Last month was the 6th edition of Interesting Vancouver. Also the first one I’ve attended in person rather than in spirit and video for a while. It was brilliant and more than worth the journey home.
When I started Interesting Vancouver one aspect was a little different than other editions in London, NY, Portland and others. Vancouver had a hidden agenda beyond a fun bit of learning and thinking – that agenda being to give the city a little genuine confidence into what it is through who Vancouverites are and what they do.
It is too easy and a bit lazy to define a place by what it isn’t, the typical Vancouver approach. It is braver and healthier in the long term to actually define what it is. Often people like to say Vancouver is too young to really know what it’s all about. What rubbish. The culture of a city is what people do each and every day, for real, individually, most too busy doing what they do to see it as anything bigger than themselves.
As a fourth generation Vancouverite I can assure you without any doubt Vancouver has a very clear and firm culture – just one that it isn’t confident enough to state and too often relies on “me too” statements of comparison or meaningless terminology like “world class”.
I like to think each year Interesting Vancouver is, after removing many layers of veneer, tourism sloganeering and pedantic cliches, an authentic statement and definition of the city’s culture at that moment. The current venue of the Museum of Vancouver is brilliantly ideal in this regard.
Although there isn’t a theme or focus to each year, one organically emerges. In my interpretation there was a theme of independence that emerged through all the talks this year. Independence meaning identifying for one’s own self who they are and what makes them distinctive through what they do. Independence in opinion and confidence in making a life for an independent point of view that might not fly somewhere else. At least that’s what it was to me.
This year also marked an evolution in the organisation and structure of the event to protect what IV is and does so that it can endure. I joined forces with Mark Busse in a formal partnership to perpetuate all the good stuff Interesting Vancouver is as a night while developing other areas and formats to extend the mission of Interesting Vancouver. We both think Interesting Vancouver can be a helpful and generous force for Vancouver in the decades to come.
In the coming years Mark will be leading the charge on the annual event while I focus on IV’s long term mission and projects. The ambition isn't to grow, increase frequency or become a stadium tour, rather express itself in different ways in carefully chosen contexts for IV that extend from what the annual night is.
We have some awesome volunteers who seem to have loads of fun, which is the point as nobody needs another job or yet another place to promote themselves. More co-conspirators are always welcome and I look forward to working with them all again next year. It will be even more fun, more relaxed and I won’t even wear tweed, promise.
Illustration: Krisit Wakelin
Photos: Trevor Jansen
There is an increasingly accepted view that the 70’s and 80’s were not the definitive model of publishing and the news business but in fact an anomaly. The simplicity of writing some articles, filling ad pages and printing paper products downstairs in your basement with ever increasing efficiency was beautiful, and yacht buying-ly profitable. It also wasn’t ever really going to last. It wasn’t true to the reality of upheaval and intense competition in the news industry.
Like the music industry last decade, news reportage isn’t dying. Far from it, for as those with a clear point of view, a body of trade craft and a business strategy that understands the real value of what they produce are continuing to find they operate a very profitable model. Maybe less gargantuanly profitable than in the past, but really that all depends how you compare today with yesterday.
But tomorrow is very interesting, in particular when dissecting the FT’s decision to fundamentally relook at what is their core value and how they deliver it. Digital First is the mission according to the editor Lionel Barber in a memo that isn’t your usual PR talk value over real business value of too many executives trying to feign as “getting it.”
“Digital,” as highlighted in 21 Quotes from Clay Shirky’s Post Industrial Journalism Paper, is at the centre of the production process, not simple an add on to the sales department. “Digital” is not someone’s domain, department or a silo, it is a way of doing business.
Gone at the FT will be the multiple versions and updates of the paper late into the night on fast moving presses. The on-going, forever updating, stream of “what is happening” will live first and foremost online through browsers and apps. The “what matters” as a more considered view of “news in context” will be put to a single daily “paper” giving a greater sense of permanence and understanding on pre-planned versus reactive schedules.
If I am an advertiser there may be times I just want to get some exposure and reach. Often with a real time aspect as is increasingly possible and meaningful – particularly if the media property properly tracks and shares data / usage behaviour. Of, if I am an advertiser who wants to build margins and brand values I may want to pay a premium for placing my brand where the context of the title improves the perception of my content in a slower more considered reading context. Many would argue the latter is what you get with the pink paper.
As has long been obvious is that media isn’t an either or debate. Offline or online. Analogue or digital. No it is a debate about actual usage and behaviour with an understanding of the real value of a medium in a given context for a given property valuable to certain groups of people.
When speaking of media, fragmentation has long been on the tip of people’s tongues, paradoxically as much a convergence. Typically fragmentation is code for meaning some small guys stealing the big guy’s lunch. For the near team the truth seems to be a race to the middle, the small guys getting bigger and the big guys getting smaller on a relative basis though still with scale and might. Throw in some mergers and acquisitions and before we know it there will be a new model that emerges, only to be killed again…
Earlier this year I started a start-up. Two of them actually.
One is a technically driven strategy platform working under the code name Plannr born from some work I did with Facebook last year.
The other is a publishing idea.
Earlier this summer I made the decision to focus 100% on the publishing concept, partly because it was closer to being revenue positive and also because I loved it a bit more.
I also love Plannr, and it may be restarted, but what I love most about it at the moment is what I learned from it.
For six months I was based in the Google start up campus around Old Street in London, met as many people as possible and immersed myself in as many things as possible. A dramatic change after a decade in highly creative, innovative and potent advertising agencies.
There is a very different lifeblood in the world of entrepreneurs, of course a high degree of motivation but also self-responsibility. There are hundreds of people in London and most any city around the world today investing their personal money and time in making something happen. There is a real pressure you see in people’s eyes when they know they need to make it work, not just move on to another client or meeting if things don’t pan out.
It gives a swiftness of movement and forces entrepreneurs to confront the full scale of what it takes to make an idea happen and worry about their weaknesses. Entrepreneurship is a team game and there is no such thing as “not my problem” or being “too busy”. Consequently it attracts the most strong willed and optimistic people out there. It is awesome.
The past couple months I've returned to adland doing some consulting work on integrated concept development and execution for both tiny boutiques and mega-big agencies. So I thought I’d jot down a few points of perspective gained over the past year. I ended up with 8.
Ideas are easy
There are thousands, maybe millions of ideas floating about. Some good, some less good. As Ferran Adria, the most creative chef in the world, said to me “ideas aren’t the problem, doing them is.” At a time when any idea is possible in infinite ways, how you execute is the most important thing to worry about. In truth, ideas are small, doing them is the big thing. Doing them is what matters, the only thing that matters, and doing them brilliantly is bloody hard.
Ideas aren’t stealable
There is a notion ideas are something to protect, as they can be stolen. Very early a good friend advised “nobody can make your idea your way.” In practice the more people you show it to the more you stretch and strengthen the possibility of the idea. This doesn’t mean to take every comment on board, but every comment helps form an independent view of what one should or shouldn’t do. Also, people love having a coffee if the subject is talking about an idea that might be famous one day.
Ideas are fragile
As the owner of an idea you spend a lot of time with your idea. The idea becomes incredibly familiar, which is good. It also becomes easy to continually evolve and morph what the idea is. At times this is vitally important, at other times one much watch it isn’t out of boredom or undisciplined. The idea must always link back to the core problem you are solving, not a technique or something shiny. This understanding is typically at the core of great ad agencies.
Often people confuse an idea with features. For example Facebook’s product is connecting people, it does this through a number of features such as your wall, mail, messaging, photos, etc. Speaking with Jay Bergman of start-up golden child Hailo, he explained his greatest challenge is feature creep. Especially at the beginning. Every feature adds an exponential degree of complexity and resource demands, build an idea that has the potential to grow (conceptually and technically) but be desperately brutal with what features you start with. Bloat kills. The husks of overbuilt and complicated unsold “digital” ideas litter agency graveyards of servers and filing cabinets.
Ideas aren’t digital
Real people don’t give the slightest moment of consideration to the word ‘digital’. It is a meaningless hollow shell of a term used by people too lazy to be specific about what they actually mean. People care about ideas, they care about what it does and how it makes life better. Everything uses digital technology today, it’s life, not a specialty. Any agency requiring any job role with digital at the front is failing themselves. Have technical experts who execute but ideas and strategy mustn’t be confined by the artificial silo of “digital”. Rarely did I hear the word digital on the campus, people speak in ideas and tasks not vagities.
Ideas are small
Smart start-ups are obsessed not with the 1 billion potential users, but the question of who will be the first 10. Then the next 100. Companies are built by recruiting one customer/user at a time starting from zero. This forces real discipline in who you are going to engage, how you will reach them and why they will care – product development questions as much as marketing, more so really.
Ideas are technical
I’ve previously spent a lot of time with a hand in the Vancouver tech community and I find the Vancouver and London scenes total opposites. Vancouver is full of technical ability but lacks ambition in its ideas. Vancouverites are generally content with millions, London universally wants billions. London is full of ambition and big provocative ideas but lacks desperately technical ability. Most ad agencies also struggle to balance either the creative ambition or technical excellence. Most creative agencies are all ambition without technical excellence. Most self-declared “digital” agencies are all technical ability with little creative ambition. There is a middle ground a few dance in, and is in my opinion the holy ground for the next generation of companies and brands people will genuinely care about.
Ideas repel ads
Part of getting advice is giving advice. The most frequent counsel I give to fellow start-ups is to use anything but advertising as your business model. Too many too early look to ads as a magical tap of money. It is lazy and the idea thus devalues to simply be a hook to deliver ads. Sure like Google or Facebook you can make crazy money if that’s your thing but for users the presence of ads dramatically changes the context of the experience. Frequently it brings negative value, detracts from user experience and associates your brand with the same banal advertising content already plastered across the internet. However, if the presence of ads adds value to the user, for example Kiip, that’s good.
About Everyday Paris by Brett T. T. Macfarlane:
Only recently has travel become a mainstream pursuit, and in response tourism has robustly industrialized, sterilizing the travel experience. Consequently, beyond seeing the important but obvious sights, already familiar thanks to a lifetime of popular culture, there is a deep desire to break through the bubble of passive spectator tourism and become active participants in the world’s great cities. Especially, in Paris, the most visited city on earth.
Everyday Paris is a cultural briefing for the curious contemporary traveler seeking to authentically experience uniquely local ways life. An insightful and entertaining companion that explores the mentalities, routines, traditions and codes of being Parisian to empower you to do Paris as Parisians do.
This briefing on Paris launches a global publishing platform in partnership with Amazon Kindle using the principles of a technology start-up amidst publishing's ever evolving landscape. With Everyday Paris an open call goes out for ten writers to produce an Everyday Cultural Briefing for the next ten cities.
When will it be released?
- October of 2013 - global English language release in exclusive partnership with Amazon Kindle
- Kick off events in Paris followed by London, Vancouver and Seattle
- Spring 2014 - print edition in partnership with photographer Alex Kryszkiewicz; collaborator with GQ, Bentley and Paul Smith amongst others.
Came across an atypically typical Parisian occurrence last week on the second of my two one night layovers in Paris.
We grabbed some Velib's (the bike share scheme whose continued membership is my most beloved extravagance) for a night ride along Canal St. Martin.
We rode down my favourite haunt, rue Bretagne, and stopped for a little projection performance on the bare wall overlooking Marché Enfants Rouge; the oldest covered market in Paris.
The performance was watched by a couple hundred well dressed, coiffed and camera'ed up Parisians spilling out of Café Charlot onto the street.
The sort of event that seems to happen with great frequency in Paris; jammed together Parisians being Parisians making the most of their city streets to soak up a cultural spectacle that doesn't require tickets or a theatre. Brilliant.
The track banging through the neighbourhood sounded, to obnoxiously quote myself, "like a French Kanye West."
Turns out it was Kanye West's new track New Slaves.
This was one of 66 such events around the world that night, the same day the track was first performed on Saturday Night Live in America and streamed on kanyewest.com.
A fact I learned two days later, just now.
It reminded me that a few years back "trans-media" narratives were a bit of a thing, but they seem to have gotten lost under the umbrella of integration.
Inherently, good and fresh media with a perspective on our world is transmedia. Even if it only existed originally in one place.
Transmedia isn't the chart with all the plumbing of the internet - it is the real way creative things flow. The way them permeate all channels in ways that cannot be 100% predicted.
It is the idea over the technique. Both are important but technique is meaningless without idea.
Sure it was marketing, what isn't - but if it wasn't interesting and genuinely compelling to begin with, I wouldn't have stopped on Saturday and taken some shots, publications wouldn't have written about it and I wouldn't be caring about it now.
There was no branding or "messaging". I had to figure it out for myself. How atypically memorable.
It's challenging wrapping your head around today's media landscape - not because there are too many changing dynamics, rather rarely does one exhaustively explore the subject.
Earlier this year the Columbia Journalism School and Tow Center for Digital Journalism released a 122 page paper called Post Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present. Written by C.W. Anderson, Emily Bell and the seemingly omnipresent Clay Shirky.
The paper is a serious, exhaustive and joined up inquiry into what is the role of journalism today and what are the models that may exist tomorrow.
It is an exceptional piece of work. A sober review of the state of the industry pulling together the full picture of what we each know in pieces. A picture that only an outside party free from commercial/proprietary interest can clinically pull together devoid of salesmanship and jargon-ism.
The histories and functions of journalism and advertising have long been intertwined. Thus it is imperative any self respecting advertising professional takes a proper look at the shifting dynamics. It is too easy to look at the dynamics in fragments or superficially.
As it is an exhaustive look at journalism it is also exhausting to plow one's way through it. It has taken me weeks (though I've done some other stuff too during that time...)
Thus I've concentrated the 5 hour read to 5 minutes with my selection of the 21 most important quotes in this PDF:
What is compelling when reading the paper is any time they reference a journalism term, say newsroom, and you replace it with an advertising equivalent, such as agency, or journalist = creative, the points couldn't be truer.
The most resonant point that comes through repeatedly is that adding some digital technology to your existing process doesn't make you digital, you have to fundamentally rework your workflow to reap rewards. Additionally, and lastly, at a time when many are just winging it you do need a workflow but allow the system or practice of its use to be hackable when benefits ourweight the restrictions of the workflow.
It is a cultural briefing on how to "do Paris as Parisians do."
I seek a few more people to give it a read and help me understand what is and isn't working before formally sharing with agents & publishers.
Why did I write Everyday Paris?
I've been a Francophile long before transferring in 2010 to one of Europe's top creative ad agencies - DDB Paris.
Cultural observation has always been an obsession of mine and living in Paris is an “observaholic’s” nirvana. It was a hobby and compulsion to endlessly share things I noticed or thought interesting as a sort of guerrilla ethnography, which people seem to quite like.
What compelled me to actually follow through with the idea for this book was a discerning friend advising a leading global luxury brand borrowed a passage of mine (without my knowledge) discussing Brie cheeses. One evening he decided to read it out in Versailles Palace's Hall of Mirrors.
Frighteningly, the occasion was a grand dinner marking UNESCO naming French gastronomy an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, packing together 650 of the good, great and Michelin starred of French gastronomy in rightful self-congratulation.
Surprisingly, rather than laugh, they applauded.
So I've since written a cultural briefing that can be read on a plane or train to Paris. It fits between your typical laundry list guide book/website/magazine and a breezy but individualistic expat novel.
Why does the world need this book?
There is a generation seeking to be informed and mindful travelers who have no shortage of tips and lists but struggle to break through the sterile bubble of passive check-list tourism to become authentic participants in the city and experience how its inhabitants live any given day.
In other words, they seek to become temporary Parisians, and thus when in Paris wish to "do Paris as Parisians do."
Contact me by Sunday March 10 ideally as my ambition is to have input by April 1-ish.
If not you, please forward to someone you think might be interested.
I can't offer much other than being part of the journey. I did much the same for Alex Bogusky and John Windsor when they published Baked In, which was rather interesting.
If you are in the UK I will hook you up with some wine. If elsewhere I'll arrange some suitable consideration/inspiration. Of course once published you will brush with glory and get some special rewards if and when it takes off.
TED is moving to my hometown Vancouver in 2014. That is pretty cool, but why Vancouver?
One of my favorite memories of the first Interesting Vancouver was meeting the artist David Young when planning the event. He had recently moved to Vancouver from the US and remains absolutely convinced Vancouver today has the right ingredients to become the world's next great creative hub.
As a born and raised self-loathing Vancouverite it seemed equally ridiculous and addictive this provocation of his.
"Why not us?" he challenged me.
In his Interesting Vancouver 2008 talk he dissects the great cities and creative eras of human history to build his argument why the present generation's Vancouver is potentially the next great creative culture.
I fully agree with David and part of my reverse migration to Europe is to experience and study more closely how other cultures - be they local, national, regional or global - operate with success, mediocrity or failure.
Having left Vancouver, I increasingly identify the reasons why Vancouver already is one of the planet's leading thinking hubs of the moment.
1. Hard Natural Resources - wealth of the land is helpful. Traditionally hard natural resources timber, minerals, agriculture and fishing have provided the wealth of the region and a financial backbone of a community.
2.Soft Natural Resources - have created new opportunity and financial resource - such as near perfect natural light conditions to create the largest film production centre outside L.A. and NY. Technical knowledge from logging built one of the most technically advanced rigging expertise centers for big budget action films (eg. the X-men films) or early computer pioneers driven by an economy that only knows technical progress (and a bit of local sci-fi rebel rousing from William Gibson types.) These are soft resources developed in one area that then jump laterally to areas like video games with EA who develops most of their sporting titles in Vancouver.
3. Collaborative - while a big city it is not so big that individual business sectors never cross over. Each sector has a handful of players (take advertising where there are maybe 5 meaningful agencies today) such that they naturally cross paths with many other areas. Likewise, two large but excellent universities and the top notch Emily Carr art school who have departments but never the entrenched silos of old world institutions.
4. Curiosity - Vancouverites tend to be more introverted than elsewhere but certainly are curious types seeking stimulus from all sources. It is one of the world's few genuinely multi-cultural cities. Many great cities like London or Paris are international but their government and self-image remains caucasian male with barely a handful of exceptions despite the factual demographics and thriving ethnic communities. A strong world life balance mantra of work hard play hard also keeps people fired up and full of interests fueling curiosity.
5. Pioneer spirit - over 90% of the population moved within at most two generation to the region in pursuit of a better life. It is hard wired to think that however something is done today it can be done better tomorrow - change is always better than not changing. A few quick examples being Greenpeace for the environmental movement, Lululemon for modern sportswear and Vancouverism to embrace a new model of mixed use urban planning transforming downtown over two decades.
David, who attended TED before the Chris Anderson buyout and subsequent commercialization noted that Interesting Vancouver felt very much like the free exchange of the early TEDs.
TED has become something completely different, and very bloody good at what it is. But why bring it to Vancouver?
Now, is there still room for Interesting Vancouver? Or course, they are brothers of the same mother after all, just growing up to be very distinct people contributing each in their own way to the world.
As we purge the old to start anew in 2013, it is an ideal time to also revive one's media diet. Media habits settle easily and lazily, as any habit does.
Here is some wide ranging media that may be notable enough to displace any tired media in your life.
Two continents, two eras, two dramas, one environment - the newsroom:
- The Hour - post WWII investigative news drama set in the BBC produced by the BBC. Unfairly compared to the heavy shadow of Mad Men, as all dramas of this era now must be, The Hour stands its own with dignity, pace and surprise in a time when integrity was rife in the news room.
- The Newsroom - Aaron Sorkin's take on the tensions and conflicts of the modern newsroom where integrity swims against the current. Jeff Daniels, while a great actor who will always be most noted by this writer for his stellar performance in Dumb & Dumber, is stellar as the jaded ego maniac with a deeply buried yet strongly burning moral compass.
Both timely given the ongoing debate of eroding journalism, a decline English language France 24 and its plucky young crew refutes. Well informed and concise coverage of the news stories that matter - that many networks don't think deliver ratings. Particularly good for Africa and Middle East affairs free of hype, agenda and hyperbole. An informative tabletop tablet app over your morning coffee.
Here's the Thing hosted and produced by Alec Baldwin is 40 minutes of your life you cannot believe didn't cost anything. He is an interesting man interested in a wide range of subjects and people, getting under the skin of what makes them tick, revealing what makes himself tick.
The Menu - the casual and welcome pretension of uber media brand Monocle is at its finest in The Menu. A weekly podcast bringing the world of food to your ears. For some reason I listen to it at the gym...
James Chutter Mixtapes - an oldie but goodie by an old friend - while I'm not sure of the legalities and I am sure of the listenability of these newschool mix tapes by actor/ad man/entrepreneur extraordinaire James.
Rouleur - much more than an elegantly designed bike magazine. Rouleur is a tribute and asset to the culture of cycling effortlessly mixing the personalities of yesterday with the practitioners of today. Optimistic, transparent and celebratory of the sport without being naive or caustic.
Giles Coren - hidden behind Rupert Murdoch's Times paywall is a critic of culture, Britishness and society in the disguise of a restaurant critic. Informed provocative priggishness dished lavishly in hearty laugh out loud helpings.
Foreign Affairs - as the doctrine of globalism - one planet, one nation, one culture - exhausts its remaining breath big questions with big facts and big implications rumble underfoot. Though a bit America centric and at times military focused the informed and well written readible essays take you out of the trees to see the forest of global concerns.
Collect - an Australian upstart focused on the culture of entrepreneurs. As we live in the new era of entrepreneurship Collect packs together the best of this world while unintentionally encapsulating the modern global esthetic of the "indie" brand.
Fricote - a bilingual journal about food that is in fact an eye wateringly fresh take on visual magazine design. Playful while never letting polish get in the way.
Another edition of the reality show the globe can't stop watching has concluded.
Obama stays on as commander in chief.
As the campaign teams scramble for new jobs, livery is removed from jets and attention returns to the plodding task of governing many have noted this US presidential election felt a little flat versus 2008.
Yet, record sums of money were invested in advertising. Social media went from novelty to mastery. Rhetoric from both sides flew constantly.
Nonetheless, the great emotional drive, the uplift of a generation and mobilization of the indifferent didn't arrive.
Why not? They did all the right things.
Hundreds of pieces of creative were produced, maybe thousands, millions even if you count every banner and placard made by supporters.
What if in 2008 Obama simply got lucky?
Lucky that a street artist made a rogue poster. Allegedly stealing an image and giving it his artistic flair.
A poster that turned a politician into an unusually iconic figure, for a politician.
A poster that said what many wanted to feel.
A poster people at first discovered, rather than were broadcast.
A poster whose tone meshed with the personality of the leader.
A poster cool enough for a non-fanatic to put up in his office, dorm, storefront or car back window.
A poster perfectly designed for the digital age, appearing on Facebook feeds, twitter icons and the first generation of iPhone back when only Amercans and Canadian's like me had them.
A poster that Obama was lucky an artist woke up one day and decided to make.
What if the reason this election fell a bit flat is simply neither candidate was lucky enough to have that rare creative expression that taps the moment, its people and its mood unexpectedly and inexplicably.
They probably tried, maybe too hard, too many hands, too many opinions. Maybe.
There certainly were some very interesting pieces of creative and design, that met the brief and achieve the objective.
We can only speculate the 2008 outcome if Shepard Fairey's Hope poster wasn't created. But, the debate over why this election fell flat does leave one clear conclusion - in this world of near infinite knowledge and un-consumable volumes of information people still want to feel moved.
Got an interesting email today from an old colleague. We worked together in the legendary halcyon days of the term "social media." Same agency, different departments, working together to help get our social media practice up and running (yes back in 2007 it was started organically, without acquisition.)
The point of the email was exploring the differences between North America and EU social practices. Very interesting query. Something over nearly 3 years living here, working with a bunch of brands and meeting lots of interesting people outside my agencies.
Thought it worth posting the points for posterity. I apologize in advance for the excessive of pragmatism and lack of dogma.
It seems like EU is where social was a couple years ago in the US.
- Everyone was aware , a few had tried but were underwhelmed as expectation weren't in line and brands got a little shy.
- But then consumer behavior ran ahead and suddenly brands had massive scale so that it became a core part of the marketing mix rather than novelty.
- I would say there is a place for proper grown up social business and strategy - I struggle apart from AKQA to identify to many agencies at an international level here in EU killing it.
The dynamics causing this:
- It is a huge area of responsibility that has mostly been left to the hands of media agencies - which makes sense as companies like Facebook set up sales offices long before development teams.
- Given the scale of media businesses, they went social early but brands have been slower to uptake partly as they haven't needed to as Pan EU business growth could be delivered through emerging markets like the East
- Additionally budgets are being hit hard, 20 to 30% year on year for a few years now, even growing brands
- Olympics are a great example of this - the media owner social was amazing. Brands really didn't use the space to inspire, even those with aggressive "innovation" strategies like Coke
- It is a lot tougher over here as everything is so much more fragmented and complex with deeper cultural variance between and within nations. At the moment it is also really risk adverse given the financial crisis that is still working itself out. Heavey oversight. Very siloed. People still commonly talk about ATL and BTL as though they are still different worlds.
- But some markets, like France have great isolated successes now (see the McDonald's work DDB has done for example)
- To get social through the door most agencies did a cost arguement rather than quality of engagement.
- It seems to me the opportunity to bring proper grown up experience is needed.
- One things euro's don't begrudge is if you don't live down the street.
- Be really sharp where in the market you fit in between brand agency, activation agency, PR, the remaining digital silos, etc, as budgets tend to be far more fragmented and protected by different hands than in the US as politics often carries more strongly over merit comparatively
- Direct to product teams rather than through marketing teams is where the budgets are shifting. Curiously, product teams are proving more creative and innovative than many brand teams - evidenced a lot in FMCG lately. Baked in social I'd say has huge potential, though that is a feeling not fact
It's social media week in London.
So the same old types are telling social stories where the disbelievers are rediculed as not getting it.
The smartly designed glass wearing tellers of the stories are written off by the disbelievers as undisciplined hacks unable to prove any causation of "Likes" on improving grown up business metrics.
All a bit sad and tragic really.
I stumbled accross the Bill Bernback Said site today - always worth a reminder of Bill's old work. My goodness, it must have been fun with that new medium nobody really new how to measure and no codified rules or MBA manuals of how to advertise formulated into people's heads. So wonderfuly irresponsible they must have seemed.
Also, D&AD celebrated their 50th. Lots of reports of people looking at the 70's and 80's work blown away by how simple, single minded and powerful it was, and still is.
But the best was the President's award to Dan Wieden, that made reasonable no sense, but for doing outrageous work for outrageous clients.
The scary thing about all this is at the time none of them realising the greater impact of what they had done or were doing. They knew it had to be different, but didn't know exactly how.
There is something about the people doing the work social media week is all about, that over time will likely prove to be powerful. But, we just don't know what it is yet. We know a bit, but not really that much, even amongst those who claim they do know it all already.
Funny how the most unreasonable things at their time stand the test of time as being exceedingly reasonable.
Nike gets held up a lot in marketing meetings, conference and articles.
Less for their advertising these days. Arguably it's not as profound, insightful or compelling as it once was. Though that view tends to come from middle aged advertising people with "glory days syndrom" not teen aged target markets who are rather engaged.
However, what is certain is that what they are saying is getting relatively less interesting over time to what they are doing. They are doing some increasingly really interesting things.
Nike+ has been out for five years, which feels really old. A standard feature in most running products.
The Fuel Band had a nice boom on release. Strong engagement amongst the keeners, still a question if it's big with the regular people yet, but that's just an observational conclusion.
No matter, two things are very interesting.
1. They are doing real social not formulaic "happy Friday" social. They are communicating and celebrating across the entire brand and all its touchpoints. Giving people something to talk about (the product) and then incorporating that naturally and honestly into comms. I loved their consumer facing Fuel Band dashboard even before they asked to feature me on the front page following a little jog with livestock in Spain. I also love the ongoing football academy reality like saga on their France football fanpage or any one of hundreds of other micro-narratives across all their owned media aroun the world.
2. Their front line sales staff are getting skilled up in new ways. In the Covent Garden running store the other week I noticed an employee with the role Digital Specialist on his name tag. Basically, given the technology products starting to come out they are installing retail floor experts to teach fellow staff and consumers on what the products are and how they work in regular language for regular people. Seems obvious but it is amazing how few retailers communicate well, in the frontlines, with real customers. While collecting high quality intelligence to feed back into product and comms development. Retail is seen too easily as purely as cost centre or topline revenue driver rather than brand experience lynchpin.
The second point is really interesting as Nike seems on the verge of becoming arguably the first retail goods company to incorporate technology deeply and meaningfully into all their products. The Nike+ Basketball product blows my mind, and it seems smart clothing after years of promises is coming out soon too.
The future is distributing itself a little better in sport these days, and hopefully there will be lots of Nike to talk about at conferences in the years to come.
It is a grand summer of sport in Britain this 2012.
Amidst the watching, supporting and cheering for me is a lot of running. Well, not as much as I want but a fair bit.
When arriving in a new city, as a visitor or new resident, two feet gives a sense of the scale, variety, neighbourhoods and streetside vibe of a city.
In London rather than precisely mapped out routes I embrace the likelihood of getting lost by picking a destination to run to, a direction really, and see where I end up. Oyster and Visa cards tucked behind my iPod for escape if needed; which inevitably they frequently are so my scheduled ten mile run doesn't become twenty.
This September my wife and I are running for Chateau Pichon's team in the Bordeaux Marathon. Not the most serious of marathons given the fancy dress, wine sampling and restorative oyster stations. Nonetheless 26.2 miles through the greatest vineyards of Bordeaux is still 26.2 miles under the clock.
So for me, it has been the summer of run. These are my 10 favorite so far.
1. A regular route along Regents Canal - usually to the concrete bound East and periodically to the vacant green West.
2. The Dutch seaside outside Den Hague. Yes, the dutch have a seaside. No, it's not worth going out of your way to see. Unless you like running on brutally soft sand with bitter unrelenting sand filled wind pummeling your face.
3. Amsterdamn on Queen's Day - run ended at 10am with streets filled with kids performing their talents (not all with imposing Tiger dads looking and texting for record contracts.)
4. Primrose Hill track - old school narrow track in leafy ambiance for speed sessions (which generally aren't that speedy.) Chariots of Fire soundtrack should be on loop.
5. Running of The Bulls - Pamplona, my shortest run, about 200m into the stadium, of total chaos. Nobody told me that once you've survived the bull run, they close you in the ring and release 5 more bulls for recreational goring. This guy nearly got me, but too slow amigo...
6. Richmond - the old royal herds of red deer for hunting are much more tame yet still wild.
7. Montmartre - my old route around Sacre Coeur when I first moved to Paris, still worthy of a lap around the hill each visit. Though unlike my first run one chilly and dewy January morning in 2010 I no longer slip on the tricky reverse camber paving stones.
8. Canal du Midi - outside Revel in the South of France, technically a feeder canal from Bassin de St.-Ferrol that gave 10 miles powered by the previous nights frog's legs and Gaillac. This was a good one, really good.
9. Cairngorm - not a run but hike atop the Cainrgorm range for skiing in May. The world offers many peculiar experiences.
10. The Olympic Torch - I didn't run with it, I did run 6 miles to view it with all the middle aged who's who of Shroeditch.
With the Olympics starting Friday more runs of note are expected. Bring it.
Following a social media frenzy accross the Northern Hemisphere over the past 24hrs an official 2000 Push Up Challenge has crowdsourced itself.
Tonight, it's on. 20:00 GMT.
Offical rules as sanctioned by the 2k-PUCA (aka the 2000 Push Up Challenge Association) are as follows:
1. 2000 pushups in two weeks, wherever, whenever
2. No cheatsies
3. Participants post progress daily on Twitter with hashtag: "@macfarbt 0/2000 #2000pushupchallenge"
4. Eligibility period - 20:000 GMT Wednesday April 18 through 19:59 GMT Wednesday May 2nd
5. Lagards can enter any time up completion - no cheatsies
Eternal glory for all finishers. Maybe a badge or something too.
There has been an awesome challenge around the agency lately. You know, the type of thing the pre-professional blogging world would have loved - the minutia of life.
The 2000 Push Up Challenge
It was a pretty big deal, we even discussed making an app to adjudicate and make sure nobody cheated.
Or better yet - a head mounted RFID system integrated with a GoPro camera to enable a real time gamified rewards system synergized with the open API for our Nike Fuelbands. But the APIs not really available yet.
Instead, I just made a logo. Using the immensely powerful graphic design platform everyone is talking about: PowerPoint.
Rules are easy - over two weeks complete 2000 push ups.
Do them when you want, at your pace.
Averages out to 143 per day.
It's a lot more than you think.
I finished yesterday.
Others are doing it today.
Pretty sure this will become the next big thing.
One damp, dark and bone chilling winter day in Paris last year I ducked into La Galcante. Possibly my favorite shop in Paris. Hidden in the middle of the heart of Paris' 1ere arrondissement on Rue de l'Arbre Sec. Tucked behind the oft visited Spring Boutique where I'd stock up on and learn about wine during my time living there.
La Galcante's reason to exist is historic journals and ancient documents. Newspapers, engravings and magazines from the past couple hundred years. Equal part museum and treasure hunt. Most all from "mechanized" eras focusing on culture, war and politics.
In La Galcante are collections of boxes labeled by theme - a person, place or event. A functional way to collate clippings and publications devoted to an individual.
Buried deep in a box shared by Earnest Hemingway and Orson Welles was edition number 662 of Artes published March 19 to 25 in 1958. A seemingly since deceased publication.
Hemingway, the man and his myth are as closely intertwined with Paris as any other artist. A vicarious window for many into Paris during its most recent truly golden age. A vision into the modern construct and lore of the lifestyle of an American writer.
The article lists his 10 punchy pieces of advice for young writers. Loosely translated as follows:
1. Be in love.
2. Apply yourself to writing with force.
3. Watch the world and mingle closely with life.
4. Intermix with upcoming writers.
5. Don't waste your time.
6. Listen to music and look at paintings.
7. Read constantly.
8. Don't look to explain.
9. Listen to your pleasures.
10. Shut up. The sense kills the creator of words.
While Hemingway wrote a lot, he rarely wrote about how he wrote - though writing did feature in a number of his semi-autobiographical fictions.
The accompanying article also chronicles exactly how he writes in his Havana flat. 450 to 1,250 words a day, every day. Not the most prolific but not so much as to get in the way of living a life that gives one something to write about.
Great tips for a writer, and for life in general.
Humans tell stories. We are really good at it. Both the telling part and the receiving. A good story says so much more than the volume of words or visuals used.
While stories fills much of my day the greatest storytellers I respect are those on the front lines of combat. People enduring real physical risk to tell stories that need to be told. Rather than the stories somebody wants to tell.
The Imperial War museum currenlty has a powerful exhibit by iconic war photojournalist Don McCullen - Shaped by War.
On Saturday fresh off the plan from six months in Afghanistan British Army photographer Sergeant Steve Blake along with the head of photography at the museum talked about covering 21st Centruy Conflicts.
His story of covering modern conflict is one of the most compelling stories I've heard in recent years.
Firstly, with extreme forensic distance the head of photography chronicled the shift int he past 20 years from film to digital photography and its moral and operational implications.
Followed by Steve pragmatically detailing the team structure and how despite being a photographer he is a soldier first. A soldier who must engage a population with a thing most have never seen - his camera.
Most interesting to me is their team structure. Steve works in a group of three. Himself on stills, another on film and their leader, a superior, who serves as the official media voice and is responsible for all radio content.
These three, with their individual equipment adding 50 points to each's back and a shared satellite uplink operate as a self contained mobile news room that delivers against every single possible medium.
Some stuff they shoot goes on TV, some on Facebook, some in newleters and some in magazines. They don't worry about the medium, just getting the story.
I loved the brutal simplicity of three people getting all possible required content for any medium.
When lives are at stake, no time for messing around.
As the world jelously salivates over the swift riches of 'newly' minted Facebook millionaires this week goverments and pundits equally initiate the deafeatist toned debate of why wheir nation doesn't generate companies who generate such grand wealth so quickly.
At the same time is a great series by Jonathan Meades delving into the deep cultural influence of America on France. A deep cultural influence of minimal recognition and even derision. In Fance, as depicted by image above snapped at the museum of technical arts, America is treated as a contained silo rather than pervasive incons and constructs.
On Monday, the world's advertising professionals will dissect Super Bowl advertising. From big idea films, executional excess to integration with the latest trends, theories and technology.
America holds an exceptional outward cultural force. One few acknowledge and seems perceptually diminished at a time of more deft footed foreign policy.
Cuturally, America remains by far the planet's greatest force. Yet, fascinatingly, so few nations can shed their nationalistic pathways and mentalities to learn or at least take on the attitude of necessary calculated risk acceptance inbred in America's "ever forward at all cost" mentality.
There are some great ads playing out tonight online and on TV. Worth a moment to think less about the tools they use or celebrity they hired and more about the mentality that enabled the best stuff.
It seems there are new battle lines drawing up in the world of advertising. Simplisticly, they followed a journey that went like this:
1. Model A is no longer relevant. It is replaced by Model B.
2. Oh wait. Actually, we didn't move from A to B, but now models A though Z can work.
3. Hold on, all that stuff in Model A still works. I did some of that Model B and then M stuff, not sure if it was any different or better. So Model A still works and is therefore the focus of most efforts supplemented with a smattering of other stuff.
4. No, you didn't actually ever commit to B nor anything one thing C through Z. Actually, you tried to do them all, at the same time, badly. Just as I can buy personalised Nike I want personalised ads. Stuff for me, only when I want it where I want it. This is the post industrial mass advertising revolution damn it. Don't you get it? A revolution!!!
And there you have it. Two factions lined up behind Stage 3 or Stage 4. It's not communism, or socialism nor even anarchy. In fact, it looks a lot like the US Democrat Vs. Republican divide. Two parties closely fighting every election collectively representing most of the country.
One for big government, the other for small government. One about the individuals, the other about the macro economy.
Each are a system of governing. Each with different values, personalities, divergent self interest and ways of working. Both kind of do the same but to different ends through different means yet still with a lot of overlap at the macro level.
If I was creating a business from scratch today I would almost certainly look to work in a way aligned with point 4. That would be so fun.
If I was handed one brand/category in a conglomerates portfolio of brands in a commodity category used by 75% of a country's population and no discernible beneficial historic perceived differentiation or spastic inconsistency I would probably align with Point 3. Can still do some amazing stuff such as what 98% of Old Spices activity is, stuff under Point 3. I would try to do Point 3 really brilliantly and break all the rules inside that model as much as I can get away with inside the machine of super conglomerate company culture.
Came accrosse these today from the Hyper Island folks.
They call them principles but are also kind of rules.
1.Remove silos, subjects, barriers, titles
2.Active lifelong team learning
3. Challenging open-‐ended projects
4. Immersive technologies
5. Agile working methods
6.Build on the work of others
7. Reflection and evaluation
8. Change is constant
I like them. Partly because some stand the test of time and others are rather philisophical statements around how to approach the type of work that seems to increasingly work really well. Specifically the importance of teams working together, being agile with each other and egalitarian.
These principles don't guarantee great work but are a great way to work. In this day and age it also problably creates more and more of the great work out there. Presumably.
Interesting Vancouver happened. It was different than prior years, as planned. As always.
I am rather proud of how Lauren, Mark, Jason and James have grabbed the event, stayed true to its ethos, while enlivening each year. This year, found a new venue, brought in some other great volunteers.
I was rather gutted not to be there. They again humoroured me and asked for a video to participate from abroad.
I am not an innately interesting person, hence why I first organized the event to celebrate other people's interestingness. Nonetheless, rather than just say hi the obligation to attempt interestingness led me to ramble about something increasingly of personal interest:
I like unreasonable people, because unreasonable people do unreasonable things.
This doesn't mean they are rude, nasty or hatful. In fact, many are lovely, warm and compassionate people. Though that's not always the rule.
Rather, as a rule they all don't do the reasonable and usual thing.
For those there last Friday, following is the promsied links/notes. For those not there, the video will be up eventually on interestingvancouver.com, but you’re probably better off watching the good speakers.
- Reasonable people don’t accomplish unreasonable feats
- Especially when it comes to climbing mountains, cliffs and hanging glaciers, never climbed before, with traditional gear
- Read My Life in the Mountains
- Luxury architect, who in his motorcycle fetish uniform and black leather pants 365 he designs the most striking retail spaces of our time
- Even if you do not buy into luxury goods, when in Tokyo, Paris or Milan steal the experience of walking into his shops (Dior, Louis Vuitton, Ermengildo Zegna, etc) for overwhelming luxe
- Some say it's unreasonable he still gets to make movies
- Watch Midnight in Paris his recent film worth it because of his amusing depiction of Earnest Hemingway
- Few have more consistently written such striking and true, yet accessible prose as he, much is being revealed as the Cuban government opens up his final studio. Read The Paris Wife or Vanity Fair's tale of first expeditions to his work
- Known best as the first photo journalist on the beach on D-Day
- Read Slightly Out of Focus
- Telling, revealing and brisk tale of the mold maker of today's vision of a war correspondent.
- Would you risk your life for an unproven profession?
- A Chinese kid from Ohio who grew up in the back of a laundromat and became the creative director of Bloomingdale then the man behind Nike's golden era at Wieden & Kennedy
- Eat at Ping in Portland - honouring the Chinese heritage of the Pacific North West
- Why is a daily indulgence to indulgently terrible?
- Why can't coffee reflect a terroir?
- Why can't a decent coffee be served in a rock and roll vibe without pretension?
- I recently visited Picasso’s rarely open only intact studio at Cahteau de Vauvenargues
- Picasso was a great multi-diciplinary artist, probably only truly on display at this, his last studio
- I realized there, Douglas Coupland, is Canada’s equivalent – from books to sculptures, to park designs to art installations, to historian
- Celebrate this wandering around his Vancouver scuptures or his non-fiction
Teen targeted creative is tough. Always has been. Less to do with short attention spans or some hackneyed assumption like that. More because of how obsessive teens get about something they like and satisfyingly fueling that obsession.
Many times on teen work to frame the creative/strategy with clients or internal teams we'd first talk about just how obsessive you get about stuff when you are young - when you're not sure about yourself and figuring out your place in the world. That hat, that car, the dance, a new track, the skate deck, Walkman/Diskman/iPod, the game that weekend or whatever else that consumed every non studying moment of your life. Total bloody obsession.
Thinking whether something was obsessible helped make better work rather than something superficially, ahem, "cool."
As people get older they forget what it was like to be so obsessed about thing. We forget the feeling, in your gut, front of the brain, of obsessing. Reading and re-reading the magazine, replaying the song, logging into some form of email. Over and over again.
As a child I obsessed about making stuff - specifically drawing comic strips or clay superhero figurines. However, I never had the tools to do it well. I had a great upbringing but it just wasn't in the family culture (engineers, lawyers, etc) to buy specialized art supplies. But still, I obsessed,and tried, badly, to draw comics and attempt figures of Flash. It just never worked out.
I worry with so many lame and formulaic "social engagement" campaigns and the lazyness of BuddyMedia type tactical tool we are turning away from so much potential never before available.
I love that kids, and everyone else, today can obsess and get so deep into their obsessions to actually make stuff with a possibility to make it great because there are so many tools at finger tips. I love that.
This Coke Zero Make It Possible thing seems kind of cool in that regard. It's not another lazy be in our commercial as an idea because there actual is no idea. It is an outlet for obsession with dance or music. I like that. A lot.