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July 2008

Posts from June 2008

Advertising is the Medium or Distributed Broadcasting

Ad Media
Google just announced a deal with Family Guy [and American Dad, but that's basically the same thing] creator, Seth Mcfarlane, that will see Google be the exclusive distributor of his new animated creation.

Google will distribute the short animated clips via the Adsense network, to sites with a relevant audience - it's calling the new service the Google Content Network.

“We feel that we have recreated the mass media,” said Kim Malone Scott, director of sales and operations for AdSense.

Not a small claim - but GCN is certain to cause concern at the A and NBCs of the world.

This mechanism turns advertising into the medium. It reaches a huge, measurable audience, by distributing the content via hundreds or thousands of sites that host Google Ads.

It turns the broadcast advertising model upside and inside out. The content doesn't create the audience to sell it to advertisers - it goes out and finds its audience, via the advertising, using other people's content, that already has an audience. 

Or something.

A while back I posited that Google would creep into owning other media to extract maximum value from its ad platform. [It has already released Google TV and Print and Radio Ad networks.]

But perhaps I was thinking about this all backwards. It creates the ad network by aggregating eyeballs from sites all over the web, and that becomes the distributed broadcast medium.

Why own the media, when you can broker all the advertising and content using other media?

Which suggests a different model, a model that America loves - a market.

Enron, the fallen poster child of 90s corporate American, was ultimately a market - an energy market. It didn't make anything - it was the transaction medium.

In fact, it was market crazy. It loved to create trading platforms. It announced a market to trade broadband.

Then it created a market to trade the weather.

[This is true. You could trade finanical instruments - derivatives in fact. Futures. So speculative contracts based the fluctuations of other variables - in this case - THE WEATHER.]

I realise that comparing Google to Enron sounds absurd, at first glance. But it's not. Honest. 

[Enron was named Most Innovative Company in America by Fortune Magazine 6 years in a row - Apple holds the title at the moment, but Google is up there, and it won Most Innovative in Fast Company.]

The principle of being the market rather than a supplier or buyer is a sound one. When Enron launched EnronOnline, a web based trading market for commodities like power and gas, it was rapidly adopted by every major energy company in the deregulated US energy market.

That's why everyone loved them so much - suddenly if you wanted to do any business at all in the energy category, you had to do it with Enron.

[Enron used a bizarre and ridiculous accounting system and were very naughty - you can read all about it here.]

[The problem arose because of the way the market was structured - Enron was financially involved in every transaction - in essence you were always buying or selling off Enron - which meant costs were rising over time, as they took on more and more risks, but their revenues looked awesome, when accounted using aforementioned absurd mark to mark accounting, which enabled you to mark future revenues as though you already had them. Anyway, this is getting way off the point. Perhaps this whole Enron analogy was misguided.]

The [rapidly vanishing] point, is that the market is the house [to use a casino analogy] and the house always wins.

[Although this analogy is also flawed - unless you are talking about poker at the casino, where you pay a proportion to play, but the house isn't actually gambling itself. Oh I give up.]

Why own some media, when you can broker the ads to all the media?

After the Influence

Black Friars
So I'm going to be at this WARC Influence Conference thing next Thursday, 3rd July.

It's right by this pub called Black Friar, which I will no doubt go to afterwards. Like around 6 or 7pm or something.

So, we could maybe have a cheeky Beersphere there, if anyone else fancies popping down for a beer.

Is it sunny in London? I'm looking forward to being able to drink outside, they won't let you do that here.

Advertising for Agencies

Campaign Column
Campaign magazine asked me to write a couple of columns to fill in for Ian, so he could go on holiday.

In today's exciting episode, I point out that media agencies were notable by their absence from Cannes this year, even in the media category, which you'd think they would be ideally suited to enter.

[Although what constitutes a media idea, and how you separate that from a creative idea, is a whole discussion in and of itself.]

My point was though, as I realised when I was doing the Clio judging thing, that entry is almost as important as the idea itself.

Since most of the campaigns are from other countries, as a judge you may have never encountered the work, you have no idea how it resonated locally, whether people loved it and talked about, or simply ignored it.

The entry is all you have to go on - a short form video advert for an agency.

And traditional advertising agencies have quite a lot of experience making short form video adverts, whereas media agencies don't.

[I wonder if you could set up a meta agency, that just made case studies for other agencies.]

You can download the whole thing here.

[It's a pdf but you may need to rename the file and give it a .pdf file extension, as Macs seem to remove them]

In the piece I mention that media agency of the year was awarded to Forsman & Bodenfors, a creative agency. [Second and third place also went to creative agencies.]

But I said they were German, and Beata emailed me to point out that they are from Gothenburg in Sweden.


Selling Jesus

Strat Jesus
My mate Ahra just introduced me to the work of Jim Riswold, a former W&K creative director, who created some iconic work for Nike, who was diagnosed with leukemia and decided to start making iconic art - as in art made from icons, like Jesus and Hitler. He talks about why here.

He has a great site here, with his own jingle.

I like the strategic planner diagram of Jesus above.

I suspect there is probably scope to create hilarious planning diagrams and models, with or without religious figureheads.

O wait - there is.

Distributed Commerce


My mate Neil has just launched Ninjazoo - a t-shirt design website that allows you to design t-shirts [and remix designs others have uploaded] and then publish your shop to social media platforms like Fbook, Mspace and Tpad.

See above for the new line of TIGS branded merchandise [and you thought I was joking] - my TIGShirt arrived today.

This is a great idea for one of the same reasons I love the Orange Balloon Race that's running at the moment-

[Feel free to boost my balloon. His name is Misfit and you can find him here.]

- it understands that the web is the platform and that from here on in, identity is distributed.

Advertising Elegy

Who are your heroes?

My heroes are the people from whose thoughts and words I began to construct my own belief system, my world view.

The geniuses I stole from.

[World view is a calque [or stolen piece of linguistic genius] from German. They have this word Weltanschauung. It's a Teutonic concept that is quite useful so lots of languages, and philosophers, have stolen it. It basically means the framework of beliefs and ideas through which you perceive the world, how you parse reality.]

One of my heroes just died.

George Carlin was one of the great stand ups and thinkers of our time.

[If you haven't come across him: rejoice for there is much joy ahead of you should you seek out his work and despair that there is no more of it. However, you may remember him from such roles as Rufus in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. If you have never come across that, there is no hope for you.]

Alongside other charming iconoclasts like Bill Hicks and Kurt Vonnegut, Carlin is one of the people who helped me understand some of the things I believe to be important, who helped me piece together my stolen Weltanschauung. 

Above is Carlin's Advertising Lullaby - one of his most famous bits.

[His most famous was probably Religion is Bullshit - check it out here.]

Those of you that know Hicks and Carlin may also be aware that they reserved a significant portion of their hilarious but heartfelt vitriol for advertising. 

[Hicks implored marketing professionals to commit suicide immediately.]

For a long time I found this difficult to resolve with what I do.

I would use F. Scott Fitzgerald as my get out clause:

The art of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in mind at the same time while still retaining the ability to function.

I believe this is true.

[When someone seems very certain of the veracity of one side of a complex argument, I tend to look nervously for a conversational exit.]

But perhaps more importantly, I think we should consider the extreme views of advertising contained in the words of Hicks and Carlin, the critique of intent and tonality, and allow them to drive us to make it better.

Collusive Influence

Advertising And Consumers
I'm speaking at the WARC Advertising and Consumers Conference on July 3rd in London. It's all, loosely, about INFLUENCE.

WARC says:

The programme is based on our belief that the old linear communication models have broken down – in today’s multi-media world, no brand owner can rely on winning the hearts and minds of an increasingly sophisticated and sceptical audience which continues to fragment, tag, stop, save, share and skip.

The old marketing mindset of ‘control’ has had its day. Emerging in its place is a new mindset of ‘engagement and influence’.

There are loads of great speakers, like Mark and Toby and another Toby, so it should be interesting and fun, despite my involvement. [Full list here.]

[Mind you, according to George Parker he finds inspiration on TIGS, and I wouldn't argue with him - thanks George, I shall buy you that pint as agreed - I had better think of something inspiring to say now.]

I wonder about INFLUENCE.

I imagine Toby 1 will be talking about OMD's new Influence Planning model - I'm interested to see how they conceive of it.

The thing about influence is that intuitively I feel it only works if people don't think it is working, but secretly want it to. You can't persuade someone to do something they don't really want to do, at least a bit.

Ask a used car salesman. People HATE being sold too - it smacks of coercion, which disrupts our notions of rational autonomy.

But people LOVE having external justification for their own desires.  Or a reason to focus their desires in a world of infinite choice.

When we talk about influencing consumers, it seems to suggests that we, the commercial persuaders, exert some power over our targets that make them do things they don't want to do.

But I suspect they collude. They are our partners in persuasion.

[Those of you who have seen Derren Brown influence people to spontaneously commit armed robbery may disagree.

[If you haven't seen it - go watch.]

But he repeatedly points out in his work that hypnosis is basically just getting people to play along. Persuasion requires tacit collusion. It needs to be tacit, otherwise other parts of your brain get involved and shut things down. That's why suggestion works better obliquely. Perhaps the reason that, in all surveys ever, most people think that advertising doesn't work on them is because that's a requirement for it to work.]

Once I work out what I mean by all that, I shall talk about it at the conference.

Do come and say hi.

If you want to.

Stop Frame Row Your Boat

When Famous Rob got a job I think a warm glowing warming glow spread across the Plannersphere.

He just sent me an ad his new employers have made.

[CheethamBellJWT in Manchester - they have a cute website that speaks directly to prospective marketing director clients, in the voice of Alexi Sayle, reminding them of their famously short tenure in the role and the fact that their brand doesn't exist in the INTERESTING part of the world. 

I like it. It might be a bit impractical though.

[Maybe not though. I guess if there's a phone number, and a sense of the way they think, what more do you really need? Where does it say agency sites have to do the whole people, culture, work thing? Do CMOs ever really put agencies on the pitch list due to the work on their websites? I doubt this. I retract my impracticality comment] 

[Although to get to the phone number you do have to watch the whole thing.]

[Oh but wait - their Google listing has the contact name and phone number, so you don't. Good work.]

Normally, when I get sent loosely disguised press releases concerning new TV spots, I tend to ignore them. 

Sorry if you've sent me some, I don't mean to be rude, but they can often be as direct as:

Dear Blog, Post Our New TV Ad. This is eXclusive. To All of You. 

which doesn't tend to earn them much attention. 

[In fact it seems pretty rude to me. I retract my earlier apology.]

But this was famous Rob so I had a look. 

[Traditional PR people spend time building relationships with journalists, understanding their particular focus - should digital social hypermedia PR spambots do any less?] 

It seems like a nice enough spot. I don't think it will have the epic global viral reach of the classic Bear Fight, but that's a pretty high benchmark. 

So I asked Rob, tell me something awesome about this ad. 

It was shot entirely on Digital SLR photo cameras at 25 shots per second.

[A bit interesting.]

The boat was manually moved a few feet and the oars moved for each frame. We used three oars with various bits of blade removed so that they oars would appear to be in the ground.

[Also a bit interesting. Although I could have guessed that. ]

Once the initial idea was created, our CD remembered a video he had seen that was similar. Instead of doing what most agencies do and copy it; we found and hired the original director Gemma Burditt (just recently out of film school) for her first ever commercial shoot.

[Ah - he got me! Genius Steals but give the people credit.] 

Ways of Seeing

Ways of seeingNoah and I wrote this piece for the new issue of Contagious about visualisations.

It's called Ways of Seeing [this is a reference to an awesome book that my mate Paul lent me that I never gave back called Ways of Seeing. It came out in 1972, was based on a BBC television series of the same name and is amazing:  a discourse about the the inherent ideologies embedded in visual imagery.]

In the piece we look at a bunch of interesting data visualisations and quote a blog post by Ed Cotton:

in a data driven world, infographics are the new art

and go on to suggest that visualisations are only going to become more prevalent and interesting as more and more data and metadata is generated by every digital interaction:

In a world increasingly saturated with data, we will all need to develop new ways of seeing.

You can download the whole thing here.