Thursday, February 28, 2008


You're sure to have heard the expression youngster, right? Well I have encountered a new term that I feel I may have to adopt. Grownster. Now that my son is hot on my heels in the age stakes - he turned 16 yesterday - I feel that I don't want to be defined by the age of my children. You know - "Oh, you have grown up kids, are you, like, a grandparent yet?"

I don't feel 45 at all. Whatever feeling 45 might feel like. Oh, sure I feel erratic heart beats sometimes and monumentally high bloodpressure (you can't feel that), but - by and large - I feel exactly the same way I did when I was 16. I feel differently about things, but physically I feel exactly the same.

I don't look the same. I've gone gray, my hairline is receding and I weigh a full 1/3 more than I did back then. My eyesight is failing. Ok…now I'm starting to feel different.

Read an article on the Brand Strategy Insider about research done by Tivo,

They examined the commercial-viewing habits of some 20,000 TiVo-equipped households, including which ad campaigns are fast-forwarded past by the lowest percentage of viewers. The results, so far, weigh heavily in favor of rational arguments. Relevance outweighs creativity in TV commercials by a lot. The ads on the "least-fast-forwarded" list aren't funny, they aren't touching and they aren't clever.

Last June, the No. 1 least fast-forwarded campaign was for the home gym brand Bowflex.

I love those ads. My favourite is the one with the 50 year old grandmother with the absolutely ripped body.

Proof that age is relative.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A novel concept

I have put Vanishing Act online in its entirity - for a limited time you can read it all before choosing to order it by the box-load. Or scoff. Which is your prerogative.

Read it here.

I am looking to a model when the free edition will be supported by advertising. (Nothing is really free).


Free online edition here.
Hardcopy (in paperback or hardcover) here (downloadable PDF edition also avaialable) here.

I am currently working on an episodic podcast too.

Oh, and finally, you can read the first five chapters on and rate it. Be gentle. (actually, I am pretty thick skinned, be honest).

Crossovers - the wrong side of the track.

chicago the musical
A further thought about the Kiri Te Kanawa vs. Westenra spat (which has been one way traffic):

kiri te kanawa in a nice frockWhen operatic sopranos 'crossover' and bring their training to popular music it is time to duck and cover your ears. They make a pigs ear of perfectly good songs and show tunes. Porgy and Bess will never compete with the entertainment value of Chicago, say, for this very reason. Slutty women in a Chicago jail win hands down every time.

I can't even stand the sound of Kiri singing 'Po Kare kare ana'.

So the the debate is academic. Though I don't like the singing style or cynical marketing of Hayley Westenra she has remained mercifully silent over the matter of her assault by the wizened one - who could learn something about poise and dignity from her young rival.

Pomp and circumstantial evidence - The War on Democracy 2

I wrote abut John Pilger's The War On Democracy the other day (I think the clips from YouTube I posted = the entire film).

Today I was driving down to Devonport with ZoĆ« after I collected her from school. I had no business there but I figured, in after-school traffic, that would be sufficient time to hear a half hour interview by resident Mr Nice Guy Jim Moira and Pilger. Jim Moira, for those of you who have never seen or heard him styles himself as 'a man of the people' - like an old time vicar. But like an old-time vicar he projects an air of superiority over his flock…the idea that he knows infinitely more than you ever will and has the vocabulary to prove it - dropping in the odd Latin phrase here and there for good measure.

Today he was revealed as badly briefed, ignorant of the subject matter and exposed as pious twerp by his subject.

The interview is here and well worth listening to.

I think my favourite part was when Mr Moira began to attribute an uninformed point of view about Pilgers politics. He was plainly behaving in the way that Pilger describes in his speech about censorship by journalism in the telegraph - spouting received wisdom without ever questioning it, even when talking to the source in real time.

The mellifluous Mr Moira has been taken down a peg. Saint Mucking-In might not be as much a man of the people as he might like to imagine - or Hugo Chavez for that matter.

Most importantly watch the clips or go see the film. I will do both.

My eight year old daughter said nothing throughout the interview. When it had finished and I had obviously had my fun she looked at me with her lovely green eyes and said:

"You owe me an ice cream…big time."

The people have spoken.

(And to think, I used to see myself as somewhere to the right of Ghengis Khan. I blame the Internet).

BTW: what kind of plonker uses the antiquated term compleat? Pilger plays along with that and dismantles his pomp elsewhere - for example "Have you seen the film?" Answer - "no".

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ingenious Egneus

Daniel Egneus is my favourite illustrator. I was introduced to his work by his sister, Sussi, who lives and works here in New Zealand. Daniel has the frustrating ability to make it all look so easy and, in spite of the child-like use of line and restrained colour it is obvious he is in complete command of his craft. I see he has launched a book (video), I don't understand much French but it could be worth ordering.

illustration by Daniel Egneus

Visit his web site to view portfolio.


I was doodling the other day when I came up with this idea. It was after having lunch with Mikael Aldridge, WPP's point man for Nokia. It reminded me of the first column I wrote for Idealog magazine a couple of years back - banging on about the importance of collaboration for New Zealand. Synposis: very. (the article isn't on the web and I can't find it in my work files, but when I do I will post it).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Medicating calm

Do jokes that get passed around email irritate you?
Here is one that just arrived. As I am feeling exceedingly not calm at the moment I thought I would share it with you.


I am passing this on to you because it definitely works and we could all use a little more calmness in our lives. By following simple advice heard on the Dr. Phil show, you too can find inner peace.

Dr. Phil proclaimed, "The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished."

So, I looked around my house to see all the things I started and hadn't finished, and before leaving the house this morning, I finished off a bottle of Shiraz, a bottle of Riesling, a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream, a bottle of Gin, a box of chocolates, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake and some chips.

You have no idea how freaking good I feel right now.

Please pass this on to those whom you think might be stressed."

Stay calm and the world surrenders.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Flight of fantasy.

I read a post on Kevin Roberts' blog that I found excessive - a list of improvements he suggests airports around the world should make.

For example

11. Alitalia lands a big sack of government funding along with a visionary team to transform it into the ultimate Italian Lovemark experience.
16. The First Class private studios on Emirates and Singapore Airlines force competitors to upgrade – fast.
17. Airline uniforms dress down from military to smart casual. Air New Zealand through its Zambesi designs is setting the standard.
18. Lounges around the world go for tranquility, openness and space. Think Cathay in Hong Kong. And, while they are at it, ban all big-screen TVs that are always playing CNN, too loud, all the time.
19. Ensure all airport designers study, replicate and incrementally improve the high standard set by Munich.


Now pass me some more lark's tongues in aspic. And I think my Krug is a degree too cold.

You gotta laugh…

By the way, Air New Zealand cabin crew don't universally love the Zamabesi outfits. Impractical, show sweat (it's hard work looking fabulous), uncomfortable. I have it from the source.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sucky & Bucky

geodesic dome
‘You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’

— Richard Buckminster Fuller

I think two of the most interesting inventors are James Dyson and Bucky Fuller (there is an interview with Dyson in the latest edition of Idealog Magazine.

Fuller's ideas were well ahead of his time. He had the insight to ask the question "Does humanity have a chance to survive lastingly and successfully on planet Earth, and if so, how?" His first priority wasn't his own wealth, but the wellbeing of mankind and the planet.

Many of his ideas were never successfully implemented, but there are some people who are catalysts, rather than the mechanical implementers of ideas. That is something that I think is often ignored - conception happens on a high plane and implementation at the lowest. Ask Henry Ford.

Dyson I admire for his fortitude. He had the courage to challenge the accepted way that things were done and gave the world the Dyson cyclone (I'd argue that, if he hadn't, the world would be much the same as it was before…Fuller didn't get things done that should have been, others have made things that they shouldn't have).

Dyson also had the courage to move manufacturing from the UK to Malaysia in the face of militant criticism from people who didn't understand where the true value of the business lay.

Don't misinterpret my comments about Dyson that seem critical - we like clean houses and nice design. Both Dyson and Bucky are significant for their influence on others.

I also like the Dyson motto: Making Everyday Work Better - The importance of the word 'work' is worth thinking about.

Hysterical Divas

maria callas in full song
You have to hand it to Kiri Te Kanawa. She does a fine self parody of the operatic diva. Hardly the tigress that Maria Callas was, but getting there. Her criticism of Hayley Westernra is laughable to those of us who have little regard for the horrible warbling of operatic sopranos of any tinge.

Te Kanawa's beef is that Westernra and other crossover singers (popera) are rubbish. Sounds like the old girl is feeling the pinch as the times change. I worked to market opera with the Auckland Opera company in the mid nineties. The question for opera then was how to make the art form relevant to a modern audience. Perhaps one the defining moments for opera was when Pavarotti sang at the world cup of soccer. Instantly Nessum Dorma entered the consciousness of a vast global audience. The arrival of singers like Westernra and Church and groups like Il Divo might be one of the few ways that opera at its purest and most awful form can even hope to survive. Audiences are aging (and therefore dying) and restaging standard repertoire and more obscure alternatives only has so much scope before it becomes absurd (How would you like your Janaceck madam?).

Once again Kiri comes out looking like a self important harridan who is so used to being fawned over that she has begun to believe that her deification is complete. Remember when she refused to take the stage with John Farnham?

I would rather eat my own foot (shoe on) than listen to any of the performers listed above. Nothing wrong with any of them (…OK, maybe Johnny Farnham might be a bit suspect), but, then, there's no accounting for taste. Or its absence.

Free Preview of Vanishing Act

Read the first part of Vanishing Act. Forward to friends. Buy a copy.
Read this doc on Scribd: Vanishing Act

Friday, February 22, 2008

What do you want… a medal?

The theft of the war medals from the army museum in Waiouru has turned into a fascinating study. It raises a number of questions in my mind:

1) If the medals are as valuable as claimed why was security so feeble?

2) Why are New Zealand's crack fighting troops, the SAS at war in Afghanistan when the official line is that kiwis are simply helping with 'regional reconstruction' - isn't that a job for sappers?

Here is the citation for Corp. Willy Apaiata's V.C.

It was 3.15am one morning in Afghanistan in 2004 when a troop of SAS soldiers came under fire from 20 enemy fighters with machine and rocket propelled grenades.

Apiata was blown off the bonnet of his vehicle in the attack and one of colleagues was seriously injured. Apiata picked up his colleague and carried him 70 metres in what was described as broken, rocky and fire-swept ground under heavy fire. He placed his colleague into safety and then joined the counter attack.

Doesn't sound like regional reconstruction to me.

3)Why are we anti-nuclear but pro-war? Selective pacifism?

4)Why can't the police fiend the thieves but a news channel can?

5)Why not simply send over some dupes of the originals, they probably cost about four buck each to make. I'm not dismissing the heroism that warranted the citation in the first place but fetishising the medals seems, well, fetishistic - craven objects and all that.

6) Should the Hulme medal be celebrated? In Crete he broke the rules of war and callously killed 30 Germans, soldiers just like him, while he was disguised in a German uniform? Was that an act of bravery or cowardice?

From the Telegraph (UK)

VC winner branded a war criminal

A ruse that helped to win a soldier the Victoria Cross during the Second World War was a "war crime" and New Zealand should apologise to the families of the snipers he killed, it was claimed yesterday.

Alfred Clive Hulme, the father of Denny Hulme, the late world motor racing champion, was awarded the VC for bravery in killing 33 German snipers over eight days during the Battle of Crete in 1941. He returned home a hero to the town of Nelson.

But a new book by two military historians says that, in winning his VC, Sgt Hulme committed "acts of perfidy" under international law.

Lt Col Glyn Harper, a professor at the New Zealand army's Military Studies Institute, who co-authored the book, In the Face of the Enemy, said that on one occasion Sgt Hulme donned a German paratrooper's smock, climbed up behind a nest of enemy snipers, and pretended to be part of their group.

"He shot the leader first, and as the other four snipers looked around to see where the shot had come from, Hulme also turned his head as if searching for the shooter," the book says.

"Then he shot and killed two more." He shot the other two as they tried to leave.

"Hulme deserved the VC for his outstanding bravery, but he shouldn't have done what he did in disguising himself."

Other academics have supported the book's claims. Peter Wills, the deputy director of the Centre for Peace Studies at Auckland University, said Sgt Hulme's actions were "unsanctioned murder".

He told the Sunday Star-Times that the New Zealand government should apologise to the families of the Germans he killed. Bill Hodge, associate professor of law at Auckland University, said killing enemy soldiers while wearing their uniform was "prima facie a war crime".

A jolly jape…

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The truth is out there

"...I become fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason..."
Klaatu, The Day the Earth Stood Still

ThoughtSpur of the Day

"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..."
Mark Twain

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ogden nash 2

Ogen nash Stamp
"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long."

Give peas a chance

John Lennon Peace
You may have noticed I have removed the previous post. A border skirmish broke out between Ben Kepes and me over my views about clusterbombs, which he interpreted as an endorsement of suicide bombing and Hezbolah rockets. The exchange escalated needlessly.

In the interests of peace and civility I have removed our exchange. Ben is an intelligent, decent person and I had no intention to offend.

Two wrongs don't make a right (but two Wrights made an aeroplane).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Joneses have left the neighbourhood

The real estate alternative to traditional agencies in New Zealand have gone into voluntary liquidation.

Their business model was to sell houses for a flat fee. Agents usually operate on a commission.

The problem with their business model was that the average sale commission in New Zealand is about 2% of the total sale price - and the average sale price meant the Joneses fee was higher than the average commission…and you had to conduct your own open home days (viewings).

Changes in the market, a downturn that corresponded with the US sub-prime morgage market collapse (but which was inevitable here anyway)meant the maverick Joneses suffered soonest because it squeezed their already beleaguered cash flows. The firm had planned a listing on the stock exchange which did not proceed (I doubt it would have been more than a penny dreadful in any case).

But here is the rub. One of the attractive things about the Joneses was that it offered an alternative to the, sometimes, dodgy practices of New Zealand realtors. There is the perception that estate agents are overpaid fat-cats. In most cases that is simply wrong. Most agents are ineffectual and their talents insufficient to acquire the listings which lead to sales (bearing in mind that it is unlikely many thinking people are ever 'sold' a house - one is shown a home and decides whether to buy it or not. That is why, without listings to show, agents only have modest incomes. Showing another agent's listing means sharing only a portion of the success fee.)

Most agents are rubbish. They are worse when they are deluded. Many agencies have disgraceful practices such as mobbing a vendor when the initial listing enquiry is made - every man and her dog show up to the initial appraisal, then the most junior agent is assigned to represent the property (it happened to me - my house remained unsold and I fired the agency. The next one was worse.)

The worst aspect of the demise of the Joneses was hearing the head of the Real Estate Institute dancing on their grave. Unfortunately for him, though, this event doesn't vindicate the REINZ from the shabby practices of some of its members or the inadequate protection consumers have from those practices. Heinous frauds committed by MREINZ have been punished internally with insipid penalties, giving us consumers the impression, stirred by Clayton Cosgrove, that all agents are sharks or behave in their own interests first and foremost.

The Joneses may not have been the right model to surplant the antiquated Real Estate business - but there will be an altenative that will work. It is an attractive market because the potential returns can be substantial. My view is that it will have some thing to do with two factors: Advertising/Promotion + the Internet.

Thinking caps on.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Locked and Loaded

A magazine is a place where things are collected and stored for use. It used to apply mostly to weapons. The magazine of a ship was where the ammunition was stored. The clip of a semiautomatic is its magazine. But the most common understanding today is a book of articles/items printed in on a regular basis. Some of the best printed magazines deliver ammunition with which to make choices or act (Utne Reader, New Scientist,The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue…)while others are just fetishistic collections of cultural rubble curated for the edification of a tiny niche.

I've always liked magazines - in my childhood the local newsagent ordered my copy of Shoot - no, not a magazine dedicated to the NRA lifestyle, an English soccer magazine. I would pore over statistics and images of my favourite teams. In the day they still ran features on Pele and George "99% of my money I spent on women and booze, the rest I squandered" Best. Look and Learn was a semiregular favourite - I loved the pictures by Frank Hampson (who drew Dan Dare). Discovering GQ in the early eighties led to my first cologne purchase - thanks to an ad for Paco Robanne - the one David Ogilvy immortalised in his Ogilvy on advertising book and a drive to live in loft apartments (which lapsed when children appeared).

A couple of years back I launched Idealog with the chaps at HB Media and saw magazine publishing from the inside. Hard work. My enthusiasm for magazines in a undiminished - though I see their role changing dramatically in the near future - it consumes a lot of resources to make a magazine - one must wonder about the carbon footprint of buying a hefty edition of Italian Vogue in New Zealand - and how many are shredded unsold?

But, ethical considerations aside - if you enjoy magazine culture you'll probably also enjoy the blog Magazineer - thoughtful, insightful and well written.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Junk food research

There is a strange illness sweeping the nation. It is a form of insanity called irresponsibility.

A survey of 'parents and grandparents' by Otago University researchers indicated that '95%' of them believe that advertising 'junk food' directed at children should be banned. Why? Because it leads to obesity.

I'd love to see the survey form. If it uses the term 'junk food' I'd suggest that an immediate bias was apparent and the the results are not credible. Of course 95% of people would say they are opposed to feeding children 'junk' food. But what exactly is junk? My opinion is that the term is so loaded that it is impossible to apply without being easily debunked. For example, if you were to have lobster thermador at on of Gordon Ramsey's restaurants (they are peppered across the northern hemisphere) then you would be eating a high cholesterol meal. Depending on the accompanying side dishes and sauces it would probably qualify as junk food. But isn't it 'fine food'. You can see the difficulty without me laboring the point. At some point, in the absence of an objective measure of what is and what isn't 'junk', someone has to make a value judgment about what constitutes 'junk' food. So, even if the researchers didn't use the term in their questioning they would have to extrapolate that what the respondents really meant was 'junk food'.

The truth is that using the emotionally loaded term serves itself and clogs the arteries in the brain that permit reasonable thoughts.

So, having whipped up a quasi-religious fervor around junk food itself the researchers turn their attention to the causes of obesity. Obviously having lathered up the respondents they need to guide them to a conclusion. Is the reason that your children are fat anything to do with you? No, of course not, it is the junk food advertising in television directed to our kids whose access to discretionary spending is so great there is nothing we can do but stand by and watch them bloat to gargantuan proportions - if they get any bigger I will never be able to say no to them! Oh, that's right, I forgot, we don't exert any influence over our kids. TV is the new parent.

You poor, foolish people. You are being duped. You are responsible for your children's wellbeing. Hysterical news items with bad research might make you feel hopeless and not to blame for the choices you make. But the fact is that 'most' New Zealand kids are not obese.

The sky is not falling. But until you take responsibility for the decisions you make you'll have to blame it on the bogeyman. Much easier that way.

And, as for the medical professional who claimed that self regulation has been shown not to work (referring to the advertising industry) he simply reinforced the pompous attitude the medical industry has towards people. How could plebs possibly make good choices for themselves - before you know they'll be asking for a second opinion…

Saturday, February 16, 2008

But it sounds…like…that

Quote: "It's such a glorious noise!"

Watching the end of this clip from Top Gear about the Miura I felt cheated.
I never flew on Concorde. It was on my list. But it was grounded after the accident in France - put that tyre maker out of business.

C'est la vie.

I remember seeing a scruffy Lambo Espada parked outside the Mercury Theatre with a 'for sale' sign in the window. I think $10k - when that was a lot of money. What was I thinking? I should have conned my employers to pay the car instead of the wedding!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Silence can't be differentiated.

I had a coffee with my ex-wife, Natalie,today. Nat has been working for the Lamborghini/Bentley dealership in Auckland. She's a petrolhead from way back. In fact I would go as far to say it is genetic. Her dad worked for one of the big oil companies, owned gas stations and was a pioneer; the first importer of Korean cars to New Zealand. Barry O'Donoghue is as nice a chap as you're unlikely to meet.

Natalie asked me if I'd ever heard a Lamborghini in a confined space. Had to admit that I had not had that pleasure. We cooed, as only petrol heads do about the sound of an Italian GT as one drives through a tunnel. I can only imagine. I told her about the time I took Taylor and Charlie (my ex-partner Lisa the Chiropractor's son) to see the Ferrari Enzo - which was displayed at Continental Cars in Auckland. The queue reminded me of living in London. I don't normally line up for anything - but the boys were keen. The car was impressive, yes, but the highlight of the experience was when staff in the dealership moved a Ferrai in the showroom (which is like an undergorund carpark that isn't actually underground) the sound of a Berlinetta Boxer being blipped inside is something extraordinary.

I was thinking about the way sound of a car affects me. Which made this promotion for the Lamborghini Gallardo seem completely wrong. Bad music. Wrong Music. I wanted to hear the sound. If you are thinking of buying one, then that is a significant driver. As it is presented the Gallaro seems tame, silent. If it is a neutered urban cruiser then the entire Lamborghini brand is a sham.

The best sounding cars I have owned:

Toyota MR2 (Supercharged)
BMW 3.0 csi (manual)+ 635csi (big BMW sixes are sensational on song)
Willys Overland Stationwagon (Hurricane six)
Porsche 944 Turbo (at 140 mph - even over the sound of my hysterical laughter - and no, I have never had a speed ticket in my life).
Ducati 900ss (I know it's not a car, but it sounded effing fantastic)

But I have never owned a V8.

I'd love to build a GT40 replica one day. Or an AC Cobra.

Part of design has to be the sound of things.

Every sense must be catered to.

The sound of silence is nothing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

African Art

Two artistes whose work I'm not sure about have teamed up to raise money for HIV/AIDS medicine for africa. Together they invited top artists to donate work for a Valentine's Day auction. I've seen reports that they will raise between 25-40 million US dollars in the auction.

Sotheby's will be auctioning the works. It is themed [RED], tying into the campaign that has co-opted marketers like The Gap to donate a percentage of their profits to African Charitable causes.
Hirst has made some work for sale (and in a cool twist has co-opted Banksy to make a double entendre. Georg Baselitz is there. As are Antony Gormley, Subodh Gupta, Anish Kapoor and art rockstar Jeff Koons. The cash goes to the United Nations Foundation to support HIV/AIDS relief programmes in Africa.

Hirst, whose career was propelled by the patronage of Charles Saatchi once said:

"I remember when I couldn't give my art away, it wasn't long ago either," Hirst said in a statement.

Personally I can understand that. I can also see the value of celebrity. Not that sure I like U2 either. But I admire two geniuses of self promotion turning their attention to things that matter.

Hirst also said:

"For a relatively small amount of effort on each artist's part we can actually save many lives," Hirst continued. "It's great to be able to give something back and make a difference."

Which is a point well made.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The 900th

This is the 900th episode of ThoughtSpurs. Thats a lot of tapping on a keyboard. Obviously I don't care about typing (though I will never forget my creative director at Rialto asking me - when I was writer - "Dave, why fo you want to type" when, in 1984 I insisted on having a Mac (our sister agency Colenso had the account and I had heard tales that there were boxes of them gathering dust because no one knew what to do with them)… Any way


I was feeling nostalgic so I wondered what mattered most, outside of my personal relationships…

Here's something I have been thinking about:

From the Founders of Idealog:

By Vincent Heeringa, David MacGregor & Martin Bell
Originally published in Idealog #1, page 8

A year ago, when the three founders of Idealog first met, we didn’t plan for a new magazine to be in your hands today. But many good ideas come from lunch. Idealog is no exception. What we did agree on was that there seemed to be a glaring hole for a magazine that understands what it means to create innovation—the excitement of conception, the struggle to bring ideas to market, the agony of good ideas going bad and the satisfaction of successful implementation.
Vincent Heeringa, David MacGregor, Martin Bell

If this were just a magazine for us, it’s fair to say we might have just kept eating and talking. But the idea grew as we identified a much bigger story: the emergence of the global creative economy and the need for New Zealand to step up to the mark in order to be competitive. Whether in traditional industries or the new creative industries, innovation and creativity are the drivers of business. Richard Florida, a US economist, estimates that New Zealand’s ‘creative class’ has grown from 17 percent of the working population in 1992 to 27 percent in 2002. Now they have something to read.

The purpose of Idealog is to inspire those of you who are in the business of ideas. To us, you are the heroes of our economy. Without new ideas, fresh thinking, and a determination to create something from nothing, New Zealand will become little more than a country of bus drivers and bartenders.

We realised early that securing the support of stakeholders in the creative economy is essential to Idealog’s success. We are grateful to our foundation sponsors—AUT University, Telecom, Microsoft, Baldwins and Image Centre—for their support. We are also grateful to the Communication Agencies Association of New Zealand and the Marketing Association. Both organisations have enthusiastically endorsed Idealog and act as cornerstone distribution partners.

We’re developing a creative company that values innovation. We have hired the best talent—people who ‘get it’ and understand the issues facing commercial creatives. We’re also committed to commissioning the best writing, photography and illustration talent to bring the pages alive like no other New Zealand business magazine.

It has been quite a journey so far and there is a long way to go. Are you with us?

Vincent Heeringa, David MacGregor and Martin Bell

I'll stand by that.

Are you with us?

Knight Moves

Isn't it funny how TV throws up mad, random things.

Let me offer you three words.

Knights of Prosperity.

Followed by three furter words…


Ok, two were the same words but this isn't about my vocab baby.

TV2 - read the official blurb


I have an idea for a children's book. I need to find an illustrator. I think the style should be lyrical and nostalgic with a modern sensibility. Does that make any sense? I like the sensibility of Paula Metcalf and Alexis Deacon. Heaven help the children of the world if I have to do it myself.

This is Itchy Feet the charater I made for my son when he was four. I guess I got itchy feet when I split from his mother and the combination of guilt and too much time resulted in the story of a globetrotting armadillo. But it is a different tale to the one I'm touting now.

New Idea; short films for kids.

What is NZ on Air's number? They must be tired of funding rock videos for cookie cutter bands by now? (I noticed two funded clips on the weekend that promoted cigarette smoking - sneaky and snide. Remind me to complain. Odd that presenters from C4 front anti-smoking ads but C4 itself has no policy on the representation of smoking during the day (at the very least)).

Anti Fashion

statue of George Washington Houdon

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

Sometimes you just have to make a break from convention. The other day I was reading an account of how Europe's top sculptor in the 18th Century was commissioned to make a life sized marble statue of the American War of Independence - George Washington. The general who became America's first president of the new republic.

Houdon travelled to America from France, leaving behind royal commissions from France and Russia to model Washington from life in terracotta and plaster. It was a high profile gig. After all the upstart American rebels had just defeated one of the world's superpowers of the day. European royalty would have to wait.

It is interesting to read the correspondence of the day between Thomas Jefferson and Washington about whether the statue should be completed with Washington in modern dress or dressed in a Roman style. Houdon preferred the fashion of the day - which, ironically was wasn't the fashion of the day. The sculptor wanted to portray the great man in a senatorial style. He imagined the subject as if he was the Roman consul Cincinatus - the protector of agriculture and, like Washington himself a military comander who became a peacetime leader.

The sculptor said:"every person of taste in Europe would be for the Roman, the effect of which undoubtedly of a different order. Our boots and regimentals have a very puny effect."

In the end Washington himself expressed a veto. Plain costume of the day it was. The result, hardly startling to us today was one of the most admired works of its time and expressed the American verison of Liberty, Fratenity and Equality. I think Washington's intuition was correct and influential.

It is the sort of conversation I think would never happen today. I remember when Peter Blake fell in a random act of piracy in South America, and more recently Ed Hilary of well lived old age, the discussions about how these iconic New Zealanders should be commemorated. Their families, reading and reflecting the mood of the rest of us, preferred to avoid bombast and unnecessary exaggeration. It is a kiwi trait I admire.

Sir Ed Hilary portrait

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lust Chance

My friend Toni, who owns Serious Brownee is running a Valentines Day poem competition and today is the final day for entry to win a Serious Brownee gift box.

This has been a public service announcement.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Brand ABCs

rebranding the ABC
Over on BrandDNA I see the ABC are about to change their logo. I won't call it rebranding because, well, it's changing its logo. I can't really see the point. If the company is static or going backwards it is probably the result of changing media consumption patterns, rather than anything the company has done or not done in the context of broadcasting.

In situations like this the big question a marketer needs to ask is how can the brand make itself more relevant - especially in the context of change in consumer behaviour.

There are plenty of design firms who will be happy to take the cash to create a new skin for an organisation (in the guise of 're-branding') and plenty of ad agencies who will produce a campaign to make the firm seem sexier. But the question remains: what is missing for the consumer?

It is rarely shinier trade dress.

Balaclava as fashion

nicole scherzinger from Pussycat Dolls

It seems that the balaclava is the hottest item in fashion. There are several advantages to this:

a) reduced cost of makeup
b) a level playing field for ugly or plain girls
c) harder to identify you if you commit a criminal act

balaclavaOne of the problems with being out of step with northern hemisphere season is that kiwi girls who adopt the practice will cook in the Auckland summer heat. More likely to take off in Wellington and will have the added advantage of keeping your hair in place in the wind. Maybe we'll see variations of theme in the weeks ahead. Paper bags with eye holes cut in. Burkas? watch for rubber gimp masks hitting the high street.

Video: Timbaland Scream - featuring balaclava as fashion

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Harpoon Toyota

Images of whales being slaughtered in the Southern ocean continues to be disgusting.
There is no 'scientific' reason to hunt whales. It gives science a bad name.

The New Zealand and Australian governments are failing to do anything substantial.

I've said it before. Harpoon Toyota. Don't buy their products. Send a message to them that, if they are concerned about sustainability, then wield their influence for good.
Failure to take a wider view of the planet's issues means the hybrid cars they produce is a cynical bid for market share.

Advertising's Epitome

It seems the most important person in advertising now is the music researcher.

Find a post-slacker, folk act and superimpose it on slick, meaningless imagery with a nod to a happy, happy 'lifestyle' and Bob is your proverbial.

The Jeep finance ad on TV is a case in point.

Garden State has a lot to answer for.


Dumb and smarterer (and dummerer)

News item this evening. Thief steals iMac. Owner writes some code that senses when the thief is using the computer - sends message to owners. Better yet the built in iSight camera is taking shots of the perp every 2 minutes. Police visit and recover the computer. So now you have another reason to buy a Mac instead of one of those other things.

Odd footnote: NZ police haven't arrested anyone or laid charges. Another occasion involving a camera filled with evidence (per Bjork assaulting kiwi photographer - caught on security cam at airport) but doing nothing. Something to think about next time you get a speed camera fine - low hanging fruit policing.

Top notch from the Top Floor.

I was watching an interview with Kevin Spacey in a podcast the other day (South Bank Show with Mervyn Bragg). He discusses giving up Hollywood to become the owner of the Old Vic theatre in London.

I've been thinking about a remark he made about teaching young actors, actually it was a remark made by Jack Lemmon to Spacey. Asked why he would spend the time and energy training and teaching Lemmon said:

"You've got to send the elevator back down."

The Usual Suspects
and Kpax are two of my favourite movies. Spacey does a good 'everyman'. Never liked American Beauty, they tell me it was better than it seemed.

Why DIY?

In an article in Advertising Age about the 50 top marketing ideas of the past year I was interested in the comment about Facebook:
Facebook's growth really started to accelerate in May, when 23-year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he would allow third-party developers to create applications for the site.

Mr. Zuckerberg saw the importance of providing valuable communication and entertainment services to Facebook's users. He gave developers the incentive to make money off their creations, and innovation -- and services for Facebook users -- exploded, making the social network a much more valuable place.

In a sense this kind of thinking flies in the face of most marketer's conventional ideas about their brands. The budget is something to be spent controlling the brand's presentation. I would go as far as to say that brand 'management' is actually brand 'control'. The question on the minds of many marketing managers is about how they can make (force) consumers to accept or adopt their idealised view of how their product fits into the prospective user's perceptions. For example, if a tile roof manufacturer sees a shift in the market towards flat, modernist roofing it is likely they will spend their resources trying to convince the market that flat roofs are wrong - though probably not directly. They might respond with a campaign to convince buyers and specifiers that traditional tiled roofing is stylish and sophisticated - new colours and textures etc. It would be ridiculous to suggest that the company simply go with the market and produce a genuinely modern product that reflected the wants and needs of the market because the investment in plant and equipment on which the jobs of hundreds of employees depend would be monumental. It is the rock and a hard place.
The marketing manager has a frustrating road ahead in these kinds of situations when marketing is an alternate term for sales, rather than the wholistic, company wide concept of marketing as described by Theodore Levitt.

Imagine the vinyl record business responding to the threat of Compact Disc by promoting the benefits of vinyl records.

Despite the continuous and significant improvements in both the price and the quality of long-playing vinyl records and stereo turntables - and despite the enormous investment consumers made in records and record players over the decades- the entire industry is well on its way to extinction (1991). The reason, of course is the advent of the compact disc technology. By 1989, just five years after they made their commercial debut, CDs were outselling vinyl records by a hefty margin that was growing wider with every passing day. Similarly demand of CD players had almost completely replaced the demand for conventional turntables.

The point is that simply making the best product is not enough. The excellence of typewriter technology did not cut much ice with consumers when relatively inexpensive word processors began to become widely available. Nor did nearly five hundred years of virtually continuous improvement in the design and manufacture of spring driven analog watches count for much when quartz crystal digital technology came along.

In short, …whether selling cars or clothing or computers or cat food, (you) are in the business of change. In a world where the nature of demand is infinitely plastic (that is, it is constrained only by the virtually unlimited ability of technology to make things cheaply enough), the businessperson must always be on the lookout for what is coming next-and what is coming after that.…there is no end to what people can, will and must have." Prof. Paul Zane Pilzer, Unlimited Wealth

One of the ways that moribund marketers can move forward (especially given the limitations of resources in a small market like New Zealand) might be to learn from Facebook. Rather than depend on your own genius to move forward, engage independent developers to help meet your needs. Make surprising connections - if your industry depends on heavy investment in plant and equipment it may be that software developers could help make profits in areas you have never imagined. I remember the story Tom Peters tells about the printing company who developed software that created operational efficiencies for their equipment. The firm then licensed their software to competitors. Not only did this ammortise the cost of development but it also funded the next iteration of the software. In effect the organsation was always one step ahead of their competitors.

Imagine being a paint manufacturer - what if you invited software developers into your business? Say they created a way for customers to scan an object, say a swatch of fabric, upload it to your site - software analyses the image and develops a range of colours that would compliment - either from a published range or from a customisable set. You produce a personalised paint sample swatch for the customer (who might be a pro, architect, interior designer etc, or a home renovator). The service might have a small fee attached to cover consumables but the return could be enormous. Putting aside controlled innovation - the real issue is what could an independent third party bring to your business that you might never have imagined?

'You dirty rat…'(Cagney voice)

The Chinese calendar is a curiosity for most of us non-Chinese people. This year is the Year of the Rat. Personally that means as much to me as pronouncing it the Year of the Tin Can, but in the spirit of cultural sensitivity I felt compelled to find out more, but not too much more - Wikipedia more - more Lite.

The Rat holds the position of being the first sign of the Chinese zodiacs. Rats are, supposedly, leaders, pioneers and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking. Rat people are endowed with great leadership skills and are the most highly organized, meticulous, and systematic of the twelve signs. Intelligent and cunning at the same time, rats are highly ambitious and strong-willed people who are keen and unapologetic promoters of their own agendas, which often include money and power. They are energetic and versatile and can usually find their way around obstacles, and adapt to various environments easily. A rat's natural charm and sharp demeanor make it an appealing friend for almost anyone, but rats are usually highly exclusive and selective when choosing friends and so often have only a few very close friends whom they trust.

Behind the smiles and charm, rats can be terribly obstinate and controlling, insisting on having things their way no matter what the cost. These people tend to have immense control of their emotions, which they may use as a tool to manipulate and exploit others, both emotionally and mentally. Rats are masters of mind games and can be very dangerous, calculative and downright cruel if the need arises. Quick-tempered and aggressive, they will not think twice about exacting revenge on those that hurt them in any way. Rats need to learn to relax sometimes, as they can be quite obsessed with detail, intolerant and strict, demanding order, obedience, and perfection.

Rats consider others before themselves, at least sometimes, and avoid forcing their ideas onto others. Rats are fair in their dealings and expect the same from others in return, and can be deeply affronted if they feel they have been deceived or that their trust has been abused. Sometimes they set their targets too high, whether in relation to their friends or in their career. But as the years pass, they will become more idealistic and tolerant. If they can develop their sense of self and realize it leaves room for others in their life as well, Rats can find true happiness.

According to tradition, Rats often carry heavy karma and at some point in life may face an identity crisis or some kind of feeling of guilt. Rats are said to often have to work very long and hard for everything they may earn or have in life. However, a Rat born during the day is said to have things a bit easier than those who are born at night. Traditionally, Rats born during the night may face extreme hardships and suffering throughout life. Rats in general should guard themselves against hedonism, as it may lead to self-destruction. Gambling, alcohol and drugs tend to be great temptations to Rat natives.

Traditionally, Rats should avoid Horses, but they can usually find their best friends and love interests in Monkeys, Dragons, and Oxen. (No mention of cats or traps)

Professions include espionage, psychiatry, psychology, writing, politics, law, engineering, accounting, detective work, acting, and pathology.

I'm afraid I'm with Prof RIchared Dawkins on zodiacs and astrology. While it is an interesting diversion I'm afraid that dividing all of humanity into twelve stereotypes is as absurd as judging them on the basis of nationality or religion: all Brits are dull, pale, heavy drinking cigarette smokers or all jews are greedy. While I am certain there are, indeed dull, pale, drunken chainsmoking poms I don't think it serves any useful purpose to view any group with membership numbers of two or more as typified by banal characteristics.

Yesterday was Waitangi Day here in New Zealand, our 'national day' commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the document that agreed the terms of British Colonisation of New Zealand with Maori. It is a controversial day and represents the divisions in our society as much as it does the ties that bind. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it was the government produced propaganda that promoted the concepts of New Zealand-ness. For example, light entertainer Pio Terei, suggested that a typifying expression of New Zealandish is the acknowledgment of another, an acquaintance, with the subtle tilt of ones head - raising chin and eyebrows in recognition is all it takes to identify yourself as a kiwi - even when one is in London. I think if you were walking down Oxford Street on a busy shopping day no one would even notice your existence and, if you did make eye contact and perform the gesture, it would seem like an act of aggression or a threat. It is the sort of restrained display that is deployed in aggressive macho environments - to acknowledge another without opening one's self up in any way that might indicate either weakness or threat - a very male characteristic, or very Maori, or very gangsterish - can you see the limited value of stereotypes?

Fascinating that a recommended profession for people born in the year of the Rat is espionage. I wonder if there is a clandestine night class at the local community college on the subject?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Tree hugging.

I have been too busy to blog. Imagine that.

My daughter would like for me to build a tree house. There is a big old gum tree in the back yard that I have my eye on. We've plundered the library of every book about building treehouses and playhouses. My carpentry is marginal so I'll be relying heavily on the help of David & Jeanie Stiles who seem to be the leading exponents of the craft. Their books are incredible. I love the drawings. I'm fixating about drawing, I know.

I enjoyed seeing Zoe (8) poring over the books, intently reading about brace and bit drills and caulking. I don't even know what caulking is, so I'll be relying on her newfound expertise.

Stay tuned for progress.

We're going to use recycled timbers - of course.

Treehouses & Playhouses You Can Build

I've opened a hobby store to promote my art . The price of bespoke, hand-made printing was putting some people off. You can still have t...