Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Nice Gestures from Skype

Like lots of people with friends and family scattered around the world, video calls via Skype are a really valuable thing to me.  Video calling is the most amazing and useful thing. It's a service that brings near people and events that are far. Age doesn't matter.

I have friends and family that I regularly talk to on Skype that are both young and old alike. United by the discovery of how useful Skype is.  I've had friends show off new babies not yet 24 hours old,  had friends' children show off their drawings / toys / reading skills,  and I've shared all manner of disasters and delights with friends and family.  Skype is responsible for new family vocabulary too: setting up Skype-dates, or Sunday Skype-age as it's become known with my brothers in Australia, are moments in the week I cherish and look forward to, especially now that the latest Skype release permits multi-way calls, and I can voice Skype (at least) where- ever I am via the Android App on my phone.

I love the way that Skype has transformed our expectations of keeping in touch.  I have a South African friend that until recently was living in London, and her 2 year old daughter talked to her grandparents regularly via Skype, and that's what calls meant to her - video, being able to see and talk.  So when one day her Granny was on the (regular) telephone, she clasped the handset to her arm to show her Gran where she'd hurt herself.  In her 2 year old mind calls are visual, it's just those of us with a few more years on the clock that will recall a time when telephones meant calling fixed places, voice to voice only.

Anyway, back to Skype, which suffered a service out-age just before Christmas that had Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree. Personally it didn't affect me at the time, but I understand how frustrating it may have been for others that were.  Full marks therefore to Skype who just sent me an email with a voucher code for Skype-out credit and an apology.   A smart and very nice goodwill gesture that's much appreciated and will no doubt go someway to making those that were miffed feel better, and also encourage trial for those people that have only ever used Skype to Skype calling (which is free), enticing them to use Skype for regular calls.

Good stuff Skype. Nicely done, and nicely timed ahead of the New Year rush to wish friends and family a Happy 2011.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Mums are online a lot ...

Now if I was going by my Mum as my benchmark, I'd be concerned about my future employment prospects - I have to ring or text to alert her about an email I've sent.  Luckily most of my friends who are Mums are rather better digitally adjusted / or even more passionate about the web than some of my other non-Mummy friends. The latter just haven't realised (yet!) what a fantastic range of tools it can provide when you are uber busy.   Just yesterday I found a link to a blog that is full of useful shopping tips for busy Mummy's.

Check out this infographic from Microsoft:

Then,  if you think your friends who are parents or just your parents could do with some techy help, (my generous help desk services only stretching so far..) pootle over and check out this useful teachparentstech site from Google:

Comedy Gold: Technology - The One Ronnie style

Traditions are the things that make Christmas, random things that over the years have become part of family expected and part and parcel of the season for one reason or another: fighting with my Mum to get to the purple Quality Street sweets first, Terry's Chocolate Oranges (and just where can you buy the plain ones this year??),  my brother and I smuggling that random satsuma Father Christmas always put in our stockings back into the fruit dish, and The Two Ronnies on TV or DVD to chuckle at.   I remember one year my Dad and I laughing 'til our sides hurt over a sketch in a 20 something years of the Two Ronnies show entitled the Plumstead Ladies Male Voice Choir. Scriptwriting genius. Just one raised eyebrow for hours afterwards was enough to set us off all over again. I'm sure a glass of port or two helped but....

Sadly Ronnie Barker is no longer around but I am delighted that Ronnie Corbett is still working and making me laugh with his fabulous One Ronnie show on the BBC.

Thanks to my old colleagues at Hyper for sharing this genius sketch, technology explained, Ronnie style.

Mr Corbett,  you are a legend. There's a certain irony that possibly the best tech sketch I have seen all year comes from someone who has just celebrated their 80th birthday. 

And if like me, you believe that there's no such thing as too much comic genius, here's a Plumstead Ladies-esque take on Songs of Praise too. I love, love, love smart observation and great writing.

Happy Christmas. May it be full of fun and laughter.

Meerkat moves into documentaries

Where is this brilliant compare the meerkat/ market campaign going next? After the recent book launch, now it appears Aleksandr the media-mogul is moving into documentary making, the clip below providing a nice round up of the ATL activity over the last two years and teasing of things to come on December 30th. Will Meerkovo become as famous a fictional place as Platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Cross?

Everything they do with this campaign just makes me smile. Nice attention to detail as ever. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

If you are going to send an e-Christmas card do it properly..

I'm still wincing at the thought of the e-Card Publicis London sent last year, so much so that it pains me to link to it, be warned.  But if you are going to go with the chari-dee probable instant forget-ification route this year, or your admittedly reasonable excuse is snow and unreliable postal services, then you had better take a leaf out of the Rodgers & Hammerstein book, and at least do it with seasonal style.  Thanks Bill!

And whilst I on a seasonal theme I might as well post this Digital Xmas Nativity story which was doing the rounds last week:

Laughing my Christmas stockings off

Oh I do love a healthy dose of irreverence, especially from an industry that can excel at navelgazing and self-glorification at times.

Full marks for seasonal cheer to The Quiet Room for their priceless Santa Brand Guidelines document.  Well worth a look at the fine print :-)  (click to enlarge)

2010: finally the year of mobile..

It was a long time coming, but 2010 was finally the year when mobile was taken seriously.  I'm not going to vouch for the accuracy of any of the facts and figures here (must be true it's on the internet, non!?!) but here's a round up video that doesn't thankfully have Fat Boy Slim's Right Here Right Now soundtrack.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Timing is everything...

A few months ago I was writing about Pizza Express doing a great job with timely and relevant offers when the London Underground has been on strike, something they've continued to do a great job of, as the strikes have continued.

Today I woke up to a great example of unfortunate timing:  My Groupon London offer this morning? Discounted Heathrow Express tickets. 

 The principle is a good one given that London has already started emptying out for Christmas but as the view out my kitchen window right now is this....

And the headline on the newspaper this morning this......

One has to question the appeal.  Ooops. Unlucky.  The best made plans of mice and men...

Monday, 13 December 2010

2010 in YouTube videos

Hardly surprising given Google just published the year in search, that YouTube have published the year in video.

So in one morning, I've covered 2010 for Apple / apps, search, Twitter & YouTube.  Surely there'll be Facebook next?

UPDATE: Yep, sure enough here's the Facebook look at 2010

2010 in search, tweets, apps & trends

Google just released their search trend year in review video (note the not very subtle plugs for many of their services along the way) It is worth watching but be warned it's not going to leave you bouncing with joy about 2010.  It seems like it's been a lousy year for many people. Bring on 2011.  They also published the top searches per category. I'm sure Robert Pattinson will be delighted to have scraped in at #10 of the most searched for people, with Justin Bieber taking the #1 slot. 

Meanwhile, Twitter reported that the world sent 25 billion tweets this year (so far),and on average 95 million tweets are sent everyday.  Twitter also published charts of top topics tweeted about in 2010:  Unsurprisingly there's a strong correlation between the Google search rankings and the Tweet charts: iPad dominates in technology and yet again Justin Bieber tops the people charts. (Click here to read how they compiled the charts).

Apple also recently published their top apps of the year. You can check who is downloading what (music, films, podcasts apps) & where (by market) on iTunes charts. Well worth a play, if only for curiosity.

For 2010, Facebook dominates the free download charts and Angry Birds (game) the paid chart.

Crazy but true, this bonkers addictive game tops the paid app charts in UK, US, France, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal & Sweden and is in the top 5 in a further 7 countries: Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxemburg, Ireland and Germany. In Greece it's number 6, and the only place it doesn't make the Top10 from the published charts is Japan.

You can bet that the Angry Birds soft toys that Rovio are releasing in January will give a welcome boost to the usually quiet January toy market too.

And whilst I'm having a round-up morning, here's the ever brilliant Contagious round up of top trends of 2010.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Where's the traffic to your site coming from??

I know of far too many brands that build sites and then pay scant attention to their site analytics, and so have no idea what's performing, what's not, nor where their traffic is coming from. It means they can't analyse digital traffic driving activity properly (I call this the broken bridge problem), they can't tweak their site to optimise it for natural search because they are operating blind. #Fail.

Interesting to see today's chart of the day from Silicon Insider showing how much traffic is coming from social sites over search engines : The power of social influence? Or just the plain fact that people are spending a lot of time on Facebook, so whether it's by advertising or page activity, if the tab is always open, it's easy to search there too. (Albeit I should caveat for the UK at least, a search on Facebook offers up results via Bing rather than Google if there's no page / group results).

This is obviously a US example, but I suspect the UK picture is much the same.

The sound of social...

Fun spoof song set to "these are a few of my favourite things" from The Sound of Music.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Cheesier than a ripe brie: The La Senza Cupsize Choir Christmas Carol

Deck the halls with basques and garters, tra la la la....

I'm sure Christmas and Valentines day are key in La Senza's sales calendar. This is clearly an attempt to getting themselves on the boys' last minute Christmas present radar, which makes a lot of sense, so cheesy as it is in approach I'm going to post their Christmas Choir video. If you are keen to tickle the ivories further (even if C (cup size rather than musical note) is a smudge off key if you try and play a scale) you can do so here....

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The future is in the moving image: Video traffic projections 2009-2014

I tripped over this very neat Cisco tool which enabled me to play around with some variables looking at projections of internet traffic / data projections over the 2009-14 period. Well worth a twiddle. The only things I'd critique it for is the inability to show the chart and the legend at the same time, and or twiddle the colours of the lines on the chart to make it easier to read. With more patience than I have today I am sure I could fix the line colour in Photoshop but, I don't so here it is "nature" as the French would say.

Take a look at this graph I rustled up looking at the rampant growth of video... (scale is exabytes (i.e more data that you can possibly comprehend!).  So with figures like that I question why is there such a lack of data availability on spend or even spend forecasts on video digital display formats?  Advertisers, me thinks we should be taking this more seriously!

Tablets and more tablets ahead

Thanks to Chris S for sharing the link to this nice round-up of some of the many new tablets that will hit the market in 2011. Worth a read before you write to Father Christmas for a gen 1 iPad or an over-priced Samsung Galaxy tab!  VAT increase in January or not, expect prices to come down as competition heats up.

Albeit as a huge advocate of Virgin Atlantic I'm quite looking forward to exploring the new Virgin iPad app when I get a mo, and the clients stop making change requests!!

PROJECT magazine demo - issue 1 from PROJECT on Vimeo.

Kicking off the end of year / decade round ups...

Yup, it's started, it's not even December yet the best ofs have started.

So to kick start the season here's the One Club's Best of the decade and a further shout out for that inspired piece of genius that was Burger King's Subservient chicken:

Which of the 10 winners was your favourite?

Monday, 29 November 2010

UK's most popular places to (Facebook Places) check in

An events venue, a theme park and a department store top the list today. Probably pretty realistic indication of how the population overall likes to spend their free time. However, all great if you have somewhere for your consumers to check in, but what if you don't?

Pepsi recently announced a smart trial which links a US grocery store's loyalty programme with their FourSquare account.

Makes utter sense to me. I already have Tesco and Waitrose apps on my phones, the former includes my clubcard number, the latter is a place I frequently check-in.  Merge that functionality with a brand layer and you start building some interesting data on behaviour that you can use to target promotions.  Smart.

Ralph Lauren show off in style

This Ralph Lauren / 10 years in digital site has been on my "get around to looking at" tabs for a few weeks now, so I can't remember how I found it, but well worth a few moments poking around.

There's some nice examples of interesting approaches, and I particularly like the RL gang (scroll to the bottom).

Not that it can come anywhere close to the Live Penguin Cam from Edinburgh Zoo that I found this morning. So cute I had to put it on my Posterous

Friday, 26 November 2010

Masses go mad for Meerkat author....

A month ago, in yet another spot-on-the-money execution in this now long running campaign, Compare the Meerkat's Aleksandr Orlov launched his new book. Ad character turns DJ (podcasts), turns movie star (3 long form pseudo-movie releases), turns author, what will the meerkat entrepreneur do next?

(Be-warned long post, but my blog is also my car park for useful stuff remember!).

As one has come to expect from this aristocratic meerkat, this was not just another book launch:

First came the Facebook updates talking about a forthcoming book (16th Sept),  and linking to Amazon:
 Then emails from Amazon (as well as CTM)  inviting pre-order in what was clearly a smart piece of targeting.

In the run up to the launch Facebook posts enticed and teased, and pushed to YouTube:

Then a series of Facebook posts / tweets went on to moot a publishing launch in what proved to be a very much a la mode for 2 days only Pop-up shop on London's Regent Street.

Followed by an event (again showing how smartly the team behind this campaign are at mirroring general Facebook users behaviour with Aleksandr's), which no doubt helped them gauge the number of copies they needed to stock.

As ever with this incredibly smart campaign, the shop itself was executed beautifully, as was the surrounding communication which covered Facebook, Twitter, emails and of course the website.

The shop, on the edge of an arcade was beautifully on-theme & full when I dashed in after work one evening:

Downstairs was a "life and times" of Aleksandr and his family taking a museum theme,

...whilst upstairs was decked out mini-cinema style, showing his longer form mini-movies and of course selling his "signed" books.

The PR machine was as ever well oiled too, and I spotted pieces in the Evening Standard on the day of the shop launch:

And with the book topping the Amazon topsellers too, this article in the literary section of The Independent:

Three days after the launch (29th October), Aleksandr's book was at no 2 in the Amazon Topsellers list:

A week later (4th Nov), Aleksandr told his 769.5k Facebook fans, & 42k Twitter followers of the audiobook launch on iTunes: (It's also available on, so multi-platforms covered off).

3 weeks later still and how do things stand?

Well today (26th November), less than a month before Christmas,  a quick dig around some of the e-stores revealed this picture:

Aleksandr Orlov: A Simples Life stands at:

#3 in the Amazon most wished for book charts
#2 in the Amazon most gifted book charts
#3 in the Amazon best sellers (now with 66 days in the top 100 (incl. prelaunch))

Nor is it just an Amazon/iTunes distribution deal...
#2 in the bestsellers & today featured as editor's choice on the books homepage

#4 in the W H Smith books best sellers list

#16 in the Waterstones best sellers list, #36 in and #30 in iTunes audiobook chart.

Not bad for a meerkat of Russian shopkeeping origins!

And there was I about to hit "post" when the following tweet burbled onto my screen inviting Aleksandr's fans to vote via Facebook for which TV execution they should run at Christmas.

Spot on again, engage, invite participation, listen to what the people say.

And yes obviously I bought a signed copy of the book ;-)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Coca Cola Light encourage participation in Spain

Lovely example a friend just shared with me of Coke creating a framework for celebration of brand loyalty, participation and advocacy.  Yet another brand that shows that it understands that the cumulative effect of lots of small gestures can create a lot of noise.  Propagation planning nicely done.  I think too many brands get hung up on terms like participation and advocacy and think about them as if they were these giant beasts that have to be executed in CAPITALS, momentous things like creating a super swanky cinema ad, but the reality is that it is far from true.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The only way is UP(loading)

The march of multi-media is unstoppable.  We are all consuming more and more video content, when it suits us, (on demand), across more and more devices.  We're also creating more and more of it too, and being long gone  the days of films languishing in drawers undeveloped, what are we doing with all this video content? Sharing it. Uploading it to Facebook, to Dailymotion, to Flickr, to YouTube as the dominant hub of all things video.

YouTube announced today that they've now reached a mind-boggling 35 hours of content being uploaded per minute. Apparently that works out at " 2,100 hours uploaded every 60 minutes, or 50,400 hours uploaded to YouTube every day".

I've doctored the chart they published with some of the other stats they've published over the last year or so, to make the rampant growth of video over short time frames clearer:

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Cartoon Musical Fun

I'm bonkers busy at the moment. The list of posts I intend to write gets longer, but time is short, so look out for my coming soon musings on the launch of the Alexander Orlov book, complete with Pop Up Shop, my first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Tablet which launched last week, and increasing irritations with some mobile apps. In the meantime here's a piece I wrote recently on Microsoft Kinect and how we need to design more physical forms of interaction into our brand experiences, and there's some fun bits and pieces I've posted recently over on my Posterous.

Meanwhile, here's a musical cartoon medley I found on YouTube. Maybe it's my background working in animation, but listen carefully to the lyrics. How many cartoons can you spot that you recognise?  I love the fact that there are people out there that have the time and the talent to do this stuff. Fun, original, and made my smile. It's a great recipe for sharing.


Monday, 18 October 2010

Take note: Storytelling doesn't have to use Powerpoint

Over time I've sat through a lot of long dull company satisfaction survey presentations or webinars. Yawn.
I've probably been for my fair share of interviews too. Only last week I wrote a piece about using data in compelling ways.

Confused? Lost about where I am going with this one?

Well I've just spotted this nice example of a slightly tongue in cheek recruitment video that is designed to attract candidates to UK ad agency Dare whilst saying something about the company. It combines the output of a company survey (of sorts),  has taken the data and created a series of infographics, and combined them to form a short film which I think you'll admit is much more appealing than a dull presentation or a load of facts on a website.

This is Dare. Are you? from thisisdare on Vimeo.

How could you interrogate the data you have around a given topic to create something similar?  I came across Gartner's notion of Pattern Based Strategy earlier today and it really resonated: the notion not of purely copying something but learning from the principles or core ingredients to create something repeatable and scaleable. Now that's smart.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Challenging category norms with creativity

In days gone by I worked on the yellow fats and dairy category (that's butter, milk & yoghurt in normal non marketing lingo). I found it hugely ironic at the time, given that I'm allergic to dairy products and don't even really regularly walk down the aisle in the supermarket.

However, I did work on it for long enough to know that unless there was a cow and some broad lush green landscapes in the creative, clients would shout and complain about the lack of wholesome, freshness cues. The category has been stuck in creative stereotypes for years. Yawn.

So absolutely full marks to Yeo Valley for taking a fresh approach. Sure, lots of dairy products are traditionally targetted  at the stereotypical housewives with children, women 25-54 blah blah, but watch this on YeoTube (pun clearly intended) and then decide for yourself whether an edgy approach might have just as much if not more appeal to that audience by taking a different angle.

I might just lead your views a smudge by sharing this tweet....

Love it! Made my Monday morning, even if I can't eat the product.

Nice also to see the loop being closed with some specific brand term created search featured at the end of the video.

Good looking website too, albeit flash heavy, with recipes, games, ringtones to download, the predictable product stuff and some social media signposting.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Google Doodle gets video for John Lennon's Would-be 70th

Look carefully at the Google doodle today and you'll notice a "play" icon...

Which being permanently curious I obviously clicked find a short animation to the soundtrack of "Imagine"

First time I've seen video embedding / linking with a Google Doodle. Quirky & fun.

Visual Inspiration: Turning data into compelling information

I'l nail my colours to the mast and say that I believe that data visualisation is something we are going to see more and more experimentation with, in more and more multi-media forms.

If you look at some of the things that most frequently whizz around the web creating conversation, infographics are right up there. The world is awash with data and this isn't going to change, as more and more things are connected together and creating a constant flow of data creation (living as we increasingly do in a world of internet of things). Data that can  then be modelled and translated into interesting and easy ways to make that data easy to understand.

I'm a big fan of the work of Flowtown who amongst many wonderful things recently updated their social map of the web / world

and Information is Beautiful, and their book of the same name.

I'm increasingly seeing more and more tools that pull data from different sources to creating (aggregated) visual representations. I'm hoping I'm going to get an invite to Storify which just launched in beta.

Spezify remains my favourite living mood board tool, last week I found some nice visual search tools that represented image / associated tag results in interesting ways, and then you've got the likes of US auto manufacturer Buick and the Grammy  (music) Awards who are using Spezify-esque approaches to aggregate information around given topics from a variety of multi-media sources e.g Twitter, YouTube & Flickr amongst others.

Do go and have a play with both, and think about both the information, the way it's delivered and the experience it offers.We'd give the Grammy's more points if they hadn't hidden the Fanbuzz Visualiser at the bottom, & had to close the window to go back to the site.  Here's a screen grab showing a nice representation of the conversation volume today about the various  nominated artists.

"But I have enough problems creating graphs in Powerpoint or Excel" I hear you cry...

Well maybe, but all this data manipulation is going to get easier... just as being a photographer used to be a skill of the few that has now passed into the hands of many, the same will apply.  Microsoft are already developing tools that will facilitate more visual data manipulation.  Check out Pivot (video requires installation of Silverlight if you don't have it already).

I expect more and more brands to be using data visualisation techniques to create conversation starters. Have a think, what could your brand apply the principles to?

Singing Fingers App: creativity via bringing music to drawing

It's Friday, so there's a little fun and frivolity permitted. My friend Drew just flagged this to me. Sure, it has novelty & gimmick value, but it's a fun free app, which I imagine with more drawing ability than I possess could actually be turned into something pretty impressive.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Utterly awesome surf footage from Rip Curl

Just watch.

Orange Tweetagrams

So in the week that Orange and T-Mobile officially become everything everywhere (aka as the worst piece of branding positioning ever IMHO), Orange have been having some social media fun with a respond with a tweet or "twoem"  (tweet + poem) competition to have your message sung acapella.

The activity closes today so get creative quick and tag your tweet #singingtweetagram and if it's selected they'll record it for you.  If you are too lazy to bother, do at least swing by and check some of the ones that have been sung already. Rather fun.

Virgin Atlantic's feelgood ads

Virgin Atlantic are well and truly my favourite airline.  In my globe-trotting days I used to move meetings to ensure I could travel with them. As a gold card holder they really did make me feel special.  These days I'm proud to have been down-graded to red card status, it's an exclusive club, the few of us that have seen the light and given up on the work travel drug, the up in the air status, the different restaurant / hotel every night lifestyle. But if I'm travelling long haul for pleasure, they are still my first choice.Unequivocally. They are also my first thought if I'm looking for internal flights in Australia with their Virgin Blue sub-brand and I' happily use a Virgin Atlantic Amex.

So whilst I am shamelessly plugging, here's their new ad

I found it via the recommendation in my newsfeed of a friend on Facebook.  Much as I love Virgin, in comparison with Aleksandr Orlov and Compare the Meerkat/market, Virgin could learn a thing or too about communicating new content with their eCRM / fanbase. Facebook yes, it was there but the Facebook algorithm means I missed it / it didn't appear in my newsfeed, I follow@RichardBranson on Twitter but missed the tweet, e-Mail? Nada.  But anyway, back to Virgin, and just because I really enjoyed their 25 years old ad from last spring too, I'll add that for your viewing pleasure.

Whether you are a Virgin Atlantic traveller or not I'm sure you'll agree they make you smile. Great soundtracks really help. Are you thinking enough about your non-visual cues?

Earlier in the week I tripped over a fun competition for Virgin America: They've teamed up with the Awkward Family Photo site (well worth a lunchtime visit every now and then) to run an Awkward Family Vacation Photo Competition.  Do go and have a look, there are some great submissions....

Monday, 4 October 2010

Timing, Tube strikes & Pizza treats: Relevancy & Context win.

Tube strikes & rain are a bad combination. 

But top marks to Pizza Express for demonstrating their ability to be agile, timely and relevant.

I've just had an email with a link to their "not on strike" voucher for 50% off your food bill if you eat in their restaurants today having battled with the transport system (or not as the case maybe).  (Actually if you read the small print, it's valid at any restaurant inside the M25, which is pretty smart given that there's probably a lot of people working at home today who might treat themselves to lunch out on a grey damp autumnal day. Smart too that they specify that the voucher is valid if printed or shown on your phone screen too.).

Nice touch.  Nice play on the Tube & Pizza Express logo too. Nice timing, just as my thoughts were starting to turn lunch-wards.