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December 2007

Posts from November 2007

Xmas Voucher


Perhaps things only become culturally significant once they've been re-appropriated.

The Christmas discount [e] voucher surfaced last winter, and made some news, and this year there has been a flurry of social coupons.

Then there was the hoax - a 60% off Gap voucher - and now we have this cheeky little spoof from the lovely people at digital strategy shop Hyper, offering 20% off:

"strategies relating to the sending of Christmas vouchers over the internet"

I've a soft spot for agencies making content without clients - agency generated content, if you will.

We Apologise for the Inconvenience


You'd think that Facebook, of all people, oops sorry I mean brands, would get always being in beta and could add a dash of charm to their 'we're down' page.

I'm increasingly coming to feel that charm is a crucial element to communication  in today's flat world.

The internet disrupts traditional notions of authority, government and brands, because of the increased access to information and the empowerment of having our own media and voice, which means that increasingly brands need to act like real people -  by being nice, polite, charming if possible.

We apologize [with the z - grrr - they can target you for advertisers based on what you had for breakfast but can't localise the spelling for the UK?]  for the inconvenience.


Sorry! Something has gone wrong and we're are trying hard to fix it. Why not spend this time getting some work done or talking to someone near you? [OK so that's very Why Don't You but you get the idea].

I'm probably just cross because I can't Facebook while eating my lunch.

If you can't either go read Iain's excellent analysis of why we marketing folk are so obsessed by it.

FOE 2: A Summary

[The man himself: Henry Jenkins]

I've jotted down a few highlights from the Futures of Entertainment 2 conference at MIT for Contagious Magazine, which you can read here.

The event was completely awesome - there was so many truly inspiring people there.

[I was totally overwhelmed - many thanks for the invite!]

It was recorded in exquisite detail by the MIT crew - you can read transcripts here - and has garnered a lot of comment, some of which you can find via this tag.

BeerSphere (FREE BEER)


I received my first "Merry Christmas!" on Sunday from a cab driver, who was also listening to carols in his cab in the hope of making it "less painful spending all that money". 

Lo! The season of good cheer is officially upon us.  So...


And we have a patron in the form of Beersphere enthusiast the lovely Neil from Only Dead Fish Swim With the Water, who has very kindly offered to misappropriate his corporate IPC credit card for the benefit of drunkenness and fun - thanks Neil!

The Time: Tuesday 4th December at 7pm
The Place: Back at the spirtual home of Beersphere - upstairs at the Commercial Tavern, 142-144 Commercial Street, just off Shoreditch High Street, E1 6NU.

Come one, come all, drink and be merry.

And don't give me any of that "but it's Tuesday!" nonsense.

Pull yourselves together- it's December and you work in advertising.

I Believe the Children are our Future


A while back I was doing this thing called the IPA Excellence Diploma, the culmination of which was a thesis on the FUTURE OF BRANDS.

I ended up writing about the newly participative idea consumer and transmedia planning and that, borrowing heavily from the thinking of Henry Jenkins and other great minds, on the back of which I picked up the President's Prize, which was pretty cool.

They've just published it in Campaign in the UK and I was intending to put it here first in its original form since so much of the thinking was crafted and honed here. But in the end I didn't get around to it.

There is definitely an irony in the fact that the paper preaches treating active online audiences differently, and usually first, that I didn't 'launch' it online.

Ah well.

Anyway - you can download it here - I'd be very interested to know what you think.

[You can get the published version here]

You can see all the other published papers here - enjoy. 

Cloverfield - Immersive Cinema


The full trailer for the new JJ Abrams film Cloverfield launched online yesterday.

It maintains some of those 'manageable gaps in knowledge' that triggered the flurry of excitement around the teaser a while back, but confirms a few elements that the web has been speculating about, such as the name of the movie.

It is already being dissected in detail by people looking to fill in some of the gaps.

It's a home grown American monster movie - the iconography of the headless Statue of Liberty roots it strongly in Americana - inspired by a visit to a Japanese toy store:

"We saw all these Godzilla toys, and I thought, we need our own monster, and not King Kong , King Kong's adorable. I wanted something that was just insane and intense."

The film is entirely shot on hand held digital video cameras - the conceit being that someone is using a camcorder when the monster strikes and then keeps filming.

By turning the principal character into a cypher, a vicarious POV, the film puts the viewer into the experience. This hyper-reality is further enhanced by the lack of recognisable stars and the ARG elements that are being built into it.

As the trends in entertainment continue to move towards more immersive experiences that blur the line between fiction and reality, devices that shorten the conceptual distance between narrative and audience will continue to develop.

[Thanks to Jesse for the head's up]

PowerPoint Art


[Copyright David Byrne - used without permission because it's cool]

PowerPoint is a medium - a vector for ideas - and as such it can be appropriated for aesthetic endeavours. In fact if you're a plannery type you have probably spent innumerable hours making beautiful slides because you know that how you say something can be as important as what you say.

But until I saw this from David Byrne it hadn't occurred to me that anyone would actually use it to make art.

I began to see PowerPoint as a metaprogram, one that organizes and presents stuff created in other applications. Initially, I made presentations about presentations; they were almost completely without content.The content, I learned, was in the medium itself.
[From a Wired piece years ago]

The medium is the message and that.

I'm hoping this will inspire me to make more beautiful slides, and not presentations about presentations.

Although if pop stars are making slides, perhaps we should try our hands at songwriting.

[via experiencefreak]



I'm 'liveblogging' from MIT's Futures of Entertainment Conference - which is very exciting.

I've promised to write it up for Contagious and so am under self-imposed embargo - but I don't think it hurts to post a few cool things that I've seen here and there. Content appetisers, as opposed to snacks.

Marc Davis - social media guru at Yahoo! and all round smart chap - showed us Tagmaps - a kind of geo-folksonomy that overlays weighted tags onto places, and then pulls pictures from Flickr with those tags up alongside the map view.

This example application displays mostly geographical tags, but you can combine geo-tags with other data sets to show, for example, the most popular movies in different regions, events that have happened there, the distribution of bird species etc etc.

The size of the tag reflects its importance as measured by a kind of pagerank - number of tags plus strength of tags.

It's like a user generated map of the world, showing what's important to people where.

Idea Immunity and the Meme War

So I posted about Preferential Looking, which led Andy to point me at this framework of intelligence, which suggests that that reason we fixate on the unexpected stimuli is because it doesn't conform to our predictive model of reality:

If your expectations about the door are violated, the error will cause you to take notice. Correct predictions result in understanding. The door is normal. Incorrect predictions result in confusion and prompt you to pay attention.

Prediction is not just one of the things your brain does. It is the primary function of the neocortex, and the foundation of intelligence. The cortex is an organ of prediction.

This reminded me of an idea previously mooted by Dan Dennet:

the fundamental purpose of brains is to produce future…brains are, in essence, anticipation machines

Which in turn led me to the above awesome TED video, where he points out that growing up in a free, meme-rich, culture leads us in the West to develop an immunity to ideas, and that the war on terror is really a meme war.

One thing leads to another.