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


Four Social Media Conversations

This is a very pretty bit of diagramming: The conversation prism, by Brian Solis and JESS3.

The converstation prism

What is shown here is simply different verticals and environments in which social media conversation takes place: its pretty small, so you cant really see, but you can download the image bigger on their homepage – or buy a poster of it for $20 if you have really poor eyesight. Point is, I’m doing some consultancy work around adapting digital strategy within these verticals at the moment, and have a couple of rising areas of interest. Its not one of those gay lists of ‘7 KEY FACTORS FOR SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS” – its just quite interesting.

1. Meta Conversations
Aggregation of audience is not necessarily about demographics but users within a vertical. So, if twitter communications link to twitter related content, they are more likely to be engaged with. Twitter is about linking cool stuff on the web. The closer you remain to these meta-conversations the more likely your stuff will spread (eg the more likely people are to retweet: engagement is another measure, not just clickthrough).

Picture 14

A good example is this case study of VW…they use twitter API based around your recent tweets to determine which VW is best for you. Whilst this might not actually be the case, it is certainly interesting and relevant to the the activities you are already involved in (eg twitter, profiling, ‘cool web stuff’). So, maybe ‘remarkable’ content sits between following the link and having to visit a more corporate homepage. Thus whilst clickthrough is desirable it is not the only measure: content drives engagement as a result of its proximity to vertical meta-conversations/norms/interests (eg innovative use of API).

2.Content in Context

My formula is Content in Context + Integration and Connection Reciprocality. The challenge may be to create content, pushed into contexts where it makes sense, that integrates with the same content in other verticals AND different content within that vertical. It is vital to achieve an optimum degree of permeability within the social media experience. Trade off between a brand homepage ‘hub’, the controlled, branded content within verticals (with gentle pointers to desired actions), and the uncontrolled, UGC social world. “What connects people to people to your brand is the creation and development of a collective purpose and meaning through the mutual exchange of ideas. Let us not limit our creativity by limiting our perspective on language or expression in the context of the brand” – @razorfish.

3. Making a Cup of Tea
People always forget individual difference. this is what Chris Hackley is often talking about. People’s context is influenced by multiple variables – what they’re doing at the time, where they are, who they are…whether upon linking through to some content they nip off to make a cup of tea; whether they have 20 minutes and are bored and resultantly play your online game for 30 minutes without really paying any attention. The only means of combating this would be to ensure you engage at a number of different points, to increase your chances of developing an interaction.

Don't be a Brand Slag

Don't be a Brand Slag

The guy I’m working with at the moment says ‘people might be ready to kiss the brand, but not ready to fuck just yet’. I think this is a bit crude, but it makes sense; the courting analogy, and always has done. Tom Himpe says ‘Brands tend to lack the necessary skills for this seduction ritual. They are used to revealing everything about themselves at the very first encounter, eager to get customers into the sack as soon as possible. But today’s savvy audience is reluctant to allow themselves to be seduced so quickly and openly. They prefer brands to seduce them little by little, revealing their messages slowly, intelligently and flirtatiously’.

Picture 15

4. Remark Upon Me!
At the end of the day, you talk about stuff that’s remarkable: that makes you remark upon it. Social media is no different – people converse around stuff that is remarkable, and it is this stuff that gets shared and discussed and engaged with. So there you go, planners and brand strategists of the world, there’s your creative brief written: Create something remarkable that people will share and remark upon. Job done.

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)…

Twitter = Unbelievable (We live in exponential times #2)



Jonathan Ross (@Wossy) discusses Brand joining Twitter at about half 10. Wossy reveals Brand is ‘now on Twitter’ as @rustyrockets. EIGHTEEN MINUTES LATER he has nearly 2000 people following him. That is fucking unbelievable.


bullshit bingo


Every time you hear one of the over used clichés in the above 5×5 grid, circle it. Once you have a completed row, either up, down across, or even diagonal [passing through the centre- like on Catch Phrase] then you have the right to stand up and shout BULLSHIT! at the top of
your voice so everyone in the office can hear you. Your prize is a Twix.

Macro-Pressures 09, Some Ideas: Digital Creative Agencies…

This is the beginning of some general musings on macro-pressures affecting the digital creative agency. Thoughts?

Growing, growing…

The explosive growth of the digital advertising industry has been well documented throughout trade press, academic journals, and, of course, online over the past couple of years. Thousands of blog posts, tweets and diggs indicating developments pertinent to the industry – new technologies, new tools, new concepts and new opinions – can be read every day and from every perspective. Certainly, the new digital landscape is changing rapidly: the web 2.0 environment we now face is dramatically different from the web 1.0 world in which we lived only a few years ago – and even more so than the advertising world into which television, radio and print ads were born.

Indeed, technological development and industry fragmentation are driving the growth of a digital advertising movement able to serve today’s increasingly mediacentric, mobile and digitally accessible consumer in a manner generally considered more effective (eg more targeted, one-to-one communications and consumer-brand dialogues) and less costly (than traditional media). A rise in social media, user-generated content, blogging, microblogging, video, wikis and interactive mobile content, alongside the proliferation of increasingly mobile content devices means that many consumers have become publishers of digital content themselves; interacting with brands, opinion leaders, experts and other consumers (‘publishers’) on a daily basis.

Subsequently the number of potential touchpoints at the disposal of advertisers has dramatically increased both in terms of frequency and specificity. This requires a closer integration of communications and inevitably an increased use of digital in order to reach these consumers and become part of a continuous and open-ended dialogue that has moved media from ‘one-way’, to ‘two-way’, and now ‘many-to-many’. Resultantly, consumers have increased power relative to advertisers. With the proliferation of niche channels fragmenting a previously ‘mass media’ audience, coupled with an accumulation and dissemination of peer-to-peer knowledge and information sharing, the advertiser’s own claims are hugely distrusted against searchable communities of self-regulating, user generated information.

Advertisers need to become one of the ‘many’ speaking to the many, rather than relying on one-way methods of communication – and this fact also rings true when considered in a business-to-business sense, not just business-to-consumer.

Know Your Role?

So what is the role of the digital agency in this context? Often viewed and too frequently implemented as merely a production house for digital work, where above the line creative and predetermined media strategy are fed down (or out) to the bottom of the pile (or the edge of the network) and shoehorned into digital solutions with little consideration of the potential of the medium employed, digital shops are arguing for more and better strategic and conceptual (creative) integration in a cross-platform space. This would involve the integration of the client and the agency network at an earlier stage (consider ‘many-to-many’ communication, rather than simply ‘one-way’).

The single-minded proposition, tone of voice etc of a brand or campaign can be conceptualised and interpreted through each discipline, maintaining a consistent message whilst exploiting the possibilities of a particular medium through the plasticity of a creative strategy designed to work through the line.

The difference here is between an advertiser handing a digital agency the creative used in a print campaign, alongside a media plan set in stone suggesting a format entirely inappropriate to the execution they demand. Far better is for the client to have the digital agency understand the creative strategy from the beginning, and collaborate within the network of agencies at the advertiser’s disposal in order to develop a digital creative solution organically, that compliments the intended message, not merely attempts to replicate it online. In this way the creative lead could come from anywhere: from the media plan, from the ATL agency, from the digital agency. More on this later.

What must be fundamentally understood, though, is the context in which digital shops are currently operating. Adland is still very much focused on traditional media, where television and newspaper advertising budgets vastly overshadow online spend, and the industry still sees traditional executions as the bread and butter of the business. But this landscape is changing. ZenithOptimedia Group predict global ad spend to drop 0.2% in 2009, but online media to grow 18%, despite the economic climate , whereas eMarketer quietly revised their original prediction of a 27.1% increase in UK online advertising spend to a rise of just 7.2% in 2009 accounting for the recession. Still, WARC/IAB/PWC research suggests that online ad spend will be greater than that on television by the end of 2009. And, in an industry increasingly characterized by full service shops conceding to smaller, more agile and reflexive specialist agencies, utilized by advertisers through networks, the argument becomes about how digital creative agencies and specialist boutiques can not only survive, but ultimately extend or strengthen their offering and prosper in this context.