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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.

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.

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 http://twitpic.com/8tlau 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.]

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]

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?

Judge the Jury

London Awards Jury

The London International Awards are a 24 year old show that honors advertising, design and digital.

This year they have introduced a new category, called the NEW category, which, like the Content and Contact category at the Clios, and the Titanium at Cannes, are designed to celebrate ideas that don''t really fit in anywhere else.

[Which is good, as I said in the link above, because mutations are the key to evolution.]

Or to put it another way:

Entries for The NEW Category are for work that merges the power of an original idea with a relevant compelling execution. Emotionally inspirational, imaginative work, effectively creating new dialogues, creating new spaces of interaction, altering perceptions, setting new benchmarks that invite and reward at every level of engagement.

Submissions can be singular or multiple, offline and/or online, multi-platform interactive experiences, and all cross media branded entertainment.

May include but not limited to; Television, Print, Outdoor, Websites, Blogs, online/offline Games, Ambient, Live Events, Email, Podcast, Social Network Communities, Mobile, Direct, Alternate Reality games (ARG) Augmented Reality (AR).

So, basically, participatory marketing or technology based coolness, or transmedia planning, or installations, ARGs, augmented reality, social media campaigns or any of the sort of stuff I think is awesome in general and tend to talk about on TIGS.

Which is why it's completely awesome that they have asked me to be President of the Jury for the New Category.

One of the cool things about this is that I get to pick the people on my jury.

So I thought I'd open this whole mysterious business of advertising awards up a little bit, and ask you who I should pick.

Now, I want to be completely transparent here: the final decision will of course be up to me and the LIA directors - I'm not turning this entirely over to the crowd.

And I have a few people in mind that I would like to ask because they are awesome. But I'm also sure there are lots of people I don't know who I should probably consider.

So - you've read the category description - who would you nominate to be on the Jury?

Cultural Latency & The Dawning of the Information Age

Latency kills

[Stolen from here]

There is a correlation between the amount of time it takes to distribute something, and the amount of time it takes for that thing to have an effect, and consequently the amount of time that thing stays relevant and interesting.

When music was distributed as sheet music - a [literally] laborious distribution mechanism - popular hits stayed at the top of the charts for years.

When gramophone reproductions were introduced and became a more popular mechanism for distributing music, the half-life of a hit decreased dramatically.

[You don't need to learn to piano to use a disc, so this removes a distribution bottleneck - piano + pianist. In fact, there was an intermediate stage, the mechanical player piano, which operated on rolls of printed music.]

It decreased again each time formats became easier to distribute, for either technological or structural reasons.

Digital distribution removes many of the friction points within the distribution system - making it more efficient, economically speaking.

But this also seems to lead to far more rapid cultural decay rates - sales charts now are driven almost exclusively by novelty - top selling DVDs are just what came out that week.

In gaming, and network based computing in general, the term that describes the lag between a cause and effect, between the moment when something is initiated and the moment one of the effects can be perceived is called latency.

The lower the latency, the faster the distant computer responds, the faster you see an effect and can respond and so on. This is a good thing - it means you don't get killed in the game because your character didn't move when you told him to.

As communication technologies get faster and more pervasive, the latency of culture is decreasing.

The speed at which people could move used to be the speed at which information traveled - hence the guy who ran the marathon.

Then people on horseback became the speed at which information traveled: the speed at which messages could traverse distances put a limit on the latency of culture, which in turn tended to mean things changed more slowly.

Email enabled messages to travel at the speed of light. This led to things moving faster, things changing faster.

But email is essentially one to one - even if you send it to many people, no one oversees the message, which puts a limit on the reduction in cultural latency - and it it used to be limited to the desktop.

Now we have millions of eyes all connected to a real time micro broadcast messaging platform via a mobile device they have with them at all times, and a social eagerness to demonstrate primacy. 

Cultural latency is dropping to [almost] zero, at least in the more connected parts of the world.

Which I suspect is going to have some interesting effects, because it creates much faster feedback loops - information, once delivered, is both a reported effect and a subsequent cause, which triggers more effects, and so on.

Things like informational cascades driving herd behavior, previously very visible in stock markets [which constantly monitors and reports on itself], and cumulative advantages, which function when behavior is visible to the decision making crowd, will inevitably become more prevalent.

Things like Swine Flu can go from something no one has heard of, to something people are searching for, to a topic of twysteria - hitting 10,000 tweets an hour.

In essence the infosphere is beginning to operate far more chaotically: a dynamic, closed, evolving system, characterized by aperiodic feedback loops, that can drive massive perturbations in the system from relatively small changes in the initial conditions.

[This is popularly known as the 'Butterfly Effect'.]

Diminished cultural latency means that the propagation of information is so fast that the spread itself becomes the defining aspect of the system: the rate-of-spread becomes as important as the information itself.

The information age is only just beginning.

[Thanks to both my brothers.]

[UPDATE: Mike Skinner/The Streets have a Swine Flu track]

APG Young Talent Award


Gareth and Anton [and quite possibly some other people] have hatched a new APG initiative for you young'uns.

The APG Young Talent Award is a nationwide [i.e. UK only] contest for 16-22 year old to create a brand from scratch that would appeal to your digitally native, donking, grimey contemporaries.

[Goodness me I just felt terribly old. As Ruby says DO NOT try to appropriate youth culture. I'll stick to jungle. The music you listened to as you - ahem - came of age, is what you will listen to for the rest of your life. Choose wisely.]

The judging panel will include venture capitalists who might actually try and bring some of the ideas to life.

[Question: Brand or Product? Does creating a brand require the creation of a product / service as well? The VC thing implies it does...]

Details and that can be found here - winning papers will be published in Campaign, so if you are coming up to graduation and want a job in advertising in these challenging times, it would be worth having a think.