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Posts from December 2007

Most Contagious


The awesome people at Contagious have delivered their festive greetings this year in the useful form of a round up of everything cool that happened this year, in the Most Contagious  / 2007.

It is most excellent. Ahem.

As you and I know, it's technology that drives change and, as Contagious points out, 2007 was an astonishing year for technology developments, the impact of which we really have no idea about as yet.

If you don't get technology, you just don't get the world anymore.

The geek shall inherit the industry.

Open Innovation


I feel like I should have known about this before, but I don't think I did.

P&G's Connect + Develop programme [interesting that they didn't use the ampersand for C+D...or perhaps it's not], is an open invitation to take ideas into P&G, a bit like Dell's Ideastorm but the P&G scope is a bit wider - they are looking for innovation around any area of their business:

Packaging, design, marketing models, research methods, engineering, technology, etc. — that would improve our products and services and the lives of the world's consumers.

The future is open and I'm often impressed by how P&G embrace new thinking. They are looking to collaborate, buying into the idea that noboody is smarter than everybody, and they have a number of briefs on the site that they are looking for help with.

As they point out, P&G make a formidable partner.

Interim Times


When VOIP first hit the bottom of the hype cycle, I had a bunch of conversations knelling the death of the mobile network.

It was a pretty simple thought: peer to peer VOIP is free over the internet. So, if you had a handset that was WiFi enabled with a VOIP client installed, you could make calls [to anyone else that had a VOIP client on a handset or otherwise] for free, if you could find a free WiFi hotspot.

Now, this obviously didn't happen for several reasons, mostly because it is a massive threat to the mobile networks primary revenue stream and they own the consumer relationship, not handset manufacturers, especially in the subsidised UK.

WiFi still ain't free, mostly, although we are gradually moving towards it.

And not enough people are on Skype, which is necessary for the network effect [Metcalfe's Law] to kick in and make it really useful.

Having said that, some nice dudes sent me the new 3 Skype phone to play with. 

First of all, let's talk about the 3mobilebuzz for a second. This is clearly an 3 agency blog, developed as part of a social media outreach programme.

But that's not a problem - that's a good thing - because it's been done well, it primarily looks to aggregate conversations from around the web about the new handset, it's updated regularly, it's pretty open about its affiliation [3mobilebuzz is sponsored by 3. Comments and opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of 3] and they sent me a free phone, having read the blog and being very polite and personal and so on.

Now then, the handset. Like the O2 Cocoon before it, 3 have developed this handset themselves [since 3 have historically had issues getting hold of the best handsets this strategy makes a lot of sense, as does the Skype branding on the phone] and very nice it is too.

It follows the dominant technology aesthetic of our times, the imprint of Jonathan Ive's ergonomic whiteout - it's iPod like.

[It is perhaps a measure of how important this design is - anything that that is white now, especially but not only technology, can be described as iPodesque].

The phone does all the stuff a phone should do nowadays: take pictures with 2 million tiny dots in them, wake you up in the morning, send a 160 characters of text, and connect to the internet: the launcher application is a cool little web menu that takes you straight to facebook / youtube / google /ebay/ Msn Messenger - which is much easier that the still bizarrely annoying web mobile interface most phones seem to have. [Can someone please explain this to me]

And you can make Skype calls, using a data connection to the network. So it still costs you some money, but nothing like the obscene international phone rates that networks charge.

So, if you make phone calls to people in other countries regularly, you should already be using Skype, and this is an ideal phone as it combines the functions you want.

I've said before we live in accelerated times. And it's true - the world's technology has never advanced so quickly. But as I said in that post, it also leads to this constant awareness of what is to come just around the corner:

One of the cultural effects of this absurd acceleration we are currently experiencing is what I can only describe as this incredible weight I feel pushing back on us from the future. It's almost as though we are feeling the pressure from the future to catch up, which is what I think contributes to our fascination with what is to come and the existence of futurology as a science, of sorts.

It's this that I think also leads to the whole transhuman movement, and the obsession we have as planners with being 15 minutes ahead of culture.

In some ways we live in Interim Times - between yesterday and what we can always see just out of reach on the horizon. I blame Tomorrow's World.

Although we've always done this [50s futurology is famous for its depiction of robotic households - reflective more of the domestic obsession than the technology of the time] it's far more pronounced now as you can literally see things leaping forward, one iPod generation to the next.

This 3Skype phone, on it's web 2.0 reflective base [see picture], is the ideal device for these Interim Times, straddling the gap between the legacy mobile networks and pervasive internet future, whichever technology eventually allows us to blanket the world in bandwidth, which will completely change the way telephony works and is paid for, the kind of disruptive upheaval that destroys, and creates, entire industries in its wake.

But, in the interim, the 3Skype does a good job.

[UPDATE: There's been a comment discussion about the how free something is if you have to use the network for data calls - 3Mobile Buzz clarify the issue - it is completely free to use Skype - as in no data charges - as long as you've got credit on your phone.]

Creative Created Content


Most UGC 'please make us an ad' campaigns are pretty misguided. 

Whilst I'm all about the culture of participation, the idea that making films is the apotheosis of creativity and thus the core engagement substrate for growing a bed of brand advocates is probably a reflection of myopia rather than progression.

Not everyone wants to make films, or ads. People who want to make films, or ads, [or, as Iain has pointed out, other agencies [possibly looking to steal the account]] do.

That said, it's not necessarily important that everyone does;  you can leverage the creative classes and make a statement about your newly democratic brand if you do it well, and put the results on TV and that.

Anyway, my initial reaction to such initiatives now is usually akin to the rolled eyes of a bored blind date as you announce your intention to take him/ her to Pizza Express.

Which is why I thought I'd mention the Anne Summers Viral Academy, because I seem to quite like how they are running it, which surprised me.

The lovely, and rather cunning, people at communication strategy shop Good Stuff have convinced their client they don't need a creative agency and instead have set up a freelance creative roster, for people who would like to create some transmissible sexual ideas.

I like this because it understands what I said earlier - the people who want to make films are people who want to make films:

We don’t retain a creative agency; instead we welcome ideas from talented creative people who contact us directly. These are people who want to bolster their show reel with some advertising that will be seen by millions.

However the ideas we get are not in response to a specific brief – are not necessarily true to our brand values or business objectives. We have created the Ann Summers viral academy to formalise the process.

So if you're a creative team or filmmaker, head over and have a look. You've got until Christmas Eve to register, and about 100 teams already have, giving Anne Summers a very large creative department to issue briefs to, without having to pay a creative agency retainer.



Content and media are weird words.

They are the antonymic binary stars that all our industries circle around, feeding of the energy they pump out into culture.

They don't really exist without each other. Even in the very specific sense in which we use the words, they are both defined by what they are not.

A medium is a vector for content.

Content is that which is mediated.

Without a medium, there is no content.

Without content, you have no media.

Content might be king [or even possibly a kaiser] but all that really means, and has ever meant, is that people like stuff more than the absence of stuff.

Less facetiously, people like ideas. We live off them. We literally define ourselves by our ability to have and to hold them. But with ideas we hit another semantic issue - there is no other word in philosophy that has quite as many different flavours to it. 

I don't mean big ideas, innate ideas, platonic ideas or anything like that. Let's just say stuff in your head.  The desired result from any communication interaction. I have stuff in my head, I want to put it in yours.

Content/media is a way to do that over time and space and to many heads all at once.

Stories are one of the oldest ways of doing that. Stories survive because they are either entertaining [man's life is ugly, brutish and short, and we tend to like anything that takes our mind off that] but also because they are useful.

Originally that useful meant 'and lo did ugggg eat of the purple bush and verily did he die' [I'm doubt  that australopithecus used a bad Shakespearean register but you get the point] but later that came to be useful in the sense of telling us something about ourselves.

We are meaning seeking creatures. We think and therefore we wonder. And wondering very quickly leads us to some big [so far] unanswerable questions that underly existential despair.

So we craft myths that place us in a larger setting, and thus give us the sense that our lives have meaning.

John Lennon said "reality leaves a lot to the imagination" and stories  help resolve the contradiction between the  different kinds of human experience, physical and mental, providing our lives with a metanarrative that helps us explain ourselves to ourselves.

Brands have a similar cultural function, that allows us create and manipulate meaning in the commercial culture we operate within. As science overtook myth as the dominant paradigm for understanding the world, the importance of myths in our culture began to fade, leaving a gap we capitalists began to unconsciously fill with commercial icons, that became the myths that are brands.

Western culture is the child of logos [the opposite of mythos in Hellenistic tradition, it represents science and fact].  Without myths to provide context and meaning, we created our own around the newly powerful forces of consumerism.

Logos led us to logos.

Myths are stories that can be told in innumerable different ways without losing their core meaning. Just like brands. And right now we are learning some new ways of telling the same stories, updating the form to adjust for the current climate, which is the way it has always happened.

So, perhaps, if we can't work out how to tell these stories in a relevant way, we'll die.

Or, as an industry, we'll evolve.

Just like during the Cambrian explosion, lots of new kinds of brand meme carriers are going to try and find a niche to inhabit.

And lots of new kinds of agency will be born and some will die.

But some will survive and thrive.