Friday, 28 May 2010

Bank Holiday Cream Teas

It's a Bank Holiday Weekend in the UK. Wooohooooo.  Even one that might be passably nice and not a total wash out. Result.  So as floods of people head for the M5, some for Devon, some for Cornwall, it seemed only fitting to ask two key questions about that key kick back and enjoy holiday pass time: The cream tea.

1) Do you sit in the "scohn" (rhymes with John) or "scooone" (rhymes with Joan) camp?

2) Are you jam first then cream (the Cornish way) or cream first then jam (Devon-stylee)

Big smiles to small but perfectly formed Cornish casual clothes player Saltrock for kicking off a scone wars debate on their website and on Facebook for coming up with a great way to stimulate conversation that is relevant to their origins, can keep spinning over time and which only as a by-product happens to sell you stuff.  (And by the way they have a big conscience too, using organic cotton and other eco-friendly materials and production techniques so you can feel good about wearing their stuff on many levels!).

Roll up, roll up, place your clicks here....

Vote for the Cornish cream tea here or

Vote for the Devon cream tea here

Big shout to Jonathan H for flagging this up to me. Thank you!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

It's a risky business sharing pictures of Elephants in the Emirates ;-)

Yesterday I was out and about enjoying the hottest day of the year so far, with a toasty ooh, 24 degrees maybe. A stroll down the Embankment to the Globe (where I saw a fantastic production of Shakespeare's Henry VIII) meant I added a few more Elephants to my London Elephant Parade collection that's building on Flickr.

Sadly I can't hyperlink you to that collection, because today I'm in Dubai, it's 40 degrees outside and so I'm inside staying out of the sun for a bit and thought I'd crack on with some digital stuff, including sharing my pics. I knew that Flickr was banned here but thought I'd try anyway.  Trying to access Flickr gives you this warning:

 I like the colour and humour (the character is locally well known) but bomb site?! As an analogy, it's a bit harsh!  I've seen many weird and wonderful things on Flickr, but nothing that to my open Western mind would be considered offensive.  Then again I'm usually looking for pictures of random things to make presentations more interesting.

So here's one of my elephant snaps from yesterday the rest of which will have to wait 'til I'm back, or I'll stick them on Facebook, as that's no problem to access.  Crazy double standards.

It's a healthy reminder about the world wide web not always being quite as worldwide as those of us that live in free-er worlds take for granted.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Digital Treasure Ahoy! Utterly mad but fabulous Twitter visualisation mash up

Thanks to my friend Mark, I've just found this wonderful, hilarious, Twitter visualisation experience from some crazily creative dude in Japan. LOVING it.

A musically accompanied parade of people you follow or who follow you and their Tweets! It takes a while to load, and after a while the backing track gets a tad annoying but have a play with either your Twitter handle or a keyword. Digital treasure. Delight!

And there was me only earlier today having a debate with someone over original innovation v creative mashing! Scraping Twitter isn't new, but as Hollywood script writer and storytelling guru Robert McKee once told me, there are only 7 stories in the movies, just a million different ways to tell them. ;-)

Another (updated) internet trends video, but worth a watch

Here's an updated version of the socialnomics trends video from last year. 

Sadly they are still using Right Here, Right Now by Fat Boy Slim as the backing track.

Not very right here, right now at all, it was recorded in 1999.  Surely there's something  someone could come up with from this decade?

Musicians, artists of the world, I plea to you, come up with a new pacey track about real time!?

However, fast as the stats in these things go out of date by the time they've done half a lap of the interweb, probably worth a few minutes of your time.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

iPad musings: the good, the bad & the ugly

I've now been using the iPad intermittently for a fortnight. I have played with apps, the AppStore, written a short presentation using Keynote and the medium of touch, taken notes in meetings, surfed the internet and watched some short form content. I haven't had a chance to watch the film I downloaded but can't see why the experience would be any worse than watching it on a screen on a plane. Albeit you'd also have to provide your own headphones as there weren't any in the box.

So my thoughts so far...

I am still loving the interactivity of the touch interface on the larger scale than the iPhone or iTouch. Adding touch into the way you can deliver experience adds a dimension that is incredibly engaging. But, you get used to it very very quickly and then find yourself disappointed very quickly too when other things don't deliver or offer that interaction. It adds a layer of curiosity, you jab fingers at the screen in places where you expect things to happen, and so far at least it is a bit of a lucky dip as to whether app developers have really thought properly about how touch can enhance the interplay.

Usability and experience architecture should absolutely become part of the brief for content going forward from NOW. Some people are already annotating and adding links to videos on YouTube ( I saw this great example from Berlei bras in Australia recently), and as we increasingly seek to navigate via touch rather than typing or mouse pointer I imagine this will become a default must-have. It will also have implications for how we search and the power of associated content suggestions for navigation around the web. Throw in Facebook Open Graph functionality and the game is very definitely changing. Let's save that for another day.

iPad ergonomics: definitely in the ugly category. In short pretty dreadful, for anything more than a casual -on-the-sofa dip in select and go activity. Even having bought a case which folds back to form some slightly angled desk,  I have neck ache already, several paragraphs into a post from having to peer at the screen from an un-natural over the top angle.

I will generously award marks for the keyboard interface overall, but do have a few niggles & observations: No delete key, just a back space which means you have to practice inserting the cursor carefully when you want to go back and amend things. Double tapping allows you to select, cut, copy and paste text readily though which is quite useful if you can get the cursor dropped down into the right place to move the selected text to it's new location. Arrow keys on the alt keyboard would help. Having to swap to the numbers pad for an apostrophe is pretty annoying too.

I can touch-type fairly easily, although points deducted for giving me a capitals keyboard just like a real physical one but with just a blue arrow shift key highlight when you ask for capitals, but because I have no choice but to look over the keyboard when I am using it, it feels that the interchangeability of the display of small or capital letters I get on my HTC Android phone is more natural, and having the numbers and punctuation on the same keyboard helps too.

All of those points continue to reinforce my opinion of this as a secondary device (for me and my needs I hasten to add), for quick and easy, touch based experiences rather than serious document writing. Although I admit that using Keynote to write a presentation was a hassle-free experience, and best still, due to screen size, and the fact that typing had to be done on the screen, and I was on the train with the iPad on my lap, it made for short punchy slide writing. No bad thing. I managed to insert, resize and rotate images easily (albeit only from the images I had already put on the machine, the lack of ability to multi-task or swap between programmes, to find and copy / insert images from the internet for example, is distinctly annoying), but as yet I haven't tackled making charts.

Lack of ability to switch between apps or applications is rather annoying although at least you can switch between virtual "tabs" when web browsing in Safari.

Moving on to apps then: iBooks - I talked about them in my last post on the iPad so let's skip on by with only a passing mention. Fine but personally unless it's in between time when I have finished a real book earlier than expected when a train got delayed or I am stuck on a plane with the iPad out and someone snoring next to me so I can't readily get to a book in my bag I think I will stick to paperbacks predominantly. I think I'll just add iBooks to my repertoire of options rather than give up on the physical format. I am seemingly in good company too.  I've always had more than one book on the go at the same time anyway. Usually in different languages. It keeps you mentally agile.

Comics however, are another story! The French and the Japanese with their love of the comic format are going to soooo love the iPad for that. Although top tip comic publishers, spend a smudge more and add that nice page turning feeling you get with the iBooks and you'll make the experience even better!  I've not read a comic since I was last living in France over a decade ago, (albeit for a while then I was a huge fan of Gaston la Gaffe,)  but I've downloaded Rex Libris (just can't supress my inner bookworm) and am quite enjoying flipping through that.

Magazines are a different story, or at least the ones trying to cross the divide from paper to e-Paper. 

Cool Hunting, a web based magazine type site has an app that really works, and caches some content so you can engage with it even when you are not connected to a wifi hotspot. I downloaded and paid for both Esquire and GQ, and to be honest the experience is a bit patchy.

I accept that the publishers had to turn around something in a hurry to meet launch timings, so no doubt there is a big learning curve and we will see big changes as everyone learns what works and what doesn't, but Esquire seems to be mostly a large PDF of the paper version. Or at least that is what it feels like.

GQ did better, albeit I was thoroughly confused for a bit as I was initially using the iPad in portrait mode, which feels more intuitive in relation to how I think about reading magazines, especially smaller format magazines like Glamour which are equivalent in size to the iPad, as used in portrait mode you get a very odd magazine experience in terms of scrolling between articles which feels rather unlike leafing through the pages of a magazine.

Let's face it, that's how magazines are read, not necessarily sequentially, or read cover to cover in one sitting. I was puzzled. I could only find one ad that seemed to be the digital equivalent of the inside front cover or first facing page. Weird. Especially as I knew that one of my clients had ads in there at I was specifically looking for.
Sometime later I went back to the GQ app, and must have had the iPad opened in landscape rotation, at which point all of a sudden my view and my experience completely changed. Here was the magazine I was expecting. The swipe interface makes leafing through pages a pleasure and being able to touch and go straight to a website for more info on an advertiser makes a lot of sense. It will be even better when advertiser start building richer iAds so you can deliver that depth of info without leaving the page, particularly until you can multi-task and switch between things more easily. Getting richer display ads formats right will almost certainly alter the role of created PPC search campaigns for certain ad campaigns too, depending on the media formats and touch points involved.

There's a Toy Story app which I love, it allows you to have the story read aloud to you, with the text highlighted as it's read just as you would follow it with a finger if you were helping a child learn to read. Or, you can record a version of you reading the story for the child to play back later. Virtual bed time stories for when Mummy or Daddy is away. How cool is that?

 The app has lots of other fun things to do too, and it was free, but I can easily imagine paying a small amount for similar content for a child's favourite character.

Then there's a whole pile of "just for fun"things to play with and talk about, but I'm now so uncomfortable in the pain-in-neck stakes that I am going to save that for another post when I am back at a physical keyboard.

I have also used 15% of the battery life in the hour it has taken me to write this post on the iPad, and I have yet to figure out how I add hyperlinks or insert images. Maybe it is time to get the extra widget I bought so I can take images straight off the sd card out of the box?. A challenge for another day. I will just add the images and links I want to put into this post from my laptop later.

Let's just finish this post with 4 key take outs:

1) think about how touch could enhance your experience and interaction with your app, website, ad or content. There might only be a million or so people with a touch interface tablet in the world at the minute but I am sure it will change fast. Apple have already announced that unless you have pre-ordered an iPad for the international release wave, you are going to have to wait another week to get one, such is the level of demand.

2) whatever you deliver app-wise make absolutely sure that it rotates properly and by that I mean not just landscape or portrait but also which ever way is up, make sure you can scroll whatever angle it's at too.. It must also deliver a good and relevant experience in both portrait and landscape modes, as what you intend may not be how the consumer picks it up and it just causes confusion / frustration or things to be missed.

3) Make sure whatever your app does it, it does at least provide some basic cached content / experience for when your iPad is not connected to the web. It's a big turn off to try to engage with something because you had a spare 2 minutes and then find there's nothing there. Not going to help postive brand scores for sure.  If the internet is a place where short attention spans already rule, and you are only one click away from something else, on a touch-based tablet the feeling is exacerbated thousand fold. One touch of the big round button and you are out of sight giving that time and experience to someone else who does deliver offline.

4) There is no "Back" button!  Remember this - unless you build in easy nav you'll end up being "exited" in just one touch of that oh so tempting big round button.

More to come as I continue to experiment.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 17 May 2010

YouTube tops 2 billion views a day

Yup, having just passed it's 5th birthday, YouTube has now announced that they are now topping 2 billion views a day.  Wow.  That's a billion more than they were seeing last October.

Check out this 5 years of YouTube timeline

And this little video... If 5 years can make this much difference, imagine what the future holds!?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Looking for a new job? Try this....

 Someone just sent me this which has tickled me greatly.

Love it!  (Although personally I would suggest that if you are not maintaining a profile on LinkedIn you should too, just as good practice, irrespective of whether you are jobhunting or not).

Apply the same principles to people looking for info on the category / product area your brand operates.  Are you prepared to pay to insert your brand message in those broader-than-your-brand-name searches, so that you put yourself in the running for the click? I'd be seriously thinking about it.  Otherwise you are missing a heck of a lot of opportunities potentially.

Perhaps I'd better go and set up that Adwords account so no-one mistakes me with my alter-ego landscape gardener in Wales :-) Or the one in Brisbane, or the one in Kent, or the 23 year old that I found on Facebook.  It raises interesting questions about your personal social web brand management strategy.
I have some deliberate views on that topic, but I'll save them for another day.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

I'm a sucker for a good story

Who isn't? That's why we love spending time with friends telling and listening to them, money on going to the cinema or renting films to watch from the comfort of our sofas, and some of us even still read books.

Usual Fiona Fail for not seeing this utterly brilliant TV ad for John Lewis (a UK Department Store that's so much part of the fabric of middle English society, goodness knows what would happen if they ever disappeared).  But  thank goodness for the interweb and the fact that it's online as I think I've had to watch it twice a day since I came across it a few days ago. It pulls heart strings, teases the emotions and generally leaves you with a smile on your face.  A very John Lewis genteel delight. Truly charming.

The accompanying soundtrack version of "she's always a woman" is back in the charts and getting lots of radio air play too. Music is a brilliant anchor, and now each time I hear it I'm back to that story & John Lewis.  Ownable memory anchors are the pillars of storytelling :-)

Nice that it manages oh so subtly to get all the product plugs in without you really even noticing: they cover nursery furniture, garden furniture, kitchen appliances, sofas, kitchen equipment, tableware, kids clothes,  mens clothes, ladies clothes, casual clothes, maternity clothes, work clothes.... , not to mention a fair few super-subtle references to their supermarket arm (Waitrose) for yummy birthday cakes, entertainment catering services and I could go on....  Lots of cues that re-inforce what every John Lewis and Waitrose shopper already knows and makes you feel great about shopping there. 

Simple. Fabulous.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

iPad's coming to 9 more countries on 28th May

Apple have announced that the iPad will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK on Friday, May 28.  UK Prices are reported to start from £429 for the 16gb wifi only model.

The next swathe of countries to see iPad release will be Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore in July.

I'm still trying to find time to play with mine, and enjoying the touch interface but frustrated by lack of ability to easily swap between applications / functions, so still firmly in the very nice toy but only as a secondary device camp.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Earning social currency

Tripped over this lovely infographic via Fast Company. Well worth a double click, a read and a ponder.  

Then when you've done that read this piece on brand super users and put your thinking caps back on. 

It raises some very valid and interesting questions about what's right for what sort of brands and how you should be approaching content and social media.  As with everything, a healthy balance between brand and consumer needs / wants / desires needs factoring in.  Get too brand-tunnel-visioned and you'll end up missing the gap between what you want to get across as the brand manager and what consumers actually like to engage with and how / why they like to take part.

The who wants to be talented Prime Minister Idol competition

The panel cast their votes but the jury is out as the semi-final results were inconclusive:

Lots of "Con-Dem" jokes flying around Twitter this morning, will be interesting to see what happens next.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Non-roman character domain names go live...

Way back in the autumn I mentioned that countries /cultures/languages that operate in non-roman alphabets were soon going to be able to have domain names in their own scripts. Today's the day!

More than half the people in the world don't use a Roman Alphabet / English so it's probably more than about time this happened. Google recently added "pop up virtual keyboards" to its search engine to make life easier for some countries where Roman character keyboards lead to quirky clumsy searching.. Here's an image from the Google Blog.

Website owners across the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will now be able to apply for website addresses that can be written in Arabic and read right to left. That means that they no longer have to be (for Egypt etc).Check out this BBC Article to see the pictures, as with my Roman alphabet keyboard, I couldn't recreate it even if I could read it!

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has apparently had 21 requests for new internet domain names in 11 languages including Chinese, Russian & Thai amongst others.

Which just reminds me of a picture I took in Bangkok last year which made me smile.Just looks like pretty patterns to me in Thai script :-)


Voluntary voting : Election Day UK

Emmeline Pankhurst & her suffragettes fought hard for the vote for women, and personally I've voted in every election I've been able to, even if politics aren't a particular passion of mine.  If I don't exercise my right to vote, what right have I got to complain about whatever the state of things is?

In the UK voting is a privilege but not an obligation, in Australia you are fined if you don't vote. Part of me thinks that's not such a mad idea.  Young people are increasingly reported to be disinterested in politics and can't be bothered becaue they don't believe they can make a difference. 
No doubt we'll see later today / tomorrow how many people did actually vote.

However, going by what I've been following intermittently on Facebook all day, there's a healthy amount of people who have actually said they've voted.  I logged in this morning at 9.30am to find the Facebook prime real estate newsfeed 1st position asking me if I'd voted and having clicked yes (keen bean me, 0745am!) it displayed a counter....

I've been tracking the figures all day, partly out of curiosity, but also because the data shows some interesting things:

Approx 40k-ish people were standing up and saying they'd voted every half an hour this morning. One click triggered this message in the newsfeeds of people they know (and in itself I've seen lots of "Likes" of that newsfeed item).

It linked to a Democracy UK page (in case you were interested), offering simplification of who was standing for what / links to other materials to help you make up your mind. (Maybe I've just missed this in the run up to the election but as I was travelling last week I wasn't logging in as frequently).

Back to the numbers....

Predictably there was a greater jump in numbers / %'s mid-morning, over lunchtime and now towards the end of the working day, which in itself confirms the logical point that people hop in and out of Facebook for some distraction at natural punctuation points during the day. It's hardly rocket science, but now I've got numbers to back up the intuition.

So now, at 1740, beyond the end of the working day for many, the cumulative total  of those stating they have voted today stands at 939,722.  That's 771.5 more than the position at 0930 this morning.  Not bad as a reach figure.  Ok, it wasn't asking much to just ask for a click but.....

I'm sure, irrespective of the result, that there will be much debate over the coming days about the role digital / social media, televised debates etc played in the campaign period, but for now I'm going to leave the sign off of this post to my furry friend Aleksandr Orlov, who aptly summed up what so many people have really been thinking: This election turned into a reality tv contest.

But whilst I am it, let's test the new facility to "embed" a real tweet rather than clumsily having to screengrab and insert it.

Today is final chance to vote on ‘Britain has a prime minister’ final. Myself I would vote for mongoose with largest cuts on centipede tax.less than a minute ago via web

Hmm, not so sure that works so well for Blogger. Maybe it's better in Wordpress. I'll play with the html another day.

UPDATE: It's 2215, Voting at the Ballot Box has officially now closed, and the grand total of people saying they've voted on Facebook stands at....

That's 827.6k more people saying "yup, I voted" in a little over 4 hours. Close to double the number of people who voted during the previous 8 hours or so.

1.7m off a Facebook UK membership of 22m might not seem like a lot, but when you think that's just one day, and a fair few of that 22m aren't old enough to vote anyway, I reckon that's pretty respectable.

Now for results time.

Brand Managers: Take a step back!

I was a brand manager once. Admittedly a long time ago now. I was very passionate about my brands.  So I understand that it's hard to have real perspective when you are so close to something day in, day out.

 That's why you need to have agency partners and advisors that challenge you and aren't just yes-men. It's why you need to listen, and think beyond your brand bubble once in a while. Go crazy, think about a category perspective, think about where that category fits in the WHOLE busy life of the people who buy your products. It will help your approach to comms, search, your business overall and hopefully avoid creative clangers like this one.

I am sure the brand manager signed off this poster creative with a thought along the lines of "wow, my products look great in that ad".  Just as well I knew that GHD make hair straighteners as had I seen this poster at a tube station not a million miles from some of the more colourful parts of Soho, and not known that, I might have thought they were advertising something entirely different.  I'll leave that open to your own interpretation.

Ok, I admit I might be being a touch harsh, it was part of a tunnel takeover and there were multiple executions, most of which did feature head/hairshots but....

Creative Clangers & Election Day creative fun

I spotted this clanger last week - a print ad that ran without anyone noticing that the Terms & Conditions placeholder text hadn't been updated with the final copy and was left as Lorem Ipsum. Oooops. (Click on the image to enlarge).

That said, nowhere near as bad as this Daily Express example my friend Trevor flagged up. Eeek.

Today is UK general election day, & The Sun (UK tabloid newspaper) ran a very Obama campaign-esque image on it's front page
It has prompted a heap of parodies.... check this out.

Then take a step back and remind yourself that people will participate and play with creative if the idea is powerful or engaging enough.

My quote of the day (so far) came from a Comscore (digital industry measurement company) newsletter:

"What are you telling the consumer? How are you saying it? comScore ARS, the newest member of the comScore family, finds that the creative execution is four times as important as media vehicle selection in driving the success of an advertising campaign. You can’t save bad advertising with good media."  :-)

UPDATE: Here's a link to Comscore's piece that backs up that creative point with propensity to purchase

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

One in a million....iPads

Yup, I was in Chicago last week and managed to get my sticky paws on just one of the million iPads Steve Jobs announced he'd sold in just 28 days.  Apparently it took 74 days to sell 1 million iPhones from when they launched in July 2008.

So here's the picture to date:  1 market only (USA), WiFi only model, 1 million units, 12k apps downloaded from the 5k now available and 1.5k eBooks downloaded.
Quirkily, the free iBook the iBook app came with was AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh :-)

Ok, ok, I have to admit that it's not exactly mine, but bought for the office, but just for context, that meant I had this many options of internet connectivity and search / entertainment possibility to hand on Monday night.

And that's with my netbook out on loan at the minute. Too many devices, not enough hands, needs or eyes!

Full marks as ever to Apple for making the purchase process pleasurable. I logged in to the Apple concierge site, reserved my iPad, received a confirmation email and subsequently this notification that it was ready and waiting for me. Nice touch. (Forgive the pun).

The dude in the store was amazing, set it all up, gave me some cunning work around tips as obviously the iPad Appstore is currently only available to US users, and was genuinely passionate about the product, and the fact that I bought the USB and SD card adapter widget (separate, grrrrr). It was the first time they'd had them in stock / seen them at work. So enthusiastic was he that a pile of his colleagues appeared to check it out too. All adding up to a great purchase experience from reservation to leaving the store, new toy in hand and ready to play with as soon as I got to the airport.

So first impressions?

I'm not going to waver from my original position that it's primarily a coffee table device.

A damn sexy one, and you can't argue with the fabulous-ness of the touch interface on the bigger, more gratifying scale of the iPad over the iPhone or iTouch, but... it's a big, expensive, digital photo frame with lots of extra functionality.

Do I  love it? Absolutely!

For me, I need some work horse computing capability, and this isn't it, unless I'd gone to the lengths of buying the keyboard and stand-y thing or a separate bluetooth keyboard, it's not a device that would be comfy or practical for writing long emails, documents or blog posts on, but as an always to hand, totally capable of dealing with many internet requirements (let's not totally overlook the Flash / HTML5 war) device, it's perfect. Which goes back to the points I've previously made, if I was a primarily leisure user, was more style over price conscious and didn't already have a heap of other options, it's a serious contender.

I haven't had it for long enough to play with the more "work" related apps like Keynote (i.e Powerpoint) with the touch interface but watch this space....