Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Hoopla is a book by/about hotshot ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky.
Here's a good idea to promote it. Enter a search term and the book turns to content on the subject. Kind of like an oracle. I'm liking.

More about Hoopla here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A pedestal for Sculpture on the Gulf

I visited the Sculpture on the Gulf festival at Waiheke Island yesterday. It was quite an experience. The weather was as near to perfect for the occasion as it could have been (today it has packed up completely - the joys of living in subtropical Auckland - or, more accurately, sub-predictable Auckland).

I had very little expectation about the event. I did wonder whether the sculptures would be scattered around the island with a tiki-tour bus to freight visitors from site to site. The reality was much easier. The works are displayed along a coastal walk around the edge of Matiatia Bay. The location was extraordinary. I have seen art in some of the world’s best museums and none had the impact of this setting.

The first impression of the show is made when the ferry arrives at Matiatia Bay itself. On the right (starboard?) we passed a surreal, chrome droplet suspended above the water by the rocky shoreline. It reminded me of the effect in movies and commercials where a part of the action is frozen while around it while real-time goes on. From the moment I saw that I couldn’t wait to see the rest.

We bussed from the ferry terminal to the start of the trail in Cable Bay. There was a buzz of excitement from visitors. A programme was purchased and some water (which proved very wise), and we set off on the trail of stimulation and edification.

As I have mentioned, the path, which is elevated and hugs the rocky shore is a sensational choice of location. The views of the Hauraki Gulf blew me away. How lucky we are to live here in Auckland. Less than an hour’s journey from the centre of the city lies all of this. I had forgotten – the product of too much commuting between the city and the north shore. I had come to take things for granted, to stop seeing things. I was glad to give my perceptions a dust and polish.

I won’t tell you too much about the exhibits – other than to say some were very challenging, others more decorative. One, in particular was great fun – an installation where visitors could adorn themselves with fluorescent orange and lime hats and scarves, and walk the trail flamboyantly expressing their own art, then dropping the items at a collection station near the end.
At the end of the trail was tent where Telecom, the sponsor, invited you to make a ‘people’s choice’. Mine was a canopy of leaves, cut from Zincalume and suspended in two layers of web overhead. Not so challenging intellectually as some of the others, but thereyago…on that note, I noted the works that had sold tended to be those with high degrees of craftsmanship and a chic aesthetic, perhaps with some easily consumed irony. One, a very large nautilus shell made from highly polished stainless steel, with poetic words laser cut from the form, had sold. The princely sum of $92,000 was suggested in the catalogue. I wonder it will look as fetching in a backyard somewhere, or, perhaps in the foyer of an office tower as part of the collection of a law firm?

We headed to Mudbrick cafĂ© for lunch. A hike of about 4 kilometres (I would hazard as a guess), in the midday-ish sun – allowing for daylight saving. When we finally arrived we were briskly told the kitchen had closed at 2.00pm. It was 2.01. So, no marks for hospitality there. The booby prize was to have bread and olives with a glass of wine at the tasting cellar. We sat on the rooftop patio and drank in the view (over the low islands of the gulf to the distant skyline of the city)with a very nice chardonnay. Not so bad, really.

My only regret for the day was that I hadn’t taken a camera. I’ll head back with my daughter before the school holidays end and make a record. Because you’ve got to see this for yourself…

Saturday, January 27, 2007

What are your thoughts

I've created a quick survey: what do you think of this blog. I know, I'm putting myself out there…but I guess, with blogging we all do.

Click here to take survey

It is anonymous…what do you have to lose?…

Global Catastophe Hysterical

I had a very interesting chat with Greg Tabron yesterday. I have known Greg for years and have always thought him to be a smart marketing thinker and capable of seeing the wheat in rather a lot of chaff. As we sat looking over his drop dead gorgeous view of Auckland's upper harbour (which offers the possibility of being simply drop dead if you were to fall over the balcony), enjoying the sunshine, the conversation, not surprisingly turned to motorcyles (we both have owned Ducatis and Vespas) and cars, via some chat about the genius of Top Gear on television. Greg raised the views of Jeremy Clarkson on green issues. Clarkson has pointed out that motor vehicles account for a very small percentage of the CO2 emissions that global warming is attributed to. I think the figure is about 5%. Clarkson's passion is for cars, so he points out that of that 5% the majority is actually produced by trucks and heavy vehicles. Therefore the obsession with cars as environmentally mental is, in itself deranged. If the evidence is correct then we have something else to worry about, something less obvious and more insidious(and I have no doubt whatsoever that, if one were to turn over any stone on the rocky shore of environmentalism, one would find a bearded, cardigan wearing crab willing to profer an alternative and more damning statistic).

Here's the thing. The level of interest in Global Warming (charmingly reframed as Climate Change by the American Government in a classic case of UnSpeak) is heating up. The icecaps of indifference by a substantial percentage of the voting public - as opposed to open minded school children and teenagers - are melting. We are beginning to accept the 'fact' that things are changing more rapidly than we had been led to believe. I place the word fact in quotes not to be dismissive but because I am not sure there ever are really any facts, only data, which can them be interpreted depending on our preconceptions (a priori).

The weather, we are informed by the news and entertainment media, is changing rapidly. The weather itself is becoming more extreme. Or so we are to believe. Of course, the problem with belief is that is either a choice or a programmed response. When it is a choice we simply 'believe' something to be true, often regardless of the data. Many people believe what is written in the Christian bible is 'true' or worse, THE truth. The 'facts' presented in the bible are to them 'gospel', to be taken as written; 'the earth is about 10,000 years old' etc. The data indicates rather compellingly that this figure is somewhat short of the mark. I can accept that, in absence of data to the contrary it is understandable that an ignorant population can remain in the dark. - in the 'middle/dark ages' there were no sources of contrary thought (or if there were they were silenced in whatever gruesome way they could imagine by the owners of the thought monopoly - the church).

So, when the media latch onto the subject of Global Warming it is time to be worried. Not because melting icecaps are going to cause havoc with real estate prices in Auckland, where I live (a big melt will probably submerge London, New York and Sydney - or so I heard on an extreme weather enter-edu-mentary the other day),the cause for concern about media interest in the subject is that is now going to be subject to media inflation. Each media outlet competes for the attention of the potential audience. To capture attention it must a) deliver more sensational stories than rival media and b) deliver a more sensational story than their own reportage and invention yesterday.

The threat of escalation of violence toward data is extreme. Expect more hysterical reports every day. Camera crews will be dispatched to the most extreme places on the planet. Footage of great chunks of ice breaking off the arctic shelf will be shot in awesome high definition, camera crews will chase hurricanes and report not from the eye of storm, but from within the maelstrom itself. Dorothy will be interview as she spirals toward Oz.

This phenomena will occur not only because they can, but also because the appetite for more (and more dramatic) footage is insatiable. The line between entertainment and information becomes like imagining Van Gogh's paintings are an accurate record of village life in Holland. Impressionism has become 'news'."Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth"is the Scary Movie of documentaries, the edges become less distinct (and that's the uncomfortable truth).

The news media are unreliable, if you are relying on them to interpret the world, that is. I am not only referring to partisan reporting by the likes of Fox News (whose world view is far to the right of the political spectrum) but also to organs such as the New Zealand Herald. Both have space to fill and fill it they will with 'all care and no responsibility'. Sometimes even without care or responsibility. For example, this morning's NZ Herald reported

'Cancer risk for long-time mobile users.
People who use mobile phones over more than a decade are far more likely to grow brain tumours on the side of their head, new research shows."

I heard a conversation on the radio between Kim Hill and Professor Paul Callahan of the McDiarmond Institute about the topic (listen to the audio here), framed within a discussion of 'radiation' which was generally interesting. But more importantly Prof Callahan says that he went to the original study reported by the Herald and found the abstract said this:

"For more than 10 years of mobile phone use reported on the side of the head where the tumor was located an increased odds ratio of borderline statistical significance was found....although our results overall do not indicate an increased incidence of glyoma in relation to mobile phone use, the possible risk in the most heavily exposed part of the brain with long term use needs to be explored further before firm conclusions can be drawn."

Hold the phone caller…

You cannot take anything you are told at face value. Or, rather, you can. But it doesn't make it true.

So far as global warming and the pleasure and utility I get from cars (not to mention the pain) has shifted in the past few years. Attitudes have shifted in part because of behavioral changes I have made. Trading a 735i BMW for a 150cc Vespa scooter to commute gave me a completely different view about commuting. The speed with which I could make it from home on the North Shore to Newmarket, where I worked, was mind-boggling. Faster than a 500+ horsepower Ferrari or Aston Martin, both of which would have been choked to a snail's pace on the sclerotic arterial system that are Auckland's roads at peak traveling times. I traded ideas of comfort & luxury and 'performance' for simple pleasures…cheap, easy and satisfying (I was smarter and, therefore, superior to all of the fools in their 'gas guzzlers'). Do I advocate leaving the car behind and bussing, scootering or motorcycling…yes, but only because it is pragmatic. Few cars on the road would make the daily experience of traveling better. I can't say I have an ideological view though. There is nothing wrong with the private motorcar. Some are wonderful things. And then there are Porsche Cayennes…but don't get me started on that.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Inside Out

The weather has been good but I have been so busy that I have barely stepped foot outside. I have been in a frenzy, trying to complete the projects I have on plate at the moment so that I can become fully immersed in the big project for the year.
I am preparing to begin a thesis in which I will test some ideas about brand theory and deployment in the context of the new, collaborative media landscape.

Some of the ideas I have been mulling over since the mid 90s when I came home from Europe and started BrandWorld with Bill Peake and and Greig Buckley. The idea of homogenous brands, rather than playful brands that truly embrace the idea that consumer 'owns' the brand. I remember, in the early days of the business, each of the partners has a set of three different colourways for our cards. The recipient of the business card could choose what they liked. The partners chose their own sets, from the series developed by our designer (Gary Sullivan, whom I wrote about in an article for Idealog that you can read in full here). It was an expensive excercise - twelve business card sets for three partners. Would I do it again? Yes I would. For a couple of reasons:

a) just because people join a firm doesn't mean they 'become' the firm. It's not like joing the nazi party and subsuming your own personality. Firms need to accept that its workers need to feel both embraced and acknowledged as individuals.

b) it starts more interesting conversations with customers. When they choose the type of card they like they are telling you something about their own personality and taste…they have become engaged.

I'm sure there are others, I have to be quick with this entry as I am heading out to a meeting.

I am especially interested in the big idea of nation branding, along the same lines.
I have argued, as has Naomi Klein (and for once I agree with her), that conventions of branding applied to ideas as big as nation states are, simply too narrow and flattening to have any genuine value. I began on this train of thought in response to an article in Idealog by Jake Pearce contributor who's opinion was that 100% Pure New Zealand was ineffectual 'branding' for New Zealand. His alternate was 'Raw Sophistication'. My view was that debating either/or was fundamentally pointless if the rules of branding do not apply in any case. Sort of like the pointlessness of arguing whether Islam or Christianity is right or wrong if one doesn't believe there are any gods at all.

I have begun a special interest blog on the topic, it has no content as yet but it should in the next few days. I will chronicle my endeavours at

Here is an extract from Ms Klein's article, which originally appeared in the LA Times

"In the corporate world, once a "brand identity" is settled upon by the head office, it is enforced with military precision throughout a company's operations. The brand identity may be tailored to accommodate local language and cultural preferences (like McDonald's serving pasta in Italy), but its core features--aesthetic, message, logo--remain unchanged.

This consistency is what brand managers like to call "the promise" of a brand: It's a pledge that wherever you go in the world, your experience at Wal-Mart, Holiday Inn or a Disney theme park will be comfortable and familiar. Anything that threatens this homogeneity dilutes a company's overall strength. That's why the flip side of enthusiastically flogging a brand is aggressively prosecuting anyone who tries to mess with it, whether by pirating its trademarks or by spreading unwanted information about the brand on the Internet.

At its core, branding is about rigorously controlled one-way messages, sent out in their glossiest form, then hermetically sealed off from those who would turn that corporate monologue into a social dialogue. The most important tools in launching a strong brand may be research, creativity and design, but after that, libel and copyright laws are a brand's best friends.

When brand managers transfer their skills from the corporate to the political world, they invariably bring this fanaticism for homogeneity with them. For instance, when Wally Olins, co-founder of the Wolff Olins brand consultancy, was asked for his take on America's image problem, he complained that people don't have a single clear idea about what the country stands for, but rather have dozens if not hundreds of ideas that "are mixed up in people's heads in a most extraordinary way. So you will often find people both admiring and abusing America, even in the same sentence."

Watch this space.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bloody Good Show, what what…!

I've just watched an hour or so of the best television I have seen for a long time.
Francis Fulford is an eccentric English aristocrat (aka 'landowner') from Devon. You may have seen him in the all too brief televison series the F**king Fulfords, which chronicled is thoughts on life as a member of the landed gentry with little income to maintain his crumbling family pile. He is the antithesis of 'political correctness'. Every sentence includes the fuck expletive and he is as funny as all get out. The short clip gives you a taste, but not really the full flavour of the man.

His show tonight was somewhat more considered. He goes on a road trip to see what the rest of England is like - ranging from a visit to a truly horrible precast concrete housing estate (which the National Heritage of England was either seeking a protective listing for or had gotten one already)to a dash of hypnotherapy (which, predictably fails). Needless to say our hero despised the buildings as monstrosities. He interviews a middle class member of the intellegensia who agitated for the preservation of the buildings but who, when pressed, confessed to living in a top floor flat in a Victorian terrace in tony North London. Talking to the residents and local people was equally revealing - 'blow them up', was the consensus. The folk who lived there wanted to live somewhere nice, maybe with a bit of room for their families…

He made the point, time and again that England's ruling class are the middle classes now, not the historical aristocratic class. The problem, as Fulford sees it is that the intellectuals in power have little understanding or appreciation of the culture and that short term gains and financial returns are all that matter. I wonder if he might be right. He decried the 'nanny state' and its obsession with political correctness - as do I. For example the kind of governments that rule against cigarette smoking in many ways and issue expensive propaganda to demonise and marginalise the people who have been permitted to become addicts - and yet same governments, regardles of which edge of the political safe centre they tread simply dont have the balls to end the sale of tobacco products all together - principally because they earn a substantial taxation from the stuff to pay for the swollen, utterly unnecessary beaurocracy. They are, themselves, addicted.

More people should be as outspoken as Francis Fulford. He's not as extreme as you might think. In fact I find his approach refreshingly open. He is not a bigot and, while he was awkard taking part in a gay pride parade, riding on a float dressed as Brittania, he regarded gays as entitled to express themselves in the same forthright fashion as he does, though with more eye makeup.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

It's just food

Hot on the heels of my reference to the banned LynxJet ad here is another commercial that has been banned, this time in the UK. While there might be a similarity in the themes - a sort of renaissance of the 'real' man the reason for the censoring was quite different - complaints were received over the representation of the burger's size. Or should I say misrepresentation? Blogger Simon Law of the UK points out that the banning of the ad was based on 12 complaints, representing 'roughly 0.000025% of the British population'.

It seems a cruel distortion that such a small number of dissenting voices can distort the reality of the majority of a population. It seems to give an extraordinary power to a few people who might be selected to sit on a standards board. I don't know who these people in the UK, but here in New Zealand the Advertising Standards Authority has a complaints board comprised of worthies from the community. Their brief biographies suggest they are selected on the basis of their 'community standing', rather than their representation of the community. That might seem like a trivial point but it is significant in some ways. I don't see the names of any Asian people or Pacific Islanders (though I admit relying on names is no indication of ethnicity), I'd also have to ask whether youth are represented (who can be really quite sensible and uncorrupted by 'experience' and dinner party preferences).

It is often asked whether advertising has the ability to change the behaviour of a society or whether advertising simply reflects it?

Having been involved with advertising in one form or another as a practitioner I can't recall when I ever set out to change the world with an ad campaign. Not even when I was very young and just wanted to change the world.

Quite simply I never had a budget big enough. The best you could hope for might be to change the behaviour of a small group within society and hope that their attitudes towards the brand I represented might be changed sufficiently that they would begin to prefer it - possibly even recommend the brand to others. Not a very insidious process is it? To media savvy people the process is also relatively transparent, they become attuned to things like hyperbole and the exaggerated use of humour to engage - such as the Tui Beer commercials (oops, yet another campaign that's not exactly PC).

The fear that advertising messages might have a corrupting effect on society seems corrupt in itself. The current view, held by some lobby groups, that advertising 'junk' food should be banned holds a dangerous precedent that goes back to the 0.000025% representation anomaly.

The truth is that no food is junk food. It's just food.

Eating too much of particular kinds of food can be unhealthy and failing to burn the fuel with some equivalent level of activity is unhealthy, but the advertising message is, at least neutral.

Unlike cigarettes, the advertising of which is, quite rightly, not permitted, food is not addictive and to argue that it is is simply rot. The choice to eat convenience food is just that - a choice. The advertising helps people to choose one brand over another.

This argument will infuriate some people, particularly those 0.000025% with an axe to grind or those who piously think they know better than the 99.99975% who feel entirely capable of making up their own minds.

As a footnote I have to admit that I am a few kilos overweight and I do occasionally eat convenience food. But I take responsibility for my behaviour and realise that anything I stick in my gob is my choice, as is the choice to blog rather than walk or swim.

I wonder how many of the complaints about the Burger King ad were from competitors? Just a thought.

This is not for the faint of heart, the true meaning of gross. Funny though.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Is that a salami in your pants…?

Sent to me by a work colleague under the heading - 'Friday Funnies', just thought I'd share:

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North Westgas said, "We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It's possible Mr Purdey has been charged for the gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house." The Daily Telegraph

Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami in her knickers. When asked why, she said it was because she was missing her Italian boyfriend. The Manchester Evening News

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van because they cannot issue a description. It's a Special Branch vehicle and they don't want the public to know what it looks like. The Guardian

A young girl, who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth, was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coastguard spokesman commented, "This sort of thing is all too common". The Times

At the height of the gale, the harbourmaster radioed a coastguard on the spot and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied he was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff. Aberdeen Evening Express

Mrs Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue, Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled, "He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out "Heil Hitler." Bournemouth Evening Echo

An endless appetite for technology

The precursor to Steve Jobs' keynote at MacWorld.

Screw it, let's do it!

Richard Branson has been mugging for the press here in New Zealand. It is a routine he could do blindfold and probably has - like any great showman he knows the value of making an entrance. He was here to celebrate the third anniversary of the launch of Virgin services from New Zealand. Of course, being Branson, celebrate means party and probably getting wet with attractive airline employees. It is a wonderful way of making 'news' when there really isn't any, other than a vague promise to have a Virgin domestic service in New Zealand - before he returns for his next visit. That is a terrific way of avoiding commitment. If we never see a Virgin domestic airline here it may also mean Branson will not grace the screens of fawning media either. Whether that is a good or bad thing I will leave for you to determine.

In North America Virgin are more eager to carve a chunk of the domestic travel pie for themselves. It would seem they have an airline ready to go (whereas NZ comments were 'pie in the sky' remarks for easy media consumption). There is just one teensy problem. The FTA won't grant Virgin a licence. So, true to form, the company has launched a charm offensive on the web, enticing US travellers with video of what they are being prevented from having by Washington's bureaucrats. And who doesn't want what they can't have?

Watching the videos, presented in a down-home way by American employees of the firm (I suspect Branson's Britishness wouldn't go down to well in the traditionally insular Home of the Free - still smarting from the British 'invasion' by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Borat), there is much to make you want to travel. My favourite is the in seat entertainment system. It features in flight chat - you can select passengers to talk with on the plane, using the tv console controller - which is essentially a miniature USB keyboard. Creating a social network on an aircraft sounds kind of cool to me. I imagine it will be abused in all sorts of wonderful ways. Will it be monitored? After all, built in silent communication could be an excellent tool for hijackers to coordinate their seizure of the cabin…and who wants inflight spam?
If you do want inflight spam you can or course order it from the food menu built into the unit. While you're watching a movie or gaming with Doom (interesting choice for air travellers), select your spam sandwich, pay for it using a built in swipe and it arrives to order....

It all reminds me of the days of domestic travel in New Zealand before the arrival of Ansett. The terminals were terrible (Wellington was literally a shed), the flight was dreary - a cup of tea and a cracker…then came competition and suddenly there were Gold Wing lounges, valet parking,…later the Koru Club - it all went mad. I loved it. Weekly visits to the capitol to visit our client Mitsubishi Motors went from red-eye hell to something more like a pleasure. I have to admit that introducing inflight food service on a one hour trip never made much sense to me, but the market corrected that.

The Richard Branson brand might be becoming a bit tired to me, do I really believe he's the plucky underdog? And the schtick is quite retro. But he has more than a dash of P.T.("There's a sucker born every minute")Barnum about him and I like that.
Barnum also said “Without promotion something terrible happens... Nothing!” which Branson understands better than most.


Branson wins prize for catchiest book title…Screw it, let's do it.. If only Buddha had been as succinct we wouldn't all be in the terrible mess we are in now

While on the topic,…the future of air travel…

(Banned from the airwaves by the Advertising Standards Authority of New Zealand on the ground of 'sexually explicit' content. The ASA had received several complaints regarding the ad alleging sexually exploitative images of women. Moreover, the complaints also argued that the ad is offensive to women based upon their occupational status as airline host. On the other hand the company had argued that there was strong link between the product and scene used in the advertisement and their aim was to entertain and surprise their customers. However, acting on the complaints the advertising watchdog upheld the complaints ruled to ban the advertisement. The board further said that the advertisement would be likely to cause widespread and serious offence in the light of generally prevailing community standards.…how out of touch can these people be?)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Not your father's…um…Buick?

These boots were made for walking

To celebrate my 200th entry here's a little gift. A film about a crazy gaijin who walks the length of Japan to impress his Japanese girlfriend. It's kind of quirky, but interesting and fresh alternative to standard travel documentaries.

"If you give yourself to the journey, the journey will give its self to you…"

1984 revisited - the apple iPhone

I am disgustingly in love with the Apple brand. I have been since 1984 (I know, a late comer). Apple has grown with me and outlasted three marriages-of one kind or another.

All these years later…something new, …you're beautiful…

Phone me baby.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ugly Betty - beautiful thoughts

I'm doing some work for Simply You and Simply You Living magazines to help develop web strategies. So watching Ugly Betty, the launch episode, was pretty funny. Ah, the world of fashion…Truth is blander than fiction I fear.

Instructive though. If you want to make a TV show these days it should be like a comic book, serialised, exaggerated characters.Don't worry about depth. All you need is a concept (draw on out-of-copyright ideas from Brothers Grimm…hey, it worked for Disney)

Speaking of Disney…I watched the Steve Jobs keynote at the Macworld conference. 2 hours. Epic. Longer than Toy Story. But hey…I WANT AN iPHONE! Endure the presentation on the Apple site. Sadly, 2008 before it hits Asia (I guess New Zealand is in there?…please…). Sheesh - 2 hours.
Did I mention I want an iPhone. Now.

The Golden Globes are on. Hey, here's an idea for a show:

Nah, too good to share…first rule of Intellectual Property - don't say a thing to anyone without proper protection.

All I can tell you is - it's a winner: comic book, serialised, exaggerated characters.

A scene from Ugly Betty - Next week. You may have to watch without me.

The Oxford Onion Debate

A friend of mine said that I am a bad writer on the basis of some of my blog entries. She made the comparison with some big name authors (whose big names I have forgotten). An interesting point of view. Flattered though I am to be compared with august literary figures it is worth considering the nature of blogging.

In my case if something pops into my head I might feel compelled to share it with you. It has little significance really-in the way that idle conversations between friends rarely have the intellectual quality of an Oxford Union debate (though I have to say the only one of those I have been privvy to was that of the much overated and grating orator - David Lange with his sneered 'I can still smell the plutonium on your breath remark').

The writing in a blog, and I am only speaking for myself, is a simple, unedited stream of conscious. It is opinionated with nerry a nod to objectivity. No need for such a thing. This is not The Economist magazine.

There is another crucial difference. A published work in the conventional sense will have passed through many hands before making it to the presses. And that is after being self-edited many times by the author. If you have read any of my posts you'll see that I have scant regard for spelling and barely a passing aquaintence with grammar. If, at the end of the day that troubles you imagine how you might feel on learning that high schools are willing to accept TXT language in school essays and examinations. ILMAO

Sunday, January 14, 2007

And 'it' is…?

See if you can figure out what brand is being advertised in this spot.
Had me stumped. But I'm not feeling especially swift today.

Just finished reading an interesting book. Branded NationThe Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld. Very interesting reading.

"Twitchell’s basic premise—that organizations live and die based on brand recognition—isn’t new. In recent years, publishers have churned out dozens of marketing books trumpeting the importance of brand recognition. What sets Branded Nation apart is Twitchell’s richly detailed examination of how religious, educational, and cultural institutions are jumping on the branding bandwagon. Twitchell, a University of Florida professor and the author of previous books on advertising and culture, takes a couple of lumps from critics who found some parts of his newest work reductive or incomplete. But overall, Twitchell’s persuasive arguments and enviable story-telling ability make Branded Nation an enjoyable—and enlightening—read."

What I found curious was how the author took some serious swipes at the University of Florida and still seems to be employed by them. In a perverse way I suppose his commentary is good for the school's profile and rankings - the very things he bemoans. The first chapter is the best introduction to contemporary branding that I have seen.

Friday, January 12, 2007

There’s no business like show business.

I wrote this as a column for Idealog, but replaced it with something a little less stroppy.

I refer to Howard Gossage, whom I recently 'discovered'. If you are interested in finding out more this site is very good. Here is a Gossagism I rather like:

"If you have something pertinent to say you neither have to say it to very many people -- only those who you think will be interested -- nor do you have to say it very often . . . if it is interesting, once is enough. If it is dull, once is plenty."

Of all the businesses in the creative economy perhaps none has quite the same inflated sense of importance as the ad business. Advertising agencies promote themselves as purveyors of extraordinary degrees of creativity. What other business has a ‘creative department’? All of this flies in the face of a swollen body of evidence to the contrary every night on television, in the newspapers and in virtually every other medium. Most advertising is simply an affront. It is rude and intrusive. Perhaps that is why there is no prestige in advertising? It is the least respected of the arts and as a profession consistently rates amongst politicians and used car salespeople in the public’s regard.

As the largely forgotten American advertising pioneer Howard Gossage pointed out in the 1960s, the reason why creativity is in such short supply is because advertising people persist in regarding it as an isolated phenomenon separate from the creator and the audience.

Playwrights and artists create their works for an audience. With rare exceptions advertising is created for the client, whose need to meet a sales objective is their sole reason for engaging in the process at all. Creating advertising is a vicarious process. In most cases the voice of the creative person is synthesised into the voice of ‘the brand’, conforming to a pre-determined recipe (cargo cult branding).

Exceptions exist, most often because the voice of the brand is, in fact, the voice of a powerful creative ego that has managed to execute an idea with the minimum of dilution. The advertising approval process can be tortuous, to say the least.
Some clients will follow particular creatives from agency to agency because they play the part of the brand better than any other (in the way that, to many, Sean Connery is James Bond).

Great advertising is created for the audience and great advertising creatives are theatrical performers who love to play to the crowd. There are only ever a handful of stars and they are worth their weight in gold.

On the next tier down are the people who would love to achieve virtuosity, but they experience the equivalent of stage fright and don’t take the risks required, resulting in confused, half-way ads that try to please the audience and the client and fall flat as a result.

Next are the journeymen. Hacks who make no claim to create anything of value, who thrive on doing whatever needs to be done. A lack of idea or artistry is compensated for in media weight, the hysterical volume of the voice-over or a self-justifying, proprietary theory of ‘what works’.

To quote Gossage “People who do not aim to please their audience are probably paying too much for their advertising or have such a fantastic margin by which to operate that they can afford to be boring or even distasteful.”

Today’s audience has seen it all before. We are immune to most huckster techniques – as I have said before – people simply tolerate your ads as the price of free sitcoms and soaps.

With changes in the media consumption patterns and trends like the rise of Generation C, I can only continue to wonder how much longer the show will go on?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

50 shopping weeks till Christmas

I think this speaks for itself…

I'll try to think of something more insightful when I have a minute.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007