Thursday, February 14, 2008

Brand friendships... sweet or sour?

I think brands working together to create their own stories could be a bit of a threat to traditional advertising in the future. The thing is that a great meeting of companies can create mutual benefits and its own news where, in the best examples, very little communication is needed. You can do much of it virtually for free. And as they say in groups of three one always gets a left out. I can see how this might be the agencies who have until now been the owners or at least champions of brand value creation capabilities. Think apple + Nike which is a great example of 1+1= 3,4 or even 5. So what would be the rules? Can it work out for just any brand pairing and lead to consumers seeing the value?

A friend of mine sent me a link damning the launch of Opera Mini (web browser but shrunk down for mobile phones,) which was launched via a partnership with Mini. He is a cynical journalist so I thought I would give it the benefit of the doubt. On the surface there is a natural fit between what they want to say to people i.e. 'small and cool,' but actually there is nothing in common at all in the user experience i.e. web browsing on your phone is probably an arrestable offense if making a call gets you three points and a fine. It sits as close to the surface as you can get but has nothing more to offer up.

Whereas another example that I found recently which on the surface seems ridiculous, sits perfectly as a brand partnership when you boil it down.
Poetry publishing and Breakfast cereal..? Now there's lateral thinking. After a number of consecutive years sitting down day after day to read the same ingredients list, the same nutritional data, and the slightly varying antics of an advertising character relic, how refreshing or even enlightening it would be to wake up to better appreciation of poetry. And all this in one of the few moments where you are contained and rooted enough to give it whirl.

So then what would the learning be?

Choose your friends by starting with the consumer experience that you deliver, and then ask whether or not this new introduction would in itself add to or enhance this experience. If not then you won't create additional value, you will just create hot air and no balloon. Mini-Opera (unless I have missed something,) is an example of this. And while you are at it you could look at pretty much any marketing decision you make through this lens!

Myth Creation... "and then he punched a man's head clean off"

This is the moment in the new Rambo film when an ordinary blue collar guy just couldn't sit back any loner and watch the injustice around him. Mostly all he wants is the quiet life but if you piss him off he is capable of punching a mans head clean off. It seems pretty stupid but in its idiocy their is actually a glint of genius. How better could you sum up the sublime in the ridiculous that is another Rambo film than by creating this myth. I.e. the one story that people will tell ( and the irony is all part of it) that carries the meaning of the whole film. Either that or its just my office which as you might imagine is not impartial to the odd You tube link shared by email, where this kind of thing draws a crowd. To create a powerful myth for a product or idea is not easy but when you do its gold.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


John Grant is looking for some ideas to spread the news about a piece of climate change research that escalates the current thinking to say that what we could instead be facing is more of a tipping point of no return scenario. This factors in the role of positive feedback which basically says that the worse it gets, the worse it gets. In this scenario climate change will be spiralling, permanent and catastrophic. The first step is to make a compelling film that tells the story of the research. I am a bit of a newcomer to all this but this would be my take on how to make this film famous. If you want to read the research presentation it us attached here.


“Presentation 5”
The research itself is somewhat innocuously headed as presentation 5 (from a day of presentations that were given to government I think.) My first reaction was to think about how the naming and communication of the research needed some added drama and apocalyptic language. However in my head this started to sound like standing in the street with a sign saying ‘the end it nigh,’ rather than what this needs which is arguably a calmer clearer and more official communication. In this light an honest perhaps more unassuming title seemed to make more sense. Innocuous enough to plausibly be the document that changed the world. No drum roll - just the facts. For example… “The Dossier,”“Clause 4,” or “E=MC2.”

With this in mind ‘Presentation 5’ seemed to have more integrity then anything else I could think of. I could imagine an intrigue around “what is ‘Presentation 5?’ “Why is it so important?” “what does it mean for me?” The end of the world is paradoxically something that we hear far more often to the extent that we are used to it. It also begins to tell the story of a day at Westminster.

I was just about ok with the science but it needs some kind of democratisation to make it something that is easy to grasp and easy to share from person to person.
A greenhouse as a metaphor does not tell the story that there will be a point where it irreversibly escalates out of control. Maybe this is the wrong model to explain the research.

The core idea is that as climate change factors intensify, they in turn cause feedback that accelerates the process even further. I understand it best as being like a guitar held too close to an amplifier. The reverberation means that the sound just gets louder and louder until you have to move it away or the amp blows. This model is something that people need to grasp because at the moment you would more naturally assume that everything is proportional which leads to what seems like a logical ‘I’ll wait and see,’ philosophy i.e. the belief that if we take two steps the wrong way and it starts to look bleak then we can simply take two steps back to correct this.

Some new easy mental models would be required such as an;
- Echo chamber climate
- The Deafening Feedback effect
- The point of no return system

These examples all seem to explain the science a little bit more. This certainly needs to be brought to life.

Anyone can make a viral film these days and pass it round. The 'You-tube' nature of the medium could mean that it may only be viewed as one marginal point of view, a group of opinions etc… I would suggest that to give it gravitas and the kind of necessary PR value more is needed and that it must be aired on Television. We all know that television is not a medium that is not just open to everyone and this is an important behaviour for this project. This will be in line with a public information film that would normally (or should be given to us by government.) A public information film by the public for the public which would add some meaning or even romance to the idea that this was the day that normal people mentally shifted into action mode.

I would suggest that the online movement should focus its attention on two things:
1. Getting the film aired on Television.
2. Turning this airing into a social monument

1. Getting the film aired on Television.
Use the digital space to start a movement to collect money towards the objective of a 90” primetime TV spot. The world wide media plan could visually take shape as the fund grew.
-Would Sky not show it for free?
-Would Richard Branson not fund it to be aired on domestic TV?
-Could we create a facebook widget selling a kooky icon that can be bought and given to other people as a contribution to the media budget?
-Could £1 contribution mean that everyone can feel mobilised?
-Would brands donate airtime to get it shown?

2. Turning it into a social monument
This is about turning that moment when the film is aired into a cultural landmark; a line in the sand. Ideas could revolve around…
-Where were you when ‘presentation 5’ was aired?
- Debate around the right to see the film versus the choice not too.
- Conversations around how do you feel before and after
-Marking the occasion through a behavior that goes with it like turning lights off when its on TV
-Twelve monkeys style ideas around looking forward to look back on the day that the world changed (which seemed innocuous at the time.) Why not talk to climate change aware actors and filmmakers to make a Hollywood movie that starts on the day this film was aired around the world as the trailer for the real airing.
-Big screens public viewings.
- Making the date famous.
-A new time frame perpetuated by the website i.e. BC, AD, “AP5”.
- Making it air simultaneously around the world i.e. the day the world integrated its consciousness.
- News around how it was information for the people by the people (funded by them not by government.)
- Name an era or epoch around the film the ‘POST P5 world’
-A special google home page icon to mark the day
-Set up the ambition that this film should be seen by all of the shareholders of the world i.e. the 6 billion ticket movie.
- Story of how the film was taken to all the corners of the earth to give as many people as possible the chance to see it.
-The story of how it was aired as on online broadcast in countries where it was not permitted to end up on TV.

Think that must be a record word count. In the end I think John just wants to make a simple film that does the science justice but its always worth thinking big before you adopt a sense of perspective : )

Sunday, February 03, 2008

WEB 3.0. The synchronistic web

When writing the last post on speechification which is a site that curates spoken word content from around the internet and offers it in a number of downloadable formats, I was thinking about the bigger principle of what this represents. There is something modern about the way that it works by adding a qualitative service to the endless content that is available. It seems to be indicative of a new kind of value that the evolution of the internet ushers in i.e. content is now pretty much free in many cases but to create a special collection of this content that is selected in a very personal way is beyond any functional search tool and becomes a rare commodity.

A few clicks later through John Dodds' site I came to a post that sets out an entire system of these new kind of products called 'Generatives.'

This is the one that pertains to the behaviour of Speechifcation

-- Where as the previous generative qualities reside within creative digital works, findability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works. A zero price does not help direct attention to a work, and in fact may sometimes hinder it. But no matter what its price, a work has no value unless it is seen; unfound masterpieces are worthless. When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention -- and most of it free -- being found is valuable.

The others cited included, immediacy, personalisation, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage.

It seems to be happening more and more in the digital space that just when you are thinking about something you randomly find the answer. In this case it did seem quite random but as we set up our own connections better and better and some of the above generative values develop I can see this Synchronistic way that that the internet seems to find you what you are looking for will happen more and more. This is pretty close to a description of what I have read about web 3.0 as the Semantic web. I.e. it will be able to read and understand content and thus make hugely more meaningful connections rather than creating links based on simply matching keywords together . I prefer the synchronistic description as it relates to how it will feel rather than how it works and makes it sound like something to really look forward to.

As for a new kind of generative value in a world where everything else is free - I am going to sleep on that one but it sounds like a pretty big idea!


I Was listoning to a Podcast on celebrity as suggested by Speechification which is a great idea to curate spoken word content from around the internet. It was generally structured around the difference between Fame and Celebrity. This difference was that Celebrity is an object that can just occur on its own. Its an end in its own right and is not backed up by anything. Fame is subject to something else. Its a by-product or substance that can emerge from things that happen by merit. It struck me that this would be a good way to illustrate the role of the new kind of agency. A lot of companies go looking for what is the equivalent of Celebrity which is essentially being famous for nothing. I would tend to put Lynx in this category - a made up attribute or lifestyle to go with something pretty unremarkable; the only real Lynx effect is to repel women. Advertising is full of them, 'the hit of the real fruit,' 'the coke side of life' etc... etc... But celebrity us ultimately unfulfilling and temporary. I would argue that a celebrity brand idea will always have the same fate if its ultimately lacks substance. The new kind of agency could start by setting out that they were more like a colleague than an agent. Finding projects that you can work on together that will warrant fame rather than trying to magic celebrity out of nothing. A cooperation or an association would be a better thing to describe what that would be like rather than an agency.