Friday, June 29, 2007

A little some thing for the weekend?

"The world is an unequal and unjust place, in which some are born into wealth and some into hunger and misery. To explore why, in this ... all » controversial Channel Four documentary the young Swedish writer Johan Norberg takes the viewers on a journey to Taiwan, Vietnam, Kenya and Brussels to see the impact of globalisation, and the consequences of its absence. It makes the case that the problem in the world is not too much capitalism, globalisation and multinationals, but too little."

I found this video interesting and thought provoking - put an hour aside. Move over Bono here comes Johan Norberg…

It is interesting that the Swedes were the first to have a multinational company - When Nobel invented dynamite the Swedish government banned the export of explosives so Nobel was forced to establish factories in other countries. I used to date a Swedish girl - curiously enough she was a Swedish Swedish massage therapist. Where is she when I need her? I have a pain in my neck from falling asleep sitting up in bed waiting for the Americas Cup races - which kick off at about 1 am. A vicarious sporting injury.

Grist for the mill

This morning I had a meeting with Steven Carden, author of New Zealand Unleashed - the country, its future and the people who will get it there. Interesting chap. Works as a consultant with McKinsey & Co. Recently returned from the US. I am preparing a review of the book for Idealog and a short piece based on our discussions (so I won't preempt it here).

I was reminded how important it is to get out and talk to people with no other agenda than to exchange ideas.

Ideas are the raw material of ideas.

By the way - get a copy of the book. It is worth reading and filled with interesting and thought provoking material. The conversation is a crucial one for New Zealanders to have. I can't link you to it because it doesn't seem to be available through Fishpond yet.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Me v.s. Guy Kawasaki

OK. This is what my blog is 'worth'. And below it is what Guy Kawasaki's blog is 'worth':



My blog is worth $4,677,213.90.
How much is your blog worth?



Wa wa wee wa...heppy days...

There's a movie on Mr Kawasaki's blog (I feel obliged to call him Mr Kawasaki now - sort of like one of Donald Trump's apprentice wannabe's ) that I like because it supports my theory about disintermediated creativity. How about the guy who puts in a couple of hours a day, makes 6 million dollars a year from Google's Adsense programme and has no employees. I like the sound of that. No Employees. Start your own gig, …I don't want to be the laird of the manor. I'm sure if you looked inside your heart you wouldn't want to be my serf either (because that would be seriously kinky).

No Plan, No Model, No Problem...(1.5 Hours but worth it).


Bic Kubrick

Do you ever just sit there with a legal pad and a ballpoint pen? Here's my take on Stanley kubrick.
5 minutes no thinking about it.
Not great.
Kind of wonky.
But hey.
Grist for the mill.
It's one thing to post it to a blog, quite another to imagine you can make a living from caricature...which supports my earlier contention that, when it comes to ideas: Just do it. (as opposed to telling yourself "I'm sorry Dave...I'm afraid I can't do that..."(HAL no).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The first post


This is my 500th post.
The funny thing is that I was trolling through some old material on a storage drive. I used to have a domain name called 'TravellingCompanion.com', something told me back in 1989 that travel would be an important segment on the web.

It sat unused for a while (I had loads of domains including WombService - for first time mums and GoodGrief a portal into the after-life...cradle to grave).

Conversations with my mate Steve Garton convinced me that I should come up to visit him in Hong Kong. The web was going off there. The wealthiest man in in HK was about to float TOM.com on the stock exchange. It had no business model, no purpose or evident way of generating money but Hong Kong was ablaze with excitement. Given that the principal player was fabulously wealthy ordinary folk seemed to believe that some of the good fortune would rub off on them.

I imagine it would be a good idea to make a record of my trip for my (then) wife to be able to read every day. I had a digital camera (a lowly 3 megabyte camera that was considered 'pro-sumer' in it's day). I also had a laptop - a G3 Powerbook - once again 'state of the art' at the time and a doorstop today. I was making websites using a programme called NetObjects Fusion. So all the pieces fell into place. it was all very web 1.0. Just figuring out how to make a connection to the web from Hong Kong was something of a mission, but I figured it out.

I've posted the pages - it's just a week's worth. The photos are tiny because everyone had 56k modems in 2000.

The thing that strikes me is that TravellingCompanion.com was, effectively, a blog.
Others were undoubtedly doing it too. But I'm going adorn myself with early adopter laurels.

My favourite of the seven days of posting was 'What's wrong with Iowa?'. I've left the design and content untouched as an artefact (I didn't know how to do css at the time - and little else for that matter).

Travelling Companion

Monday, June 25, 2007

Something to..umm... look forward to


Ecky thump, by the eck, mooms n dads are goin' t' loove this. The producers of American Idol have ratcheted the game back a few notches. Pop Idol meets the Royal Variety Gala meets the old Barrymore My Kind of People formula. Things have gotten to the point where dumbing down becomes dumbing up. Take a proven formula. Give it a tweek. Find a way of adding children into the mix and away we go. I can sense the dark shadow of Britain's Got Talent looming.
And before you take a shot at me for criticising the cute little kid who sings, I'm not. It's just there's only so much Aspartame I can chew.
Oh and please...please...No New Zealand franchise. Please.

Thanks to Singapore's MrBrown for the advance warning.

Atamira: Maori in the City

I've seen this advertised on the tele. Interesting. Looking forward to checking it out.
From the NZLive.com site (just discovered it - nicely done - excellent resource).

Atamira: Maori in the City is a three-day celebration of Maori creativity and enterprise. This event will be a landmark showcase for Maori creative and entrepreneurial achievement.

Atamira: Maori in the City aims to inspire Maori to maximise their entrepreneurial, economic and cultural potential, and will present a combination of creative expo, Thrive business show, rangatahi forum and awards celebrations.

The event will bring together leading Maori creative and business people in an environment designed to foster the creative entrepreneurs of the future.

Confirmed entertainment: Che Fu and the Crates, 1814, Nesian Mystic, Northern Advocate, Ill Semantics, Urban Beat, Zero-T, Ruia, Katchafire Plus Special Guests.
cost:

Free

Featuring:
,
    Che Fu
    Nesian Mystik,
    Northern Advocate,
    Ill Semantics,
    Urban Beat,
    Zero T,
    Ruia,
    Katchafire


Dates:
Fri 06 Jul 07 - Sun 08 Jul 07, every day, 10:00am - 4:00pm

Venue:
ASB Showgrounds, 217 Greenlane West, Epsom, Auckland

Merde 2 (no relation)


See, I told you so. When people parody - even in a nasty way - or maybe in especially nasty ways - it means they care. Why, in this case, I don't know. Somewhere along the line today I glimpsed someone asking the question why the Olympics needs to reinvent itself every couple of years (allowing for summer and winter Olympiads). The brand isn't graphic design.
I want you to remember that, especially if you are a graphic designer, you can't create a brand in Illustrator or Photoshop.
Thanks to Meme Huffer

Nervous ticks

My watch ticks.

Now that might not sound very surprising but the thing is that I haven't worn a wristwatch for nearly four years. Why would I? My laptop has a clock, my cellphone has a clock and, quite frankly, I'm not driven by compulsive time keeping. I could probably adjust to my circadian rhythm and cope with requests for my presence.
So my new watch ticks. Nothing at all digital about it. In fact, no battery and no automatic movement. It has been marking the passage of time since the 1920s - or so I am told. I don't really care, any more than if it doesn't keep perfect time. The old girl's workings have had a bit of a clean. A new lens replaced the yellowed, crazed original, a new (nylon) strap makes it functional - if anyone knows where I can get a nice continuous leather band to loop through the lugs soldered onto the case I'd be grateful for the tip.

So, have I become a Luddite? No, not at all. With the pending launch of the Apple iPhone making the news tonight I am reminded - I WANT ONE - but I'll have to wait 35,536,000 ticks at least.

Olympic Logo triggers apoplexy


The logo for the London Olympics has caused a storm in the world of design professionals and The Great British Public. The blog Design Observer is typical of the furore. Here's the comment I added to the thread.It is number 160+, so deeply buried that I thought I would take it out for a walk here:

It's always easy to be critical of things that shock us. In this case the criticism is probably justified.

But I have one nagging thought. What if the alternative was some sort of slickly conceived and executed orthodoxy - which is common in design; variations of what things 'should' look like (a throwback the rigor of modernism - form and function riding in tandem and all that).

It fascinates me how things that were considered mad and unacceptable when first introduced become accepted with familiarity. Imagine having the cojones to approve Frank Gehry's Guggenheim at Bilbao.

The size of the budget, the prestige of the project and the fact it was funded from the public purse probably means any design would meet with criticism.

For what its worth - I don't think it's all that important. Bright colours, dynamic signage, the total package will probably pull it all together.
A logo is just a logo.

If you want to be truly bamboozelled visit London2012.com and watch the video on the home page. Just plain weird - makes the City of London seem filthy and bleak (which parts of it are) - but what is the point exactly?

The larrikin-wowser nexus

It is chilling top watch these clips - to think they give these folks guns and votes.

I hadn't heard of Chaser's War on Everything until now and now I wonder about the sorry state of New Zealand TV. Game shows are on the ascendant and satire is as absent as it ever was (you can't descend from flat earth). Maybe the Australian culture is just better at producing larrikins. The Wikipedia describes Larrikins thusly:

Many commentators have noted the larrikin streak in Australian culture, and have theorised about its origins. Some say that larrikinism arose as a reaction to corrupt, arbitrary authority during Australia's days as a penal colony, or as a reaction to norms of propriety imposed by officials from Britain on the young country.

Larrikinism is a significant element in Australian culture, and has emerged repeatedly, informing Australian contemporary art, popular and youth culture and political debate. Evidence of the larrikin influence includes traditions of free, rule-defying experimentalism in Australian art and underground music (various renowned experimental ensembles that emerged from the post punk movement are examples).

It can be argued that the larrikin tradition of disdain for authority, propriety and the often conservative norms of bourgeois Australia (as evident, for example, in the country's history of censorship and the nation's receptiveness to paternalistic leaders) are two sides of a self-reinforcing dynamic; the social conservatism of the mainstream fuels the undercurrent of larrikinism and rebellion, which, in turn, is seen as demonstrating that a firm hand is needed. This is sometimes referred to as the "larrikin-wowser nexus", "wowser" being an Australian colloquial term for a person of puritanical mores.


Maybe I am being overly hard on New Zealand comedy. We have larrikins, don't we? What about Marc Ellis? Yes I'll grant that but what is his vehicle - A Game of Two Halves. Exactly. More a game of one half. Jeremy Wells is probably the only other bone fide larrikin - though maybe sardonic commentator would be more accurate.

Actually watching a few clips from EML I just had a chilling realisation that the interviews at the Fieldays are almost a mirror image of the clip at the head of this entry...

That's rich...

'Rich with ideas'. That is the motto of Idealog magazine transplanted by its new owners after I had sold my stake in the business. Their prerogative, I suppose. I haven't been comfortable with it since it was first mooted. The original idea was 'the voice of the creative economy'- which, intentionally, had an old-world charm and was focused on giving a voice to the people who do the work (I don't believe organsiations are creative - but dependent on the individual talents they organise).

So, what is my problem with 'Rich with ideas'? Its short and sweet. It contains an alluring promise...perfect, surely?

Actually it is anathemic to most of the people who are actually engaged in the creative economy. But, perhaps, it is important to restate my understanding of what the creative economy is (in alphabetical order):


* Advertising
* Architecture
* Art markets
* Crafts
* Design
* Designer fashion
* Film and video
* Interactive leisure software
* Music
* Performing arts
* Publishing
* Software and computer services
* Television and radio

I have referred to this before (Portrait of the creative economy as a dog).

As I said, looking at that list, I don't think most of the people who are actively engaged in creating in these categories don't do it because they want to 'Get Rich'. Wealth may well be the by-product of their effort but that is not why they do it.

I'm reminded of one of my father's favourite quotations: A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. (I wonder if he realised he was quoting an old poof?)

Let's not be cynical about the importance of creativity. I am very, very tired of hearing truisms like: "Ideas don't matter except when they get done."

I'm sorry but that is simply not true.

Ideas matter. Full stop.

I placed a full point there on purpose. Emphatically. Ideas don't have to get done. Some should not be done but that does not diminish their importance.

Think about it.

Good ideas don't arrive fully and perfectly formed. If you think they do then you are subscribing to some Aristotelean era concept like being visited by the Muses. I don't go in for paganism or deism of any kind. So, when I have ideas they are usually the product of some thought work. A single good idea is often result of dozens of malformed, idiotic and often (frankly) laughable notions.

What is my point?

The piles of undone ideas left lying around are the prototypes for good ones I have developed. It is not widely appreciated that the majority of research in our economy occurs while sitting lazily on the edge of the wharf on the Hokianga, waiting for a nibble (or insert your own place of thought - my shower cubicle has also been extraordinarily productive for me - which makes me wonder why most of my employers, who paid me to have ideas, always gave me a desk but never a nice bathroom with loads of hot water an big fluffy towels).

Most research is not happening in research labs of major universities. Yet where does the majority of money go? It is wasted bothering rats and monkeys or whatever it is that goes on in the hallowed halls of science (the astute among you, will note science is absent from the list of activities in the creative sector).

Don't be deceived though. I advocate for participants in the creative economy. I created Idealog to promote this sector and my concern was for our economy generally.

New ideas will be a source of wealth. But the idea is not to get 'rich'. The most productive creative people are those who have loads of ideas (who said there's nothing more dangerous than an idea - if it's the only one you have). They do not fear failure. They love what they do.

If others love it too, then wealth is created.

Over-emphasising a 'show me the money' culture will only lead to a distorted view of the world - one where KPIs and ROIs are brought to bear on the use of precious resources. It's daft. Before you know it the bean counters have donned black suits and shirts and called themselves 'creative'...because we all are, aren't we?

Rich with ideas? If you're lucky - and can keep the greedy, cynical and exploitative out of your bathroom.

9/11 horror!


Ummm..
Err...

What are you some kind of communist?

Thanks to David Slack's Island Life.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The obligation of being human


Watching Simon Schama's Power of Art (my Sunday night destination viewing), tonight's subject is Picasso.

Of course we all know the story of Picasso. As a child he could draw like Raphael (we know that because he told us), and spent his life trying to draw like a child (ditto).

I have to admit my knowledge of Picasso is partisan. I read a biography some time ago that was, shall we say, less than flattering: Life with Picasso by his lover Francoise Gilot - worth a look though. I have always admired the prolific volume of his work. Quality and quantity irrelevant except as a stepping stone from one stage to another. That reminds me of another story, one about fashion designer Ossie Clark. Clark was quite the man about town (London) in the sixties. He clad the Rolling Stones in swirling, sexually ambiguous chiffon, he made buckets of money. Then he spent it. Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll. Years later, diminished he arrived at the home of his friend David Hockney. When Vanity Fair interviewed the painter and asked why he had succeeded and Ossie Clark had burned out Hockney said (and I paraphrase from memory) "The difference is this. I have painted on the foot of my bed: Get Up And Paint". In my view Hockney is probably Picasso's successor. Prolific, versatile, genuinely capable.
Ossie Clark by David Hockney

Simon Schama's show's motif this evening was Guernica, Picasso's masterpiece. Guernica is an astonishing painting. Painted for the Paris Exhibition of 1937. It was received with admiration bordering on indifference. Schama makes the point (an important one) that even as early as 1937 we had developed a thick skin for terror. We take it for granted - unless is serves a purpose. Why can the United States ignore genocide in Darfur or Bosnia but not the insult of the attack on the twin towers - the toll of which is small by comparison? (No less for each family or individual concerned but they are in the thousands rather than hundreds of thousands)
Like Guernica the images paraded on television every night makes us more indifferent (well, there are cats up trees to cover).

Have we come to take everything for granted? Is the real curse of novelty that something even more horrible will happen tomorrow and, instead of giving it out worthy attention, we will focus on the trivia of consumption?

Where is the art that changes our perceptions?

Guerinica Pablo Picasso

Isn't it when the bombs are dropping that we realise what art is for?

Simon Schama's Power of Art

The old joanna?


How is this for a design shift? The Schimmel Pegasus. Why does a piano have to look like a piano? Are there some things we want to maintain a narrative relationship with their historical signifiers?

Pianos mean Beethoven (but probably not Mozart - not sure that what we understand as piano were around in Wolfy's day - perhaps someone could inform me on that?).

But you understand the point if piano mean classical music, then shouldn't they be 'classical' in design?

Nah, bugger it, I'll take one of these. Don't wrap it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Last refuge of a scoundrel


Ok. I admit it. I'm jazzed by the America's Cup.

My dirty little secret is that I've never been aboard a sailboat.

But go Team New Zealand.

Grant Dalton is an impressive leader. I hope he can keep things under control. That is the key. Don't be psyched by Butterworth and the Swiss.

I think the ValeNZia thing is cute. Maybe that's why Martin Tasker has stopped saying Valenthia.

Merde

Cold, blustery weather today. I slipped into Newmarket and caught a movie at the Rialto complex. I decided I would get a ticket to whatever the next screening was. As it happened the film was Paris Je t'aime . I'd seen the trailer on the Quicktime site..."Why not?" I thought. Unfortunately, once the film had ended I was left with just the 'Why?".

The movie is a series of vignettes directed by a number of directors. All are set in Paris. Nothing wrong with that; you could set a series of vignettes in Paris and populate them with well known actors doing little cameo turns and it would turn out ok.

Alright, no it wouldn't.

Too many flavours, too many half formed, badly expressed ideas.

One minute Bob 'oskins is a middle aged man trying to rekindle his passion for his wife by picking her up in a bordello, then next Frodo Baggins is trying to get it on with a vampire. I know, sounds terrible doesn't it? It was. I was eager for the end to hove into view so that I could partir (I hate to leave the a movie before the end. It's the Scots part of me je suis désolé)

Still, I've been wrong before. On IMDB it scores well. Check out the cast and crew list. I've never seen so many executive producers. Too many cooks perhaps?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

If music be the food of love - chow down.

I remember smells, some of which I would sooner forget.

For some reason when I catch a waft of opium perfume I associate it with a girl I used to date when I was in my late teens. She was convinced that Opium was the height of sophistication. All I knew was whenever I smelled it I wanted to have sex. Mind you I was in my late teens and needed very little provocation to want to have sex. Her mother called me The Prince of Darkness but I think it was out of affection.

I remember music in a similar way-by association. Certain songs and genres represent specific times of my life, so much so that when I hear music that I associate with, say, the time I drove around the far north of New Zealand one summer (1984) in a tiny Suzuki delivery van, I find myself overcome with nostalgia - a time when I was as thin as a contraceptive, the sun was warmer but didn't burn, and I thought that my mullet was the height of good taste.

I suppose the connection between smells and sounds is that they work on a part of the brain that has nothing to do with rational thought, perhaps smell and sound are more like the responses that Clotaire Rapaille discusses in his interesting book The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Buy and Live as They Do (which I heartily recommend), they provoke the lizard brain. Music and smell bypass the gatekeepers in our minds. Perhaps that is why music works so well in advertising. There is an excreble commercial running on New Zealand television for Toyota Corolla that tells the story of dim witted bloke who cant find his keys...alert the media (quite literally), in an absurdist twist the entire country is mobilised to locate the keys. What follows is a spoiler, so if you don't want to know what happens - close your eyes. He sits down. The car lets out a chirp and the problem is embarrassingly solved. The thing that has made the ad popular is the use of music. Like the plot and the lead actor the music has a certain charm -
"Let's go riding in my car, car...". The music bypasses the part of the brain that makes you want to have the character locked up in a sheltered workshop - though heavy media weightings eliminate any semblance of charm in the way that hearing Oasis' Wonderwall played everywhere I went in London during the mid-90s removed any skerrick of pleasure I took in the song (well that and the fact that it reminds me of my then-girlfriend who had a vile temper and a penchant for Oasis and Robbie Williams. Needless to say hearing Robbie Williams makes me recoil as if I have just had smelling salts wafted under my nose).

If you know what I am talking about check out this book. I had a spare moment today so I hung out in a book shop. I was taken by the cover of Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time- picked it up and pretty much read the whole darn thing in the cafe of Borders. Brilliant, funny and evocative. Reminded me a little of the Nick Hornby book High Fidelity

Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time
High Fidelity
The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Buy and Live as They Do

Underground creativity


I have been wondering whether the creative economy is something that often flies under the radar because creativity is fundamentally an individual activity. How many people are writing novels for publication while they earn their living in a day job?

Designers who create t-shirts and sell them through Threadless.com or Cafepress.com are participating in the creative economy. You don't have to be Peter Jackson or have millions invested. When I do a project for a client in the United States or Australia those export dollars are as valuable as every one earned by Tim Finn's album.

There are plenty of us, working unheralded, unorganised and, largely, unaided. I must research the numbers - I imagine, collectively, we're a substantial group and would probably benefit from a little more attention.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Horse walks into a bar...

There is a tradition in advertising of translating old standard jokes into ads. The beer googles ad above is an example. (C/o Brand DNA).
I guess the trick is to find clients who haven't heard it all before.

Have you heard this one?:

A Scotsman, an Irishman and an Americas Cup sailor walk into a bar. Barman says "What is this…some kind of joke?"

Sunday, June 17, 2007

P.o.V.



Ok, so even the saintly BBC doesn't always get it right (they were pretty bullishly certain about Bob Woolmer's 'murder' in Jamaica). But this campaign from BBDO in the States is clever use of media. The idea harks back to John Webster's 'skinhead' points of view ad for the Guardian but is poignant for the insular Aemrican point of view.

Via PSFK

tape hiss

This morning I was invited by David Slack as a guest on Findlay McDonald's radio show (Radio Live). The name of the station was ironic on this occasion. As I drove into the city for the interview I thought I should tune in to get the flavour of the session. I caught a fragment of an Australian correspondent describing rising water reserves in New South Wales as it transitions from drought to flood stricken-ness. Then the line went dead.

When I arrived at the station my hosts informed me they were off the air. Some problem with their transmitter. Not to worry. I sat in the booth with Messrs Slack and McDonald chatting generally while Zoe coloured in on the chair beside me. I felt a little relieved in a way - its a lot of pressure being called in as an 'expert' on brands. I've learned that media people can ask questions that are unexpected to spice up the conversation.

When we finally got underway the conversation was pretty easygoing. The most interesting part was probably the sound of my daughter's pen on paper as she coloured in quietly throughout - un-phased as ever by the experience.

I have to tell you that it is noticeably cold in typically temperate Auckland. I may have to invest in some thermals.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Serious media



Hmm...exaaactly. John Stewart on the money as usual.

Of local note this week was site of Mark Sainsbury's bathos laden coverage of the young woman hounded by the Weekend Herald after she spoke anonymously to the rival Sunday news about her knowledge of deviant sex practices in the police to the extent that she committed suicide. He has a short memory. His own show harrassed a young woman on the street outside the district court in Auckland after she had pleaded guilty to a drink drive charge (not a criminal offence in New Zealand - simply a offence under the Transport Act) and in the name of 'name and shame'.

Well New Zealand 'journalists', consider yourselves 'named', oh and erm... 'shamed'.

I'm pretty sure the ratings on TVOne have been steadily falling and newspaper readership will soon be able to huddle in a draughty community hall.

The economy of scale

united states of america economy budget
An interesting graphic representing the budget of the United States for 2008. In the interests of scale and context: the New Zealand GDP (our total output - rather the government spending budget) is about 106 billion dollars. The budget for the US Air Force alone is 136 billion dollars. The budget for farm subsidies is 15 billion (give or take a hundred million) - do we subsidise our farmers?.

The map is worth checking out online. You can move around and zoom into the detail in a sort of google earth kind of way.

'Get thee behind me Satan..."

How about this ad for Lynx?
(Lead me not into temptation...)

Nun ad Lynx

Driving back from a meeting this morning I caught the music review on the National Programme on the radio. Two singers were discussed, neither of whom I had heard of before. Both I would describe in the chanson style but from different ends of the musical spectrum Martha Scanlan and Carla Bruni.
I thought Scanlon's sound was similar to The Cowboy Junkies and Michelle Shocked (remember the Anchorage song). I googled both performers. Turns out Bruni is an heiress with talent. The anti-Paris, ironically the video for her song is set in Paris the town. She was a supermodel and socialite - busted up one of Mick Jagger's marriages (which she denied by claiming to have been but one of 10 lovers). Great sound though. Like the guitars.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Drink water. Walk slow.

I haven't been writing because I haven't felt like it. Or eating. Been knocked about by a cold or flu. Haven't had an official diagnosis because I don't believe in rushing to a doctor to be told what I already know. Most colds just pass, don't they? When I was a kid there was another kid in my class who had a perpetually dewey nose. There was always a droplet on the end of his nose or a crusty delta from nose to lip. He went on to become an accountant and fine, upstanding member of the community. Even his chronic malady seemed to pass.

I need to finish marking first semester assignments tomorrow, so back up to Massey in the morning. I took some pictures of the chickens the other day - chickens and pukeko - they wander freely about the village. It's kind of funky. Every now and then there's a cull, but mostly they are left to themselves. When my ex ran her idealog cover number 10chiropractic clinic in the village we went for lunch together one day, locking the door behind us. When we returned and unlocked the door there was a flapping of wings, a couple of flying feathers and an outraged chicken making a desperate bid for freedom. She left a gift, a n egg on the cushion of a chair at the top of the stairs -still warm. I'm sure if we foraged Zoe and I could find a basket of free range eggs.

So, nothing much to report. No profound thoughts or observations.
The new Idealog magazine is out. Issue number 10, some interesting reading - haven't felt like spending time with yet. Let me know what you think of my column. Are we developing a fetish for showing talented you women with tattoos on the cover?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Unspeak revisted.

Sometimes words begin to creep into the vernacular, migrating like lost geese from their correct place of use. At the moment the word that is 'robust'. People who want to sound important or intelligent add in robust as an adjective for the flimsiest of reasons.

"I would like you to make a robust effort on your colouring in Zoe..."

Already, 11 minutes into the 6pm news bulletin I have heard it used twice.

The best thing since sliced bread.

Patents are one of the measures of the health of a creative economy. Countries with more patent registrations are assumed to be more innovative. Therefore they are in a better position to earn revenues from sales of a unique product or process or from licensing intellectual property in other markets or incorporating owned innovations in other company's processes.

A patent theoretically offers a monopoly to its owner to exploit the invention without direct competition for a specific period of time (usually a period of 20 years from the date the application is filed).

Filing your idea or invention for a patent can be a time consuming and expensive process. There is no guarantee that the patent will be granted. The application has to be examined to ensure that it meets the criteria necessary to secure the patent.
You can save yourself a lot of money and grief if you do the preliminary work yourself. You can search the IPONZ database for registered patents to ensure its novelty (in New Zealand). Once you are satisfied that the idea or invention that has been keeping you awake at night with wide eyed excitement about our pending wealth I recommend getting in touch with a patent attorney. They will be able to advise you about the correct steps needed to improve your chance of securing a patent.

Now, here's the thing.

Think carefully about whether you really need to patent your idea.
Let me phrase it a different way: What if you don't patent your idea? Will it prevent you from making it happen? If the patent isn't granted will you abandon the idea altogether. I guess it depends on a number of things. For example, if you are hoping to find venture capital to fund your idea you might also find that the VC will ask if you have a patent. If you say no they might then ask what's to stop them from doing it themselves. It's a tough question and the answer will depend on the stage at which you approach for VC funding. Most will expect that you have already proven the potential of the product in the market - in which case you might enjoy what is sometimes called the first mover's advantage - first into a niche market makes it less attractive for competitors. You might find this gives you better protection than a patent would. Customers are more likely to say 'That is a very cool brand/thing' and adopt it than ask if it is patented.

Another scenario to consider is patent infringement. Do you have the will or the wherewith all to do battle with the dastardly infringer? Legal battles are inevitably expensive and favour lawyers in every case. There's a reason they have a paralegal and research team working for them!

Perhaps the solution is really to innovate fast. Get your ideas to market fast - win market share and loyalty - then start again. Innovation is a cycle and the speed of innovation in most markets has made consumers fickle.

You could also end up with a patented product that no one wants. The inventor of the first sliced bread machine never made a cent from it because no one wanted sliced bread - it wasn't until his patent had expired that the idea was picked up by Wonder (makers of Wonderbread in the United States). There are no guarantees.

Unless the idea you have is earth shaking then, personally, I think it's not worth the bother. If your concept is a variation of a theme then definitely don't waste your time.

Finally, the true measure of the health of a creative economy is how easily ideas flow from conception to implementation. Instruments like patents restrict that flow by preventing ideas from being organically improved. That is why the open source revolution - where technology is freely distributed and improved by the market seems a much more attractive vision for the future, rather than an industrial age model.

You might find these resources useful:

Ministry of Economic Development - Patent Information
Baldwins - IP Lawyers

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday Madness


Circoripopolo


An interesting little Spur from Talent Imitates, Genius Steals

Protect your ideas

I said I would let you know how to protect your ideas.
The first thing is to value them. If you don't are are willing to give them away for free, then it will be fair for anybody else to appropriate them. You put an idea into the public domain if you are casual about who you tell.

The second thing to do is indicate your proprietorship of your idea. If you are going to share it with others - say you invent a product that helps people to pick up doggy doos on the beach and in other public places and need to find a manufacturer to licence the concept then you should insist they sign a non-disclosure agreement. If they are unwilling to do that, then don't show them anything but a clean pair of heels. If they will quibble in the beginning they will quibble throughout the process. Don't be paranoid, be prudent.

Make sure you indicate your copyright on the concept. It might sound a little cheesy - I remember wondering why big clients insisted on wrecking my layouts and making my copy look naff by insisting in TM and © plastered 'everywhere'. What I didn't understand at the time was the value of brands and the need to protect them. The other day I heard an interview on the radio in the car with some marketing person or other; the interviewer suggested it was a good thing that your brand name becomes 'common parlance'. Tell that to 3M or Xerox (or Google for that matter). I'll say it once more: if you don't value your ideas and intellectual property - why should anybody else?

It is important to remember that copyright is yours automatically for works you create. There are some confusing variations. If you work for an advertising agency the as writer, designer or art director for hire then the copyright belongs to the entity that commissions your work. You should be clear in any case what terms of your contract is. Photographers and illustrators are very good at protecting their IP - check out the terms and conditions on their contracts.

There is a myth that for a trademark to offer protection from misappropriation it must be registered. IN New Zealand at least, that is not true. If you consitently identify your brand names as trademarks owned by you. If you can show prior and consistent use by you you should be able to defend your property. Registration is useful too, but for some people the costs may be high.

By the way, if you are employed in a creative role I think you should be developing ideas of your own outside of work - something you can be paid for in perpetuity (books, music, product designs, web businesses), one day someone will undercut your pay rate or seem fresher and more fun than you to have around. Seems a shame to have talent and squander it as a kept man/person - don't you think?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Going out on a limb

I got a message from Brian Sweeney the other day - publisher of The NZ Edge blog and spin doc for for Kevin Roberts. He took exception to my post about my comment on his blog that he failed to publish.

I wrote a post about how I think that any thought should be published (unless it is in some way vile by community standards - bad language, spam...those kinds of things). I put great deal of thought and effort into my comment and, in doing so added value to his community. I never claimed it was right, but simply a part of a discussion.

In short, I thought it reasonable to expect that my response would be posted.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, a Toltec Wisdom Book

Well, I am reminded once again of the excellent little book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, a Toltec Wisdom Book.
Number 3 is:

Don't make assumptions.

In his reply Mr Sweeney said that it had merely been an oversight and that the comment had subsequently been published. I felt I had been a bit harsh on him so the caboose on that little train of thought is my apology - I am sorry if I was offensive. There's no need for that kind of nonsense.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Overhead

For years I have been toying with an idea.

...shit, forgot it...

No, I've got it back:

Here we go...

...nah, gone.

Playing with you.

Creative people - don't mention your ideas to anyone. That's lesson number one.
Until you make it plain that your idea belongs to you keep it to yourself.
In the creative economy the most significant way of profiting from your ideas is to deny others.

You don't need suits
.
They need you. You may feel that granting power and control to someone who is more comfortable with the people with the money Will save you grief then I need to put you straight. Most suits are crooked. They Will take your ideas; they will either appropriate them, distort them or make a deal which makes it seem like you were irrelevant in the conception or execution.

I have a terrific book (somewhere...I have to rent storage for books) called Chiat Day - The First 20 years. Brilliant. In it there is a story that relates how Steve Jobs of Apple made a visit to the agency. As he met and greeted he asked people about their roles. This is from memory, so spare me ...

"I'm production manager, I ensure art is correct and distributed to the right magazines at the right time, on budget." "I'm a copywriter I conceive ideas with my art director..." You get the picture. Gets to the suit who offers up a description of his role. Jobs says, "Oh,…I get it…overhead."

I get it.

In my next post I'll tell you how to protect your ideas...

Keep on truckin'.


I've had a bit of a tense week. So today I have been chilling. Came across an interesting clip on Russell Davies blog. Thought it might be nice to share it.

I'm a sucker for anything New York. I must make an effort to return there.

I'll never forget the first trip I made. There was a chap living in a refrigerator box on a traffic island in in front of the Helmsley building. As I walked past he offered me a telephone receiver - do you remember the old kind with the thick, springy cord?- it wasn't attached to phone. It looked as though the dismemberment had occured in a moment of terrible violence. The innard wires dangled like gizzards. "It's for you." he said from inside the thick cardboard box. He had cut the top half open so the flap could be shut. It was October and beginning to feel quite brisk. A searing wind swept down the avenue in the canyon of tall buildings. I noticed that it was a tight squeeze for the occupant with a heavy greatcoat covering what looked like many layers of clothes - none of them fashionable in spite of his tony address. I wasn't sure what the protocol was for dealing with crazy street people, so I gave him money. What do you do when confronted with a big black guy in fridge box, his red rimmed, bloodshot eyes glaring from beneath a peaked Korean War G.I. cap with ear flaps, seeing who knows what? I offered him money, could have been a buck, could have been a hundred - greenbacks all looked the same to me, used as I was to the colour coded Kiwi currency. He spoke into the receiver "He'll call you back..." and addressed me "Thank you man" "No worries" I replied and kept on truckin'.
When I made my return voyage to my hotel Mr Ed had vanished and his home was nowhere to be seen.

The experience just surreal enough to have me wonder if it had happened at all.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Rialto Advertising Reunion

I once worked for an advertising agency called Rialto - between 1986 and 1989. My friend Brian Harrison hired me as a copywriter. With him as creative director the agency had a terrific run of winning awards and accounts. It was an interesting time. I learned a great deal both good and bad.

The stock market crashed in October 1987 (or, euphemistically, 'corrected'). I was in New York on holiday when it happened, or rather leaving on a flight for London. When I opened the NY Times to the headline screamed the news. When I arrived London there was hurricane that tore trees out of the ground in Kew Gardens. Omens, perhaps? When I arrived home from the trip I sensed that nothing in advertising would ever be the same again. It wasn't.

Much of the life was leeched out of it by the extraordinary correction of clients. As the paper tigers of the boom years went up in flames the prudent survived and the clung to their budgets in a combination of canniness and desperation the residue of which remains dusted over the best and the worst.

I met my first wife, Megan when I worked at Rialto. In hindsight the excesses of the 80s had to go and, maybe, Rialto was a manifestation of them. Before it metastasised into HKM Rialto spent a small fortune refitting the offices - which became the signature of John Roberts - the managing director who was playing the fiddle as the agency burned. His legacy to the advertising industry was nice furniture - and the award for services to interior decoration (commercial) goes to...

Last night I received a message from that distant past. Elliot Smith had been the runner at Rialto. He's an airline pilot now. I only vaguely remember him. But he is trying to organise a reunion of people who worked at the agency.

If you did work there or know of someone who did then contact Elliot at: ebsmith@wave.co.nz

It could be fun.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Commentorship

A few days ago I left a comment on the NZEDGE website. Though subsequent comments have been posted mine has not. I cross posted it here The interesting thing to me is the question of what one allows to be posted on one's website after inviting visitors to comment.
Here is my policy. You comment and I post. I moderate the comments on the following basis:

Read.
Check for vileness (bad language, spam, ...that's pretty much it.)
Why, after all, would I invite you to speak, then shut you down?

A shame really. Perhaps the Edge sight seems more interested in spin than participation in the conversation.

Bottom line: ideas don't expand when you feel the need to control them. I would say that if you promote ideas then promote diversity, not homogeneity.

Leave a comment.

Better than even chance it will be published.

F**king A

I can remember having ads banned or pulled simply because their either showed murder, made fun of Catholic confession or featured women with exceedingly large boobs (Auckland Opera - Rigoletto, Tip Top Ice Cream - Crofters cheesecake minis, Kent Heating - woodburning stoves).

Seems like now we can do and say what we like. At least on the Internet.

On the web we 'pull' information towards us - rather than having it shoved in our faces while our seven year old daughter asks us what the prurient gag in this weeks trailer for 'Two and a half men' means.

And that's a good thing. I'm still trying to preserve what's left of my own innocence without having to worry about allowing my kids to remain kids for as long as I can.

The End

I can't go on. Or, rather, I can go on. That's the problem.
I've decided to confine my blog posts to stimulating matters of interest, rather than rants about things like the Muliaga fiasco. And in th run up to the election for the New Zealand parliament I am going to avoid talking about politics, political parities* and the other things that agitate me. The problem with being non-partisan is that every party does things that bug me (whereas if I had a favourite team I could forgive, turn a blind eye or, better still, blame the other party for woeful indiscretions and cock-ups of my own side). It seems to me the issues that matter (to me at least) are non-partisan in any case: taking 'sides' on issues like sustainability, justice (different from law and order) and the pursuit of happiness (or at least decent, enjoyable lives) etc...are not matters that should be subject to political debate. What reasonable person doesn't want these things? Given that New Zealand's population is less than the margin of error if you were to census the planet's humans it seems to me that spending money on arguing the toss is like deciding which shade of off-white to choose for your kitchen make-over.


*Not a Freudian Slip.

So, I will concentrate on the following topics:
    The creative economy
    marketing
    advertising
    brands
    media trends
    Toby jugs
    consumer trends
    light hearted ephemera


Sometimes I will mix and match to conjure a festive cornucopia, a collision of cascading creativity.

Most of all I will try to concentrate on discussing ideas that I think matter and propose solutions or alternate perspectives with one end in mind - to spur your thinking.

I realise that 'some people would rather die than than think...and they do'. But that's not the end of the world-is it? Well, it is for them; but you know what I mean.

The Beginning...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Journal of Immediate Gratification

I have just launched a new magazine. Junk. It's kind of underground. Very secretive. All about the things we buy and why. More later. I shouldn't even be telling you this. You didn't see me. We didn't speak.

Classic Design


I started to flip through the Phaidon Design Classics volume 1 (of 3) to kill a few moments. It turned into a momentous massacre. Wave after wave of moments falling like Persians at the hands of the Spartans. Needless to say I was late to my next appointment.

It is brilliant overview of design and filled with 'Now that I did not know' snippets with which to annihilate design poseurs at dinner parties.


Case in point - I did not know that the Citroen 2CV originally had plastic windows and a magnesium alloy chassis to save weight. Very space age for 1948.

Actually the 2CV reminds me that, above all things a design should be useful. That might seem like a doggedly modernist view, but not really. My post-modern tendencies mean that a design need not be used for its originally intended purpose. The 2CV began life as a utilitarian object that made no statement. If you use one these days it probably means you are making a statement about your own identity. I'd sooner have an old 2CV than a nasty little Toyota Prius. Better for the environment you see. I think I'd also like one of those weird Citroen delivery vans that Peter Sellers drove into the pool in one of the Pink Panther movies.



Weird huh? The antithesis of the sexy products that emerge from Apple's labs.

Buy a copy of Phaidon Design Classics for your design library from New Zealand's own online bookstore Fishpond.

Who do you think you are? Bono or something?


This just in..(and, I am sure, already blazing its way to inboxes all around the world).

Bono is at a U2 concert in Ireland when he asks the audience for some quiet.
Then in the silence, he starts to slowly clap his hands.
Holding the audience in total silence, he says into the microphone...
"Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies."
A voice from near the front of the audience pierces the silence...
"Stop feckin' doing it then!"

Monday, June 04, 2007

Doing Good

Trolling through the seaside village of Devonport this afternoon I noticed the Department of Doing have expanded their operation down onto the street front. After weeks of construction it looks like they will soon be ready for the big reveal. It is odd for an advertising business to have such a public face. I enjoyed reading the directives of the company prominently displayed in the window (Linds Redding of The Deparment of Motion Graphics was one of the founders and it has his creative style written all over it). All good fun. Nice to see a creative business doing well. An inspiration indeed.

Class Act(ion)

This is a Skoda Sabre. Even though Volkswagen own the brand now I will never be swayed. I understand how my parent's generation felt about the Germans and Japanese as a result of the traumas endured during and following WW2. For me the trauma I suffered at the hands of the Czechs will never be forgotten. Ever.

Some brands can never be convincingly repaired. No matter how good their ads are.

Actually I think the Skoda Sabre that annihilated my adolescence was made of cake - a hint of rain and it turned into a trifle slush.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Four seasons in one day.

Driving across the Harbour Bridge this evening I came across a rainbow, managed a one handed shot. To the chap in the Porsche who tooted, yes it was me, but what's worse, photography or yapping on the cell phone?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Breaking the (jelly) mould

Conventional wisdom says that car ads should conform to specific sets of rules. Or so it would seem. Winding roads, perhaps a music track that has been appropriated emphasise how rebellious you are or sophisticated, or funky or... (insert - vacuous description here). Populate your ad with shiny examples of the kinds of people you imagine might enjoy your little ensemble of technology, plastic, metal and rubbery bits.

Thankfully Fallon in London have come up with a new recipe and if it doesn't make you go all gooey about Skoda then nothing will.

In my case nothing will because I will never forget the night of my school ball. I was 15...the woeful Skoda Sabre I had borrowed to transport my date broke down...in the rain. Not a good look. Sharon Whitaker never spoke to me again. Damn you Skoda!...damn you all to hell.

Visit the Fallon website

That's an order.

Results now in...

I've had a survey going on the blog for a while. I waited till there were a hundred responses at least. Just checked in an the quota has been passed and here are the stats:

What do you think of the topics covered?

Balanced 0.00%
Random 13.10%
Interesting 84.20%
Dull 2.70%


Rate the quality of writing

awful 0.00%
ok 2.70%
good 23.00%
very good 38.50%
excellent 35.80%


What do you think of third party content (YouTube videos etc)

Very Interesting 38.50%
Quite Interesting 53.90%
Not Very Interesting 7.60%

I realise the questions are ambiguous or open to interpretation - but that's how these things go. Data isn't enough to make decisions on. Funny to note nobody thought it is 'balanced'. Quite Right.

As you were....

Quack.

Don't underestimate The Force

What the heck, it's Saturday night...