Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wild clams

The letter below was, supposedly, a reply one Scott Williams who lives in Vermont in America digs up junk from his back yard and sends it to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. He labels them with scientific names and claims they are genuine archaological finds. Not sure if any of it is true but I think that every business should have someone responsible for having a laugh with fruit loop customers.Perhaps the advertising standards authority could be the first to initiate the policy?

Smithsonian Institute
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078

Dear Mr. Williams:

Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled "93211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post...Hominid skull."

We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago. Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety that one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be "Malibu Barbie." It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:

1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.

2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-homonids.

3. The dentition pattern evident on the skull is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time.

This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:

A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.

B. Clams don't have teeth.

It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon-dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results.

Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name Australopithecus spiff-arino.

Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't really sound like it might be Latin.

However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a Hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly.

You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your Newport back yard. We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.

Yours in Science,

Harvey Rowe
Chief Curator- Antiquities

(Original material dug up here.)

"A few strong instincts and a few plain rules suffice us*”

Have you ever noticed that there are rules and then there are 'rules of thumb'.
A rule is a stricture, something you conform to that confirms the order of things.

Rules have exceptions. Like 'i' before 'e'…except after 'c'.
The great advertising man Bill Bernbach said 'Rules are prisons'. The great advertising man David Ogilvy had more rules than you could shake a stick at - or thumb your nose at.

They say that the road rules in Italy are to be regarded as suggestions. I've never driven in Italy so, I wouldn't know. In France I'd suggest that would be the general rule too.

But I am interested in this 'rule of thumb' business. what is that? A hitchhikers guide?

Things are beginning to get a little weird. I have just looked up the etymology of the phrase 'rule of thumb' and I am not sure I like the answer. A case is made that suggests the rule of thumb refers to the width of a stick with which a husband might reasonably beat his wife. A lively debate on the subject is here, though I hardly think it is something that needs to be debated.

An alternate thought is that carpenters would use the measure of their thumbs as a ruler which would seem to be more palatable as a general rule.

Perhaps the use of the thumb in construction is in tune with the idea of Fibonnacci sequences (a sequence of numbers where each number is the sum of the preceding two). Le Corbusier, the architect and designer used Fibonacci sequences based on measurements and ratios in the human form to develop the modulor which was a set of ideal measurements to help designers achieve practicality and harmony in their designs. A precursor to ergonomics, perhaps.

"The house is a machine for living in." Le Corbusier (Vers une architecture, 1923)

*RW Emerson

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bill Hammond for the Birds

The Painter Bill Hammond is psychoanalysed and then dissected on the arts show ArtVille which made a reappearance on the tele tonight.

Ironically the Huia, a now extinct bird, has a featured role in the show. They are like the bird heads on the famous Penguin Cafe Orchestra album covers (my favourite of their albums is Preludes Airs And Yodels.

The item was almost as interesting for its weird style. The presenter overlays his report about Hammond with the break-up of his marriage and family. Just plain weird. And ever so slightly unnecessary.

As for Hammond's pictures…I like them.

Footnote. Why 'ironically' the Huia featured? Blowed if I know. I suppose it was just interesting. I did not know that extinct birds get kept in drawers. Rows and rows of them of all kinds. Perhaps they'd have had more of a chance if they weren't being so vigorously filed away for future reference.

Ok. Twittering over.

Non Fiction Advertising

When I was learning to write ads there were certain copywriters I, …well…, copied. Not well, mind you.

Amongst them were the likes of thingy Abbot, wotsisname Brignull, Neil French (unforgettable) and the Volkswagen ads of DDB - anthologised in a brilliant book I nicked from the agency I worked for that was bought by DDB.

There were others too. But one stood out for me. Indra Sinha. His work always had a particular edge. It read like sharp journalism - especially compared to the smartypants poshness of David Abott's Sainsbury's ads.

I remember an ad for the Imperial War Museum that appeared in the Design and Art Direction Annual - the red one ('87). I enlarged it from less than A5 to A3 so that I could study the text. It was written by Indra Sinha. The headline went something like this 'Somewhere in this picture 2nd Lt Heaton lies dying.' The main photograph is of no mans land, Somme, World War 1, the 16th Middlesex Regiment are retreating back to their own lines. A secondary image is of said 2nd Lt. looking barely old enough to own a cap gun, let alone command a platoon.

Think back to the period or imagine it if your weren't born. Volkswagen GTIs and Porsches were acquiring their status amongst those who were keen on acquiring status. It was the year before Wall Street the movie - which, of course, followed Wall Street the correction. Now imagine going along to the Imperial War Museum. In the period of 'Greed is Good' what would inspire you to visit a memorial to a filthy, pointless conflict, let alone help fund its upkeep?

Would you have jazzed it up? Made it sexy? Treated it with the disdain one gets for the facts in a 'low interest category'?

Indra Sinha has a gift for telling it like it is. I don't think people necessarily like to hear how it is though, do you?

Do you?

Curiously enough when the world is filled with the ironical &'knowing', the cute, contrived, conceited, confected and corny-hearing 'the truth' told in a lyrical, journalistic style it has the same effect as smelling salts.

Sinha has that talent. Reading his advertisements for the victims of Bhopal it is hard to keep reading but it is impossible to stop.

Since I drafted the start of this post I have foraged around in my boxes of books and was delighted to find the Imperial War Museum ad in a book called The CopyWriter's Bible published by D&AD. There is also a self penned how to by the man himself. He has interesting things to say and spins quite a yarn. In closing he says something important:

"As a writer your words go out into the world to millions of people and change things. It's a big responsibility. If all you care about are awards and money, you are playing for the smallest available stakes. Me? Because I know how powerful words are, I want to play for the highest stakes.I want to help shape the future."

Mr Sinha has written a book Animal's People. I shall order a copy and tell you all about it. Though maybe not how it ends.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The gentai art of cucumber cool?

I read an interesting story in BusinessWeek magazine. In Japan Pepsi launched a line extension called Pepsi Ice Cucumber. Unlike the usual flavoured cola drinks the cucumber variant isn't brown. It is a pale green. While gaijin palates might find that a perfectly revolting concept but the Japanese chug-a-lugged 4.8 million bottles of the stuff in two weeks. Stock sold out. You'd think that with such a hit on their hands Pepsi would be shouting 'Banzai!' and going for broke…

Nope. They killed it. According to a Suntory spokesperson "The value of Ice Cucumber is that it's gone already." The product was a marketing ploy to create buzz. The Japanese have a name for this: gentei (limited edition). For Pepsi the buzz around the variant helped to invigorate interest in the brand in a cluttered and hotly contested market.

The Japanese are obviously very receptive to novelty but the obvious question is how the gentei phenomenon affects the core brand. What does Pepsi 'mean' to consumers who don't know what happens next. It seems to me something akin to retailers who are always in Sale mode (Briscoes homewares for example). Do we become conditioned to wait until deep discounts are offered before committing to purchases?

For Pepsi to generate an intense buzz then withdraw the product obviously impacts on traditional ideas about 'loyalty'. The Businessweek article quotes a Mars Japan spokesperson "If you do it too much, [consumers will] forget why they are purchasing the brand…"

Thursday, July 26, 2007

This, too, shall pass…

I've been having a difficult personal time recently. Crisis and chaos have been my constant companions. (Them and Alliteration). They do nip out for a pint from time to time - if I am to be perfectly honest.

I randomly found a link to my friend Mikael Aldridge's blog. Mikael is a planner and runs a division of Ogilvy in Auckland. I have known him since we were kids at high school. He is probably also the smartest guy I have ever met. He referred to this story in his blog and it resonated with me:

A student went to his meditation teacher and said, "My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I'm constantly falling asleep. It's just horrible!"
"It will pass," the teacher said matter-of-factly.

A week later, the student came back to his teacher. "My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It's just wonderful!"
"It will pass," the teacher replied matter-of-factly.


Something else to think about (aside from the grand finale of Gray's Anatomy that is:

The Buddha was quiet for a moment and then nodded his head. "Dighanakha, that is a very good question. My teaching is not a dogma or a doctrine, but no doubt some people will take it as such. I must state clearly that my teaching is a method to experience reality and not reality itself, just as a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself. An intelligent person makes use of the finger to see the moon. A person who only looks at the finger and mistakes it for the moon will never see the real moon. My teaching is a means of practice, not something to hold onto or worship. My teaching is like a raft used to cross the river. Only a fool would carry the raft around after he had already reached the other shore, the shore of liberation."


The New Church of Chocolate

My friend Toni Church has bought a business called Serious Brownee. As the name suggests if you are serious about chocolate brownies then you're going to be in for a treat. Toni is seriously on top of the product. She is a total foodee.

I visited her while she was trialling recipes.

Wow. No…WOW!

If you like chocolate you will be in love with this stuff.

It all seemed good to me but Toni's mum Philipa is also a foodee - she owned the insane and insanely popular Caluzzi restaurant on Auckland's K' Road (probably the only theatre restaurant anybody really likes the food at - book months ahead. Bring an open mind.) Together they were working through the samples they had baked, making notes, discussing each one like wine connoisseurs reveling in a selection of kiwi Pinot Noir.

This is going to be good. I am working with Toni to think through the marketing. When you check out the current site you'll see what I mean. But don't let the home-made look hold you back from ordering home or office delivered slices of Heaven.

Order for yourself, for colleagues, clients...something really different and (literally) sensational - apparently chocolate releases endorphins - like sex.

Try Serious Brownee. It's fun and very different. Ignore the design of the website - we're working on it.

(BTW - I don't recommend things I don't believe in - oh, and there is nothing in it for me - other than your enjoyment.)

I'm a little teapot

He rants. He raves. He paints teapots.

I spend so much time using the computer that it is nice to play in other ways.
I've actually sold a couple to friends and given others away (If you'd like one they are $125 (NZD).
Send me an email to discuss the kind of thing you'd like for yours.

People seem to like them and making them lowers my monumental blood pressure.

(I've decided every story should have a 'moral' - like Scrubs or Dougie Howser MD...Aesop's fables even).

It's important to have an interest outside of the work you normally do.

If you are engaged in creative work for a living going outside of your normal realm is a way of refreshing - recreation. Advertising people who flip through advertising award books run the risk of working in ever decreasing circles. The same goes for design.

All the taste of fish without the nasty smell

This article first appeared in Idealog magazine, but there are loads of better reasons to buy the current edition - in good bookstores (and Whitcoulls) now.

Hybrids are hot right now. Al Gore has probably done more for the sales of the awfully tedious Toyota Prius than any advertising campaign could have achieved.

By creating an emotional and intellectual release valve for their sense of overwhelming hopelessness, middle-class polluters can point to their little petrol/electric hybrid and say in a breathless, lispy voice: “Look! I am doing my bit to reduce global warming.”

Hybridisation is the human way of adapting to change by degrees. In other words, it is a compromise. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Compromises rarely result in ideals. Nature doesn’t compromise. If you don’t work out as a species … woomph … you’re outta here. The Prius compromises performance for a feel-good factor and a nominal reduction in fuel consumption and emissions (all at a premium price). Unfortunately, the Range Rover that got traded in on the deal finds its way into the consumption chain somewhere else, so nothing really changes.

You may also have noticed an intense degree of hybridisation happening in the world of advertising and commercial media. Where once there was a clear division between ‘church’ and ‘state’, editorial and advertising, we now have infomercials, ‘masthead marketing’, product placement, advertorials, contract-published magazines and sponsored programming. In an evening you’ll probably endure a parade of commercials posing as independent consumer advice: Food in a Minute typically opens the floodgates before the news at six on TV One with Family Health Diary, Eating Well, What’s New, Discover, Brand Power, NZ Health Report, James Hardie Showhomes, txt2taste, Better Living and Medifacts all baying hotly at one another’s heels.

The formats are typically talking heads, sagely delivering ‘solutions’, ‘ideas’ and ‘information’ in a reportage style. Sometimes the ‘host’ introduces ‘experts’ who breathlessly tout the wonders of the guest client’s products.

There’s nothing especially new about advertorials. In the 1960s David Ogilvy asked: “Are your ads looking more like magazine spreads yet?” In the 80s Honda flew the late, venerable motoring journalist LJK Setright to New Zealand to front a remarkable set of commercials for the brand—which LJKS seemed genuinely to admire. His endorsement was valid and believable. After all, he had eloquently been speaking his mind on the subject for decades and was unlikely to compromise himself unduly.

Which is where the new hybrid ads need to take care. There’s no doubt that consumers are eager for a different kind of message from what an image campaign affords. Or that New Zealand advertisers like the relatively low cost of grazing their brands in space farms (without having to endure the risk of a creative execution). But as the number of these commercials increases, the risk is that we all become immune to, or even rebel against, the clutter and annoyance of the parsimonious parade of puerile presenters.

There has never been a more important time for creatives and planners to get in on the act. We need some formats that are more engaging and entertaining. Why, you ask, when the ones we have work so well (by all accounts)? Because to be competitive you have to break free of the pack. It is as true in communications as in any other form of commercial innovation—not to mention that we don’t watch TV to be bored into submission.

Personally I’d like to see Burger King, Tui Beer and Lynx join forces and make a series of commercials for all manner of laddish essentials—presented by bronzed bikini-clad goddesses. They won’t be infomercials but nymphomercials. Come on C4, make it happen. You heard it here first folks.

In all seriousness, watch out for brands teaming up to make a bigger splash than they could individually. No brand is an island.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Leap into the void

Some years ago I went to an exhibition of Yves Klein's art at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. I loved it. He patented his own colour International Klein Blue (IKB). This is it:

Klein tried to make his audience experience a state where an idea could simultaneously be "felt" as well as "understood"

This concept interests me. I was talking with my Design Research class about Epistemology - especially the idea of different ways of knowing:distinguishing between theoretical reason (knowing that) and practical reason (knowing how) - epistemology is concentrates on theoretical knowledge.

Here's an interesting thing:

Apparently English is one of the few languages that doesn't have a way of distinguishing between these two ways of 'knowing'

In French, for example, to know a person is 'connaître', but if you know how to do something is 'savoir'. In Italian the verbs are 'conoscere' and 'sapere' and the nouns for 'knowledge' are 'conoscenza' and 'sapienza'.

In German it is "kennen" and "wissen." "Wissen" is about knowing something to be a fact, where as "kennen" is knowledge as in being acquainted or having a working knowledge of a subject…

I wonder if the emphasis we place of 'experience' is a consequence of the linguistic twist. The assumption is that we 'know' because we have known. People who are certain in their 'knowledge' are trapped in the past.

Having questions is more important than having answers. Knowledge that doesn't lead to insights or wisdom.

So the question isn't just how do you know but also how do you know you know and what kind of knowledge is it?

Leapt into a void recently?

Don't Rock The Boat - Sink It

At the risk of getting a little in-bred here is a clip of some good old fashioned 'in' jokes. Actually they border on old chestnuts but it funny all the same. Thanks to Stan Lee (again).

I was thinking about the representation of advertising in media - How about these:

Darren, the harried husband of Samantha in the classic American sitcom Bewitched. Derwood seemed to always be fretting over an account. It was hard to work out whether he was a creative or a suit. He spent a lot of time kissing up to his boss, the agency founder

It's hard to go past Dudley Moore's performance in Crazy People. He goes a little nuts, makes ads that tell the truth and loads of laffs ensue...

My favourite is the Richard E. Grant in How To Get Ahead in Advertising (I know I've featured this clip before but it is genuinely worth it.


Mel Gibson in What Women Want is hapless (nice apartment though).

And finally check out the antiquated Putney Swope: Great quotes

"Rockin' the boat's a drag. You gotta sink the boat! "

Commercial Narrator: "Jim Keranga of Watts, California is eating a bowl of Ethereal Cereal, the heavenly breakfast. Jim, did you know that Ethereal has 25% more riboflavin than any other cereal on the market? Ethereal also packs the added punch of .002 ESP units of pectin!"
Jim Keranga (grinning): "No shit."

It's like a prototype for Family Health Diary

It's amazing that anyone would want to work in advertising at all.

For what its worth, though I have seen and heard (and probably done) some daft things over the years since I started working in advertising but I've never seen a film or TV show that comes close.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Design to a T

When I was a kid and into art I wanted to design record covers.I used to drool over the Hipgnosis book and spent far too long mucking about with a Rotring pen copying the style of George Hardie (Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here etc). I think now, if I was 16 I'd want to design T-Shirts. Check out this vid for the graphics.

There's Threadless too.

Sad Psycho - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

Show me the money Earthling

Residents of Roswell, New Mexico were feted to a lucky prize draw by their local Honda Dealer. A very lucky prize draw. An error by the promotions company meant that every ticket was a winner. Instead of a chance to win a $1000 every punter won. Oops.

As you know, errors are not alien to me; Ben Kepes regularly chastises me for my sloppy spelling. I see the value in it now. Lots of value.

Thanks to Brand DNA for the heads up.

Read the full story here.

Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit?

I was idling away some time in the excellent public library at Albany Village. Small but perfectly formed. Picked up an interesting looking book called: Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit? by Steve Lowe & Alan McArthur. Very, very funny. I laughed out loud. A Cynical, laddish, opinionated A-Z…perfect. If you like the likes of Jeremy Clarkson or Charlie Booker.
I read pretty much the lot (except the obscure British topics - because, let's face it, who cares about their provincial little concerns and minor celebrities). Here's what they say about Prince Andrew:

In 2003, the fourth in line to the throne decided to travel from London to a lunch engagement in Oxford by chartered helicopter at a cost to the taxpayer of £2,939. When faced with complaints about squandering the public purse, a palace spokeswoman explained that reliability was paramount as the Oxford date was a state banquet in honour of Vladimir Putin. Sadly, 'setting out earlier' was, she continued, simply not possible as there was 'something he'd forgotten to do' and also 'something on the telly'.

Prince Andrew loves helicopters so much that when no helicopter can be found for him, he scampers up and down the palace corridors shouting: 'Mummy! 'Copter! Mummy! 'Copter!'
They are less flattering about Charles and their views of Prince William are just disturbing.

Another highlight was the entry about Che Guevara t-shirts (and other merchandise). You can read it and other extracts from the book on the website.

Don't buy the book from their site though. Buy it here and make an old man happy:

Is it just me or is everything shit?

It's probably bad e-commerce practice…distracting you from my latest compelling recommendation with some TV…but check out this Charlie Booker clip. At the very end are a couple of Scots geezers talk about old TV shows about technology. 'Parently there was one called DATBASE - at the end of which they broadcast software using the racket that dialup modems used to make and probably still do if you live in one of the many Telecom forsaken areas that don't have broadband access. Quite an interesting cultural artifact....recorders at the ready?...

Familiarity breeds...success

You have to wonder why Family Health Diary is as successful as it is. The infomercial brand I created in 1997 is currently the biggest individual spender on New Zealand Television (over $17 million YTD). How does a simple - dull even - format achieve considerable results for the tenant clients?

The answer might be a phenomenon called the exposure effect: Repeated exposure to stimuli for which people have neutral feeling will increase the likeablity of the Stimuli .

How does it work? When Stimuli are repeatedly presented they become increasingly well liked and accepted. For example the more a song or slogan is repeated the more popular it is likely to become. The effect doesn't occur in every case - only in situations that are perceived as neutral or positive. Negative stimulus repeated often can amplify active dislike or negative preconceptions. FHD is quite neutral in its presentation. It defies the convention of advertising formats that rely on made up narratives or humour to for likeability. The risk is that jokey narratives or hyperbole will be misunderstood or polarising - inhibiting their effectiveness. Early research showed that FHD was well liked and accepted by viewers because the subject matter isn't inherent funny or conducive to exaggeration.

Over time the effect can weaken - people become bored with unchanging messages. Complex and interesting stimuli amplify the effect. Simple and boring tend to weaken it. The strongest effect is achieved when exposures are brief and subtle or when they are separated with delays. FHD is often varied, clients come and go but the format remains warm and familiar.

Familiarity is important. It increases aesthetic appeal and acceptance. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt. Many of the best loved works of art, design and architecture were vilified when first revealed to the public. Today Turner's paintings, the Eiffel Tower and the Guggenheim at Bilbao are widely admired. Exposure over time has familiarised us to the works whose popularity and acceptance has increased over time.

Lesson for advertising and other marketing communications?

1) Keep exposure brief
2) Repeat but have gaps between
3) The first 10 exposures will generate the greatest result.
4) Accept that there will be resistance to the something that is different to the norm.

The seminal research on the exposure effect is 'Attitudinal effects of mere exposure" by Robert Zajonc. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Monographs, vol 9(2) p.1-27

Monday, July 23, 2007

One eyed view of the world.

Have you seen the latest publishing venture from Wallpaper magazine founder Tyler Brule? Monocle bills itself as a 'briefing on global affairs, business, culture & design'. I like it. Monocle defies the conventions of mainstream magazine design. Think Harvard Business review meets, well…Wallpaper.

The layout is curiously formal. I like the typography - it is classic and restrained - speaking of which the designer has resisted the urge to go nuts with Illustrator and Photoshop.

The current issue is themed around 'Pedal Politics - a global survey of bicycle culture and commerce. Sounds dry? It is and it isn't. Hard to explain. Pick up a copy and form an opinion for yourself. Odds on it will be a more informed opinion by the time you're done.

graph from Monocle magazine

New Zealand wobbles onto the pages - and not in a good way.

When Did Macaroni Become “Pasta?”

This from an email newsletter I enjoy called the Monday Morning Memo:

David Freeman asked the question. It seemed to emerge from nowhere.

Tuscan Hall was filled with executives from the largest food companies in the world. He was in the midst of unveiling 2 new methods for accelerated branding when he stopped in mid-sentence and asked, “When did Macaroni become ‘Pasta?’”

Then, without waiting for an answer, he continued what he’d been saying. The audience, absorbed in what David was teaching, forgot his non sequitur within the span of 3 adrenaline-fueled heartbeats.

For me, it was just another glimpse into the inner dialogue of a strange and wonderful friend.

I answered David in my mind. “Macaroni became ‘pasta’ on the same day the hobo became ‘the homeless,’ the trailer house became the ‘mobile home’ and stock-car racing became ‘NASCAR.’”

It would appear we’ve chosen to celebrate the mundane, elevate the ordinary and idolize the average.

I guess struggling for excellence was just too hard.

If that's not a ThoughtSpur, I don't know what is.

Sign up for the Monday Morning Memo

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What is art? And Why?

Visited the Auckland Museum today. BMW has brought four of their 'Art Cars' to New Zealand. As an unsuccessfully recovering petrol head, former owner of a lovely BMW 3.0csi (1975 - manual - will scrounge around for a picture to upload) and recently revived fan of Andy Warhol I had to go and have a look. The fact that it is a free exhibit pushed the attraction over the line from should-do to no-brainer and some thing to bring as many guests as I could persuade.

The second benefit of the attending the display is that it permits Aucklanders to experience the top level of the renovations recently completed at the Museum. Mostly it is closed to the public but the top floor affords a unique, panoramic view of the city and surrounds. Drag your children along for that. Other than the summit of Mt Eden or the top of the Sky Tower I doubt there is a better vantage point.

I like the idea of the Art Cars. It says a great deal about BMW as a brand that they are also patrons of the arts and, possibly, that design isn't simply a cynical marketing component or a matter of engineering utility. It placates the stereotype of Germanic efficiency at all costs. If you doubt that then check out the sloppy, thick paintwork as executed on the brutally efficient looking BMW M1 painted by Andy Warhol.

For what is worth, my favourite painting is the Warhol (M1). My favourite car the 3.0 CSL painted by Frank Stella.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fuel Disclosure

Ben Kepes has an interesting blog that I have just added to my list of recommendations on the right (He replaces Malcolm Gladwell whose blogging hasn't been regular). Ben is passionate about supporting New Zealand business. He wrote an entry about the float of Burger Fuel on which I left the following comment:

Disclosure: I haven’t had a look at Burger Fuel’s financial info (never got that far). Could be interesting/instructive.

I will venture some thoughts that are entirely speculative:

a) The pitch was wrong. Though the brand may be constructed to be ‘hip’ the bottom line is what investors want to know about. It is easy to get swept away with enthusiasm for your own brand story. After all you created it.

Burger Fuel are an OK product. I am not sure that it is outstanding. I took my son for a burger in their Parnell. 15 he may be but he can chow down on chili like a full on resident of the Baja peninsular. The BF menu promised it was a ‘Ring Burner’. I tried some. My tolerance is lower. It was as mild as a peanut butter and jelly. My own burger was promised to be a blue cheese wonder. But it had as much kick as a block of Pam’s mild value pack. The product isn’t exciting. It under delivers and relies too heavily on cute copy.

The proof of the burger is in the eating. Victor Kiam famously said “I liked it so much…I bought the company”. I am not certain that BF has enough raving fans for the brand to be a phenomenon. I rather like Burger Wisconsin - the food is very good and the hype is considerably more palatable.

b) Spending cash on television advertising to punt the float on the lines of - ‘would you like shares with that?’ hardly promises prudent management of my investment.

Children don’t buy shares.

I don’t know what other, more discreet, communications the company distributed but I’m thinking they have taken mistook the tastes of the market.

I think they are a cute business but I’d be more inclined to invest in something a little more distinctive.

To succeed beyond a successful distribution/franchise strategy I think Burger Fuel will need a magic spell to be anything other than a penny dreadful.

I’ve been wrong before (of course…but I did correctly call the sale of 42 Below).

Career Opportunities

While I was driving my daughter to her netball game she was goofing around - talking through her clenched teeth. I asked her what she was doing. 'Ing mwacktshing alking i'ough ouing uy ee....". Translation: ""I am practicing talking without moving my lips."

The obvious question was then 'Why?'. She proudly announced that she intends to become a ventriloquist when she grows up. You have to admire the certainty of a seven year old.

Standing in the rain watching the team getting slaughtered by their midget opponents I couldn't help muse on Zoe's career choice. Are there any universities offering courses?

Is it such a bad ambition. In reality ventriloquism isn't so different from my own career path. For years I spoke on behalf of clients on television and in print - advertising is the talking dummy of business.

It was just one of those funny little moments but it does raise a serious question in my mind. How do we deal with the choices our kids make for their futures? I've never really given it much consideration. Till now.

Before I get too concerned I'll think about the success of Cirque du Soleil and JK Rowling. I'd rather my kids were involved in enterprises with an edge than becoming accountants or stockbrokers (not that I have anything against those occupations - its just that I don't think you should have to become a cop to have a more interesting work story.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


This clip features one of my favourite songs. I hate being called baby and I guess I just…
…with …


This music video by the curiously named Madison Avenue (where are they now) was the first time I saw that funny little technique of cutting where the action slows, picks up then radically cuts. Name? Anyone....

Found it on You Tube. Thought I'd share.


On yer bike Prius boy.

Have you noticed the empty car parking spaces in Auckland city car parking buildings - the ones that are designated to be for 'hybrid' vehicles. If you own one of these ridiculous vehicles you get priority parking. No one uses them because there are so few hybrids in use. The empty spaces (paradoxically) increase the city's carbon footprint because more vehicles have to continue the ascent to a higher level.

The logic of rewarding owners of hybrid powered cars with prius-ority parking is discriminatory and denies the reality that all cars congest the city, causing wasted fuel consumption for all and the emission of tons of toxic exhausts into the atmosphere. Recent research has suggested that air pollution kills over a thousand people in New Zealand each year. So, while in 'silent running' mode (ala a U Boat), your Prius may be emitting little more than an unpleasant smugness into the atmos but it is holding up the guy in the smoky diesel Citroen that you sold to buy you stupid little jalopy. If people with hybrids really cared for the environment they would catch the bus or ride a bike.

I think I shall attach a little sail to the roof of my limo (attached by one of those little suckers that you might find attached to a kid's bow and arrow set). Then it will be a Hybrid - harnessing both the throbbing power of a 2.5 litre, 24 valve Swedish donk and the fickle wind. Let the bureaucrats argue that my efforts to save the planet are any more meaningful than the feeble Prius and, therefore any less worthy of being placed at the head of the queue.

Thing thang

I find the Yellow Pages website unbelievably complex. it is horrible to use. Worse. Impossable.

Telecom recently sold its directories business. The new owner is spending up large online and on television (with the creepiest ads I have seen for a long time - disembodied scorched black hands scampering around and geting stuff done - "Let your fingers do the walking" taken to the revolting extreme) - weird to see it in an episode of Nip Tuck centred on an airliner that had crashed and burned(double whammy a Brazilian plane went down in Sao Paolo today burning alive all aboard). All round not a good scenario.

Though the blog is inactive (long story) you should read back through the archives of Creating Passionate Users.

Might also be worth listening to Sam Morgan of Trade Me talking about design isues for his very successful business. Better still - watch it. Here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cross Pollination in Design

Aprilia Motorcycle by Philipe Starcke
Philippe Starcke designed this bike. Aprilia made it. Ages ago.
You have to love cross pollination.

If you come across one for sale. Let me know.

What other things were designed by outsiders? Didn't Marc Newson, designer of the Lockheed Lounge just design the front bit of a spaceship?

Lockheed Lounge by Marc Newson

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Launching an inquiry

It's 1 am and I am suffering from performance anxiety. No, not that kind…I resume teaching classes at Massey University in the morning after a six week break.
For some reason the thought has me in a panic of sorts. Odd really because I normally enjoy it. The papers I'm teaching are Design Research Methods - which sounds dull (and can be) but is actually the one I like most. It is probably the most important topic that the students will approach and I will be able to predict with some confidence how good a designer they will become based on the enthusiasm with which they embrace the topic. It separates the designers from the decorators and aesthetic re-arrangers.

The other paper is marketing communications. I haven't guite the same enthusiasm for this topic (mostly because it seems all too familiar) but it allows me to explore ideas about contemporary brands with the students. This is an interesting time to be facing a career in this area. Disciplines are overlapping, the days of advertising being a dominant force are diminishing. It strikes me as odd that the advertising paper precedes this one in the course structure given that advertising is a sub-set of marketing communications.

Wish me luck…getting to sleep.


If anyone is interested in taking ownership of WellSpring my site about wellness and personal growth - or becoming involved somehow - then feel free to contact me

A candle that lights another is never diminished - tell a friend about ThoughtSpurs.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Ideas from the big house

I can't remember the last time that I saw an interesting ad in a newspaper. Truthfully this one escaped me but I saw it on the creative circle blog. Funny. Sure to lock up some gongs. Why is the image of a visitor in jail emerging as one of those advertising scenarios that pop up with a certain frequency.

Ah the joys of good talent and deft direction - even after seeing the dénouement numerous times I still laugh. Now that's the kind of advertising I like - something with a a reward for my attention.

There is a commercial for Steinlager 'Pure' beer on TV at the moment that I feel a little ambivalent towards. Initially I was interested - Harvey Kietel is the talent he delivers a soliloquy about New Zealand - Anti nuclear…first to give vote to women…taking a stand against genetic modification…clumsy direction with randomised surreal backdrops. Reminded me of the commercial for a credit card featuring the actor Lance Henriksen in a reprise of his role in the TV show Millennium. Didn't really think that worked well either. Shoehorning doesn't really work for me. Steinlager seems to being wagged by its research again - trying to define 'New Zealandness' - even down to mimicking the tourism 100% Pure idea. Harvey Keitel appeared in The Piano but, other than that I don't see the connection. Perhaps research threw him up as the embodiment of masculinity for men of 'a certain age'.

Apple smoothie

This movie is kind of strange. Where do I get me one of them blenders - I have a VW Beetle I'd like to eat.

Funky video link courtesy of BrandDNA

R&D - welcome to the lab

I was reading Rod Dury's Blog this morning and found a lively discussion about Research & Development in the world of software. I left this note (I am too lazy to write anything new at the moment - I have been trying to think of an idea for a TV show and the best I can come up with is in the vein of Ghost Whisperer, Haunted (quite rightly buried in the crypt of midnight TV), The Medium and Six Feet Under - It is about a cranky old lady who dies and is annoyed by her children's indifference to her while she was alive. If they wouldn't pay attention in life then she will darned well make them realise the consequences of their choices from the other side. The working title is "I can still hear you!".)

Where was I? Ah, research and development....(spelling adjusted)

I wonder whether one of the problems with R&D in New Zealand is that we place a great deal of emphasis on ‘D’ and very little on the ‘R’.

Ideas arrive via serendipity and are forced into the pipeline on the assumption that they are good i.e. worth pursuing.

How much preparatory investigation goes into most software research to determine the size of the market for a product before the prototype is developed?

I once worked for an IT company that was bought by a publicly listed company (cheaper to own the business and make a profit from their services than to pay for them on an hourly basis). The firm got it into its head that their future lay in software development, rather than internet services - licensing IP was the way ahead. Good in theory but flawed in practice. They lost focus. The products the were so proud of were not unique and were worse than some which could be got for free in the web (email client and a CMS). What remained of the firm was sold off swiftly by their parent company who realised the mistake they had made before too long.

The story serves to illustrate my point though. Had the business spent time with real people in the market they may have realised that their development time was wasted and could never be recovered - busy work.

I often hear that ideas aren't worth anything until they get done.
The truth is that even when done most ideas aren’t worth anything.

If you are going to make a profit from your ideas they must serve an unmet need (equal emphasis on both terms). And don’t get me wrong - the market is mostly inarticulate - going out and simply asking them what they want won’t provide an innovation or insight that is going to make you rich. Who could have articulated their latent desire for an ipod when proto MP3 players were functional but uuuuugggggleeee (I call that imponderables - we can’t know what we don’t know).

So the issue of research is paradoxical. But, then, if it was easy…everyone would do it. If you want to excite worldwide interest then you might also have to go out into the world and have a look around at how people behave. You might be surprised to learn they’re not sitting around waiting for you.

A reeder rites

"And please utilise that spell check feature while you're at it!"

I posted an unfinished diatribe by mistake...oops...Just some arbitrary ideas about New Zealand's arty community's propensity to disappear up its own rectum and expect to be lauded for the act.

The post was unfinished and, rather than using the 'save now' button I used 'publish post'. Honest error.

As it happened I was thinking aloud about 'Eagle vs Shark' - which I have no opinion about other than wanting to see it because I liked Flight of the Conchords' act.

I had seen an interview on television with the director Taika Waititi for an American channel. In response to the slating the film has had from American critics he claims not to care because he really only 'made it for himself and a few of his mates'. That's fine but let's be sure that he doesn't expect public funding in the future if he doesn't respect the audience.

There are plenty of crap films made all the time - I think NZ must be one of the few places on our speck in the Universe that honoured them with a 'Crap Film Festival' (turning our lemons into lemonade).

The offending post, duly spell checked:

I'm utterly exhausted by New Zealandness.

Stop being to ironic.

Stop being 'cool'.

You're 40 years out date.

The reviews of Eagle vs Shark in the US have been less than 'rave'.

When the director was interviewed he said that he he didn't care.

He's made the movie to suit himself and a few of his friends.


...I've heard this kind of bullshit since the '80s

Stop pleasuring yourself.


Thinking about it - why not make your movies with a digicam and do a distribution deal with YouTube if you feel so louche about it all. Leave the resources to people with talent who genuinely care about their audience.

The product doesn't have to be Die Hard 4 - not that there is anything wrong with DH films, any more than there is anything wrong with DH Lawrence's books - but films are too expensive to make for conventional distribution if you want to be an 'artiste'. Andy Warhol made movies with a locked off 16mm Bolex and a tripod. They were interesting but hardly blockbusters. They didn't really make him any money but at least he paid for them out of his own pocket - and the on-camera talent was free.

Cost of this post: nothing.

BTW: Ben, check the spelling of 'utilise'- I'm getting a red underline ;-)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

4 hours of fame

warhol and billy apple
Went to my first film festival show today - Andy Warhol (a documentary). It was a really interesting film. Long though. Two parts. Many of the audience left halfway through because the credits rolled before a brief intermission. I can't remember the last time I saw a film with a half time.

Warhol was an interesting character. Like Hockney - with whom he was friends- and Picasso he was a prolific worker even after the failed attempt to murder him.

I think my favourite parts of the film were comments from Warhol himself. For example the idea that to succeed one must 'ignore the centre - go to the edge, then make it the new centre...'

The interview that ended the first half was hilarious. A serious arty chap was trying to ask Warhol serious, arty questions. Warhol thinks about the convoluted question then says "I don't know what to say. Tell me the answer and I'll say it for you..."

The other precious moment was an interview with Andy after he had completed his first sculpture exhibition. The interviewer asks if he thinks creating a painterly reproduction of a shipping pack for Brillo pads is very original. In his classically Warholian deadpan he admit that it isn't but that it's easier for him that way. Brill.

Order a copy of the Andy WarholDVD if you can't make to the festival screenings

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Miss May dismay.

It just occurred to me that I have made two references to Miss May 1969 on this blog.

Don't you just love ambiguity's limitless opportunities to confuse at worst and, at best, make you laugh.

I am not, as it happens, referring to the Playboy centrefold of May 1969.

She would have been wasted on me at seven anyway

Read the column I wrote for the Herald about ambiguity (Sept 04)

Yellow Submarine iPod...Apple's little Yoko?

There's chatter on the wires about the possibility of Apple launching a Yellow Submarine edition of the iPod - supposedly pre-loaded with the Bealtes' albums.

I wonder if this is a strange distraction for the Apple brand? The iPhone is cool though my ardour has cooled since I first heard about it (pointless giving it headspace in New Zealand anyway).

A Yellow Sub iPod is just sad and irrelevant - sort of like Paul McCartney really. I realise that Steve Jobs likes the Beatles a lot and I agree some of their songs were ok, but they are over and out...let it be.

Nasty cash-in line extensions are not - repeat not
cool. Where would it all end? A Barbie iPod/iMac/iPhone? Hello Kitty…? I think you get my point.

Part of Apple's coolness is that they do their own thing - their own way (putting aside the aberration of the U2 iPod).

Put an end to this nonsense now. Have you run out of ideas? I'd be a starter for an Apple video camera or other consumer electronics - integrate some of the screen and navigation technology from the iPhone. How about a remote control that integrates with media systems using the iPhone screen technology or a handheld TV that recieves broadcast signals...anything...but hold the co-branding and merchandising.


Did you watch Star Trek when you were a kid? Did it have significance for you? It did for me. Curiously enough it was kind of an antidote for the Flintstones in more ways than being at the opposite end of the timeline.

In 1969 I was seven - in Miss May's class at Mt Eden Normal Primary School. I remember ordering my first Scholastic book (remember ordering books from a catalog then they would arrive at school and be distributed to everyone like it was Christmas and the teacher was Santa Claus?) - it was about travelling to the moon. Why the travellers were portrayed as children I don't know. Maybe they embodied the spirit of the era - everything was possible with the addition of some science, technology and imagination.

Star Trek was important because it promised to tell stories of where no (man) has gone before. There may well have been all sorts of sub-texts that grown ups got but I just like the space monsters, Spock's ears and the idea of setting one's 'phaser to stun'. I used to like the end credits because (if I remember right) there was a montage of some of the juicier aliens which always seemed more believable to me than Dr Who whose el cheapo Daleks - though I confess the Cybermen scared the snot out of me.

Though I'm not a Star Trek aficionado - I think I saw one of the big screen movies but the moment had passed - I enjoy watching William Shatner play Denny Crane in Boston Legal. Shatner obviously has no issues with self parody. That should be instructional for us all.

If you like Star Trek or illustration/art/design check out this exhibition of works inspired by William Shatner - a tribute show. Some funky stuff - some of which can be purchased at quite moderate prices.

Beam me up Scotty

Friday, July 13, 2007

Banksy Junior

It was a wet day. We spent the morning in the old city art gallery. Across the road is the Gow Langsford Gallery. They have a show on called KATHARINA GROSSE / THIS IS NOT MY CAT Zoe had her works of art with her from the freebie Terabithia craft thingy (I think I talked about it before). I am pretty sure she wondered why this exhibit was called art. That's a good thing. She wanted to pop one of the balloons. That's a bad thing - pretty sure they have a 'you break it you bought it policy'.

Took a quick snap. Reminded me of Banksy.

This is not my cat reminded me of a time when Oscar, my Bouvier Des Flandres relieved himself on the dunes at Piha. A poop nazi ran over to insist that I clean it up.
"This is not my dog" I replied. The wind carried away her shrill invective. I didn't see anyone rushing to move the dead penguin that had washed ashore.

Just a random thought. S'funny how art can get you thinking.

If you haven't read it yet check out The Painted Word by Tom Wolf.

From Amazon:

In 1975, after having put radical chic and '60s counterculture to the satirical torch, Tom Wolfe turned his attention to the contemporary art world. The patron saint (and resident imp) of New Journalism couldn't have asked for a better subject. Here was a hotbed of pretension, nitwit theorizing, social climbing, and money, money, money--all Wolfe had to do was sharpen his tools and get to work. He did! Much of The Painted Word is a superb burlesque on that modern mating ritual whereby artists get to despise their middle-class audience and accommodate it at the same time. The painter, Wolfe writes, "had to dedicate himself to the quirky god Avant-Garde. He had to keep one devout eye peeled for the new edge on the blade of the wedge of the head on the latest pick thrust of the newest exploratory probe of this fall's avant-garde Breakthrough of the Century.... At the same time he had to keep his other eye cocked to see if anyone in le monde was watching."

The other bone Wolfe has to pick is with the proliferation of art theory, particularly the sort purveyed by postwar colossi like Harold Rosenberg, Clement Greenberg, and Leo Steinberg. Decades after the heyday of abstract expressionism, these guys make pretty easy targets. What could be more absurd, after all, than endless Jesuitical disputes about the flatness of the picture plane? So most of them get a highly comical spanking from the author. It's worth pointing out, of course, that Wolfe paints with a broad (as it were) brush. If he's skewering the entire army of artistic pretenders in a single go, there's no room to admit that Jasper Johns or Willem DeKooning might actually have some talent. But as he would no doubt admit, The Painted Word isn't about the history of art. It's about the history of taste and middlebrow acquisition--and nobody has chronicled these two topics as hilariously or accurately as Tom Wolfe. --James Marcus

Order from Fishpond.co.nz

Order from Amazon

Friday Funny

Ok, so the title of this post is misleading. This presentation is interesting if you are engaged in trying to get your money out of the consumers pockets (marketing - according to Guy Kawasaki) you need to get your head around these things.

Rhetorical question of the day is: My word aren't they earnest young men?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wiki-speedia the fast way to seem smarter

Correlation does not imply causation is a phrase used in the sciences and statistics to emphasize that correlation between two variables does not imply there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the two.

Its converse, correlation implies causation, is a logical fallacy by which two events that occur together are claimed to have a cause-and-effect relationship.

It is also known as cum hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for "with this, therefore because of this") and false cause. It is subtly different to the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc, which in requiring a chronological component may be considered a subtype of cum hoc.

From the Wikipedia - which is much more comprehensive than the New Standard Encyclopedia I had as a kid (still have).

Can't wait to casually lob that into a conversation.

Dumb and dumberer

I have to wonder about the application of theories about IQ (which has its detractors) in unrelated disciplines. The discussion of eugenics is quite disturbing but it is thought provoking. I made a couple of comments on David Farrar's Kiwiblog on the subject. The thread was very interesting - putting aside the overt racism of some of the comments - some interesting material was added by an economics professor at Canterbury University Eric Crampton. I think the discussion went into the obscure-isphere.

I added that I think the rise of Artificial Intelligence will make individual human intelligence as we understand it today less important (no, I'm not talking about the dumbing down of pop culture).

I wonder if the significance of personal intelligence won't matter quite so much in the future - regardless of how clever they might be.

While groupthink is a derogatory term its application through networks will make a difference to outcomes. In Steven Carden's recently published book New Zealand Unleashed he cites a study that showed that groups were better at accurately guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar than individuals (statistically). It's a catch phrase but I believe there is truth in the idea of 'none of us is as smart as all of us'.

Technology changes everything. My laptop attached to the Internet allows me to accomplish much more than I would have been capable of in 1984. I'm just as dumb as I was back then but I am infinitely more capable of spreading my dumbness. National boundaries are irrelevant - a Laissez-faire situation that Adam Smith could never have imagined in his wildest dreams.

My reference to artificial intelligence is pertinent because technology makes resources less scarce (one economist - Pilzer - even suggests that describing economics as the study of limited resources is fundamentally flawed because resources are potentially unlimited). The Internet has created a huge neural network. Anyone can access pretty much any information anytime.

I want to think about this some more...must sleep...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


IQ measurement seems to me to be a complete waste of time and, although I teach at Massey University , I wouldn't regard a degree as any indication of ability - based on my observations in the real world. Having talent is situational.

Billy Connelly is a talented man - witty, intelligent and at the top of his game. If owning mansions or castles is your measure of success then successful he is. But read his biography (written by his Kiwi wife Pamela Stephenson - a psychologist) and you find he was born in poverty. He had minimal education (though I am sure he was granted an honorary doctorate from somewhere) and was abused terribly as a child. He became an alcoholic - though now he's clean and sober. So, there you go - the entire eugenics discussion is bollocks. There is no genuine indicator for leading a successful or productive life (though racism and bigotry have a funny way of getting in the way regardless - often deployed by the children of the wealthy and well educated)."

Billy by Pamela Stephenson - Order a copy from Fishpond.co.nz

The shoulders of giants

Quotes are a fascinating tool. On one hand you might be 'standing on the shoulders of giants'. On the other you might simply be parroting material mindlessly or out of context.

Memes are the new quotes (you can quote me on that). How many people are running about quoting Chicken Little...I mean Al Gore. The sky is falling..the sky is falling! I know, because I saw the movie (and it won an Academy Award). Other than the title there are no real quotable quotes.

I recently came across a website with great intentions. B Corporation who claim:

"Higher purpose. Higher standards of accountability, transparency, and performance. Meet the Founding B Corporations who are setting the new corporate standard for social and environmental performance. These leaders have created profitable, competitive businesses while taking care of their employees, community, and environment."

All good. But they kind of bug me my appropriating a quote that - in a curious way - belongs to us all; you'll probably recognise it:

"We must be the change we seek in the world" M Ghandi

B Corporation use the tag:

"The Change We Seek" adding TM in superscript.

As green issues become good business I think it is important not to become cynical. It is an ideal, not a compromise. To me B Corporation compromises themselves by taking the long dead Ghandi as their spokesperson (obviously without his consent).

It's a man's life

...but that's not holding Helen Medlyn back. Talented and entrepreneurial Auckland singer/entertainer (cabaret, opera,...you name it) is performing her one man show Hell Man at the Aotea Centre's Herald Theatre. Helen always puts on terrific performance. In this one she plays as Jack the Lad. Book some tickets here. Should be a great night out.

From the blurb:

One man on a one-night stand. Loving, losing, hot touches, cold kisses, mystery, mistakes, leavings, takings, dreams, desires, laughter, lechery. Restraining her ‘outstanding attributes’, the curvy diva is “he”.

With songs by Bob Dylan, Stephen Sondheim, James Taylor, John Ritchie, Billy Joel, Tom Lehrer, George Frideric Handel, Irving Berlin, Mac Davis and Frank Loesser.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The media landscape and Pandora's Box

Plausible? Yes.
Interesting? Yes.
Worth thinking about? Yes.

(Didn't Prometheus steal fire from the gods and give it to mankind? - For which the petulant Gods took their revenge by leaving a box with Pandora, Prometheus' wife and the strict instruction not to open it. She does and unleashes misery on humanity where none had existed before. Is there a warning embedded in the message? - maybe?)

Easy Rider

I bought a clunker motorcycle - an R65 BMW - old, needs some love. Hope to have it in good shape for summer. I must be insane. Not for buying a bike. They make perfect sense (even if, as I write, howling winds have meant that motorcycles are banned from the Auckland Harbour Bridge. I think a couple were blown over this evening - which doesn't surprise me I saw a bus' engine cover flap wildly before being distracted by a RAV 4's spare wheel cover flying off and striking a VW Passat. On the same journey the right turn indicator on my Volvo was knocked into oblivion by flying debris on the North Western motorway…so, yeah a bike sounds like fun).

I haven't had a proper bike for a while - the last one I had was a 600SS Ducati - I won't count the Vespa 150 as proper bike - though it was terrific fun. Might need to get me a helmet now. Some gloves...I knew there was something I hate about bikes - paraphernalia.

I have always wanted an old boxer twin. An R80 would have been better but this will do so I can have my little Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence moment.

It has to be shipped up from Akaroa so I won't see it for a few days.

Before I forget. There are a few days left of the school holidays. If you have kids and are in Auckland go to the Art Gallery. They have a terrific craft area set up. Make what you like - materials all supplied and free. We like free (and not having to clean up after). Better still, to tie in with the holiday movie The Bridge to Teribithea the gallery will give you a free pass for a child when you buy an adult ticket. The only downside was that I had to watch the movie...but that's just me. All that sentiment...It was filmed in New Zealand. There is a scene supposedly in the museum but actually in the gallery where you will cut out shapes and glue stuff next to the very same Bruegel shown in the movie. That's kind of cool.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fear-Lessness leads to bignessness...

Wieden and Kennedy have created legendary work - most notably for Nike - their own website is pretty funky too. They are credited with being the first to introduce post-modernism to advertising - the first shift after the creative revolution started by Doyle Dane Bernbach in the 1960s.W+K have spawned a new agency, 72 and Sunny. I like their work for DC shoes featuring James Lipton in a parody of his show Inside the Actors Studio.


Mysteries of the metaverse

Here's an interesting presentation from the TED conference. Normally technology seems a little dry to me. This presentation has the audience in raptures. Imagine being able to create a composite image from thousands of pictures and sources and perpectives. What if you could zoom in and scale. Can do. Check it out.

Visit the Live Labs and trial the Photosynth technology (if you have MS Vista). Also interesting videos to view.

TED conference videos

Friday, July 06, 2007

Word of Mouth 2.0

From Guy Kawasaki's blog a heads up about a book. Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth MarketingI was interested to read 'The Nine Best Story Lines for Marketing'. A recommendation from Mr Kawasaki is good enough for me. The interesting thing about the list I have filched (hope that doesn't impinging or infringe on anyone's IP/rights - I guess it's fair use and promotional) is that the order differs from how I'd do it.

In my opinion the last parts of the list take precedence over the first. Not because they are greater but because they are smaller. I reckon my clients get greater strength from the things they can do today than larger strategic issues. It's hard to survive, let alone prosper if you are hemorrhaging (yes). All the same, I like the sound of the book. I respect Kawasaki's recommendation and look forward to reading it for myself.

Here are Mr K's key points. (visit his blog - it is outstanding and (better) fun.).

1. Aspirations and beliefs.

More than any other topic, people like to hear about aspirations and beliefs. (This may be why religion is the most popular word-of-mouth topic, ever.) Sun Microsystems’ Scott McNealy’s point of view about ending the digital divide is aspirational as is Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s views about how companies can grow by reducing pollution and creating more sustainable business strategies. Aspirations are helpful because they help us connect emotionally to the speaker, the company, and the issues. They help us see into a person or company’s soul.

2. David vs. Goliath.

In the story of David and Goliath, the young Hebrew David took on the Philistine giant Goliath and beat him. It is the way Southwest Airlines conquered the big carriers, the way the once unknown Japanese car manufacturers took on Detroit, and the way social media is taking on the media giants. Sharing stories about how a small organization is taking on a big company is great business sport. Rooting for the underdog grabs our emotions, creates meaning, and invokes passion. We like to listen to the little guy talk about how he’s going to win and why the world—or the industry—will be a better place for it.

3. Avalanche about to roll.

The mountain is rumbling, the sun is getting stronger, but the rocks and snow are yet to fall. You want to tune in and listen to the “avalanche about to roll” topic because you know that there’s a chance that you will be killed if caught unaware. This theme taps into our desire to get the inside story before it’s widely known. It’s not only interesting to hear someone speak about these ideas, they have the ingredients for optimal viral and pass-along effect.

4. Contrarian/counterintuitive/challenging assumptions.

These three themes are like first cousins, similar in many ways but slightly different. Contrarian perspectives defy conventional wisdom; they are positions that often are not in line with—or may even be directly opposite to—the wisdom of the crowd. The boldness of contrarian views grabs attention; the more original and less arrogant they are, the more useful they will be in provoking meaningful conversations.

Counterintuitive ideas fight with what our intuition (as opposed to a majority of the public) says is true. When you introduce counterintuitive ideas, it takes people a minute to reconcile the objective truth with their gut assumption about the topic. Framing views counter to how we intuitively think about topics—going against natural “gut instincts”—pauses and then resets how we think and talk about concepts.

Challenging widely-held assumptions means that when everyone else says the reason for an event is X, you show that it’s actually Y. Challenging assumptions is good for debate and discussion, and especially important in protecting corporate reputation.

5. Anxieties.
Anxiety is a cousin of the avalanche about to roll, but it is more about uncertainty than an emerging, disruptive trend. Examples of anxiety themes abound: (1) Financial services companies urging baby boomers to hurry up and invest more for retirement: “You’re 55. Will you have your needed $3.2 million to retire comfortably?” (2) Tutoring companies planting seeds of doubt about whether our kids will score well enough on the SATs to get into a good college. Although anxiety themes grab attention, go easy. People are becoming skeptical, and rightly so. Too many politicians, companies have bombarded us with FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) with no facts to back up their point.

6.Personalities and personal stories.
There’s nothing more interesting than a personal story with some life lessons to help us understand what makes executives tick and what they value the most. The points of these personal stories are remembered, retold, and instilled into organizational culture. Robert Goizueta, the respected CEO of Coca-Cola, said he hated giving speeches but he was always telling stories—often personal ones about how he and his family had to flee Cuba when Castro took control and had nothing more than his education.

Similarly, when Steve Jobs gave the commencement address to Stanford University in June 2005, he shared his personal story and life lessons. That commencement address, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish,” was talked about on thousands of blog and was published verbatim in Fortune magazine. It helped us see Jobs in a new light.

7. How-to stories and advice.

Theoretical and thought-provoking ideas are nice, but people love pragmatic how-to advice: how to solve problems, find next practices, and overcome common obstacles. To be interesting, how-to themes need to be fresh and original, providing a new twist to what people already know or tackle thorny issues like how to get IT and marketing organizations to work together despite deep culture clashes between the two.

8.Glitz and glam.
Robert Palmer sang about being addicted to love. Our society is more addicted to glamour and celebrity. Finding a way to logically link to something glitzy and glamorous is a surefire conversation starter. For example, tagging on to the widespread interest in the Academy Awards, Randall Rothenberg, former director of intellectual property at consultancy Booz Allen-Hamilton, last year talked about the similarity and challenges between creating new “star” product brands and movie stars.

9. Seasonal/event-related.

Last, and least interesting but seems to resonate, is tying your topic into seasonal or major events. Talking about industry predictions around the New Year, advertising during SuperBowl season, executive compensation reform when an executive of a well known company “resigns” with an especially bloated compensation package are examples of this type of story.

Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing