Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Whatever happened to...Jethro Tull

Ok, sad admission. When I was a kid I liked Jethro Tull. Maybe you've heard of them? Flutes, Olde Englishe sensibility, slightly potty. The singer (and flautist) would prance energetically around the stage in tights and codpiece (flauntist?). Well, I was looking for a Pussycat Dolls Clip (I had my reasons and they are not what you might think);YouTube threw up Pussy Willow and Jack in the Green played in concert in 1982.
I watched it and felt unusually glad that I had moved on (to Punk rock, as it happens).
Watching the Sex Pistols I had a similar feeling. Sometimes you just have to move on.

I didn't embed Pussy Willow, but Skating Away because, well, actually it's because I can't remember the last time a rock band included a glockenspiel riff in a live number. The vocal reverb at the then end must have been something special in 1977.

Had a coffee with Jason Kemp this morning, Jason is a regular contributor to the Idealog blog and one of life's big thinkers. We talked through a range of topics but I think it was blogging itself that was most interesting. I almost felt self conscious about riffing on pretty much whatever makes the short journey from ear to ear, but I realised that the point is simply that blogging is an opening for a conversation - feel free to jump in any time - or start your own blog. If you haven't got one yet make 5 minutes to do so - that is all it takes - here or at Wordpress or vox (or any one of dozens of free blogging sites)

So, what did happen to Jethro Tull?

Slip of the tongue

I enjoy Graham Reid's blog Random Play. I read today's post with interest. He describes visiting the place where the iconic JFK was assassinated and in his prose made reference to 'Conspiracy Theorists'. It kind of grated on me as I feel the term is entering into the UnSpeak vocabulary. So I posted this reply:

Conspiracy theory/theorist has emerged into the language in a dangerous way. It is a form of UnSpeak (as described by Stephen Poole in his excellent (and frightening) book of the same name: Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons, How Weapons Become a Message, and How That Message Becomes Reality

To paraphrase one reviewer:

"…ubiquitous terms such as war on terror, pro-life, and Operation Just Cause, are examples of Unspeak. They attempt to silence any possible opposing viewpoint by casting an issue in only one light.

Unspeak phrases are not neutral but "smuggle in political opinion in a remarkably efficient way.

The implications of an ongoing effort by politicians and interest groups to manipulate our language, for example, substituting global warming with climate change as a way of recasting the debate about environmental pollution in less-frightening terms.

Similarly, what was once referred to as creationism is now called intelligent design by fundamentalists intent on passing off their religious beliefs as scientific theory.

… journalists often parrot terms handed to them by corporations and politicians, aiding in passing these phrases into mainstream usage.

…an insidious trend"

Conspiracy Theorist is a convenient expression to close down discussion and debate. I am not especially interested in the case of JFK or the related story of Marilyn Monroe's death (or Anna Nicole Smith for that matter), but I was fascinated to watch the documentary Loose Change about the events surrounding 9/11. I found much of the content plausible and incredible that mainstream media had determined that it was merely 'Conspiracy Theory'. This meme shuts down the discussion - as if to imply that finding doubt about official explanations of events would lump one in the padded corral with the Area 51 theorists.

Recently a teacher at Takapuna Grammar school was vilified by the Sunday papers for introducing famous 'conspiracy theories' into the classroom in an attempt, as she put it, to introduce critical thinking. I don't know what was really said but remarks about the scale of the murder of Jews by the Nazi's outraged some Jewish parents of a student. For the record I have no reason to doubt the enormity of the slaughter - and the entire conversation was hijacked with emotively charged remarks, such as forcing the victims to 'die again' (which as anyone knows, simply isn't possible and unhelpful).

Critical thinking is a crucial building block of a democracy. To examine a subject with an open mind is essential, in my opinion, for a generous, burgeoning and just (asin reasonable doubt) society.

Preserving dogma and the prevailing, primarily political, orthodoxy by branding doubters 'Conspiracy Theorists' simply reminds me of the treatment meted to 'witches' in the not so distant past...

Here's to the doubters and malcontents - their legacy is progress and innovation.

Indeed I understand that the Catholic Church conceded that the earth is not the centre of the universe after all...

S'funny how the truth has a way of shifting with time.

But don't be put off, it is a great blog: interesting and well written. Mr Reid is very pleasant chap, I spoke with him before Christmas about participating in an article about people who have made creative career changes (He was an English teacher at my high school and, without his (indirect) influence I would never have read The Dice Man (1970s A) or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

Times are a changin'

I'm looking forward to seeing how the blogging community is going to self organise for the next election in New Zealand. My bet is that the party that is able to adapt best to the new media landscape is going to be the one that will be the most closely scrutinised after the election; i.e. the winner ...

A body of Art

I am reminded, yet again, of the remark about Ginger Rogers: She danced as well as Fred Astaire, but she did it backwards and in high heels. The prompt was this video:

I discovered it on the site of Cedric Chambaz a French blogger, living in London (whom I discovered in turn through my Ziki.

The movie was created by a young American artist, Phil Hansen, who, like Banksy, challenges the notion of what art is, where it begins and ends and where it simply bleeds into a cultural fabric. He his clearly talented. I am fascinated that his work plainly references the digital world, some of the images reflect filters in Adobe Illustrator or the pixelation of images on a computer screen...and yet, when you watch in real time he seems to create extemporaneously. Fantastic images and concepts. There is art in everything - including peanut butter and jelly.

Weapons of mass destruction (1938)

I've never actually heard the original recording of War of the Worlds by Orson Wells before. When it was first broadcast in 1938 it caused panic across the United States (WMD 1938?)
Now you can hear it and watch it in amazing stop-motion animation starring actors only slightly more lifelike than Tom Cruise's acting in the 2005 movie version.

Worth watching,...ah, simpler times.

Reconstituted Spam and An Incovenient Truth

The daily deluge can now be put to good use. Actually I am not sure that this has any more use than its raw material but it is interesting; you enter the content of a spam email and the site reconstitutes it into a work of art. Jackson Pollock meets Spiragraph, meets the skies over Baghdad (Gulf War 1), they all drop a tab of acid and we watch the madness that follows.

It is a collaboration between a design firm and EnBW, one of Germany's industrial giants which is promoting its real-world recycling endeavors.

From a google search:

EnBW ('our name says it all'...ummm, ooookaaaaay...)

With some six million customers, EnBW Energie Baden-W├╝rttemberg AG with its headquarters in Karlsruhe is the third largest energy company in Germany. In 2006, EnBW generated annual revenue in excess of € 13 billion with more than 20,000 employees. Our core activities focus on the segments electricity, gas as well as energy and environmental services.

Can't help but wonder if the real inconvenient truth about global warming is that the asnwer is nuclear power - I first brought this up in mid 2005 after reading the eye-opening article in Wired Magazine

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Has Telecom gone mad?

I find a few things about Telecom (New Zealand) curious.
The first is their automated phone system. I called the help desk of their XTRA Internet business to find out why my web access suddenly didn't work. Before I got to speak to a human being I had to go through the usual tree of menu options. I don't know about you, but I get annoyed when I have to wait through a sales pitch ("If you would like to know about XTRA products and services,…press 1") before I am addressed as a customer ("If you are already an XTRA customer, press 2"). In a very obvious sense it says that customers come second. For some reason the username and password on my broadband modem had to be reset. I had made no changes, so I wondered why that would be necessary and have to say I felt some concern for the level of security in their system.

Today the telephone account came in. I had changed the broadband account because I have moved from my city apartment to the North Shore. I had chosen a fixed price usage account, but the bill included 5MB of additional bandwidth that had been consumed. I don't know about you, but a fixed price in my book is a fixed price. My understanding is that, if you exceed your limits, the speed simply slows down.

We will have words about it tomorrow - and I will be asking how much refund I can expect from the billing issues they have had over promised bandwidth speeds and those actually delivered at the end of last year.

While I am on the topic of phone companies I have to also include Vodafone - I really get bugged by the long sales pitch when I am trying to recharge the credit on my prepay cellphone (I make so few calls it doesn't make sense for me to have a contract, I use the cell like a pager). Seriously, making me wait through an interminable pitch for services I have no interest in buying just bugs me.

Phones and Internet are such an integral part of life now it puts the behaviour of the vendors in the category under the spotlight. My international friends who now live in New Zealand regard the speed of broadband and level of service to be a joke. I'm beginning to understand why. By I'm not quite seeing the humour.

Just thought I would share.

On the topic of humour; saw Borat at the movies last night. Very funny in parts. Just disturbing in others. I don't know why but the funniest moment for me was when Borat has been abandoned by his manager, left alone in the middle of nowhere USA with nothing but his clothes, an ice cream truck and a plane ticket home (but no passport). Squatting inconsolably on the pavement he tosses his satchel on the ground in front of him and it clucks. It's the little things.

Of course kidnapping Pamela Anderson is funny too. Sasha Baron Cohen has balls. Unfortunately we know this because we have seen them in the infamous wrestling scene, which was more more disturbing than anything I have ever seen. Heppy Times...Not.

Class of 07

The 2007 Massey University calendar has begun. I showed up bright and early - to an empty classroom. It helps to read your timetable properly. No harm done, I realised my mistake and made a dramatic entrance to the five fourth year students in my Design Business class. This contrasted with the bulging Advertising class a couple of hours later. It should be an interesting year. Huge emphasis on creativity this year. Less theory. Hope to see some exciting work. My feeling is that an educational context should leave plenty of wriggle room for 'out there' ideas.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Zooppa...random but interesting

Here is something a little different. Ok, a lot different. But that's a good thing; isn't it?

Also, for those of you who just like looking at the ads - without all the annoying soap operas and sitcoms getting the way - Ads of the World.

And on the subject of 'who needs English' to be understood:

(Thanks to Acejet170)

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

And there you have it. A few extra years onto your life.

'Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.' that is the synthesis of the book The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.
I had heard an interview on Radio New Zealand National between Pollan and the very strange, but often amusing Kim Hill and made a mental note to buy the book. Haven't done so yet, but I will as I was reminded reading a blog entry by UK advertising planner Philip Slade (whom I discovered in a link from my page).

Mr Slade's entry linked to an excellent essay in the The New York Times by Pollan. To read it you must register, but it is free and well worth the effort. Or you could simply adopt the mantra...Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants...and wonder how the Atkins diet got so much traction.

How to get ahead in advertising

While I am riffing on the subjects of getting ahead and advertising, here is a little gem from the late 80's featuring Richard E Grant (Withnail & I, Spice World...Wah Wah...). The first part is amusing but the second part is uncomfortably prescient. If it doesn't make practitioners in advertising squirm, just a're in the right job!

Are you experienced?

Old Spice Experience Lineup
Remember old Spice? You must, surely...? Or maybe you are too young and it is just old codgers like me who recall the commercials with images of crashing waves and manly, jutting chins? Or the one from America that suggests you should wear it because that's what women like?

Well, things have changed for Old Spice. It got, well..., old. So the clever marketing brains at Proctor & Gamble have relaunched and repositioned it for us.

Somewhere in the archive of the ThoughtSpurs blog I posted a video clip of the old Spice introduction to their new site, touting the theme of 'Experience'. The script is:

If you have it, you don’t need it.
If you need it, you don’t have it
If you have it, you need more of it
If you have more of it, you don’t need less of it
You need it to get it
And you certainly need it to get more of it
But if you don’t already have any of it to begin with
You can’t get any of it to get started
Which means you really have no idea how to get it in the first place, do you?
You can share it, sure...
You can even stock pile it if you’d like
But you can’t fake it
Wanting it, needing it, wishing for it
The point is…if you’ve never had any of it…
People just seem to know

The site contains an elaborate three act play on the theme: a test - how experienced are you? The experience 'Cliff's Notes' (which kind of contradicts the idea that you can't fake it) and a blog with contributions by editors in various men's magazine staple categories such as cars, grooming, music etc...

In the music section I found the following which stirred a moment of national pride:

The Black Seeds – Into The Dojo
Next stop, New Zealand and the home of the new Reggae!? Yes, I will be the first to admit that most contemporary reggae really just well… sucks. Sorry Mr. Yahoo. It took some Kiwis to bring back a dynamic, roots-rock-reggae sound. Finally you have something else to put on the record player during those lazy Sundays besides Bob Marley and Sublime. The Black Seeds have really found their groove on Into the Dojo, their third album. Just the right mix of jamming and restraint make this entire album truly wicked.

I don't know why I find that stirring. I am not a great fan of reggae. It is just part of the curious kiwi neurosis, we like to imaging the world is watching - when, in fact, more of the world is likely to be watching Spongebob Sqaurepants at any given moment in time. Maybe the most ardent expression of this phenomenon is the Edge website which meticulously keeps cuttings of world media sightings of New Zealanders.

The concept of experience in marketing is probably the most powerful emerging idea of the moment. It has replaced the notion of integration which, if I recall correctly was big in the nineties. The interesting thing in the Old Spice take on experience is that it still relies on the 'smartest guy in the room' philosophy. The editors, curators and copywriters assume the mantle of 'most experienced' and arbiter, rather than embracing an open source community model. I am sure the collective experience of the mob would be infinitely more interesting and authentic than the wry, ironic musings of the site. In fact, having only achieved 90 percent in their test and earning the red badge of nearly experienced I experienced a feeling of having been gipped.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

How to get a head in life

I never really know what is going to happen next. Life is unscripted. I suppose that makes it an improvisation. You just have to roll with it and see where it goes.
Of course I realise that some of you plan every moment. You may have scheduled your visit here (for which I am grateful) and in that case I'm on the clock, so I'll keep this brief.

Del CloseI read a story in the New Yorker magazine about the (apparently) legendary improv comedian Del Close. I have to 'fess that I had never heard of the guy; though I had seen Ferris Bueller's Day Off in which he plays the deadpan English teacher..."Bueller?…Bueller?......Bueller?. He taught improv to an impressive list of comedians including: John Belushi, John Candy, Andy Dick, Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and Harold Ramis (some of whom are still alive).

When he died he asked his longtime creative collaborator, Charna Halpern, that his skull be donated to the Goodman Theatre in New York, so that he could play Yorick in “Hamlet.” The skull was donated - but it turned out the skull may have been Yorick's but, alas, it wasn't Close's. Not even close. The problem was that no one in the medical/funereal business was prepared to detach the head and rend it for the role.

The part of the story I liked, aside from the slightly black humour of the dying wish, was Halpern's reasoning for handing over an understudy skull. She says the substitution was never intended as a hoax: “Del and I were improvisers, and improvisers always say yes to each other’s ideas onstage, make them work. ...Try to keep it all going.”

Actually it reminds me of a line I've been known to trot out from time to time:

You think I'm improvising here, but I'm really just making it all up as I go along...

Read the article in the New Yorker here

Friday, February 23, 2007

Love is a many splendoured Ducati

Motorcycling is more important now than it ever has been. And not just to me. Though to me it is up there with an up there thing. I know, that's not a terribly mature thing to say, but I just can't think of anything that matters more to me than motorbikes. Not just any motorcycle though. I like the kind that idle slowly and make a thunka, thunka, thunka sound. In my riding life I have had a Triumph, a Norton, a BMW, a Sunbeam, a Ducati and a Vespa (I have left out the japanese bike - because it was a two stroke Yamaha racer and it didn't count), and left the Vespa in because it was a four stroke and make a thunka, thunka, thunka sound at idle - there may have been something wrong with it but we'll never know because it was killed by a Nissan Patrol...

Which brings me to my point. Here is the spectrum. Sustainable - Unsustainable. Ducati 600SS - NIssan Patrol.
The argument for motorcycles is completely sustainable.

  • They use little fuel
  • They use little space (how many parking buildings and associated resource consuming facilities are needed for cars and SUVs)
  • They are less wasteful - most car journeys are taken alone.
  • If there were more of them and concessions were made for using them (tax, ACC payments) the roads would be safer - most bike accidents are caused by car drivers - because there would be fewer cars.

But mostly they are more fun. The most fun I had was my Ducati.

If anyone knows of a nice Norton Commando...

Thunka, thunka, thunka...

Bug Eyed Wonder

Auckland's iconic Metro magazine has had its ups and downs recently. Some in the bitchy and somewhat inbred publishing industry gleefully prophesised its pending downfall as it passed the 20 year waypoint.

I'm not sure what its circulation figures are or how the advertising revenues are holding up, but I am sure that, like all pulp based media, it is experiencing a great deal more competition from internet advertising; as are newspapers and television. But I will leave that media analysis for another time.

I have just picked up the latest edition. While its cover lacks some of the sass and sex appeal of others it has commisioned recently the content looks brilliant. The design and art direction are far and away the best of any publication in New Zealand. Its generous size and gigantic spreads make it a genuinely luxe experience. It is easy to see why fashion and luxury goods are so attracted to it. They just fit and make other titles look pinched and stingy - even the likes of Fashion Quarterly.
The typography is exceptional and self assured, the layouts sell the stories. It feels like a magazine in the literal sense - a collection of things, rather than a homogenised litany. I enjoy the surprises of turning the pages, though I never feel disoriented. Online they have also risen to the challenge. MetroLive has been useful - I've even used it wen at a loss for an interesting restaurant (try Peter Gordon's Bellota tapas in the Sky City building - in the alley between the casino and the hotel)

You can flip through a sampling of Metro's spreads here.

But, best of all, is Judith Baragwanath's short piece on the apalling fashion crime of Gigantic Sunglasses. Like her I have been bugged by the boggle eyed followers. There is nothing more ridiculous than a dear wee thing with a gargantuan pair of Chanel, Bulgari, Dior ...insert brand here... as they have all jumped on the occhiali brandwagon...especially when barely the tip of their nose prods through the expanse of plexi and plastic. I predict back and neck injury compensation claims in the near future. In years to come photographs will be shown to the grandchildren which will raise the plaintiff question...what were we thinking?...

The mile high club

One of the curious aspects of blogging is the complete familiarity of it all. You are free to explore my innermost thoughts (or perhaps those that are more inner than the usual business outing) and yet, for the most part, I don't know who you are.

I assume more than the few people who have left comments are visiting because, tucked away in the bowels of the source code I have attached a counter that tells me how many people have visited, how many pages they have viewed and the duration of the visit. It makes an interesting snapshot and answers the bear in the woods question. However statistics are just that - numbers; aggregations. And I am quite pleased with the numbers. They are not large, but they are trending up (as they say). But it reminds me of the Bill Bryson story about a bad flight he took. When he describes it his friend asks who he flew with and he replies, “I don’t know, they were all complete strangers to me.”

So, you may have noticed that I have added some technological wizardry to make the experience more personable.

At the risk of sounding like a cabin crew member on Mr Bryson's flight: Have you seen this?...

On your right is a button that allows you to easily subscribe to an RSS feed. If you don't know what an RSS feed is then I suggest that you learn more here to increase your interweb pleasure. In essence:

"(You can) keep track of a large number of your favorite Web sites or blogs, without having to remember to check each site manually or clutter your email Inbox. You can now streamline your online experience by subscribing to specific content feeds and aggregating this information in one place to be read when you're ready."

The next feature is an email notification of new content. This might work if (and I have to confess this is me right now) you are still grappling with RSS and Feeds. You'll get a note letting you know there is new content. Now, I'd argue that is a better email to receive than an overdue notice from one's library, but I won't presuppose that you feel the same way. After all...I don't know who you are.

There is also the little survey from which I hope to receive 100 responses to determine if I need to modify the content or improve it in some way. I expect this will be the case.

And, finally, you can post comments that I will make publicly viewable (except if they are in extreme bad taste) and, of course, good old email.

I would remind you that this is a non-smoking blog and wish to thank you for travelling ThoughtSpurs...I know you have a choice.

The Good Citizen's Alphabet

When I was young and annoyingly lean I read a book by Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy,which equipped me with an equally slender and shallow interest in the topic that I have never really sought to plumb much further.

The book by Russell that I should have read is the delighfully obscure, forgotten and illustrated The Good Citizen's Alphabet. It is literally an A-Z of ThoughtSpurs.

Russell's introduction to the otherwise spartan text goes like this:

This book, it is felt, will supply a lacuna which has long disgraced our educational system. Those who have had the largest amount of experience in the earlier stages of the pedagogical process have in a very large number of cases been compelled to conclude that much unnecessary difficulty and much avoidable expenditure of school hours is due to the fact that the ABC, that gateway to all wisdom, is not made sufficiently attractive to the immature minds whom it is our misfortune to have to address. This book, small as is its compass, and humble as are its aims, is, we believe and hope, precisely such as in the present perilous conjuncture is needed for the guidance of the first steps of the infant mind. We say this not without the support of empirical evidence. We have tried our alphabet upon many subjects: Some have thought it wise; some, foolish. Some have thought it right-minded; others may have been inclined to think it subversive. But all — and we say this with the most complete and absolute confidence — all to whom we have shown this book have ever after had an impeccable knowledge of the alphabet. On this ground we feel convinced that our education authorities, from the very first moment that this work is brought to their attention, will order it instantly to be adopted in all those scholastic institutions in which the first elements of literacy are inculcated. —17 January 1953. B.R.

I came across the book in the wonderful site/blog Design Observer. I will encourage my students to visit it when they get a moment between txt msgs.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

All work and no play

I keep encountering very cool things on the web. Not all are conducive to productivity, but who knows when one idea will spark another. I rather like this game - it reminds me of computer games when I was a kid. One step up from Chinese chequers I guess (but you never lost any of the pieces and didn't need your older brother to condescend to playing...)

Mummy,... what's a brand?

This may be a hoary old chestnut for those of us who've been around since single minded propositions were orthodoxy de jour - but I think is a very succinct expression of the difference between brands and 'branding'.

Thanks to the blog of Colombian ad planner Daniel Meija for the images.

Did the earth move for you?

Last night there were a series of small earthquakes in Auckland. The biggest was 4.5 on the Richter Scale. Not big tremors in the grand scheme of things, but enough to remind one of the fact that the city is squarely within a volcanic ring. Rangitoto, the landmark island in the Hauraki Gulf is quite recent and is considered dormant rather than extinct.

It struck me as slightly strange that such a potentially destructive force of nature could seem to be a minor thrill; in the same way that throwing oneself off a bridge, tethered by a bungy cord isn't the indicator of mental illness it might once have been. I realise that feel mildly excited by a shake might sound weird, but it reminds me of the concept of creative inflation that I wrote about in my latest column for Idealog magazine (referring to remarks made by UK planner Richard Huntington to Russell Davies).

Things that were once the cutting edge of excitement become dull and we need a bigger fix. Perhaps it is related to the concept of quality demand in economics; for example: when you first start working in an office you might buy your first modestly priced business suit. But you can't wear the same suit every day, so you get another in order to rotate them. After a while you have earned a little more, you buy a better quality suit and suddenly the original purchases don't ring your bell the way they did. You progressively increase your demand for a better quality product and rarely go backwards. In some cases you might prefer to have less of something than to revert to more volume of an inferior product or experience.

I felt quite blase about the shakes last night, a mild thrill. In another time I might have felt the need to sacrifice a goat to read its entrails to determine why the gods were angry...But don't get me wrong, I'm not keen on anything that could be classed as a natural disaster. As Winston Churchill once said "There is nothing more thrilling than to have been shot at with no result."

And on the subject of 'rocking your world' Simon Law has given a heads-up to a movie The Alchemists produced by the One Show (American advertising award show). The trailer promises much - I am looking forward to seeing the movie, though I am a little confused about whether it has been produced or is in production. Looks like it will be a fantastic teaching tool for my Advertising paper at Massey University.

Here is the synopsis.

Imagine a movie that, for the first time ever, pulls the curtain back to reveal a small group of individuals you've probably never heard of, but who undoubtedly changed your mind and your behavior… THE ALCHEMISTS is a surprisingly personal exploration of some of the most influential advertising giants of the last century, and the communication they created which rocked our culture. Inspired by the social movements of their time and driven by the need to communicate some greater truth, these artists and writers despised mediocrity and the status quo of the advertising industry and brought a revolutionary spirit to their work:

Lee Clow, who created the most-famous commercial in history by introducing Macintosh computers in "1984"; George Lois who single-handedly saved MTV from extinction with his trademark in-your-face celebrity campaign; Phyllis K. Robinson who helped define the entire "me generation" with her liberating spin on selling Clairol; Hal Riney who got President Reagan re-elected; and Dan Wieden who, inspired by the last words of executed murderer Gary Gilmore, came up with the little phrase "Just Do It" and revolutionized advertising forever. Sports, fashion, music, politics, technology-our culture-was deeply affected by these alchemists.

Through their stories, and with humor and drama, THE ALCHEMISTS will be the definitive film of the 20th century phenomenon of creative advertising.

It will feature celebrities, upbeat cultural commentary, and an amazing display of commercials and history from the last century, including the ground-breaking work of Bill Bernbach (VW), David Ogilvy (Hathaway), Jay Chiat and many others. But this is not a historical documentary or a tribute, and it's not an analysis of the perils of consumerism and thought-control. It is a film about creative rebellion, and how all-powerful art springs forth from deeply personal, psychological sources and the need for change… even in advertising.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mac Lovers - yeah we're different

I hope you will forgive the hybridisation of the award winning Adidas ad campaign 'Runners, yeah, we're different'.

I came across this via a random link and thought it was a nice embodiment of the Lovemark idea. I don't think PC users feel the emotional attachment to their brand of choice - though admittedly Sony Vaio users probably like their equipment.

Apple really does have an edge through its integration of interface and hardware. Many commentators believe Apple's choice to ringfence their MacOS consigned them to a bit-player in the world of computing. Perhaps; in volume terms. But great stories are not made by compliance and agreement - there must be a protagoniost and an antagonist. Someone who wants something and someone/something that wants to prevent that from happening. If Frodo and Sam had hopped on the number 9 bus to Mount Doom, tossed the ring into the fire, then had a refreshing pint at the Mordor Arms Inn it owuld have hardly been a gripping epic. Without the sceptics and naysayers I don't think I and other devotees of the Apple brand would have been so loyal - and I have to say that some of the kit I have shelled out a significant amount of cash for hasn't always been as well designed as it is today.

Sometimes love is blind.

I have principles

...and if you don't like those...I have others.

Here's an interesting fragment from Australian advertising consultancy The Principals. They have a monthly conceptual mailout called Moving Minds. It is one of the few newsletter type signups I don't regret agreeing to receive. It is always interesting. Always well executed and short. A bonus in the attention economy.

A few years ago the Mini production line in England was stopped each week so that every car worker could brainstorm new ideas. Each worker was asked to generate three small ideas a year. This resulted in 14,000 new ideas, 11,000 of which were implemented. Not bad. Except that over in Japan Toyota’s employee suggestion scheme generates 2,000,000 ideas a year of which around 85% are implemented.

As we’ve said before, the best way to have a good idea is to have car loads of them.

You should sign up and visit their archive

More Banksy

The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Any fame is a by-product of making something that means something. You don't go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.

If you want to visit Banksy's own site bypass the home page and go directly here. The home page has a picture but no links inside the site.

That's fairly interesting

I flipped open a paperback copy of the Moby Dick which was heavily annotated by its previous owner. On the title page was a link to chapter 79, The Prarie - where this remark resides:

"I will do my endeavor. I try all things; I achieve what I can."

What do you call a hyperlink in a paperback?

And did you know the name of Starbucks (a well known chain of coffeeshops) comes from Moby Dick? Or that Starbucks was originally called Il Giornallo?

And finally, the title of this post was taken from a New Zealand TV show fronted by the mayor of Invercargill, Tim Shadbolt called: That's Fairly Interesting - a parody of the American show: That's Incredible - fronted by Lee Majors - The Six Million Dollar Man.

I wonder what six million dollars would be in current currency?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Winning Hearts and Minds

Now you can have some appreciation of why Iraqi people don't like Americans - it's road rage. Reminds me of the flake who wrote off my Vespa with his Nissan Patrol. After we get Billboards off the streets - SUVs are next. They seem like reasonable, achievable goals. Getting the US to stop starting wars might be more difficult.

Monday, February 19, 2007

If you're happy and you know it...

The twenty happiest countries are:

5.The Bahamas
13.Costa Rica
15.The Netherlands
16.Antigua and Barbuda
18.New Zealand
20.The Seychelles

Antigua and Barbuda I can understand. But Iceland?

Tetris injection

I recently moved from my funky apartment in the city to a rather ordinary house in the suburbs. I packed away my furniture and possesions in a storage facility - the excercise reminding me of the the game Tetris. Everything is so tightly packed that any hope of finding anything (like passports) requires unloading the lot.

Check out the documentary from the BBC about the story of Tetris. It's packing them in all over the world.

City living has much to commend it...but, sadly noise and parking dramas won out in the end, not to mention self defeating commutes to drop my son off at golf, school etc...

Tiger by the Tail

Ever feel like having a tiger by the tail might end very badly indeed?

I am feeling a little ignorant. The number of readers of this blog is increasing and I don't really know anything about tools like RSS to make it more easily accessible. I need to do some boot camp learning. Fast.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Doodle Bug

Since I wrote about Al Hirschfeld I have been resuscitating my drawing habit. I find it quite relaxing to put the computer aside for a few minutes every now and then. This is a sketch of Stanley Kubrick from an old Vanity Fair magazine. I bought myself a new dip pen and some ink from Liz at the Albany Art Shop - great little store - if you are just starting out talk your needs through with Liz, she's knowledgeable and patient.

Why billboards must go.

The problem with billboards and advertising in public places is they are an invasion of privacy. Unlike magazine, tv, radio (etc) advertising you cannot choose to turn it off or avoid it. Nor does it offer anything in return. It is a medium that offers no benefit or advantage to the person it is inflicted on.

At least television ads subsidise the programming. Without doubt some billboards are entertaining - I thought the anti GE poster for short lived MADGE activist group was particularly good. But most are rubbish. Literally. Badly executed. Nothing important to say.

The debate has led to a great deal of hysteria - mostly from people with a vested interest in perpetuating the deployment of hoardings. Perhaps the idea that the issue at stake is 'property rights' is the creepiest. If you own a building you have every right to plaster anything you like on its external surfaces. Is that an antisocial point of view? I think so. In the UK you could have an ASBO slapped on you for simply thinking that way...It is the same kind of twisted logic that permits property developers to construct disastrous confections like the (ob)Scene apartments that create a bleak canyon along Beach Road.

The Auckland City Council and Dick Hubbard in particular might be hapless and ineffectual but that is a separate issue from the billboard advertising question. It has nothing to do with either the aesthetics of any single ad - that is a red herring or anything to do with party politics. I am sure we could learn to live without them.
Let's make sure the ban extends to political hoardings at election time too.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sick of 'slick'

It's 11.28pm (now), from where I live I can hear sound of fireworks exploding over Auckland Harbour. Given that I recently moved from my apartment down on the water to a suburb a little further inland means that, given the speed of sound, it happened a little while ago.

The occasion was the departure of the Queen Mary 2. The biggest ocean liner in the world. It arrived this morning. A whistle stop tour of the world I guess?

But that's a distraction. The real purpose of this note is to honour Russell Davies. He's a top advertising planner in England (somewhere south of Scotland?). I saw the clip I've posted last year and thought it was the most courageous business decision I had ever encountered.

Russell chose to express his feelings for his wife in a forum where he knew full well that it would bleed into business life. In his blog he has recently expressed regret for having been so open. I understand his point of view but I also feel that his strength is that he is authentically himself.

Brand Russell Davies (and I am sorry if that is sounds crass) is a beacon for anyone with an interest in brands. He is who he is. And if you follow his blog or YouTube him you'll see he is an interesting person with thoughtful things to say. Not only is he highly regarded in his field but he is also (and this might sound a little weird...) the best sense of the word.

As a follower of his blog I empathised with his recent withdrawal from the fully integrated individual he was/is (work, family, life, world...).

I hate the idea that to be acceptable we have to homogenise.

"Don't be the best at what you do. Be the only one who does it." Jerry Garcia

I wish someone would make a Valentine's song for me and publish it without self consciousness for all to see. Even if it is goofy.

I'm sick of slick.

Mavericks at Work

The latest edition of Idealog has hit the streets.
Now that I am not involved in the day to day production I find it fascinating to see what the team have come up with. Like any other contributor I am subject to editing and sub-editing (unlike blogging). In this issue I reviewed Mavericks at Work. Here is the unexpurgated version.

Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win

William C Taylor & Polly Labarre

I read a lot of business books. Three in a good week (or a very, very dull one, depending on your point of view). Every now and then I read one that makes my palms sweat…Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence; Gonzo Marketing by Chris Locke, John Grant’s After Image and New Marketing Manifesto all come easily to mind. I can trace shifts in my thinking to each of those books – and associate them with things I invented after reading.

Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win is very nearly one of those books. Its authors shouldn’t feel too bad about approximating the sweat response though. William C. Taylor and Polly Labarre are journalists, rather than innovators themselves. Both are founding contributors to the Fast Company magazine – which, though not a book, does qualify as a sweaty palm literature moment for me. In the late 90’s I was utterly gobsmacked by it (…had it not been for FC I would not have met the principals of HB Media and there would be no Idealog – read the full story on my Idealog blog).

The central thesis of Mavericks at Work is that safe businesses strategies are the riskiest ones. The book details many cases of unconventional businesses that have disrupted categories; from the often-cited Southwestern Airlines to ING Bank, Sex and the City broadcaster HBO and the manufacturing and marketing behemoth Proctor & Gamble. There’s plenty of variety.

Many of the ideas in the book will have comfortably successful business owners scoffing. Why? Because, having been successful they make the assumption that they will remain successful. To you, and you know who you are, consider the sage wisdom of Dan Wieden of Wieden + Kennedy, the Portland, Oregon advertising agency (satellites in New York, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Shanghai and London). His company produces over a billion (US) dollars in revenues and he personally created one of the most famous, long running and successful ad campaigns of all time Just Do It for Nike. He must know all there is to know, right? Wrong. He touts the philosophy of “Walking in stupid every day” to keep challenging the organization and himself, to seek out unexpected ideas, outside influences and new perspectives on old problems.

I have to confess bias in reviewing this book. It fits my worldview. In the context of a business environment literary merit doesn’t count for much. But the facts are not enough. This is a business book of the best kind. It is utterly readable. It won’t be filed next to Michael …yawn…Porters Competitive Advantage of Nations, impressively gathering dust on your shelf. It is a collection of ripping yarns around a central proposition. Creativity in business kicks arse. It is a page-turner. If you’re a slow reader and read in bed be prepared to give up sex for a week. If you’re a really slow reader, don’t read it in bed.

It took me forever to read. Thank God I live alone. I kept being distracted by having ideas… But, dammit, that’s the measure of a good book! Isn’t it? They’re not supposed to tell you what to think, but to get you thinking.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Britain's Most Wanted Artist - Banksy

This afternoon I bought a copy of a book I have been coveting for some time from the dangerously excellent Unity Bookshop in High Street. Banksy's Wall and Piece (now with 10% more crap).

You may not have heard of Banksy, though his fame is legend in street culture around the world and is growing in the art-literate mainstream.

Banksy is a stencil artist. He creates his work on the street. Like graffiti, but different. Some would say he is a vandal. One of the measures of his work is how long it lasts before it is painted over or cleaned away by the authorities (buffed).

He is more than an artist though. His work drips with ironic, anarchic narratives. He has something to say and the message is as clear as any advertising campaign. At the start of the book - which only has a spare amount of copy, the work speaks largely for itself - Banksy says:

I'm going to speak my mind, so this won't take Long.
Despite what they say graffiti is not the lowest form of art. Although you might have to creep about at night and lie to your mum it's actually one of the more honest forms available. There is no elitism or hype. It exhibits on the best walls a town has to offer and nobody is piutt off by the price of admission.

A wall has always been the best place to publish your work.

The people who run our cities don't understand graffiti because they think nothing has the right to exist unless it makes a profit, which makes their opinion worthless.

They says graffiti frightens people and is symbolic of the decline in society, but graffiti is only dangerous in the mind of three types of people: politicians, advertising executives and graffiti writers.

The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message in your face from every available surface but you're never allowed to answer back. Well they started the fight and the wall is the weapon of choice to hit them back...

Sniff around the web and you will find plenty of Banksy material.
I wonder whether the transition from notoriety to fame will lesson his edge. He has begun to exhibit his art in a more conventional art-world model. A show in Los Angeles earned po-faced scorn for his concept of body painting an elephant to attract attention to world poverty (I guess it was a double entendre; images of poverty have become invisible like wallpaper and, possible that poverty is the 'elephant in the room'). Ironic that, though no elephants were harmed in the making of the art, animal welfare activists, which underscores the original point - an elephant that was in no danger whatsoever is more important than the unpleasant reality of world poverty.

This video piece from 'the Culture Show' is an interesting take on the Banksy phenomenon. The modified audio, supposedly the voice of the man himself is interesting, as are his own videos of the guerrilla expeditions to place work in museums to see how long they would remain in place.

The British Museum added their endowment to their permanent collection.

"Being certain about things doesn't help. We're basically fish that crawled out of the swamp and learned to walk and talk and play football, so how can we be sure of anything?" Banksy

As with any underground phenomenon that captures the imagination there comes a point when the revolutionaries become the establishment. The angry young post punk U2 evolved into the rebels with a cause (only to seem dilettantish and self important).
But in spite of his celebrity, Banksy remains underground - literally - he still hasn't been photographed or interviewed in person. His fame is the opposite of Paris Hilton's, it resides in talent not tout. One of his stunts was to place 500 copies of a reworked Paris Hilton CD into London's record retailers with modified cover art and remastered tracks.

He's a great talent - the One & Only. I wonder if it causes him conflict that his works are selling for tens of thousands of pounds, probably to Paris Hilton, Brangelina and a queue of eager advertising executives on whom the irony is probably entirely lost.


Blogger Stan Lee left a link to an interesting commentary on 'The Banksy Effect', which I read and recommend you do too. It, naturally, added another link, this time to a video of the The Banksy Effect in a CNN report....which will link when you click it...

Gotta love this interweb thing.

Now shush, I have to watch this chick flick talk fest : Friends With Money. All culture, all the time,...that's me.

Speaking of which - ironically: Happy Birthday Paris Hilton, the invite didn't arrive, I guess it was lost in the post...

Google or Belgium? Choose One...

I once wrote a column in the New Zealand Herald about Stella Artois' advertising. In it I referred to Belgium's finest moments. There haven't been many: Tin Tin, Stella Artois, colonising the Congo...Well, now they have the honour of being the country whose legal system upheld the case against Google by the publishing consortium Copiepresse, who alleged that Google's linking to their websites breached their copyright.

In his excellent blog Allan Jenkins has this to say:

It's clear Boribon's (head of Copiepresse) problem with Google has nothing to do with copyright and everything to do with resentment of -- and fear of -- Google's success. But not just Google's success. This is fear -- and again, sadly, it is so deeply rooted in many parts of European academia and public administration that it will take a generational shift to root it out -- this is fear of technology, decentralization, business in general, globalization and free information.

According to Businessweek the judgement of the Belgian court might embolden other copyright owners to sue Google.

It is all somewhat Through the Looking Glass really. I, as do millions of other bloggers and web site owners, want to be listed on Google. It is a symbiotic relationship. More importantly it is a cornerstone concept of the Internet that sites are a web of links.

If it came to a choice between Google and Belgium I am afraid to say that I would pick Google. Who can grudge them their wealth and success? They have made my life easier. The Belgians, on the other hand,...we'll, I have nothing to say about them. They are irrelevant. Just ignore them.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Coming to grips with technology

I think you will relate to this - it is somewhat universal.

As a footnote...

I tried to learn some Swedish once. I was dating a Swedish girl and have always felt it was the least I could do to butcher my friend's language. Watching this I realise the Swedish language was technology I would never master.

All consuming ideas

The first book I ever bought from Amazon was The 500 Year Delta by Watts Wacker. In fact, I would have to say it was my first experience of ecommerce, and a pretty good one at that. I learned about Wacker from an article What Comes After What Comes Next in Fast Company magazine, my magazine of choice in 1996. It seems like ancient history now. I recall being impressed with the idea of being a 'futurist'. Prior to that a futurist was an Italian artist between the world wars who was in love with technology and speed. Ok, I guess the difference isn't that great.

I came across W.Wacker again through Jack Yan's blog. Like him I was fascinated by this quote from an interview published on the media (radio) blog Hear 2.0

"Perhaps the biggest trend that I would pay attention to in the short run is that while consuming is never going to go away, consuming as the defining criteria for individuals is. We are now using our media consumption as opposed to our physical consumption to explain who we are.

So you don't go to a party anymore and say, you know, "Where'd you go to college? What kind of car do you drive? Where do you live?" Now you say "What do you blog? What websites do you surf? Have you read the article in Vanity Fair on terrorism in South America? Are you an Imus or a Stern person? Have you seen The Departed?

Whatever it is, we are revealing ourselves through our media. We are becoming focused in life around ourselves as media. So today, "I am the medium."

I think this is a very prescient idea. I've had feedback from some of the visitors to this blog that one of the things they enjoy is that I find stuff to share - I guess there is a curatorial aspect to blogging(?).

It also gels with my personal mantra for 07.

Say Yes to saying No.

Buy less. Eat less. Drink less. Drive less. Consume less.

Think more. Do more. Share more. Love more.

Your Thoughts Purr?

I created a survey form a little while ago. The results have been interesting so far. But I need a bigger base to get some statistical validity. There are 4 questions. It will take you about a minute and is anonymous - let 'er rip!

Click here to take survey

Nostalgia is so retro

Do you ever go into the attic or garage to tidy up or make some space but find yourself distracted by your junk?

I have been going through some old digital files in an external hard drive to make some room for space hungry video. Came across some randomly named folders ('cleanup'-what kind of name is that?). I found a concept I had done for a carpet manufacturer - Cavalier Bremworth - that I never presented. Rather like it...feel free to use it if you have a carpet client (or maybe Birkenstock type shoes?).

A rejected image from my second (failed) marriage. In the immortal words of Jeff Goldblum in the first Jurassic Park movie - I am currently looking for the future-ex Mrs MacGregor... I can only imagine what I was saying - but it looks like fun.

And what looks like a doodle I did based on David's iconic image of The Little General crossing the St Bernard pass.

The text, for those of you who find my writing as difficult to read as I do says:
...first door on the left, turn right...don't forget to wash your hands...

It's the little things...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ticked off

Some things just defy belief. McDonalds (brand) heart tick (endorser brand)...equals ignore heart tick - useless information.

How are we (as 'consumers') supposed to make any kind of informed choice?

Another triumph of epidemiology over common sense.

There goes the neighbourhood.


I bought a book yesterday called Doubt - a history (the great doubters and their legacy of innovation). It introduced me to the zen philosopher Alan Watts. Intrigued, I turned, as I do, to YouTube and found these clips.

Had your thoughts provoked yet?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ok, so NOW you're worried

First Al Gore invented the Internet, then he was first with dire warnings of Global Warming. Yeah right… Check this clip out from the 1950's.

Don't say we didn't tell ya.


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

Click here to take survey

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

Monday, February 12, 2007

ThoughtSpurs 5

"Every man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds."
Mark Twain

"The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next."

Helen Keller

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."
Pablo Picasso

"Most of the change we think we see in life - Is due to truths being in and out of favor."
Robert Frost

...Prompted by watching the Dragon's Den (TV1, Monday, 8.30)

Why design is important

It is easy to imagine that the value of design is simply as part of the process of generating value through brands and user experiences for consumers.
It seems that the very idea of consuming is becoming something to be reconsidered in the context of, well, …survival really. Not just survival or marmosets of cute, fluffy dolphins. The survival of humans.

Green issues have become centre party political staples, rather than being marginal, slightly loony, end is nigh, sorts of things. Which could be either good news for the greens or a death knell as they become indistinguishable from other parties.

With the shift in attitudes it means that the role of designers is going to be dramatically changed and more important. The spectrum will range from choosing sustainable materials, inventing new solutions (including manufacturing) that consume fewer resources and create less waste. Designers will, in many cases lead the debate: is a project worth embarking upon? Questions of ethics will replace questionable ethics.

I''d like you to read an interesting blog on the subject from the UK. It is important - and worth it.

365 Portraits - a days in the life...

I'm really intrigued by the serial image blogs that I've been encountering. The latest is from photographer Bill Wadman, who is based in New York. He has committed to take a portrait a day for a year. That seems to be quite some undertaking when you think about it; selecting subjects, negotiating…then shooting. I assume he has a day job too.

I like the images, they are accomplished but have an easy quality to them that suggests a personable manner with the subject as well as a talent with the equipment.

Don't worry, be happy

It seems once a year popular psychology magazines devote a cover story to the science of happiness. I know a person who is a joyologist; a term she has coined and uses without irony. Pat Armistead has devoted her working life to helping organisations make the profitable connection between happy employees and productivity. She discussed her ideas on the Radio New Zealand National this afternoon. And it all makes perfectly good sense and you should listen to it.

As with everything there are counterpoints and context needs to be considered.
I was born in Scotland, so I'm not given to wanton happiness. Or, perhaps it is important to separate the two pieces of data. It may not be because I am Scottish that I can appear blank - or even glum to the untrained eye. It may simply be that I am simply 'being'. That's right; Scottish buddhism. I don't require it of myself or others to seek rapture. I can be mindful of suffering equally as I can of beauty. It's not so hard.

And then there is research from the United States that upends the convention that happy, satisfied employees are good for business. Jing Zhou - professor of management at Rice University in Houston – has performed a meta analysis of over 100 previous studies about the relationship between happiness and productivity.

Misery-guts employees can be a force for good within an organization. It's open season on perpetually peppy employees. They may be over-rated.

It is a long-held assumption that high levels of job satisfaction contribute positively to organizational effectiveness. Zhou calls that an "intuitively appealing link."; but after exhaustive meta analysis of over 100 studies the conclusion is that a relationship between job satisfaction and effectiveness does not exist. Perceptions and are not supported by the data.

Happy, co-operative people are fine if the company wants people to do exactly what they are told; great for routine tasks... But these days tasks are complex. What counts is the ability to think for yourself.

Zhou also sampled 149 employees and found those with high job dissatisfaction exhibited the highest creativity. They become creative when they're dissatisfied with something and try to find a solution to it.

Bad-mood employees can work as change agents within a company because they see problems. Those who are very happy and content, the people who are always satisfied with their jobs; satisfied with their work environment; happy with everything; don't see problems. So they don't try to find new ideas to solve problems.

Miserable employees may come up with new and better ways of doing things.

Miserable does not mean clinically depressed people... The source that triggers the bad mood, is probably that people were not happy with how things are run in the workplace. If companies are sensitive to that and capture that negative energy early they can probably channel that into an effort to find a good idea, a new idea to solve problems.

A lot of managers resist this idea. Often leaders act on conventional wisdom, not on what is right.

Of course it is false logic to suggest that bad moods necessarily lead to creativity in the workplace.

But is does imply that we need a new mindset. According to Zhou we need to realise that creativity is not just a job for R and D people. It's a job for everyone... Once the top management has this mindset, then they can do things such as encouraging people to provide feedback, provide a culture that will support innovation and provide the climate where people... try to make a change for the better.

So…you see, it's all how you frame things, context is everything.

I'm happy with that.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Why do you blog?

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." Hunter S. Thompson

I was asked last night by a friend "Why do you blog", then I came across this clip of Hunter S. Thompson about his letter writing and it seems to corelate.

Always in Beta

I have been reading more and more about the very contemporary concept of always being in beta. I like this idea. When we launched Idealog magazine my mantra was that each issue was a prototype for the next. Since I have given up the mantle of creative director I have noticed that there is less risk taking with the articles and their presentation in favour of a more homegenised and general approach. I think this is a shame because it suggests that a formula has been found that 'works' and invention/innovation becomes subserviant to reiterating the familiar. I am still an advocate for the concept in communications that one must make the familiar strange and the strange familiar - a ditty I picked up from Creative Director Marco Marinkovich when I worked with him at the meteorically successful Hutcheson Knowles Marinkovich agency in the late 80s and early 90s. Having said that, Idealog remains the most interesting business title in New Zealand - if only because we annexed the most interesting territory.

The beta idea is expanded on by Russell Davies. He summarises rather well in his post

1. A constant stream of ideas, bundled together by a common brand/business purpose.

...The old model of a big launch of a big idea followed by cut-downs of said big idea to deliver mind-numbing levels of repetition simply won't survive contact with the contemporary media landscape. And a key characteristic of a brand that's likely to survive the modern world will be creative fecundity, the ability to just keep having new ideas and to keep putting them out in the world. My favourite example of this is the way Ze Frank keeps generating new stuff, and, especially, the philosophy he espouses here:

2. Being prepared for mistakes

…When you're moving at the speed that the modern world demands mistakes are inevitable. Being surprised by them shouldn't be. Mistakes are also when the veneer tends to slip, if there is a veneer. The authentic voice of a brand or organisation is exposed when something goes wrong, if it's not the same as the voice you normally speak with people will notice.

3. Building with your community

…a key idea behind web2.0 is that it's the community of users that provide the value. And that's increasingly true for brands.

This concept fascinates me. I am preparing to launch into my masters thesis now and a central concept I am exploring is how social media can affect the conventions of 'nation branding'. Some might argue that, with something as big and important as the perception of a country - for tourism, trade and investment - the 'image' and identity must be managed and controlled. I am inclined to have a great deal of faith in the population and, when given the tools to communicate, they will do so more convincingly and interestingly than any top down 'campaign' - and certainly more efficiently that the economics of paid-for media will allow. Investing in a battleship communications programmes might not make much sense in the democratised digital era when markets are capable of turning (or being turned) like schooling pilchards at the vaguest whiff of stimulus. Raw thoughts, but over capitalisation in the Big Idea, might simply produce grander failures.

I have also encountered an interesting new (for me blogger), Richard Edelman who has a great deal of interesting and informed comment to make. His post from the World Economic Forum in Davos was especially interesting to me. I liked the remark by Angela Merkel, prime minister of Germany, quoted by Edelman "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together." She was referring to governments, but I think it is universally applicable.

I realised the paucity of quality information and (importantly) analysis that arrives through the conventional media here in New Zealand. A couple of aspects of broadcast news and newspapers that that I find increasingly irritating is the absence of substance. In part this is because of the form. Like the 30 second commercial news in general free-to-air channels seems to conform to an orthodoxy that the segments must be in ultra-short sound bite formats. 'Dramatic footage' of a cat down a well will trump a little more genuine depth on a story that matters. The conversation about global warming suffers from a serious lack of balance, reportage of extreme weather simply makes for more entertaining television and anyone who imagines the news is anything other than entertainment has not been paying attention.

It is little wonder that we are migrating to watching more and more video online. Edelman's blog comments on this and recommends that advertisers begin to think in longer formats than 30 seconds, say 4 minutes. He also reports on the notion of 'continuous partial attention' where, for example "Thirty eight percent of those watching the Oscars on TV were also on-line. People may be watching TV but are watching TV differently."

By the way, the Beta logo above was just something I was goofing around with. Hybridising the idea of Beta as a learning process. I am not sure if the visual pun works that well because a) the learner's label for motorists is probably not universal and b) the term beta is likewise a piece of relatively arcane jargon.
Feel free to use it if you like.