self-knowledge (though it must be done carefully. Personally, the Tango-Sony tribute had me in stitches because it picked up on what was right about the ad, made fun of what was wrong, and ultimately found its tenuous way back to the product).

Car advertisers! If you do have some way to contribute to the debate, for god's sake actually do so with either new content, or a new spin. What we have now is like being dogged by a litter of swarming sycophants promising the same things because it's what we've ostensibly asked for. This is the problem. You're trying to give us what we want - fair enough. We want to be seen asking for efficiency above all else.

But do we know what we want? Henry Ford has been quoted as saying
"if I'd listened to what people wanted, I would've given them a faster horse"
And were many people actually asking Honda for a better Diesel back then? Not particularly. So beat the trend, and inform us of new stuff while it's still new. Honda beat you - and what are they doing now?

Whoops! They've moved on again.