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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reading other people's mail.

It is hard to fault the logic or candor of this letter by a disgruntled Australian citizen about his experience applying for a passport.

Interestingly, most governments would rather hire expensive consultants than listen to the rude common sense of their people, or 'clients'.

Click image to read in full.

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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blackout Protest

Tomorrow (Friday) is the Auckland protest against changes to the New Zealand copyright law that allows Internet access to be denied to citizens based on accusation alone.

Starts at outside the Britomart transport centre.

Important issue. Come and be heard, while you still can.

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

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A red light for government ad spending.

I've just seen the latest iteration of the intersection safety advertisement (New Zealand Land Transport Safety Authority). The theme of the campaign is that running a red light is like playing Russian roulette. The 'creative' execution has a certain obscure reference to inde cinema. Death (I assume), characterised by a bearded chap sitting next to a wheel (cross between school fete, casino and bedlam). The menacing implication is that you might die if you are not careful at an intersection.

The current edition of the ad shows a vehicle running the red. It is followed moments later by a police patrol car - which sounds its siren. Cut to black.

Then the campaign theme comes on screen:

Bad calls can be deadly.

A couple of weeks back the New Zealand police shot the first innocent bystander in an incident. They have also fatally shot other offenders who may not have been a morbid threat to the officers at the time.

The implication of the commercial, intended or otherwise, is that the police are about to deal 'hang-em-high' justice to the red light runner.

Tasteless and offensive.

Traffic safety ads have no benefit. The New Zealand government must reassess their communication strategy. The millions spent are wasted and now - offensive.

For reference - this is the base ad for the campaign:

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

Sunday, February 01, 2009

'The World Economy is Rooted'

I can't honestly say much about this ad for Australian Beef & Lamb aside from the fact that it seems somewhat similar to the jingoistic pastiche of the Tango commercial of a few years ago

Of course, here in New Zealand the economy is equally affected by the global financial meltdown but the way to encourage greater consumption of beef and lamb would be to drop the price. I'm sure that Saudi's don't pay top dollar for gas, it puzzles me that chops and steaks in New Zealand seem to be linked to the surging price of Gold. It is a disgrace second only to the price of dairy products - which are so out of kilter with the amount we produce that I am contemplating post-mixing my own melamine to make it go further in our household.

Joining the dots on cloud cuckoo

I saw this display in the local bookstore. At a glance I thought the brand name was Hitler.
There must be a psychological name for that phenomenon - we see patterns in things. Based on my experience of the the world I see the letters that form the word Hitler predominating in this image. You might not see it at all - or not without prompting.

The image below is of a Dalmation dog in dappled light beneath a tree. Or, rather that is how my mind processes it. If you have never seen a Dalmatian then it is unlikely that you will join the dots in the same way that I do.
dog perception

It pays to remember that perception is either a priori (known independently of experience)or a posteriori (proven through experience), it depends on what you have already experienced or simply accept as a 'truth'.

An image or word that is entirely neutral (most things just 'are' what they are), but via conditioning we have a pre-conceived notion that assigns 'meaning' to even the most mundane things. It is a phenomenon that not only allows some people to tell the future from tea-leaves left in a cup or the entrails of goats but also that informs our conversations with others. It is difficult to approach people with an 'open mind' because we judge others based on our experiences. If you have been hurt in the past by the infidelity of a spouse, then entirely unrelated stimulus - such as the late arrival of your current partner, might be construed or interpreted as evidence of their infidelity. We tend to project this kind of anxiety on others - in part because of its opportunity to protect ourselves from re-experiencing the kind of harm we endured in the past. But it is dangerous to make assumptions of people's behaviours, based on negative historical imprints. The German people certainly behaved badly in the middle of the last century, but it would be entirely wrong to assume that the prevailing impulse amongst Germans today is anti-semitism or a genocidal bent.

Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?
Polonius: By the Mass, and ‘tis like a camel indeed.
Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.
Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.
Hamlet: Or like a whale?
Polonius: Very like a whale.

Hamlet (Act II, Scene II)

Seeing patterns is fundamental to the human experience. We are Homo significans - meaning-makers. But we should remember that the patterns we interpret are often no more correct than shapes observed in clouds. You may see a camel, but it is not a camel. It is a cloud. I might not be with you, but it doesn't mean I am with another.

Pied Pieper not followed

During a banal exchange on the micro blogging site Twitter - discussing whether, if one were to meet a tweeting friend in person, it would be appropriate to use their Twitter handle. I promptly registered ilathehun, which with the addition of the @symbol that makes one's name a link becomes @illathehun. Infantile, but that's the nature of 1 am conversations with invisible friends.

It occurred to me that a good name in a world where attracting 'followers' into one's network is the measure of community and influence - would be PiedPiper. The name was registered, but, ironically, had no tweets and no followers. Lessons of the past learned? Perhaps.

Follow me on Twitter @joegreenz