One Awesome Plastic Bag

My Luxembourgish friend showed me this today. I love how the old woman looks like she’s carrying a crate of beer.

plastic bag

And wouldn’t it be great if the trend continues whereby innovative design encourages the re-use of plastic bags? Maybe if I had one of these guys I’d remember to take it to the shops with me more often…

New Microsoft Bob McKnight Ads: Good? Not as good as Meeting a Walrus.

Now I’m far from a fan of Microsoft, but their new ad featuring Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight is actually really good. It deals with the issues surrounding the recession in an innovative way, and the tsunami metaphor works nicely.

I like the resolve too, with the emphasis being on a ‘co-opetitive’ future of collaboration, communication, transparency and mutual production between markets, organisations and consumers. This makes a lot of sense and is something I have commented on previously – the problem is, I’m not sure if either a) Microsoft are the company to argue this point, or b) whether Quiksilver serve as a good example presently of a company ‘surfing through’ the downturn.

However, upon finding the second ad in the series (above) featuring Coca Cola CMO Katie Bayne, it dawned on me that I had seen the style of the ads somewhere before: realising through youtube comments, that it was indeed, extremely similar to the work of Jerry Levitan’s film ‘I Met the Walrus’, a short with the blurb: ‘In 1969, a 14-year-old Beatle fanatic named Jerry Levitan, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck, snuck into John Lennon’s hotel room in Toronto and convinced John to do an interview about peace’ shown below:

Now, I’m not 100% certain, but it would seem that Jerry Levitan did not have anything to do with the Microsoft ads – although many others are saying that he did. Surely, if it is not, this is another criminal example of companies ripping off ‘youtube ideas’ from the amateur professionals on the edge of our creative sphere (not that they are amateur professionals in the sense that they are not good enough to be professionals, but in the sense that they are of professional capability, but simply work outside a directly commercial context). Moreover, if it is Jerry Levitan’s work, it is a far cry from the Academy Award nominated short shown above, and in my mind, still serves as an example of this ‘creativity by peripheral proxy’: an organization struggling to find a propositional or communicative foothold, stumbling through campaigns (Seinfeld? “I’m a PC”? Such horse shit) and trying to latch on to the latest buzz. ‘Just copying something else and slapping your brand all over it’ isn’t creativity, another perfect example of this frustrating but increasingly prevalent device is T-Mobile’s flash mob rip off thing.

The thing is, in saying that they’re ‘ripping off other people’s ideas’ and so on, is in some ways true: but thinking about it critically, they are in some ways being creative, these devices hadn’t been used as ‘ads’ before, and in that sense they are original and innovative. In a lot of ways, they are only able to ‘create’ in this way because of the internet and the ability of all those with access and ideas to become content producers; simultaneously we are only able to know where their ideas have come from because we all have access to the same resource, and would likely not have been able to research or understand where the ideas have come from otherwise.

A rant might normally ensue then, that these true innovators like Jerry Levitan should be the ones who get their work shown all over the world, or that this is the level of quality and innovation we should be expecting from within advertising agencies. But a hub-spoke system of creativity will rarely work like that. Creativity comes from the fringes, from creative people rubbing up against the forefront edges of many other cultural borders and expanding the pile as a whole: reinforced, as ever, by digital. To pull these people and these ideas into the hub or centre or mainstream or whatever, is to dissolve and dilute what they are: the anithesis of big companies and big bucks and so on, and the driving force of creativity and innovation from the outside in. It is rarely possible the other way round, but a greater flow of information and collaboration is coming: as more of us become producers, the more advertisers will have to let us produce. It is the job of the agecny therefore, to ensure this conversation and collaboration is handled and managed effectively using the right mix of digital, social, and ‘real-life’ tools.

Chinese Whispers: Interesting thoughts on Influence/Context going on over at We Are Social…

I’m involved in an interesting discussion over at We Are Social about Innovation and Network Influence.

The original post by Chris Applegate is here, and talks about influence in networks and particularly in social media situations. I extend his argument to talk about influence in networks, organisations and processes in general – and what was particulalry relevant to my work was the discussion of the context-dependency of influence. My comment was as follows:

“The most common ways of describing influence in social networks is to draw diagrams with blobs on them – typically there are some very large blobs with lines radiating outward to smaller blobs, which in turn radiate to even smaller blobs. While this concept is useful for specific purposes – and can be mapped algorithmically – it should not be taken as a complete model of a social process…There is also context to deal with – while one person may be influential on, say, technology, they may hold very little sway when recommending a florist.”

This is definitely an important notion; that influence relies on context. Both innovation and influence are inextricably linked to context in many ways, and this context is influenced and arguably formed by interaction, behaviour, language, culture etc.

“It doesn’t account for two-way conversation (or the lack of it), nor can it help explain where and when a message gets altered, or any other form of change that a lack of centralised control can bring about.”

This is also a really interesting notion – a concept I refer to as ‘chinese whispers’ when applied to creative processes and the social development of advertising work / creativity. A decentralised form will always result in bounded processes where messages with a certain degree of plasticity become distorted or altered to make sense in local worlds (eg in different departments of an advertising agency, in different online conversations covering overlapping topics), whilst retaining a degree of concreteness; retaining some kind of universally applicable meaning or value.

In this way, influence, innovation and creativity might appear in different ways and to varying degrees in different ‘contexts’ or different perspectives of the same or different networks, and are judged and valued subjectively as such.

Follow the comments here (Chris posted an interesting reply to my comment)…