Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Veyron v. EuroFighter



Top Gear producers know how to create interesting TV. In this clip The Hamster races a fighter jet. The Bugatti Veyron drags in a mile (on the ground), then turns and reruns the course. Meanwhile the jet takes off from a standing start zooms to a mile above the ground then turns and heads for the ground, levels off then crosses the start finish. Who wins? You'll have to watch to find out.

It's quite bombastic. But I enjoyed it. A Thoughtspurs exclusive! Actually, scratch that…it is one of the top 10 viral videos of the day. the graph, ironically, mimic the vertical performance of the Eurojet. But will its descent be as rapid.

In a cynical footnote it's interesting to sell arms manufacturers finding interesting, contemporary ways to sell their weapons. The chequered flag was even replaced by a Union Jack (the branding, make my logo bigger, bit…). What Arab sheik doesn't watch Top Gear?

Free Bugatti Veyron with every Eurofighter sold.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Is David Lynch nuts or a genius?


I'm sitting in bed with my laptop (2.04 a.m. - obviously I'm single) - writing my book Vanishing Act…Fiction is hard. In the past week I've managed a whole 20 pages. Pathetic. Nothing edited - that comes later. The tele's on: Mulholland Drive by David Lynch. Like it but haven't the slightest idea what it is about.

Mulholland Drive


Cool Soundtrack too…

Saturday, October 27, 2007

All Blacks made in Holland

Putting aside the deep psychological pain of being kicked to touch prematurely at the Rugby World Cup I was shocked to find that the 'Of this Earth' campaign for the All Blacks was created by Adidas in Holland by the agency 180.



Now that is just wrong

Advertising for the All Blacks brand should be of this Earth. Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Of course I'm being a hypocrite. How can I reconcile a point of view that it doesn't matter where your favourite kiwi brand's physical products are manufactured then squeal about the small matter of an iconic symbol of identity being jobbed out. Maybe if it wasn't a dutch agency - what was it that Austin Powers' dad, Nigel Powers, said:

"There are two kinds of people I can't stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures, and the Dutch."


And yes, I've banged on about the joy of atheism, but I can't help but wonder if this was just bad juju…?

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Contender


Last September I wrote a post about Labour' thug minister Trevor Mallard. My prediction has proved to be spot-on:


"Finally. The Don Brash matter…Don Brash, leader of the opposition, has been - I can't think of a word that fits - named by Trevor Mallard (pictured left), the Labour Government's (read Helen Clark's) go-to guy for dumb-ass political kamikaze attacks. According to Mallard The Don is a Don Juan and has been or is engaged in an extra-marital relationship. Shock…horror (and that is just imagining Brash as a lady-killer).

I have a feeling the whole thing will blow up in the Labour Government's face.

If Brash falls from grace it will be a classic error of judgement on the part of Labour's droogs. It would create an opportunity for an aggressive young leadership to rise through the National ranks. My pick would be John Key - which would make the incumbent government seem exhausted and so out of ideas that they resort to Gangs of New Dork tactics - battering their opponents with a tickle me Elmo dolly."


He has been at it again. This time assaulting Tau Henare, another Minister of the Crown in the corridors of power over (ironically) some remark about his personal life.

I'm not the first to say it, but I find it hard to stomach that a government that spends a small fortune, no … a fortune, wagging an accusatory finger at the population about violence - 'It's not ok'.

I also refuse to believe no police action can be taken against Mr Mallard. The courts are filled on a regular basis for disorder offences. If he was a Maori or Pacific Island youth involved in an assault in public they would be held to account. His apology isn't sufficient to resolve the matter.

The Prime Minister said she'll deal with it in her own way and in her own time. I'd prefer to see it dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land and promptly.

Finally I found his remark that he was behaving 'like a schoolboy' was disingenuous. In fact he was behaving like Jake Heke.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

North & South magazine redesign.


Picked up a copy of the new look North & South magazine. Its tidy up is very smart and much needed. The venerable title has a reputation for outstanding writing, nurtured by the steady and talented hand of Robyn Langwell. She left in June after 22 years (she was the longest serving editor in New Zealand and made a fantastic contribution to the standard of magazine writing in this country - she and husband Warwick Roger are, together, probably, the most titanic force in publishing here).

"Much to admire and little to enjoy."
Samuel Johnson - referring to a manuscript submitted for praise.


By and large I like it the new N&S. It's better. I do feel that magazines are tending to look like very smart, interchangeable templates. Without being churlish, there are overtones of Notebook magazine and Marie Claire - possibly also Martha Stewart's Blueprint magazine. You get the point.

Design, or rather good taste has become commoditised/generic. I have a feeling that design companies are heading for the same melt-down that ad agencies have. Yes, nicely done. Yes, very creative…but…so…what? I can buy a version of the same thing down the street.

Have we become so over-designed and slick that the ultimate effect is not to differentiate but to homogenise.

Design isn't about design. Great design isn't the difference it makes the difference.

Non Conformity 2

Watch this clip from the TED conference.

An interface that is most interesting for the fact that it isn't there. Nothing comes between you and the task you are aiming to achieve.

If you have hands you can create and manipulate data.

Amazing stuff.

I found the comment that you shouldn't have to conform to a machine's design to accomplish what you want perceptive and ≥more important…exhilirating!

I haven't been to an Apple Store for a while - serves as a reminder to check out the iPod touch. Some of these ideas have been integrated into the touch interface on the iPhone and the iPod.

Thanks to Publicis Digital for the heads-up.

I have knits

Up at Waipu on the weekend. Saturday was market day. I came across these knitted things on a stall in the town hall - right next to a table of artisan honey. I have to say that I was impressed. The little old lady running the stall must spend half her life knitting these little figures. What I liked was the characterisation. Seriously. They reminded me of Tin Tin - or a mash up of Tin Tin, The Life of Brian and the Wombles. I took the shot but didn't notice the mad looking bagpiper in the background. It's crying out for speech balloons or a stop motion show (maybe for G3 mobile distribution). Might have to head back up next market day and see if I can commission the wee woman to knit some characters of my own cunning design...

Caught up with Simon Morgan for pint and a chat last night. Simon is managing partner for Publicis Digital Australia and New Zealand. Interesting to hear some of his thoughts on the use of social media by marketers. He described a successful promotion his team had developed for Nestle through MySpace. I met Simon when he owned Carpe Diem a small Direct Marketing company. e sold his business and in the past few years he has guided Publicis' growth in the digital arena. Always a pleasure to catch up with the grand lad from Sheffield - which you can do here too on his highly useful blog.

Simon also runs a terrific tool for holiday home owners who rent out their baches. Book-a-bach was just a glimmer in his eye when we first met but now it is going gang-busters with hundreds of listings all over the country. Brillian tool. I've used it many times. With summer coming get onto finding a getaway place before the rush. We were chatting about The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin. Simon told me there had been times when he had wanted to quit with Book-a-Bach. I know from my own experience with eMALE the men's interest site that I published for years that having a 'proper' job can take a great deal of commitment, making it hard to stay on top of personal projects. Simon plugged awayI am glad to say.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Randy pausch on Oprah

I wrote about Prof Pausch a little while ago. His final lecture at Carnegie Mellon is Brilliant but and hour and a half of video. So here is his para-phrased and repackaged for a mass audience. It has lost some of its charm but it doesn't matter. He is a positive inspiration.

I read that his cancer is responding well to treatment.

Alright. Enough of that. Because I don't want you to think I've gone all wet… so here's some Charlie Brooker. It's been a while. Watch and weep. Don't show Randy Pausch though he'll stop taking his medicine. Though I suppose his work in virtual reality might have prepared him for it...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why the long face?

Last week I was waiting for my son to finish up his cricket practice. He plays for his school - Westlake Boys High School. I looked up at the science block (or who knows it could be home ec - though I think they call that something else now ...some sort of technology...It's an all boy school after all) - thought the skeleton of a horse in the window was kind of surreal. Reminded me of the Mexican Day of the Dead festival.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Seriously cool

Michael Gondry has to be one of the most original people in film right now. This clip for the Rolling Stones is brilliant. Apparently it is entirely composed from stills - not that you'd know it. I am looking forward to seeing his next movie (starring Jack Black - who seems to be the goto guy for characters who work in shops - the trailer for Be Kind Rewind is here. Maybe I'm just a sucker for concept movies?)

He also shot the classic White Stripes Hardest Button to Button. The man's a genius.



And, according to the Guinness Book of records, he directed the most awarded single commercial of all time. And here it is:

Pure Fantasy

The stylishly stupid Tui commercials from here in New Zealand seem to have spawned a genre. Compare and contrast the Pure Blonde commercial from Clemms in Melbourne, Australia. Times have changed since Mo and Jo created the 'I feel like a Tooheys or two' commercial that completes our ensemble.







(How does that make you feel?)

Pure Blond via Simon Law's Blog

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Lost Tape


When we launched Idealog Martin Bell, one of my partners and the business director and I were interviewed on 'Breakfast'. I hadn't seen the clip before - two years on it makes me cringe a little, But, hey, it's part of the record (there's no escaping your history anymore -it is available 24/7 all around the world).

I was originally searching the TVNZ video archive for a segment on the prize winning Kiwi wildlife cinematographer who featured in a 20/20 or 60 Minutes segment. Couldn't find it. If anyone can point me in the right direction I'd be grateful. I'm writing a novel about a Maui dolphin and the marine biologist who will save them. The footage is part of my research. I wan't to hear how wildlife cameramen talk…From memory he had dreads then cut them off...? Help.

By the way the book is called 'Vanishing Act'. It's really about media agendas and the obsession we have with celebrity and glossing even the most unpleasant fact of life.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kids Today

I had a thoroughly dis-spiriting session with my students yesterday. I felt that they hadn't really got it in the paper I had taught. As the last session of the semester, assignment complete and handed in, attendance was dismal. I had an important message for them to hear. I'm not sure whether those who showed really got what I had to tell them but I do know that those who weren't never will.

It may be hard for students these days but it's hard for teachers as well.

Despair

de-motivational poster Tradition - from despair.comI have always felt uneasy about those cheesy posters that businesses like to hang in offices to motivate staff. I once joined a firm in a pretty senior role and above my desk was one of those terrible propaganda pieces. I don't remember the exact detail of the content because I had my assistant consign it to the storage room ("be sure it faces the wall"), but it was an image of a rowing eight, taken from above at sunset on a river in Massachusetts or somewhere there is russet light. Very Ivy League. Beneath the image was the word TEAM and the legend - There is no 'i' in team. Even now it produces a feeling of nausea that I find hard to explain.

So I appreciate the antidote. Despair.com specialise in demotivation posters and such-like. This morning I got an email announcing that new designs are now available. They are very funny. On the site - accompanying the TRADITION image it says:

Grammar Nazis who think this is a double-negative, when it's really a litotes. (If you write us snotty emails about how you'd love to buy this design if only it were grammatically correct, we will hunt you down and pummel your noggin so hard with "Elements of Style" that you will no longer be able to form complete sentences.)


My bet is that they sell truckloads.

It is further evidence, as if any were needed, that there is opportunity in opposites.

If you see a business succeeding in a category - analyse what they do and how they do it and find the people who can't stand it.

You might find the niche is worth exploiting.

Harley Davidson did. People grew to love the ruthless efficiency of Japanese motorcycles. Looked good, went reliably, performed well, but boring. Harley made some truly terrible machines in their day (including a range of small capacity trail bikes that were really a case of(bad)ge engineering - but the less said about that the better) however, manufacturing process can be improved and HD's new management stepped up to the plate and swung for the fences (just thought I'd drop in an American metaphor there). What the Japanese brands couldn't invent was heritage or take ownership of the American fantasy of freedom to roam away from he conformity of suburbia and city life.

Every tribe needs another to pull it together. How much support would the Israelis get from the world if there was no conflict with their Arab neighbours? Peace is not in their best interests. They would vanish from the media radar. The placid child gets little attention.

The moment a rebellious brand becomes an institution you can count on a new contender arriving to shake things up. Without the Sex Pistols there would have been no New Wave, no Talking Heads and Joy Division - the excesses of stadium rock and disco signalled the entropy of an era.

I'd hate to be a member of the Green Party now. Their message, once radical, is now a mainstay for most of New Zealand's centrist political parties. By gaining seats in parliament they have been absorbed into the flow of the mainstream. So why do we need a Green Party? They are marginal but lack the radical differentiation you must have to survive on the fringe.

In the coming election watch as political spin doctors invent differences between parties where none truly exists. You will be distracted by the likes of Helengate and Brethrengate but, when the dust settles we'll have a parliament filled with, mostly, the same old faces, the same old rhetoric, the same (relatively) even distribution of numbers and power and another layer of dust.



One more from Despair.com before I get on with some real work:

The Pessimist's Mug - makes everything taste bitter.

pessimist's mug from despair.com

In these irrationally exuberant times, it's getting harder and harder for the self-respecting pessimist to stay unhappy. So pervasive is the hope, so overwhelming the positivity, that without the firmest grip on your sullen perspective, you might actually lose it. Then one day, you wake up looking at the bright side, whistling some inane showtune, and generally annoying everyone around you.

Go on…you know you want one…

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Cover that swastika sailor..."

Who said architects don't have a sense humour?

This is an aerial photo of a U.S. Navy building in California. Apparently nobody noticed till Google Maps democratised aerial surveillance.

Duh!

(Apparently there is a little cosmetic architecture in, shall we say, the wings).

The image on Google is here.

Pipped at the post

Lloyd Jones had high hopes of winning the Man Booker Prize for his novel Mr Pip.
Not to be unfortunately. The award went to Irish writer Anne Enright.

I think the most surprising aspect of the news coverage was the spurious connection between the All Blacks failure at the Rugby World cup and not winning a literary prize. Wrong. One endeavour relies on the direct conflict between two equally matched teams. Literary awards are random. There is no opponent and the work was performed in different places at different times. The All Blacks played badly on the day and lost. Utterly objective. Lloyd Jones performed brilliantly but just didn't win on the day. Utterly subjective.

It's getting to the point where news media are more imaginative than advertising in the use of exaggeration and hyperbole.

By all accounts Mr Pip is very good. Here's what the Melbourne Age newspaper said.

I was rooting for Indra Sinha - crikey when did literary fiction become gladiatorial.

LED the way

You know that incandescent bulbs are inefficient and waste energy. That's what we're told. So what is the alternative? Long-life bulbs,…right?

Maybe not. The eco bulbs that you can buy from your supermarket today have issues of their own - although in many ways they are superior to incandescents.

It's not especially safe to dispose of them into a landfill. They leach heavy metals like mercury into the ground when they break (be careful when you handle them at home - mercury poisoning isn't so nice. Personally I don't like the colour of the light these bulbs give off either.

LED (Light Emitting Diodes) might be the solution. Unlike conventional bulbs they don't emit heat as a by product of their use. All they give off is light - photons.

This video from business 2.0 is an eye opener. Look and learn. (By the way I was saddened to see what the magazine has become the other day. It used to be brilliant - a worthy complimentary title to Fast Company magazine).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The rhetoric of 'terror'…

Further to my previous post. On the news this evening is the case of Jamie Lockett, who is accused of "declaring war on New Zealand", based on overheard (surveillance) conversations by the police.

Apparently this guy 'declared war' on New Zealand in telephone conversations with ... who knows?…his mum?.

I haven't heard the material but the suspect/victim argues his remarks were taken out of context.

"How could that be?" I hear you say. If he's going to war with us…goshdarnit…we're off to war with him. Lock the bugger away.

Let's take a step back.

New Zealand is a signatory to the Hague convention. According to that international treaty here is the recipe for declaring war:

The Contracting Powers recognize that hostilities between themselves must not commence without previous and explicit warning, in the form either of a reasoned declaration of war or of an ultimatum with conditional declaration of war.


Clearly there is no 'Contracting Power' sitting in a remand cell.

Obviously chatting about going to 'war' doesn't constitute a declaration - or having an army, navy or airforce (or defence force if you're Japan) would be illegal under the convention - if discussion or planning about the possibility of going to war was ever to arise. I think you can see the absurdity of that.

The government of New Zealand is in breach of the Hague Convention.

Anette King should resign immediately. The Minister of Police needs to know what is going on when it affects national security (if it ever did). If she is uniformed by the uniforms then we all need to contemplate the concept of a police state.

Jamie Lockett and Tama Iti might well be flakes (and I don't necessarily agree with thier points of view) but they deserve fair treatment as citizens of the pacific democracy.

Agreement isn't necessary for a healthy democracy. Healthy disagreement is.

And you can quote me on that.

Footnote:
Go to any RSA (returned services association club in the country-buy a cheap drink - chat to veteran members…honestly if you don't hear at least 10 death threats to politicians in any conversation you're probably not really in the RSA).


References to te Hague Convention from Yale University (US)

Smith's Dream Wakeup


New Zealanders must be vigilant. The dawn raids across the country by Police on a variety of political activists on the pretext of being in some way involved in terrorist activity could herald more bizarre activity by the New Zealand government in the near future.

The people arrested have been charged with a range of accusations, mostly around firearms offences (including one of poses sing two .22 calibre bullets).

I don't have access to many of the facts. Nobody, it would seem, does. Francesca Mold of TVNZ's TVOne News used the expression 'Plot' in her report from the steps of Parliament. I can't see where there might be a plot - which suggests a cohesive story. From the loose patchwork of information available through the mainstream media - including raids on the Happy Valley Save the Snails protesters - I get the impression the plot has been lost.

It's all just a little bit flaky. Obviously leaving these kinds of matters in the hands of the New Zealand Police is serious concern. In recent times they have shot a man to death who allegedly was threatening several Police from a distance with a hammer. A couple of days later armed police let off several rounds at an angry dog from close range with semi automatic weapons in a suburban street - and missed.

The government is keeping it all at arms length like a full disposable diaper of their own making. Annette King, the Police minister claimed to have had no knowledge of the operation because it was 'an operational matter'. Umm...If we are really considering a war on Terrorists in New Zealand a) let's be sure about who we accuse - there will be backlash by Maori New Zealanders b) let's be sure where the buck stops.

Hopefully when it all reaches court justice will be done. Importantly it must be seen to be done in a transparent and open forum.

Inducing panic and hysteria amongst the population by these kinds of actions may well have long term and negative effects on the quality of life in New Zealand.

Let's contemplate what Terrorism means (according to the Oxford English Dictionary)
"A policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the employment of methods of intimidation; the act of terrorising or the condition of being terrorised."


Ok, now, concentrate for a moment. I want you to close your eyes. Imagine you are asleep in bed, (You could be dreaming about the snails in Happy Valley frolicking in their new 20million dollar paddock). There are loud bangs on the front door. Shouts ring out. The door crashes in. Police in black riot gear, faces covered with automatic weapons invade your home. The baby wakes and begins to cry. You're manhandled outside and made to lie prostrate on the ground. You're taken away, locked up and accused of firearms matters that might normally be dealt with by summons in a magistrate's court. But, no, you are accused of being a terrorist.

Pretty scary. Nay, terrifying. (see above definition - who is the responsible for the terror in this picture).

It's time to revisit Smith's Dream (made into the movie Sleeping Dogs - IMDB.)

You must also get a copy of UnSpeak (to which I have referred before) and absorb the chapter on Terror which ends with this remark:

'Asymmetric warfare' is the term employed by the US Military for fighting people who don't line up properly to be shot at: on one side you have battalions of American infantry, marines, tanks and aircraft; and on the other you have terrorist, or guerrillas, or militants, or insurgents. But the more revealing asymmetry lies in the giving of names in the 'war on terror'. We are soldiers; you are terrorists. Asymmetric warfare means: we are fighting a war; but you are not. And so when we capture you, do not expect to be a prisoner of war. You will be a terrorist suspect, an illegal combatant, a ghost detainee. And so the deliberate blurring of categories in the phrase 'war on terror' led straight to Abu Ghraib.

Monday, October 15, 2007

You want a bigger logo



…you can't handle a bigger logo.

If you've worked in an ad agency you'll appreciate this.
If you haven't…thank your lucky stars.

The work of art

I've written a lot in praise of amateurs of late. I guess I am for the people who actually do things. David Hockney, apparently, painted on the foot of his bed the legend: "Get up and work". An Opus (let alone a Magnum one) is a work. The work of art.

If you're working on your writing/blogging here are some tips from the greats (via Pick The Brain)

1. Cut the boring parts

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

Unless you’re writing for personal reasons alone, you need to consider the attention of your readers. There’s no point is publishing content that isn’t useful, interesting, or both.

2. Eliminate unnecessary words

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

I used to feel that using words like “really”, “actually”, or “extremely” made writing more forceful. It doesn’t. They only get in the way. Cut them and never look back.

3. Write with passion

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

It’s not hard to realize that unless you’re excited about your writing no one else will be.

4. Paint a picture

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

Simply stating something is fine, but when you need to capture attention, using similes, metaphors, and vivid imagery to paint a picture creates a powerful emotional response.

5. Keep it simple

Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.

Maybe it was all those late nights, struggling to fill out mandatory 10 page papers, but many people seem to think that worthwhile writing is long and drawn out. It’s more difficult (and effective) to express yourself in the simplest possible manner.

6. Do it for love

Write without pay until somebody offers to pay. ~Mark Twain

When you’re just starting out it’s hard to decide where to begin. So don’t. Just start writing. A blog is a good place to start. The most valuable benefit is the feedback.

7. Learn to thrive on criticism

You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradbury

Writing means putting yourself at the mercy of anonymous hecklers and shameless sycophants. Learn to make the most of the insults and distrust the praise.

8. Write all the time

Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. ~Ray Bradbury

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything. ~John Irving


9. Write what you know … or what you want to know


If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Learn as much by writing as by reading. ~Lord Acton

Successful writing is all about trust and authority. It makes sense to write about your area of expertise. If you don’t have an expertise, reading and writing is the best way to develop one and put it on display.

10. Be unique and unpredictable

I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. ~G.K. Chesterton

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ~Oscar Wilde


Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto. ~Ray Bradbury

Following what works will only get you so far. Experiment with new styles, even if it means taking criticism. Without moving forward, you’ll be left behind.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Real Deal?

Erin Brokovich
For the past week there have been teaser ads on New Zealand TV featuring Erin Brokovich introducing herself to the audience - for those who haven't seen the eponymous movie starring Julia Roberts.

Watch at 6.20 Sunday she told us.

Well I've just seen the ad - for Noel Leeming.

First impression:

Who cares?

Second:

She must have needed the money.

Third:

What a boring ad.

Too clever, not interesting enough.

Brokovich's credibility has taken a major hit.

Dear oh dear. When will agencies learn that ads have to be relevant and interesting - this one is neither. It will be interesting to see how sales go. 'Course when they don't eventuate then there's always the opportunity to blame it of reduced consumer confidence or somesuch…

Oh, and fourth:

What are they covering up? (As Maggie Thatcher once said "If you have to tell folk you're a lady - you probably aren't." - of course that's before she became Lady Thatcher).

Footnote - just watched it again - aparently Noel Leeming are 'choosing' to do something or other for the environment. Who knows what that might mean - maybe they will be refusing to sell power hungry big screen plasma TVs?

They said it couldn't be done…

I saw Tim Finn perform live not so long ago and I swear I was the youngest person in the theatre. He kicked the show off with an intruction/invocation by a Druid. Not something one sees everyday. Or should.
The show was very good. Mostly tunes from Finn's latest album. He is a very cool performer. Heavy emphasis on performance. He was obviously the driving creative force behind Split Enz (a band I never really cared for when I was a kid - probably due to cultural cringe; which I think I have since shucked off). An enduring perception was that it seemed odd to go see a rock performer in a comfortable, modern theatre where the entire audience is seated. Not sure about that. Or Hearn the Hunter.

I came across the clip for one of Finn's songs that has been nominated for male solo performance in the New Zealand music awards. I've decided to adopt as the theme song for the New Zealand creative economy..."They said it couldn't be done". Nice vid too, though it reminds me a little of Pixies clip from several years ago.

Tim Finn Imaginary Kingdom

Order a copy of Imaginary Kingdom by Tim Finn *(Fishpond - NZ)

Q magazine said:
"Simply recorded in a backyard Nashville studio, it's an engaging album from a man finally happy within his own skin."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The J Factor


Think how many times you have heard the expression 'the Rolls Royce of suitcases' or maybe 'the Porsche of baked beans'. Ok, I am stretching a bit with the suitcase analogy; but I'm sure you get my point?

I've just watched an interesting clip on the Monocle website about Japanese luxury car brand Lexus. Since its launch into North America (Lexus is an acronym of Luxury Export United States - very sexy…). Founder of Monocle magazine Tyler Brulee chats to the European man from Toyota who fronts for the Lexus brand.

His observation is that, to penetrate the European market, Lexus should stop being shy of its Japaneseness. I agree. I wonder if the admiration the world has for German Engineering is based on the savage efficiency of Germany's tools in their Blitzkreig campaigns during WW2. Not as silly as it sounds.

Though time does change perceptions. The Japanese obsession with luxury and detail, Brulee argues, poises them to shed the negative connotations of the term 'Made in Japan'.

My problem with Lexus is their design. They look, well…Japanese. A new Maserati GT on the other hand looks Italian and I'm almost willing to concede that I only partially believe that it will crumble into a very expensive pile of oxides in just a fraction less time than it takes to accelerate from 0-60 (if you can make it start).

the lexus of maseratis

Friday, October 12, 2007

Contratulations Big Al

Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I have been critical of him in the past for being a hypocrite. His carbon footprint was revealed to me Sasqwatchian after the success of An Inconvenient Truth. Probably a beat-up by his political opponents.

I watched An Inconvenient Truth again the other day. My library has a selection of DVDs you can borrow for free. Free is a magic word in advertising and, now, in libraries.

The question is: will Al Gore Run again for President of the United States?

I have never had any doubt the answer is yes.

Frankly it would make more sense to have a leader of the free world who's policies don't spin on the axis of technology we all know will not exist in the near future. So, by de facto, a leader who will rely on a vision of the future, rather than one who is addicted to the past.

If I could cast a vote for Gore I would. In a funny way I wonder if he has been smart to keep his powder dry and allow two controversial front-runners for the Democrat ticket to expend their energy against one another (Obama v Clinton). Hillary is, emotionally, the better pick for Democrats - on the basis of statistics alone - she has the potential to represent 50% of the population women whereas the combination of a liberal shift to a black president would only motivate a biased vote of black people

Does that sound cynical. I hope not.

I could hardly be regarded as partisan when I am critical of both right and left - atheism works in politics too. Let's look at the facts.

Frankly, I hope Al Gore does throw his hat in the ring. The US has to join the rest of the world and play its part in reducing global warming. It has to because it is the most significant contributor today.

The question of how a free, democratic society can mobilise its people to make a substantial difference must revert to the nation that invented the very idea of choice - rather than imposition - the good-ol-U.S of A.

I'm banking on the former next President of the United States of America to step up.

Now or never.

The Nobel Prize can't, in this case, be regarded as a reward for has been accomplished but as a significant message: This is not a laurel that should be rested upon but one that should be synthesised into positive action.



An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About it

Thursday, October 11, 2007

All Black and blues


Doug Howlett is a very useful rugby player.

He made a blue after a night on the turps. Introduce me to a person who drinks who has never done or said something they wouldn't have had alcohol been in the mix and I am pretty sure they will lie about other things as well.

I don't think Howlett's actions were correct or admirable. But give the guy a break. He has stepped up and taken responsibility. He has apologised and is taking steps to repair the damage.

In my opinion that is a rare ocurrance. Have you ever heard Naomi Campbell facing the media and making an apology.

Just thank your lucky stars you're not in the media glare when you've had one glass more than you should. As for the All Black's management's comments I don't really like how they have hung him out to dry.

Howlett's hairstyle is unforgivable though.

The Power of Many


Another quick riff on social media. Interesting book: The Power of Many - How the living web is transforming politics, business, and everyday life. I like the concept of a living web 'the part that is being constantly updated'.

Worth a look. Strong emphasis on tools on the web.

Love this passage about the Grateful Dead fans (Deadheads) who were early users of the web when it was Arpanet and Usenet:

"Now that the Dead has reconstituted itself [following the death of Jerry Garcia], more or less, the diffuse community, with its physical and virtual manifestations, has proven resilient enough to enable newcomers to tap in and once again make plans to meet up at the show. Who's bringing the hacky sack and who's bringing the juggling sticks? Remember, at a Dead concert, you aren't part of the audience. You're part of the show."


Can't think of a better metaphor for Web 2.0

Buy from FishPond: The Power of Many: How the Living Web Is Transforming Politics, Business, and Everyday Life

The Power of Many website

Where art and technology collide.

Art car parade brighton
…and make a horrible mess.

Wellington, New Zealand has wearable arts Brighton, UK has The Art Car Parade.

What is an art car?

“A drivable installation – any vehicle which has been re-imagined, re-styled, re-modelled, or completely metamorphosed by an artist into a transport of delight.”
Michael Trainor, Curator, Art Cars 2007


'Transport of delight'
. Cool. Weird. But cool.

Compare and contrast. The Snake Oil Sales Van. Very funny.

Nissan announced the PIVO 2 at the Tokyo Motor Show.



According to Autoblog:

The PIVO 2's driver gets some company in the form of the "Robotic Agent," a disembodied monkey head on the instrument panel that speaks English and Japanese and is able to help out with things like directions.
Compact Lithium Ion batteries power in-wheel motors, and the PIVO 2's wheels themselves rotate 90 degrees as well. Tight parking spot? Turn the passenger compartment sideways, turn the wheels, and slide right in or out. Then aim the cabin in the direction you want to go, straighten the wheels, and you're off, chatting with Robot Monkey Friend all the way. Welcome to Japan.


Seriously funny. Makes me feel the need to go for a ride on my smelly, noisy old BMW bike. I'll leave my Robot Monkey Friend at home though.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Living Well

You may have heard of or seen the Prof. Randy Pausch final lecture. It has been getting a lot of cover (and is worth watching). My favourite part was when the terminally ill academic said that he wanted to address spirituality - 'here we go…' I thought to myself. He had, he said, "experienced a death bed conversion - I bought a Macintosh."

View Pausch's home page (some useful resources - including links to the open source Alice programming model that teaches kids to learn 3D
modelling and create virtual worlds - very cool).

You can also download the transcript of his talk: Here are some of the highlights for me:

On being refused a role at Disney's Imagineering department:
"…Remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people

On feedback:
"One other big success about the ETC is teaching people about feedback [puts up bar chart where students are (anonymous) listed on a scale labeled “how easy to work with” ] -- oh I hear the nervous laughter from the students. I had forgotten the delayed shock therapy effect of these bar charts. When you’re taking Building Virtual Worlds, every two weeks we get peer feedback. We put that all into a big spreadsheet and at the end of the semester, you had three teammates per project,five projects, that’s 15 data points, that’s statistically valid. And you get a bar chart telling you on a ranking of how easy you are to work with, where you stacked up against your peers. Boy that’s hard feedback to ignore. Some still managed. [laughter] But for the most part, people looked at that and went, wow, I’ve got to take it up a notch. I better start thinking about what I’m saying to people in these meetings. And that is the best gift an educator can give is to get somebody to become self reflective."

"The best way to teach somebody something is to have them think they’re learning something else."

"…you just have to decide if you’re a Tigger or and Eeyore. I think I’m clear where I stand on the great Tigger/Eeyore debate. Never lose the childlike wonder. It’s just too important."

"Loyalty is a two way street."

"So. How do you get people to help you? You can’t get there alone. People have to help you and I do believe in karma. I believe in paybacks. You get people to help you by telling the truth. Being earnest. I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every day, because hip is short term. Earnest is long term."

"Don’t bail. The best of the gold’s at the bottom of barrels of crap."

"Get a feedback loop and listen to it. Your feedback loop can be this dorky spreadsheet thing I did, or it can just be one great man who tells you what you need to hear. The hard part is the listening to it."

"Show gratitude. When I got tenure I took all of my research team down to Disneyworld for a week. And one of the other professors at Virginia said, how can you do that? I said these people just busted their ass and got me the best job in the world for life. How could I not do that?

Don’t complain. Just work harder. [shows slide of Jackie Robinson, the first black major league baseball player] That’s a picture of Jackie Robinson. It was in his contract not to complain, even when the fans spit on him.

Be good at something, it makes you valuable. Work hard. I got tenure a year early as Steve mentioned. Junior faculty members used to say to me, wow, you got tenure early. What’s your secret? I said, it’s pretty simple. Call my any Friday night in my office at ten o’clock and I’ll tell you.

Find the best in everybody. One of the things that Jon Snoddy as I said told me, is that you might have to wait a long time, sometimes years, but people will show you their good side. Just keep waiting no matter how long it takes. No one is all evil. Everybody has a good side, just keep waiting,it will come out.

And be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity.




The talk reminded me of when I read about Morrie Schwartz in Fast Company magazine:

"Much of his (Morrie's) advice may seem like common sense. Yet people often fail to act on such common sense, Morrie said, because they're either sleepwalking or sprinting their way through life. Dying provides the kind of clarity that people need earlier in life but usually lack, Morrie said. Why not practice that greater awareness in your daily life now? "We're involved in trillions of little acts just to keep going," he wrote. "So we don't get into the habit of standing back and looking at our lives and saying, Is this all? Is this all I want? Is something missing? ... Dying is only one thing to be sad over.... Living unhappily is something else."



Get a copy Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson - from Fishpond

I am also reminded of Prof Richard Dawkin's remarks about experiencing life as it is. This is it. Enjoy it and make the most of it.

Million Unit Baby

It took Apple two years to sell a milion iPods.
The iPhone has sold its first million units (as at Sept 11 - 3 months after launch).

Just thought I'd share. (Via NYT)

Bravia Bunnies in the gun


The Bravia ad is sensational.I'm a fan. But it seems that the inspiration comes from an art group called KozyDan. Apparently Fallon contacted Kozydan a couple of years prior with a view to working with them but then never called back.

The interesting thing is whether advertising should pay homage to artworks with paying royalties?

Heads up via The Skinny

A Black Day

The All Blacks have been knocked out of the World Cup of Rugby.
Not much of a result for the investment made in the code.
Maybe the installation of a giant rugby ball by the Eiffel Tower could become something of a white elephant.

At least it happened early on a Sunday morning so the Women's Refuge might not be as overwhelmed as they might have been had the failure been on a Saturday night.

We can also be grateful that we won't have the Prime Minister Helen Clark claiming a great victory for her party (yes, politics and sport get blended when it goes your way). Not quite Paschendale by any stretch but a black day nonetheless.

(Maybe when New Zealand's politicians show up at important sporting events they are like an albatross to an ancient marner?)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Tubular Belles.

There's no doubt about it. The rise of video usage online is a force to be reckoned with. Few would doubt that Google's rise since the late 90s has been spectacular. But even against such a phenomenal benchmark that is nothing compared to the stratospheric growth of YouTube.
This chart from the Alexa.com site shows that the use of video is on an upward path that looks like Al Gore's chart for CO2 emmisions - remember the one where he dramatises the idea of 'off the chart' by using an hydraulic platform to rise to the point of projected growth.

the growth of youtube vs google

…and that's YouTube alone - it doesn't account for the many other sites promoting user generated content.

This is the horse I'm backing. If brand custodians (I know that's a little twee - but the best I can think of right now) don't get their heads around the issue it will be a lost opportunity. Putting a stake in the ground now should be a priority.

“In 1995 there were 225 shows across British television that delivered audiences of more than 15 million. By 2005 there were none.”
Michael Grade, BBC Chairman


I went back to some of the important books I have read in the past several years that have driven my thinking - for example:

After Image by John GrantAfter Image by John Grant

Gonzo Marketing by Chris LockeGonzo Marketing by Chris Locke

Mavericks at Work by William C Taylor and Polly LaBarreMavericks at work Taylor & labarre

Each has contained a thread that has been provocative and important. None of them refer specifically to the rise of AV online but the themes of education, openness and collaboration converge on 'sweet spot' of opportunity that I plan to concentrate on in the coming months.

Friday, October 05, 2007

New Dove (un)Commercial

Here's latest in Dove's campaign for real beauty.
While I think the strategy for the Dove brand is spot on (reposition the competition) I still struggle with the fact that it is a little disingenuous for the company (Unilever)that also promotes the Lynx/Axe brand to be so pious.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hold that thought

The Sony Bravia ad number 3 is Genius.

I love it.

It's here

Bravia Bunnies countdown

For those of you on the edge of your seat

NB: The global launch is a day behind. The 4th is the 5th in New Zealand,

Readers are leaders

Here's what I am reading now (in addition to the rest).

Brain Tattoos
Creating Unique Brands That Stick In your Customers' Minds by Karen Post.

Oddly enough I picked up this book on the recommendation of Heath Row (who was my contact at Fast Company magazine when I coordinated the Auckland Cell of Company of Friends).

Beaton Portraits- from the National Portrait Gallery (London).
Picked this up because I want to practice drawing and I like these images.

The Ten Faces of Innovation..

Key words: Design. Innovation. Ideo. Tom Kelley.

Nuff said.

Mars Attacks

david macgregor is a nob head
I was on Mars the other day…

Actually I was mucking about on Photoshop and Apple's Photobooth with my daughter Zoƫ.

Pays not to take yourself too seriously, dinnit?

Entries are still trickling in to my Stephen Hawkins save the planet idea. You must remember? Send me your copy of A Short History of Time and I'll turn it into something useful - a Yurt.

Book title of the year

I am America (and so can you).
by Steve Colbert.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

How to make money from manufacturing in NZ

Over on Ben's Blog he reports the demise of Norse Wear with a gnashing of teeth and a tearing of hair. I left this comment and thought the story I wrote in Idealog might be useful.

Here’s the model for clothing manufacturing in New Zealand.

http://beta.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
1. Have an utterly differentiated product - some mad thing that is so mad that the rest of the world gives you a wide berth.

2. Don’t bother if price will affect your viability (and before anybody gets pious with me on that one - bugger the floating dollar if you own a gold standard.

3. If no’s uno and due are out of reach…get used to shopping at the Warehouse.


Here's my story about NZONE that was published in Idealog

Gary Sullivan doesn’t look like one of New Zealand’s adventure sport pioneers: he resembles Elton John more than an extreme sports hero. But Sullivan and partner Glen Anderson have been building an iconic Kiwi brand since 1998. It’s been an uphill slog: just a few years ago they could have closed the doors but today their company, N-ZO, has sales of over a million dollars and rising, designing cyclewear and distributing it through New Zealand, Australia and Europe.

N-ZO’s journey has been anything but a straight line sprint. Nobody expects launching a business or a brand will be an easy job, but it’s usually harder than was ever imagined. Sullivan and Anderson’s story is a reminder that persistence, ambition, self-belief and a willingness to take risks is the best protection against the perils of business and the vagaries of chance.

Gary Sullivan has been crazy about cycling since his early teens. He enjoyed some success in New Zealand and on the competitive Australian pro circuit, represented New Zealand and came close to selection for our Olympic team. Cycling was his passion but he turned to advertising to pay the bills.

In 1984 he heard about a rugged new kind of cycle—a hybrid known as a ‘mountain bike’. When he found a tourist riding the new contraption in Auckland, Sullivan chased after the rider to get a closer look. But building a mountain bike of his own turned out to be impossible: there were no local suppliers of the oversize wheels and tyres he needed, New Zealand still had protected light manufacturing industries and it wasn’t easy to either get currency out or products into the country. Through the cycling grapevine Sullivan heard local manufacturer Healing had brought in 15 examples from Japan to reverse-engineer, managed to acquire one and became one of our earliest exponents of mountain biking as a sport.

Partner Glen Anderson has been involved in the fashion and apparel industry since the 1970s. At one stage she ran a street label called Get Frocked, which she sold on weekends at the Cook Street Markets. Later she became involved with the swimwear manufacturer Moontide.

Careers didn’t take precedence over fun, however. The couple took a lengthy stint travelling around Australia and later traversed the United States and Europe. Friends would be surprised by their willingness to leave behind careers, homes and salaries to head off into the wild blue yonder. “We would sometimes return to New Zealand with just enough money to make it back to our house from the airport,” recalls Sullivan.

Their taste for adventure led to the decision to “do something really ridiculous”, combining Anderson’s knack for designing body fit and stretch fit garments and Sullivan’s illustration and design talent. “We decided to start our own brand of clothing, for mountain biking, because there wasn’t anything else—or nothing we liked,” Sullivan says.

They knew they wouldn’t build a manufacturing operation and that they would need to sell in a much bigger market than New Zealand. They made samples of their ideas, packaged them up with unique branding and graphics and headed to the United States “for a little holiday”.

Like many creative entrepreneurs the duo based their decisions on self-belief and a ‘why not?’ attitude. They contacted some American distributors and clothing manufacturers who were willing to see their wares. “It was “easier for them to say ‘yes, let’s have a look’, than ‘no’ and possibly miss out on something,” Sullivan recalls.

“As it turns out none of the ideas we had in the first burst were particularly good. We needed more time to hone our thinking and we came up with an outburst of creativity that we could show people. One of the people we showed was a professor at a university in the Garment District of New York City. He took one look at it and said ‘This is really interesting.

I don’t know anything about your market but I can see this is interesting stuff. Take it back to New Zealand and do it yourselves … and don’t show it to anyone in America because they’ll just steal your idea and rob you.’ In spite of that advice, all of the people we had showed it to were interested and we talked to two companies for about 12 months about a manufacturing and royalty deal.”

But getting “wheels on the deal” proved difficult. “I couldn’t make it stick and come up with anything that looked worth doing. Then we just got impatient and decided to do it ourselves back here.”

Back home Sullivan and Anderson realised their failure to land a US deal was probably for the best. In spite of their freewheeling natures, both were cautious about blowing it in the North American market. “We also realised that we were going to have to keep experimenting with products to find out what people really wanted,” Sullivan says. “Bike shops weren’t very sophisticated so we decided to have our own shop, like a sort of boutique, to find out what people wanted and to give ourselves a unique platform to get started.”

N-Zone, as the brand was originally called, opened its retail operation in Rotorua in 1998. Rotorua seemed the right spot: the town is full of mountain bikers, both locals and those passing through in search of adventure and forest trails. The decision to open their own store also gave them freedom from the conservative buying practices of retail buyers, although Sullivan says the initial range wasn’t all that different to any other, despite attracting customers who liked the well-made, multi-functional garments.

But the store was not an early success. “It was horrifying,” says Sullivan. “We went for weeks selling one or two things a day. I had budgeted for $1,000 of retail sales per day. We were doing $100 or $200. It was ridiculous. A massive hole in the ground we were pouring money into.

“But from a brand-building point of view it was fantastic. We always thought that if we got the shop looking great and created a good range and acted like we were succeeding in all of our communications, something would happen. That’s about as scientific as it got. Oh, it was fun and there wasn’t anything else like it.”

Gradually the accounts improved—in year three the store turned over enough to pay the rent and a shop assistant. By then, however, the combination of well-designed garments, specifically tailored for the mountain biker, and a slick in-store experience meant the NZone shop on the corner of Hinemoa Street had become a familiar place for locals and visitors. The brand was becoming known.
Competitive challenges

In the tight-knit world of cycling it doesn’t take long for word to spread. “By the third year we’d had a key product knocked off by two other New Zealand companies.” Sullivan is reluctant to get specific but says rivals got some of the product right—but not exactly right. “The bits that were making our product work were too hard for them to emulate, so they had a kind of half-arsed version of it.” When a deal with a leading cycling retail chain fell over, the retailer hired a surfwear company to copy the NZone products. “They said, well, if we can’t have your product we’ll have your product with someone else’s name on it.” But again, the copies were inferior and did not fool demanding mountain bikers.

NZone products were in demand but Sullivan and Anderson couldn’t afford to sit on its laurels. “We realised we were pedalling really hard and getting nowhere,” says Sullivan. “The only way to go forward was to concentrate on wholesaling, so we started to look for ways to make our product at a price that would allow us to find retail customers who would sell our product well.”

In 2001 N-ZO headed to Las Vegas for Interbike, one of the world’s biggest bicycling trade fairs. Trade New Zealand coordinated a group of cycling manufacturers to attend as an export network group. “We had a very good response to our stuff. We were reviewed by two of the top magazines in the States, who only covered ten or so products a day from thousands of exhibitors.” The coverage and presence at the fair resulted in interest from 65 retailers, including a couple of major cycling chains and a dozen distributors. But, at the time, NZO had no way of manufacturing in sufficient volume to serve a market as large as the US.

Australia beckoned, and this time not as a holiday destination. Sullivan returned with confirmed orders from ten key specialist retailers and looked for someone to make the clothing. “We spent a considerable amount of time and money establishing a relationship with a manufacturer who guaranteed us they could do what we wanted.”

Things were getting expensive. Sullivan and Anderson poured all their resources into N-ZO. They sold everything and Sullivan worked nights as a freelance designer and illustrator to meet the costs. Investors had offered cash but Sullivan had never felt comfortable with the idea. “I didn’t want to sell something that I wasn’t totally confident would make somebody money, you know. And I still wasn’t sure if it would go.”

He was right to have his doubts. Problems became evident with the first batch of product that arrived in Rotorua. “It was a disaster. And our key product had to be manually examined to establish whether our particular bar tag was in the right place. The only way you could find out whether it was in the right place was by trying to pull the garment apart. If it failed, it was in the wrong place … basically this was failing in about half the products. And the other thing is that they’d made such a hash of the cutting. We laugh in retrospect, but they had made such a bad job of cutting it that the stuff was the wrong size.”

Reality had hit—hard. Behind schedule and with Australian orders to be filled, Sullivan made the call to cancel the order. They had everything returned to Rotorua—half-finished, finished, raw fabric, the lot. “We got it all delivered and then we sorted it out all into piles and then we found some guys in South Auckland who were in a hideous little joint underneath a building in a part of Otahuhu you don’t go to. And they took all this stuff and assembled it in a way that was deliverable. I remember thinking at the time, if these are the conditions where my stuff is going to get made, what’s the difference between here and China?”

As if things couldn’t get worse, fabric from a wholesaler in Auckland proved unusable. “It had a stripe down the middle of it in a different colour. The range ended up made in different colours than what we’d sold and had photographed for our catalogue which we had already printed.”

It was a desperate time. The Australian orders were filled, late and in different colours than promised. Meanwhile the store in Rotorua was closed down and a deal was struck with a large outdoor lifestyle store to have an N-ZO concept store-within-a-store. The experience very nearly spelled the end.

Until this point Sullivan and Anderson had built a reputation for a terrific product and brand concept. They had worked hard to design, manufacture and promote NZO but had obviously stretched their No. 8 wire and resources to the limit. The Australian adventure was a dismal failure.

Late on delivery and with no money left to market the range, Sullivan couldn’t follow up on promises. He thought long and hard about the future.
Luckily, fortune favours the brave

Just as the Aussie misadventure reached its nadir, Sullivan met three people who would help turn N-ZO around. The first, Leon Grice, a businessman with experience in the rag trade, saw N-ZO’s potential. “He thought we looked like an interesting little company that was ‘born global’, but he could see that we were either going to go broke or give up, or both, unless something fairly radical happened.”

Grice became a mentor to the couple. “He quite often told me what to do to stay afloat this week. That’s how desperate it was at the time.”
Brand battles: why N-Zone became N-ZO

When Fairydown changed the name of its outdoor clothing range to ‘Zone’, Gary Sullivan was quick to protest. N-Zone’s deal with Fountain had just been signed and he was worried that the brand was too close to his own N-Zone and would even be sold in the same stores. But Fairydown, he says, denied there was any risk of confusion.

Sullivan took legal advice. “We fired a few shots across their bows,” he says. “They pretty much said ‘Bring it on, son, what have you got ...’.”

N-Zone looked for precedents to bolster their case—and found in America alone there were 180 clothing brands with the word ‘zone’ in their names. The market probably didn’t need another. “So we took a deep breath and thought, okay, at the moment we have a very good company base in New Zealand, but no customer base anywhere else. If we change now to something else, all we’ll be losing is our New Zealand equity. Let’s look at what we can do.

“We realised that N-ZO was actually just as catchy, more unique and more defensible.”

Grice also introduced them to Maurice Prendergast from Pumpkin Patch. “Here’s a guy who bought a company when it was turning over $1 million and grown it to, at that point, $220 million. He looked at our little project. And he said a couple of things that really have guided me since. One: you can’t make the stuff in New Zealand. At that stage everything we made was labelled ‘Made Right Here’. He said if you want to grow this business to the point where it will make you any money, sooner or later you will have to go offshore because your product is technical and difficult to make. And we don’t have the ability to make this in any large quantities in New Zealand. I shook my head and thought that’s not going to happen, because I thought that we were contributing to the economy.

“But when he showed us his operation, what impressed me the most was this very vibrant design department and logistics department. I was amazed by what they were doing there in East Tamaki—and we never saw a sewing machine! It wasn’t about making clothing, it was about designing it, and marketing it, and getting it to the market.

“We had a great product, a great idea and a unique proposition, which was that we are the New Zealand brand of mountain biking apparel, but that’s all we had. I thought we’re not doing this again. We have to find a way of doing this where people are good at it. So I emailed Maurice Prendergast and said ‘You were right, I’m wrong, how do we go to China?’”

Soon Sullivan was talking to Chinese manufacturers. In 2003 N-ZO and Fountain Apparel formed a joint venture company. Fountain takes care of production and logistics. “They made four million items of clothing last year in China. They’ve been in China for a long time so they’ve got long relationships with manufacturers. They’ve got Chinese people in their operation in Auckland. They’ve got their people up in China. And as we go along we realise that that’s the only way you can do it.”
Another twist on the trail

If it all seemed like a downhill ride from there, then the ride came with a few surprising bumps. The Fountain deal was struck knowing N-ZO had an exciting US distribution deal was lined up. Sullivan was contacted by a very well-connected American who wanted to distribute the brand in North America. “He’s young, early 30s, knows everybody. Had worked at Interbike and for a company that promotes mountain bike racing in the States. He had worked for various quite cool brands. He looked at our stuff and said far out, I’ll distribute it for you.

“He introduced us to people and he had a really good setup organised. He was going to use commission reps that he knew and who he’d worked with before in each geographic region. He would use a freight forwarding warehouse to deliver the product and also run the admin.

“When the Fountain deal was struck, the fuel for it was the fact that we had an agent there ready to go in the States.”

With the manufacturing agreement in place, Sullivan and Anderson took a Christmas holiday. When they returned the first email Sullivan read carried the news that their North American hope was dead. He had jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Find the right people in the market

Many entrepreneurs write business plans showing steady, if not dramatic, growth. Most fail to realise that things usually take twice as long and cost twice as much as expected. Sullivan has learned to expect the unexpected.

With manufacturing funding and expertise in place, N-ZO looked for another overseas distributor. “I made a feeble attempt at trying to find someone else to do it, but, you know, it’s hard to explain, but you have to have someone in the market who believes.”

One day a believer arrived. Arthur Reber is a Swiss businessman deeply immersed in the cycling industry who had came to New Zealand for three months to learn to speak English, in order to specify bikes in Taiwan to sell in Switzerland. While on a Marlborough Sounds trip with three hardcore N-ZO devotees, Reber was introduced to the brand and was impressed.

“He looked at the product and said in Switzerland every shop has three or four brands of stuff and it’s all the same, it’s all absolutely top-drawer, there’s no crap stuff. And this is the same quality or better and it’s different.”

Reber was convinced the N-ZO brand would be popular in Switzerland and set up a distribution business there. “The Swiss are interested primarily because it is obviously from New Zealand,” says Sullivan. “It’s a brand called N-ZO, it’s got glossy pictures of New Zealand trails and they know it is definitely not Switzerland. We’ve got 20 dealers now—still small numbers, they’re still toe-in-the-water kind of people, but yeah, very exciting.”

Reber illustrates the importance of not only having a passionate advocate, but also one who can be relied on and who has credibility. And, after their first disastrous foray into Australia, N-ZO now has an advocate there. “We have a guy who gets it and we brought him over here and showed him what N-ZO means in Rotorua. He got it and he can sell it.”

Sullivan and Anderson are now able to concentrate on the things they do best: design and marketing. Using their talents as designers and with a willingness to risk everything, they created a product and brand which worked well on a cottage scale but was too difficult to scale up with local manufacturing resources. They went from being able to control everything to virtually losing control of everything, but they’re still in the saddle.

Sullivan is single-minded but he knows that some paths aren’t worth following. When he talks about mountain biking he likes to say that some tracks in the forests around Rotorua have permanent Sullivan-shaped dents in them. It seems a perfect metaphor for N-ZO’s wild ride.

REINZ can't keep up with the Joneses


This is rich.

The Real Estate Institute must be the most flat-footed organisation in the country. This evening the TV3 News reported the case made by the REINZ against new real estate agency The Joneses for 'bringing the industry into ill-repute'. I can hear barely muffled laughter rippling through New Zealand's Internet community.

The Joneses have created their business model to work on the basis of flat fees, rather than a sliding scale of commissions. Why should you pay more for facilitating the sale of your 3 million dollar home than if it was worth 1.5 million? I can't think of a balanced reason. But the Institute's members obviously have a vested interest in protecting the status quo and discouraging those members who might have maverick ideas that win them market share at the expense of own unearned profits.

It's not so long ago that accredited advertising agencies were bound by law to pocket a 20% commission paid to them by the media for placing client's ads. The more a client invested in promotion the more Porsches and Ferraris were parked in the agency parking lot. Not that it required any more work or expertise on the part of the agent.

With the scandalous behaviour of Real Estate agents in new Zealand in the past couple of years - which the Institute self polices (though not very effectively).

If you are selling your home I recommend you have a very serious negotiation with any potential agent.

If it costs you more than $7995 call the Joneses.

As for REINZ call PRINZ now. Oh and rethink your future.

Tattoo too far?

tattoo lady giant
tattoo lady giant
This Giant installation in a London train station, created by UK ad agency Mother to promote a reality television show about a tattoo parlour owned by UK tattoo artist Louis Molloy, who is famous for inking David Beckham and Kate Moss.

The sculptures’ tattoos were designed by Molloy - instead of a rampant eagle, common in traditional tattooing, she has a tatty looking 'flying rat' - the ubiquitous London pigeon as her 'tramp stamp'.

It interests me that the advertiser will be stencilling London city with promos. They should take care with that approach. In the U.S. Sony embarked on a similar campaign idea - paying grafitti artists to paint iconic images of kids using the PSP. The reaction from bona fide street artists was swift and hostile. According to Wired:Sony Draws Ire With PSP Graffiti

"Outside Casa Maria, a small Mission bodega, someone wrote, "Get out of my city," added the word "Fony" to the graffiti..."


I don't think Banksy would approve.

banksy graffiti the joy of not being sold anything

Via Creative Review Blog

The magic of IP

Over on Kevin Roberts' blog he has posted an interesting discussion about the way illusionists and stage magicians protect their Intellectual Property without resorting the IP Law.

He bases much of the post on an article, Secrets Revealed: How Magicians Protect Intellectual Property Without Law By Jacob Loshin. (Download as PDF - highly recommended if you have any interest in IP or the Creative Economy).

Mr Roberts also posts this clip from what looks like a British talent show (featuring David Hasselhoff and Sharon Osbourne as judges - don't let that put you off though - the illusion is brilliant).