the3six5 Project

A fascinating project from Len Kendall (@lenkendall) of Constructive Grumpiness, giving an overview of the year 2010 from 365 voices, for 365 days. I’ll be getting involved!

“Everyday for 365 days, a different person will write an entry about their experience that day. It doesn’t have to be about a specific topic, the key is that it somehow relates to what is happening in the world that day and how it relates to them. By doing so, starting from January 1 to December 31 of 2010, we will have a snapshot of the entire year, told from the perspective of 365 individual voices” – Len Kendall

Advertisements

Thoughts on Delivering Creativity 1: Digital and Communicating Culture

Particularly for the digital agency, a website, blog or equivalent is perhaps the main touchpoint at their disposal for communicating culture to prospective clients and employees, as well as a device through which to reinforce culture internally. For example, a website can show off design skills, portfolios, clients, awards and individual creds. A blog gives the agency a voice and an opinion through the writings and musings of employees. It can be a useful way of generating new business, joining in to the ‘many-to-many’ conversations going on online. It provides a platform on which to communicate brand ideals, personality, business models and credentials. It should be carefully managed, contributing regularly to pertinent debates with other bloggers or agency professionals and interacting with the online community they are working with.

Further, technology forms culture through the way in which people can communicate with one another. In a lot of ways, the
culture in agencies has become much closer, where people are contactable at all times and in all places on the phone, online and through email. Design changes can be made on the fly, almost in real time by communicating over the internet. This brings a closeness to the interaction of cultures not contingent on physical interaction. However, it could perhaps also be considered to weaken cultures, if the only method of communication is virtual. In a lot of instances it is not necessary for partners working on a project to actually meet, although perhaps for a successful relationship, interpersonal chemistry should be sought in ‘real life’.

Essentially, more ways of communicating should result in more and better communication, not laziness: one of the many, speaking to the many, in many ways.

Long Time No Blog

May and June have been pretty busy. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve been up to:

DELIVERING CREATIVITY
Series of Papers on Delivering Creativity: Coming Soon

DC

I’ve written a series of four papers around the topic of Delivering Creativity in an Advertising Creativity context, as a combined piece of PhD/Organisational Ethnography/Consultancy work. This has taken up the largest chunk of my time – and I’ve not really been able to blog anything on it as I’m tied up with a NDA and the work is being developed iteratively amongst myself, the agency and my professors. The papers cover topics including:

The Digital Advertising Industry Macro-Environment: Challenges, Boundaries and Systems
Digital and the Economic Climate
The Role of Organisational Culture in Delivering Creative Services: Tacit/Silent Running, Interpretive Repertoires and Communicating Creativity through Culture
A Systems View of Creativity
Bounded Creativity
Processes, Boundaries and Ownership in Delivering Creativity
Managing Relationships: Delivering Creativity through the Agency-Client Relationship; Managing Partners/Suppliers/Individuals

They are currently under review but will hopefully be rolled out over the next month or so. So, watch this space – I think they should be a good read.

WAGTALE EP
Design, Production, Music

DOS Screenshot

Wagtale completed their final Lancaster gigs in June alongside the timely release of their demo EP ‘Dreams of Spacestations’. We recorded and produced the six track album ourselves at the Jack Hylton studios in Lancaster. The tracks will be available online at http://www.myspace.com/wagtaleonline for a short while and you can order the EP by emailing me or twittering @joeadamfry, priced at £5, postage contingent.

BOBBY MCFERRIN
Singing on Stage at the Royal Festival Hall

Mention in Saturday 20 July’s Guardian as ‘a guy who wanted to sing a Britney Spears song’ in John Walter’s world music review. The gig was awesome, Ornette Coleman played – and singing with Bobby was one of the best things I’ve ever done I think.

“McFerrin never played it safe: he asked audience members on stage to dance while he devised a score. Another 10 volunteers went up to duet with him, including someone who knew the tune but not all the words to Over the Rainbow (McFerrin never worries about singing all the words); a guy who wanted to sing a Britney Spears song; and a girl whose indie wail worked beautifully with McFerrin’s chameleon-like bass riff”

If you’ve never heard of him – he’s the guy who released Don’t Worry Be Happy – this is the sort of thing he does live though. Watch it in HQ, it’s quite something.

GIGS
Hyde Park/Southbank Centre/Rock Werchter

In the past three weeks I have seen some of my favourite bands, and some classics as well. Rodriguez y Gabriella, Mogwai, Dave Matthews Band (twice), Oasis, Coldplay, The Killers, Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Bloc Party, Bobby McFerrin, Jason Mraz, The Prodigy.

iPhorest branches out to make first truly ‘living’ app

iPhorest
iPhorest, now available on the App store, means that users can now ‘activate a seedling both virtually and physically’ by downloading the app, growing a tree on their phone, and also as a result have the company behind the app, iPhactory, in conjunction with The Conservation Fund, plant a tree in real life and subsequently begin the regeneration of vulnerable wildlife habitat on the Gulf Coast.

The app is fun: you can dig a hole to plant your seed by using iPhones accelerometer, and create a storm to water your seed by shaking the phone. You can also view other iphorest users around the world. But mainly, the point is as surmised in the app’s copy line: “Not all apps need to be a killer. We’re happy to bring you one that’s living”.

Whether it will be successful or not remains to be seen. Thing for me is, a lot of companies are bringing out branded app content (think BMW/Audi’s driving sims, and recently Walkers Crisp flavour races…
Walkers Crisps
…but they are often of little value, and only really work as ‘FREE’ apps. But with a charitable slant on things, eg if the game has a purpose in the real world other than to drive a brand simply through awareness, if it relates to some sort of augmented reality tie in (perhaps in the iPhorest example you should be able to grow the tree successfully, and once this was done you could start again and another tree would be planted, thus increasing the longevity of the game and encouraging users to spend their five minutes waiting for the tube playing a ‘game’ which has consequence as opposed to one that does not); one that you could clarify its real world impact – then the value of this content on iPhone would surely be premium. A treasure hunt using an app, GPS, and the ‘real world’? An app where high scores translated into real life prizes or competitions? Who knows. But the current branded content is very basic. The nascence of augmented reality gaming, apps and mobile virtual/real play is something that brands should look out for and embrace, and is something I think agencies should be thinking about.

Now, I’m off to plant a tree.

Looking Cool…

I was told this morning by one of the professors at my University that she’d used me as an example in a seminar…as ‘an organisational ethnographer who dressed appropriately to study advertising agencies and creative businesses’…and told me ‘not to be offended’. I don’t think I was; it’s a compliment in a way I suppose (although I was ripped by @pace and @HayleyS simultaneously upon notifying them of this fact: (HayleyS @joeadamfry you and your ‘media glasses’); (pace @joeadamfry I always thought your dress sense was painfully, painfully cool. You weren’t even out of place sitting next to me!)).

Moreover, it illustrates an important point about impression management in the creative industries. I didn’t have to worry too much about adapting what I wore or how I spoke etc as it pretty much corresponds to the industry I research. But the point goes beyond the perspective of the organizational ethnographer. Remember those videos you watched in PSE or whatever at school telling you ‘how to dress for an interview’, ‘what to say and what not to say’, how to conduct yourself and so on…these are in many ways obsolete in the media/advertising industry – and in a wider post-modern, post-industrial context, for several reasons.

Firstly, I am not advocating the extremely self-conscious and almost pretentiously ‘creative’/’laissez-faire’ ‘dress-down’ places that seem to proliferate (where essentially, the uniform just moves from shirt and tie to designer brand polo-shirt, jeans and loafers, and management styles barely change at all: only in how they represent themselves), but am rather making the point that in my experience, creative people, or people who perceive themselves to be creative, in an organisational setting, tend to dress in a way that expresses this: that tangibilizes it and externalizes it.

Mothers offices

Mother's offices

Above: The offices at Mother

What is interesting for me is how creative agencies use this device. It is necessary in a lot of ways: creativity is a relatively slippy, abstract and intangible concept, and is essentially the core offering of many of the creative, digital and advertising shops around – particularly the majority of smaller agencies that have been springing up. They are on the periphery of the ‘core-peripheral’ networked industry (imagine this as a diagram if you can) and hence position themselves as flexible, innovative and creative etc….but how can they communicate this. Obviously in their work, in their tone of voice and so on – but mostly through their most valuable asset: their people. Their culture. Their location; their premises. How their employees and subsequently the organisation looks, acts and talks, all aid the communication of what the agency ‘is’ and ‘does’.

Secondly, when the agency goes to the client, they have a responsibility to their perceived cultural capital, and are seen to present themselves, act and talk as such. This in turn allows them to talk and act in certain ways (a ‘facilitative’ boundary between the local worlds of ‘the client’ and ‘the creative agency’) but simultaneously restricts them from behaving in others. It preserves the mystique of the creative genius (eg the black-boxing of processes – which if you remember we are trying to avoid) but more importantly facilitates a mutual understanding of what each organisation ‘is’.

Thirdly, when the client comes to the agency, they see a ‘funky, creative’ etc environment, more relaxed than the culture at their place of work perhaps, maybe with beanbags or whatever and music playing, people with their shoes off – and this serves to reinforce and confirm their choice of ‘creative’ people – or should do at least. They have an opportunity to relax and dress down themselves, and potentially become immersed in and part of this part of the creative process.

This is perhaps the most important point, as paradoxically whilst ‘creative people’ may express themselves in certain ways in an attempt to tangibilze their cultural capital in the form of creativity, they simultaneously must represent themselves as both credible and also manageable, in an organisational sense; again my argument reverts to the integration of management AND creativity – a combination of divergent AND convergent thinking, and the representation of such an integration through appearance, manner and discourse.

Flow: Interpretations of Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s Creativity & Flow…

“Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity”.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is this state achievable in work or play, characterized by the following seven requisites:

1. One is completely involved in the task; you are both concentrated and focused.

2. They feel a sense of ecstasy, in the sense of the original Greek meaning of the word; to feel ‘outside of reality’.

3. ‘Great Inner Clarity‘ – you know firstly what needs to be done, and secondly, how well you’re doing in achieving what needs to be done.

4. Knowing your skills are adequate for the job; that the job is doable.

5. Serenity – no worries of oneself; a perspective transcending the boundaries of ego.

6. Timelessness – time flies by as one is caught in the moment, a total focus on the present.

7. Intrinsic Motivation – whatever activity produces flow; becomes its own reward.

The diagram shows the states leading to and complimenting or contrasting the state of flow.

Flow

Studies conducted measuring respondents’ perceived levels of happiness in different situations provided data capturing to what degree they felt challenged and to what degree they felt skilled at any given time. Subsequently it is possible to establish an average level of challenge and skill for an individual (this will be different to anybody else), forming the centre point of the graph as shown. It is argued then that in knowing this it can be predicted when and how the individual can reach a state of flow. Again this will always be different as flow states are dependent on what that particular individual really likes to do – for example, it might be playing a sport, designing, playing the piano.

And so flow becomes this optimum state; arousal and control are both OK and lead to flow: Arousal is where we do most of our learning as the challenge complexity is higher than our perceived level of skill with which to deal with the situation, and so we must learn new skills to achieve flow. Control conversely requires an increase in the complexity of the challenge to avoid reverting to boredom or apathy, generally considered aversive (Csíkszentmihályi mentions that TV is responsible for most apathy states, along with having a shit…although interestingly 7-8% of TV watching causes flow too…).

His conclusive point is concerned with integrating channels of flow into every day life more – ways in which flow states can be stimulated and promoted both intrinsically and extrinsically. From an organisation’s perspective, the issue of fostering a culture in which flow channels can proliferate is of great importance; particularly in creative industries such as the digital advertising industry on which my work focuses. Issues of projectization, the division of labour and generally ‘picking the right man for the job’ take on new meaning when contextualized by the notion of trying to achieve flow in the workplace. How can organisational culture and management encourage states of flow to be pursued out of states of arousal, control or worse; apathy, boredom or anxiety? The answer lies in defining the context in which people are supposed to complete tasks – particularly creative tasks. Leaving the space open and blank provides no structure; no boundaries to the process, and as such, flow is unachievable: it doesn’t fulfill the criteria of ‘knowing what needs to be done’ and ‘knowing the task is doable’. Further, too concrete a structure to the process may prevent flow channels being utilized where individuality and independence in producing the task are restrictively bound, result again in mediocrity. Again, a balance must be struck between control and creativity, between divergence and convergence, and between complexity and skill.

To extend the whole idea of flow further, one can in my opinion shift the notion up to a new level of aggregation, and consider organisational flow, rather than individual flow in very much the same way. Organizations could review their previous work and aggregate how complex they felt the challenge was, and how adequate their skills were in each circumstance. Again, an average centrepoint of challenge complexity / skill could be attained, and organisations could work to shift their state to a state of flow on more of a day to day basis. Digital Ad agencies caught in longer term relationships may resort to states of control or relaxation – and further away from flow – and many up and coming agencies are pushing from control or arousal in continually innovating and exppanding their knowledge bases, in order to move towards flow.

Either way, the idea of putting mechanisms in place in order to cultivate both individual and organisational level flow states sounds to me like it makes a lot of sense when trying to engage and develop organisational culture. Indeed, whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.

screen-capture-1

Click here for Csíkszentmihályi’s TED talk on flow.

This is what wikipedia says about him.

Digital Brand Activity Measurement Revisited: Abstract from Google/WPP Research Proposal

This is the abstract from our Google / WPP research proposal regarding measuring brand activity online. I blogged a draft of this earlier, but this is maybe a clearer picture of what we were looking at doing.

————-

Universal Digital Currency: Towards a deeper elaboration and more effective measurement of brand engagement online.

(Joe Fry / Professor Chris Hackley)

Abstract

It shouldn’t be difficult to understand a decent piece of digital brand activity. But brand engagement online remains somewhat of an enigma. Measurement runs up against numerous problems, including the context specificity of online experience, the individuality of brand engagement, audience characteristics, individual difference, the dynamics of brand communities in online interaction, and mutual contagion between online and offline media – to list but a few.

In particular, the use of quantitative measures (unique visits, etc) – whilst very powerful – can be premature when quality of brand engagement, key to brand equity, is imperfectly understood. The proposed research will explore digital brand effectiveness in order to move toward a clearer, more coherent and more inclusive conceptualization for measurement.

Heightened competition and increased complexity in the digital environment calls for increased openness, and the current economic climate means that digital agencies must collaborate to exist: ‘co-opetition’ is growing and a mutuality of experience between advertisers, agencies, suppliers, competitors and consumers is coming to the fore. However, in this ‘co-opetitive’ context, it is a question of which brands can harness the powerful technologies at their disposal in order to remove inefficiencies, share knowledge, drive engagement (rather than just analyze it) and prove the value of investment in digital through measurable ROI and engaging environments.

The key element of this research is to ground a deeper and more detailed understanding of digital brand engagement and effectiveness in a better understanding of the subjective experiences of consumers and agencies/advertisers online – ultimately pushing towards a universal, useable currency for the measurement of digital brand activity.

Goals

These goals are intended to guide the research but they will not delimit its scope- the research will approach the notion of digital brand engagement without presuppositions. Consumer data, industry insight and Google/WPP datasets will no doubt generate novel angles on this concept.

To develop knowledge surrounding consumer, advertiser and agency experiences of digital brand engagement, in order to create a more effective framework for the measurement and comparison of online brand experiences.

To elaborate upon understanding of the subjective experiences of consumers online, and how this translates into brand consciousness, engagement and intention to purchase, in the context of the ‘digital/traditional’ customer journey.

To unpack the applicability, and define the terms, of a ‘single digital currency’ by establishing effectiveness measures underpinned by better and evidence-based assumptions about audience experiences and behaviour online.

Expected Outcomes

It is predicted that whilst a single digital currency is both desirable and plausible, particularly in the current economic climate, that the likelihood of adoption of a single effectiveness measurement tool is unlikely. However, it is also assumed that the development of a conceptual framework and more effective measures of brand engagement online will push closer to this goal, whilst also creating a space for the exploration and deeper understanding of consumer response, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to digital brand activity.

Therefore it is assumed that a framework can be developed, answering:

Are people engaging with the brand online? (eg the microsite/widget you have built)
Does the digital brand experience deliver the intended message?
Is the experience useful to the user? (Information, entertainment, insight etc)
Does the digital brand experience work effectively with the customer journey across traditional /digital media?
What are the terms by which this ‘single digital currency’ can be defined?

Ultimately, the methodology proposed and types of measurement discussed are simple: they are designed to work out what digital brand effectiveness is, how to measure it, and how to then use that framework (eg ‘dwell time’ against ‘intended brand message take out’) to develop the effectiveness of brand engagement online. The construction of useful measurement techniques will hopefully lead to some way of proving the value of ‘well-targeted search journeys, clever seeding and above the line pointers towards very effective microsites’ over ‘average TV ads’ (Greg Doone, MD, Collective London).

—————-

We find out whether we get the go-ahead in February. Any thoughts on this are welcomed.