Thursday, 24 December 2009

Most Contagious 2009

What with all this festive stuff going on I'm still thinking about some predictions for 2010. So in the meantime here's Contagious's review of everything we need to know about what was great in advertising in 2009
Most Contagious 2009

The iPhone app for iPhone

Want to run a virtual iPhone on your iPhone? There's an app for that. No, really.

Aside from complete meta-awesomeness, I'm not sure what purpose it serves. But then meta-awesomeness should be reason enough for something to exist. It exists because it can. (and because then iPhone fans like me will link to it.....)

Nice work Ogmento and Orange Israel

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Happy Xmas

Image used with thanks

So I've been a bit busy starting a new job, and I've been neglecting this blog for the last few weeks. I'll be back in 2010 (and might even make up a few 2010 predictions before then). In the meantime, thanks for reading, extra thanks for commenting, and see you in the pub. Happy Xmas

What he said...

You've probably seen this. Although if you haven't, you probably should do.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Google Goggles Visual Search video intro

I've got very little info on this other than the video below and Google's post about it, but from the looks of the video this has the potential to cut out the need for QR codes or barcode scanners - simply take a photo and visual search will do the rest. (or for businesses don't even take a photo: hold your camera up and GPS/compasses will do the rest. So may be Google are going to cut the middleman out of the AR hype surrounding mobile in 2010 too)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

UK Retailers plugging into Foursquare

In one of those rare moments that I actually remembered to log in to Foursquare I spotted this Major offerSpecial offers for regular customers is not exactly a big idea, but this is not just a loyalty card, it's a loyalty ad. That advertises the business AND contributes to the overall game of Foursquare.

This is pretty well established in New York where Foursquare has been live for a while, but there is a lot of potential for smart small businesses to join in. According to the Businesses section of the Foursquare site, so far the list in the UK looks like this:

+ Bea's of Bloomsbury (London, UK)
+ Dose Espresso (London, UK)
+ Hummus Bros - Holborn (Camden Town, Greater London)
+ Hummus Bros. (London, UK)
+ Kaffeine (London, UK)
+ Paul A Young Fine Chocolates - Bank (London, UK)
+ Paul A Young Fine Chocolates - Islington (London, UK)
+ Pumphreys Coffee (Blaydon on Tyne, Tyne and Wear)

But I think it will grow rapidly over the next couple of months

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

MOG: musical love child of Spotify and Last FM

Or that's what this intro video suggests. According to TechCrunch this launches on the 2nd Dec in the US.

Mog appears to have all the social discovery and customisable radio bits of Last FM but with Spotify style streaming added in. All for $5 per month. I'm currently ok with a mix of iTunes, Spotify and Last FM, each covering the bits of 'listening to music' that they are individually good at. There's no mention of mobile yet, on the MOG site, but I reckon if there was an app for that then I'd pay for one service that can do everything.

(although the price is a clue that I might not be able to: Mog's opportunity is that Spotify STILL isn't live in the US. While this great for Mog, music industry hobbling of any sort of international streaming standards means that we probably won't see this in the UK for ages)

Moving on....

(Photo used with thanks)

So I am waving goodbye to Zed Media at the end of next week, and will be doing something new and very exciting from the week after that.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

New Publishing/Old Publishing

So i wrote a few of these posts last year, basically to highlight how in niche areas (in most cases advertising/media/marketing related) non-traditional/non-professional content was not just more nimble and dynamic than traditional publishers, but also read by more people.

Last week's announcement that Media Week would no longer publish in print and Revolution would stop altogether reminded me of these. Partly because I'd used them as 'old publishing' examples at some point in the past, but mainly because I read them. The 'old publishing/new publishing' was not entirely fair because it tended to take a US blog like Logic & Emotion or Web Strategy and compare it to a UK magazine with a much lower potential readership (let's pretend that publishing can still be country-specific for a minute: bear with me on this....).

So how about a fairer comparison. UK marketing blogs (or at least those that conveniently display their FeedBurner stats on the site) and UK marketing magazines.

Media Week - 9,824 (Audit Bureau of Circulation 2008-09)
Revolution - 10,002
(Audit Bureau of Circulation 2008-09)

PR Blogger - 4,514 (FeedBurner)
Only Dead Fish - 2,024 (FeedBurner)

So not individually. But on the other hand, the cost of blogging is one of time and commitment, not of industrial production, so there are hundreds of other interesting opinionated and generally awesome blogs covering the same subject without as many readers. On the other hand I'll miss Revolution because it was a great mag. As Clay Shirky has been saying all year,

"you'll miss us when we're gone" isn't a viable business model

However neither it seems is B2B magazine publishing in some sectors. Does't mean that we won't miss them though

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Augmented ID and new viewing screens

Awesome or Scary?
The basic AR tools are already available - Bionic Eye does simple things really well, while Layar has the potential to do a whole lot more if mobile handsets had more memory. Face Recognition is already available on social photo editors (and on iPhoto) as long as you give it something to work from: ie tag some faces and it will recognise them in future. As William Gibson said

"The future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed"

But platforms like Android and iPhone are increasingly becoming evenly distributed in the UK and US, and they offer the infrastructure and revenue potential for developers to bring the future to those handsets quickly at low cost. The Augmented ID application in this video doesn't exist yet, but it is being developed by Polar Rose, developers of one of the leading facial recognition phone applications.

I'm not sure whether this is scary or exciting. The prospect of publicly sharing your data as you walk down the street might be one privacy setting too far for some. Initially you'd be suspicious of anyone looking into a handset....

But the handset bit is also looking like it might get left behind soon. I saw Ian Pearson talk about the idea of augmented reality contact lenses about this time last year, and dismissed it as something that may happen in my lifetime but not something to get excited about. Even a professional futurologist like Ian only included them in the 2015-2020 section of his presentation.

A year on and these are in development: according to,

(Image from
Babak A. Parviz, a bionanotechnology expert at the University of Washington in Seattle, has released a report detailing just where the bionic eye (or at least the augmented vision contact lens) technology is at right now, and it’s pretty amazing. Not only is augmented vision possible – prototypes are being tested right now

How long till Augmented ID happens on a head-up display in front of your eyes?

More from Gajitz here and from the BioMedical section of Spectrum IEEE Magazine here
(HT to Katy Lindemann for pointing out the AR contact lens news)

UPDATE: According to Jeremiah Owyang, LinkedIn are planning to integrate facial recognition technology into their apps by 2011.

Using mobile devices, users can quickly hold a device up a cell phone in front of a peer to see their LinkedIn data –without even having a conversation.

Windows 7 was my idea

Couldn't resist this (@scobleizer's idea i think). So Windows 7 is apparently the business. Everything that Vista wasn't. But that OS X was....

Friday, 20 November 2009

The battle for control of the internet

A couple of relatively unrelated news stories caught my eye yesterday. On one hand, Peter Mandelson announced amendments to UK copyright laws that appear to put the onus of illegal download prevention onto ISPs (reluctantly) and lawyers (eagerly). On the other, Google released more detail on what Chrome OS is going to look like when it launches next year.

The signs are that the battle for control of the internet is picking up pace. Copyright owners seem to have persuaded the government that the 20th century is worth saving, and that ISPs are the people to police it for them. Which aside from being a bit like blaming the Department of Transport for every speeding offence, is also something that we should be very worried about. Britain already has an outdated infrastructure for broadband: BT's copper wires will have to be replaced before we can get anywhere near the always-on HD quality entertainment that is possible over cable, and this will take significant investment, either in cabling or in much higher speed wireless for all. All of this costs money (lots of money), which will not be forthcoming if ISPs are having to spend their time trying to police a system of copyright that was effectively written in the dark ages. In a month that both Finland and Spain have made access to broadband a basic right of their citizens, the UK's short-termist approach has the potential to harm the country's knowledge economy for a generation.

All of this is very serious, and I suggest that if you agree then you join The Pirate Party and the Open Rights Group to help protest. However, the idea that the internet should be open access and open source has some pretty powerful support too. Google are a bigger deal than any content owner both in terms of financial muscle and political influence. And Google's big opportunity is more internet access for everyone all the time. This is what Ben Parr at Mashable calls the Google Revenue Equation:

Revenue = Amount of Time on the Web

It's that simple: their ad business is so effective at monetising the internet that they can afford to make everything else free. Email, browsers, mobile OS, storage, video, office software, GPS, mapping, etc. And not just free, but as good as the paid for equivalent. So the launch of their operating system, a replacement for Windows (that will be free, and probably as good as the paid for equivalent) is a big deal. Not just because of the potential to cut the heart out of the Microsoft empire, but also because Chrome OS is open source and fundamentally supports the idea that information wants to be free (because Google know how to manipulate and organise information better than anyone else. Information is what makes people spend time online. Time online = revenue). So although at a personal level we might not trust everything that Google are doing with our data, they are probably the biggest ally that anyone who wants a free and open internet, and is in favour of the UK knowledge economy, can have.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Charging for news

So we are starting to find out a bit more about News International's plans for charging for news online. Rupert Murdoch's interview with Sky News earlier in the week suggested that he hasn't recently looked at the figures for how much traffic his sites receive from Google. As Google frequently point out when the print media criticise them, it only takes a robot.txt command to exclude content: Murdoch apparently intends to finally take them up on this opportunity to opt out.

On a less confrontational note, Times editor James Harding explained a little bit more to the Society of Editors about how this is going to work for his bit of the Murdoch empire. It seems that the plan goes something like this:

Micropayments are too difficult, and let's face it, too different
to newspaper publishing. Newspapers' business model was based on the scarcity of news. So let's try and recreate it by charging for access to everything published in the previous 24 hours.

My words not his, but that is the general gist of it. However, this is apparently going to "rewrite the economics of newspapers" (Personally I think they were rewritten some time ago....)

A lot of the discussions of Murdoch's print business model though forget that behind all the hype there is a solid basis for increasing revenue. For all the talk about rewriting business models, I don't think anyone at the top end of News Int thinks that they are going to increase print sales over the next ten years. They seem to be doing a better job on online ad revenue: the chart below shows that despite all the pressures on ad budgets over 2009, the Times has maintained its revenue online (figures from Nielsen Media Research, so the increase may be partly due to the improvements in online tracking that Nielsen have made this year).

They have also been increasing UK traffic figures according to the latest comScore stats. To the extent that according to the combined Nielsen/comScore figures, to REPLACE their UK ad revenue would require some £0.17 per UK unique user. Obviously every unique user is not going to pay them: a Forrester report published earlier this week had a figure of 20% (of US internet users) who would be interested in paying for newspaper content. So based on an example of 15% of Times users being signing up to this project (still an extremely ambitious target), News Int would only need £1.14 a month to REPLACE ad revenue. Bear in mind that they aren't going to be stopping running banner ads any time soon, and will certainly be charging media buyers a premium to target subscribers based on user data. And that there will also be a substantial chunk of Times inventory that is outside of the paywall, also running ads to a wider audience. But £1.14 doesn't sound that much if you like reading the Times online: most people spend more than that per day on coffee.

This doesn't mean that this is a good idea, or that it will secure the future of News Int's media properties. I've written lots of random stuff about what I think might be, but then of course I'm a random blogger and Rupert Murdoch is a media mogul with a track record of leading the market. I think the point I'm trying to make is that this isn't a great crusade to save paid content, it is more a pretty plausible attempt to create a new revenue stream to cover for the lack of ad advertising 2010-2011. Whatever is going to "save news publishing" is something different (probably something that doesn't start off by treating news as a 'once every 24 hours' concept). It might be, as Conde Nast are eagerly anticipating, something that happens on a new size of Apple branded screen. It will certainly demand the sort of radical innovation that established market leaders often find difficult to embrace. But if it is found, News International need to ensure that they are still a leading publisher of news when it happens.

Monday, 16 November 2009

What people are doing online in real time

I know that this is all over the internet already, so you've probably seen it, but it answers so many 'Why?' questions that I couldn't resist!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Blogging about Blogging

(Or 'how I organise my stuff on the internet)
Okay this might look a bit self-indulgent. Actually it is a bit self-indulgent, so you might want to stop reading now, but there is a reason for it. I like to sign up for pretty much any new sites or services I can find, and I try to have a go at using most of them. Which means that people, particularly at work, tend to ask me which ones to use for different stuff. So I thought I'd write down what I use, so I can just send them a link when they do.

I've sort of run out of space on both iGoogle and Google Reader - I've got 10 tabs on iGoogle split into work and non-work related stuff, so there's not many places to put new feeds other than well down a page. I only use Reader for the 30 or so that I'm really interested in, because I run the Reader feed into Viigo, which downloads them automatically to my phone so that I can read the latest stuff on the Tube when there isn't a mobile signal. Viigo also has the main news, tech and social media sites plugged into it, so I've got BBC, Guardian, Mashable, Techcrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Engadget, etc there as well. Anything worth saving can be sent to Delicious, or worth sharing can be sent to Twitter from the Viigo app.

Actually I do pretty much the same from a computer too - keep an eye on anything interesting on Twitter, and then save it to Delicious if it looks like it might be useful. As well as Tweetdeck groups to split out different types of interesting, I've also got Tweetdeck alerts, and FriendFeed desktop alerts so that if the (much smaller number of) people I'm following on FriendFeed add stuff to Delicious or Slideshare then that will trigger an alert as well. As well as the Digsby alerts for new Gmail, Hotmail or Facebook activity. I used to use Delicious for all bookmarks, but it's increasingly become work-related stuff. Like most internet stuff I do, I've sent the most recent links back to the sidebar on this blog. There are some browser bookmarks - synced between work and home through the lovely XMarks, which also means that I don't ever have to remember passwords either

As explained here, I used to love Last.FM, deleted my account, and came back sheepishly a few months ago. At home I organise music through iTunes like most people, but to find new stuff AND listen to it (not easy through either iTunes or Amazon's recommendations) I use Last.FM's recommendations and Spotify's streaming. Anything played on iTunes, Spotify or Last.FM gets pumped back to my Last.FM profile to help improve the recommendations (and from there to the 'what I'm listening to' widget here).

Through not having done much photography in the last couple of years, my photos are scattered around a few sites - Picassa, Flickr, PhotoBox mainly. I've never got hooked on Flickr, I guess becuase you can't do that much without paying. Since discovering Compfight creative commons image search I'm using more Flickr images in presentations, and feel that I out to put some more stuff up there to give back to the community. But I haven't yet: mostly what I take photos of at the moment is family snaps to post straight to Facebook from my phone so my folks can see them. For online image editing Picassa works better for me than Flickr if you have it installed. Aviary is the best cloud based editor I've found. I could write PLENTY more on iPhone photo apps, but most of it would be paraphrasing Iain Tait.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Bionic Eye Augmented Reality

Post up someone's great explanation of how social, mobile and AR are going to combine to make people's lives easier, and 5 minutes later someone shows you an example of it actually working. This is a screengrab from the Bionic Eye app, which locates the nearest Wifi, public transport, coffee shop and fast food (you can select how much of this you actually see...) and directions and distances. Currently looks a little bit like magic.

Two years from now this will probably look like Windows 95 looks to us now. For the moment I can't wait till Foursquare can overlay their recommendations onto this sort of AR, to show what people want to find rather than what retailers want to push.
(HT, as ever, to John for pointing it out)

The Mobile Social Computing Explosion

Mike Arauz's ability to cut through the hype surrounding technology and highlight the strategic implications for brands means that his decks are always worth reading. I thought this explanation of the combined impact of social and mobile nails the challenges that marketers and agencies need to get to grips with before next year

Culturally digital

I tend to get asked a lot of questions at work about how to find stuff quickly, where to get free stats, how to make presentations look different (content rather than design - my slides always look different and rarely in a good way) basically all the stuff that any self respecting media geek should know. So I put some slides together to show where i find stuff and how I use it, and showed them to a bunch of planners at our place, which I thought was worth posting here. Not least to thank Ramzi Yakob for the quote about being culturally digital).

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Media Agency Twitter lists

so I made a list....

same as lots of other people have been doing on Twitter for the last few days. There are already a lot of great things to explore on Twitter lists (starting with Listorious). Lists make Twitter much more approachable for people first starting out using the service (who have tended to start off with celebrities if they didn't know many people using it - i know I did). They also make it easier to discover interesting people and stuff no matter how much time you have spent playing around with Twitter. Interestingly they also at the moment mean that you have to go to the web version. While Seesmic are already beta testing list integration, and Tweetdeck will no doubt be close behind, this can't hurt the traffic figures which Mashable keeps reporting as stagnating (do they think people really use the web version?)

Anyway, i started playing around with liststried to do something a bit different to recommending. I made a list of some good friends, some people that I do follow, and some that I have neither met, heard of, or followed, but who happen to work in the same same business as me - ie in a media agency in the UK. The filter to that being that they have used Twitter a fair bit recently. Unsurprisingly (or not, depending on your views on meeja agencies) I've found some interesting new people to follow, and hopefully I've made a useful kind of aggregator thing. It's sitting down the sidebar now, so see what you think, and let me know if you want to be added on.....

Friday, 30 October 2009 - a slight return

I've written a lot about Spotify on here, because it's a great concept that (seems) to have a long term business model. But let's face it, there is a big hole in the model around socialised discovery of new stuff to listen to. While sites like make sharing possible, possible is a long way off where a brand like Spotify should be.

(Spotifylists also looks like it has attracted the same spam pollution that seems to mark anything that is becoming genuinely popular - check the 'small claims filing' playlist).

Of course there is a perfectly good way to find find what other people who share your taste in music like, on I deleted my account back in 2007 when they were taken over by CBS, as I personally didn't want to give a record label access to my hard drive, and I didn't know just how much access's scrobbling function would give them. So two and a half years on there don't seem to have been any prosecutions for whatever it is that constitutes 'things that record labels can prosecute you for' these days, and I'd largely forgotten about I was bemoaning Spotify's lack of sharing features a few weeks ago and someone pointed out that all the things I was after from it were so 2006, and I decided to give another go - lets face it, it was a bit ahead of its time.....

Ok, so I was wrong. And my profile is a bit lonely. If you're passing that way then look me up, and if you share similar tastes, I'm a little behind the curve on friends over there!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Twitter's deals with Google and Bing - changing everything and nothing

There's not been a lot made of Microsoft's announcement earlier in the week that Bing would include real time results from Twitter (and to a lesser extent Facebook) in its search results at some unspecified time soon. It has mostly been interesting to the likes of Mashable and ReadWriteWeb because of Google's counter a few hours later that they would also being doing so, so removing any competitive advantage that this might have brought Bing.

Leaving aside the debate about how scalable this level of traffic increase will be considering Twitter's notoriously unreliable infrastructure (discussed in the comments of ReadWriteWeb's coverage of the announcement), it also raises some interesting questions for brands that haven't so far found a role for themselves on Twitter.

In most cases brands that are successfully using Twitter at scale are succeeding because they have understood that it offers an opportunity for dialogue with their customers - whether that is Comcast's customer service, Compare the Market's advertising character backstory (Disclosure - client), or Ford's combination of one-to-one dialogue, customer relations and comms campaign amplification. Those that successfully use the service as a sales channel (usually based on exclusive offers) such as Dell tend to have an established two-way communication presence on Twitter before pushing sales messages.

This all makes sense, as to maintain any sort of following of the scale that would be useful to a major brand their Twitter stream will need to offer enough regular interest and value to encourage people to opt in to it. Sales messages alone wouldn't fit with how most people use the service. The resource cost of monitoring and maintaining this presence has tended to scare some brands away from getting involved with Twitter at all - there is no value to them in involvement at low scale.

Google and Bing's ability to index the real time web fundamentally changes this. Suddenly the value for brands pushing direct sales messages on Twitter becomes their SEO juice. It's fair to assume that Google sees Twitter as a threat, and that as people are increasingly searching for real time or as near as results, the best way to see off the threat is to push recency in their own results so that Google, rather than any development of Twitter's own underpowered search engine, continues to be the first place that you go to search. And as long as paid links continue to show up next to them, Google still hoovers up brands' marketing budgets. So results from Twitter are likely to assume a greater importance in SEO strategies over the coming months.

It will be interesting to see how the search engines rank the Twitter data they now have access to. I'd like to think that Google has acquired deep enough integration with the data to apply its own version of 'tweetrank' algorithms, but given the level of competition between the two this might be unlikely. Microsoft has already announced that Bing will search either by recency or relevancy. Either way, there is now no reason for brands not to be on Twitter, as even running a sales channel feed to no followers has a potential SEO benefit.

However, a brand Twitter presence, however one-way and SEO orientated, will still attract lovers and haters of the brand to start conversations with it - it isn't ever going to be just a box to tick o improve ranking. While SEO will be the reason to get involved, brands will need a defined Twitter strategy covering customer relations, PR, marketing and SEO. And by the sound of it, they will need one fairly quickly given that both Google and Bing are going to be integrating their Twitter data access this year (indeed Bing already has a rebrand of Twitter's own search in beta at the moment)

Thinking through this, I worried at first that this was going to deluge Twitter with the sort of random direct response ads that you see everywhere else - after all, there is a strong rationale for DR advertisers to do this. Then I remembered that it won't make any difference to my use of Twitter because I won't see any of them, as I won't follow the brands. So while it does change how brands should view and use Twitter, the announcement makes next to no difference for anyone else.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Recruitment iPhone apps

This question made me think when I first saw it - 10 years if you're interested. Strangely enough after you've got one job, you tend to find other ones through people rather than through advertising. I'm sure that this was always the case to some degree, but making wide ranging connections with relevant people has become quicker and easier the same way everything else has.

It doesn't stop recruitment companies with vacancies to fill requiring the attention of suitable candidates though - they can't find everyone on LinkedIn yet. and one called Harvey Nash are approaching it in a slightly different way. I was randomly browsing web apps the other day when I came across this one in the social networks category. 'Are you a digital evangelist' not 'Techulus'. Even a geek like me doesn't want to join a social network for 'iphonians'.

So I couldn't resist, and had a quick look to see what the app was for.

Having never heard of Harvey Nash, I actually scrolled all the way through to see what it was for (well, actually I was looking for a place to comment)

and felt a bit let down when I got to the final screen and realised that this was all an elaborate job ad. An then I was really impressed, as these guys clearly know exactly what is going to grab the attention of potential candidates, and exactly where to put it. Not just making an iPhone app for the sake of it, but making a quick cheap web app that does a better job than any ad

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Twitter Times - Friend Powered RSS

(photo courtesy)
I'd guess that most of the people reading this used to share lots of links on Delicious, and now tend to share them on Twitter. I follow lots of people on Twitter that I don't know, and many that I'll probably never meet, and I do that because they are interesting - they share stuff from other industries or other continents that is related to stuff i like. I've found that over the last year or so that has meant I read things like newspapers a lot less (actually that is partly to do with having all the bits of newspapers that i like downloaded to my phone using clever stuff like Viigo) and read more things that i get referred to on the internet. Decisions about which Sunday paper to buy used to be based on which one best aggregated interesting people writing for it, and in one sense relying on friends' recommendations is similar - you follow them because they are interesting - but it differs in having the power of recommendation behind it. And obviously in being on a screen, so without the tactile, lazy, spread out on the table benefits that come with a newspaper.

I was thinking about this while stuck on a train with no wifi over the weekend, because i'd just been sent a link to my personal Twitter Times, which aggregates all the links that my friends share into one feed reader. It also recommends stuff from friends of friends. There's a video of how it works below.

It isn't rocket science, but it is a really neat use of the API. I've moved away from my feed reader and spend more time on Tweetdeck recently, so this is something of a halfway house - friend-fuelled RSS if you like. Anyway, I was looking around at all the people who had remembered to buy a newspaper and wishing that I'd printed my Twitter Times. I don't think that this is what it was designed for, but I wish it could turn into that. A few months ago I made up some things that I thought the magazine industry could do, inspired by some famous magazine or other ceasing publication, including this

People like magazines (ok not enough to make them profitable). If you are using a site every day to check a few favourite feeds, then surely it should be able to learn enough from what you, other people like you, your friends, etc read to be able to put a pretty decent package of content together that you haven't read. And then your subscription could offer you a couple of printed copies per year (printed specifically for you, content specific to you that it knows you haven't read). (Perhaps when you book a train ticket you could be reminded to order it for delivery the day of travel) - the printed version becomes the personalised collectors edition.

There's not really been a way of making 'your friends' recommendations' a physical product like this, although most people have pretty good printing technology in their houses. OK you can print your Google Reader, but when you look at what something like Twitter Times could be when coupled with something like Ben Terrett and Russell Davies's
Newspaper Club, which can provide the design templates and printing (I think that's what they're up to), or Marcus Brown turning his blog into a book then there are some exciting post digital niche publishing opportunities around, and one excited potential customer here

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Online Display ads can be awesome (who knew?)

Lovely work from Apple (less lovely handheld video work from me....)

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Is 'social media' the problem?

I wanted to write up the IPA Social event last week, but unfortunately I've had my arm in a sling for most of the time since, so here we go a week later! I've written a few things on here about how the IPA Social stuff kicked off, which was basically about a few people talking about what we thought other people might want to also talk about. The first event last week got a lot more folk joining in, and there seem to be a few themes that keep coming up - there's obviously a big piece around measurement, which I'll leave to people who know more about it, but I'm really interested in the role of brands, and their agencies, in "social media". Over on Advergirl, Leigh House makes the point that

When we talk about consumers paying for content, we skip over how brands get into the conversation. Can we really rely on WOM networks to do the work of mass advertising? Do we all want to turn into blathering mouthpieces for our favorite brands?

(as part of a much longer and very smart series of posts on the changing economics of mass media).

And a lot of the themes are around how things are changing for every type of communications business: brands don't believe for a minute that there is a whole population waiting to promote their products if they could only design that Facebook page right, but they are getting differing advice from their different specialists on what has changed.

Is the term 'social media' the problem for marketers?
It seems that the
term social media itself is counter productive - a fundamental change in how people are able to communicate with each other will naturally have knock-on effects to all businesses that deal with communications. But it will affect each differently. So 'social media' means something different to an ad agency than to a PR agency because it impacts what they have traditionally done in different ways. So the advice that clients get from their roster is that 'social media' means a range of different things. Meanwhile the customer services and IT departments are finding that it means a set of other different things outside of the marketing department but intrinsic to the brand.

When you have a range of different disciplines, advertising, digital, PR, media, etc, in a room talking about something that crosses over (and changes) each of their specialisms, you naturally get different views of what is important and how to go about achieving it. Will's written a great piece on why a brand might not want to be social, asking why you would care more about what sharing opinions with your bank than how good it is at managing your money. Which makes sense from the perspective of what has changed for advertising. There's obviously some brands that aren't inherently social. In a lot of cases, it might be counter-productive for brand built around functionality and cost to try and make itself social. But only in its advertising, in what it says about itself. These type of brands also have over-stretched customer service departments in which NOT being 'social' ie not trying to initiate open conversations with customers, is far more counter-productive to the way the brand communicates. But these are outside of the role of most of the agencies employed by a brand marketing department because they don't sit within brand marketing. One of the key challenges to brands and their agencies that people have been talking about over the last few years is moving from campaigning to committing - as in John Willshire's great analogy about bonfires and fireworks. Someone (not sure who, sorry) at the IPA Social event challenged to this, saying that surely it is about committing and campaigning. Which makes sense; there's nothing wrong with 'social media campaigns', as long as they are part of a wider change in brand behaviour; but there's no point in talking about how you are 'listening to consumers' on TV and then ignoring them in call centres, as you'll get found out quickly and publicly. Campaigning has been the domain of ad agencies, while committing fits more into what we traditionally called PR. As media relations has evolved to include geniune 'public' relations (eg liaising with non professional journalists) among other things, PR agencies have been on the coalface of brands' moves towards 'committing'. This doesn't mean that 'campaigning' doesn't still have relevance, just that it will look different from what ad agencies have traditionally done (as Robin Grant rightly points out in his write-up of the IPA event). However, lumping all these changes to various comms disciplines together and calling them 'social media' makes it harder for marketers to understand the underlying changes, or the need to act on them.

To me the terminology is wrong because it confuses cause (structural change in communications that is far bigger than just our industry) with effect (that clients' objectives are best served by having a group of specialists relevant to their business needs). In that in a lot of cases clients find it difficult to put the correct roster in place because they are equally confused by the conflicting advice from specialists who concentrate on changes happening to their own specialist areas.... which is all labelled social media.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

#IPASocial Principle 9: Change will never be this slow again

(Photo courtesy)

So I've written a few things about the #IPASocial project over the last few months, about how it got started, and how I've had the chance to chat through loads of ideas about the future of advertising and communications with some awesome folks. And now comes the important bit - the time to chat about it with everyone else who is interested. We're going to have a go at doing that in person next week on October 6th when the IPA are running an event to have a chat around what social really means for our industry. We’ve worked up ten principles to start this off, and this introduction (written by Amelia) gives the proper context:

Social Media is a conversation. That seems to be one thing that we can all agree on.

But given that Social Media is a rather noisy and opinionated conversation, what value do we think we will have by adding our voices to it?

We are not Social Media gurus. In fact we are rather sceptical of people who claim they are. We are simply 10 people from across a wide range of communications disciplines in the UK and the US who would like to share some thoughts. Thoughts that have either been bugging us or inspiring us, thoughts that we believe could form some of the building blocks for succesful Social campaigns. We came together to respond to and add our voices to some work that the IPA had done earlier in the year.

We have each defined a Principle which we feel is important in this Social world. You will find each principle up here but they are also on our individual blogs where we will be curating the conversation which we hope they will generate. Please do get involved, maybe you think these principles don't apply, are there better ones? Are there changes that you would like to make? Are there examples that you could add to help illustrate them? The only thing that we ask is that as part of the advertising and communications community that you become part of the conversation. After all the more opinions that are being shared and built on, the more interesting and stronger the outcome. At least that's what we are hoping.

Thank you in advance.

The IPA have created a hub for all ten principles, along with an overall summary of twhy this is important, written by Mark Earls. This can be found here. Everyone who has joined in so far is also hosting a principle on their blogs, so please join in the discussion there too.

1. People not consumers – Mark Earls

2. Social agenda not business agenda – Le’Nise Brothers

3. Continuous conversation not campaigning – John V Willshire

4. Long term impacts not quick fixes – Faris Yakob

5. Marketing with people not to people – Katy Lindemann

6. Being authentic not persuasive – Neil Perkin

7. Perpetual beta – Jamie Coomber

8. Technology changes, people don’t – Amelia Torode

9. Change will never be this slow again – Graeme Wood

10. Measurement – Asi Sharabi

So my thoughts are all around the underlying changes in how people communicate, and particuarly what this means for agencies

IPA Social: Principle 9 - Change will never be this slow again

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again. This shouldn't come as a surprise; Intel founder Gordon Moore observed in 1965 that since the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958 that processing power had doubled every 18 months, and predicted that this trend would continue unchecked. So far he has been proved right, and the future of advertising is too closely linked to that of technology to escape the effects of Moore’s Law.

That isn't to say that people are changing. Without paraphrasing too much from Clay Shirky and Mark Earls, all the things we are evolutionarily disposed to do and have a cultural requirement for are simply quicker, easier and further reaching than previously possible. Most of those things are to do with other people, not technology. To get hung up on technology risks missing the point: as Henry Jenkins says,

“Our focus should not be on emerging technologies but on emerging cultural practices"

As an industry we have faced change before; early radio ads were print ads read out. Early TV ads were radio ads in which you could see the face of the person reading. In each case the rise of a new medium provoked a step change in the advertising industry, but one that didn't happen immediately. But each of those media worked in the same way, and the one-to-many assumptions of the 20thcentury about how brands communicate are fast becoming a casualty of the power laws of 21st century networks. While it is fun to speculate on how technology will change behaviour, most examples follow Bill Gates' suggestion that

“We overestimate the change that will happen in the next two years, and underestimate the change that will happen in the next ten”

Interruptive advertising won’t disappear overnight, but each change towards a more networked world will make it less relevant. We can’t predict the impact of new technologies on cultural practice, only prepare our businesses to embrace and foster change rather than reacting to it. Things are happening quicker, including irrelevance. In the words of AG Lafley, former CEO of P&G,

"..our company's success rate runs between 50 and 60 percent. About half of our new products succeed. That's as high as we want the success rate to be. If we try to make it any higher, we'll be tempted to err on the side of caution”

So the real step change for agencies is about not keeping control or making things perfect, it is about embracing business models that constantly evolve and communications that are designed to exist in beta, making the move from what Gerd Leonhard calls “protecting brands to projecting brands’. Charles Darwin said

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

We know that species of animal can remain unchanged for millennia, and then suddenly evolve in a few generations as their environment changes. The increasing speed of communications is eroding the 19th and 20th century assumptions that our businesses are built upon. Leading change rather than being lead by it demands that we don't err on the side of caution.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Dixons: the last place you want to go...

I'm loving this new Dixons campaign, but I don't know i'm loving it in a healthy way. It's the sort of 'summarise the brand challenge' insight that turns into a whole strategy - sort of like Pot Noodle being the Slag of Snacks. I like buying tech toys as much as the next geek, on the few times I've had to go into Dixons I can safely say that it really is the last place you want to go for them. It doesn't feel properly dirty like Argos, so feels worse for pretending to have customer service but offering insultingly thick people who can't operate a camera trying hard sell features and benefits of cameras.

What it is doing though is getting people talking about Dixons, and evaluating their consideration list into 'research' (which Dixons would never have been on) and 'purchase' (which they may well stand a good chance of getting onto simply by gaining attention through humour and/or conversation). Selfridges and John Lewis make up the tension & the humour in this work, while the real target is Amazon, Pixmania, etc - everyone else on the 'purchase' side of the market.

So how is it working so far? It doesn't seem to be shifting huge volumes o
f searches, but Harrods are helping out with some free publicity by threatening to sue. And there's a love hate debate going on between people who see the ad - I tweeted about it when I first saw it, as did lots of other people. And the verdict is pretty positive so far - 66% positive on Twitter in London over the last few days
And the number of positive or negative (ie actually care) tweets currently outweighs the neutral ones - suggesting that if the strategy here is all about being talked about more than other cheap places amongst techie London Twitter type people, who might re-evaluate Dixons, then that positive sentiment is well deserved.

(you still wouldn't catch me in there though)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


So I went to an event back in January about Social Media and the Future of Agencies. Sounded like interesting stuff, but it turned out to be an opportunity for the IPA to try to sell us some research which looked like a bit of a snapshot of stuff that was happening while missing a lot of the important stuff, the reasons why it is happening. Well it looked like that from the presentation, but it was hard to tell because none of it was shared and there were no opportunities for dialogue about it. Except of course there are always opportunities for dialogue in the interwebs, and lots of people including me were fairly critical about the whole idea. It could have just finished there, as another missed opportunity, but then Nigel Gwilliam from the IPA got in touch with everyone who had commented on the event to how the IPA could make the things they are doing more relevant, more like a conversation.

And over the course of a few months this developed into a few of us putting our heads together to work out what we think are the most important principles for brands and agencies to understand when navigating the new ways in which people relate to each other online. We've also added initial thoughts about what each of the principles means, kind of conversation starters so that hopefully lots of other people can add their thoughts. And then there's going to be an event, which might hopefully be some of the things that the last one wasn't. So there's some speakers to get the conversation going, and then there's some conversation.

And these are the subjects that we think people might want to talk about. Everyone who has written the thought starter piece will be blogging it over the next week, and we're suggesting tagging it all #IPASocial. Keep a look out and please join in.

There's apparently a plumber of Yahoo Pipes somewhere in the IPA who might even be able to aggregate this tag on their site soon too, so we can really live out the perpetual beta principle.....

1. People not consumers – Mark Earls

2. Social agenda not business agenda – Le’Nise Brothers

3. Continuous conversation not campaigning – John V Willshire

4. Long term impacts not quick fixes – Faris Yakob

5. Marketing with people not to people – Katy Lindemann

6. Being authentic not persuasive – Neil Perkin

7. Perpetual beta – Jamie Coomber

8. Technology changes, people don’t – Amelia Torode

9. Change will never be this slow again – Graeme Wood

10. Measurement – Asi Sharabi

Monday, 14 September 2009

Finding and using your net promoter score

I was buying mobile phones again last week. Not to feed my tech habit this time, just cos my son threw one in the paddling pool. All very straightforward, courtesy of the Carphone Warehouse, but I wasn't expecting a text an hour later asking me One Question about my experience in buying the phone: on a scale of one to ten, how likely would I be to recommend Carphone Warehouse to a friend?
Now I've had a pretty good grip of net promoter scores for most of the brands I've worked with in the last couple of years, so I've commissioned people to ask this question a few times, but I've never been on the other end of it. It does make you think about your experiences of the brand (all pretty favourable in this case). And that led my cynical side to wonder whether brands that have an automated NPS tracking system in place for every transaction make more effort to deliver recommendable experience, or if it is more likely that it is only those that understand the importance of creating advocacy amongst their customers that bother to monitor NPS. Either way, it really impressed me. I meant to post about it last week, but to be honest forgot about it until I saw this ad on the tube today (you'd think with a new phone I could learn to take photos with it......)
Another Telecoms company, Plusnet, proudly letting me know that 8 out of 10 of their customers would recommend them to their friends.... which sounds like distilling the output of an NPS study down into an easily digestible headline as well. This category, traditionally one of the worst culprits for abominable customer service, seems to be paying more attention to brand experience....which can only be a good thing for people who keep having to replace their phones....

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Geek Venn Diagram

Love this.....
From here

Monday, 7 September 2009

Spotify for iPhone - owning or renting?

Ok here it is: Spotify the iPhone/Android app:Which is in itself a bit of a surprise - Apple not really having a reputation for approving iPhone apps that duplicate the phone's core functionality. And let's face it, regardless of where the music is stored, Spotify wipes the floor with iTunes for user experience. But where the music is stored is the importnant bit. Spotify can cache up to 3,300 tunes in offline mode: ie it stores them on your phone... in much the same way that iTunes does. As long as there is enough memory on your phone, as from my sums 3,300 tunes would take up about 23 Gb. Which even on the biggest iPhone would not leave much space for iTunes!

The obvious flaw in the system for most people is the requirement to pay £9.99 per month to continue to rent your music from Spotify in this way. The beauty of Spotify's streaming music service wasn't just the user experience; it was the freemium mix of ad-supported 95% and subscription-paid 5%. People who have the disposable income to justify £120 per year on music rental, as well as an iPhone in the first place, are also likely to own a lot of music already. Like me, they might also be quite attached to the idea of owning music. To be honest, in the UK this is unlikely to change as Gen Y grows up: we are a nation of wannabe owners, as our housing market will testify. So, while this app is potentially exciting, the potential for most people is more because of what it might mean for future app approvals - the Grooveshark or We7 app for instance. If the pricing can be sorted out (not to mention actually being able to operate in the US at launch), then Spotify Mobile may just have broken down the barriers for someone else to rush through.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Things are happening quicker....

(NB. This is part of some work that the IPA are doing on the impact of social media on the ad industry. When I say 'part', it's more like a big pile of ideas that would need sorting into some sort of order before they became part....)
The changes going on in the advertising industry are doing so faster than ever before. It is probably fair to say that they will also never be this slow again. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone; Intel founder Gordon Moore observed in 1965 that since the invention of the integrated circuit 8 years previously the number of transistors that could be placed on a circuit board had doubled every 18 months, and predicted that this trend would continue unchecked. So far he has been proved right, and the increases in computing power that Moore's Law describes are the reason that we are coming to talk about technology and advertising interchangeably.

That isn't to say that people are changing. Without paraphrasing Clay Shirky or Mark Earls too far here, all the things we are evolutionarily disposed to do, and that we have cultural requirements for, are simply quicker, easier and further reaching than previously. This is not a different challenge to those faced by our 20th century predecessors:
Early radio ads were print ads read out. Early TV ads were radio ads in which you could see the face of the person reading. In each case the rise of a new medium provoked a step change in the advertising industry, but one that didn't happen immediately. So if we have survived and adapted in the past, is the challenge really as great as it appears?

Well, not unless you believe that the set of assumptions that underpins how we help brands communicate might also be a casualty of the power of Moore's Law. It is fun to speculate on how technology will improve, but most examples follow Bill Gates' suggestion that

“We overestimate the change that will happen in the next two years, and underestimate the change that will happen in the next ten”

Our ability as individuals to control access to our attention is likely to be amongst these. Since the internet was invented, it has slowly grown to a point where it has roughly the same number of computers connected as there are cells in the human brain, and about the same number of links as there are connections. The number of synapses, or connections, in our brains is taken as a proxy for intelligence – it is basically processing power. So in the 18 years since the public birth of the worldwide web in 1991, the internet has developed the intelligence of one person. Moore’s Law means that all the processors, and all the storage, and all the other capacity will each be doubling in power every 18 months. According to Kevin Kelly’s calculations, by 2040 the internet will have the brainpower of 4 billion people. According to Kelly, in the medium term future we will move from computers connected BY the internet, to one single computer that IS the internet. Our devices will simply be views into it, our networks always on.

Advertising tends to be seen as a necessary evil, as a transaction
in return for content, which means that the challenge that has historically faced those who work in advertising has been to disrupt, interrupt, gain attention. Increased demands on peoples’ attention has made this job more difficult in recent years, but it has still been fundamentally the same challenge. What will alter it dramatically is the shift from gaining our attention to gaining the attention of our digital gatekeepers, the devices that will increasingly filter our access to entertainment and information. If I trust my applications’ recommendations, why should I look myself? They know more about what I like than I could ever have time to. Technology simply amplifies and speeds up underlying human behaviour and interaction. Brands that are asking themselves why people would want to be friends with them should think about what the alternatives may become.

And going back to the earlier question, is the challenge really as small as it appears? If I knew the answer, I'd start the agency that solved the problem. What we do know is that it is time to test. We have been wedded to the big idea of the Big Idea for generations, but big ideas that are rigorously researched and pretested will struggle in a world of ever increasing change. Things are happening quicker, including irrelevance. The idea of lots of little ideas seems more suited to this quicker world. In the words of AG Lafley, the former CEO of P&G,

"..our company's success rate runs between 50 and 60 percent. About half of our new products succeed. That's as high as we want the success rate to be. If we try to make it any higher, we'll be tempted to err on the side of caution”

Lots of little ideas acknowledge that all we as an industry can do is to make things as mimetic as possible. It is down to the other 99.9% of the population as to whether they happen. In Sketching User Experience, Bill Buxton talks about an art college ceramics professor who comes in on the first day of class and divides the students into two sections. He tells one half of the class that their final grade will be based exclusively on the volume of their production; the more they make, the better their grade. The professor tells the other half of the class that they will be graded more traditionally, based solely on the quality of their best piece. At the end of the semester, the professor discovered that the students who were focused on making as many pots as possible also ended up creating the best pots, much better than the pots made by the students who spent all semester trying to create that one perfect pot.

So the real step change for agencies is about not trying to build that perfect pot – it’s about not worrying about the bad ones. Charles Darwin said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” We know that species of animal can remain unchanged for millennia, and then suddenly evolve in a few generations as their environment changes. As the increasing speed of communications erodes the 19th and 20th century assumptions that our businesses are built upon, our role is to avoid erring on the side of caution.