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October 2008

Posts from September 2008

Not Members Only

Since the Google Project has been on my mind, I've started noticing the Amex Members Project, which is a GOOD THING in the same vein.

In its second year, I just noticed the montage TV spot above.

[Anything with Muppets attracts attention. See these excellent Muppet commercials for more proof. You couldn't borrow better interest.] 

It's a lovely film, nice self-aware filmic conceit with frame running past the screen, which makes sense since Amex celebrity spokesmen as so often involved in film, and the project is A GOOD THING.

Members [and anyone willing to give up their info] can suggest and vote for ideas that Amex will finance to make a positive impact on the world.

Let's turn this into the important advertising trend of 2009.

Forget mobile marketing, let's do GOOD THINGS.

Be Nice or Leave

[This is the motto of the Tractor Tavern]

A couple of weeks back Adrian and Dino tagged me in a social media 'bestest practices in social media' meme.

I think I've cracked it.

Here it is:


The trick to social media is in the name - it is inherently SOCIAL. So, if you want to operate in social media, you have to act socially.

Herein lies the problem.
Companies are not social. Companies are commercial. They have explicitly, and some would argue exclusively,  commercial objectives:

The social responsibility of a business is to increase its profits. [Milton Friedman]

As I mentioned before, Dan Ariely has made some really interesting observations about this.

Specifically, any introduction of commercial grammar into a social grammar situation, the social grammar norms are overwritten. The mere mention of money changes the framework of the conversation.

[Try offering someone who has just cooked you a lovely meal 10 dollars as a thanks you and see how quickly market norms supersede the social norms you have been operating within thus far.]

There is, therefore, an inherent contradiction here: commercial entities wish to operate socially to further their commercial objectives.

This is possibly why companies find it so hard to act socially and, by extension, in social media. You have to do it without any thought to immediate financial return, which is simply not how companies act.

They are not set up to BE NICE, but if you want to play in social media you have to act like a person and BE NICE. This means being cheerful and polite and charming and fun and caring about other people and all that sort of thing.

Adrian points out an aspect of this paradox - influence cannot be bought, only earned, within social media.

I recently gave a talk at a WARC conference about earning influence in social media, so I'll post about that next.

[Whoa. An exciting cliff hanger ending.]

UPDATE: James thinks brands should BE NICE too. I probably stole the idea from him. Let's start a movement. Finding ways that brands can BE NICE and MAKE MONEY.

UPDATE UPDATE: I haven't written the earning influence thing yet. I will. Yet another exciting cliff hanger ending.]

The More the Merrier

To celebrate their 10th birthday [10 years from 2 guys and an algorithm to masters of the universe] Google have announced Project 10100

The project is crowdsourcing for positive change: anyone can submit an idea to help the world and the one that Google thinks will help the most people, they will fund with $10 million. It's an audacious and excellent way to celebrate Doing No Evil for ten years. 

I think all advertisers should do this. Right now. Every single one. Take $10 million of your advertising budget and steal the idea and help change the world. I mean it.

Go on. You know you want to. You will feel much better about yourself.

Google is one of the most advanced corporate communicators in the world, they just happen to do it without advertising. Instead of campaigns they very strategically launch products - Gmail went into live beta on April 1st with 1GB of free storage, triggering a flurry of conversations wondering whether it was a hoax - and initiatives like this. They are constantly creating NEWs.

The birthday site also hosts some great essays on the FUTURE and user stories about how you use Google, designed to demonstrate just how instrumental the search engine is in our lives and our future.

Touch Yourself More

120 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every day in the UK. One of the biggest problems is that people don't check themselves regularly - early diagnosis greatly increases your chances of being cured.

So Cancer Research have launched a new campaign to encourage women to touch themselves more, using a male stand in.

I think they missed a trick here.

If you want to increase manual mammograms you need only to tap into existing behaviour - hinted at in the video - by encouraging men to perform the checks.

Sarah Silverman explains:

When you take a shower with a guy, it's a proven fact that by the time you get out, your tits will be sparkling clean.

But adding in a little humour to sweeten a serious message is usually a good idea if you want people to pay attention and not cognitively disengage out of fear.

Killing Kittens

Channel 4 in the UK [it's weird that I now feel I need to say "in the UK" when talking about things that are in the UK] have just launched a youtube / funnyordie for animation called

Appropriately, it takes it's design cues from rathergood and B3ta - kittens and that - and it's smooth. It encourages animators to contribute with the smell of cash rewards  and the chance to get yourself spotted.

I like the social media PR kit, which they call the 'goody-bag'. Although couching the blog viral mechanisms as gifts is a little cheeky, they did put some thought into it - the game above is cute blog widget that encourages you help kittens kill themselves.

[Hence, killing kittens. It was not a reference to the "network for the world's sexual elite" by the same name. Look it up, I'm not linking to them, they must be geeks since they are referencing a euphemism mired in intergeekery.]

Easy PC

Last night I watched some actual television, with the commercial breaks and everything.

So I saw the new Microsoft ads from CP&B about 14 times over the course of a couple of hours.

[Ad frequency in the USA is truly staggering.]

I had the weirdest experience: I could feel my feelings towards Microsoft changing, subtly, each time the commercial shamelessly, blatantly, tugged at my heart strings. I felt, perceptibly, that I liked PCs a little more.

I thought about my Sony Windows laptop, lying neglected, forlorn, in the other room and felt perhaps I should boot it up.

My brain began to reverse engineer my previous memories, eroding the evil empire positioning, re-positioning it as one of a number of perceptions, distancing it from being my belief.

This was an odd feeling.

Each time the ad washed over me I felt a little more part of a PC world, one that I have only recently in fact moved away from.

I started to feel connected to that girl with glasses and that guy who sells fish and the dude with the beard and Bill and Pharrell.

[Not Deepak Chopra though - his fusion of Indian mysticism and garbled expressions from quantum mechanics peddled as healing and self help gets my goat.]

And each time I became more aware of the sensation itself at a different level, at a stage removed as I wondered how this was working and considered the strategy sitting behind it.

[Speaking of misappropriating Indian mysticism] This reminded me of an Indian meditation concept called Vipassana. It's a meditation that allows you be aware of what you experiencing, an awareness of the experience one stage removed, via introspection and that.

I had that, but with ads.

As Eric points out, the campaign is inclusive - most people are part of the PC world already. They just need a little something to let them feel proud about it.

I even liked the Seinfeld ones.

Part of what CP&B are so good at is changing, or re-framing, the conversation around the brand.

Projective Predictions

Markets are predictive. Securities are valued by the market with an eye to future growth potential. Discounted cash flow analysis puts a risk rate on potential future earnings over time, discounting it to arrive at a present value to ascertain the investment potential of companies.

[This doesn't mean they are always right - it just means they reflect what the collective considers to be the future. However, markets make actions visible, and thus suffer from information cascades, which can cause bubbles.]

In the Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki demonstrated that, under certain key conditions [including independence, which means the actions can't easily influence each other, which helps prevent information cascades] groups of people working individually for their own interests are very good at predicting how many beans are in jars and how much bulls weigh and lots of other things that you can assign values to.

Prediction markets are a way to leverage this ability: they are speculative markets built to make predictions - the Hollywood Stock Exchange is one of the most famous and successful.

IQ has written a whitepaper which looks how we might apply prediction markets to advertising pre-testing.

[His Long Tail of Branding paper won the WPP Atticus Award, so you know Sorrell digs it.]

The paper has a great round up of the current cristicims of advertising pre-testing and offers an alternative which would be effective in certain contexts, depending on the objective of the research.

I especially like it as the methodology addresses the I'm Special bias by asking consumers to model the responses of others, something I think is a good idea.

We are much better at understanding others than we are at understanding oursevles.

Alternate Reality Films

Tropic Thunder is a nested film: there's a movie within a movie within a movie.

There's a good analysis of the many layers of reality being presented here: the film, the film within the film, the mockumentary, and then, closest to reality, the 'viral' above.

[It's also a wonderful comment on 'viral' films and creating them for a stereotypically disaffected teenager.]

The play within the play device has been around as long as drama, the story within the story for as long as stories.

In literary terms, the mis en abyme is a device that allows for the interplay between different levels of narrative, and projects outwards to comment about the audience, who by definition are spectators of a narrative, as the characters within are watching the play inside the play.

You know, like in Hamlet: the play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king and that. There's something about the relationship between audience and narrative that's being examined, the way each can affect the other.

Anyway, it seems that increasingly this sort of layering is being used to blur the lines between the fiction and the real world, to intertwine elements of reality into the narrative and vice verse. However it's done with a nod and a wink to the viewer, who is traversing different narrative levels and knows that Ben Stiller isn't really playing Ben Stiller in the video above. Somehow the trappings of reality are satisfying - they flesh out the narrative world of the movie.

We know they aren't real, but we like it when they go to greater lengths to pretend that that are - it rewards our suspended disbelief.



PSFK are putting on one of their delightful conferences for Asia, out of Singapore on the October 10th.

I've spoken at a couple of these, in London and NYC, and had a lovely time at both.

There are some top speakers, including the always opinionated Rob Campbell - I'd go to see him by himself - and Colin Nagy, whose history of techno was a highpoint of the recent InterestingNYC.

Sonal Dabral is up as well - I met him in Santa Fe: he was one of the TV judges at the Clios and is well worth listening to [He also dances a mean samba].

Of all the conferences, PSFK feels the most like a meet up. It too is using the internet to get off the internet.

I've met some lovely people at PSFKs, hung out with George and Charles and Ruby and Hugh and various others I had only known virutally before and been delighted by their reality and epic drinking ability. I've met entirely new people, many of whom could also drink well.

And hell it was fun.

People are awesome. People who are into the same things you are into are especially awesome.

So go hear some interesting people talk about things they care about and meet some nice people to go drinking with.

Tickets available here.

D&AD 2046

World Survives

A long time ago I had to do some creative writing for the IPA Diploma thing.

I had pretty much forgotten about it, but a comment Nick left on the a previous post reminded me of it.

So I thought I'd post it.

It's about the future of the industry and that. I'm pretty bullish on things being awesome. In fact, one of the things I made up has already happened.

[This is way, way beyond the impact horizon. But it is fun.]


The best creative work in the world is being celebrated as the results from the first round of judging of the D&AD Global Awards are released on the Grid.

This year 895 entries from the 6,405,000 received from 75 nations will be included in The D&AD Annual Show 2046, being held predominantly in a bespoke virtual space, with Grid-linked dinner ceremonies at 12 key hubs.

Since the turn of the century the awards have gone from strength to strength as the categories for inclusion have been forced wider and wider by prevailing cultural currents.

The content explosion of 2010s, when the launch of the Apple iCreator series of workstations entirely democratised the means of content production, enabling anyone with an idea to easily produce professional quality expressions of it, triggered a creative arms race between consumers and advertisers.

Awash in an ocean of free non-commercial content, consumers continued to screen out interruptive advertising, threatening the media supply business model in the process.

Brand communicators began to explore new areas of content enhancement; ploughing trillions into technology and neuroscience R&D, they began to offer consumers value-added experiences they couldn’t get from the Mymedia producers.

This year’s nominees, vying for the rarely bestowed Iridium Pencil, demonstrate the array of creativity now employed to sell products. The most nominated work is the global phenomenon Love, the immersive brand experience crafted by dotinfinity for Coca-Cola.

This psycho-sexual role playing game uses non-invasive electrical stimulation to generate primary emotional and pleasure responses in the users, known as Lovers, who maintain that the sensations in the game are as potent as anything experienced in real relationships.

The first feature film designed and produced in entirety as advertising has also been nominated. The film, Nike’s Just Do It, features the ever youthful Metaman alongside avatar actors created by W&K for the movie.

This year’s surprise design hit is the Sony Connected Identity LCD skin print. Every wearer is Grid-linked and the liquid crystal tattoo responds to any changes in the network. Design collective Umbilical created the must have fashion item.

This year also sees the first entry from the agency Artificial Life. The 60 second brand film is a heart warming slice of life for Persil. Their entry hearkens back to an earlier, simpler age in both form and content, which is surprising since the agency is made up entirely of 9th generation artificial intelligences.