Thursday, March 29, 2007

Church & State

My colleagues at HB Media (with whom I created Idealog magazine - the biggest business magazine in New Zealand)have just launched their next publication.

It is called Inspire and I look forward to seeing Issue one.
Frankly I don't have much hope for it being much more than a brochure. Hopefully that won't be taken wrongly. It is, after all a contract publishing job. The critical function of the editor will be demoted to sub-editorial function - grammar and spelling.
But it looks perdy - if the site is anything to go by.

The challenge for publishers (as they become the new advertising agencies - YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST) will be how to develop the same critical disciplines that the best advertising agencies have - the strategic communication planning function.

Being able to construct a magazine is a waste of trees and ink (and every other resource associated with the creation, production, distribution and disposal of magazines) if it doesn't connect and effect sales.

The talents and skill of the editorial teams and designers need to be brought to bear on wider issues - not simply the tactical, project based requirements of 'publishing'.

"jez 'cause dey perdy, don mean dey so nice." Muddy Waters


Why does anyone in their right mind want to go on a reality TV show?

I once had an employee who was doing very well in her job and was great fun to have around. Aside from that she put her romance languages degree to good use and taught me Italian after work. Actually that is overstating the case. She gave me lessons. What I learned you could paint on the head of a pin with a wide brush. However, Ally wanted to work in television. Advertising wasn't ringing her bell.

So, naturally enough, she applied to appear on the second of the big reality TV shows to hit New Zealand's screens. The first was the seminal Pop Stars which vomited the execrable True Bliss on the screen and spawned Pop Stars UK and, by means of the long and winding road the phenomenon that is American Idol (and all of its international karaoke cousins). Ally was to appear on the first series of Treasure Island. As befits a television star she changed her second name from Foskett to Fox. And so it was that she left us to cavort about in a bikini on some godforsaken Fijian island looking for clues to Cap'n Pugwash puzzles in the hunt for the eponymous buried treasure. Oddly enough Ms Fox ne Foskett played opposite Pieta Keating - who later joined the company as a producer (and who now works at MTV in London). Neither of these clever women won the prize. And I am not sure that anything other than minor, fleeting celebrity was the by-product.

Charlie Brooker, as ever, sums reality TV rather well in this clip: why you don't ever want to appear in a reality show.

Strong silent type

Yesterday I attended a small seminar at Massey University School of Design for students working on a master's degree this year. It was conducted by Mark Geard, a lecturer from Massey University in Wellington. His thesis was an enquiry into organic forms in typography. He discussed the background to the work and then showed us the font he developed as 'artifact' to explore his hypothesis. I immediately felt a great liking for it - which supported his argument that some design moves us. I know, it's a typeface, but what rings my bell might reasonably be expected to be different to you.

I could see an immediate application for it. I am about to redevelop my site WellSpring, which I have been operating since 2002 (a resource for people interested in wellness and personal growth), which has become a little shabby looking over time. It needs to be tidied up, refocused and given some new energy and direction - possibly a digitally distributed magazine version. So - work to be done.

I asked Mark what foundry was distributing Artemis. He told me it was Jack Yan & Associates - my friend Jack the polymath and I immediately placed an order.
It is installed and ready to go. I need to take a week out to redevelop the WellSpring site. Because it is not a core interest I expect I will sell it at some point this year.

The weather has turned into winter. I am glad I don't smoke cigarettes. The poor blighters who do have to stand outside to indulge their nasty little habit, but I can't help but feel a little compassion for them on a day like today.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Darkpx bright spot

You have to visit the very talented Karen Rubado's photoblog - DarkPx. She isn't a professional photographer but has a fantastic eye - sees things in a fresh way. I like that.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bit of a wheeze

The news that asthma may have been over-diagnosed and asthma medication correspondingly over prescribed in New Zealand should come as no surprise.

What is surprising is that the conditioned response to asthma like symptoms (mild-to-moderate asthma symptoms are, in fact similar to those of a cold) has been to dispense medicine and dispense with the possibility that more benign and less costly therapies might be more useful – at least as the first line of care.

Many people with respiratory conditions-including asthma have found that breath management techniques such as Buteyko can dramatically reduce the need for inhaler medicines (both preventers and relievers) but this option is all too rarely explored.

There is an anaemic culture in contemporary medicine that is driven by factors like the demand for immediate gratification by the patient (‘fix me now’), pressure on general practitioners to satisfy patients as ‘clients’ and pharmaceutical companies whose concern for the bottom line and market share creates the distraction that one medicine is better than another – rather than asking whether a costly, inconvenient and possibly dangerous medicine is necessary at all?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Winter & June*

I love architecture. Perhaps if I was more numerate I would have studied the craft. Or maybe it will be a second life career (by that I mean that here in my real life)? I came across this fascinating idea on the MocoLoco site.

Hanse Colani Roto house

It is a home with a very small footprint. The cylindrical pod in the centre houses the utility areas and the sleeping area.

As a working concept I like it a lot. it would be a sensational bach (if you're not a kiwi a quick lesson: a bach (pronounced batch) is a holiday house, traditionally simple, though thesedays becoming gentrified - if you ever feel the need to visit this country and would like to stay in a bach try my friend Simon Morgan's website bookabach).

The cool thing is that the concept has got me wondering about how it could function on a slightly larger and more practical scale for families.

Lovely documentary on TV1 tonight Here to stay, fronted by Jackie Clarke. Felt my Scottish ethnicity and culture acknowledged for the first time ever (we arrived in 1966). I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the series - I hope it will be released on DVD.

Reminded me of my father, who died last year.

Lang may yer lum reek.

*Billy Connolly joke - Scotland has two seasons - winter...and June.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Out of Africa

Ricky Gervais has a way of giving topics a surprising new spin - and this is no exception:

I have been thinking about the recent noises by the New Zealand Maori Party regarding their 'customary rights' to New Zealand's fresh water supply.

I find it odd that, in a supposedly secular country, one segment of the population is given the lever of exaggerated supernaturalism to exert economic pressure of the majority of New Zealanders.

Taking the risk of being considered a bigot (I'm not, I believe strongly in equal opportunities for all and my daughter is of partly maori descent) I'd like to see the end of cockamamy, divisive claims to resources.

Likewise observing the concept of the 'crown' is antiquated, vile and based on supernatural beliefs (why do you accept that the children of Charles Windsor and Diana Spencer are 'superior' to yours or mine by birth ?). Eliminate fealty to the English monarchy and the Treaty of Waitangi will be voided - which explains maoridom's love of royalty.

My family migrated here from Scotland to escape this sort of rot.

Republic Now!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

If it works, it’s obsolete*

I spoke at the AUT Breakfast Club yesterday morning. Remind me never to agree to early morning functions again. My topic was ‘Why the creative economy is the sustainable economy’

I’d had a technology meltdown. The hard drive on my desktop machine blew up. I lost a ton of material (including the original plans and designs for Idealog) – and my speech.

I was speechless.

So Thursday night was a late one and Friday morning an early one. I thought these kinds of gigs were behind me.

Nonetheless the session went well and I enjoyed myself. I have made a note never to present from a written speech again. It seems curiously pointless. If you know the material well enough to write it, surely you know it well enough to work from a few notes. That way it is easier to engage the audience with a more genuine sense of personality.

When I began teaching at Massey I would go for two and half hours based on 5 bullet points. It was exhausting but fun. I didn’t realise until I complained to a colleague about how tiring it was being ‘on’ for so long that I learned that I was supposed to lecture for an hour and tutor for and hour and a half. My poor students.

After the talk I enjoyed meeting some of the audience who had stayed to chat after – ranging from a bright, ambitious student to an associate professor of business.

Felt perked up after, walking to my car I realised it was still only 8.30 in the a.m.

Did I mention remind me not to agree to early morning gigs. Perhaps I should have showed up in flannel pjamas, dressing gown and slippers with bed hair. (Damn, why didn’t I think of that before?)

*Marshall McLuhan

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Get your gear off

I rather like this ad for Levis. It marries tradition with an unselfconscious contemporary feel. I guess jeans have been around as long there have been young people who want to take them off.

If you know what the music is...?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Brand Gap

Great presentation for anyone even remotely interested in brands.

I like the slideshare concept too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Heartbreak Hotel

Since I attended Kevin Roberts' media presentation of his book Lovemarks I have felt admiration for his chutzpah and disquiet about aspects of the Lovemarks brandstory that I still feel today.

What prompts this post is a video on the Advertising Age website where Mr Roberts fesses up to what everyone in the advertising business has known all along. Lovemarks was the credentials pitch for his agency that you bought from

I don't have any issue with that - David Ogilvy's books preceded Roberts by a long chalk. I remember reading a conversation with Ogilvy where it was put to him that Ogilvy on Advertising, with its recipes and rules, gave the secrets away. Ogilvy, the shrewd Scot replied 'Do you really think they will do it for themselves?" - or words to that effect.

Of course Ogilvy was right. Client's don't want to do their own advertising creative - but I wonder how many ad presentations have come a cropper because the client would ask a question of the executional style where it did not conform with the Ogilvy mantra.

I wonder how many clients have read the Lovemarks Riot Act to their agencies?

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

i Robot

For those of you who imagined that you would have a personal robot by now (never mind that, what happened to the flying car you promised me!?)-check out the range available at LockWasher Design

Concrete proof that the Internet can be a big waste of time (if you want it to be).
Personally I find it stimulating and can rationalise the time wasting with the argument that I get paid to be creative. Creativity s about joining new things together in interesting new ways; therefore interesting new things introduced into the mix and joined in interesting new ways is excellent use of time.

People who keep their noses pressed to the grindstone without coming up for oxygen end up depleted and with flat spaces where their noses used to be.

Footnote: Watching Norbit will come to no good

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pjotro and his musical suit

This guy has gone to a lot of trouble. He deserves your attention.

I visited with my friend Geoff Peacock today. Geoff bought my business in the mid-nineties and was a paragon of direct marketing before cashing up to become a property developer. He wanted to show me the home in Parnell that he has virtually finished building.

Geoff does his own labouring. I respect that and his pride in the finished job. When you invest of yourself and not simply plough cash into a project it shows. We talked in the sun for two hours and agreed to play a game of golf. Don't get me wrong-I'm not a golf guy, but I like his company. His partner Sarah is the managing director of Healtheries. Geoff proudly recounts his role as 'house husband', not just building it, but taking care of all of the support roles and loving it.

He's a hunting, fishing outdoorsman and I'm keen to introduce him to my mate Mark Hindmarsh - whose idea of fun is sitting in the wet and cold and waiting for a flight of ducks to appear in range overhead...

...which brings me full circle.

It takes all sorts.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Testing times

I just took an online test - similar to the infamous Myers-Briggs test so much loved by HR departments. The result is as follows:

ESTP - "Promoter". Action! When present, things begin to happen. Fiercely competitive. Entrepreneur. Often uses shock effect to get attention. Negotiator par excellence. 4.3% of total population.
Take the Jung Personality Test yourself

These tests fascinate me. I have a client who is a change management consultant. He offers a similar proprietary tool - which he has used on me - I find it interesting how such insights can be so uncannily accurate. Or are they? Is the effect something like a horoscope? If it suits and is favourable then it is acceptable if not, it is refuted.

The only time in my working life I have been through a formal pre-employment process was at Lion Nathan. They are much admired for their HR policies. But it was charade. I flunked the rigorous mathematical tests. So I promised not to prepare their annual reports. As I had been invited to take the job of Creative Director for their online brands in New Zealand and Australia and there were no other candidates, the whole thing was quite funny.

How much of this is hocus-pocus?

They're a weird mob

I just watched this ad on TV. "Where the bloody hell are you?".

It interests me how Australia presents itself to the world - any country for that matter. My thesis is about nation branding. While I appreciate the clarity of positioning for a mass market and the commercial does a very good job of it, it also reinforces stereotypes and cliches. Along the way it commits the sin of omission - real cultural diversity is ignored as is a sense of reality. In a way it is a mirror image of the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign - and almost every other nation brand advertising campaign.

Having worked on the Australian Tourism account it also interests me that the strategy for the campaign before this one was based on the premise that Australia had become a bromide - too well known to the extent that visitors felt they had done everything that there was on offer; the theme imposed by Canberra was 'See Australia in a new light'

Maybe after a while you can't fight the narratives you have constructed over a long period of time. I wonder how Nino Culotta feels about it all?

You might notice something different

I have removed the Amazon boxes from the footer of my posts. They weren't working and get in the way of the communication. I am happy to recommend products that I have used or read - word of mouth is a powerful tool, but maybe commercialism can just be too tacky when it is so 'in your face'.

I guess, being data, they slowed down the connection too. This afternoon the Melbourne Grand Prix kicked off the 07 season. It will be interesting to see if Ferrari can have a better year and whether it will seem different without Michael Schumacher? The point I was going to make is that, in F1, the theory goes that if a part doesn't break - it's too heavy. In the pursuit of speed weight is shed. In design the same is true. It is not a matter of how much you can put into a design (or communication) that matters - it is how much you can take away in the interests of making your point.

Life explained

So,…now you know.
(found during a randomised trawl via

Lazy Sunday

It is Sunday. the weather is very, very gloomy. Winter is on its way (or at least summer is in retreat).

I have just installed a plug in to my Firefox browser called Stumble (a recommendation by Philip Slade, a member of my Ziki community in the UK). You choose the topics that interest you. When you click the Stumble button in the browser toolbar it randomly goes to a page that might be of interest. Users vote on the site's via a sort of 'love it or shove it' tool. I have had a few go's and only come up with one dull (though beautifully executed page).

So far this has been my favourite:

One other tool I have been playing with is the Web TV utility called Joost which is in Beta. You can watch MTV shows, some National Geographic, the car show 5th Gear and a bunch of other stuff I have yet to figure out. Who knows what it is doing to my bandwidth consumption. I think you can sign up as a Beta tester (though if you need an invitation just drop me a line).


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sticki Wicki

I have just started a Wiki (well a few really). Who'd have thought? I have a feeling that creating collaborative tools is going to have an enormous impact on the way we do business (or even simply explore ideas). I love the idea that 'none of us is as smart as all of us'.

So the first is here. KiwiBrands. I have only put up one page. If you are interested in becoming a contributor or editor - contact me.

I was supposed to be going to a master's seminar about writing research proposals this morning, but I have so much work to do this weekend that I'm skipping it. And I want to make time to check out Red Square - the free space for performance at the Auckland 07 festival. I have always wanted to go to the Speigeltent (see picture above), assumed it would always be packed out, but hey...if you don't go, you don't know.

Listened (again) to an interview between the planners Jon (Perfect Pitch) Steel and Russell Davies. I heard something that I had missed before, a remark about Mikael Barishnikov's dance teacher. Apparently he had but two pieces of advice for the young dancer:

1) Don't fall down.
2) Get up.

The painter Jane Puckey showed me a work she has just finished the other day. Jane paints iconic New Zealand plants and landscapes. She is self taught. I was looking through her photographic record of her works since she began (2002?, must check that). It was nice back then. Now it stunningly accomplished. I am going to have to save up to buy something. In the meantime I can enjoy her work in her annual calendar.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Campaigning for 'real' beauty

This week there was some discussion about the Dove campaign in my advertising class at Massey University. It surprised me that the message aroused indifference amongst most of the young women in my class.

The campaign has, by all accounts been a great success for the brand. But 'The campaign for real beauty' is not without its critics.

One of the most interesting points of view is that the message has simply been created with the sole purpose of creating profits for the parent company, rather than expressing an authentic point of view. To support the argument Slate, the online magazine, points out:

Dove's appeal to righteous sisterhood is just another flavor of marketing. And it's not particularly grounded in reality. Are we meant to believe that Unilever, the company that makes Dove, is a force for good? How to reconcile this notion with the ads for another Unilever product, Axe (Lynx in NZ) body spray, in which nearly every woman shown is a skinny, fashion-model-gorgeous nymphomaniac?

Surveying the beauty advertising in fashion magazines shows the Dove campaign is very much in the minority. One point of view, and common advertising dogma, proposes that when competitors 'zig' the thing to do is 'zag'. Become the antigen, the antidote...the uncola.

The last word goes to Slate again:

There's a reason advertising in the beauty industry is almost always aspirational (Oh, if I buy this, I'll look more like the stunningly beautiful woman in the ad?). I would love to think that, with the help of these Dove spots, women will forget all about society's unfair beauty standards and simply aspire to feel good about themselves. That would be wonderful. But I find it hard to believe that Dove has actually reversed a lot of powerful instincts that are deeply rooted in the human psyche. Down the line a little—when the buzz has faded from Dove's social statement as sales pitch—I think we'll begin to see some skinnier, hotter women slipping into their advertising.

Well, maybe not the last word...on the Lovemarks site I note that the thing that most of the women who left messages about Dove as a 'lovemark' like most is...the products. Maybe hype is just that at the end of the day.

This is it

Tom Peters might rub some people up the wrong way, but that is ok. He's a brand and great brands have the people who love them and the people who don't (or worse). Great brands have great stories. Great stories have protagonists and antagonists. I like to think of The Lord of the Rings as an example. If Frodo and Sam had jumped on the Number 10 bus to Mt Doom, chucked the ring into the abyss, then headed for home in a taxi (feeling that their efforts deserved a small reward), then it wouldn't be much of a story. Great stories have someone who wants something and someone else who wants to stop them from accomplishing it - another day in the Dilbert office.

But anyway, I was flipping through a PowerPoint presentation of Mr Peters' when I came across this remark:

A single day can have as much legacy as a lifetime. In fact it had better be the case! Why? Because the day stretching out before me...filled (at the moment) with limitless all I have!

Does that resonate with you too?

Visit Tom Peters' web site

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Patience Grasshopper

Following from my previous post...

A certain Samurai had a reputation for impatient and hot-headed behaviour. A Zen master, well known for his exceptional cooking, decided the warrior needed to be taught a lesson before he became any more dangerous. He invited the samurai to dinner.

The samurai arrived at the appointed time. The Zen master told him to make himself comfortable while he finished preparing the food. A long time passed. The samurai waited impatiently. After a while he called out: "Zen Master, have you forgotten me?"

The Zen master came out of the kitchen. "I am very sorry" he said "Dinner is taking longer to prepare than I had thought. He went back to the kitchen.

A long time passed. The samurai st growing hungrier by the minute. At last he called out, a little softer this time:"Zen Master, please - when will dinner be served?"

The Zen master came out of his kitchen. "I'm sorry. There has been a further delay. It won't be much longer." He went back into the kitchen.

A long time passed. Finally, the samurai couldn't endure the waiting any longer. He rose to his feet, chagrined and ravenously hungry. Just then the Zen Master entered the room with a tray of food. First he served miso shiru (soy bean soup).

The samurai gratefully drank the soup, enchanted by its flavour. "Oh, Zen Master," he exclaimed, this is the finest miso shiru I have ever tasted! You truly deserve your reputation as an expert cook!"

"It's nothing," replied the Zen Master modestly,"only miso shiru."

The samurai set down his empty bowl. "Truly magical soup! What secret spices did you use to bring out the flavour?"

"Nothing special," the Zen Master replied.

"No, no-I insist. The soup is extraordinarily delicious!"

"Well, there is one thing…"

"I knew it!" exclaimed the samurai, eagerly leaning forward. "There had to be something to make it taste so good! Tell me–what is it?"

The Zen Master softly spoke: "It took time," he said.

From The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff

Great ads are the last thing we do

Differentiating between an idea and its execution can be tough. Explaining the difference can he harder still. I find it interesting to listen to students selling ideas for ads. Universally they will say - "this is my idea" then proceed to explain what is on the page, where things will go and how they will look.

At the heart of an idea is some kind of insight. It is the moment of truth for a brand. In some cases the product has a clear point of difference. In most it doesn't. The insight come from some understanding of how the user feels about the product or how they relate to it. What it all means.

For kids in their early twenties it is hard to empathise with the entire spectrum of human feelings. Some are more empathetic than others. Empathy is the single characteristic that marks out a great advertising creative. Some might argue that craft skills such as design and art direction or copywriting are the most valuable assets. Those things can be taught and emulated, but without empathy and insight into how other human beings think and feel you will only have slick, cynical renderings.

I don't remember which agency said this (Chiat Day, The Campaign Palace?...) but...:

Great ads are the last thing we do

The long and short of it

When there is no limit to the amount of space available - why not fill it?
I was reading Russell Davies column in Campaign magazine. Well, not in Campaign but on his blog. In it he discusses the differences between writing copy for a blog and for print. He raises many interesting points. It strikes me that the most significant difference is the lack of inhibition there is when writing a blog. When I write my column for Idealog it is constrained to 500 words. If there were fewer my editor would probably ask me for more. Or ask someone else. Without the copy the page would be empty. Too many words and there wouldn't be enough room. Interestingly, in part, these are design issues. The content affects the presentation of the magazine.
In a blog design is irrelevant. Content is the only thing that matters - even more true if you are reading an RSS feed. Blog sites like Blogger, WordPress and Vox offer free, simple templates that can be used in minutes. It doesn't seem to matter that my site's design is exactly the same as millions of others. In a curious way it is refreshing; you can filter out 'design' issues and concentrate entirely on content.

Russell also shows a photo of a sign he has encountered and offered a surgical improvement to it, referring us to his inspiration a blog entry about Saatchi & Saatchi creative director Simon Dicketts' technique of covering words in headlines with a finger to determine if they are absolutely necessary.

This seems to be a common thread in some of the blogs I routinely visit. Guy Kawasaki reprinted in full an article by George Orwell on matters of style when writing which created a storm of approval in his comments.

I guess with so much blog content available there comes a time when neurotic rambling isn't going to cut it anymore. We compete for attention with an infinite amount of content. The rules of good communication really should apply.

Which reminds me of an excellent little publication from Ogilvy & Mather called "How to Write Better". Must dig it out.

All talk

I am speaking at the AUT alumni Breakfast Club next Friday. My topic is "Why the Creative Economy is the sustainable economy".

Am I right?

I hope you can come along to find out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Single minded proposition (in stereo)

A perfect example of interestingness. (via AceJet170)

Fashion has a new face

Ugly Betty has been popular with some viewers. Me, well, I watched the pilot but it's not for me. The UK's Channel 4 promo is entertaining (via BrandDNA) and reminds me of the weirdly watchable speed painting on YouTube.

Station idents and promos are big business, if they were sold at commercial rates they would be worth tens of millions of dollars. The channel branding business has facsinated me since working with Bill Peake, who was my business partner in BrandWorld. Bill had previously worked as Asia/Pacific sales director for the UK firm Lambie-Nairn who pioneered the art of the channel ident. LN were led by the visionary designer Martin Lambie-Nairn (a winner of the prestigeous D&AD President's award). I remember watching some of Bill's tapes for some of the European channels such as Arte and being hypnotised by the quality and invention of the imagery. One of the most striking features was the sound design. All of the elements would combine beautifully to capture attention and provide a bed for ever changing information.

The spots made me wonder about the idea of creating a brand without the usual linear narrative (or gags) that are the convention in advertising.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spare the rod, spoil the child?

The 'anti-smacking bill' introduced by Green MP Sue Bradford raises a number of issues (quite separate about the rights of parents to discipline their children and the rights of children to be safe from harm).

The parliament is split on the matter. It will be voted on in the house based on the conscience of each member.

The Maori Party are keeping their powder dry, refusing to commit and waiting to see what political advantage they can extract from either side. If the question is genuinely a question of moral conscience then, surely, the Maori party must already know their position.

Likewise Sue Bradford has said that she will withdraw the proposed legislation if there is any amendment to her bill that would specify what 'reasonable' force is. This is petty hubris. I beleive that, once legislation has passed its first reading in the house it should no longer be the prerogative of the bill's original author - instead it is subject to the democratic process.

Naughty parliamentarians - go to time out this minute.

Twisting by the pool

On Saturday I intended to go along to the Pasifika Festival. Instead I took my daughter along to a friends house where she swam in the pool and I made this moleskin doodle.
Some things are simply existential. This is one of them. Taking pleasure in simple things is an end in itself.

I've copied out an open letter by Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, after he was invited to address a UNESCO delegation (spotted in Adbusters magazine). After the revelation that Al Gore has a gigantic carbon footprint I thought the idea of trying to live in such a way that the message becomes a true message; not just a call for action, but action itself. was especially salient.

"Only collective awakening can help solve the difficult problems in our world like war and global warming...I will propose that UNESCO oranise a global no car day - a day when people refrain from using their cars, except in emergencies...UNESCO can promote this day around the world and use it as a means to educate and inspire collective awakening concerning the present environmental dangers facing all of us on planet Earth. I will suggest that UNESCO itself, from the director to the ambassadors and other members, try to live in such a way that the message becomes a true message; not just a call for action, but action itself. In our daily lives, we should each try to drive a car that doesn't pollute the environment, or ride a bicycle more often, or use public transportation. Every one of us can do something to protect and care for our planet. We should live in such a way that makes a future possible."

I'd add that buying less stuff might be a good idea.

Made Man

Interesting to see David Skilling (former Treasury economist) on Television this morning saying exactly what I have said in Idealog repeatedly and in this blog.

New Zealand firms need to detach themselves from the opinion that manufacturing products in New Zealand as a matter of some patriotic duty is a good thing. The manufucaturing sector has shrunk over the years and yet unemployment figures are consistently at their lowest since we had one of the most robust economies in the developed world. Manufacturing workers have been absorbed into service economies.

He rightly points out that where our energy needs to go is design and marketing.
Seems obvious. Worked for Dyson.

On another topic I found this cartoon describing web 2.0
Reasonably describes how baffling it can be at times.

Friday, March 09, 2007

So Suess me

Bob Dylan sings Suess
. A slightly surreal singing sensation. Ok, enough with the alliteration already. I found this artifact on the Rocketboom site (which I liked, but find the novelty is wearing can be a little too self conscious and errs on the cheesy side).

I like Bob Dylan. I didn't always like Bob Dylan. But he kind of grows on you. The video by Martin Scorcese No Direction Home was the turning point. (Apparently Scorcese never met Dylan - spot of trivia there for you).

In one of those convergent moments I also read a terrific article in the New Yorker about Dylan. Interesting quote:

The discrepancy between Dylan the interview subject and Dylan the musician is not an artifact of celebrity. It seems to have been part of the deal from the start. On most subjects that normal people talk about, Dylan seems either not to have views or to have views indistinguishable from everyone else.

The Suess site is kid of cool in a pointless (or point unknown) way. If you're a fan the music is obscure cool and corroborates another interesting point that signs off the article:

"90 percent of musicianship is phrasing, and the easiest way to appreciate Dylan's genius for phrasing is to listen to him, on bootlegs or on the late albums of traditional songs, perform songs that he didn't write-"Folsom Prison Blues", or "People get ready", or "Froggie went a courtin'".He gets it all. When my children were little, we used to have a cassette around the house of songs for kids by pop stars, n which Dylan did "This Old Man"("With a knick-knack paddywhack give the dog a bone). That performance had the weight of the world in it. I listened to it a hundred times and never got tired of it. You can refute Hegel, Yeats said, but not the Song of Sixpence."

...or "Green Eggs and Ham".

Just say no

I won't apologise.
Is there any way of stopping Julie Christie from licensing this (Fortune show) crap in New Zealand?

Jeff Archer makes an appearance in the clip.

The Wikipedia has this to to say about 'Lord'Archer (ex con)
On 17 September 2005 Archer was appearing at an event in Manchester for the tenth birthday of Kirsty Howard to raise money for the Francis House Children's Hospice. Someone shouted out "Monica". Archer looked up and had a bucket of cold porridge thrown over him. The culprit fled.

Bring back the guillotine for any pompous twat who imagines for one nano-second they are above you.

Ignorance is ...ignorance

I taught a class in advertising at Massey University today.

I showed the Apple 1984 commercial (amongst loads of others).
What shocked me was that the classic Ridley Scott directed commercial had no impact on my students.

They don't know what 1984 is, or what it meant in the context of, well, 1984.

The reason is that every single one of them was born after 1984.
They don't read. (Does that make them illiterate?)

So now 'big brother' means: reality TV show.

I despair.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Boob Tube Redux

As it's my blog I'll do what I want. And if that means filling it with video clips, be it.

Here are a couple of episodes of Charlie Brooker's Sideswipe that are so much better than anything you'll see on television in New Zealand tonight. I feel like filling the entry up with loads more but I'll respect your bandwidth and suggest you simply follow the trail back to You Choob, put your feet up and laugh yourself silly. If I have to play favourites I'd have to say his take on the Dragon's Den is 'up there'. You know...there.

It's a hard life

One minute you're on top, the next forgotten. Yesterday Guy Browning was the man of the match, today it's Charlie Brooker. He's also a columnist for the Guardian and seems to have a show on the BBC. I think he's the modern day Clive James (TV critic).

Here's his take on Jamie Oliver:

And men in advertising:

Watching 'Breakfast' on TVONE (weathergirl bringing you the weather live from the boatshow) I wonder where the cutting satire is in New Zealand life. Or maybe every 'breakfast' broadcast in the world is puerile at best and banal at worst.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Paper Pushing

I have a new literary hero. Though given that my last one was Jeremy Clarkson I'm not sure how much weight this one will carry with you.

Guy Browning is a columnist for the Guardian (a newspaper in the UK ((which is a little country to the west of Norway)). I took his book out of the library - a completely random choice - a book chosen by its cover.

I hope I have paraphrased his column enough to qualify for 'fair use'.

Guy Browning offers 20 top tips for surviving life in the workplace

1 Never offer to make coffee

2 Ignore all emails

3 Get yourself noticed

Getting ahead in business means getting noticed, but working hard makes you almost invisible. Therefore it's a lot better to work hard at getting yourself noticed. What senior management likes more than anything else is junior managers who show signs of initiative and volunteer to do things. Most of the reason for this is that the more junior managers volunteer to do, the less senior managers will have to do themselves. Of course, volunteering for things and doing things are two different matters. Once you have got the credit for volunteering for a project, it's best to get as far away as possible from the project before the work kicks in. The best way to do that is to volunteer for another project.

4 Remember that less is more

You would think that lazy people would form an inert mass at the bottom of an organisation. On the contrary they are found at all levels in business, right up to chair person. The reason for this is simple: when something goes wrong in business it's generally because someone somewhere has tried to do something. Obviously, if you don't do anything, you can't be blamed when it goes wrong. People who sit all day like a lemon, busily straightening paperclips, are therefore the only people with a 100% record of success, and with that sort of record, promotion is inevitable.

5 Treat appraisals as auditions for panto

....The secret is to mix criticism with recognition. For example: "You've made a number of mistakes Martin, but we recognise you made them because you are a total idiot."

6 Get up to speed with the jargon

What differentiates a business thought from a normal thought is that business thoughts have a "going forward" at the end of them going forward. It's also vital that you know that for the envelope to be pushed out of the box and through the window of opportunity, customers should first become stakeholders and then delighted beyond their expectations. In order to do this, top executives will go forward the extra mile while wearing the shoes of the customer. And remember, the customer is king (unless she is a woman).

7 Be nice to PAs

...Remember that for every senior executive on the golf course, there is a PA running the business back in the office.

8 Try not to upset anyone

9 Manage without bosses

The difference between a boss and a high street bank is that a bank sometimes gives you credit for things. ... There are also good bosses who lock themselves in their rooms, have five-hour lunches and leave you completely alone.

10 Steer clear of paper

11 Don't drink under the influence of work

Alcohol and business don't mix, which is why you really shouldn't bother with work if you like a drink. Excessive drinking at work makes you feel sociable, light-headed and confident. In other words, it makes you feel like you work in sales....

12 Dress up not down

Since the collapse of communism, dress-down Fridays have done more than anything else to impair the smooth running of capitalism...

13 Never answer a phone

14 Cycle to work

....Remember, it's no good sitting there in the world's smallest gap feeling all pleased with yourself if you can't open the door.

15 Refuse to go to conferences

Conferences are the business equivalent of going for a curry, in that everyone thinks having one is a fantastic idea, but you always end up drinking too much, talking rubbish and feeling sick for days afterwards...

16 Ignore consultants

A consultant is someone in business with an ego so large it takes more than one company to support it...

17 Find the right person

18 Leave networking to trawlermen

... in business they still say it's not what you know, it's who you know, which is a bit depressing when you have just completed 15 years of formal education. Networkers give you their card within the first 30 seconds of conversation. After about 20 minutes telling you how brilliant they are, ask whether they would like your card. Then return their own to them and watch them slip it straight back into their pocket.

19 Learn to recycle reports

20 Steer well clear of all meetings

...a tightly run meeting is one of the most frightening things in office life. These are meetings for which you have to prepare, in which you have to work and after which you have to take action. Fortunately, these meetings are as rare as a sense of gay abandon in the finance department.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

First the melody, then the words

I'm feeling a little retro. Paul Arden was a creative director for Saatchi & Saatchi in the 70s and 80s. He has written a small book that I recommend to my advertising students. It's not how good you are. It's how good you want to be.

Presentation tips from Paul Arden

"When we go to see a lecture, we generally go to see the speaker not to hear what they have to say. We know what they have to say. That's why we go see them.

How many speeches have you heard? How many of them can you remember?

Words, words, words.

In a song, we remember firstly the melody and then we learn the words.

Instead of giving people the benefit of your wit and wisdom (words), try painting them a picture. The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it.

And more importantly, they will remember you."

Paul Arden

Always leave room for the mouse

I thought that I had posted this before, but I can't find it on the blog.
It is an excellent presentation about 'Interestingness'.

Well worth watching if you have an interest in brands and communication.

There is a book that would make an excellent companion - A Smile in the Mindwit in graphic design

No blog is an island

Mike Hutcheson is one of the cleverest people I've ever met. He calls himself a serial start-up guy and with good reason, having been at least one of the driving forces behind ad agencies and creative businesses like Colenso, Hutcheson Knowles Marinkovich and his current gig The Lighthouse Ideas company. Hutch is an author, speaker and affable genius who has quite a way with words.

I received an email notification that his recently launched personal web site had a new blog entry. So, being neighbourly, I went for a visit. It was an amusing piece on why movies are better than opera. Not to much of a stretch to argue and less for most people to accept.

A couple of things about Hutch's blog: first, it doesn't seem to use blogging software but some kind of php source code - a content management system of some sort which makes it look very much like the content on the essay pages and secondly; I left a comment which remains unpublished which made me think about the etiquette of publishing blogs.

On the first point, blogging software tends to allow the blogger to join the 'blogosphere', I am just getting my head around that, but I decided not to maintain a static journal on my website for that reason - for some reason I like the little toolbar at the top of this page that says I am part of a community. No blog should be an island...

When someone leaves a message on my blog I quickly check it to make sure it isn't going to upset the horses with crude language or irrelevant links. But other than that I exert no editorial controls. It is not for me to decide to censor the opinions of others, even if they disagree with mine - perhaps especially if they dissent . I think that is a part of the communal aspect of blogging. One day a post will fire up readers to take the topic and run with it. I certainly hope so. To me that is part of the web 2.0 experience - the sharing of ideas in a dynamic environment where everyone is welcome to speak.

Of course my point about Hutch's blog not using some kind of proprietary, ring-fenced code may affect the second part - it might require a third party to authorise the comment - who knows? I think Hutch should commit to joining the blogosphere proper, he would be a brilliant addition and point of reference. His infectious humour would have a viral effect.

Check out SteamPunk magazine - free to download.

Moleskin Moments 2

Shostakovich, based on another drawing that took my fancy. I guess you could call it a derivative work...which is a timely reminder that, if you haven't already viewed it, you should watch the Lawrence Lessig FREE CULTURE presentation.

Which might or might not be a free association.

Monday, March 05, 2007

YogaBugs - stretching credibility

I watched the Dragon's Den on TV tonight. I was intrigued by the yoga product for kids called YogaBugs. The idea was good; the numbers were sound; the Dragons lined up to make offers to the slick, media friendly women behind the idea.

In the end the offers were turned down. The investors wanted 30% of the equity when 15% had been offered. 295,000.00 Euro was on the table. That is 570,051 NZ dollars.

YogaBugsWhen the women left I couldn't help but feel they never really wanted the money.
The business was in good shape, cash flow was positive, there was market interest in the product and the timing was right. The women were very well schooled on presentation techniques. Their 15 minutes of fame were crucial (in my opinion) to getting what they wanted - and it wasn't investment from the panel of Dragons.

I guess the show rates quite well in the UK. It has come back for another season and is licensed around the world - we've seen the Australian and New Zealand versions. If you click on the newspaper article you should be able to read the copy - at the end of the story is the comment that the women couldn't believe their 2 and a half hour presentation was condensed down to 12 minutes of airtime...Um...hello...? The media value of that time must have been hundreds of thousands of Euro if it had been bought on the spot market for ads. Turning the Dragons down created a secondary media interest and offered them a good psychological position from which to negotiate in private with other investors. Because the brand was quite well established the risk of leaking the concept into the public domain (yoga for kids is not protectable) it was a winning strategy that I can't believe wasn't preplanned. Let's not kid ourselves otherwise.

As a footnote I don't think there has been 12 minutes of airtime devoted to the humanitarian Crisis (read genocide) in Darfur on all of New Zealand's free to air broadcast TV channels put together in the past month.

Citizen Media

I think it is important that some things are discussed. If they aren't discussed then at least thought about. If not thought about then known. This is one of them.

Moleskin Moments

A friend gave me a Moleskin brand sketchbook at Christmas. I've been doodling little portraits in it (working from random images in newspapers and magazines, rather than keen observation...). This picture is from a portrait of Emily Barclay the young actress who played in In My Father's Den - one of the best films I have ever seen.

Simply You Live

A project I worked on has just gone live - Simply You. Developed strategy and briefed designers in January, so a pretty good effort in a short time frame. There were some interesting twists in the process but working with clients is never linear, or exactly what you might expect in the beginning.

I worked with Paula Ryan on developing the Simply You brand back in 1996. Since then she has created a successful publishing venture - a fashion magazine and a 'living' mgazine that are as luxe as you'll find anywhere in the world. Paula has also created a fashion range that, by all accounts, is doing very well. She is a legend.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Make a name for yourself

I once owned a business called Milk Moustache. (Branded Communications since quarter past two). It was 1991 and I had left my job as creative director at Young & Rubicam in a huff and decided to do my own thing for a while. I needed a business bank account so I needed a business entity. The only name that I ever considered was Milk Moustache. It had no significance, other than conjuring up a feeling of warmth and comfort - or maybe innocence. The internet did not exist so it was not motivated by the 'startup' craze of mad business names developed to create memorable a URL (RedCactus, BlueTuna etc).

I was able to conjure up some business, my former client, Allied Liquor Merchants gave me a premium, boutique beer project, the Foundation for the Blind wanted help to promote Braille Day. There were others but 91 was so long a go I forget. It was a fun time. Metro magazine named me Auckland's 'Hot' Creative Director in their 10th anniversay review of what was 'hot'. The reality was probably that I was not. But it did no harm to awareness of Milk Moustache.

I ran a full page ad in the trade listing magazine (agencies and clients) featuring an image of the Mona Lisa cropped tight. Alvin Pankhurst, the award winning uber-realist painter, painted a milk moustache on her. The headline said: Put your name on everybody's lips. I had post rationalised the name with a spot of post modernist appropriation. I don't remember ever receiving a call from the ad, except from advertising people wanting to come work for Milk Moustache.

Once I was cornered at an industry function by an older gentleman who had one too many glasses of wine, or at least one more than me, he was outraged for some reason that I had the temerity to name my company Milk Moustache. He had spent his life trying to get the business community to take advertising seriously.
"Don't you think Milk Moustache is a silly name?..."
"What and Wight Collins Rutherford Scott Mathews Marcantonio isn't a silly name?" I replied "And, besides, if I had a receptionist it would be easier to say when the phone rang."

The business did quite nicely, making money, winning awards and providing me the sort of freewheeling lifestyle I prefer. At the Axis awards that year (whose name I have always thought awkward - in a sort of Don't Mention the War-ish way) Saatchi & Saatchi were cleaning up. The crowd at the award presentation dinner were past being uncharitably bored. The evening was becoming a shambles as attendees felt the only proper response was to amplify their alcohol uptake dramatically. When the categories my ads were finalists in were announced (A poster for the foundation for the blind - showing a guide dog - or rather not showing a guide dog, instead it was a blind embossed illustration with the headline 'We See Life Differently and a companion TV commercial "You see a cute puppy...we see a world of possibilities...")...the crowd erupted when the winner wasn't Saatchi & Saatchi. It was pandemonium. During the long walk to the podium I felt like Ceaser returning from some conquest. Never underestimate the power of release from the norm. And never underestimate how much fun it is to hear your name being called after the words "...and the winner is..."

Especially if that name is Milk Moustache.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Frank Gehry build up...

Ok, expression of interest to begin with. I love Frank Gehry's buildings. Who would have thought that an architect would have fans? Most of the architects I have met, with one notable exception, have been essentially dull people. The technicalities of their profession seem to overwhelm them and drain their character.Some make up for it with mad, Philip Johnson glasses (pictured) and turtlenecks. But enough! This is about the movie I saw this afternoon in the smallest cinema I have ever been in (other than an airline seat).
The picture was called Sketches of Frank Gehry. It was the work of Sidney Pollack, actor turned director. He is a personal friend of his subject. The film is shot on DV - so I suppose it's not a film at all. But that is petty.
I was surprised by Gehry. He came across as an affable elderly man. I found it hard to believe such iconoclastic work as his could emerge without a certain level of scrappiness. Perhaps his stature in the global culture means he is reluctant to allow idiosyncracity show through in public. But maybe the friendship between Gehry and Pollack was such that his good nature was predominant.
I wanted my son to come with me to the screening, but what red-blooded teenager wants to spend a Saturday afternoon in an art theatre watching a movie about an old guy - an architect f'cryingoutloud! Now that I have seen it I wish he had come with - if only for the bit where he describes the hardships he encountered when he moved to LA with his father.
If you get the chance to see this film I recommend it. There were moments when I felt genuinely moved by his work such as the part about the place designed pro-bono as an informal space for people with cancer to retreat and reflect (Maggie's Place). Maggie was the wife of Charles Jencks, (architect, writer), she died from cancer.

"Informality, non-institutionality and a certain amount of humor and places for reflection are very important. It's a very nice place to get up and look out over the landscape. That's terribly important for the cancer sufferers, to see their illness in a context which is bigger than themselves."

Maybe the scale of the place, the cancer connection (my son's mother died of cancer when she was 29) and that it was built in Scotland (where I was born) affected me?

Or maybe great architecture, like all great art just has the power to move?

Who would have thought that I would dream of visiting a remote Spanish port town?
Bilbao is a wonder of the modern world.

Planning not to plan

I once read about a military man who said that planning was absolutely essential, but once on the battlefield you should throw your plan away. That might sound absurd, especially if you are the sort of person who prefers things to be completely premeditated. The problem with premeditation is that it murders spontaneity.

My son plays cricket for his school on Saturdays, he is a useful opening batsman and routinely takes his share of scalps when bowling. This morning I dropped him off at the field (I have to admit that I can't watch cricket,… 'mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun') and decided to return home by a different route, past the beach at Takapuna. The scene was idyllic; perfectly calm, sun sparkling on the water, people promenading along the sand. All in all a reminder of how lucky I am to live in Auckland. Which is not to say I don't like London, Paris and New York - they are wonderful places for different reasons. But this is a kind of paradise and one that I enjoy.

Having experienced the mood elevation of a stroll on the beach I made a terrible mistake. I bought the New Zealand Herald and was regaled with page after page of the disgusting story of the infamous police rapists.

And so it goes. Even paradise has its problems.

Chicken Feat

It is Friday night. A thrilling one in front of the telly.
Found an amusing little site - Savage Chickens

Like I said. A quiet night in.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Loaded magazines

When the internet arrived I was gobsmacked. It seemed to me to be what we had all been waiting for. Like the guy in Fight Club said "it was on the tip of everybody's tongue and now it had a name". I bought into the idea that the internet changes everything. So smitten was I that I sold my stake in BrandWorld, the business I started in 1996 with William Peake and Greig Buckley, Bill ended up with ownership of the business and the Family Health Diary product I created became a multi-million dollar success - the biggest advertising brand on New Zealand TV. I may have backed the wrong horse in the short term but I am convinced that the end game will belong to the web and TV reliant advertising services will become as irrelevant as the products promoted. Relevance will be the key. It has made Google a mammoth brand in very short order - I think it launched in 1998 - and has become so ingrained in our culture that the proper noun has become a verb. Have you googled someone or something?

However, I want to talk about digitally distributed magazines, not the web specifically. I have fallen for the reader. It is software that you download to your computer, then subscribe to various mainstream and niche magazines.The magazine is downloaded to your computer and you read it on screen or print the pages you want.
You are automatically notified when there is a new edition. The aesthetic is modeled on a magazine, page turns etc. Like a magazine it is non-linear - you can flip through to the section you want. Unlike a magazine you can view interactive material - from an advertiser's video to a demonstration of how to perform a yoga move safely.

Zinio is brilliant. get it and play with it. See how you ideas change about using media. I have just read VIV, a women's magazine that is the first specifically designed for the digital format-there is no print edition.

Having developed a magazine (Idealog) I understand the difficulties, in spite of that I am going to develop a digital magazine for a niche audience. There will be no issues (if you'll pardon the pun) with economies of scale - printing on paper is very expensive (as is distributing it). Of course content becomes the mopst significant investment and convincing advertisers that a new approach will succeed is another.

But, if all else fails, at least the carbon footprint will be small.

If you are interest in exploring this and getting involved send me an email

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Naked Activism

Peta have a radical view of the world. Or so it seems now. Perhaps one day they will be the establishment. Stranger things have happened.

I was interested in this communication because it unequivically makes its point, but also engages in a user-friendly way. The traditions of shock and horror - blood splattering and confrontation wear thin over time. The audience becomes immunised from response, desensitised to the message. The same is as true for driver safety campaigns as it is for public health issues like AIDS/HIV.

Before you watch, I warn you that this video contains full frontal nudity. It's your choice to watch or not.

Watch more PETA videos at

Perhaps to get your message across you need to lay yourself bare.
Though I am not sure I am ready for Al Gore's revelations and I wonder whether it is any worse exploiting vulnerable young women than it is to feed and clothe populations with animal products.

It's hard making moral choices, ...isn't it.

P.S. I thought naming the PETA blog Petafiles a little curious.