Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Media has always been social

I participate in a new blog about social media. One of my fellow contributors (and the founder of the project) Justin Flitter left a video post which demanded a reply.

I have concerns that the novelty of 'social media' is overwhelming common sense and experience?

I hope the last thing you take out of my reply to Justin's post is any sort of Luddite view. It's just that I feel the discovery of access to media isn't such a novelty really for people who have had something to say and which they can articulate with at least a modicum of skill - mass media has to be fueled with content. In a way it is like a teenager discovering The Beatles today. New - but old.

I have to confess that I didn't really understand the central thesis of Justin's video. But some of his points stimulated the following thoughts of my own:

I have worked in social media all of my working life, since 1983 anyway. That may sound paradoxical but assuming broadcast or mass media isn't social or doesn't have a social dimension is false. In many ways broadcast media has more social dimensions to it than what we have come to describe as 'social media'.

In New Zealand TVNZ alone has the capacity to reach every household in the country. Our relatively homogenous and harmonious society is, in part, a direct consequence of this dynamic. Broadcast TV is a strong binding element in our society. It is, by definition, mainstream. The majority shared in the cultural conversation, albeit vicariously. I would venture that television programmes like Pukemanu, Close to Home, Gliding On, It's in the Bag, Top Town (the original) and the six o'clock news broadcast (and on an on) helped define our national sense of identity in very real ways. I don't consider this to be premised on the desire to have everybody conform. More like holding a mirror up to the audience.

It is too easy to write off broadcast media as 'one-way'. Paradoxically it is and it isn't. Given that advertising is essential to free-to-air television's survival broadcasters have a compulsive obsession with ratings. If the audience finds the content disagreeable it changes channels or switches off. Curiously enough Nielsen PeopleMeters are a 'listening campaign' and broadcasters pay close attention.

Your remarks about interpretation and meaning are also not exclusive to 'social media'. We all process information based on our experience of the world (both a priori and a posteriori), regardless of the source of the information. It is wrong to assume that every communication received from TV, say an advertisement, will be received in the same was as a matter of course by the entire audience. Television might be influential because it is TV, but even that dynamic is changing because TV exists a world where we now have a far greater portfolio of media. @aplusk is influential on Twitter but only because of his access to traditional media - That 70s Show and Punk'd (not to mention the tabloid press via his consort, the former Mrs Willis). Likewise Ellen Degeneres and Oprah. Broadcasters around the world are looking to the opportunities digital tools offer. They will have to learn new skills, to be sure, but they will.

Finally, to my initial point, as an advertising writer and designer I always believed I was having a conversation with the audience. Not the same kind of conversation as the one we would have over a coffee or a beer, but one that conformed to the timeless rules of engagement - be polite, be respectful, be interesting and share. I like to think my awards were compensation for that belief. Sure there are plenty of advertising messages that are rude and offensive (Harvey Norman are you listening), but the same is true on Twitter, Facebook and the bogosphere (sometimes in extremis). Mediated communication is a matter of degree. A standup comedian is having a conversation with the audience, but it is one that is rehearsed and the occasional heckler or interjection isn't a dialogue in the usual sense. A Papal speech probably talks directly to a believer - even if it is broadcast via TV or radio (or YouTube). Hey, Bob Dylan's music from the 60's talks to me - even though it was recorded decades ago.

Much as I am enjoying learning about the new tools we have at our disposal I don't think the principles of communication have ever been any different, and - so long as we are human - ever will be. The tools and dynamics are a little different but, since the invention of moveable type and the printing press, it has always been about giving voice to ideas. Being in print, or on the airwaves or Internet has never made the content a truth. The message will always trump the significance of the medium.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How TCHO built its brand

How do you build a chocolate brand? from edenspiekermann_ on Vimeo.

Building brands takes time. Nice designs and packaging don't automatically constitute a brand. It really does depend on people forming a relationship with the product that, ultimately, they feel somewhat proprietary about.

Great design ideas and implementation are far more likely to provoke that sort of response. In the chocolate market TCHO is really distinctive. The associations with chocolate seem to hark backwards. This brand is decidedly contemporary. The care and attention lavished on the presentation supports the idea of a premium experience with none the usual cliches.

If the opposite of love isn't hate, it is indifference. I imagine that people will have fallen in love with TCHO and the equity in their brand is building. I can't believe that indifference is a possibility.

TCHO website
Video via Idealog magazine

Monday, November 09, 2009

Procrastination…if you have a spare 4" 16'…

Love this video on a subject near and dear to my heart.Meant to post it earlier, but I just never got around to it.

I wonder what strategies you employ to break out of inertia like writer's block? I have always found that, sometimes, just starting to write and not worrying about the content is the solution. First map out the terrain, then make sense of the words. Likewise staring at a blank page without a single idea can be overcome by making a mark on the page. A border sometimes helps me in the way that marking lines on the floor of a corridor can help a person with Parkinson's avoid freezing - rather than making it to the end of the hall they can then simply make it to the next mark.

Here's an interesting blog post about overcoming creative block by photographer Paul Indigo.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bob Garfield - The Chaos Scenario redux

The Chaos Scenario from Greg Stielstra on Vimeo.

I have just finished reading Bob Garfield's book The Chaos Scenario. Garfield has long been the ad critic for Advertising Age magazine. The thesis of the book is that the digital era has decimated traditional media by radically changing its economics (unlimited supply) and corresponding changes in consumer media consumption.

For such a dystopian view the book is remarkably jolly. Garfield's style is witty and informed. It is hard to argue against his points, even if it means radical shifts in the industry I work in. Personally I welcome the changes and have been preparing for the shift since the late 90's - even, at one point leaving the advertising company I founded, which concentrated on churning out preformatted TV ads, to join Lion Nathan's online marketing business as creative director for its brands in Australasia.

The future may well be uncertain, though I have a feeling much of what marketing communications people will do in the future is similar to the things we do now - in principle. Consumer insights will still drive proactive messaging, cut through will still be critical to success (possibly more important in a fragmented, chattering environment), consumer information about brands will still have value so long as people keep buying things…In practice the skills we will need may be subtly different with an emphasis on listening (Garfield has coined the term 'listenomics'.

Watch the video, it is an excellent overview based on the book - which you should read if you work in advertising specifically or marketing generally.

The first 3 chapters are free to read here

Bob Garfield in Ad Age
The Chaos Scenario Blog

Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon…illuminated.

I used to lie in bed in the dark listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon through my headphones, marveling at the stereo effects (those were the days…revealing my age).

I rather like this clip of a recreation of the album art in real life. It is a little cheap and cheerful but kind of cool. I have the strangest of impulses to buy a digital copy of the album, which I haven't heard for years. Interesting how related content on the web can trigger that response - which should be instructional for music companies whose first impulse might be to attempt to silence a clip on YouTube for copyright infringement.

BTW - you can still buy the vinyl edition

Via Simon Law's blog - Another Planning Blog

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Element of Surprise in Advertising

Many years ago I read a book called A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can be More Creative by Roger von Oech. It's a great book. But the parallel here is that some ideas are so simple they are striking.

This Nissan light truck ad makes a simple point - carry a lot in a small space. They could have tried to hard sell with data about the size and load carrying capacity, but that isn't really how advertising works for cars and trucks. It's hard to avoid the fact that a sales person will most likely be involved in the purchase process,…most people don't buy trucks online…so the task of the ad is to engage the reader's attention and provoke interest. After that other elements of the communication chain can do its job.

It pays to remember that boring people into submission has never been a successful communications strategy. In a cluttered communication environment there has to be an element of surprise. The unexpected commands more attention than the banal or familiar.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Apps & Hats, slightly mad, but very clever.

apps and hats - the quirky iphone application review show
There is an advertising truism that goes something like:"If you have a straight picture…use a twisted headline. If you have a straight headline…use a twisted image."
I came across Apps & Hats, the quirky iPhone application review show through Twitter (I think)have have been fascinated ever since. There is something weirdly engaging about two women discussing technology while dressed in period costume.But here is the kicker, they deliver the information about applications in a straight way - never referencing the costumes. The presentation style is simple and conversational. They produce an episode every couple of weeks.

Video is more and more important on the web (hopefully New Zealand's broadband speeds will keep pace - I can but dream). If you are thinking of producing content for the web I suggest that the Apps & Hats model is worth studying:

1. Keep it simple.
There is no need to over-egg production - the web isn't HDTV. Your return on investment will never look good if you try to make Lawrence of Arabia on a YouTube platform.

2. Keep the duration manageable.
Brightcove, the US video syndicator says about 2.6 minutes is the amount of time most people are prepared to spend with a clip online

3. Have an idea.
It's not brain surgery to wear a costume - but it is clever to subtly differentiate your product from the thousands of other shows online (not to mention tens of millions of other entertainments vying for your attention).

4. Be regular.
The bi-weekly schedule of Apps & Hats suits my consumption habits.I've found in the past that too much can simply be too much. If you have few resources it is better to spend time polishing the content than pumping out a slurry of stuff. Don't leave too long a gap between messages though, you will lose your audience.

My company has been developing online channels for some of our clients. The most recent is The Drawing Board. Broadcast TV is used to trailer the segments which track the progress of a home renovation. Tell me what you think…

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Price Points

The PriceSpy model takes a new twist - research widely, purchase as cheaply as possible. Dixon's, a price discounting retailer sends out an only marginally tongue in cheek message to customers. Of course Dixon's will have been affected by the web themselves.

The challenge for retailers who sell at full margin is to close the deal before the customer has a chance to go elsewhere. What kind of mechanisms and strategies are available to them?

Make it personal.
In the good old days customers were known by name to vendors. Of course that's not always practical in the 21st century, but it would be possible to harness technology and strategies to make customers feel they are indeed valued by the retailer. An old favourite amongst restaurateurs is to greet guests with 'Nice to see you again…" (even if they have never been to the place before), it elevates the customer's feeling of being special. Not being one to advocate disingenuity, I only use the example to make the point that people like to be acknowledged personally. When social connections are made then there is an emotional tie between the participants in the transaction.

VW PhaetonYears ago I worked on the Volkswagen advertising account. One the most interesting marketing initiatives was the introduction of the ill-fated Phaeton, a super luxury vehicle from the makers of 'The People's Car'. When a buyer ordered the Phaeton they would be sent a key to their vehicle with an invitation to be present at its 'birth' the final moments of its construction at the Die Gläsernen Manufaktur (The Transparent Factory) in Dresden. When the owner passed through the factory gates the key would send a signal and an elaborate welcoming procedure would be initiated. The whole process would not only reinforce both VW's commitment to the buyer's status and good taste, but also the sophistication of the technology inherent in the car.

Add value.

Adding value to a customer's experience doesn't necessarily mean giving them something tangible. One of the aspects of the ad (above) that spurred my thinking on this subject is the implication that the shop assistant (or clark, if you are North American) is actually indifferent to you - the pitch implicates that you ought not to be in their domain - a populist/tabloid pitch. The truth is that anyone's money is as good as anyone else's - a dollar/euro is a dollar/euro whether it is wielded by your mum or a footballer's wife. Your job as a marketer is to get your money out of their purse, whoever they are.

Of course value, as anyone who has studied Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance will know, like 'quality' is an a priore concept. It is subject to prior experience and expectation and will, therefore, mean different things to different people. If you know you are paying a higher price than Dixon's will undoubtedly charge, what are the things you will value? Do I have to carry my purchase home - or will you deliver? If I buy a new flat-screen TV that is bigger than an iMax will I have to install it myself? If the picture quality of my new Sony Bravia is the reason I selected it will you help ensure I have the best settings and reception at home?

If I have chosen a Phaeton, or a Lexus with the idea that it sets me apart, makes me a member of an exclusive club of people with better discernment and taste, will you facilitate introductions to other people with similarly good taste through exclusive events and information.

If you are a wine merchant competing with low cost volume wine in the supermarket will you share your expertise with me, so my post purchase dissonance is balanced out with an uncanny knowledge about the habits of the winemaker or the specifics of the terroir. The Wine Vault in Auckland's Grey Lynn suburb does a fine job of this via Wine Vault TV

Make premium service exclusive.

If there are additional benefits for shopping with you (per above), merchandise them. Don't leave customers with the assumption that a higher price is simply extra profit for you. Reposition the competition with your own meme that emphasises why to buy from a store that doesn't just 'stack 'em high and watch 'em fly' (if I might indulge in a nostalgic retail expression.

Of course highlighting the added extras might also take a leaf from the Internet marketing book. To receive the care and attention of our sales staff you must register with us. This could take the form of discrete technological process - log on to the store's iMac and, fill out a short from and become a priority customer then and there. Old fashioned sales technique might also be of use. Qualifying a prospect before spending valuable time with them (our service is a premium offer remember), "if we can match you up with the right TV today sir, how will you be paying - cash, visa or would you care to apply for our store credit scheme' that will help sort the tyre kickers out from the people who genuinely intend to buy.

When all is said and done customers are people. They are as vain, insecure and proud as the next person. They want to be liked and treated with kindness and respect and not viewed simply as an economic unit. People will, ultimately, value what you value. If you take service and product knowledge for granted then so will your customers. Apple computers have created a theatrical retail concept that helps promote the idea that everything in store is worth the premium that Apple seems to command. The concept of Genius Bar in store - knowledgeable staff who will help you to choose a product or overcome a tech problem is, well, genius. It synthesises almost every point I have made.

Remember, wherever you sit on the price spectrum - no one buys anything from people they don't like.

Dixon's ad via Eaon Pritchard's blog Never Get out of the Boat

Friday, September 25, 2009

Toyota does the hard yards

This ad for Toyota is an excellent argument for making commercials that will create momentum - where people will do some of the marketer's work for them. There was a time when people who bought LandCruisers would have talked up their choice (post purchase dissonance), but now people like me (I don't have a Toyota Landcruiser) will happily embed the commercial on my blog - see above and then point people to it through Twitter - and a host of other social platforms.

It may cause a renaissance in advertising creativity, the sort of messages that were more common in the 70's and 80's, such as the classic Benson & Hedges ads (I'm not encouraging anyone to smoke) or John Smith's bitter. The commercials that people would discuss around the proverbial water cooler.

The Toyota commercial also demonstrates that advertisers are beginning to understand that 'viral' messages don't have to be low budget emulations of You Tube user's style of presentation (of which the recent V energy drink commercial is a good example - chap with rocket pack places road cone on the top of the Auckland Sky Tower).

, the video platform recently published a study of online video conducted by Dynamic Content detailing the kind of content that is more likely to go viral:

Laugh-Out-Loud Funny
Videos that are laugh-out-loud funny get passed along to friends.

Content that crosses some boundaries and challenges people gets good pass-along.

If the video captures your attention and holds it for the duration, it’s more likely that it will get passed along to friends.

Content with some non-pornographic sexual angle to it tends to go viral.

"The videos that get the widest viral distribution have these characteristics, but even with only one or two you’ll get more distribution than if the video does not have any of these elements. In niche markets, you’ll also see interest from fans and bloggers who may be motivated specifically by the topic."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Social Media changes lives

Great video presentation about social media. Did you know that if Facebook was a country it would be the fourth largest in the world?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Tales of the Unexpected - don't give people what they think they want.

I’m told that the cover of the first edition of the newly relaunched New Zealand Marketing magazine had a cover personalised to its recipient. From what I can gather the extent of the customisation was simply to say something like ‘Hello David…’. I didn’t feel I had missed much. Mail-merged salutation is little more than a 90’s party trick in the era of web 2.0.

It reminded me of Saul Wurman’s comments about customisation in Information Anxiety 2 “There is a tendency to go overboard towards customising when you try to give people only what you think they want.” Wurman thinks customisation is a worthless idea – in the context of customised marketing, web experiences, newspapers and so forth because ‘people often buy what they didn’t know they wanted in what they didn’t know they were looking for’ – a serendipitous effect. If you only get what you thought you wanted, he argues, you don’t get much.

He brings the discussion round to the subject of creativity – the observation of patterns. Without a little meandering you don’t see the patterns in life that permit you to make new connections. As Wurman explains, “If I did a survey of people’s interests they would never list jugglers, etymologists, vibraphone players, or science advisors. But the jugglers, bug person, vibraphonist and science advisor to the ‘X-Files’ were what everyone remembered from the last year’s TED Conference.”

This construct interests me because I have often wondered why I can attend a meeting with a colleague, hear the same information, but come away with an entirely different interpretation of the business opportunity than my associate. We are programmed differently. He or she may have a sales or business management background that conditions them to respond literally to a client’s description of what is required to solve their problem. They are more likely to assume the client’s brief is an instruction – a literal description of their expectations. This corresponds to Wurman’s analogy about searching for ‘boxing’ information on the web. If only information about the kind of pugilism popularised by the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson or Cassius Clay is delivered then the opportunity to follow serendipitous threads and see patterns is lost “Maybe I am interested in violent sports or two person sports. Maybe I would be just as interested in Sumo wresting or tennis or chess?” My colleague is more likely to express a desire to give the client ‘what they asked for…” as a customised service response. Doing so can be a limitation on our effectiveness as a creative business.

When I use the term ‘creative business’ I don’t necessarily mean producer of hare-brained, random ideas – though the hare-brain and an element of randomness may play a key role in discovering solutions that might not be evident to other individuals or firms.

One of the characteristics of creative people, in my experience, is their interest in a wide range of topics. One of my favourite indulgences is to visit my local Borders book store, collect a pile of magazines covering topics I have no deep interest in like yoga, genealogy, model aeroplanes or fashion and to flip through them simply out of general interest and because there is the chance that a pattern, as described by Wurman, might emerge. It might be a social trend or the process might help offer up a solution to a problem I had sublimated earlier but not solved.

Returning to my colleague and client, the literal approach to problem solving – tailoring the solution exactly to the perceived problem is a significant business limitation – the opportunity to beat competitors with an innovation is lost if the problem isn’t taken more seriously.
Teaching design research methods one of the concepts I thought essential for my students to grasp was that of imponderability. To some extent there is no point in asking people what they want – especially in terms of new products and services – because they simply cannot express what they don’t know.

In business the unknown is often an idea that is regarded with some suspicion. Executives with MBAs are trained to analyse and manage the known, the finite resources available to a business. Processes are often conventions, accepted by the majority – and so, therefore, somehow correct, until they are overturned by a novelty or innovation.

The assumption that advertising agencies respond to customised client briefs for individual products led to my invention of Family Health Diary, an advertising product that permits many brands and advertisers to use a pre-formatted idea. It is now a multi-million dollar media product in New Zealand and Australia.

In the beginning my colleagues resisted the idea because it was ‘not what the client asked for’. But, of course, the client couldn’t ask for it because the idea did not exist. Nor would it have existed if I had not been exposed to some random, hare-brained stimulus – one of which was a flirtation with Amway with my then-wife.

Amway is an excellent training organisation and one of the ideas that stuck with me was that the most effective ways of succeeding is to do something once but be paid for it over and over again. As I worked late one night on the pitch for a large pharmaceutical account I found myself resenting the absence of my colleagues who did not have the required craft skills to help put the campaign into a tangible form for presentation. Not only that, but also I have a long held resentment of developing speculative ideas for clients who high-handedly decided from either my business or another’s but didn’t necessarily pay for the process. To complete the ‘perfect storm’ my wife, who worked for the same client’s advertising agency would complain to me about working on products whose budgets were so small that, by the time meetings were conducted to plan and discuss, concepts developed and produced – there would be nothing left for placing in media. It was a self-defeating problem. Because the agency valued the client’s higher spending brands and watched over the control of the account like a tigress tended her cubs, it was better to do nothing about the problem (which the client also assumed, with conventional wisdom, was a hopeless cause and so accepted the status quo).

When my partners and I won the new product launch the client made one significant condition that opened a serendipitous gateway for me. We could have the account on the proviso that we relinquish another pharmaceutical account we held. Little did they know it was dormant and had stopped spending on the product while the FDA investigated claims that it was lethal.

In order to get their hands on the millions attached to the drug launch we had pitched for my colleagues were more than happy to relinquish the languishing account – but I pitched in first: We would let go of the other company’s account if they would spend more with us. It was a risky gambit. We needed the account and would probably have folded if we hadn’t won the business. But the client manager simply said: ‘show me how’. Over the next weekend I mapped out Family Health Diary. It seemed logical to combine many small products under a unified banner and to present in a style that didn’t consume the kind of creative resource that would devour the budget before getting to the media.

Over the years the presentation format of Family Health Diary has changed but its essence has not and the premise remains as effective now as it was then. But the solution would not have ever come about if we had simply followed the instructions of the client – neither they, nor my colleagues could possibly have arrived at the solution because their inputs didn’t reveal the same patterns as mine and their approach to business is premised on matching a client’s perceived need with a tailored (customised) solution.

It seems counter-intuitive not to give people what they say they want. We’re conditioned to assume this is how business should be conducted. I’m not so sure. No market research would have uncovered the latent need for the iPod or iPhone, let alone Lego or the product I have in mind now (I can see the opportunity – but it’s not exactly what the client asked for – and it is vast).

Make room for a little meandering in your thinking. A linear approach will take you to the same destination as your competitors. That’s fine if you want to scramble after incremental changes in market share…but if you want to develop intellectual property that gives you some protection or such a significant head start on competitors that you will have the market to yourself (at least for a while), then maybe tailoring your ideas to a specific instruction might not be such good business after all?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, You're dead…

Ok. Let's just say this wasn't the finest moment for either Kiss or Pepsi.
But it does show what happens when marketers try to change the brand narrative. Kids loved Kiss (I did) but Kiss weren't kids. They were what we aspired to.

Putting a kid in the commercial and shoe-horning a Pepsi lyric in the spot was the destroyer (pun intended) of authenticity - i.e. the reason you'd pay the big bucks for big talent.

If you use a successful song - don't mess with it.
if you choose an edgy band - don't homogenise them for the 'family audience'.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Listen or Perish

Bob Garfield, eminent writer for Advertising Age has a new book. The Chaos Scenario. Looks like an interesting read. Better still, the video promo is an interesting watch.

I've ordered my copy (while there is still a publishing industry). It seems a familiar story for anyone with an eye an ear open in the world of social media. But, coming from such a respected source in traditional media - maybe the message won't seem to be a rant from a marginalised disruptor.

Chris Anderson, editor of Wired said "Tales of total industrial collapse have never been so fun! Garfield's analysis of the total disruption of the media industry (and how it may be reborn) is right, prescient and wildly entertaining."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Are you in the game?

Who doesn't know the Monopoly brand? It is perennial. How would you bring it to life for a new audience or remind those of us who have forgotten how much fun it can be to play that it is still around?

This campaign does a pretty good job of it. While it is relevant and on-brand (ignoring the ordinary and obvious things like digital versions,…yawn - product not brand) it is still engaging and stimulates the idea of being 'in the game'.

The American street names kind of baffle me, but the idea is universal. Especially like the plastic sheen. Nice touch.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The ONE thing

The origin of this blog was my thesis about being The One & Only (1&O). A simple idea that follows Gerry Garcia's thought: "Don't be the best at what you do. Be the only one who does it." If that smacks of monopoly, then I am sorry, monopolies always work for the people who own them. People who create things have relied on the monopoly afforded by copyright, trademarks and patents. I have a feeling that system is fraying at the edges, but we can talk more about that another time.

To be unique or utterly distinctive you have to determine what will set you apart. I had a fascinating conversation with a friend the other day. She was dissatisfied with her life and felt that she should improve all sorts of things that she - frankly speaking - sucked at. She felt anxiety about her weaknesses and had become fixated on them. How could she accomplish anything if she could not communicate in writing? (She has dyslexia). My advice was not to bother with writing. Her talent for interpersonal contact is achingly obvious - attractive, personable and well liked, why not concentrate on those strengths and forget about writing. Or, if writing was important then turn the madcap malapropisms into a strength. Write insane stories of everyday life in uncorrected prose (seriously it would be hard to duplicate her quirky style) - don't apologise. Hey, Bob Dylan has to be the world's worst singer - and yet he has a long, illustrious career behind him and a substantial fortune to match. He has recently inflicted yet another collection on fans, who can't get enough.

What is the one thing that you can do, that guides your energies and keeps you focused. If you're lucky - it will set you apart.

Whether you are a brand owner or an individual - what sets you apart. You might be happy cowering under the rocks with the rest of the river bugs, eking out an existence. But there comes a time when you should let go and succeed or fail in the mad venture that is both life and business. If you've read Richard Bach's story Illusions, you'll know what I mean.

Discuss with me on Twitter

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One of the best ads of all time

Back in the 80's John Webster was a leading figure in the advertising community. He was a believer in telling human stories. In 1988 I clipped an op-ed piece in Campaign (UK) magazine by Webster. Back then he bemoaned the rise of the technology and tricks - which have become commonplace today in advertising. This ad is genius for its idea, or should I say insight - The Guardian newspaper gathers all the facts to offer its readers an informed point of view (presumably instead of a rabble rousing opinion).

Not only has journalism declined, but so has advertising - both crafts that went hand in glove to tell stories that helped us form opinions.

Maybe a nice recession will push the reset button. We'll go back to the truth well told and be suspicious of tricks - except when they challenge bigoted, biased views.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How Trent Reznor shows the way forward in music marketing

Trent Reznor has a band called Nine Inch Nails.Quite good, by my muso brother's reckoning. What interests me more is how he has become a legend in the music industry - loved by those who believe power should reside with the artists and reviled by those who exploit the artists and alienate the fans - the recording industry.

Reznor criticised Universal Music Group (parent company of the band's record label, Interscope Records) for their pricing and distribution plans for the NIN album Year Zero ('07) He said the company's retail price "Absurd" and said "as a reward for being a 'true fan' you get ripped off","the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more."

In September 2007, Reznor continued his attack on Universal Music Group at a concert in Australia. He urged fans to "steal" his music online instead of purchasing it legally. "Steal and steal and steal some more and give it to all your friends and keep on stealin'."

Needless to say Reznor's comments made news, infuriating the recording industry and the band split from Interscope Records.

The guy is a legend. The video above does the forensics on how Reznor has developed a successful business model that tips the old music industry model on its ear.

In essence Reznor succeed using the following formula:


where CwF = Connect with Fans
RtB = give them a Reason to Buy
and be rewarded with money.

One of Reznor's first acts of CwF was to place a code on tour T-Shirts, when highlighted letters were combined they spelled out 'Iamtryingtobelieve'. It didn't take long for fans to figure this would lead to a web site. on the site fans were engaged in further decoding what it all meant.

Reznor also irritated his record company executives by leaving flash drives in bathrooms at concerts containing unreleased NIN materia, to be found by fans who, naturally soon began sharing through peer to peer networks. RIAA responded with threats and 'take down notices'. This did nothing to endear RIAA to fans.

But Reznor also offered fans Reasons to Buy physical editions of his tunes - he created a CD that changed colour when it heated in the CD driver - an experience impossible to duplicate or share.

Other RTBs included extra features and benefits.

When he released his next album the first 9 songs could be downloaded for free. Is this guy insane? I hear you cry. Well, no. in short order the album and its variations ranging from a $10 double disk set to a $300 deluxe boxed set - which included a DVD/BlueRay and book, personally signed by Reznor which took less than 30 hours to sell out and raised $750,000. NIN made 1.6 million from direct sales - all the while also giving his music away for free. NIN's album also became a best seller on

He has innovated in other ways - including profiling his fans by asking them to complete a 10 page survey.

When he release The Slip album sales data was overlaid onto google maps to dramatically display to fans where the NIN tribe was distributed around the planet and building a sense of community.

Reznor uses the web to promote live concerts, the ultimate NIN experience. He not only promotes his own work but also the supporting acts touring with him - who also offer their music for free on a sampler.

He creates community all the time - online through forums, chatgroups and wiki. Fans can also upload the photos and video they have taken at concerts to Flickr, which are aggregated and displayed on the NIN website.

Recently he released hundreds of gigabytes of high definition concert footage with the comment that '..some enterprising fans might make something pretty cool."

He's a genius. But it is nothing that brands, large and small couldn't do (other musicians too)- if only you can shake of fear and the illusion of power and control.

Here's an interview with the man himself: watch and learn people. Watch and learn.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Journalism's red ink.

The future of journalism is something of a hot topic in the media. Probably because it is a subject near and dear to the media - their bread and butter. Blogging comes under scrutiny for its lack of 'rules'. Bloggers can, and do, say what they want without the fetters and constraints of editors or fear of offending advertisers who, whether journalists like it or not pay for the existence of the mass media.

Amongst the mudslinging I came across this list of suggestions from blogger Peter Cresswell (via the Whaleoil blog who, like Cresswell makes no bones about his conservative/libertarian views). I agree wholeheartedly with the points on the list. The fact is that media in New Zealand (and I am sure the rest of the western world) have created their own crisis by failing to observe an objective standard:

* don't editorialise;
* don't pontificate;
* don't ask how people feel, ask instead what they saw;
* don't report events as if people are outraged, just report the events themselves;
* don't report what "celebrities" do as if it matters a damn;
* don't report puff pieces about actors/musicians/writers as if they're not just puff-pieces for their new film/album/book;
* don't report what everyone knows is just spin) -- report instead what's being spun, and the news that someone is spinning, and who;
* don't assume the whole world has the same values as your friends;
* don't just rewrite press releases as if they were news;
* and don't create the news yourself.
* In short, just report the news. All of it. As if the truth actually mattered.

Here here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Honda - Let it Shine

It's not enough to make a beautiful commercial. Which Honda has done. Now you need to produce a documentary to go with it:

When your customers are media savvy they might well be interested in seeing the background story - Some of us enjoy the extras on DVDs as much as the film. One of may favourites was the creative process behind HellBoy 2.

Discuss with me on Twitter

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Little Red Riding Hood - all funked up.

Here's an interesting mash-up of contemporary information graphics and a timeless tale by the brother's Grimm. And grim it is when Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother is dispatched by the wolf.

The clip was exectuted, if I might indulge in the theme a little further, as a school project by a Swedish Chap. I am assuming he's not in primary school - though these days who would know?

Discuss with me on Twitter

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Viral advertising references itself

There always comes a time in advertising when the ad makers decide it's time to reference themselves, with a knowing wink to the audience - nudge, nudge.

This mini commercial is intended to be spread, as I am doing now, on the web.

I rather like it. I'd probably be disappointed by my new Mini if it couldn't perform as if it was an invisible HotWheels track though.

What do you think? Chat about it with me on Twitter

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Confessions of an Advertising Insider

Charlie Booker is still the funniest media observer I know of (though, if you know anyone funnier, feel free to send me a link).

In this short piece he says what advertising agency people say amongst themselves, but don't really want you to hear.

I warn you now. It's not MadMen. But I'll wager it's the best TV you'll see today.

Thank you BBC, for sharing your content.

Tell me what you think on

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Testing Creativity

A Twitter friend, Kirsten Wright wrote this on her blog:

Creativity Test

Creativity is not to be taken for granted, it is not something you ‘have’ it is something that you must work at, and practice, to keep strong. I practice my creativity daily, by writing, twittering, designing and researching. I am always trying to find new, unique ways to practice my creativity. One of my favorite ways is to pick a photo from flickr, and create a marketing campaign for a product, using the image. I don’t do it for work, or because I have to, but because it helps my mind to stay sharp and think outside of the box. So, I figured I would let you all try it with me today. Here is the image that I chose:

And here are the questions you have to answer:

1. What product would you use this image for
2. What would the tagline be for the product
3. Where would you promote it (web, billboard, tv, etc)
4. What would you expect people to visualize when they saw the image
5. What other colors would you use with the image
6. What fonts would be great to use with the image

Here is my assignment ma'am.

(Click on image to enlarge)

I made the client up: The Karma Center for Meditation.
The tagline (copy) reads 'Next time will you regret the choices you made this time?'
I'd use social media and other onscreen media.
I'd imagine they'd engage with the cute squirrel. Read the copy and join the dots with the advertiser and a little light would go on. Hopefully they would see that Buddhism doesn't take itself so seriously.
The green is so predominant in the photo I would be sparing in use of color.
I chose JY Artemis from Jack Yan Fonts for the caption, it's nice and unusual without being too hippy. The use of Futura for the logo is to avoid cliche's about Buddhist iconography - the use of the infinity symbol to represent the road to Nirvana via reincarnation also avoids trippy symbolism.

How'd I do?

Join me on Twitter. Make friends & Make 'em laugh.

I see! Visuals create understanding.

When we grasp an idea or a concept we often say 'I see' -even when the information might have been delivered in writing or verbally. Our minds paint a picture, the bits of information become joined and a meaningful picture forms. If it is meaningful we say that it has made an impression or have gained insight.

I won't say that I think 'visually'; I'm not sure that is what is happening inside my brain at all. But I do know that I think more clearly and have better comprehension, faster when ideas are presented to me with the support of images or graphics.

Of course not all images are created equal. Some can be baffling and serve only to amplify the speed of confusion. But well thought-out graphics can be a godsend for conveying ideas - with that metaphor in mind it reminds me of how paintings and stained glass windows helped dramatise the liturgy for an ignorant peasantry.

There is a selection information graphics here which illustrate a range of contemporary techniques to explain the economic crisis.

Video offers an unrivalled means of not only conveying information but engaging the viewer with a narrative to support the data that can be both rational and emotional. How many times did you ever feel an emotional connection with a text book on engineering, say. The video I've embedded in this post explains the changes to cars to be used in the 2009 Formula 1 motor racing series. To a lay person, like me, the changes sound mundane. New front and rear spoiler configurations that reduce grip, a return to slick tyres/tires that increase grip, a new system for converting wasted kinetic energy from the drive train - and so on. I can sense your eyes glazing over already. But the clip brings the information to life with superb Computer Generated Graphics (CGI), a story telling narrative whereby the information is conveyed graphically - at full throttle - changes to aerodynamic aids are dramatically illustrated while you are taking a hairpin bend under full braking. It is exciting - the narration is by a droll Sebastian Vettel, a German driver whose measured delivery anchors the story in a way that a breathless Jimmy Stewart would not.

“Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.”

The net result is operatic and thrilling. I can't wait to see the cars in action. I clearly see the point that F1 has answered its critics who said the event had become a drag race without the excitement of overtaking.

That's what happens when you feel involved.

If you are interested in information graphics I recommend these books:

Information Architects - Saul Wurman
Information Anxiety 2 Information Architects - Saul Wurman
Beautiful Evidence - Edward Tufte
Visual Explanations - Edward Tufte

(any others?...interested in your recommendations and links)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cork on the Ocean reading on Sunday at Auckland Festival.

I have great admiration for mark Somerset, author of Cork on the Ocean - I've written about the book before.

During the festival he's reading Cork and the follow up Cork and the Bottle. Both are beautiful stories. My favourite is the first.

Here's the message from Mark:

As part of the Auckland Festival I will be reading both Cork on the Ocean and Cork and the Bottle in the Spiegeltent, Aotea Square this Sunday 15th March. Come on down for a 10am start - The Spiegeltent is an amazing venue and best of all it's free!

Have you had a chance to check out Cork's great new website With our new online store you can now buy signed copies of Cork on the Ocean and Cork and the Bottle direct from us! So if you're looking for a special gift, or wish to get the latest Cork adventure for your own family, click here!


Finally, as a friend of Cork, I thought you might like to know that Rowan and I are now parents to a baby boy. Linden Sommerset was born at home on 20th Feb - weighing in at 9lb 4 ounces! He's sure to be an inspiration as we work on the final book in Cork's trilogy. Now, if only I could find the time to write!

Ride the wave!
Mark Sommerset

Might see you there.

Art Lover jilted

I went for a walk through Auckland city last Saturday. I thought it would be nice to take the 'Walk of Art' a route through the city that follows a line littered with art galleries.

I was shocked by what I found. Tbe Old Auckland Art Galllery is completely out of commission while a contemporary extension is added to the heritage building that houses most of the city's collection. The New Gallery, an old, converted telephone exchange across the street was showing a rag-tag exhibition of works referring to the New Zealand landscape (a show that lacked coherence). It was exasperating. And every gallery we hoped to view was shut.

Seems to me that the weekends would be the perfect time to invite the public into art galleries and exhibition spaces of all kinds. Private galleries play an important role in inducing and inducting new people into the world of the arts. If they are simply a store-room for work, seen only by the usual suspects who only ever visit when there is an opening and the chance of a free glass of wine then the opportunity - both commercial and cultural is lost.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Itchy Feet rides again

The other day I posted an edition of a children's story I painted onto the web to share with some of my friends in Twitter. The feedback has been terrific. So now I'm sharing it with you here. It takes about a minute to read. Leave a comment on the site.

Itchy Feet was created for my son's fourth birthday. He just marked his 17th.

I'm working on a sequel now.

Twitter invented in 1935

This device is remarkably similar in concept to Twitter - the microblogging site that is getting a lot of attention these days.

If you haven't tried Twitter you can follow me here.

Monday, March 02, 2009

In praise of ridiculous alternatives

"Why does one chess player play better than another?
The answer is not that the one who plays better makes fewer mistakes. The one who plays better makes more mistakes, by which I mean more imaginative mistakes. He sees more ridiculous alternatives. The mark of a great player is exactly that he thinks of something which by all known norms of the game is an error."

Jacob Bronowski

Bronowsi was a British mathematician and biologist of Polish-Jewish origin. He is best remembered as the presenter and writer of the 1973 BBC television documentary series, The Ascent of Man.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Who needs a movie?

I am lost for words.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

There can only be one...

Highlander movie redux
This paperback cover is a classic expression of the value of wit in communications.
There is a time when everything should be literally spelled out and then there is something to be said for engaging the viewer in such a way as to make them a part of of the communication process. The greater the level of engagement, the higher the liklihood that the person reading the message will adopt it as their own. After all, they had to work to decode it.
The risk is that some folks won't be able to crack the code, but you can't please everybody - and the same risk is true for even the most blank, expressionless communications.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Crazy as anyplace else - reprise

There is a line in the Wild One when Marlon Brando's character is asked "What are you rebelling against Johnny?" With a dismissive curl of his lip Brando/Johnny sneers:

"Waddya got?"

That's the famous line. The one I prefer is when one of the rebel biker gang asks a local in the bar:

"What do you hicks do around here for kicks?"
"Oh,…The roses grow. People get married. Crazy as anyplace else."

Crazy as anyplace else. Now there's the rub.

Often I meet with clients who agree with everything I say about being authentic; being The One & Only™. They nod and agree. "Yup, that's what we're all about. We're The One & Only™ alright. That's us…yessiree Bob"

Then they tell me what they are doing to promote themselves to make the most of their distinctive qualities. "Well, we kind of match our competition because that's how things are done in this category." Lockstep. It is then I realise that our paths have come to a parting ways.

The roses grow. People get married, Crazy as anyplace else.

Now, I'm not suggesting that my clients don black leather jackets and start cruising around causing trouble on vintage Harleys and Triumphs. Well, not necessarily. Unless that is exactly who they are.

The problem is fear.

One of the most irrational fears I have encountered is the fear of being judged by competitors.

Why on Earth should you care about what your competitors think of you? Believe me, this anxiety is very real. I have seen it in all kinds of businesses. Chiropractors and health providers fear sticking their heads above the parapet. Manufacturers worry that trade customers will isolate them. Advertising creative people fear they will not be cool enough to fit in at the next agency they work in.

The anxiety of industries and market categories is the product of an unspoken oligopoly. The dominant brand in the category sets the tone and the rest fall in line and pick up the scraps.

It is a self defeating, self limiting perception that the order of the day will remain the order of the day.
So long as this belief is accepted as the norm, then innovation is stifled, risk taking is non existent. The status quo might as well gift a virtual, self fulfilling monopoly to the Alpha brand.

I don't advocate reckless practices. On the contrary. Brando's character may have been a rebel without a cause, but you have to be a rebel with a cause.

The risk of truly being yourself and taking the time to understand how you can break free of the conventions of the market is quite a mission. It never ends. The rewards are distinctive products and services that competitors cannot emulate and, if they do, they seem like frauds (and consume their resources trying to be you).

Honesty and authenticity are highly prized by audiences. Watch American Idol and see how many talented Mariah Carey soundalikes fall by the wayside (there is already a Mariah Carey) - Fantasia Barrino won the last series. She wasn't the prettiest or even the most technically excellent performer in the competition - but she was far and away the most distinctive. That much was obvious from the moment she began singing the Gershwin tune Summertime from Porgy & Bess. " Schhummertime...". One of the undeniable truths of the Idol shows is: that making a warm, human connection with the audience, having a great story is just as important and being able to sing. Doing things well is just what kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi calls 'table stakes'.

By virtue of the experience curve the processes get easier and grant your organisation more freedom and flexibility to perform without anxiety about what competitors think.

Or you can hide yourself away, pick at the scraps, grow roses - be as crazy as the next guy.

That distant, rolling thunder you hear. It might be distant rolling thunder or it might be your introduction to what Tom Peters calls 'A brawl with no rules'. Business in the 21st Century. Are you ready to rumble?

I first published this April 2005 but it came up in a conversation and thought I'd refloat it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Staying abreast of advertising trends

I advocate interestingness in advertising - that people don't want advertising, they want things that are interesting and, sometimes, that is an ad.

The commercial about tests the theory to breaking point. In it hundreds of topless Aryan women take to the Air - to the sounds of The Ride of the Valkyrie. While it is not the first commercial ever to use the idea of formation sky-diving or the Wagnerian sound track, or female nudity - I will wager it is the first to combine all of the above.

The result is comically bad. Admittedly I am not familiar with the product being promoted - and I don't speak Danish but I wonder is their is a sly insider joke that I am not privy to. So, is it interesting? I am inclined to say it is more curious than interesting. But it serves to underscore the point that advertising can be as interesting as all get out, but if it is irrelevant then it will likely enough pass unnoticed and change no behaviour.

Likewise I am baffled by this commercial by BBH London for Johnny Walker, part of the Keep Walking campaign that has been running for several years. I think I 'get' it. But I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that it is something of a 'wank'. Some commentators have said it is a triumph because of the 'film-making'. I'm not convinced that the purpose of advertising is to advance the moviemaker's craft, though a well crafted ad well thought out, arresting and relevant will have a far greater effect. This one falls far short of that. An insider insight, a planners delight but would I buy whisky, let alone the JB brand as result. Probably not. Interestingly I am far more likely to be influenced by a revue or product recommendation in a men's magazine than a self indulgent message like this. Will the barman snigger if I order JW?

I'll have a Bookers thanks, and if you don't have that a Maker's Mark - over ice, hold the water.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Poem #1

A dear friend shared a poem with me. Try I as I might, I didn't get it. And I did try. I wrote a poem in reply. Not intended to insult (though it did). I'm sorry for that. But am grateful for the revelation that poetry offers.

I recommend opening up your intellectual channels, rationalism and realism by connecting your thoughts outside the constructs of prose.

Here is my reply to my friend. If you can figure it out let me know.

Bucolic Beowulfian
Epic endymion
Hippolytic Haiku
Iambic I said
Pentametric parabolas
'neath perfect parasoles
Pirouetting piously
Promulgating petrification
Sensationalising stupefaction
Serenely cerebral
Suddenly sodden
Nakedly nude
Smirking prude
The silent ryhming
mime says
make mine
a double
and make it
for I can
but shed crocodile
Boatshed dreams
of tarninshed
lampen lumpen lampoons
of chronic
Call me Ishamael
But call me
Light and day
egging on
in the porcelein
of all our

Friday, February 13, 2009

When accountant logic takes over

Interesting analogy.

Meme Huffer again.

The Truth is the New Lie

Once again, if it didn't ring so true, this clip would be frightening, or maybe it is scary because it is true.

Via Meme Huffer

Top Gear Budget Porsche Episode

Ok, admission. I owned a Porsche 944 Turbo. I loved it. In fact I have never owned any car longer. To me it was the ultimate vehicle for anyone who likes to drive and has a young family. 50/50 weight distribution (thanks to the front engine/rear gearbox layout), fantastic grip from vast tyre footprint, 2+2 seating with a rear hatch you could grow tomatoes in. Perfect. Capable of 150+ mph, but docile in town. It was brilliant. At this point I'll skip over the incident that required the engine to be rebuilt - well it had high miles - at a phenomenal cost. After the rebuild I couldn't justify selling the car. So I kept it - then I moved in with my girlfriend and her kids - together we had five - so the Porsche had to go (I replaced it with a 735i BMW - the Graf Spee - to transport them all (another story for another time - though I can tell you a Mac Powerbook will not survive being run over by one of these babies).

The Top Gear roadshow is here in New Zealand. While I'm impressed with how the BBC's marketing machine has built the Top Gear franchise around the world, I couldn't bring myself to spring for tickets to the live show. Actually I don't even like the Top Gear Magazine. I like the show. The performances by Clarkson, Hammond, May and The Stig are like The Beatles of motoring journalism - The loud one, the cute one, the quiet one and...well, ...The Stig.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

All the world's a stage...

"Someday, someone will make a movie of your life. Make sure it doesn't go straight to video."
I agree with the sentiment, but in the future I wonder whether the long-tail will mean there is no silver screen at all?

Via Crack Unit

Reversing a trend

Generation Y is getting a bad rap (possibly deservedly so), I was interested in this clip which is clever and thought provoking (Via planner Paul Isakson's blog - follow him on Twitter)

Another interesting link from the same source is Honda's movie - Failure the secret of success. I guess I relate to the concept - I consider myself a successful failure.

Follow me on Twitter

Friday, February 06, 2009

Where is the love?

Find more videos like this on AdGabber

Saatchi & Saatchi Wellington have produced a video for Wellington Zoo that looks to me as if it has been made solely for use on the web.

It features images of Zoo animals disturbed by the sound of a woman, apparently reaching sexual climax to a syrupy tune that sounds like Barry White.

The problem with the ad isn't that it is cheap and cheesy, but that, having watched it I have no idea what the Wellington Zoo are promising me.

Is there to be an orgy at the Zoo on 'Adults only' Valentines Day? Heaven forbid there is any hint of bestiality.

This kind of 'ad' actually demonstrates the value that bodies like the Advertising Standards Authority and Commercials Approvals have in governing what is distributed. When snot-nosed creatives can bypass the system and make stuff on the cheap it kind of ends up like the sort of graffiti you might see in the boys toilets at a high school - except animated.

Verdict, cheap and nasty. Not especially funny. Incomprehensible.

Sad from the agency that brought you 'Lovemarks'.

Via Adrants.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bears repeating

I've posted before about argument let's reprise The Art of Reasoning: With Symbolic Logic
by David Kelley. It amazes me how often some, or all, of these quirks is deployed in everyday life:

Ad Hominem: Using a negative trait of a speaker as evidence that his statement is false, or his argument weak.

Appeal to Majority: Using the fact that large numbers of people believe a proposition to be true, as evidence of its truth.

Post Hoc: Using the fact that one event preceded another, as sufficient evidence for the conclusion that the first caused the second.

Appeal to Force: Trying to get someone to accept a proposition on the basis of a threat.

Appeal to Authority: Using testimonial evidence for a proposition when the conditions for credibility are not satisfied, or the use of such evidence is inappropriate.

Appeal to Emotion: Trying to get someone to accept a proposition on the basis of an emotion one induces.

Begging the Question: Trying to support a proposition with an argument in which that proposition is a premise.

Diversion: Trying to support one proposition by arguing for another proposition.

Non Sequitur:
Trying to support a proposition on the basis of irrelevant premises.

Using the fact that one believes or wants a proposition to be true, as evidence of its truth.

Straw Man: Trying to refute one proposition by arguing against another proposition.

False Alternative: Excluding relevant possibilities without justification.

Ad Hominem: Using a negative trait of a speaker as evidence that his statement is false, or his argument weak.

Tu Quoque: Trying to refute an accusation by showing that the speaker is guilty of it.

Poisoning the Well:
Trying to refute a statement or argument by showing that the speaker has a non-rational motive for adopting it.

Appeal to Ignorance: Using the absence of proof for a proposition as evidence for the truth of the opposing proposition.

Complex Question: Trying to get someone to accept a proposition by opposing a question that presupposes it.

I don't know whether you'll win any debates by deploying any of these techniques (or any points), but I am certain if you don't then you'll be the only person in the room who isn't.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Russell Brown influences alcohol.

Russell Brown is one of the most read bloggers in New Zealand; intelligent, informed and always interesting he added the following note to a blog post about voter turnout in Iraq.

"The other evening I felt the need for a cool glass of wine. I was passing the Pt Chev Liquor Centre -- our local tag-strewn hole in the wall -- so I stopped and bought a bottle.

Yes, it was a bin-end special ($14.99), and it was a 2006 sav blanc -- you're certainly risking the zip having faded there. But it was worse than that. The wine was gone: an overpowering boiled-asparagus reek overpowered anything on the palate. It was undrinkable.

So I put the cap back on the bottle, retrieved the receipt and the original bag, and took it back the next day.

I think I was being reasonable: I wasn't demanding cash back, although I didn't want to risk another bottle of the same wine. I'd top up the credit and get something I knew would be fit for purpose.

They wouldn't consider it: on the basis that (wait for it) the bottle had been opened. They were not able to explain to me how I could tell the product had gone off without opening it to check. I pointed out to them that this was bullshit, but they were unmoved.

So I left, pointing out to them that they'd lost a customer. I feel bound also to warn you, dear reader, off the Pt Chev Liquor Centre. They are knowingly selling spoiled wine and refusing to make good on it. That's a bit like stealing from your customers."

My guess is that much of Mr Brown's constituency resides in the catchment of the Pt Chevalier Liquor Centre - a liberal Auckland suburb in the process of gentrification. They will undoubtedly heed his advice, as indeed they should. Some, like me will repost his comments to a secondary network not nearly as large as that of I don't agree with everything Brown says (and sometimes I don't like how he says it), but I don't like the idea of being robbed by a liquor store either (or any other for that matter).

The Best SuperBowl ad - ever

Most provocative, best production values, most timely.
Feel free to disagree (it's not 1984).

Check out SuperBowl ads, past and present on the AdWeek site

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Surreal Kid Song

I don't know what to say about this. I don't respond to it on any kind of intellectual level. I will say that I love it. Oh, ok, cerebral kicks in - I like it better than the Cadbury commercial discussed below. Picking it as a web phenomenon.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Should raise an eyebrow or two.

According to Faris Yakob, if you want to make the kind of movies (for brands) the Internet likes, this is the recipe:

Leave out all that stuff about the product. As much as you can anyway.

Make people feel something nice, link that association to your brand.

Give people things to copy, or respond to, or play with.

Don't take yourself or your brand too seriously.

Ok, I guess if your brand is Cadbury, you have 100% understanding of what your brand is, you have 100% distribution you can get away with it. Oh, and if you share the colour purple with Alice Walker/Whoopi Goldberg - and millions of dollars/euros to spend on media (and PR). But other than that I'm not sure the theory will apply to many brands in the real world.

Not sure it has the charm of the Gorilla ad either. Music lacks iconic charm. Talent not furry enough. Gag not especially funny (seems like something from America's Funniest Home Videos).

I'm backing Relevent, Distinctive and Competitive...there's a recession, haven't you heard?

Via Talent Imitates Genius Steals

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Download my novel for free

I wrote Vanishing Act Christmas last year. I've just decided to give away the download version for free.

Click here to get your copy.

Of course you can still order a copy of the physical, hardback edition.

Tell a friend, the more the merrier. Write a review and win a hard copy.

Rubber Soul

Don't watch this if you are easily offended.
A nicely executed commercial for condoms that could qualify as a product demonstration in a hard category.


Truth, Lies and Advertising

The Australian blogosphere was briefly alight with talk about 'Heidi', the girl who, supposedly had met a man in a cafe. Nothing so strange in that. But in a twist on the on the Cinderella story the mystery man left his jacket behind.

Naturally Heidi took the garment home and enlisted a friend's help to create the video above as a message to the mystery man to come claim his coat (and, undercurrent, his girl).

All a hoax by the Australian fashion retailer Witchery, who were in the process of launching a men's line. The jacket co-star turned out to be the star. Heidi even took the time to lovingly describe the jacket.

I'm in two minds about faking it. On one hand it is harmless and trivial. On the other the extent to which the ruse was carried on after it had been outed as a scam seems silly.

Can brands be built on a hoax? Well - Coca-cola have been doing it for years turning caramelised sugar water into a fantasy of togetherness and pleasure.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Waiheke market corker experience

Waiheke market, saturday am.
Over on Waiheke I like to visit the Saturday markets. Brings out the locals and sometimes reminds me of what the island must have been like before they started building me-too suburban homes with Linea weatherboards and corrugated iron fascia.

Every week Mark Sommerset is there promoting and selling his books - I have talked about him before. He certainly has the knack of creating an experience around his brand. The stall, though it is as simple in scale as his neighbour's is a very sophisticated retail experience.

Much to be learned in the strangest of places.

Polaroid memories

It's sad that Polaroid ended production of their 'instant' film at the beginning of this year. I tried to express it before, but it came across as hollow - given that me, and everyone else, had long ago adopted digital imaging. So much more instant than previous instances of 'instant'.

Still, there was something about the SX70 I liked, it was insignificant - don't like it it? - take another.

Rummaging today I came across these shots.

This one is some of the crew from Rialto advertising. You can tell the 'creative' dudes, think sunglasses inside.

Left to right: Carolyn Travaglia (became a famous makeup artist), Gael Praast (Simon Praast's mum but a formidable accountant in her own right - managed to assign MD's Tv to my smorg, easy). Centre, big smile: Megan (my son's mum - we got married). Back row: Ginga: Barbie Cope - stylish, iconoclastic studio manager - now photographer. Terry Stevens - art director, now commercials director in Europe, the Diane, accounts, stayed with Clemenger for years (don't know where she is now), then Michelle - I can't remember more than that, then me, front row, daylight, 'bans.

Those were the days.

And so were these: MacKay King Christmas party breakfast '84 - yes, that's me - so young and, aherm, innocent.


Polaroids were the informal record of the day. I miss their presence as an instant artifact - something digital can't provide.