Showing posts from February, 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 …

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.

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

When 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 Zoë 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…

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.

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).

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.&…

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 …

Sucky & Bucky

‘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 …

Hysterical Divas

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 dyi…

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

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 t…

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

Ogden nash 2

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

Give peas a chance

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).

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…

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 pi…

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 …

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!

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 ex…

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 ca…

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 underst…

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

"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 wa…

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.

Brand ABCs

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

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

One 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

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…

'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 sha…

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