Previous month:
August 2007
Next month:
October 2007

Posts from September 2007

We Need Each Other

I've just signed up for Blog Action Day - a collaboration between bloggers all over the globe in which everyone agrees to post about the environment on October 15th this year.

As Gina Trapini of Lifehacker puts it in a Wired article about the initiative:

"A bunch of voices talking about the same thing at the same time gets more people's attention than the usual cacophony of posts."

More than 6000 bloggers have signed up so far, with a combined reach of more than 4 million people, which is pretty amazing.

I can't help but feel wonderfully optimistic about people at the moment. There are so many examples of people in the industry and in general trying to doing something good, individually and collectively.

There's the increasingly impressive Alldaybuffet, where I heard about Blog Action Day, set up by the endlessly enthusiastic Michael Karnjanaprakorn, to make doing good easier by connecting up likeminded people:

It's a simple idea: Inspire Action. Change the world. Have Fun. Because doing good shouldn't feel like a chore.

Michael put his life where his mouth is too - he moved to New Orleans to work for Trumpet to try and help change the profile for the city.

Which in turn led to him feeding in the first brief  to Planning For Good - an initiative hatched at the AAAA conference by Ed Cotton and Co to help leverage the growing global plannersphere for good:

Problem: Planners want to make meaningful contributions and want to work, share and learn from others

Idea: We use the Ning and briefs to problem solve and create pathways for non-profits

Which is being run through the Ning and a Facebook group - we've just submitted our first response to suggest routes to help re-generate The Big Easy, working in teams that spontaneously generated themselves to help.

There's The Age of Conversation collaborative book, written about 100+ bloggers and being sold for Variety, the children's charity, which has raised more than $10,000 thus far and it still being heavily promoted by its authors.

There's the lovely Johnny Vulcan, continuing to remind people and brands that it's never someone else's job to help:

Of course it’s our job. It’s nothing to do with what industry we are in but rather us as individuals and responsible members of our communities.

One of the biggest problems that campaigners of all kinds have always faced is the "What can I do I'm just one person" problem. Now, global communities have self-organised thanks to social media tools, and we seem to have suddenly realised that we aren't just one person anymore.

Step outside our extended industry family and it's happening all over the web. Pangea Day, named after the unified continent of pre-history, is an initiative trying to harnass the power of film to spread a global message of solidarity and tolerance, broadcasting the submissions from all over the world across every platform imaginable on May 10th 2008.

Injustice and violence still provide the backdrop to many people's lives but it can no longer be hidden. Bloggers in Burma got the message out and hundreds of thousands of people are showing their support, which in turn is forcing governments to address the demands of a people to be free from oppression.

[Update: MTV have launched a socially conscious social network called Think, to encourage young people to be aware and act on important issues including the environment and HIV, leveraging their access to celebrities to help energise the audience. via Ketchup]

For the first time in the history of our species we are connected. When television emerged, it showed an entire generation the world for the first time. The internet let us talk to each other, and social media allows us to reach out and connect to communities. The reason tools that allow communities to develop have grown so rapidly and become so important is that we need each other, and we need to need each other.

As Gandhi put it:

"Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency."

Satre said that "Hell is other people".

He couldn't have been further from the truth.

We interrupt these commercial messages for a word from our content

Jerry Seinfeld, of legendary Seinfeld fame, has a new movie coming out that he conceptualised, co-wrote and stars in. It's about a bee.  It's called Bee Movie [like B movie - see what he did there?]

He has also created a number of behind the scenes comic vignettes in a neat spin on the trailer, which are being aired on NBC. According to TIME:

Though the shorts are designed to promote the film on the Internet, NBC acquired the rights to air them during commercial breaks in an effort to encourage viewers to watch the neighboring advertisements.

So, there are now content breaks in the ad breaks to get you to watch the ads, but the content is itself a commercial message, except the broadcaster paid the advertiser to run them.

I'm confused.

Animated Economics

Found via House of Naked, the website Animoto creates slide show animations out of your images [which it can pull from the usual places]. Since you have very little control over how it turns out this will probably have limited presentational use except as a moving mood board, but once it lets you download the videos it'll be handy for that.

There seem to be a bunch of online animation tools launching at the moment - Iain pointed to a flash style [think singing kittens] animation tool called Fuzzwich a while back. All part of the ongoing move towards thin client wysiwyg programming that should further accelerate the democratisation of creation that we've been harping on about for ages.

The business model for software creation has been turned on its head. It no longer really makes sense to sell software to consumers - piracy is too easy in a connected broadband world.

In fact, the foundations of economics change in an information economy. Economics is based on the allocation of resources under conditions of scarcity - a model that doesn't work when you can endlessly replicate product at zero cost - see software, music, information - anything digital. [You can still force corporations to buy software licenses - Microsoft send auditors round - but increasingly that model is shifting towards service contracts with the software as the bait.]

In a previous life, I used to preach this as software as a service - take the product and turn it into an on-demand service over the web, charging only for what people use, thereby lowering barriers to uptake and increasing potential customer base.

In the post Google economy, different monetisation models are springing up to compensate the creators of intellectual property without charging the end user. Currently most of them rely on a media model - use tool to build audience, sell audience to advertiers - a model which, you guessed it, is also being forced to evolve rapidly.

In our era of accelerated innovation, it makes sense for cycles of creative destruction to accelerate in step. Some old things [companies, business models] will die and from their ashes new economic powers will be born, faster than we have ever seen before.

History Repeating


[The 7 Principles of Google Marketing, posted by Nial]

Do you know how the advertising agency came about? Let me quote from the now fabled tome "The Shocking History of Advertising!":

The original agents had owed their allegiance to the newspapers rather than the advertisers; they had been debt-collectors at best and fee-snatchers at worst. Now agents began to identify themselves with the advertiser. The number of newspapers was so great that only a specialist could keep track of them all, and form a view as to their usefulness. Some of the leading agents were even undertaking to prepare the advertiser's copy and illustrations for him.

So yes, the first agencies were media agencies and then eventually some bright spark realised that could provide the content as well. In fact, it was N.W. Ayer and Son in Philadelphia that became the very first full service agency.

Google is the biggest broker of online media. The acquisition of DoubleClick takes them into display and tracking, and they've been quite open about their intention to roll out their model into other media.

Yesterday it was reported that Google has hired Andy Berndt, co-president of Ogilvy &Mather New York, to lead a new unit dedicated to collaborating with marketers and agencies.

Google is a value chain creeper - it moves along its industry value chain, eating up the value, and this move is no different. Accenture has already argued that Google functions in some aspects like an agency. It's small step from optimising copy based on click-throughs to advising on how to write effective copy.

Will Google start making films? This seems extremely unlikely, but then who says that's what ad agencies are going to look like in the future. Agencies are shifting away from 'advertising' and re-inventing themselves as 'ideas companies' to better address the needs of modern advertisers and connected consumers. 

Ideas are something Google has never been short of.#

[Update: On a tangentially related note, Google today announced their move into rich media with Google Ad Gadgets.]

The New Vitruvians

[Taken on my O2 Cocoon, because my camera is broken, and it came out really well I think. See more pictures here.]

Last night I went to an art show thing in the incredible space that is the Imagination building, courtesy of the lovely, lovely people at Contagious.

The show was called The New Vitruvians [taken from Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man] and the artworks were all made of individual rubber balls, in effect large scale pixels, of a base colour that had then been shaded as necessary to create the images , as with the yellow face above. The balls are then suspended in a plastic base, held in place by pressure alone, and the effect is really rather beautiful.

The artist, Yazmany Arboleda, who works for Imagination in NYC, used his friends as studies, and printed up the balls using a '3D printer', something that arouses my inner geek.

As well as the printing of 3D objects, types of 3D printers can create physical objects by 'printing' successive layers on top of each other.  They're used for rapid prototyping, printing CAD files into reality.

But the really exciting stuff happens when you realise that 3D printing is the first step towards fabbers.

Fabbers, or digital fabricators, will radically change the e-commerce industry, in fact the the whole way in which we think about buying products. The vision is of a self contained factory that sits next to your PC, like a printer, but that make things from digital data. So instead of buying a thing, you buy a pattern, a blueprint, and fab it.

Jump forward to proposed nanfactories and we're well on the way to Star Trek style replicators, or Universal Fabricators at least, capable of making anything that can be made, including more fabbers.

Who knows what will happen to brands then - branded designs, brand name designers - but more immediately worth considering is the media corollary of this kind of technology.

In Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte, the former MIT professor of media proposes an idea he called Bitcasting. He foresees a time when the form in which content is consumed will be decided at the point of consumption.

An example, by way of illustration. The weather is bitcast - all the core data is contained in the transmission. Then, at the point of reception, I decide if I want to consume it as printed report, as  an audio stream, as video, as interactive simulation, and my computer dynamically generates the manifestation.

In a world of brandcasting then, what's the role for channel planning, creative execution, or indeed any aspects of the industry as they currently are?

All of which takes us a long way from The New Vitruvians, but then I guess the function of art, if it can be said to have one, is inspiration.

Playtime is Over


Saw these banners in Newcastle railway station over the weekend and thought "Ooo that's really unfortunate copy, considering" but couldn't bring myself to post it as I feel uncomfortable mocking human misery.

But now the government has promised to cover all deposits and their share price has risen again, I think it's OK.

I like how their homepage is now a message from the CEO - always best to confront these things head on.

It's another unfortunate happenstance, however, considering the fact that it's overexposure to the "sub-prime" [hilarious new coinage alert] unsecured American credit market that has rocked the bank, that they're also the top natural listing for "unsecured personal loan uk" on Google.

Johannesburg or Bust

[Statue in Johannesburg taken by Matt e]

I'm speaking at a conference in South Africa on October 30th, which is pretty exciting.

The theme is Brands in the Digital World, covering all thing 2.0 and I'll be waxing [and waning, no doubt] lyrical about brands, recombinant content, transmedia planning and that.

If you're local, and according to my dinky new Feedjit map at least 1% of you are, check out the website here and hopefully I'll see you there.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose


The title of this post is really the overall title for our exciting serialisation of "The Shocking History of Advertising!", which continues today:

[On Guerilla Projections]

The year after 1894 produced some ingenious examples of desecration. After dark on Traflagar Day in London, advertisements for pills, blacking, and watches were projected on to to the side of Nelson's Column by a magic lantern device, and also, for the sake of variety, on to the pillars of the National Gallery.

S.C.A.P.A [Society for Checking of the Abuses in Public Advertising] took counsel's advice and were informed that 'the owners of the building's affected by the advertisement can proceed for trespass or nuisance.'

But, asked the Society, 'Cannot the County Council or the First Commissioner of Works do something for us at once?' A resourceful reader of The Times suggested 'jamming' the advertisements by a more powerful beam. Eventually the offenders desisted, after being informed that if they did not the necessary legislation would be sought.

For a modern version of the magic lantern, check out this film from the Graffiti Research Labs.
[Sent to me by Robin.]

Snap Shot City


My mate Anne and her global network of enthusiastic friends is putting on what looks to be an awesome event on the 29th September, wherever you are in the world.

Snap Shot City is a photographic treasure hunt / globally synchronised party.

It’s a game, it’s a party, it’s an experiment in community engagement. And best of all, it’s open to absolutely anyone with a digital camera and access to the Internet. On September 29, teams all round the world will hit the streets and photograph the cities they live in. Each team creatively interpreting 20 themes to capture Snap Shots of their city.

Players in more than 30 cities played last year and this year Snap Shot City is part of Come Out and Play, the urban games festival that grew out of PacManhattan, that's being held in Amsterdam in September.

Watch how much fun they had last year here and then go and sign up.

I hope I can get my camera fixed by then.