Thursday, March 26, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
This is something of an apology. I went to see Mark, James and Johnnie for a morning at NESTA, and promised i'd write it up. This was a month and a half ago, and my half written notes have been sitting on my desktop, squinting at me with all of the intensity a word document can.
Annnnyway, here they are. Better late than never.
Mark Earls (writer of Herd, ex Ogilvy planning chief), Johnnie Moore (performance artist, creative trainer and facilitator) and James Cherkoff (ex PR man, management consultant,
Or at least, that’s what it was billed as. In reality, it was a really free form event, where we did a series of group exercises. Now, this might sound bloody terrifying, but don’t worry – I’m as much of a sceptic as the next man, and though I actually quite *like* talking in public, I’m not much of one for ‘performing’. Especially not when Sammy, Sarah, Amanda and lots of other people who i've forgotten about were there.
But given Johnnie’s excellent demonstrations, we were all able to get involved (even the more concerned amongst us), and learn about how different people approach tasks.
To give you a couple of examples – the first was a hierarchical, evolutionary chain, which (scarily for a bleary eyed Monday morning) involved some mental arithmetic, starting as an egg, evolving to a bird and finally a human. You could only interact with people on your level, and when you met, you had to both hold your hands up and add, really quickly. Those who got it right evolved, those who didn’t, devolved.
I loved just how people made their own rules up as they drew (it seemed to me that women in particular chose to evolve when that happened, which is interesting in itself).
What was also interesting was those people who held up the same number of fingers (or no fingers) in order to ‘win’, despite the fact there were no real parameters – it just goes to show you that people will always have that competitive spirit regardless of the situation.
For what it’s worth, I didn’t really follow the rules myself – deciding to have a count off with anyone who was around. This meant, coupled with my (decidedly ropey) mathematical ability, I climbed the ladder, but got busted down to egg status pretty quickly.
Another one of the amusing activities we were asked to do was to partner with someone of about the same height, then grab their elbows with our hands at the side, and to quote – ‘lift them off the ground’.
Now, apparently we were a very advanced group; people very quickly got the notion that you had to jump up and down, rather than wrestle them to the ground. A few clients and agencies were namechecked; apparently more than a few tried to fight each other. Heh.
There was one more exercise, where people were put in a line, and told to mimic the person behind them's action. It was frankly STAGGERING to see how much it changed by the end, and how only the very vivid action (in this case, an arse slap, which amused us all - very Carry On) got through unscathed. It led me to think about ad agencies and actions (which is possibly the closest i've ever come to channeling Seth Godin) and behaviours which we should present to the client.
Thanks to all of the guys for putting it on, and to NESTA. It was fascinating. I'd go to another event (but maybe I'd write up what I thought straight away).
Thursday, March 19, 2009
This is the blogging equivalent of a retweet, but hell, I think this is quite important.
It's do with Planning For Good - check the wiki out here.
Anyway, I'll let Mark take over now:
This is an urgent request to planning & strategy folk (responses needed by monday night)
Can you help us help the Ideas Foundation? [http://www.ideasfoundation.org.uk/]
It's a UK charity that is committed to championing creativity in young people
"We broker projects between industry and education. We spot & develop young people’s creativity.
We pilot creative education projects and champion transferable skills within the creative industries and beyond.
We provide effective work experience, internship and apprenticeship opportunities. We signpost further & higher education routes to creative employment and enterprise.
And having done all that, we encourage our creativity scholars to stay in touch and get involved"
So here's the shout out to Planning for Good types - do you have a social policy brief that you've written that these kids can do work from?
Maybe the client didn't buy it? Maybe the suits or the CD didn't like it? Or your boss? Or you?
So what are we after?
A brief to target a youth audience on a social policy area
It could be in areas such as smoking cessation, sexual health, knife or gun crime, drug or alchohol abuse, bullying, internet safety etc.
We'd just like your old briefs.
Or, if you really want to write a new one, please feel free to do so but just make sure you include the usual information (the problem defined, the audience, etc) and try to ground it in reality and evidence...
Thanks very much in advance on behalf of the Ideas Foundation - we promise to keep you in touch with what folk send in and what they do with them
Pls send your briefs to me at markearls [at] hotmail [dot] com by Monday night.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Words to live by, via the Dropkick Murphys.
Nike v Adidas is kind of like this. Sure, there are pretenders. Your Reebok, K-Swiss, Converse or New Balance.
But none come close to the main rivalry. I've had friends who were so strongly Nike it hurt. I think for Seb, it'd be like i'd slapped his face if I told him Adidas were better. I think the same applies to Age.
Both of these guys are about my age (*coughs* older), with vaguely similar interests and within the same professional world. But I completely and utterly disagree with them as to who is the 'better' brand.
I love Adidas. Always have, and recently, it's turned into a bit of an obsession (my new ones, sniped off ebay are here). I love the professionalism, the styling, the sports heritage (they are strong supporters of football, tennis and golf, the three sports I most enjoy watching and playing).
Nike, for me, denotes basketball, running (no thanks) and a different culture all together. Those of you who have met me will realise i'm about as far from being 'street' (or 'urban' or whatever the kids call it) as it's possible to be - I even helped organise a tweed meetup last Friday.
And it's strange, no about of communication will really change how I think. I love the new Nike 5 a side work W&K have made:
Well done Doug and co (also, check out the Rooney nutmeg on youtube, it's genius). The work manages to capture just what I love about football, and about how it can be so social, yet so competitive, even for the bigger players. I love the old Parklife spots for Nike as well, and the 'Eric 1966' print work:
Despite these being wonderful spots, I still love Adidas more. I admire Nike, but I buy Adidas. I trust that the Germanic precision applied to my trainers will mean even someone of my limited talent will be able to kick a ball like Muller or Beckenbauer (or at least, give me a fighting chance). Plus Stevie G wears them, so it's good enough for me.
Adidas have just launched a new website too, which amalgamates all of their content in one place. I like the football spots, and the little interactive Liverpool bit I fooled around with. I think, in its way, it communicates WHY people like football, though I do wonder about uniting the originals content (which, like Nike's hip hop allegiances - features artists who love/have customised Adidas).
To be honest with you, when it comes to how i'd use the site - I don't care about the originals/hip hop bit. It's nice, but i'm more interested in the sport. I'm sure others will be, and Adidas do well when they use their 'straight' trainers and embed them in popular culture, though I'm sure Run DMC helped a lot. Heh.
Perhaps what i'm trying to say is that I view Adidas as professional, with a real history. Nike seems to me to have that for running, but not for football. Now, it got me thinking - what would cause me to switch to Nike? What would they have to do, or how could Adidas strengthen the bond?
I'm not a fully paid up believer in Gladwell esque Mavens, but I do think both brands could do a lot worse than using their trainer heritage (and 'something from nothing' mentality, if you check out their histories - do, it's worth a read) to help others realise their goals. Not just big sportstars, and not just 'fashionable' sportspeople or celebs (though those are naturally, important).
Again, though I think defining a brand in one word is largely bollocks, for me - if Adidas is all about professionalism, and Nike is all about perseverence, what does it mean? Well, if Adidas values professionals, why doesn't it do more in this area? I like the fact they sponsor Garcia and Goosen, two of the more expressive and thoughtful golfers on the circuit - and that the footballers they get into bed with tend to be the more Germanic, sparing variety. Could they not run initatives off their new site in some way?
You could see how it could apply for Nike as well, and something like Run London came closest to putting this perseverence into practice. Amateurs may never be pros, but they can damn well train and try like them. What happened after? Did they capture the stories of people north and south of the river? How has it changed their lives?
In short - I prefer Adidas to Nike, and like what both brands have recently communicated to me. But to both - deepen the relationship. I love 5-a-side, but i'm not sure i'd sign up for the Nike event (i'd get blown away), nor order a customised football shirt for Adidas, much as I had fun shooting at Pepe Reina.
How about you? Which side are you on? Why?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I don't usually big up my work, but we're going to be doing something a little bit silly for Red Nose Day tomorrow.
Go here and have a look from 10am. It will be silly, and you may even get to see me making a tit of myself (nothing different there then).
Clue: It involves balls and endurance keepy ups. I'll impress you all with my sporting prowess..
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Much like Amelia's launch of O2's Cocoon, 3 have decided to help launch their new phone with some thoughts from the general blogging public.
One of those people happened to be me, and i've been bloody lax at writing a review at it - real life has a nasty habit of getting in the way at times.
Anyway, here 'tis, with a few caveats:
1) I don't usually review stuff on this blog. I'm opinionated enough in real life to power several thousand zeppelins, and criticising/appraising extra stuff on the blog isn't usually what I like to do.
2) I am in the market for a smart phone - hence my reviewing of this little electronic fellow. Before this, I had thought about a Blackberry 8900, as I liked using the email/t'terweb on it. No iphone for me - emailing looks like a chore, despite the apps on it.
3) Obviously, I wasn't paid for this, and I have to return it.
Right then, onwards...
My usual phone is a Sony Ericsson K800i - a silver one with a good camera on it. It's replaced Nokia in my eyes as the go to phone for ease of use. How I use it is principally for ringing people, texting and taking photos. I don't really use the web, as I find it a bit clunky (and also damned expensive).
Crucially, i'm on 3 mobile at the moment. I like their pricing plan, and (despite what other people have told me) really think their customer service is very good - when my phone was nicked, they were able to tell me what to do, and have always been honest when I've asked them about billing and what to do to configure my price plan.
So, this phone had the potential to be a bloody useful. And the Guardian's tech person liked it, so I had a thought that it might be decent.
In a sentence: I won't be getting it, but I can imagine other people will love it to bits.
First of all - it's a slide phone. I have the fear about slides, about them fucking up and breaking. I also dislike flip phones for the same reason. On the plus side, it is very very light, and easy to carry around; given the amount of technology powering it, it weighs less than my Sony.
Secondly, and crucially - it's bloody fiddly. I like blackberries because I can use the web/write emails easily with them. No, it might be a bit of a chore to upload photos from there to facebook, but it's not really what I use a phone for. Maybe the odd status update, which - for me, even with my bony digits, took a long long time.
The good points:
- It's all your social life in one place - it has Facebook, Skype, MSM, a straight to google link. I can see if you have more patience with the keys/typing than me, then you'd really get on with it.
- It's bloody good at syncing everything together; you can run multiple apps and it'll cleverly remember what you've been up to. So it can act as a proper electronic diary.
- The packaging/help - special props must go out to whomever designed the little help cards which come with the phone; they're great.
But yet - it's not for me. I want a simple (ish) phone that can write email, access the web, take photos, text and make calls. The web isn't the most important thing, by any stretch. And I did discover one thing about smart phones - the keyboard needs to be big enough for me to be able to type with my thumbs.
I'd give it a 6.5/10. Or, a 8/8.5 if you use a phone primarily for sociable bits and pieces and require less work functionality. 3's claim that it's the world's first social mobile probably isn't that far off the mark.
Thanks to the guys at 3 for letting me try it. A little request for you - pleeease get the Blackberry 8900 on your network; I think it's going to be my next phone.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
That's what I'm talkin' 'bout. Via Edmittance. Usual rules apply.
I've got another confession to make. I got into advertising because I had it in my mind that, while it wasn't going to be like Mad Men, it may well have been a bit more like the 80s. Not in the sense that I expected Ferraris and very long lunches, but more just in the potential out there.
The sort of work places I imagined were those people with big intellects, slightly addictive personalities and with ambition off the scales.
The sort of people who'd want to sell; to sell ideas, to sell new ways of thinking, to want to reach for the skies. Slight hyperbole, but that's what I was after.
And, in truth, I find a lot of people who aren't like this. A lot of people who like to do the job, however long it takes, and leave. Ideas are important, sure, but to be entrepreneurial? Nope.
It got me thinking - why are these people like this? Surely, the whole point about advertising is that really, it's based on confidence. No amount of data will *wholly* prove a point, and it only tells you what's gone before.
If we then have an environment where ideas and confidence are championed, why don't we have more entrepreneurs? And more start ups?
Well, I can't help but wonder if it's got something to do with upbringing and education. I come from Generation Y, for my sins. We're the most highly tested generation ever, a generation that is used to being able to publish whatever we like (as Russell and Lynette have said) and say what we want to say.
In short, we've never been this scrutinised. If we fuck up, we fuck up in public. We're a generation acutely aware of our self image (who doesn't have a friend or two who is militant about which photos of him/her go on Facebook, say?) that's used to being tested and hitting targets.
I'd hypothesise that we've had a great deal of our creative thinking and ballsiness crushed out of us.
Advertising/comms used to be a place where you could rise through the post room. And to a great extent, it is still a meritocracy, assuming you can get in.
So we're stifled, despite these tools in front of us. And it seems that a lot of places talk a lot, especially certain agencies which over rely on 'social media' tools; they're are chock full of a lot of people who, in the words of James Brown, are 'talkin' loud and sayin' nothing'.
Frankly, i'm sodding bored of that. Self referential (yes, i'm as guilty as anyone at this) bullshit which is obsessed with its own navel. Proclamations about 'how we're going to change the world' - you know who you are - are found in those people who don't do anything, just preach.
I want to create places where if someone has an idea which works well with a brand, they aren't afraid to go and pitch it. We're salesmen at the end of the day. We may be salesmen with more of a social conscience than the 1980's, but we're still in the business of making things happen, of bringing ideas to life.
So let's start creating and stop fucking talking about it. Working in media, 'social' or otherwise, is in danger of powering hot air balloons and nothing more. I want more entrepreneurs in our business.