Tuesday, 22 December 2009

'Tis the season of goodwill and keeping in touch

As Christmas approaches, the blog posts may be dwindling (only 37k new blogs created in the last 24 hours, normally it's in the 60k per day range), the tweets fewer, and the Facebook posts are increasingly recounting stories of travel horrors or excitement at seeing friends and family (well for most of us).  Most of us are turning our thoughts to those we are spending Christmas with and those whom we aren't but would like to have been able to.

For those of us with friends and family scattered around the world, being together at the same time and  in the same place may not be realistic, but amongst the many communication platforms we have at our disposal, it is tools like Skype which have been game changers in keeping relationships alive, and for encouraging a wide range of people of all ages to venture online and try it.  Phone calls are already fantastic for those that you can't see in person, but video calls are even better.

I regularly see 15m people logged in to the service on a Sunday morning (GMT) when I'm trying to catch up with my brothers in Australia. So it's no surprise to me to read earlier today that Skype now accounts for 8% of international calling minutes globally, but it's a fact I thought I'd share.

A quick call (video or otherwise), or a personal email or text can mean a lot to people you don't see often.
Be a sport. Spare a few moments and get in touch with someone you don't see often.  It's Christmas.

Touchscreen phones & winter don't go

Hmm,  have had my latest touchscreen toys a few weeks now and I'm still exploring and pondering my views.  I've been amazed at how quickly you get used to touch navigation and swiping (to the extent that I've caught myself trying to swipe my desk phone to navigate the office phone directory, and jabbing my finger at my laptop screen, ooops).

However, I have 3 initial observations about touchscreen based phones:

1) I can't text or email without looking which I could when I had a keypad with 3 letters to a key

2) On my old Nokia non-smartphone mobile I could turn off predictive text (which I used to because I frequently text and abbreviate in 4 languages), on my smartphone I can't turn it off, only change language / keypad (so I get an AZERTY layout in French for example). Grrrr.

3) When it's cold and snowy I can't use my phone with my gloves on, because it doesn't register my touch. Seriously annoying. Maybe I'll have to swap to leather gloves and see if that works better.

I knew that the toys wouldn't fit in my pocket before I made the decision to swap but it really is rather annoying! Having to juggle carrying a phone, a notepad or laptop, a cup of coffee and a swipe access card to a meeting and opening heavy fire doors is a real challenge.

Dear Father Christmas,

If it's not too late, please could you bring me (sometime in 2010 will do) a smartphone with all the functionality of my HTC Hero or my iPod touch but in a form that fits in my jeans pocket, and works with gloves on.

Yours in hope


Monday, 21 December 2009

Tis that "top xxx of 2009" time of year..

There are many great things that have come out of the digital space in 2009, and there are loads of Best of charts burbling into my Tweetdeck everyday at the moment.

Of all of the round ups of smart comms activity that have tripped across my path (so far) my current favourite is from Contagious magazine. I'd recommend downloading the pdf which has a really comprehensive round up of case studies of smart  thinking, creative and execution from around the world, neatly divided up into sections encompassing digital, integrated, gaming, outdoor, entertainment and content to name but a few.

For the few of us left in the office this week (thankful that we are not trying to get to France on the Eurostar, cos the trains aren't working 'cos it's too cold!), it would be 20 minutes reading well spent.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Digital's great but some things are just better in reality

Did I miss the memo about the Christmas slowdown being cancelled this year?

Gosh, it's all busy busy busy all around me, and not even with Christmas shopping and parties, although there does always seem to be a focussed urgency to catch up with people, let alone complete tasks as the end of the year looms. I am crossing my fingers that next week might actually see some relenting of the hectic pace of the last few weeks.

I've seen some great, and some truly dreadful attempts at offices trying to do the "green"  thing and send digital Christmas cards / videos but to my mind there's nothing like proper Christmas cards because otherwise you are just one click through and gone (or worse still a lurking memory associated with something awful), whereas cards sit  innocently on shelves (or desks in the case of clients) for a while, an active reminder of the sender. 

Call me sentimental if you will, but in this season of goodwill I like to be reminded of my friends and family, and even in my days as a client, it was nice to get cards from the agencies and suppliers I worked with. Sure, having to actually write your name (heavens!) in this keyboard-centric age  is seen by some as a chore, but I like digging out my fountain pen and spending some relatively calm time writing notes and messages to people I care about.

Maybe I inherited the habit from my Dad?  He is meticulous about maintaining his Christmas Card List book, carefully noting who he has sent cards to as he writes them and after Christmas checking off who he received them from every year, updating addresses, adding children, and sadly deleting the departed as he goes. In itself it's a journal of relationships and ties, family and friendship histories over time crammed between its' covers. It might lack the vivacity of photos and status posts that we are used to in a Facebook-world but to the geneologists of the future, those tracing family trees, these things will be gold.

Christmas cards - just a fore-runner of social networking?  Most of us aren't in regular active contact with the majority of people in our Facebook friends list, just as we don't necessarily frequently see all the people we send Christmas cards to, but to me that doesn't diminish at all the value of someone taking the time to write and post me a card. Or, in the case of my talented designer friend Trev, who has taken the whole notion of personalisation one step further, and who for years has been compiling a cd of interesting music and sending that instead of cards, designing the album art to reflect events in his year, from weddings, holidays to children & George the cat.  I have a collection of these mad, fun eclectic cds from over the years which I love, and I await the new one in eager anticipation every year. It's become part of my things I associate with Christmas just like exchanging a new Christmas tree bauble or decoration with one of my other best friends, a lovely tradition I adopted from her family.

So whilst I applaud the notion of charity that is so often the excuse for not sending Christmas cards, I'd rather buy myself a more expensive than usual sandwich in M&S of a lunchtime, because they make a donation to Shelter (charity supporting the homeless) than not send cards.

That said I did like this agency's attempt to bring to life what Santa's iPhone would be like.....

Friday, 11 December 2009

Cultural adoption and adaptation from the Arab world

Some of the cultural constraints of working in the Arab world are a mystery to most and a source of endless frustration to many people working there  within the confines of international HQ'd company processes. Western values aren't adopted and accepted everywhere, and nor should they be, but that's often forgotten when global synergies in ad creative are being chased. Cultural differences are essential to what a friend of mine used to describe as life's rich carpet bag. Accepting and respecting these differences is important, as is taking time to understand how different influences across cultures, languages and borders blend together to create new interpretations, which is why I thought I'd share this TED talk on Arab Pop Culture with you:

I sat in a meeting this morning where someone reminded everyone that the accepted business models of now are based primarily on accepted developed world practices and yet the business growth of the future is going to come from India, China, Russia and other markets that are vastly different in size, scale and dynamics to the ones the current models are based on. 

Change is inevitable and those that can embrace it and adapt to it will be the winners.  As we approach the end of this decade, one thing I am sure about is that the world is going to be a very different place in ten years time as technology marches ever forward changing our lives in ways most of can't even imagine yet.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Technology is something that didn't exist when you were born. A 9 year olds view of the world

I just came across this great video interviewing some (US) 9 year olds.

They've never heard of Napster and haven't a clue what "dial up" means / don't associate the sounds with the things I do.  They have mobile phones, and have been using iPods, PSPs and computers since they had the motor skills to move a mouse.  They have pocket money, listen to /download music, video and images, play games.  In short, are you doing enough to engage with the consumers of the future?

(Skip the 1st 50 seconds of introductions if you are short of time,  and the digital specific stuff starts at 1m28 ish))

The decade according to 9-year-olds from allison louie-garcia on Vimeo.

What does your digital morning look like?

I was pondering this morning on the role of digital connectivity in our lives.

I'm digital through and through, with an endless thirst for innovation and new experiences, yet I still force myself to have (at least one) "digital day off" a week (well almost entirely anyway, I am a big believer in the "mobile internet OFF" button on my phone).

Always on connectivity has many uses and advantages but it's important to remember
a) that however digitally reliant we are becoming, offline media play a role too
b) it's healthy (literally both physically and emotionally) to retain perspective by not being always connected to a device (I first had a BlackBerry in 2002 and gave it up deliberately in 2006 & have coped perfectly well without permanent attachment to an email box ever since, albeit have now got a smartphone/device or two so occasionally give in but as an exception rather than the rule)).  That said I'm unusual, mobile (web) usage peaks between 7 and 10am, when pc/mac based surfing takes over to reflect people's morning routines.

So assuming it's a weekday and I'm in the office my media / digital morning routine looks like this:
1) Radio alarm wakes me up & then I head to the kitchen turning on the (digital) radio (mostly for news / travel alerts) and then the kettle
2) Read snippets from "The Week" magazine whilst eating my cereal
3) Turn on mobile on train in the morning (I am fortunate enough to have lots of friends scattered all around the world and as a legacy of days when I travelled around the globe constantly I generally turn my phone(s) off at night, so I don't get woken up by messages buzzing in). Might respond to any texts I've missed. Too early to call many people.
4) Read London freesheet The Metro / a book
5) Might check in with FourSquare if I stop for coffee on my way to the office (more on that another time, but just started to play with it)
6) Turn my laptop on

At which point my digital day really starts properly.  I need the space to think first thing, which is why I prefer to read the paper / a book / stare out the window / often walk through Hyde Park to the office rather than immediately start processing information, tweets etc etc

So once in the office, first off I open Spotify, then Lotus Notes (urgh), then Tweetdeck, and then Firefox (usually already full of tabs of things I've been reading / working on).

Whilst Lotus Notes is doing it's (slow) thing, I'll scan Tweetdeck for interesting tweets from my Twitterati buddies, often providing links to my morning digital food for thought, so onward to Firefox.

Normally I'll open my mail boxes, read / action important mail /news alerts, and scan Facebook quickly before going back to read any links I've opened via Tweets. I also habitually go and check the picture of the day on Bing. It makes me happy .Then I dip briefly into Artwiculate to get the grey matter going.

Every few days I'll also dip into my RSS feeder and scan some blog posts.  Increasingly I use Twitter for tech updates and news and RSS feeds to carefully chosen blogs I like to follow / read more detailed posts than tweets allow.

And all that before 10am (ish) usually.

What does your digital morning look like?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Got your Google Goggles yet?

We know that Google are going to be busy announcing all sorts of things this week and so far I've seen real time search going live  (so now I have Tweets relating to my query) appearing in my search results:

Then, going back to my point yesterday about everything getting more and more mobile, they're also launching Google Goggles, an augmented reality / visual search app for Android powered phones. (Not to be confused with Google Goggles in Gmail which makes you do maths questions to stop you sending emails you'll regret when you've sobered up!)

Shame Google Goggles doesn't seem to be enabled for the UK yet, so I can't tell you what I think about it in reality, as I can't find it in the Android store. :-(    In principle it will let me use the camera on my Android powered phone to find things relating to the content of the pictures I take.  (I also heard Snaptell ( a visual search engine that's been around for a while now) got snapped up by Amazon. Smart.)

Theme of the week in Google videos seems to be having two engineers presenting every new development (is this a rip off of the Mac v PC idea form Apple?!). At least this one's animated to make a change.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Increased relevancy in search: Good or Bad?

Buzzing around the web at the mo is lots of debate about Google's decision to roll out "opt out" search personlisation.

To the average consumer that means that they will now / soon have to consciously act to stop Google storing data about their search behaviour. If you have a Google account that means actively opting out of Google storing your web history indefinitely, and if you don't / are not signed in it means you need to choose to block Google's ability to store your search data via cookie for 180 days.  Then again, you might not want to block them out so you can benefit from increased relevancy in the way your search results are displayed. Your call.

Here's a rather geeky video Google posted on their blog to explain the benefits / opt out methods.

Do you feel this is Google being "Big Brother" ish or see the benefit of prioritised search results?

It's an interesting debate, and certainly one that will rage for a while.  I flip between both sides of the fence. I'm obviously interested in how search is evolving, and so trying to ignore quite how much Google know about me, I signed up to the Google Labs Social Search beta a while back...

I can see why daata privacy is a big hairy issue for a lot of people, but I also suspect that it's a bit like when people first started getting mobile phones - it took a while before people got over the issue of trusting a person's mobile number.

I remember lots of people being wary of calling a tradesman who only appeared to have a mobile number, rather than a landline, despite the fact that obviously if you've got a leaking tap, you really wanted to speak to the plumber himself ASAP not wait 'til he got home from work to pick up his messages.  I am sure we'll adapt fairly readily to sharing certain aspects of our digital behaviour if we can see the benefit to our busy lives of having results pre-filtered against either our social graph (friends/contacts), our previous/regular behaviour or, increasingly, our location as we move more and more interchangeably between desktop and mobile searches.

I can't see our lives getting any less busy, so I believe that shortcuts will become more and more important to us, whatever forms they may take. Where that gets interesting as a notion is therefore how brands will be able to play in that space. It means they will have to work hard to build relationships with us, and / or with our friends as the conduits to other people.  Interrupting people via search will get more and more challenging.

To me, the opportunity to initiate those relationships by being useful or entertaining is now. At the moment there's lots of people exploring and open to try new things. True, there will always be some that continue to do so, but I also think that humans being humans, we'll also quickly find that people find a repertoire of "service providers" for certain things and then it will become much harder to get them to swap and try something else unless the current provider fails to deliver. It makes total sense.  We already know that most people have around 8 favourite / default TV channels from the many to choose from, 6-8 websites they visit regularly, so getting your brand on that trusted repertoire list ASAP, whether it's for "go to" stuff or stuff coming to you via an app/RSS/Twitter feed etc is pretty important.

I predict a war of attrition starting in the next 12-18 months with brands fighting each other hard for deeper relationships with the relatively small numbers of wavering consumers. At the minute the field is open, so think about how you can start being useful or relevant to your consumers to start building brand affinity / sign up to apps / services that go beyond just flogging brand benefits to death.  There'll always be a role of traditional offline media like TV for that!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

When is TV not TV? When it's on YouTube. Or is it?

It's tricky one isn't it? We used to say "what's on the box?" meaning the TV, but now we all have flat screens or panels, so that no longer really rings true.   Yet "TV" is a term that we generally associate with long form multi-media content that isn't feature-film length but is longer than the traditional 3 minutes of content snacking we're used to on YouTube.

As broadcasters come to terms with the notion of on-demand TV content, they're increasingly seeing YouTube & it's brethren (Hulu, dailymotion,etc) as powerful platforms to extend the reach of their shows.  Channel 4 announced last week  that 50 hours/week of catch-up TV content will be available on YouTube (as well as 4 on demand), along with a joint ad revenue sharing deal.

So TV is now just a generic term for longer than short form but not as long as feature film multi-media content, that has it's origins (be they a commission, acquisition or initial exposure) via the hallowed halls of a broadcaster.

Which is as it should be from a consumer persepctive: content should be platform agnostic.

As a consumer I want to watch what I want to watch, when I want to watch it and whichever screen is most convenient at the time.  All of which then raises a whole heap of other questions about how you create those "water cooler" discussion moments of shared experience driven by people you know watching the same thing at the same time.

So with that in mind, and remembering however digitally savvy we all are, we don't just live in cyberspace, I bring youYouTube's first venture into offline advertising:

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Muppets sing Bohemian Rhapsody

Lots of very fluffy posts from me this week so far , but probably because I'm wrestling with some thinky challenges and anything that's crossed my path providing light relief has been very welcome.

You can't beat anything that features Animal (Mahna Mahna) & Miss Piggy.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Budget Airline Digital Gold

Most of us have had the dubious pleasure of a budget airline flight at some point and the budget customer service that comes with the experience. Most people in the UK will at some point have watched legendary stalwart of BBC Sunday evening scheduling "Last of the Summer Wine".

Put the two together & you get something like this. 

Mobile mash-up

I've been a huge fan of the ever-so-slightly addictive Twistori for a long time now.  A simple mash-up in itself on the We Feel Fine project, pulling together Tweets containing one of 6 words: Love, Hate, Feel, Think, Believe, Wish.

Now the principle has been mashed and re-applied, had some mobile QR code fun thrown in and resulting in an interesting project called the Living Book.

Spare 4 minutes and watch this:

Friday, 20 November 2009

Behind the scenes of search...

It's been a long week. Someone sent me this and it made me smile. I'm too busy today to figure out why it won't embed so here's a screengrab.

A Friday Creative Delight ...

Having worked in TV, and in particular animation, I am always a sucker for good stories, well designed and animated.

Enjoy (6 mins)

Monday, 16 November 2009

Challenging old notions of value via social media

I hate the phrase social media.  I'd rather think about people.  People represent OTT  (opportunities to talk)  if we have to get back into media & evaluations terms. Conversations. Recommendations. Sharing. Suggestions.  Hugely influential.

There's lots of people like me scratching their heads and trying to crack a definitive measurement / value model for digital interactions with consumers in the digital space.  There's lots of things we can measure, and some we can't (yet) but one of the biggest challenges is relating direct cause and effect of money spent on initiatives in social spaces and sales uplift.  It's a tricky one. How do you qualify and quantify social influence to a client that's used to seeing x# TVR's (tv ratings) = y% sales uplift, and, rarely (and rightly) is digital / social media activity conducted in a vacuum.

Half the battle is getting clients to think about the longer term and get out of a campaign led mentality that only sees value in ££ and 6 week windows. Value in my mind means relationships, interactions, contributions, permission to engage in dialogue, reviews, all of which contribute to brand / product consideration sets and eventually sales. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe in 3 or 6 months.  That's why the Aleksandr Orlov/Compare the Meerkat campaign is so brilliant. There are always people in the market for one insurance product or another. Stick to campaign phasing to raise awareness and you'll only ever capture the active prospects for that 4 week window of activity. Yet by being regularly visible and releant via social media you can achieve ongoing top of mind awareness.

Marketers also need to recognise that consumers will only talk about things when it's relevant to them and their lives. So your brand might have done something interesting, & engaged someone's attention but the glowing recommendation to a friend might not occur for 6 months. In my books that doesn't make it less valuable at all. Just harder to correlate and prove,  because the recommendation will no doubt have come about because of multiple stimuli that may have occurred on or offline.

There are a few "social media" success stories being touted around(apart from my meerkat mate), and I've just tripped over this round up of some of them. Take them for what they are, often supposition, and not spelled out, nor with details of what the objectives were but to stimulate thought it would be 4 minutes of your day well spent.  Then go and think about whether you are setting the right real objectives for your digital activities and therefore the right metrics.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Cultural adaptation of great ideas

I just found this FAB TED talk on how the engagement principles of shows like Pop Idol can be carried across and adapted creatively for  markets which don't share Western cultural values and thinking. I'd thoroughly recommend challenging your thinking and broadening your cultural horizons by spending 5 minutes watching it.

Aleksandr Orlov interviews the Hoff and adds podcasts to his repertoire

As ever, my mate Aleksandr Orlov from Compare the Meerkat has been smart about teasing us all week via Twitter and Facebook with hints about forthcoming new content.

Well it's just been released, seemingly on Twitter first.

Beyond contributing to his celebrity status and the connection his ever growing fanbase (610k fans on Facebook, 30k on Twitter) have with the campaign, by branching into audio he'll also contribute and bolster site SEO. Super smart.

I urge you to listen.

Cunningly it also crams in a plug for the new limited edition Aleksandr cuddly toys on sale in Harrods. Subtle and very smart.

This podcast has utterly the content highlight of my week.  I wish I could meet and personally congratulate the scriptwriters. They must be having so much fun. I have been chortling to myself for the last 12 minutes.

12 minutes I CHOSE to spend with a piece of branded content.  Imagine the cost of that in passive TV advertising terms?  And it was so funny I'm going to go right back and listen to it again.

This campaign just goes from strength to strength and I am enjoying every interaction I have with it.


Thursday, 12 November 2009

Story-telling in a world of context, connectivity and choice.

There's a very interesting discussion going on about the socialisation of TV over at Only Dead Fish.  Well worth sparing a click and 5 minutes to read the comments too. Lots of interesting points of view.

It made me think about the enduring power of good content to attract audiences and create conversations, but also the challenges facing the TV industry in terms of funding content creation. Maybe a hangover from being out with some of my TV broadcast / production mates last week. Coincidentally last night I found this interesting presentation (via one of my Twitter buddies) about how storytelling is evolving in our fast changing world.

Spare a few moments, well worth it.

Know what's what with your digital after-life

We live in an era where our digital privacy is under more and more scrutiny, and subject to more and more regulation (in the UK from next year all telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customer's personal communications, showing who they are contacting, when, where and which websites they are visiting).

But what happens to all that data and all those websites or newsletters you've signed up for when you die?  Would your executors automatically get granted access to your accounts?  Would they even know what you had accounts for?  Where would they start in terms of getting access to them without knowing your passwords? Like most people, I store my many passwords in my head. I change them fairly regularly having had my identity stolen 2 years ago. I have different profiles for different things. That wouldn't help anyone were I to meet with an unfortunate accident. Heaven forbid.  To my knowledge there isn't any online Credit Card Sentinel-type service where one call/email cancels or puts on ice everything, just as one call to Sentinel sorts out cancelling all your cards etc if your wallet gets stolen. That's probably because updating it would feel hideously onerous as we scatter our digital breadcrumbs far and wide in our travels across the web.

I hadn't really given it much thought 'til a mate of mine tweeted this link to an interesting article that rounds up current policy from major websites like Facebook, Gmail and Yahoo.  Worth a read & sharing the link with others too.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Evaluating ideas & creativity

I love this model from information is beautiful,  who have also just released this very interesting looking book called the Visual Miscellaneum.

Great food for thought / model to twiddle and overlay your ideas on to to sense check. It's the nicest visualisation I've seen  that I can apply what I call my recipe & ingredients list for evaluating content ideas against.

Getting closer to real time search

I've been having a lively "discussion" recently with some of my digerati mates over real time search. By nature, of course it's not really real time, but already history, but the search results you get using any of the so-called real time search engines are definitely more dynamic than we used to have.

Most people say real time search & mean/expect tweets (as results), but most of the real time search engines are also scouring blogs, videos, images and news items too as priority over those big monolithic corporate websites brands have got so good at building.  Google recently announced they will be adding tweet results / real time search, BingTweets has been around for ages now (in web time) and I like it a lot for giving you that at a glance snapshot of the static and the here and now/ adding a dimension of real opinion to the mix. Throw in a Google Sidewiki and search now has much more personality and opinion than ever before.

All the more reason that brands should be getting smarter about SEO (search engine optimisation), and recognising the importance of blended / universal search results and the power of social media to influence people's perceptions at the point of jump off (search engine results being the primary trampoline point of most people's web travels).

Of the many players in the real time search wars, including One Riot, Topsy, Twingly, Dogpile, and Stinky Teddy , (the sillier the name .... seems to be the attention seeking tactic),  I'll call out LeapFish because they've pulled together this rather slick video, and better still, it doesn't include the anthem of the year for web videos "Right here, right now" by Fat Boy Slim!  (John V Willshire and I were recently very flippantly debating whether we could solve a load of advertiser interruption problems by just buying pre-rolls on the front of any video using that now so overused tune!).  Trouble is, YouTube have just announced they are going to have another go at flogging skippable pre-rolls. Dammit! Best laid plans of mice and men...


Armistice Day & cause motivated influence

Today is Armistice Day. The day that the first World War was finally declared over. With the conflict in Afghanistan ongoing, maybe this year the importance of supporting the Royal British Legion's poppy appeal has once again been raised to a new generation of people to whom the 1st and 2nd World Wars are just things to be read about in history books.

Anyone that's ever been to see the war graves in France can not but help to feel humbled by the massive loss of life. Bing UK & Bing France were both showing their support today:

I posted recently about the Twibbon poppy you could add to your Twitter icon, and then duly went on to encourage my Twitter buddies to join the cause, more than once...


A 2 minute silence was observed across the nation at 11am in honour of the fallen soldiers.  Look at the Twitter trends:

To me this is the digital equivalent of the Lance Armstrong Live Strong yellow bands many of us were sporting a year or so ago.

A simple gesture, but which via tools like Twitter can reach into many nooks and crannies of the interweb that mainstream media couldn't achieve and  proves that there's some serious critical mass / reach possible, if you capture imagination and motivation, which time upon time is the brick wall I come up against when challenged to prove social media and word of mouth can actually deliver.

No-one forced those 22k people to adopt the poppy. It was voluntary. It succeeded for all the usual reasons that people are happy to be associated with something, be it a brand, a campaign or a cause.... it makes them look good, it's useful, interesting or relevant.  As a result they were happy to become advocates and use their influence to spread the word (= awareness) to encourage participation (engagement).

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

(Reading) Shortcuts in a busy world

We're all busy. We all have things on the get-around-to-it list, and in a world of bite-size news and impatience, books are often high on that one-day list. Business related books are probably even higher for most people.

This year I've read a great book called Nudge, I'm reading Grown Up Digital (slowly, 'cos whilst it's very interesting it's a big hardback, too big for handbags and tube commuting), and I do make an effort to read things that provoke and challenge in amongst the host of things my bookworm habit encompasses.   But to save those of you who are less motivated an awful lot of time I've just come across a fabulous shortcut to some synopses of some of the bigger business / digital titles that have been kicking around the must-read list for a while.

Enjoy feeling smug after you've clicked here.

Thought for the day...

Digital treasure this morning comes via my friend Mark who flagged this lovely Learn Something Every Day site.

It's visually appealling and full of random trivia facts, that may be true or not, but it doesn't really matter! I may have to add it to the "just visit for fun" site list as part of my morning routine. Bing, learn something everyday, Artwiculate & Stumble Upon lucky dip (now with video stumble too)....

You are never too old to learn something new.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Kleenex play in multi territories but don't quite join up all the dots

I wrote just yesterday about a new Kleenex ad that did a great job of going beyond the predictable territories of germ spreading that so many people are playing in right now. Albeit I have to say I love the approach that Carex are taking - here's one of the ads they have on the Tube right now:

But then last night I saw this Kleenex Ant-viral tube card panel, and then heard radio ads too. 

This morning coming out of Paddington Station I then met Kleenex AntiViral super hero Kavman, sampling tissues and handing out this "Daily Tissue" leaflet & coupon off future sales.

So fair play for covering multiple bases, just a shame they hadn't bothered to put a URL on the leaflet. Nor seem to be joining up the dots to make more of Kavman in other spaces, given the recent success of campaigns like Compare the Meerkat and using characters to further conversations between brands and consumers. A quick search on Bing revealed lots of links to Kleenex sites (but which one to choose?) but nothing on Kavman.  Missed a trick there!

Then I just found this ad on Facebook....

Leading to this page,

That ties in with TV ad nicely but what about the sampling activity and Kavman?? We'll award points for trying to amplify the Let it out campaign via a Facebook page that includes emotion tests and a competition to win a year's supply of tissues but then deduct a few points too for having not joined up the dots properly.

Close but no cigar.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Car park of useful things

As much as an aide-memoire to myself as for sharing, here's links to 3 very interesting things I've read recently:

Technorati's 2009 State of the Blogosphere

Sysomos's very interesting report on online video, who's watching / embedding most, on which video platforms (because there's more to video than YouTube), + includes a piece on bloggers around the workd that tesselates nicely with the Technorati stuff.

Mary Meeker's latest views on where tech & the web & especially mobile
is heading. You can download the whole 68 page shabang here

Oh go on, express yourself. Kleenex get Sir Bob & Sven to let it out...

Thanks to my lovely colleague Lucia, I've just found this new Kleenex tissue ad, which is well worth a minute of your time.  I love the emotion, I love the story telling, I love the fact that whilst everyone else in the tissue category is focussed on anti-bacterials and Catch It, Kill it, Bin It and hand hygiene messaging (admittedly all important given the amount of sneezing going on on the tube in the morning but....), Kleenex via JWT have expanded the remit to all those other times when tissues come in handy.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Being charitable...

I'm doing my bit for charity this week, and I am shouting about it not because I want the recognition but because there are some great causes that are worthy of support, and digital spaces can really help amplify the reach of these initiatives.

I've made a donation to the British Royal Legion Poppy Appeal, and am wearing my new self-adhesive poppy with pride (no more pins, great!), but beyond that I've added a Poppy Twibbon to my icon on Twitter, spreading the news of my support for this great cause far and wide, publically, and in reality reaching far more people that way than the number of people I interact with in person in a week.

Have you got yours?  Easy to add (and remove for those of you that are jumpy) just click here.  Just make sure you stick some money in a donation box too!

Then, following on from Remembrance Day, there's BBC Children in Need. They've adopted a similar approach, allowing people to spread the word for them, by offering ways to sport a Pudsey Bear Bandana on your social profiles, in conjunction with a PayPal donation which makes the twibbon notion work harder. Smart. 

The nice chaps over at ETV have kindly sent a few of the guys in my office a cuddly Pudsey and are going to donate £1 for every photo they receive of Pudsey on his travels, so here's one I took this morning.

Pudsey and I will no doubt be sharing many adventures over the next few weeks as I'm happy to harness the genorosity of ETV for a great cause. These days, motivated by a good cause and equipped with a phone that takes photos it's incredibly easy to get people involved & creating content.

What could your brand do to harness the power of mobile as an always on hand device & to encourage consumers to get involved?  I loved this Yahoo campaign from the summer.

Who is the real brand manager now??

Brand Manager. I was one of those once, and mighty protective of my brands was I.  But that was over a decade ago (how did that happen!?), and things change thank goodness. 

As the oft recycled quotes go, a brand is no longer what the brand managers tell us it is, it's what Google, Bing, or other consumers tell us it is. We trust other people over advertising. Nothing has changed there, but we just now all have access to a whole raft more people.  Unfortunately there's still rather a lot of brand managers / organisations that haven't quite grasped that they don't have quite the same control that they used to and that's something they need to learn to embrace, welcoming the dialogue and input consumers will happily and freely give them.

Many thanks to my friend Mark for sending me this fabulous Tom Fishburne cartoon this morning. It's very timely as I had a conversation on this very topic yesterday.  I know it's one of those images that I am going to be able to put into presentations time after time :-)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The out-take is so often open to interpretation

I'm genuinely not feeling deliberately argumentative this afternoon but when I read articles that interpret data and don't really think beyond the obvious I do furrow my brow. So I'm going to throw in my own point of view on this one.

The headline this chart was taken from was "Loyal visitors but small share from social sites", and the conclusion being that whilst the number of visitors to a site coming from a social networking site was small they were likely to visit several times (good!), whereas search engines are still overwhelmingly driving the lions share of traffic, but not traffic that returns.

Now admittedly I've not read the whole of Chitika research piece or deconstructed the methodology, but for me whilst it's great that social network sites can help drive traffic if that's what you are trying to use them for, there appears to be a key point that hasn't been brought to the table:

Half the point of having a brand page or group on Facebook or similar is so that people can interact with your brand / experience / event  IN AN ENVIRONMENT THEY ARE IN ANYWAY. So trying to distract a consumer from what they were there to do (interact with their friends) and drag them off to your site is a bit like picking someone up by the scruff of the neck and dragging them against their will to somewhere they don't necessarily want to be.

You wouldn't like it if someone did it to you now would you??  I read something recently that said something along the lines of "a marketer wouldn't dream of interrupting a phone conversation, but they keep wanting to interrupt in social media environments".  You need to make your brand part of the conversation not irritatingly interrupt it. That's just bad manners, and yes it might get you talked about but maybe not for the right reasons.

As ever it comes down to making sure that the metrics you set for activity are the right ones, and click through isn't the only option in the digital measurement toolbox.

Sometimes you can't imagine the possibilities...

I'm catching up on the useful not urgent pile from last week. 

I just found this piece of Lightspeeed Research quoted by e-marketer which was headlined "Americans want brands that inform...[..] but don't get too friendly".

Personally, I think that's a bit like that infamous story (I paraphrase) of when asking people what they wanted in terms of new features out of a new VHS player, consumers asked for a 2 speed rewind rather than imagining the possibilities of the DVD format. Sometimes consumers just can't imagine, recognise or define what they want / might want until they've experienced it.

We all have a range of friends and acquaintances, some are close, some are not so close, and those relationships are all useful for different purposes and at different times.

I don't see why having a relationship / friendship with a brand is any different. There are times when it will be important to me and times when it will be less so, but on whatever terms, the whole point that many brands miss so frequently is that relationships are 2 way. There has to be give and take. I always liked the Stephen Covey notion of emotional bank accounts. Some people contribute / add credit and some people debit.   If a relationship becomes too one sided/debit lead it becomes an effort and you'll place less value on it or just discard it.

I'm very happy to be Alexsandr Orlov or Ted's friend on Facebook / on Twitter. They add something to my life. Whilst they continue to do so I'm happy to interact with them.

Is your brand being constrained by VHS-feature-enhancement thinking? Or have you grasped how by behaving more like you are in a relationship with them you can add value to your consumers lives by being relevant and accessible at the right times? 

X-factor may be everywhere but "talent" is subjective

It's X-Factor season in the UK (although personally I'm more of a Strictly Come Dancing fan, despite the shocking costume design this season).  There are X Factor stories in the papers everyday. Simon Cowell and his fellow judges getting to appraise and be brutally honest about the finalists talents, and then the public voting for who they want to keep in the competition.

Love it or hate it it's hard to ignore it. 6 year olds today just want to be famous, such is the cult of celebrity. I'm all for encouraging aspiration but at the same time when you see the truly dreadful being propelled forward in the competition because of the value of ridicule it saddens me.

However, you do have to applaud these shows for creating endless amounts of hilarious, entertaining and enduring content & conversation (remember SuBo? 77m views of this video alone). Having just written a post about a music talent competition in Malaysia with a catchy song, I shall expand on the theme and offer you a Boy Band example someone just sent me from Russia from 2007. This blog does like to flag the delights and the disasters from across the web after all. It's another cheesy pop song, but those boys do look like they could do with a little bit of make-over help from the X-Factor team.

Make up your own mind :-)

Catchy Tunes & Bands in Banners from Malaysia

Apparently I'm a bit behind the page and the notion of Banner Concerts was pioneered last year via a Belgian Bank called Axion.

They built sets that were scale models of traditional ad formats, streamed live music performances into banners in situ and then  encouraged X-Factor style interaction and voting for favourite acts.

Nice. Who said financial services always had to be dull?  Here's a short video that brings the initiative to life:

As my friend Faris says, Talent Imitates, Genius Steals. So applause and compliments to the originators of this Malaysian mash up of Banner Concerts.  The winner will be announced on November 21st 2009.

Meanwhile this cheesey but incredibly catchy pop song has been playing every time I've opened Firefox for the last week.  But if you can't be bothered to go over to the campaign page, here's the video on YouTube.

I love the notion of content and digital display working hard together to deliver engagement. Smart.

Twitter Advertising in Malaysia

Whilst I was hanging out with my ASEAN buddies last week someone told me that you could advertise on Twitter in Malaysia.  Curiosity aroused, I dug a bit deeper to find that Churp Churp  have basically taken an existing blog seeding model and applied it to Twitter.

Interesting stuff and well worth clicking on that link above if only for the nice graphics of how WOM works.  I wonder how long it will be before we see this rolling out in the UK / elsewhere.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Talking horses and breakfast cereal

Nod of hat to my buddy Mr J Willshire of Feedingthepuppy for tipping me off about a new ad / video from breakfast cereal Weetabix.  Ok, it stretches the boundaries of credibility a bit but it's an engaging piece of story telling and it doesn't hammer you over the head with branding / product  messaging upfront.  It doesn't need to, everyone in the UK knows what Weetabix is, and the agency / brand team have clearly grasped this, so I have no hesitation in applauding.


There's a time and a place for product benefit messages and there's a time and a place for brand activity that engenders conversation and positive sentiment.  Lots of brands are having a hard time getting their heads around this as it goes against years of TV-lead brand building advertising, known GRP's and ad decay curves.

Moving forward in the conversation space is not about throwing the brand baby out with the bathwater nor abandoning brand building altogether, it's about understanding how to balance brand equity activity that delivers recall, awareness, goodwill and conversation currency with activity that delivers sales.

Keeping conversation going the VW way

Volkswagen released a couple of pieces of interesting content a while back using the notion that fun can change behaviour for the better and harnessing that notion to build brand goodwill and conversation.

They asked me to sign up to (which I did on the 9th October) and promised me more fun things soon. Well, they delivered the goods.

Last week I got an email announcing that the site was live (it previously just had a holding page / sign up option) and inviting me to visit and incentivising participation with a prize / competition. Admittedly, they could have put a bit more effort into the copy writing (back to my dating analogy, first impressions count!), but it did what it needed to do:

It made me keen to engage with the brand again, they'd added more content, and hosted some of it on YouTube to make the most of opportunities to engage with people actively coming to their site or those just surfing looking for content on YouTube. Boxes ticked!

There's also some interesting other suggestions up there already, so I'd recommend a visit.

First online flash mob or not, the conversation went so slack I almost forgot...

Back at the end of September I wrote about an intriguing initiative featuring digital space hoppers that turned out to be by Sony Ericsson. At that point I was rather thinking it was all quite good.  And then I heard not a squeak in a whole month.  10 points deducted for not continuing the conversation.

I'm going to keep using my dating analogy.  That's like asking someone if they'd like to go out for a drink and then not bothering to call for over a month to fix a time and a place!?  Why would you do that?  In the meantime they might start a relationship with someone else.

 However, at least they did follow up eventually with this email last week announcing the time of the first online flash mob event, 24 hours after the email was sent.

The small print in the email also told me that I'd only be able to see what my hopper was up to from the computer I created it on which was no use at all as I was in Thailand with my work laptop and I'd created it on a laptop at home in London. 

Time difference, distance and technology therefore conspired against me but you can relive the hopper invasion here.

However, we'll allow a degree of points redemption for providing downloadable games and other means of ongoing interaction with the experience / idea via the Sony Ericsson Hopper Invasion website.

Overall as end of term reports go I'll award a "C++  & could do better" for the initiative overall and "A-" for effort because at least as brand they are experimenting and learning. There's no rule book and the only way brands will learn is by trying so dive in. 

If you don't ask for that date in the first place, even if it takes a month to follow up, you won't stand a chance!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Do your brands operate in Asia? Get your new web address registered

Reading the Bangkok Post over breakfast this morning I note that ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) have announced that as on Friday (30th October 09) they should get approval for URL's to use non Latin alphabets (in their entirety, not just partially as is currently the case).

By mid 2010 it should therefore be possible for brands operating in Chinese, Arabic, Korean and Japanese languages to have relevant web addresses. This move is aimed at improving user experience, helping consumers reach sites more quickly across the huge parts of the world that use non-Latin based scripts and combined with restrictions on top level domain names being lifted (for example banks will be able to have .bank as a suffix etc rather than being restricted to .com, etc should save an estimated 60-100 billion keystrokes a day worldwide!

I'll be off to twiddle my thumbs with all that spare time saved. Meanwhile if you have brands operating in those markets I'd be off to register interest in the domains pretty quickly so that there's no cybersquatting issues.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The meerkat is marvellous but not just by coincidence

My fondness for Alexsandr Orlov, the star of Compare the Meerkat oops I mean Market's social success story is well evidenced (at least for my regular readers).  Snuffling around Slideshare this evening I found the presentation below which pulls the whole campaign together nicely for you. If you don't use Slideshare or Scribd as a research resource when you are looking for thought, fact or inspiration you should, not to mention considering the role these document sharing sites play when you have content to publish.

Friday, 23 October 2009

How to make (mobile) operating systems sound exciting..

Let's face it, the majority of people don't care what operating system their PC or mobile works on, as long as it works. Most don't know what the difference between a browser and a search engine is.

It's a so what thing. So trying to make people even think, let alone care about it is never going to be easy.

Microsoft finally released Vista replacement Windows 7 this week but whilst there's been some noise in the tech press about it, and I've seen point of sale materials in some stores I suspect to the masses it's gone largely unnoticed.  That might be an oversight though because apparently it's actually quite good!

I'll therefore award points to US network Verizon for this teaser piece about the Google Mobile operating system (known as Android) and a new Motorola phone that runs on it.

It's humorous, it pokes fun at the iPhone which is definitely the better known and deemed sexier mobile-lovers gadget of choice. It engages and stimulates curiousity, leading you to a site which invites onward engagement with a sign up opportunity.

Good stuff.

Trident (gum) bring you a Friday smile

Ok, so now I've spoiled it for you admittedly, but fairplay to Trident chewing gum for backing this fun video improv piece. No doubt it will make you smile for it is cheesier than a ripe brie, but disgusting habit as it is, gum's a very useful tool in your oral hygiene routine to help keep your smile in tip top form, so the association works (for me at least).

That said I am still not sure it's as good as one of the first of these flash mob / improv pieces I saw last year (from and for whom the fit is even better. I bring you Stansted airport a place that could definitely use some cheering up...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Mobile in Japan: I feel an inferiority complex coming on

Today I've been digging around the Asian mobile scene in some detail. I was working in Tokyo quite frequently in 2004/5/6 and way back then it was galling to see how far ahead the Japanese were in mobile marketing and consumer adoption of it. But this presentation really shows how far behind we really are. Apple may have had 2 billion apps downloaded but the mobile economy is far further developed across Asia and has been for years. The iPhone goes on sale in China next week. Then we'll really see what happens to the app scene.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Layars of narrative from Japan

I'm heading for Asia next week to run a digital training course for a whole host of Asian territory partners which should be fun. This week has been all about getting my head around digital things with an Asian flavour. Along the way I've found a few fun things including this amusing narrative (series) to bring Layars to life. Enjoy!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Amazing Numbers

Globally, 113 billion searches were conducted in the month of July 2009.  Up 41% YoY.  Wow!

Europe accounted for the highest share of global searches at 32.1 percent, followed by Asia Pacific (30.8 percent). Us curious Europeans rack up an average 117 searches per person per month according to Comscore.

Meanwhile Nielsen reported today that average American spends 68 hours a month online.

Closer to home, 25% of UK 12-15 year olds watch TV content via UK TV broadcasters websites according to the interim findings of the OFCOM Children's Media Literacy report. 35% of 12-15's have web access in their bedroom too, (compared with 75% of them having a games console in their room!). 87% of them have their own mobile phone.

Gmail makes me smile

Last night I noticed a Gmail Labs alert, notifying me of a new feature, humorously called "got the wrong Bob"?  Basically it's designed to check that you are sending the message to the right person given that many of us share a first or surname with someone else amongst the contacts list.

Not as good as Google Goggles, designed to make you do maths before you send emails when inebriated (and hopefully therefore make you think twice), but personally I'll probably find Wrong Bob more useful.  Last week a friend of mine nearly sent a colleague a silly email that should have been destined for me on the basis that my name starts with F and his surname starts with F and she obviously writes to us both regularly.  Luckily she spotted it before hitting send but surely that suggests a Lotus Notes / Outlook plug in opportunity??

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

What's Next (2009): The future of marketing

I've been doing a lot of thinking today about brands, and the role of advertising TO people versus engaging WITH them now and for the longer term. You can keep lighting sparklers and dipping your toes into the engagement space or you could go crazy, try something different, light a dirty big rocket and really make a difference in your longer term approach. Yes it might cost more than the sparklers. Yes the chain-lit sparklers maintain ongoing light levels and it might take a while longer for that rocket to reach altitude and explode. But...

It's easy to stick to what you think you know. ROI is usually measured over a short period of time. But what will be the difference over time between the brands that light more rockets now and make bold moves and the ones that just evolve from one sparkler to the next? Time will tell. I have my own theories.

Via the very smart Helge over at"Alt nytt er farlig" (translation: Everything new is dangerous). I found this great deck. Well worth spending 10 minutes perusing.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Digital Agency genius from Brazil

I just found this very fun / cool / nicely designed (all of the above) site from and agency called Ionz in Brazil. 

For those of you that don't read enough Portuguese to play with it properly, you land on a splash page, it asks you a series of questions and then pops you out a profile v the panel which you can also download.

 Simple, very engaging, quite insightful in a playful manner. All illustrating good understanding of what works in digital and reinforcing their positioning statement "we think digital". Love it.

Oh, and on second glance there's a little Union Jack  top right so it probably works in English too!

How balanced is your digital diet??

The fact that people are watching less tv and spending more time online is not going to be news to anyone, but I did like this notion from Wired about keeping a balance in your digital dabblings.

How would your digital diet stack up?