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Posts from June 2009

Books And Fast Company


The Best Book in the World Book Shelf competition is now closed! The winner will be announced in a following post, once I get a chance to collate the list of best books as recommended by you.

[Feel free to keep contributing suggestions in the comments - I shall include them all]

In the meantime, I'm guest blogging over on Fastcompany all this week - first piece is about how language changes can tell us about what's important and Cannes....

Lions and Language and Geeks [Oh My]

Another piece will go up today. At some point. Once I write it.

And here it is.

Cultural Latency.

RFP or Digital Scavenger Hunt?


One of the my digital brothers in the network sent this my way.

[One of the cool things about being in a huge network is that we can share and learn from each other - I'm reaching out to my digital siblings across the world to see what genius I can steal.]

McCann Istanbul is pitching Turkish Airlines, and they got on to the pitch by finding the pitch brief at the end of a social media scavenger hunt.

Let me explain.

Turkish Airlines wanted to celebrate their love of digital, put prospective partners' love to the test, and, by exposing the pitch process to the world, turn the pitch itself into a teaser campaign, that positions the brand as part of NOW.

So, instead of issuing a traditional RFP, they sent some agencies a social media treasure map: the tag 'thybrief', surrounded by various social media logos.

So across platforms like flickr, tumblr and blogger, clues as to the whereabouts of the pitch brief were hidden.

The team in Turkey followed the clues and cracked the fact that there was a password in the HTML source code of the blog, which got them into the gmail account and google docs, where the pitch brief was waiting.


Like issuing a pitch brief via twitter, this suggests clients are looking to innovate in how they engage partners, and using social media to both facilitate and expose the process.

Lovely Rita Free To Careful Reader


A dude called Jamie from got in touch recently and said he would like you give one of you, the lovely and discerning readers of TIGS, an awesome piece of free furniture.

[This is what does - they sell sweet designery furniture and accessories and that - like this Knoll stuff.]

He seemed like a nice chap and I thought that seemed cool, so we're doing it. Now.

Here's the deal - I chose this bookshelf ribbon thing to give away because READING IS FOR AWESOME PEOPLE, and, you know, you are reading this right now.

In order to make this interesting / useful / fun for more than whoever wins, I thought I'd ask you guys to offer up a little something.

Don't worry it wont hurt, and I'll go first.

Since this is a bookshelf, I'd love for you to tell me, in the comments, what the best book in the world is.

This is obviously a horribly subjective question to answer, so don't think too hard about it.

I shall go first:

The best book in the world is....Stone Junction by Jim Dodge. It describes itself as an alchemical potboiler, and that works for me. If I could make everyone read one book, I'd make them read that.

You don't need a reason, and it can be any kind of book, but later I'll post the whole list of the best books in the world, and then everyone can read something that they otherwise wouldn't have known about.

It's like a TIGS version of the Amazon's recommendation engine, except someone also wins a free ribbon bookshelf. 


Terms and conditions are the is only one winner, decisions are final unless I change my mind, Allmodern will send the bookshelf directly to you, but this is only open to people living in the USA and Canada, because they can't ship stuff any further than right now.

But just because you can't win doesn't mean you can't contribute. In fact, if you do play and can't win, say so in the comments and I will personally send you something. Maybe a book.

Let's say the winner will be chosen and posted and that by Midnight my time next Monday, 29th June.

Best of luck!

I'm sad I can't win. I need a new bookshelf.

The Content Republic

Content Republic

I wrote this piece for the most recent issue [number 19] of the always wonderful Contagious Magazine.

[It's good - they kindly sent me a copy - and has a scary clown on the cover.]

It kind of grew out of my annoyance of people, including myself, saying Content is King too much, as thought it explained stuff:

Since the earliest days of what we used to call the information superhighway, a refrain has echoed across industries. A mantra, a koan, an aphorism of our age, that guides development and business models, that shows us all how to proceed, chanted regularly, religiously, by traditional media companies especially, and increasingly by technology companies.

Sing it with me:

‘Content is King!’

[Alliterative aphorisms are the second best kind, after those that (almost) rhyme.]

It's mostly about the fact that there are lots of business models that can support and monetise content, not just the two obvious ones [pay for it, or get ads around it].

In fact, I think what we mostly pay for is a way to make content more useful to us, either via storage medium, or timing, or context.

You can read The Content Republic here, and do let me know what you think, but the theme runs throughout the issue so get that for the full effect.

[This has been an unsolicited endorsement.]

I actually wrote it before Murdoch came out with his recidivist statements about charging for content online:

"The inchoate days of the internet will soon be over," Murdoch pronounced, citing an "epochal" debate in the industry. Having flirted with the idea of turning the Wall Street Journal website free before realising he had bought one of the world's few newspaper sites that makes money, Murdoch has come down in favour of online charging.

Now, whilst I love the fact he uses the word inchoate, he appears to have decided that the only business models that brand new exciting world of digital content can support are ones he already understands, which seems a little, well, shortsighted.

I think there will probably be room for lots of different models [like at a catwalk show] and that we don't probably know what they all are yet, but that there is probably something in making content more useful for people.

Most people can't really be bothered to steal stuff, if it's easier not to, within certain price elasticities, I imagine. In fact, I reckon there will be room for free, ad supported and paid for versions of the same content to mutually co-exist, based on context.

Of course, for advertising, one of the things to think about is that the internet is a great disintermediator, which means if we want we can connect consumers to brands without using the aggregated attention of paid for media.

But, as the media industry will tell you, it's a petrifying business where no one knows what is going to work and you have to invest in ten things in the hope that one will work.

But then, maybe that's not a bad model for us either.

Robbing Banksy

Great Artists Steal

I obviously couldn't let this go.

Banksy has created a recombinant art show by remixing the entire Bristol Art Museum with his own work.

Banksy versus Bristol Museum is, of course, a lovely example what Genius Steals is all about.

It does not mean copying is cool - this is what bad artists do.

However, all culture is, by definition, a comment on everything that came before.

[This is why artists are taught art history]

And all culture is inherently recombinant, at different levels of complexity.

We've covered this all before.

It's fundamental to the post-modern [and pseudo-modern] understanding of signs and meaning construction and that.

Anyway, Banksy gets it and he's consciously messing with idea: the name of the show is referencing the tropes of mashups and soundclashes.

And with the above, he's staking his claim to the idea, stealing it, but because the theft has been referenced, it has a different meaning than simply pretending he wrote it.

Herein lies the difference.

The difference between quoting somone and copying their line is that, with a quote you want the reader to know you are referencing something else, and using that reference for an additive effect.

Copying or cultural appropriation and commentary are divided by transparency, by intention and, ultimately, by the measure of greatness.

You can see more of the show here.

[Thanks to Joyce for sending my way]

Dreams of 2088

On Saturday I went to see The Hangover...

[I was going to go sea kayaking but hey, it rained. Whatever. It's awesome. The movie I mean. Not the rain. Although I have nothing against rain. It's awesome in its own way.]

...and I saw this trailer. It's wonderful. And then I saw that it was in fact a trailer for some web films Honda is doing, with leading thinkers from within and without, and I was blown away.

I write, and think, about the future a lot. I'm a stated meliorist, and think its incumbent on all of us to think about the future when things are changing this fast, because thinking about the present stops being relevant so very quickly.

But getting people to think about 2088 is a lovely piece of projective legerdemain. It's impossible to attempt any realist projection of course, but allows you to totally free your mind from the shackles of possibility.

It moves the conversation away from when will the recession end and towards the realm of dreams.

The responses show the various interests of the minds involved [including Mitchell Joaqium, who spoke at SpringFest] and subtly makes the point that the future is built with the power of dreams, and that Honda are working on it right now.

It's part of a series of documentary films about Honda, and things that are important to the people at Honda:

Honda is a company founded by a dreamer. And we are a company that believes in the Power of Dreams.

Honda has a rich history of making impossible dreams come to fruition....

We wanted to document our advancement as a company through film to give you a better understanding of the people behind our products. Please join us as we uncover Honda through the candid approach of the documentary film process.

The language they use is telling.

This is an accelerating world. Brands are like sharks - if they don't keep moving, they die. So a company like Honda has to communicate that it is constantly advancing.

This is a social world, and social stuff is about people, especially the people inside your company connecting to the people outside it.

This is a transparent world and the tropes of documentary are being used to create transparency in a very, very controlled way, to dispel the illusion of illusion that is created by the social construct / meaning of 'advertising'.

{Of course, this documentary film IS advertising, but that's not how it chooses to describes itself.}

Raving = Lots of People Copying Each Other

Appropriately enough, Mark, the Herdmesiter himself, turned me on to this clip last week. It's been popping up ever since.

What does it show us?

That people love to copy other people.

That one person [or thing] can change behavior, if persistent, because it doesn't happen right away, and if the actions, and the copying, are visible to enough people.

That raving, like a lot of group behavior, is lots of people copying each other according to local rules.

That we are far more likely to do something, the more people we see doing it.

[Watch as the crowd increases in size, and then imagine the curve. See?]

[9 out of 10 cats]

That we love to be social, love to be in groups, love to create groups and be involved in their creation, but need something, or someone, to hold the group together.

That's there's something euphoric, and perhaps liminal, in taking part in group behaviours like this.

That raving up hills can be brilliant.

Laughter is Behavioral Medicine

The problem with using the generic ad narrative structure 'extreme consequences' with public service ads is that, usually, it shows you the truly horrible things that could actually happen, rather than the ridiculous results of either getting or not getting a specific product.

And this tends to turn me right off.

In fact, in order to protect myself from the possible reality that my behavior may be engendering in the future, I switch over when I see most smoking cessation advertising.

They scare me, make me feel uncomfortable, and so to avoid confronting that possible truth, I cognitively disengage and make a joke about doing so.

[I've since quit smoking. It's hard. Changing behavior is really hard. Habits are incredibly powerful. The trigger > behavior mechanism are powerful. Ask P&G - they love creating habits, if they can.

A friend who is a doctor told me, very directly, TO STOP. Normally doctors advise you - my mate just TOLD ME outright. Which I seemed to take seriously - although there were loads of contextual factors, like my impending birthday.

And, in fact, I think the reason I really did is because my brain loves that story of how it happened that I just told you. We love stories, especially myths we can create about ourselves.]

Humour is a very powerful human emotion and driver of behavioral change, according to my mate Adam, who's a psychologist as well as a brand thinker.

And this makes sense to me.

As I've discussed before, humor works primarily around the idea of
disrupted expectations: the deviation from the expectation is what causes our brains to find something funny, often by exploiting the ambiguities of language, and the expectancy violation makes us pay attention and disrupts our existing model of the world, which aids memory formation as the model re-writes itself, and in that moment, perhaps, allows a behavior to be modified.

Add into this fact that most public service ads use guilt and shock, ones that use humor add in another layer of disruption, like these Oxfam ads from a couple of years ago.

Which is why I like this World Blood Day ad from Australia my mate Swanno just sent me.

Like any joke, it all comes together in the punchline.

Talking Bout My Generation

Panasonic has just launched it's 2009 iteration the Next Generation Talent contest - a campaign that challenges students to create a television ads [or film that will be distributed online and via television, but you get the idea] for their HD Home Hub products.

All well and good. They site has the details and a proper brief and a twitter to follow and everything.

They've announced this year's contest via the web film above. And it's pretty funny - it's just kind of depressing.

Now, don't get me wrong - I don't feel I have quite enough gray hair to be terribly concerned about my imminent obsolescence in a world and business I no longer understand.

I've been quite bullish in my support of children being the future and that - I even presented the student Clio Awards and was delighted by the ubiquity of technology in the winning ideas.

And there's some of the classic shock of recognition triggered by caricature.

[In some ways it's both flattering and low latency that the flash mob ad is now mentioned in the same breath as the gorilla.]

[And, to avoid being hoist upon my own petard, I advocate cultural recombinance, not copying ideas from other ads.]

It's just that the emotional core of this attempts to tap into advertising's seemingly endless capacity for self loathing, and I find that really depressing.

I don't think we need to be so down on ourselves. Advertising, or brand communication if even the word has become tainted for you, is one of the pillars of popular culture. It pays for events, and media, and museums, and is at the confluence of anthropology, psychology, media, technology and business.

At its best it brings people together, and gives them something to do, and finds ways to make their lives easier, and happier, which is something I can get behind.

And even at its worst, it means that you don't need to pay for basic cable.

People like buying stuff. And they like buying branded stuff more. Brands seem to create symbolic value constructs around boring everyday products, that somehow make them more than boring and everyday, in a way that seems to warrant people paying more for them, more frequently.

In fact, the brandgram seems to trigger a different physical consumption experience, an emotional or ritual aspect to the otherwise functional experience, that people seem to like enough that it sways what their tastebuds otherwise say.

And, best of all, it's a professional, proper grown-up business where the wearing of sneakers and the having of silly hair is welcomed.

So, especially now, can we all try to be a bit more upbeat about this business we call brands?