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Posts from September 2006


Right then, let's clear this up. The C'MONs are not a concept band made of sock puppets a la Gorillaz. Although who knows, maybe they will be one day.

The band has been seeded throughout the summer across Europe (not that I've seen any of it) and today were casually mentioned in the Popbitch email (Sidenote: Neil and Camilla still do great work - even though Holy Moly has come up behind them).

The link takes you through to The C', where there is an impressive content package, albeit in heavy flash - music tracks, back story, t-shirts from Spreadshirt, the works.

All very mysterious and that.

A couple of googles later and all becomes clear. It seems the tease and reveal stages of the campaign have not been aligned across regions. The C' has a big Opel Corsa on it.

I guess Opel / Vauxhaul should be credited with trying to leverage their European Music Awards sponsorship in an interesting way. For some reason though, the whole thing left me a little flat.

More details of the campaign here, where the press release explains that the newly positioned Corsa is hoping to engage with trendy, urban 20-30 year olds, for whom 'credibility and authenticity are key factors' and that the 5 puppets each represent 'various psychographic profiles of today's twentysomethings'.

I'm sorry, what?

Free Hugs and the death of the viral film

This just made me really happy.

And it's also a good example of why branded 'viral' films are getting less and less viral.

We don't need them anymore. There are enough people out there who want to produce short film content to fill the all the servers of Youtube. The glorious heyday of Kylie in her underwear on that rodeo bull reaching millions is over.

Ask yourself - what would you rather send to your mate? Free hugs or an ad?

Ok, if the ad had Kylie on a rodeo bull I would still consider it.

So what's the next step? Brands either have to be offering currency that consumers can't access [Kylie] or providing other kinds of web services that are beyond the scope the average individual and perhaps even facilitates the individual's creative expression.

That Flickr badge thing just over to the right there gets everywhere doesn't it? Just a thought.

Via It could get worse.

UPDATE: Clearly Adage doesn't agree with me. But I think most of their examples exist way beyond viral film - Lynxjet, Adicolour - all have excellent online components of much bigger ideas. Online isn't a discrete channel, somehow seperate from the rest of media, and the best ideas reflect this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mat has pointed out that this is, in fact, a music video for a band. Kind of. Or rather that the song is the soundtrack to the film.

Non - Commercial Interruption

In 1976, Paul Simon gave the us "50 ways to leave your lover".

More recently, Futerra and Friends of the Earth have given us a list of "100 simple ways to help change the world."

I'm pretty sure they mean for the better.

They are all eminently sensible suggestions. I especially like 90, and I'm doing 93 right now.

I will endeavour to do a few of the others too - fortunately I love brussel sprouts.

You can download the whole list here: Download Futerra_100_things.pdf

Ok. Hippy outburst 0ver. Normal service will resume shortly.

Jameson Urban Golf

Looks like Jameson have decided to get into urban gaming. The Jameson Shoreditch Open is being held today, I imagine as part of a repositioning strategy to drive salience for the whisky brand with those trendy young things of East London's cultural capital.

The golf ball through the window shown above is part of the local amplification campaign. Nice and relevant - similar to something Apple Stores did in the USA.

Property Panel

Asi pointed me in the direction of this new project from HSBC that he's been working on - it's a pertinent adjunct to the discussion about communication that delivers value in the last few posts.

The Property Panel website is a resource to help first time house buyer navigate the process. There's a monthly webcast with a panel of experts, that users can submit questions to and then guide areas for discussion, and supporting information, tips and step by step guides.

Having considered buying  and genuinely been put off by what seems like a hideous amount of rigmarole [and the sheer time commitment required to find somewhere decent in London without unlimited funds], this seems to me to be an excellent way for HSBC to promote and demonstrate its expertise in mortgages whilst leveraging its resources to provide value and assistance to house hunters.

It seems online is a natural space for win-win branded utility style communication - people rely on the web to provide information and, increasingly, services whilst advertising is actively avoided and blocked - so brands that can provide something earn the consumers attention. 

Shoot the City


Urban games - activities that use the city as a game board - are pretty big over in the states.  Pioneered by wacky college students with things like Pacmanhattan they now have their own festival - Come Out and Play.

Over here in the UK things haven't caught on quite as much, but it looks like it's starting to happen. Shoot Experience run photographic treasure hunts around London - the picture is a winning entry - and they've got an event on in the City on 30th September.  Teams armed only with a digital camera look to solve clues and capture the answers in a defined area. Looks like fun.

Urban Golf has also developed a following - the Shoreditch Open is  a full 18 holes amongst the asymmetrical haircuts of East London.

Dealing with cities often seems to involve the reclamation of urban spaces - skateboarding famously has found a home under the Royal Festival Hall - perhaps as a way of normalising an environment that our brains weren't really wired to deal with.

I think anything that encourages people to play more is a good thing and advertisers have the resources to engineer fantastic branded games - yet another way to deliver value. Don't just badge a venue - create something!

A rose by any other name


In the comments to the last post Asi has correctly pointed out that my neologistic choice for this new model of communication planning is flawed - Zero Sum is actually the opposite of what I mean, and the situation I'm describing is actually a win win scenario [also from game theory].

As much as I like the sound of Zero Sum Comms, it sadly doesn't make sense.

Nuts. I'm a doofus. I'm glad I had to realise this in a public forum.

So I guess the new model should be called Win Win Communications, but I'm loathe to call it that because a] win win as a term was co-opted by the business / marketing community a while back and b] I didn't come up with it and I'll have to license it from Asi.

So, in the spirit of open source blog style collaboration - what shall we call this mutually beneficial communication model, where value is created for both brand and consumer?

If I get enough good suggestions I'll put it to a vote.

Zero Sum Communication


From Wikipedia:

Zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s)

From TIGS:

Zero Sum Comms: communication where there is a balanced value exchange between consumer and brand

I've been talking about brands delivering value alongside messaging for a while now. If  interruption advertising is spam, then delivering value alongside messaging is the only way to earn the right to talk to consumers.

It seems that this is an idea that's taking root - the advertools piece below came out in the same week as Anomaly's branded utility piece in Adage. So I thought I would set out my model for this new way of communicating.

Traditional communciation models focus on the transmission of a message to group of consumers, using media as a vector:


The problem here is that ultimately only the brand's needs are being considered - there is an unbalanced value exchange occuring. The individual consuming the marketing message is giving up value in the form of time and cognition: attention


This may seem trivial but it's not. Value is derived from relative scarcity and attention is increasingly scarce in today's media environment.

There has always been an implicit value exchange occuring in advertiser supported content, from the soap opera of radio to the tv spots that pay for ITV, but increasingly the value exchange needs to be explicit as content is increasingly on demand and consumers can screen out the interruption advertising.

Brands want to build relationships with consumers. Relationships are mutually re-inforcing, providing value to both parties, and dynamic, responding to the needs of each other over time via 2 way interaction.

So the zero sum model of communication would look like this:


Smart brands have already started working like this in lots of different ways - the rise of experiential communications can be seen in this light. Advertools are one way to deliver zero sum communication. Crucially, the value delivered is now an opportunity to express your brand behaviour.

Philips has been delivering value by actually stripping out advertising - getting rid of inserts in magazines and delivering paid for content from to consumer for free. As part of their "Sense and Simplicity" campaign they have created "a media plan based on a brand proposition" - delivering value and communicating their brand positioning.

So, as I've said before, a good communication strategy should start with 2 questions: what are my communication objectives AND how can I deliver them in a way that delivers value?



My mate Ben and I have an article in this month's Media Magazine in the USA.

It's about 'Advertools':

An advertool is a communication channel, created by a brand, which offers in itself a functional utility to consumers.

The idea grew out of two of my ongoing obsessions: to get brands to deliver value as well as messaging and my desire to invent new words.

By providing a specific functionality that consumers find valuable, brands can communicate a set of values or messages to consumers that use it - there is a balanced value exchange.

We highlight a few examples in the piece that we like, such as the Verizon Beatbox Mixer and Yutaka Loves London, the interactive guide from Virgin Atlantic.

Can anyone think of any others?

PS. You can download a pdf of the article here:  Download Advertools.pdf. If you want.

PPS. I'm the one with the beard. I have a different beard now though.

UPDATE: Adage have an article in the current issue that echoes this need for brands to deliver value - they call the concept 'branded utility'. Via Big Picture and Chroma.

Flickr Mash

As I wrote in that article for Contagious a while back, I think there is a remix culture emerging, where creativity is collaborative and recombinant. The ultimate expression of this trend so far is the emergence of web mash ups.

By opening up your API, you can allow anyone with an idea to use your technology to build something else - this is a core part of whatever the hell web 2.0 is and it's brilliant: allowing millions of brains to build on your idea makes for cooler and cooler things. Open source and that.

Since I covered it in that article a bunch of new mash-ups have been developed that are worth mentioning, especially Bubblr, which allows you to construct and publish comic strips from Flickr.

It was created by Pim Pam and Pum, who also made Memry and Phrasr. [Via Wired.]

Mashupfeed can keep you up to date on the latest mashups.