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Posts from April 2013

Present Shock

Thanks to an invitation from Mr and Mrs Schiller, I got to go to a launch party for Douglas Rushkoff's new book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now [Kindle Edition] a week or two ago at Meet at the Apartment.

I've just finished it and am letting it gestate but I'm pretty sure you should read it...

right now.... [Well, it's only appropriate.]

...and that it's awesome. 

[In my preferred understanding of the word, it's original meaning, evoking awe, epic in scale, adjusting your view of reality.] 

In 2009, I wrote a piece for Fast Company about the diminishing Cultural Latency that increased speed of communication was inevitably leading to.

I suggested one way to take advantage of this diminished latency was to respond faster to events in culture - for brands this would be low latency advertising.

Speed wasn't so much the idea, as alacrity - the ability to respond fast, not simply move faster. 

This began to happen, finally coalesing as Real Time Marketing [which I think is an inaccurate and misleading term but anyway], and acheiving an apotheoisis in the SuperBowl Blackout tweet from Oreo, and fall from grace during the Oscars, because alacrity is not the same thing as planning communication alongside things you know will happen next week.

5 minutes [the time it took to get the Oreo tweet concepted, designed, approved and out] may be the latency threshold, meaning there isn't much further to push the idea, so perhaps 'Newsjacking', is now simply a part of the world of blended PR and communications.

I'm not sure anyone really wants a world of 24 hours agencies, so we can add Shift Worker Sleep Disorder to our existing list of industry neuroses.

Rushkoff's speaks to this in the book, but roams a much, much wider brief, covering the history of time, the shift to infinite games that are played not to win but to continue [think WoW], the financial collapse predicated on a financial system [central currencies and interest] built on time, and then threatened by unsustainable beliefs in endless growth, and the abstractions like derivatives tha collapse future value into a present contract you can trade.

How zombies and the singularity are expresssions of simliar concerns in the present [our media has ever shown us what we are worried about most].

It's a fascinating book, far from the "one idea, many annecdote/ case studies" model where reading the first chapter may be all you need or have time for, instead jam-packed with ideas and observations about the world as it is now, and has helped me in trying to think beyond the endless now of real time marketing, for a talk I'm writing for some upcoming speaking gigs. 

[I'm often asked to speak about the future, which, as I observed here, is usually a veiled requst to decode the weirdness of the present.]

He speaks to one of the inherent problems of social media marketing as approached by older, larger companies, one identified in abstact back in Cluetrain.

Social media, creating semi-permeable membranes between companies and their customers, screams for genuine transparency - this was the promise we made to ourselves and the industy - which inevitably leads to a refocusing on behavior and away from messaging:

As strange and naive as it may sound, this means abandonning communications as some separate task, and instead just doing all the right things that you want talked about.[Present Shock] 

[Or Be Nice IRL, as I put it in a talk once.]

This means, well, you have to be acting like the brand you want to be, not just make utterances that speak to that idea, and that storytelling that do not correspond to behavior collapses:

That is easier said than done. I regularly receive calls for help from companies and organizations looking to become more transparent.

The trouble is, many of them don't really do anything they can reveal to the public.

An American television manufacturer that "wanted to get more social" with its communcations strategy didn't realize this would be impossible now it no longer designs or makes its television sets. (It outsourced both functions). [Present Shock].

Rushkoff writes as he speaks, fast, asssociative, pulling in thoughts and ideas from all over, all at once.

It's a fun ride, with a strong point of view, and I suspect will be framing the debate of our time[s] for, well, for now at least, and I, suspect, will be considered seminal in the future, if we ever get there. 

Studying Cases

I was on my way to the One Club to help judge the finalists of the digital Young Ones awards last night, and, as is sometimes the way of things, the universe used coincidence to tell me something...

"The thing about coincidence is that when you imagine the umpteen trillions of coincidences that can happen at any given moment, the fact is, that in practice, coincidences almost never do occur.

Coincidences are actually so rare that when they do occur they are, in fact memorable.

This suggests to me that the universe is designed to ward off coincidence whenever possible—the universe hates coincidence—I don’t know why—it just seems to be true.

So when a coincidence happens, that coincidence had to work awfully hard to escape the system.

There’s a message there. What is it? Look. Look harder." - Douglas Copeland in This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works, [Kindle edition] via Brainpicker

OK I'm not sure about ascribing the universe agency, it smacks of anthropormorphic hubris, but I do believe ideas are new combinations, and when synchronicities happen, they only happen because of your particular, personal, pattern engine and frankly I see them as a freebee. 

Max Ahlborn, one of the partners of awesome integrated production crew B-Reel, tweeted a link to a case study we had made a couple of years back...while judging the One Show Interactive.

You can see it above. Fun. Everyone else in the video is far better at comedy than I am.

But the serious point we, thanks to Max, were trying to make, is to avoid lazy cliche in everything, especially the much maligned case study, and especially the seemingly ubiquitous 'no media spend' claims. 

[A point he makes in this Creativity article.] 

Personally, I think case studies are necessary for several reasons.

I think the oft-levied challenge that they distract resources from the work is functionally analagous to claiming that packaged goods companies shouldn't waste their time making advertisements, since case studies and awards function like advertising for the agency. 

Showing work that is experiential and systemic in nature is very difficult any other way [apart from actually having all the experiences, which would take forever, and be impracticle in the case of, say, events in foreign countries that have already happened, or branded pieces of content that last hours.] 

Equally, not all work is designed to achieve the same ends, and, to some degree, when we judge work, we are juding the creativity in reference to the objective - these are advertising, not art, awards, after all. 

Cultural resonance and nuance can be highlighted that may be lost on juries who can't reflect all the cultures of the world.

[This is where the inevitable barrage of blog mentions are often used. If an idea got reported on during the nightly news in a country, clearly something happened.

Getting coverage in a trade blog isn't quite the same thing, of course, but I guess it's better than if even the industry paid the idea no attention at all.]

And finding ways to package and merchandise work effectively, in a world now filled with an infinte amount of content, is important for every agency and brand manager. 

But cliche is cloying, and when judging we watch literally hundreds of these videos over a few days, so endlessly repeated cliche is very hard to deal with.

So, if you are making case studies, think about the audience and context of reception, and apply the same creativity to the now-calcified case study format as you would any other piece. 

[When media forms take on stable grammar, it's an ideal time to disrupt that grammar for creative effect. Just saying'...]

For more, here's a presentation I gave for the Clio awards about making awesome case studies, with lots of good examples. 

[Adverblog has a great post with more tips, like never use your own hosted video player! Use Youtube. It works and is faster. If the video hangs on your player and server, and we are watching might not get the attention the work deserves.] 

Best of luck! 

The Story of The Memory of The Experience

A while back I gave a talk at the Google Think Travel conference. It was a super fun gig.

I posted the deck and some thoughts before.

People seemed to like it and asked about the presentation itself.

So here are the last 20mins of the talk, which concern travel, dynamic pricing and opportunity cost anxiety, thresholds of satisfaction, experiences, memory, memory hacking, decisions, stories and winks.

It also features short videos of Daniel Kahneman and Louis C.K., which help to break up the stretches of me talking. 

So...what do you think? What was your experience of watching? What memory did it leave you with? What story would you tell? 

[For enquiries about speaking engagements, click speaking up at the top and drop me a line.]