Tuesday, May 29, 2007

When X meets Why?

Well, here’s a first.
Blog number 450 is being written not online but in MS Word.
Feels kind of weird.
“But why?” you ask. (I can intuit these things).
It’s simple really.
I pay Xtra sixty bucks a month and they provide me with slow, unreliable service.
I’d like to know ‘why’?
I don’t understand a transaction that goes something like this:
I give you $719.40 a year; you blow it on a barrage of existential commercials: a girl, a boy, a soundtrack, a kiss – all in service of the ‘idea’ that incredible things happen when X meets Y.

Clever eh?
X for Xtra, Y for Yahoo…I get it.
What I don’t get is access to the Internet. A.K.A. : Service.
The thing is that we’re not talking about a little player. Xtra, for those of you who didn’t know, is owned by Telecom, you may have heard of them.

Seems to me when gigantic gets it horribly wrong it’s, …well, pathetic.

Remind me to buy a share so I can have some curled up sandwiches and the opportunity to curse the board of directors in person – maybe get a discount too.

When you create advertising hold this thought:

What’s in it for me?

I’m your customer.

By the way the new Telecom mobile commercials are lame – they seem to have lost their way big time. Can someone unravel the bunny.

Give the account to Lowe, they did such a great job with Vodafone (who, if the Telecom ads were any good, would be having the arses kicked. Thank goodness for rubbish ads eh?).

Said ‘eh’, or something like it twice.

But I am not Canadian.

Footnote: I rather like how Telecom announce on their helpline that ‘some Telecom customers may be unable to connect…’(I figured that. How? Because I can’t connect to the Internet!)…but then they add the kicker “Check your modem…” i.e. It could be your fault, even though we know it’s ours. Seeding doubt is terrific strategy if you’re up for murder…but in this scenario how about you just give me an estimate of when you’ll be back online. I have a client waiting for a site to go live.

Monday, May 28, 2007

When are you going to stop drinking and driving?

The Police say that the public are ignoring the drink driving messages in the LTSA commercials.
The interesting thing is that the police made their announcement after a roadside blitz that caught a high number of alleged offenders. This then somehow translates into more people are drink driving inspite of the messages, rather than the more we police the more we find. Therefore...if we policed more we'd catch more. It doesn't seem to follow that the numbers have anything to do with the messages.

I doubt that advertising is the answer to changing community attitudes. Behavioural change precedes attitudinal change (according to the theory of cognitive dissonance).

I did think the commercials in this series from Canada were hard hitting - if you will pardon the pun.

I'm a man not an animal...

What do you get when you cross Spiderman with Ganesha? A funky picture (thanks to Kevin Roberts blog). A connection Kevin doesn't make in his commentary is that in the Hindu religion Ganesha is patron of arts and sciences, god of intellect and wisdom - Lord of Obstacles and Beginnings - a literally creative force. The other aspect to conjoining him with Spiderman is that Ganesha is always part human, rather than being an elephant god - so no great conceptual leap for Hindu's to make (they probably don't apply a post-modernist filter to it).

I just thought the idea/image was kind of surprising and interesting.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Kind of Cool

Big nostalgia trip on the tele tonight.

A doco about Th'Dudes on TVOne.

For those of you who don't know, Th'Dudes were, at their peak New Zealand's greatest band. And a great band they were too.

I feel a little guilty, having watched the show. I used to finagle my way into Th'Dudes shows at the legendary Gluepot even though I was far too young - shorter and skinnier than Dave Dobbyn ever was (OK, maybe not).

I was there when the band was pelted with eggs at Sweetwaters. My friends may have pelted them with cans - or was that The Eurythmics? It was the beginning of my punk awakening - even though I had flirted with it by wangling my way into Zwines, the Punk Club downtown to watch the Suburban Reptiles after Punk had gathered momentum here in Auckland.

Ironically I heard the finale of Th'Dudes final gig at the St. James from outside on the street. I was walking a date back to her car.

We heard the last tune from outside, I think it was 'Bliss' bringing the house down. I think we'd watched an arty flick at the Academy cinema under the city library. The band rocked. The crowd went wild. And I went home with a smile on my face. Again.

As a footnote to the documentary: it was nice to see Hammond Gamble at the beginning of the documentary. I must have seen Street Talk's final live concert about five times. THEY were my favourite band before I changed sides. NZ's version of Rory Gallagher - maybe better though.

Feeling nostalgic...maybe a little.

Ironic that Ian Morris of Th'Dudes is also author of Stupid Ad (which I posted about the other day).

Well done that man....

Russell Davies has a terrific blog which I have referred to often (though I preferred it before he disintegrated it from his personal life - what's wrong with whole people).
It was fun to see that he got a mention in the tony Auckland city magazine of record Metro; in their Digital Stimulation section

Go to the movies with Helen Medlyn

Helen is a fantastic performer.
Grab some tickets from Ticketek.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

WellSpring has sprung (again)

I've spent the past week sprucing up WellSpring the website about wellness practices. The site was looking a bit like a shanty town; bits and pieces added in over time. I've published it since 2002 when I lived with a chiropractor.

Aside from the A-Z of practices (from acupressure to zero-balancing) I'm going to start including articles - if you have any you'd like to contribute ...

I'm also looking for someone to liaise with practitioners...if you know anyone.

UnHappy Meals

I approve of the McDonalds pasta zoo snack for kids. My daughter enjoys it; though she tells me the sauce is 'disgusting'.

Along with the Happy Meal came a free sample of this new product from Watties. The Zoe test? Disgusting I'm afraid. She didn't like the taste or the mushy baby food texture.

I didn't like the excessive packaging. The heavy duty plastic cap for a small single serve seems grotesquely over the top. So, a single children's snack - about half a dozen animal shaped ravioli in a printed cardboard box, milk in a plastic cup (with lid) and straw with flavour beads, a paper bag, a set of plastic thongs, a plastic toy with with five components, plus stickers and a plastic outer.

All you people saving up for a Toyota Prius...don't waste your time. McDonalds has too much of a head start, just keep pumping gas into your Porsche Cayenne. What the hell, upgrade to the V12 and drive with the aircon on and the windows down.

No more happy meals.

A little less packaging please.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Stupid Ads

Its Friday, so a sigh of relief.

Came across a light hearted site by musician Ian Morris (a member of Th'Dudes). Worth a look. I couldn't agree more with most of his judgments - though I am surprised that there aren't more entries.

Stupid Ads

As I write there is a commercial on the tele that I think qualifies: "What does your toilet say about you?" How about "You should go easy on those curries squire...". Which reminds me of a pretty stupid ad I made years ago. I had a sports car I needed to sell so I ran an ad in the National Business Review with the headline" Quicker than a vindaloo through a pensioner." Didn't sell the car but I did field a number of calls from irate pensioners who vented their fury like, well, a vindaloo through a pensioner.

Another stupid ad on the tele, more of a promo really but I am heartily sick of the TVOne promos..."Blue Eyed sun...". Drivel.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Come to the edge 2

Further to my previous post; I came across a video of Kevin Roberts of Saatchi and Saatchi addressing a gathering in Wellington. His topic is along the lines of givng Wellington the edge.

Here's an extract that resonates with me and is consistent with the views I expressed last night, tinkering at the margins is not the same as going out to the edge. He refers to the campaign slogan of Labour at the last election - 'You're better off with Labour'. No doubt the creative genius who came up with that line felt pretty darned clever at his/her use of loaded double entendre but, in fact it is a poodle of a line that expresses a King Charles spaniel of an idea. It hardly makes you want to man the barricades. It reminds me of the line for some tourist destination or other who announced "It's all right here". Ummm...I think you get my drift.

"The conundrum is that Wellington is the capital city; “contentedness is a problem for a capital; where is the burning platform? The challenge for Wellington is to radicalize the public sector. I’m talking about the difference between policy wonk and policy passionista. We have to radicalize the culture of incrementalism. It’s time to light the beacons of Gondor. There needs to be a rebellion against the prevailing orthodoxy of civil service. To be successful, companies have to create organic growth of 4-6%, year in, year out. That takes creative combustion that travels to customers at warp speed. It’s important for New Zealand to have a peak performing government sector, because it comprises about 40% of our economic activity. This is Wellington’s #1 job. All along The Terrace there should be outrageous goals that absolutely lift performance. Strategies, reports, plans and platforms are survival table stakes. Action comes from the “I” words – Imagination, Insight, Intuition, Inspiration and Ignition. One revolution beats a hundred resolutions. It starts with language…all revolution starts with language. Wellington is The Heart of the Edge of the World. That’s a hell of a draw card…here where the world starts.”

The comment about 4-6% growth made me chuckle quietly in recognition. I recall sitting around a table with my partners in the Idealog venture discussing subscriptions.

Seasoned publishing tyro:"It would be good to have 5,000 subscribers."
Novice (me):"Why 5,000?"
Seasoned publishing tyro:"Because that's a good number - what Unlimited had at its peak."
Novice:(Channeling the great spirit of Leo Burnett: Reach for the stars and you won't come up with a handful of mud....)"Let's shoot for 15,000".

Mr Roberts speech is here
(uses some closed loop proprietary video - so can't embed, sorry).

The text version is here.

The Edge blog is terrific. I like it better than the site.

Stand for something

I have been thinking about politics in New Zealand.

The current balance of power is about 50/50. The consequence of that is interesting.
With such an even balance along traditional partisan lines there is an inevitable blurring of the edges. Either side will 'bat for the other team' along the margins.

National, in the Tory Blue corner will defuse Labour in the Soviet Red corner by agreeing with them on on matters such as the anti-smacking bill. Both sides get to 'win'- Labour permits the amendment's passage in an amended format that it can live with (bearing in mind the divisive original draft was the work of the Green's Sue Bradford) - embrace and distance at the same time. National force a tweaking of the proposed legislation that is about as significant as driving a Toyota Prius as your first line of defense against melting icecaps. Ultimately pointless, but at least you are seen to be doing something.

This is the new age of politics. The age of appeasement. Never doing anything that might alienate the 1-5% of the voting public who might determine your future.

In brand terms both Labour and National have become interchangeable. We have all become so culturally commoditised, homogenised by correspondingly bland correspondence from the mainstream media. Voters will be left to satisfice - chose the brand that rocks your world the least, rather than the most.

The great shame is that our leaders stand for nothing. We feel nothing about them. The great traditions of leadership seem to have been lost. Let's not forget that Churchill, Kennedy, Alexander the Great, Roosevelt, MJ Savage, ...pick an inspirational leader...each not only represented a constituency, they represented an idea and, importantly, they opposed something.

But trying to please everybody New Zealand's political leaders blend into a sloppy, pointless greyness that highlights nothing more than the swollen ranks of the bureaucracy.

I feel nothing about either side. When it comes to election time I won't be bored into submission and pecking away at the other side isn't going to convince me otherwise.

I was thinking about leadership and oratory when I came across this - the eulogy by Ted Kennedy for his bother Bobby (listen here if you like).

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Mr. President:

On behalf of Mrs. Kennedy, her children, the parents and sisters of Robert Kennedy, I want to express what we feel to those who mourn with us today in this Cathedral and around the world.

We loved him as a brother, and as a father, and as a son. From his parents, and from his older brothers and sisters -- Joe and Kathleen and Jack -- he received an inspiration which he passed on to all of us. He gave us strength in time of trouble, wisdom in time of uncertainty, and sharing in time of happiness. He will always be by our side.

Love is not an easy feeling to put into words. Nor is loyalty, or trust, or joy. But he was all of these. He loved life completely and he lived it intensely.

A few years back, Robert Kennedy wrote some words about his own father which expresses [sic] the way we in his family felt about him. He said of what his father meant to him, and I quote: "What it really all adds up to is love -- not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it." And he continued, "Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention. There were people who were poor and needed help. And we have a responsibility to them and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off."

That is what Robert Kennedy was given. What he leaves to us is what he said, what he did, and what he stood for. A speech he made to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966 sums it up the best, and I would like to read it now:

"There is discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere. These are differing evils, but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility towards the suffering of our fellows. But we can perhaps remember -- even if only for a time -- that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek -- as we do -- nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men. And surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again. The answer is to rely on youth -- not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to the obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. They cannot be moved by those who cling to a present that is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger that come with even the most peaceful progress.

It is a revolutionary world we live in, and this generation at home and around the world has had thrust upon it a greater burden of responsibility than any generation that has ever lived. Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills. Yet many of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation; a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth; a young woman reclaimed the territory of France; and it was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the 32 year-old Thomas Jefferson who [pro]claimed that "all men are created equal."

These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. *It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.* Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.

For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that event.

*The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.* Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live."

That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us.

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:

"Some men see things as they are and say why.
I dream things that never were and say why not."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Billboard Baggins

One of my students came up with the headline for a totally different idea - something to do with the organ donation brief I gave them (did you know that the total number of organ donations in New Zealand is about 20 per year?).

I was reading Simon Law's blog where he had posted this video:

Terrific idea - a billboard that responds to your presence...
I'm wracking by brains for a client that could use it. Have you ever seen the old gag where the figure in the mirror is out of sync with the subject...there has to be something in that?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ahoy - hungry like the wolf

This commercial for Old Spice lets rip some good, old fashioned post-modern irony. But, strangely, the agency (or client, it's hard to be certain which) insists on the inclusion of little mnemonic devices like 'Ahoy' being dropped in casually here and there. Ok, not so casually. And what's with the little whistle at the end all about.

All the same it's nice to know that it isn't just the Lynx/Axe guys who get the girls.

Not sure about the package design either - and why is your deoderant in the living room.

Thanks to Ana Samways' Spare Room blog for the link ...oh, and the information that the actor is Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead trilogy, Maniac Cop, Spider-Man cameos). I must have missed Maniac Cop (not to mention Manaic 2, 3). IMDB gave it a 5.5 and offers up the 'Memorable Quote": Frank McCrae: Gina this isn't about romance. It's about murder.

Ahoy indeed.

Open source living

Image what a harmonious world it could be if every person,
both young and old, shared a little of what he or she was good at doing.
Quincy Jones

Snake Oil and Venom

Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle is out of the Americas Cup. Team New Zealand suffered a loss to the Spanish - who are putting up quite a fight. It's getting exciting. Luna Rosa has been so convincing that whoever they face in the final will have to perform consistently well.

I noticed an interesting use of language in the newspaper this morning. The New Zealand and Australian governments plan to form a merged Therapeutic Goods Agency. Johnson & Johnson have released a comment that 1000s of products will disappear under the new regulation regime. Annette King, New Zealand's beleaguered advocate for the controversial legislation, is showing the strain of an assault on her beat. The Herald had this to say:

State Services Minister Annette King would not comment last night on Johnson & Johnson's claim but said there had been a huge amount of misinformation peddled about the legislation, which was aimed at shutting out "snake-oil merchants".

Quite how one can not comment while letting fly with a broadside - claiming that business that sell high SPF sunscreens and natural remedies are 'snake oil merchants' - is beyond me.

If you look at any government minister's website you will see a constant flurry of press releases making all sorts of rabid, ideological claims in support of their positions - not always rational or reasonable. But when cornered opposing views become 'misinformation' and this misinformation is 'peddled'.

One of the issues worth considering in the proposed merger (aside from creating a spectacularly cloddish regulatory impositions on small New Zealand business who will fold under the burden of compliance) is the fact that New Zealand opens the door to giving up sovereign rights to Australia. Decisions about the New Zealand economy will be made by faceless, unelected bureaucrats in Canberra.

Here's what Green MP Sue Kedgley had to say about the matter in Parliament:

Therapeutic Products & Medicines Bill: Appropriation Bill Debate - State Services Commission

13th March 2007

One of the oddities in this particular session of Parliament is that the Minister of State Services is responsible for the development of a proposed new agency called the Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Authority. This agency is all about regulating health issues�medicines, medical devices, and dietary supplements�so it should fall within the health portfolio, as it did for the previous 6 years. But presumably Annette King, the previous Minister of Health, felt that, having put so much effort into this authority, she wanted to bring it to a successful fruition herself, so she got that part of the health portfolio taken with her into the State Services portfolio. So within this Budget we had $1 million spent last year on setting up this new authority�altogether about $6 million of taxpayers� money has been spent. A whole army of officials have been travelling backwards and forwards between Australia and New Zealand and having endless little meetings setting up this agency and getting quite carried away about it.

Now, of course, we find that all these years and years of negotiation and all this expenditure and taxpayers� money could be for nothing, because it is rather looking as though the one thing Annette King forgot to do was ensure she had the numbers to pass the legislation. It is increasingly looking as if the Government could suffer an embarrassing defeat over the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill, with the announcement by Taito Phillip Field that he will not be supporting it. It looks as if it is dead in the water. But while the bill is still before the House I think there are a few things we need to examine about this odd agency that the Minister of State Services has spent so much of her time negotiating.

First of all, the authority is being called an offshore entity, but it is set up under Australian legislation�Australian corporate law�and is going to be headquartered in Australia. The Minister has refused me 6 years� worth of Official Information Act requests. I have asked for the minutes of the Ministerial Council about the decisions it has been making these 6 long years, and the Minister has refused all those Official Information Act requests. So much for democracy. But she did inadvertently give me one paper that stated there would be about 550 staff in the authority, 93 percent of whom would be Australian and 7 percent New Zealanders. I think that sums up what this authority is all about. It is 93 percent Australian, with a little clip-on of 7 percent New Zealand.

In this offshore authority there will be an unelected and unaccountable managing director who will have completely unprecedented and virtually unconstrained powers to issue orders that would have the effect of law in New Zealand without ever having to come before our Parliament. When the select committee examined the treaty that sets up this agency we pointed out that the Managing Directors powers were completely unprecedented. We examined the treaty and said: �Look, what is this odd provision? It says that the managing director shall not be responsible to the board for decisions made by the Managing Director in the performance of the agency�s regulatory functions. So this Managing Director will be able to issue orders about a huge range of subjects, will have the statutory delegated decision-making powers of the Minister of Health or of the Minister of State Services, but will not be responsible to the board for any of its decisions, so who will this Managing Director of this offshore entity set up under Australian law be responsible to? There are all sorts of alarming provisions in the bill that sets up the agency, including a provision that will give the new authority powers, again unprecedented powers, of search and seizure so that an agency official of this offshore entity would be able to come to New Zealand, enter and search a business in New Zealand without a warrant, and impose penalties of up to $5 million without having to go through a normal judicial process. This is an extraordinarily odd provision.

Some of these issues really need to be examined because they have constitutional and wide-ranging implications. A very heavy-handed regulatory regime is proposed, which inevitably will increase the cost of dietary supplements and traditional remedies, and also the public�s access to them. The problem is that if, for example, somebody wanted to use a traditional remedy�shall we say, a herb called kawakawa�and put it into a dietary supplement, but it was not on an approved list, that particular traditional remedy, and literally hundreds of traditional Chinese or Maori herbal remedies, would become illegal if they were not on the approved list once the agency was in place. They would not be able to be sold in New Zealand even if they had been safely used for centuries and approved by an overseas regulatory authority such as the American Federal Food and Drug Administration.

So this raises very serious issues. Why should New Zealanders have their access to traditional Chinese remedies, for example, taken away from them because we sign up to some offshore entity that is based in Australia and has virtually unlimited powers of the Managing Director. I am not being hypothetical here. A Chinese herbalist out in Mana has 250 Chinese herbs that she administers. All of them have been approved by the American Food and Drug Administration and have been safely used for centuries. None of these are on an approved list in Australia, nor will they be approved in New Zealand, because they contain many ingredients and it would be far too expensive to licence these remedies. So they will become illegal in New Zealand.

I think the Government and all those officials who are having their endless little meetings backwards and forwards across the Tasman forgot to ask the people of New Zealand what they thought of their plans, and the people of New Zealand have become increasingly concerned about this treaty that the Government has signed and about this agency. They have said: �Hang on a minute.� Basically, what this Parliament would be doing if it passed the bill, is transferring control over all these dietary supplements and traditional remedies to an offshore agency, and Parliament would completely lose control over these matters into the future. More and more New Zealanders have become concerned about the constitutional implications of this authority. There are no Treaty of Waitangi provisions, and, once it has been put into place, it will basically be beyond the reach of MPs in this Parliament.

Another odd quirk is that the legislation that will set up this authority has been introduced into the New Zealand Parliament�it is currently before the Government Administration Committee but it has not even been introduced into the Australian Parliament. So, presumably, the Australians could change the legislation after we have passed it here. No explanation has been given as to why this has happened. We are also, effectively, almost signing a blank cheque with this particular agency, because all of the details of how it will operate are contained in rules and orders, and we do not know what those rules and orders are. So it is like signing a blank cheque. We have no idea, really, of the detail of how it will operate because, even though it is before the select committee, none of this has been consulted on.

The other issue, of course, is that Australians themselves are saying that the agency, as it operates in Australia, is draconian and heavy-handed. Many of them believe that it has been a disaster in Australia. They are not able to access many of the dietary supplements and traditional remedies that we have here, because, effectively, the agency, which is a pharmaceutical-type agency, regulates their dietary supplements according to a pharmaceutical paradigm. It has not approved many, many remedies and basic vitamins that are on sale here in New Zealand.

Yanks go home.

I have been watching the Americas Cup in Valencia. Too many late nights.

Last night's semi final by Oracle BMW vs Prada's Luna Rosa was catastrophic for the Americans.

Most of the team on board Oracle are Kiwis. The Skipper was Chris Dickson who has been a public figure in New Zealand since he was the skipper of KZ7 in Perth, the first NZ Challenge.

Listening to he pre-race panel discussion tonight it seems that Larry Ellison has fired Dickson. On one hand understandable. Oracle was the hands-down favourite before the semi-finals. Their first round-robin performance was totally dominating.

I'm no sure that firing Dickson is a great decision at this stage of the game. Petulance.

Reminds me of the old adage in advertising: NEVER work for entrepreneurs. They know everything (apparently). And when the things they require you to do don't work: It's YOUR fault.

I'm backing Luna Rosa tonight.

Visit the Oracle website

Friday, May 18, 2007

Everyone's a critic

I have been publishing posts that refer to external sources and other people's ideas.
Sometimes it makes me feel like a constant critic.
Of course criticism isn't necessarily negative. But it is a huge responsibility. This week I spent time with my students going over their essays - which represent 50% of their marks for the paper (about semiotics and other arcana).
Some failed and I had to hand over the mark and my assessment. It's a tough job and the realisation that teaching isn't about what I say but how well it is received and integrated by my students.
Tugging me in the opposite direction are colleagues in the world of design and advertising. They want to be sure that the grads who knock on their door are capable.
Interestingly the capability they seem to demand most is the ability to integrate into the organisation. Will they accept direction? Are they capable? Things like that. Very rarely will they care whether the student is 'top of the class'.

In a funny sort of a way graduating from top of the class is the kiss of death. You'll be starting at the bottom. It's like moving from intermediate school to college. At advertising school I studied economics, social psychology, business and all sorts of other devilishly clever things but when I graduated and began work - I filed transparencies, picked up galleys from the typesetters and operated the process camera. I learned te business from the bottom. it was like being a polar bear escaping global warming - from iceberg to iceberg. In the process I had to evolve into a marmoset, but that's another story.

The Break Up - Friday Funny

Things are changing in the world of advertising. Advertisers aren't necessarily getting it. This little film kind of says it all really.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Volkswagen Touareg commercial

In New Zealand this commercial is running in a cut down format without the Dutch subtitles and with the idea that most owners don't get them dirty superimposed onto one of the later scenes. I love it. It is a simple idea that is amplified by wonderfully chosen talent, a great performance and direction.

I downloaded the nominees for the D&AD awards and showed them to my ad class today. It was fun. There is a definite trend to strangeness. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. View them here.

I know who the winners are (but can't tell you till the 24th - media embargo)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Beauty & Truth

"A scientist…is supposed to be looking for the truth about nature. But not all truths are equal. Some we call deep truths, and these are the ones that are also beautiful. An idea must be more than right-it must also be pretty if it is to create much excitement in the world of science. For the search for truth is not simply a matter of discovering facts. You must also understand their significance, and then persuade others that your way of looking at them is valid. It is always easier to persuade people to believe in something new when they find it beautiful, especially when it runs counter to their established beliefs."
Physics for Poets by Robert March.

America's Cup

Today I bored my advertising class at Massey University with the odd idea that, in the future (now) they will be asked to create ideas that extend a little further than the edges of the double page spread or the the narrative structuures if a 30 second TVC.

So it interested me to see Bruno Trouble being interview by TVNZ at the America's Cup in Valencia, Spain.

Monsieur Trouble is a familiar figure to Aucklanders. Even I remember him toodling around town in/on his BMW thingy motorbike (don't know the model name, sorry - big C cab).

I seems the idea of the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series was his.

What a great idea.

I've heard kiwis saying they aren't interested in the Americas Cup.

I'm not believing them.

I love it.

In part because Louis Vuitton made it interesting.

Bring it home gentlemen.

There is a point by the way.

Combining editorial and advertising is the way forward. In the future I'd like to see more ed and less ad.

If you don't mind.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Those were the days

It's 1977 and I'm 15. I didn't like very much about Glenfield College (Rachel Hunter was still in Intermediate School with my sister).
British motorbikes. Leather jackets. Unavailable Dr Marten's boot. And the melodic sounds of the Sex Pistols....

I'm waiting for the Americas Cup races. There's a gratuitous show about Sid Vicious' last 24 hours...so some nostalgia.

The Naked Truth

I don't have a problem with nudity. I'm nude now under my pjamas. I'm guessing you are too. I found this commercial through the blog of Ben Kepes who left a comment on Rod Drury's site. Apparently it was shot in New Zealand. Ben says:

Forget the content but think of the concept in terms of how much marketing punch it packs.

But I am not so sure it is that easy. The gratuitous use of nudity or any other provocative technique is only useful when it is highly relevant. The idea behind the commercial is that the company has nothing to hide.

The curious thing is that dressing doesn't usually indicate that we are hiding anything. It is quite normal for people. We wear clothes: to keep warm, to display (ironic) and to protect ourselves from harmful elements. I am sure there are other reasons. I once wore a transformer costume to a fancy dress party and got stuck in a doorway - can't remember the purpose.

Dressing can also indicate modesty - an attribute I think you will agree is generally positive.

So,...does the commercial convey positive meanings or is it simply a gratuitous and vaguely infantile effort to attract attention (in the hope that people will pass the clip around like a virus - unpleasant analogy; given the context).

The truth is it is hard to get attention - the most valuable currency in today's marketplace (arguably), but I am not sure this is the way to go about it.

What do you think?

Warning total male and female nudity is featured in this commercial. Please do not watch if this is like to cause offence or if you are not 18 years of age. Clicking the arrow will serve as an agreement that you are at least 18 years of age.

Visit the elave site

(The embed code on the elave site doesn't work)

One Show Award Winners

This just in (nice to see New Zealand ad agencies performing well on the international stage):

The top Pencil winners at this year’s One Show (in a breakdown by office) include:

TBWA: Total 18 (9 Gold, 4 Silver, 5 Bronze)

Berlin (1 Silver, 1 Bronze); New York (9 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze); Auckland (1 Silver, 2 Bronze)

Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide: 9 Total (5 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze)

Toronto (1 Gold); Singapore (3 Gold, 1 Silver); Cape Town (1 Silver); New York (1 Gold); Mexico (1 Bronze); Chicago (1 Bronze)

Saatchi & Saatchi: 9 Total (2 Gold, 5 Silver, 2 Bronze)

New York (1 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze); Singapore (1 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze); Auckland (1 Bronze)

BBDO: 8 Total (1 Gold, 3 Silver, 4 Bronze)

New York (2 Silver, 2 Bronze); Argentina (1 Gold, 1 Bronze); Philippines (1 Silver, 1 Bronze)

The secret life of laundry

Here is a beautiful ad for a washing machine. That's right. A washing machine. It is a nominee for the D&AD awards. Winner announced later this month.

Tee time

Who doesn't need more art in their life?
This is genius from Kiwi designer Glenn Jones on Threadless

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tree mail

Do you get emails like this?
Without wanting to seem like a wizened cynic I find them curious. Not the syrupy sentiments, but the hope that something miraculous will happen because I might forward it on to you. The real miracle was that it made it past my anti spam filter and that the original image size - huge - didn't get bounced by my webhost.

Subject: FW: SUSPECT: FW: Amazing picture!

As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to ever let you down probably will. You will have your heart broken probably more than once and it's harder every time. You'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken. You'll fight with your best friend. You'll blame a new love for things an old one did. You'll cry because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you love. So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you'll never get back.
Don't be afraid that your life will end,
be afraid that it will never begin.

Send this to all of your friends in the next 5 minutes
and a miracle will happen tonight

Well, anyway - I haven't clogged up anyone's inbox, but is the voucher for a miracle still good? I could use one.

The irony is that the tree-guy who was supposed to come an remove some trunks that threaten our fence with collapse didn't show up this morning. So I waited around. And waited...only a tree-mail to show for it.

Champagne - the health drink.

I found this snippet on the website of the a boutique Champagne house's website:
"The therapeutic virtues of Champagne.
Champagne has always been a great pick-me up. Being easy to digest, it is ideal for patients recovering from operations and those suffering from general tiredness. It is highly recommended by French doctors!

...no more lunatic than taking supplements that offer little more than expensive urine.

“I drink it when I am happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty”

Lily Bollinger.

I want it all; I want it now.

There are some conversations that wear a little thin. My threshold for hearing about global warming has very nearly been breached. But I guess he irritation factor is important for the idea to become integrated. Sustainability is an issue for design and designers that will only become more important as consumers increasingly demand products that make them feel better.

Whether or not consuming more of anything will make any difference to the health of the planet is moot - but that is one of the perversions of this whole debate. Buying a hybrid car will make you feel good about your choice (if not superior), but, in truth using a car at all is probably pointless if you really want to make a difference.

Living on Auckland's North Shore it is almost impossible to to practicably rely on public transport if you travel to more than one destination per day. One of the things I enjoyed about living in London was the tube. I didn't drive a private car in the entire time I was was there. There was simply no need. Aucklanders are about as addicted to private cars as we are to real estate.

Elected officials pander to that by building more motorways. I recall a visiting Australian traffic expert saying that imagining more roads will resolve traffic problems is like loosening your belt as an antidote to obesity. The reality is that visionary leaders who are prepared to make long term, strategic decisions for the future are like to be chewed up and spat out by an electorate that has become obsessed with immediate gratification and an adversarial political system that relies of polling and talk show monitoring to determine the next move.

I like this little movie (above) from the GenArt film festival in New York. Nicely done. Reminded me a little of the much vaunted The Secret (and What the Bleep before that).

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Self Praise is no honour

I find TradeMe a very useful tool - even if my golf clubs didn't sell this week.

Via the Edge website I found this piece of marketing insight from Sam Morgan, Trademe founder:
"His advice to budding online entrepreneurs is to learn code, keep a tight rein on finances and not to bother with advertising until the website is truly established. Initial marketing should be done by word of mouth. "There is no joy of discovery when you find a product through being advertised to," he says. "When did you last tell someone how cool Coke was?"

Come to the edge

The web site that tracks the accomplishments of New Zealanders (past and present) now has a blog. It should be interesting. We're an interesting lot. Slightly self absorbed, but interesting.

The Edge Blog

I went to Waipu again this weekend. It was nice to give my new car a trot. It's big and boring but like a flying armchair on the open road.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Production Values

I like Sarah McLaughlan. This should get you thinkin'.
Having a bit of a social consciousness day - talked about Olivero Toscani and his Benetton advertising in class today.

The Ali Williams Blues

All Black and Auckland Blues rugby player Ali Williams has been stood down from his team's trip to South Africa for some off the field indiscretions (nothing criminal or particularly serious from what I can gather from the extended media interest - another cat up a tree story).

This Nike commercial starring basketball bad boy of the 90s Charles Barkley sums it up pretty well.

A Herald Story
A TVOne story (cat up a tree central)
What the Wikipedia has to say about knitting.
How to get a cat down from a tree

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Subway - how low can you go?

On the news tonight the story about Subway firing and requesting a police prosecution of a member of their staff for sharing a soft drink with a friend. The employee was entitled to a free drink, but not to offer any to the friend. That, according to Subway is stealing.

Perhaps I have different values to Subway, but I do not think that, in this instance the response has been appropriate. As an employer the correct thing to have done would have to have been to discuss the matter with the employee, to guide them and remind them of the company's policies. A little perspective.

Treating employees as disposable, despicable units suggests a level of contempt that should not go unrewarded.

I suggest that you don't eat at Subway. I won't and neither will my kids. No hardship to me because I think their food is tasteless.

Criminalising, vilifying and impugning a low wage individual shows us what Subway really think of people. The individual will be enduring a dispropotionate amount of stress, anxiety and financial pressure - lawyers cost a lot of money. The matter should be dismissed immediately and police time should go to something of consequence.

As an aside I think the way that Subway advertises their product is dishonest. They associate their brand with weight-loss. Only a portion of their menu is has the characteristics yet the implication is that their entire menu is better for you than competitor brands. Probably not supportable. (Mind you they are not alone in distorting the perception of their brands by introducing supplementary associations).

What is hype?

I signed up for the Wizard of Ads newlsetter ages ago. The Monday Morning memo is often interesting and, one of these days I'd like to attend one of their seminars (even if only to be wowed by their campus). Yesterday's edition discussed the idea that the medium is not the message. One remark interested me in particular towards the end of the piece:

To deliver a pointless message powerfully is the definition of hype.

Then I read this comment from the PSFK:

Kate Moss' collection for Top Shop, "inspired" by her heron-rock chic attire, turned out to be a huge disappointment. The Sun reported that Topshop had said nothing had sold out. Kate, 33, was paid £3million to create the 50-piece collection. So much for the hype. The queues, apparently, were massive towards the beginning of the day, but quickly fizzled when excited tweens realized, well, it was still Top Shop, quality construction and exquisite design features aren't fortes of the brand.

Developing a product line using Kate Moss' name seems to be a classic example of cynical exploitation. Assuming Ms Moss has no real talent for fashion design (I am simply expressing doubt, hard to say for sure that she did little more than sign off and then allow that signature to be used as a label), then the product is 'a pointless message' - an irrelevant association to exploit teenage girls.

Heartening to see the prospective victims weren't as easily duped as was imagined by the hypsters.

Read The Monday Morning Memo

PSFK Website

Time and a place

I was looking forward to one of the Comedy Festival shows on Sunday night. It didn't happen unfortunately. I can imagine this ad would have been perfect in the programme. Sometimes context offers up an opportunity for an idea.

Of course, with Mother's Day coming this weekend what better reminder does a gentleman require than this...

The, of course, overcoming the idea that a condom spoils the pleasure of sex...

Good ads should put a smile on your face.

97.32% of all statistics are made up

Threadless invite design submissions from members. Members vote on them. The winners get made and offered for sale. The results are fun and cool. Interesting how T Shirt designs have changed from the days of Crazy Shirts up by the Auckland Town Hall (Fly United and Makin' Bacon were about as clever as it got).

I also like this one - the secret life of luggage (now you know - the technology behind Glidepath)

Check out the collection here

Sunday, May 06, 2007

To hell with status quell

I have been thinking about our job. Communicators that is. Everybody consumes. That's just the way of the 21st Century. But what provokes people to take up time consuming then interpreting it with a pain in the ass and risky activity like blogging?

Let me posit an idea.

Some people are compelled to make meaning.
They look at the night sky they invent astrology.
They correspond with the facts (and some times the facts don't write back).
What is observed seems to relate to the human condition.
Some people observe the natural world and feel it is so perfect it needs no further realistic interpretation. They invent their own vision/version. Picaso comes easily to mind. Frank Gehry. Ralph Hotere.
Each, in their own way,'carves' a new totem.

The people who see life their way, not as it is - but how it is for them - and who then interpret it for us are the people I respect.

Their output: music, paintings, books, poems, software, systems...ideas for figuring out the world, influencing others and creating a shift - they are the people I care for.

To hell with status quo - to hell with status quell.

The reason I like the bloggers on the left is for the reasons above.

The necromancy of TV...


Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

What exactly does Elvis have to do with American Idol ? What does Celine Dion have to do with starving children - or Bono for that matter?

Get real.

Charity begins at home. Look after the people who matter to you.

I didn't notice any Iraqi kids in the 'heartwrenching' clips to entice Americans to donate money to the widely criticised one.org campaign.

I also read that billions of dollars offered to the victims of the Hurricane Katrina disaster didn't receive the charity in cash and kind.

Overlay that with the US military study of the less than charitable views of American troops in Iraq and one has to wonder about broadcast tv altogether.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

All the hits all the time

I've added Kevin Robert's blog to my blogroll.
I think he's an interesting bloke and says interesting stuff. I often disagree. That's ok. I often disagree with myself.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." R.W.Emerson

I rather enjoyed the launch of his book Lovemarks at the Hilton in Auckland. When I left I was grumpy about:
a) taking time out to listen
b) paying for stupidly expensive parking
c) almost everything he said (I was busy and wanted to think about it - do you ever get annoyed you can't spend the time it takes to think about important things - I'm coming back to that idea later...when I have time).

The Public Gets What The Public Wants

Viz earlier post with the (admittedly unkind) satire of Mark Sainsbury

Nostalgia Roll - The Pretenders

Music maestro, please.

In the 1980s you couldn't visit a cafe or virtually any other public place without hearing Sade. I was watching a B movie on TV this evening and heard a track from The Jam - you remember the Jam? The movie featured 'our very own' Lucy Lawless as a dominatrix. A fine performance from a fine young actress. Ahem. Obviously someone pitched a crossover role to her agent to transition from TV (Xena) to celluloid. Doesn't seem to have worked. I hope she had a contract that continues to reward her for her 'Maxwell Smart' role. Saw Ms Lawless live in the Vagina Monologues. She did a sterling job but I had to leave - too disturbing.

But back to Sade. An American friend, Barbara Bieler (ne Blank) took me to her concert at His Majesty's Theatre. It was a defining moment in my musical education. Don't go the the latest hyped up performer's show.

And that is why I won't go to Pink's show.

Oops, exposed as out of date.

Footnote: My first wife's uncle demolished His Majesty's Theatre. We can't be doing with having a past in Auckland.

3rd: The movie was called EuroTrip
(No actual Europeans were harmed in the making of this film)
Johanna Lumley didn't make the cut (except in the credits) - Vinny Jones does but probably wishes he didn't.

Eurotrip soundtrack is excellent

Friday, May 04, 2007


Good news. Idealog magazine won the Launch of the Year category and Business Magazine of the Year. Missed out on cover of the year and designer which was disappointing. Adrian Clapperton is a terrific talent and has elevated the form of the magazine dramatically.

I didn't make it into Time's Most Influential list however. That is a little easier to understand. But just when comprehension arrives like a lifting fog the inclusion of Justin Timberlake casts doubt anew. It frightens me to think that Justin Timberlake is one of the most influential people in the world. Who? What kind of dullard would be influenced by him? Bizzare. Surely there is a difference between celebrity and influence?

Electric cars and Magazine awards

My car has issues at the moment. An intermittent fault that means every now and then it will just - stop and refuse to go for several minutes. I can't figure it out and my mechanic makes those expensive facial expressions accompanied by the drawing in his breath...that's right, one of those problems.
So I've been looking around at my options.
I came across this little piece from Popular Mechanics and think I'd quite like an electric Mini Cooper. Ok, I'll just come right out and say it. I'd quite like any Mini Cooper. Or even a car that was reliable.

Tonight is the MPA magazine awards dinner. Idealog is up for a couple of gongs. The rival in our category is Unlimited magazine. The guys from HB Media are ex Unlimted people so it will be a symbolic victory if we win. I have some doubt because Unlimited has so many more finalist nominations in other categories. It might be that the old favourite beats out the challenger. Who knows. It will be an interesting evening. I don't exactly feel the tension will be electric...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Nudes in the cubes

I have always argued that 'subliminal advertising' was a load of old tosh. I have never -in more than 20 years in the business - been involved in or even seen examples of secret, embedded messages in communications. That doesn't mean there isn't a code of meanings that can be embedded in a message for a particular audience. So I was interested in this clip...it is a little bit spooky.

Parental advice - get a songwriting credit

It is New Zealand music month. Part of the event is a dinner/auction/show at the Auckland town hall to raise money for Play It Strange - a charitable trust that promotes songwriting to secondary school students.

I think it is one of the most worthy causes that you could support. Whatever I hear you say...indignantly snorting into your morning coffee. Trivial, teenage angst and all that...

My son showed an interest in music some time ago. We trucked along to guitar teacher Danny McCrum (recommended by the inimitable Bill Latimer of Bungalow Bills music shop. He showed some promise - a natural according to Danny. But music fell by the wayside to his obsession with sport. My advice during the music phase was - if you join or form a band make sure you write the songs/lyrics and get a credit. Compared to the estate of John Lennon and the fabulous wealth of Paul McCartney Ringo Star earned a pittance from his time as a Beatle. He didn't pen any/many of the songs. The royalties from performance (including radio airplay, video and commercials, video games, lift musak etc), sales of recordings and sheet music - that's where the money is.

Play it Strange is an organisation that is a model for the kind of thinking we need to instill in kids with regard to intellectual property. When we export sheep and milk we get paid once. Sir Paul still earns a comfortable living from work he did in the 1960s. Think about it.