Previous month:
June 2009
Next month:
August 2009

Posts from July 2009

Help! I'm In The Window

Help i can't sleep

Help Remedies is a start up championing what I think of as friendly pharma.
They bring a conversational directness to painkillers and that, reminiscent of Innocent Drinks in the UK, but with a style all of their own.

They are there to help if you have a minor cut or headache, and strip out all the scary stuff from their products, which is nice and their new website is equally simple and charming.

They've just got distribution at Ricky's Stores in New York.

As a small brand just starting out in the world, without a corporate parent to pay for her coming out party or buy her shelf space, they had to think about how to earn the attention they couldn't afford to buy.

This meant creating installations in each of the Ricky's stores. Because they don't have budgets to play with, this meant doing it themselves ['Ironically', some of the Help dudes hurt themselves installing the windows].

The installations are charming and fun, highlighting specific products in creative ways - and very very different in tone and strategy than anything you would expect from a traditional healthcare company.

One of the things I particularly like is the portfolio approach they have taken to maximize the chances of spread.

As I've mentioned before, there is simply no way to predict what will spread, which is why record labels and movie studios work to a hit investment model where 9 out of 10 films will flop, but one will make enough to cover the rest and turn and profit.

As I've also mentioned before, this seems like a very sensible model for brand advertisers to consider.

Make ten things and see which one spreads.

And this is exactly what they've done.

They have 9 radically different installations: a man walking on a treadmill in high heels to promote 'Help I have a blister' at Ricky's in Soho; a political comment about universal healthcare on 8th St; a live sleeping demonstration on 13th to promote 'Help I can't sleep'.

Lovely stuff.

I can only hope their next move is to release an unofficial mashup of The Beatles' 'Help!' and The Black Crowes 'Remedy'.

What's New?

London int

Quick note to remind you that the deadline for the London International Awards is fast approaching - it's just been extended to Aug 17th - so get your entries in stat!

[Stat, which is what they say in hospitals when they want something done fast, is short for statim, the Latin for 'At once' - your friendly neighborhood etymologist.]

And thanks for your help picking the NEW jury - you can see I did indeed choose from your suggestions.

KickStart an Album (Creativity is a Process)

KickStarter is a funding platform website thing for artists, designers, musicians, filmmakers and other creative types to fund specific creative projects. It's not an investment vehicle, you don't get to own a share of whatever is made. Instead, the creators offer special incentives to donate money to their cause in a way that leverages their talents and helps them progress their project.

An example, by way of illustration.

My mate Allison Weiss is a singer songwriter who is crowdsourcing the funding for her album using KickStarter.

She's a very charming young citizen of the internet who is carving out a music career without any involvement from record labels.

She creates her own videos - she trained as a graphic designer - and uses Tumblr and Twitter to share her life with her fans.

Because she has a direct relationship with people that she has developed online, she has thus far raised $6000 to record an album.

And if you donate, depending on your donation level, she will create specific things for you.  Pledges of $50 get a name check in the sleeve notes, $500 will get you your own song.

Billboard recently picked up on what Allison was up to - and if you donate now [the deadline is the 1st August] she may hit her new target before the final countdown.

One of the very disruptive things the Internet does to the media business is radically disrupt the economics of content.

The hit-driven portfolio investment economics can be supplanted by the engagement audience collaboration model espoused by artists like Allison, who nurture their fan base, creating genuine relationships with people, who are then willing nay happy to fund her creative endeavors.

But another awesome thing it does is expose the fact the creative things are not really things. Especially with a digital creative thing, it is perhaps better thought of as a process.

Imogen Heap is another artist using Twitter to open up the process of recording an album to her fans, bringing them into the process, seeking their input on the process, giving them collaborative ownership of the process.

[Wired Magazine referred to this as 'Tapping the Hive Mind' in the most recent issue, which brings all kind of weird images to my mind.]

The process is, in itself, interesting. And that process has gaps, that allow people to include themselves into it in different ways, something I've previously suggest might be a good model for certain kinds of advertising.

The viewing audience likes things, the doing audience likes processes.

Post Web: Wind Tunnel

Virtual Wind Tunnel for Audi from Apex on Vimeo.

My mate Neil did one on this interactive wind tunnel installation for Audi.

This is what he says about it:

This was an installation for Audi at the Goodwood Festival of Speed made in collaboration with HMC Interactive. I was responsible writing the software for this project. It is a smoke simulation written in C++ using OpenFrameworks. It uses OpenCV for computer vision. To get a decent frame rate, it was necessary to update the particle system on the GPU using GLSL shaders.

[This is how real geeks explain stuff to each other.]

[The track little fluffy clouds brought a nostalgic grin to my face.]

I've been thinking about installations a lot. I think there's a lot we could learn from them.

See, with an interactive installation, it has to be obvious and fun.

It has to grab you right off and make you pause and want to spend time with it.

It has to explain what it is and how it works without saying anything [this is a property known as affordance].

It has to create an experience around a person.

In fact, it's only complete, in some ways, when a person is inside it and using it - the person, the user, the audience, the multiplier, the consumer if you won't, is a necessary and active component of the system.

Not so much WYSIWYG as What You Do Is What You See. Or Something.

Anyway, I suspect that all of these properties should also be included in brand related experiences of all kinds, especially those aimed at the participatory audience.

For the new idea consumer, everything is interactive.

If the first era of the web consisted primarily of the transposition of other media formats to it, and the 2.0 era reflected the fact that everything should be considered a cultural collaboration of sorts, then perhaps the 3rd is when we take the things the web has taught us about how people consumer and create ideas and export them back to other media, back into the world outside the screens.

As Neil likes to say - its Post-Web.

[See more of his stuff here.]

Playground in America

[I feel I should warn you that this clip is from a documentary film concerning the commercial sexual exploitation / abuse of children in the USA.

I even considered for a while whether I should post it here.

But that's also kind of the point.]

Last night I went to a film screening at the awesome Meet at the Apartment [thanks to the lovely Marc and Sara for organising].

I'd had a Monday. You know what they feel like. I was all stressed and that.

And then I watched this film and had perspective rudely thrust upon me.

The document Playground In America was conceived [to use an oddly loaded term in this context - see how uncomfortable this kind of thing makes us, makes me] when film maker Libby Spears was investigating the international sex trade.

On a fund raising hiatus back in the USA she interviewed some local experts in this field and discovered that child slavery and prostitution wasn't just a problem for other countries; that in fact the number one destination for sex tourism is in fact other parts of the USA.

It's an intense and powerful film, punctuated by animations from Japanese pop artist Yoshitomo Nara and music from Bjork and Radiohead.

It's not got a commercial release, so far, so Libby is going community to community, doing screening to whoever will watch, to raise awareness about the issue.

She set up the Nest Foundation as a non-profit that is using the film to spread awareness about the problem and some of the weird legal loopholes that mean underage prostitutes are being prosecuted and not helped.

Part of the problem is our inability to talk about this stuff, at least with out getting polemical or hysterical.

The whole thing makes us very uncomfortable but it's exactly that unwillingness to force such horror into the light that allows it to fester in the dark.

Libby said it well last night: awareness isn't nothing. It helps. It acts like a torch in the darkness. It lets those who have been exploited feel solidarity, which, as the film highlights, is crucial in the recovery process. It perhaps begins the groundswell of popular outrage that can drive political change. At the very least it mentions the unmentionable, establishes a discourse to replace the uncomfortable silence.

So I felt I had to blog about it. Maybe you will as well. Or find a way to see it. I hope you do. It's not very uplifting, but you should see it all the same.

It's a really complex issue. No doubt. Lots of different factors around law and enforcement and parenting and foster parenting and the social system and sex education and development.

But the morality of what is happening isn't. Not at all. It's just really horrible and sad. 

You can get more details about the film and relevant resources in your area on the website.

Mind Tonic


I wrote this article for the first issue of Mind Tonic ["a light-hearted creative industry lifestyle supplement intended to inspire"].

It's about the Mediation Generation that I spoke about in a previous post, which makes the point that this generation is the first to define itself by the media it creates, rather than the media it consumes and that there are going to be some weird effects of endlessly [re]creating ourselves.

You can read the whole thing here:

Download Mediation Generation - Faris - Mindtonic

The publishers are looking for contributors to the next issue from:

smart, interesting, fun, creative people from the world of advertising, creativity and beyond.

in the form of:

they can basically write about whatever they fancy - or they can submit artwork, jokes, poetry, photography... the list is endless!

So it's an open brief - go nuts and email whatever media you create [to [re]create yourself] to

Augmented Content

Emily sent me this Klickable Jay-Z video for the death of auto tune.

He's on top form and auto tune has suffered -  being [over] exposed via Wired expose.

I dig the idea of augmented content - adding in layers of data into texts, either via the old fashioned methods of allusion and additive compression, or though meta data.

But I have an ongoing battle about the use of the word 'TV'.

[ I realise that Klickable.TV aren't about this, but allow me to digress].

As an industry we tend to still conflate delivery platform with content: tv, radio, print.

As I pointed out in my Fastcompany piece - film is not the same thing as TV.

And the language we use is important because it frames how we think about stuff.

If we say TV, the set of associations in our head makes us think in 30 second fragments of forced exposure selling.

If we say film, well, those parameters are not enforced. In fact, the implication is that film is NOT forced exposure, and so the criteria with which we judge such are different, for we must earn the attention we previously bought.

Customer Service is Marketing

This video I just snatched off the tweetsteam like a Pooh Stick encapsulates a couple of things I've been thinking about of late.

This dude had his guitar damaged in handling on United. Shame.

These things happen though [I've never had the nerve to take a guitar on a flight], and, ultimately, I think he would have been cool with it if a United Representative had accepted blame [they appear to have accepted that it happened, but passed the buck endlessly around the system.]

This is what really, really, really gets me hot under the collar.

Customer service representatives that won't give you a name or way to contact them back directly, that bounce you around the system, leave you on hold, and finally drop the call when you become too irritating - and there's NOTHING YOU CAN DO.

Each individual wants an easy life, working in a call centre or late night customer service desk for minimum wage desk doesn't tend you make you especially invested in the BRAND, so you palm them off, get rid off them, drop the call.

In fact, most call centers bonus you on volume of calls handled - so it's actually going to cost you money to keep talking to this person with a problem you simply haven't been empowered to solve.

One of the the things that social media is driving is the breakdown of the corporate firewall.

Tony from Zappos tweeted recently:

If you don't trust your employees to tweet freely, it's an employee or leadership issue, not an employee Twitter policy issue.

Whilst this is a nice thought, it's a lot easier to be open like this if you are small and act that way from the start.

Big corporations have structures and legal departments and lots of other inertia that makes this harder.

But there is a huge opportunity here.

Until recently, these complaints were locked into an individual's sphere of influence, which was limited until social media gave everyone a voice.

Additionally, social media is, usually, overheard, as I mention in the cultural latency piece.

So there are two directions this can go in.

1. Keep acting like one person doesn't make a difference and see how much time, effort and creativity that one person will deploy to get his frustration out in to the world [as above] and see how receptive the world is to such messaging because we have all experience the same [as in this post and the tweets that sent it my way]

2. Decide Customer Service the MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU DO, because the only route to profit is MAKING CUSTOMERS HAPPY and do it in PUBLIC, reach out to people, don't put the onus on the individual to battle through the firewall, constantly monitor the social web for people who are unsatisfied with the product or service you sell and MAKE THEM HAPPY.

Then, customer service becomes marketing, and every person you make happy will sing your praises across the web.

[UPDATE: United have responded. One of my mentors, Nick Kendall [Global Head of Strategy for BBH], once told me that one of the things he loved most about brands were that they were accountable. You could always track back from the trustmark to the company and demand satisfaction. Now, in a world when an individual's voice can be as loud as a brand's, they are more accountable than ever.]

This deck I just saw from the Global Director of Digital Strategy touches on some of the same thoughts.

Blog Fast, With Company

Fastcompany guest blogging
So I managed to get 4 pieces out for Fast Company before falling ill and running out of steam - I still owe them one but they've kindly said I can submit something at a later date.

Here are the links to the things I wrote Fast, with Company:

Lions and Language and Geeks [Oh My]

Cultural Latency

Social Begins at Home

The Internet Makes Work for Idle Hands

I was pretty happy with them - I'd love to know what you thought.

And The Winner of Lovely Rita Is...

Secret History

Thank you all so much for your nominations for the Best Book in The World [TIGS edition].

The winner, picked mostly at random but partly because of the way the nomination was written, is Libby:

Fell in love with Donna Tartt's The Secret History early on and have yet to find a book that has so fully sucked me in to its world.

It's here in between some of my other favorite authors like Tom Perrota & Colson Whitehead & Naomi Klein. See sad, crowded Ikea bookshelf as opposed to lovely, vibrant Allmodern version. Shameless, I know.

Very personal and evocative and that. Plus twitter integration. And brand plug. Good stuff.

Congratulations Libby!

I shall connect you to Allmodern via email.

I have also decided to award runner up prizes. 

These people shall receive a copy of my nomination for the best book in the world - Stone Junction by Jim Dodge - just send me an address to farisyakob at gmail dot com.

John V Willshire

Hugh McGrory


Jess Greenwood


Francois Grouiller

[I've signed up to Amazon Prime - postage and packing is no longer a concern for me]

Congratulations all!

And Happy Independence Day! 

[Is that what you say? Or is it Merry or something?]

[I think because I grew up in England, the first thing that comes to mind when I wrote 'Independence Day' that is the Will Smith movie.]