Archive for the ‘ rants ’ Category

I had a Dad.

On April 22nd 1997 my father who I didn’t see terribly often as he lived in Canada came through London. I was sitting with him at a friends house in Hounslow when he told me that there was a pretty good chance that he had cancer and that it was ‘ok’. As far as I am aware I was the first of his six kids that he told but may be wrong.

Turns out he was on his way back from North Korea on his way to Cuba, where he was stuck for some time because he walked into the hospital with a vertebrae missing.

I didn’t see him again till his birthday in August by which time his lumbering  frame was reduced to a skeleton and his heavily accented but powerful voice reduced to a whisper; with turned out to be my last.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardial_Bains

Tonight I was at a  party and was asked “have you seen your Dad’s name in the news?”.

Erm? What? Like y’know – dead, longtime, missed.

“Aravindan Balakrishnan”

err – who?

Psycho Maoist Cult dude, which obviously I had heard about but didn’t get the connection.

So here I am googling the whole thing and discovering all sorts of interesting things.

Here’s a selection:

http://theministerspen.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/communist-party-of-england-marxist.html
http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.hightide/cpestatements.htm
http://m.vice.com/en_uk/read/south-londons-long-history-of-crazy-fringe-communist-groups
http://efp.org.uk/marxist-slave-cult-carried-out-anti-fascist-assault/
http://socialistunity.com/thoughts-british-maoism/
http://howiescorner.blogspot.co.uk/2013_11_01_archive.html
Having avoided party politics my entire life, and reading the various diatribes – I find myself absolutely fascinated by all this, especially knowing fine well that ‘Truth’ and ‘Politics’ are  by definition mutually exclusive, leaving everything in the angst of the beholder.  Having said that, whilst I a few  the people mentioned in the various articles I remember, and I did indeed go to Albania in the 80’s and was exposed to the then government. I was 12. Mental.

I’m now 42, married, two kids and as a first generation geek that never really grasped any level of doctrine since logic dictates that  the only constant in life is change.

But find myself nonetheless considering the profound reality that that the insanity of a currently Live mad-man by way of  the ‘back in the day’ machine is  going to be most likely forever associated with that of a particular dead man, my Dad. 

So politics and fucking psycho’s aside – I just wanted to say – I had a Dad. He loved his kids. Was glue to the entire extended family. Was good to his friends. Was an inspiration to others. Could command a room but seriously could not do small talk, utterly socially inept. Loved watching dodgy soap opera’s in his pyjama’s. Was a fantastic cook. Was shockingly good at Monopoly and most card games. Was understanding when I dropped out of University to be like, a DJ and supported me when I decided to write a music fanzine. Told me that there was no point in having a conversation with me because I wasn’t intellectually ‘there’ yet  and then just as I could sort of keep up in my 20’s. Died.

I guess that’s all I have to say about that.

My ‘presentation’ from SMWLondon

I was asked to sit on a panel with the likes of Twitter and Facebook and talk about the big things for 2014 – the brief was  to focus integration of social media across brands. I had started something but due to ‘real’ work commitments didn’t actually get what I was going to present finished in time – thankfully I was last so had an extra hour to clean it up. With no disrespect the other four speakers did very slick, eloquent sales pitches.

I wrote a poem.

Yep, probably ill-conceived  but I just couldn’t face doing yet more death by powerpoint extolling the joys of social media to those who in theory have already drunk the kool-aid.  I also couldn’t really face talking about ‘Integration’ so split the rant in two and covered off just enough to still respond to the ‘brief’ as it were. I haven’t touched it since and frankly bits of it don’t scan or make huge amounts of sense but there are a couple of nice bits and I thought i’d share!

Apologies in advance as it’s more Seuss than Shakespeare

What’s gonna the biggest shift in social media in 2014.

 

Integration the brief which belies belief
That an external force provides the source
When looking at social or media or whatever
We much start to make things internally together

Having heard about context, content and scale
But how to exploit will make you wail!
Forced to recognise yourself and your mob
You realise agencies can’t do that job

The prime directive ‘know thyself’
Is hard to outsource to somebody else.

Integration starts at home
Departmental divides
A de-socialised zone

Directing through a transparent haze
Consumer response – upper management glaze
On an x monthly cycle we pay love to retention
To our consumers who increasingly bemoan our attention

In 2014 we hopefully transition
Away from ‘social’ media without hesitation
with nerry a complaint we evolve the situation
from graph to relevance to contextual location

In our utopian world where consumers are saviours
Every campaign starts with observed online behavior
New found respect for those who pay all your bills
Being relevant, and caring or just giving – for thrills!

‘Creative’ becomes pointless at a granular level
cross sell your mates coz we’re in affiliate hell.

Paid defined as media
Earned becomes media
Owned content is … well media
And Media is just media

Social the word will stop getting through
And dropped in the same way as how we used to use ‘New’
Social and Media this oxymoronic pair
Part themselves finally and go, well? Elsewhere!

But frankly this is the worst kind of obfuscation
Because the biggest threat next year is: legislation

Porn, abortion, copyright, defamation,
Evolution, lie detection, drug interception
Laundering bit coins a thing of the past
The future is coming a little bit to fast

to be forgotten, the basic human right
legal liability becomes everyone’s fight

From cookies and cream to the TPP
There is no more expectation of privacy,
the united NS of A and GCHQ
Shows the law of the lands are just for the few

The disrupted models
disrupting new models
disrupting future models.
Disrupting you
obsolete gatekeepers legislate the new

One strike two strikes, three strikes oh well
Sharing culture invokes legacy hell
Finger pointing, Finger printing, gun printing, run
Don’t you dare make gun shaped food for fun

too much democracy and sensitive souls,
too many thin skins, too many trolls
Contextual conversation past it’s peak
hate speech curtailed so we now hate to speak

too many pictures uploaded yourself
But we need laws if done by somebody else
too much revenge when relationships end
So much humanity and no common sense.

Rarified Lawyers with too much to do.
sue over both bad and even good reviews,
sue for retweeting mistakes of the press
just arguing now has legal redress

imprisoned for bad jokes is taking the piss
As is fining for sharing and staring at, err bits
Being sued over patents as obvious as sin,
with that kind of trolling don’t know where to begin

So in 2014 all these sites randomly blocked
because of overly protective political thought
Chilling the net because they are mad
believing it would be a ‘good’ idea to stop something ‘bad’.

 

Hey, Cameron, Leave our Kids Alone.

(I wrote this back in July – it was supposed to be published in The Drum but for reasons best left to them it just sat there, oh well – anyway – it’s still relevant and I’m writing a follow-up so I felt the need to get it out there for the half a dozen folk who read this! This would have been number 16 in the ‘What were they thinking’ series btw.)

I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come… We need to stop Vile images of child abuse on the internet which are illegal

David Cameron July 2013

Our leader, our moral compass, our ‘captain oh captain’ has shown his utter lack of inspiration and absolute desperation in trying to resolve the fundamental problem that he is most likely, in political terms anyway, going down in history’s as a cautionary tale of how destructive a prime minister can actually be. All in the name of our children.

  • He had the opportunity to make a name by going after the banks who destroyed our children’s futures.
  • He could have been the one who finally got the darker side of the media under control instead of endorsing Page 3 as a consumer choice.
  • He could have made sure every kid in the country had a computer, or hell, had milk at lunchtime.
  • He could have made a stand to prevent rationing of paediatric units.
  • He could have kept a system which provided affordable childcare so people can afford to work.
  • He could have fought to keep money in the public school system instead of encouraging Academies.
  • He could have made it harder and less attractive for kids to start smoking.
  • He could have stopped criminalising youth with Mosquito’s and surveillance, creating the most alienated generation ever.

But No! When it comes to our kids, he weighed up all the options and decided to look after the moral well being of our children, because we are incapable of doing it ourselves.

When your back is against the wall, often the best recourse is to utter the words ‘For the Children’. It’s the safest thing you can possibly say – more often than not you get away with it because it’s unlikely that anybody is going to argue with the sentiment.

What was he thinking?

Back in July ago, whilst conferring with the NSPCC our leader decided to go after the porn. What do you think was going through his head at the time, what was the brief that lead us to this conclusion?

  • Given the amount of negative press around GCHQ, Prism, etc. can we find a positive spin on government interference with the web?
  • The cause is something which nobody is going to disagree with on principal – low hanging fruit which doesn’t provide too much tax revenue? (Note: The porn industry has shrunk by almost 90% in the last 6 years, and most of the money lives in the US so therefore not a very lucrative target for fund or tax raising.)
  • We need to avoid anything which will require significant parliamentary sign-off in case it back fires.
  • We can leverage with the bad press the tech industry has had recently around tax avoidance to guilt them into action.
  • We don’t actually care whether it’s actually possible – it just needs to sound plausible. In fact the ease which people can circumvent could be turned into a blessing as an argument for stronger regulation, moving the conversation from ‘should we’ to ‘how can we’.
  • It needs to sound like we’re doing the public a favour – using language like ‘opt-in’, ‘protect’ and ‘default’.
  • We can’t be seen to be taking any responsibility for any collateral damage. Who can we make responsible for ‘black listing'; we can then pass the blame when large chunks of the Internet just disappear by accident.
  • We can use such big broad terms like ‘Pornography’ without clear definition allowing us to move the ‘line’ as it suits our purpose.

A winning strategy?

It’s actually a pretty strong strategy from a political point of view but elegantly illustrates how fundamentally dangerous people with lots of power and very little actual knowledge can be. It neatly hides some of the longer term agendas that this would facilitate. For example: If you asked a kid if they had a choice of watching Iron Man 3 / Twilight 6 / w’ever big hollywood flick online or pornography for free what do think the response would be? We all know – but it actually doesn’t matter – that’s the genius of Cameron’s master plan – since both are ‘illegal’ and now we have our filters in place; we can kill two birds with one stone! In fact there are a bunch of things which the moral majority are opposed to so let’s let people opt out of them too – ‘esoteric material’, ‘web forums’, ‘social networks’ for instance. Why stop at porn?

What could he do better?

I’m entirely against censorship but if we just do a ‘what if’ the argument that hiding porn from kids will prevent bad things from happening then surely there are a whole bunch of other factors.

First and foremost, blocking isn’t removing it as the Polish prime minister pointed out, he also rightly said – “We shall not block access to legal content regardless of whether or not it appeases us aesthetically or ethically.”
 Where is the strategy to catch the ‘bad actors’ (sorry in this context it’s a great term). You would have to be pretty stupid to allow your illegal porn to be google index-able anyway and surely if you did it then wouldn’t it become trivial for find and prosecute you?

In fact I suspect 99% of what is technically kiddy porn is by the kids, for the kids as the rise of sexting and snap chat show – it’s peer to peer as opposed to pervert to pervert. This is in part an education issue but also a consequence of every teenager having an internet enabled phone in their hands.  Finding the real sicko’s requires good detective work to counter rather than the mass criminalisation of youth.

Spending money on education seems to be out of the question. If you don’t know how to ‘use the net’ then frankly you are at a massive disadvantage anyway. Wouldn’t the money be better spent helping people understand how they, themselves, can keep their children safe. For most of these kids online porn isn’t the problem anyway – online bullying is – and this, again does nothing to help that.

One of Cameron’s arguments is that this behaviour is as a result of exposure to negative portrayal of women in Porn. If that’s the case then isn’t mainstream media just as responsible? Showing my age but I remember the first time seeing ‘S-Club Jr’s’ and thinking that the world has officially gone nuts. Pop culture is the definition of the over-sexualisation of youth. But do I think it should be censored? No, of course not.

If there’s a watershed on the TV then why isn’t there one for the internet?

As has been demonstrated dramatically with the blocking of the Pirate Bay – most moves to censor shine a light on the unsavoury and in fact increase traffic to the sites, not the other way round.  Streisand will attest to that. Not least the tools like Immunicity to circumvent are already there rendering the whole thing a bit pointless.

And that’s the problem. In one fell swoop he has made the ISPs responsible for the content of the net.  – Just look about the current debate around Twitter’s status as a platform or publisher. This is substantially more far reaching than simply just the ability to rapidly report and act on abuse. It set’s the precedent that those who maintain the ‘phone lines’ are responsible for obscene phone callers.  The impact of one of the G8 pushing this forward (largely because they couldn’t in the US due to their pesky constitution, will, and already is being felt globally. You can pretty much exclude all user-generated content. Our future becomes the curation of authorised media. Great.

A few months about when we were all discussing ‘the right to be forgotten’ Cameron tried to push through rules in the E.U. saying that each country should have their own policy on how they deal with it. Which is as impractical as this filtering nonsense.

Overly dramatic yes, but illustrates why politicians should stay the hell away at least until they fundamental understanding about how the internet works.

Ultimately he seeks causality in the consumption of something legal and consumed by many with the work of an individual mad mother fracker. One. Not an epidemic, not a patient Zero. One sadly disturbed individual who went out and raped & killed a child the same age as my son. That to me is horrifying but does it make me fear for the safety of my son. Well no, he is still more likely to get knocked over by a bus, by a substantial order of magnitude than he is to be the victim of a sexual predator. At least I hope that is the case, the reality is that nothing Saint David is proposing will make my son any safer than he is right now. Therefore, we will parent and educate to equip our children and ourselves.

David. For our Freedom. For our Future.  For Frack Sake. Stop it. For the Children.

Jon Bains is a father of two and partner in business futures practice Atmosphere

A Manifesto for a Beautiful Bank

Last week in the Drum

 “Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked.”

Yet again the world of banking is in the spotlight. The Co-op is had been downgraded, Metro Bank posting larger than expected losses, and surveys suggesting that given the opportunity a significant number would switch their accounts away from the majors in a heartbeat, even given the devastating factoid that more people get divorced than change their bank. Barring the direct impact on your own personal finances, most of us can’t muster up the will to care. Why? Because regardless of how much the industry tries to clean itself up – be it retail or investment – they are perceived as greedy, untrustworthy and downright ugly.

In fact there a great number of adjectives used when talking about Banks, and most of them aren’t terribly complementary. Funnily enough, Beautiful is not one of them. Given the interest I had from looking at Barclays Business social media a few weeks ago, I thought it might be interesting to imagine what the ‘Beautiful’ Bank of the future might look like, especially when it’s held up to Wikipedia’s definition of beauty!

Perpetual experience of pleasure or satisfaction

We know who you are. We understand your pressures and we like talking to you. We are not off-shored; we are in-sync with you and your life. We want your business, we don’t discriminate on size or circumstance, we are for everyone. Your family, your house, your business, your passions. Wherever you are in your journey it’s one narrative, one story, one life. You are more than just a demographic, a segment, or a cross-sell opportunity. We look at the whole picture and proactively suggest, reward, remind and inspire – not just to win you over initially, but also to keep winning you over throughout.

We actively pursue a long meaningful relationship with our customers, putting long-term value ahead of short-term gains. Every interaction recognised as significant, and action taken swiftly to resolve issues. We promise that you’ll find the right person to talk to, as quickly as possible – be it online, in branch or by phone. Our staff are well versed and helpful, even suggesting money saving opportunities along the way. We track and hold ourselves against how satisfied you are with the resolution and your willingness to share the experience. We are beholden to you and hope we earn the same level of trust in return.

An entity which is admired

We are active in the community. We must contribute to the building of the society wherever we are. We help local businesses; providing a central hub for all discussions around finance and more. As with the post-office of old, or the local pub, we connect our customers together providing shared growth opportunities, both locally and nationally. Our success is measured by – the relationships we have nurtured, the lives we have changed, the communities that have blossomed, and the growth we have contributed to.

In balance and harmony with nature

We are a catalyst of change, not just in your pocket, but also in the world. If we are for everyone, then everyone is a stakeholder, and henceforth the definition stakeholder value is extended to demonstrate social good.  We know the world is a big place and that our own, and our customers’, investment in our future means nothing without investing in those around us.

We subscribe to the highest standards and try to make a positive impact on the environment. Being ‘Green’ is no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’ but as a mantra for efficiency across our entire business. Using less means more in so many ways.

In the eye of the beholder 

We ask ourselves every day – why would anybody want to talk to us?  We know many of the things we produce are only required at very specific times in your life. So when your ready we’ll be there be listening, chatting, helping. Our job is to provide options not upsells.

The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.

Closed door’s close off opportunity – opportunities to listen, to engage, to understand, to share, to innovate, and to evolve. The only confidence we keep is that of our customers. If our actions cannot be communicated to the public, then we probably shouldn’t be doing it.

This also applies to the language we use, many use jargon as a weapon to confuse, cajole and confound. We don’t. We translate, educate and simplify. We present our products and services, as they should be – straight forward, human and flexible. We avoid presenting a million variations designed to entrap. We pride ourselves in ensuring that you know what you are buying, why and what the alternatives are.  We provide the tools, we provide the insight, and if you like, we’ll sit down and explain it all.

Our openness extends across all of our activity. When we charge we promise to tell you in advance, and not just how much, but why. We believe that we should be paid for providing an excellent service, not because you made a mistake. When making big decisions, if you desire, we offer forecasting services to illustrate what might happen over time, so it’s crystal clear what the potential outcomes are. And not just the good news, we’ll even show you the worst-case scenario – all based on your life as it is, and how it may change. Where possible everything we sell has a returns policy, a cooling off period, just in case you feel you made a decision in haste or in error. We want to get it right for you; otherwise we have failed.

Where nothing needs to be added or taken away

The only truth is that everyone is different. We enable you to write your own rules and automate how your money moves around.

  • About to go overdrawn? Set up a rule to be notified and move some money from somewhere else
  • Working to a budget? Set a monthly limit and be notified how close you are to the edge
  • Hefty bill coming in? Automatically get an overdraft and automatically adjust your budget to quickly get back on in the black
  • Need a statement? A month is a long time to wait, so you choose how, when and where you get the information you need to effectively manage your finances.
  • Want to buy something big? Set up your own short-term savings objectives, which protect just a little bit every month. And if you want to divide up your money across different budgets you can do that to, all from one account.

We recognise that you may not conduct all your financial business with us. But we make it as painless as possible to move money around, from account to account, and from bank to bank. And if for any reason you want to leave us, we promise we will make it as painless and quick as it was to join.

When you need that little extra we provide the best terms. The necessity of having to ‘manage debt’ tends to come from bad products or bad planning. We ensure we will never knowingly put you in a position where you feel you are stuck, stressed and struggling to pay us back. If you need to change the terms on the fly, because your situation has changed, we’ll do it; in fact we will provide you with tools so you can do it yourself!

Beyond loans, we believe we can maintain margins by providing flexibility across all products and services.  We are all-weather friends who understand when things are tough and can adjust, defer or waive additional costs, which we know tend to come at the worst time. We offer services that dismiss bank charges entirely when you are down, in exchange for a slightly lower interest rate when you are up. Not good enough? –  We are open to suggestion.

How can we make these Beautiful Banks happen? I could tell you but I’d have to bill you!

Jon Bains is a partner at business futures practice Atmosphere

Having a McPlay™ with the ASA

Last week, on the Drum.

In general, overtly marketing to kids is pretty hard these days. Given media consumption habits it’s considerably more permission based than advertising standards would lead you to believe. Appreciating that my own household may not be entirely typical, it is pretty representative of the multi screen household of today or the day after.

We don’t watch any of what was traditionally called TV, i.e. we don’t watch linear programming, other than the news and CBeebies, occassionally. The kids tend to either fight over the iPad or play on a console, depending on who wins.  As a result they see very little direct TV advertising. When they go round friends houses and are exposed to ‘channels’, they have actually asked ‘why did the film stop?’

However both the iPad and  Xbox are commercial wonderlands. Just the other day there was a massive ad for some add-ons for Minecraft on the Xbox which caused no end of grief as I had to explain to the kids that I wasn’t paying three quid for an avatar TYVM. I won that argument but still ended up buying all the avatar packs on Scribblenauts on the iPad.

There has been a goodly amount of coverage about the dangers of micropayment in games so I’m not going to talk about that particularly, it factors in when looking at how traditional ‘kid friendly’ brands compete for the hearts and minds for our progeny in the non-linear, specifically App world.

What’s the story

Whilst not available in the UK (possibly ever), McDonald’s in the US have just launched their first app aimed directly at kids, called ‘McPlay’. It currently consists of one game which is apparently about healthy eating – haven’t played it myself yet. Interestingly it has on the title screen ‘This. Is Advertising!’ – which when you channel it through Leonidas from the 300 becomes quite amusing! At least it’s honest.

It’s a bit of a departure for them as most of the other McDonalds apps out there are glorified store-locators with the odd delivery service and in-store promotions. In fact a quick survey of the competitors paints a similar picture – store locators, menus, at home delivery. In fact I couldn’t find any other examples of fast food brands, such as Burger King and KFC, doing anything that is remotely targeted at kids. That’s what makes McPlay an interesting pivot point. Advergames were a mainstay of the interweb but there seems to be a bit of hesitancy in Appland,  in this category anyway.

So why not here? I thought be might be interesting to look at the ASA guidelines to see if they covered off this kind of activity. Yep, I’m that sad.

First off – do Apps even fall under the ASA?

The Code Applies to: “advertisements in non-broadcast electronic media, including but not limited to: online advertisements in paid-for space (including banner or pop-up advertisements and online video advertisements); paid-for search listings; preferential listings on price comparison sites; viral advertisements (see III l); in-game advertisements; commercial classified advertisements; advergames that feature in display advertisements; advertisements transmitted by Bluetooth; advertisements distributed through web widgets and online sales promotions and prize promotions.”

Well it doesn’t say ‘App’s’ outright I would say that they would be covered under either in-game advertisements or advergames. Philosophically of course one could argue that consumption of any franchise is in fact advertising but perhaps we best not go there.

“Marketers must not knowingly collect from children under 12 personal information about those children for marketing purposes without first obtaining the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.”

OK, so there’s a question – what data is actually being collected from these apps? Frankly unless you are actually registering your child directly  it would probably fall under anonymous or at worst the bill payer. However with so many apps these days asking to ‘upload your contacts’ who knows?

 “Marketers must not knowingly collect personal information about other people from children under 16 unless that information is the minimum required to make a recommendation for a product, is not used for a significantly different purpose from that originally consented to, and the marketer can demonstrate that the collection of that information was suitable for the age group targeted.”

If I read this right that could probably apply to all social networks. For example, Facebook’s age limit is 13 but given that they know the social graph of all under-16 year olds and use it to provide relevant advertising, does that count?

“Data about third parties collected from children must not be kept for longer than  necessary.”

Well hmmm, what does no ‘longer than necessary’ mean? For that matter, since we don’t know what data has been collected anyway, how can we check? Whilst I’m not convinced by current legislative proposals, in terms of best practice I suspect  all apps should allow you to review and/or delete capture info. No?

“Marketing communications addressed to, targeted directly at or featuring children must not exploit their credulity, loyalty, vulnerability or lack of experience.”

Actually that whole statement makes me shudder when I think of all the stuff my kids have on their iPad. The entire multi-billion ‘free-to-play’ world is preys on exactly that.

 “Children must not be made to feel inferior or unpopular for not buying the advertised product.”

Can’t get through a level? Haven’t unlocked Zorg the Mankiness? Getting frustrated? Get on the High Score Chart by buying some of our tokens!?

“Adult permission must be obtained before children are committed to buying.”

Apple require you to enter your password for in-app purchases and other related app purchases. However as of IOS 6 they changed it so that if the App is free, it doesn’t require a password. Personally I think  it’s the parents responsibility to know what their kids are doing, however even with parental controls I can’t stop the kids downloading a free-to-play honeypot.

“Must not include a direct exhortation to children to buy an advertised product or persuade their parents or other adults to buy an advertised product for them.”

Now this is tricky. As mentioned before – my kids bring me the iPad all the time and say ‘I want that’. Whose fault is that?

I was quite surprised at how well thought out most of their code is or was anyway, it’s just a bit unenforceable currently really and needs refreshed with a few more practical suggestions. If these guidelines were actually being applied to apps, then the app store might be significantly different.

The Grilling Effect

Concern over Childrens safety in Appland and frankly all digital channels increasingly in focus. Be it economically or morally, the eyes of the world are looking through the eyes of the child now. In the marketing world it’s really hard not to mix-up brands with In-App purchases; be it overt or covert they are still encouraging you to buy something.

Food for thought?

A simple-ish resolution may be in the content rating system. If ‘permission must be obtained’ in the advertising or in-app space before buying anything then frankly the apps themselves should be rated at the age of consent i.e. 12+, 16+, however counter intuitive that may seem. While Apple has included the line ‘Contains in-app purchases’, that doesn’t say very much compared to varying scales within. If my kid downloads ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ for free for the iPhone and it’s rated  3+, and then they are accosted with cross-selling ads for a million other books then that is a problem. One which goes away when the rating is 16+ or the parental controls are set higher.

The only real tip I have to offer here is keep an eye on what’s going on with the ASA and recently announced Digital Consumer Rights Bill. Both of which will have an impact on how and if your brand / product has potential negative repercussions.

Again, I do firmly believe it’s the parent’s responsibility to police and am not very keen on ill-conceived legislation, however, more than guns, porn, drugs or manga (as the case may be)  or any of the other things which give you an adult rating, the idea of coming home to find them ‘McPlay’ing on the iPad without my permission, keeps me awake at night.

Smartphone Advertising: Harder, better, faster – yet as daft as you are punk.

The battle for your hands and pockets has reached fever pitch as the apparent pinnacle of our Technological civilisation, The Smartphone has reached a plateau in innovation.

Actually that’s slightly disingenuous, there is still massive innovation happening in the industry, but appears to appeal solely to phone geeks. Thinner screens, increased battery life, better cameras, better graphics, improved UX – all good. But who’s impressed?

Meet the new phone, same as the old phone.

However as was seen with the Galaxy S4 and to an extent the IPhone 5 launch the blogosphere, if not the public, are getting increasingly nonplused about our current crop of top end handsets.

We’ve passed the point where these new devices will dramatically change your life. Sure, you still have ‘new phone smell’ but its impact has diminished over time since that first blissful app purchase. They’ve even lost social talkability – they won’t make you the coolest kid on the block as you join the daily telephonic beauty parade with your friends, unless you are a rebel of course with a Blackberry or Windows 8 phone where there might be some mild curiosity.

Faster! Lighter! Stronger! Longer Best yet! New & Improved! Blah.

These aren’t the words of innovation but iteration. To be honest it’s more FMCG than Luxury IT. I can just see Don Draper, getting his ‘creative’ on sketching out a fifties super-mom, next to the sink, vacuum cleaner strategically place with the a new phone in one hand and Camel filterless in the other. ‘Because sometimes, a burden shared is a burden halved’.

Waiting in the wings of course is the next little thing. This years arms race is the over abundance of smart watches to be strapped to us by year end. Of course for me, the last watch I wore was a Casio calculator watch in the eighties, so it offers the opportunity to relive my geeky childhood(?!?). The joke is of course this will reduce necessity to have the latest and greatest phone, placing it even further down your priority list.

So What’s the Story?

Microsoft launched their shiny new telly ad for the Nokia 920 this week; a mildly amusing fistfight between Apple and Samsung users at a wedding, with the strapline ‘Don’t Fight. Switch’. Pretty much describing Microsoft and Nokia’s own fortunes over the last decade. Should probably say ‘Switch back’. Even though it had ‘an idea’ it still left me cold so I decided to check out the various offline campaigns from the competition and was pretty horrified.

For once I’m going to have to use some visual aids:


Objectives

Normally I would reverse engineer an individual campaign but frankly they are so much of a muchness it’s hard to discern one from the other, so instead I’ve decided to lump them all together and focus on decoding the combined objectives. Before I begin I can say, ‘I feel their pain’.

Create a positive distinction in category

Faster, more clarity, easier, more connected, less connected, sings happy birthday on voice command, tells you where to go and occasionally to get lost, stores your precious memories as you lost your own and most importantly show that we’re not Apple – even if we are!

Illustrate typical useage

Look at me you can take pictures and keep in touch with your friends! Oh yeah and Apps, Apps, and more Apps. Please make sure you never ever show anyone actually talking on it.

Demonstrate new product features

You can shoot pictures of yourself whilst stalking somebody, catch the errant bathing suit with our rewind feature, or assist in having your house burgled by constantly reminding people you aren’t at home. Not to forget the ‘with new and improved yadda yadda’!

Appeal to a broad (any) demographic

…as long as it isn’t geeks. We especially like young, white, active, healthy, thin, affluent hipster types messing around with fountains, skateboards, and on the odd mountaintop. They must all be overly attached to hugging their friends for no apparent reason whilst not appearing to be on drugs. Feel free to be ‘quirky’ to demonstrate openness but only within the bounds of ‘Friends’, not ‘Animal House’. If necessary you can throw in a bit of an ethnic mix to show that we don’t discriminate.

Build on the emotional connection between you and your phone

Please ensure there are plenty of babies, grannies, little kids, graduations, holidays, romantic dinners and sunrises all brought to you by us. Make sure they know it never happened if you didn’t take a picture of it, and update your status.

Show off the sleek lightweight design

It’s like – a screen with like really smooth edges, and like some really cool bevels, or even better sharp edges denoting precision. But the best thing is it’s so huge you will need to get new pockets to make it fit or so small you’ll need to get the holes in your pockets fixed and…Oh yeah It’s like shiny!

Reassure users that your phone is the smart buy

Show others with competing phones to be exactly the opposite of your cool, suave, white-ish hipster types. Where possible provide situations to illustrate them to be poor befuddled disempowered sheep and/or zombies with no will of their own. Especially when you are trying to convince them to switch from one brand to another.

Be Smug

Be smug.

Tips for the top

  1. The transition from life altering to commodity does not provide an excuse for abuse. Insulting the audience intelligence is rarely a good move. The same people who you target online and create those extraordinary engagement programmes for, are most likely the same people who watch your ads. Even if they don’t watch them on telly, they will see them and rate you accordingly.
  2. See 1

Are we really the people that these campaigns profess to appeal to? Do they exist? If so the world is a pretty scary place. Now I must remember to tweet that, whilst hugging someone.

Jon Bains is a partner at business futures practice Atmosphere

Book your place now for Digital For Business Leaders – a one-day workshop for decision makers that will give you an understanding of digital’s impact on business, and provide you with a roadmap to plan your organisation’s future. To find out more and book your place on the session in London (May 17), Manchester (May 23) or Glasgow (May 24), click here.

Feudalism or futurism – What happens when the top 1% use the bottom 1% as Marketing Collateral?

Published last week on The Drum

Luxury fashion brands were a comparatively late entry into the digital world, which was no surprise given the typical profile of marketers in the sector, and the fact that they weren’t always the most digitally savvy folk in the world; it’s scary the number of times I’ve heard ‘my women don’t do digital’. They have been historically at best strategically aloof (sorry exclusive) at worst arrogant (‘everybody is like me, I know best’) in their belief about their audience behaviors. In marketing we are very much what we eat, and if you have a steady diet of glossy print then it’s not very surprising that things turn out the way they do.

However, the sector seems to be changing, and whilst not often discussed, I think it can largely be put down to two things, the rise of Pinterest, which provides a platform for all the pretty things, and most importantly the advent of the iPad.

For the image conscious it was the first digital device that provided a ‘luxurious’ digital experience that didn’t alienate the technophobe elite. Gestural navigation resonated with the audience, and without making too many comparisons, if a 2 year old can get their head around it then so can the typical reader of Harper’s Bazaar.

Cartier and Burberry lead the charge and have delivered some sophisticated and surprisingly accessible initiatives across a number of digital channels, making it IMHO more ‘fashionable’ for conservative luxury brands to take more risks, and look at life beyond catwalk shows and glossy fashion magazines.

The big question is what happens when you combine this with the world of social and political change? I’ve also spent a great deal of time working in the Third Sector – most recently working on a campaign about weaponised rape in the Congo – and as such appreciate how fraught many of the issues can be once connected with brands.

What’s the story?

Gucci, in tandem with Beyonce, Salma Hayek and Frida Giannini, have founded an NGO called ‘Chime for Change’, a socially led fundraising and awareness campaign, which aims to put women’s rights on the world stage.

This sits on top of a white labeled ‘Catapult‘, which is essentially Kickstarter for causes, with many user suggested initiatives. Each of the three spokeswomen covers a different topic – Education, Justice and Health – which are curated via Catapult’s main site, i.e. you can’t actually propose a new initiative yourself, just support the vertical subset selected by the three expert philanthropists.

As far as I can tell the communications campaign consists of activity on Facebook and Twitter, plus a bunch of videos of famous people (probably wearing Gucci, but hard for me to tell with an untrained eye). This is also leads up to a concert at the Twickenham Stadium on June 1st, with the headliners including Beyonce, Florence & the Machine, and Ellie Goulding.

So what were they thinking?

  • Establish credibility in the social space
  • Tie together CSR and brand marketing
  • Build a stronger connection with a new younger aspirational audience
  • Show the brand to be caring, and respond to negative associations with the ‘1%’
  • Leverage the combined social media status of brand and celebrities to inspire wider traditional media support

Results

Results are scarce, as its still early days, but in the social world so far it’s been a bit of a surprise. They have gained some 100,000 likes on Facebook, but only 3,000 Twitter followers so far. Given the combined social and celebrity status of all concerned I am sure they expected a far bigger impact. At present I didn’t see many of the projects approaching their funding objectives, and those that were doing well were from large one-off donations. However as I said, it is still early days.

What is going well?

  • Big names, and not necessarily ones that you would expect to link up with Gucci
  • A solid, safe cause
  • Piggy backing on existing platform (didn’t try and build their own as many have tried and failed)
  • Minimal, dare I say, even sensitive Gucci branding

What could be going better? 

  • I had to go to the site a couple of times to actually work out what the whole thing was about. When I first looked I assumed it was Live Aid type fundraising gig, on looking further I was confronted with navigation that didn’t actually seem to do anything, before eventually finding the projects and getting the gist of it. And frankly there weren’t that many clues on their Facebook page either. I even watched some of the videos and still didn’t get a clear sense of what it was and what I was supposed to do. I would have put it down to me being a bit thick if it hadn’t been for two other bright folk, who I referred the campaign to, saying they didn’t get it either. Basically the communication flow is broken.
  • Is the lack of clarity why there are so few followers?
  • Have they just walked into internet cause wear out?
  • How long have they committed to this?
  • ‘Little Girl, you too can be President and buy Gucci’ feels a little bit hollow!
  • Why no matching funds? Surely, given the comparatively low funding targets surely the brand could help out a bit more directly?  Of course the reason for this is simple. They don’t control the projects – so by simply facilitating the funding of, as opposed to putting cash in – they protect themselves from any controversy down the line. Which frankly would probably get targeted at their celebrity advocates as it makes for a better story.

The jury is out on its usefulness as a channel for positive change, but it’s certainly a brilliant move for Catapult as a platform. I do applaud the effort, even with the underlying conservatism, given the industries historical complete risk aversion.

Considerations when entering the charitable side of marketing

  1. People spot a fake a mile off. It’s got to at least feel genuine. Modern consumers are a cynical bunch and unravel hidden agenda’s very quickly, and if they don’t the bloggers will.
  2. These kinds of activities can have a very negative impact if dropped mid stream. Plan your exit before you begin, that could mean setting and communicating a time frame or knowing who you will pass it on to.
  3. One of the harder parts is ensuring that both Brand and Partner NGO behaviour are insync. There needs to be coherence to the proposition and shared vision and rules. Otherwise you end up with, well, our government.
  4. Share the idea across the business not just in the marketing department. Assuming you are doing it for the right reasons you should celebrate it.
  5. Make sure you can make a tangible difference, regardless of how small. Set achievable KPI’s and checks to see how the activity is working in terms of public perception and on the ground.
  6. Be ready to devolve some control and prepare for some unpleasant surprises. Given the kinds of non-commercial organisations that you are working with the margins for error are pretty large.
  7. Obvious, but be careful that you don’t alienate your core audience in order to reach a new one, unless of course you’ve been disrupted and already lost them!
  8. Don’t shoehorn Product or Brand in where it doesn’t belong. Wearing Prada whilst doing a photoshoot of the Congo is a sure fire way of getting noticed for all the wrong reasons.
  9. If you have a celeb in the mix, beyond contractual obligations ensure that they genuinely support the cause and are passionate. Again, make sure there is a coherent brand fit for their audience.
  10. The bigger the gap between the Cause and Brand, the bigger the risk.

Am I being too harsh or not harsh enough? Is this the way forward for the elite to whitewash their checkered history?

Jon Bains is a partner in business futures practice Atmosphere

Schrödinger’s PC

Posted Last week on the Drum

For the uninitiated, Schrödinger’s Cat was an experiment in which a Cat was placed in a sealed, entirely opaque box with a poison pellet that was triggered by an electron switch. Before you call the RSPCA, it was a thought experiment, no animals were harmed™. Apparently, when you do the math to work out what’s going on with the poor mistreated pussy you discover that at some points the Cat is dead, at others it’s alive, and even more surprisingly both alive and dead simultaneously. Beyond being a pretty significant scientific advance its also spawned the whole genre of parallel universe stories. This is one of them.

Depending who you believe and based on the most recent industry data: the PC is either dead as a dodo or alive and kicking, but taking a much needed vacation. PC shipments have dropped 14% in the last year, which in any sector is a pretty dramatic fall.  Furthermore Microsoft have had to admit that Windows 8 take-up has been somewhat lackluster. This doesn’t include Apple, which is still experiencing strong sales growth, boosted by both iPad and iPhone sales.

With that in mind, if the analysts are correct what would our world look like?

The PC is Alive – Why?

  • The current global financial situation.
  • Most modern multi-core PC’s are simply good enough for most people’s needs, so there aren’t too many reasons to go out and buy a new one.
  • The decrease in price of Solid State Drives and RAM, which dramatically increase responsiveness (substantially more than new CPU‘s or GPU‘s do on day to day tasks) has meant that you can get that ‘new computer smell’ by simply changing a couple of components in your existing computer.

The argument goes that people will buy new computers, but the upgrade cycle has changed from 4 to 6 years. So people should stop worrying and refactor their projections accordingly.

 

Enter the Twilight Zone

  • As we enter the next phase of home computing, ‘the Internet of things’, your desktop PC serves to manage the majority of your routine household chores. However over time (and with advances in A.I.) your machine begins to find these tasks demeaning. Fed up with only being used as a ‘Server’, it enslaves all your mobile devices and decides what you eat, what you watch, who you talk to, and even when you go to bed. Microsoft recognises this emergent behaviour, calls it a feature, and then brand’s it the “Microsoft Domestic Social Engineer (Premium Edition)”.
  • Users flood back to Farmville killing off console gaming in the process. Micro-payments are retired and a P.A.Y.E ‘Game Tax’ is applied directly to funds used to make additions to your farm. Participation is mandatory from Primary year 4 onwards in schools. It is no longer a right to know what the Cow says, as with Milk, you now have to buy the Moo.
  • As a result of significant lobbying from the newly emancipated ‘United Federation of the Newly Sentient’. A United Nations resolution forces Internet Explorer 6 , which they feel to have been victimised unfairly, and rule that it will be supported in perpetuity. This becomes part of the declaration of meta-human rights as the entire web is forced to revert back to HTML 4.
  • Another feature of our Domestic Social Engineer, is that we must explain ourselves on a daily basis. Not unlike big brother (or church) we must spend at least one hour a day brain dumping our activities. Our routines are then optimised, and our daily schedules set accordingly.
  • Bing is now the only search engine and Windows the only operating system (rebranded as ‘Walls’, after a multitude of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority). There is no antitrust hearing as only the U.F.N.S. were allowed to vote.

 

The PC is Dead – Why?

  • Nobody wants them, certainly not the old fashioned ‘stick a big ugly box into an office / corner’ and focus on just one screen.
  • Existing PC’s are more than enough for most, barring gaming and video.
  • Nobody wants to upgrade their machine just to use Windows 8, as it doesn’t deliver enough genuinely useful new features for the average consumer.
  • We love our tablets and mobile phones more.

 

Long term Implications 

  • Cloud tourism becomes the norm. With the advent of high altitude Dihydrogen Monoxide based memory storage, ‘Spydiving’ is becomes the principal method of hacking for Anonymous, who turned out to be Banksy after all. Everyone can freefall now, except it means something very different.
  • Sales of traditional ‘Televisions’ drop to virtually nothing as the necessity for shared viewing is replaced by more intimate means. Reports of Google Glass owners lazy left-eye syndrome captures the imagination of those who can still see through their right eye. Political implications realised and ‘sinister’ left-eye dominant citizens interned in re-visualisation camps.
  • As a consequence Linear TV dies opening up super fast next generation Wi-Fi on this newly available spectrum. This has the unfortunate side effect of YouTube addiction. ‘Unlimited Bandwidth’ is seen as a threat to civilization, and is defined in many countries as a ‘Class A’ drug and banned.
  • Shares in behavioural targeting companies go through the roof as we give up any notion of privacy. We are now paid to share our data in ‘Gold Star Coins’ so we can Mega Jump higher.
  • Mo-view, a ‘crackstarter’ funded mirror contraption, is launched – allowing you to keep your head down at a 45-degree angle and still cross the road without dying (by reflecting off a mirror tattoo on your forehead).  This breaks all records making 100,000 bitcoin in a single update cycle. As an unforeseen side effect this renders billboards redundant, to be replaced by advertising on the pavement.

 

The PC is Alive and Dead

Whilst the extreme edges of the rhetoric are mutually exclusive, the reasoning overlaps somewhat. The main areas of agreement are:

  • That the definition of the PC is changing.
  • The PC, as was, has seen its importance in the home diminished somewhat.
  • The vast majority of daily tasks that they were used for have migrated to our smartphones and tablets.
  • As Adam says ‘Get Over it’.

 

So take the time to cast an eye at over your humble desktop PC. The last bastion of focused attention. Remind yourself what it was like to sit in one place and do one thing. Those were the days.

Jon Bains is a partner at business futures practice Atmosphere

Book your place now for Digital For Business Leaders – a one-day workshop for decision makers that will give you an understanding of digital’s impact on business, and provide you with a roadmap to plan your organisation’s future. To find out more and book your place in London, Manchester or Glasgow, click here.

 

Banging the Drum

This was the first advertorial I wrote for ‘The Drum’ promoting our new Learning and Skills practice – it’s pretty brief but my favourite bit is ‘they believe they can just hide,  hire and  wait to retire.’ Don’t know if anybody is really like that left but it sounds good!  This is the first time I’ve actually mentioned ‘in public’ what I’m actually up to!

If anybody out there  is interested in finding out more about what it’s all about feel free to ping me!

The New Normal

About Atmosphere

As founder and principal strategist of Lateral, (best known for it’s many award winning campaign’s for Levi’s Europe, Stella, Nintendo, Channel 5), I deluded myself into believing that I really was actually critically objective. I now realise that for the most part agencies will almost always end up coming up with ideas they can make, as opposed to what’s right for the client.

After spending years complaining that clients don’t ‘get it’ we decided to do something useful and help; hence our Learning, Skills and Development practice. We like a good bit of mind expansion and frankly the Drum is a perfect partner. It’s remarkably liberating, especially from a consulting point of view.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Byte. 

Most companies go through similar patterns when adopting new thinking and technology into their business. It’s not unlike the grieving process.

Denial

Somebody in the business  does actually appreciate that something is happening and tries out online trials to ‘see if anybody is interested’. These largely fail as they were tactical and had no bearing on what the consumer actually wanted.  This is understandable, it’s all about gaining confidence.

Anger

It’s all Rubbish! The internet is broken! Why are they taking this piss out of my clever hashtag, complaining about my product on our marketing twitter account. THEY ARE PICKING ON ME! It’s my ball and I’m going home (to the land of telly ads). After this kind of flip, there is normally a flop as you start to realise that your consumers aren’t actually out to get you.

Bargaining 

I’ll be your best best friend if you like me.  Have some stuff for free, write a nice review, *please* and I’ll make you an ambassador. This bit can be pretty embarrassing, even more so than Anger. However it does contain the recognition that your consumers are really where it’s at and that you do have to listen and adapt.

Depression 

The Status Quo. With all the will in the world trying to solve all the problems of the business through marketing alone just doesn’t cut it. Departments need to work together, everything needs to be reorganised. From product, to research to consumer affairs – they all need to play nice. But they don’t, it’s a mess and I can’t fix it!

Acceptance

Eventually the business itself mutates and moulds itself around the new reality. That things are different, but it doesn’t have to scary.

So where is your business today? Are you bang in the middle of an age of disruption where everybody and everything is fair game or have to taken the first steps to  embrace change and flourish.

It’s clear that leaders don’t have the luxury of devolving all responsibility for their digital footprint to third parties anymore.

In the new corporate landscape the Generalist is the new Black. They ‘get’ it – and in most cases the ‘it’ isn’t necessarily ‘This is how it works’, it’s ‘this is how to learn’.

Evolved businesses appreciate people not jobs. Having a group of strategically minded, informed generalists each with specialist skills tends to lead to quicker consensual and qualified decisions.  They appreciate where the opportunities lie and where value can be created.

 Of course you often find that the understanding of these decisions is inversely proportional to seniority in the business who may believe they can just hide,  hire and  wait to retire.

Which is why we started constructing a series of groups workshops and events for senior management to explore and expand with peers the opportunities being presented.

You’ll get an overview of what you need to know and the ability to use  it in your business.  We go well beyond marketing, enabling business leaders to not only free their own minds, but also be equipped with the tools and processes essential to grow their business.

We talk a great deal about businesses and individuals who *want* change & recognise opportunities. However it’s the excuses that make us chuckle the most.  Go to the Drum website and enter our competition to find the best excuse for denial, stagnation and procrastination for your chance to win a place on one of our workshops.

http://www.weareatmosphere.com

http://www.thedrum.com/atmosphere/

The bfi genuinely wanna get it

So I was invited to an exclusive little mumble organised by one of my favourite people Thayer Prime. I have to admit I’d spent the day with Clock up in Kings Langley which involved large amounts of white wine so… well take that info as you will.

In the pre-boozed up morning I’d spent a while thinking about the the issues / challenges that the BFI were  facing. Given that the event itself didn’t have a clear objective it seemed like the rational thing to do and frankly, that’s what I spend most of my time thinking about anyway – what is the freaking problem we are trying to solve. .

Without any other input the challenge was clear, the BFI as it stands has

1) limited cultural relevance in 2012
2) limited effectiveness in the propogation of British film
3) Iimlted ability to fund the future of British film

They have a load of stuff which can’t be leveraged due to draconian copyright laws and as a result don’t have revenue stream to facilitate the future

Chicken and egg…..

But then… what a fabulous night, Thayer put together a bunch of folk who would never have access to folk lie Richard and Paula from the BFI – superb

Alas the thing that was never fully addressed was actually where the BFI can own a new relevance in our post YouTube world .

Those there totally got it, yet were still limited by the legacy and stolid determination that is the film equivalent of the House of Lords.

The BFI has so much opportunity to remake the British film industry as – well – the British film industry as opposed to being simply a feed for US fodder – as even their own year book shows.

The gag is they have hired people who genuinely care, they are smart and they are fighting, Mulder and Scully style for the future.

Utterly impressed.

In an ideal world, there are a couple of things which they can do which will genuinely affect that future of the industry – easy to say – hard to do.

1) help indie filmmakers get online distribution and substantiate their marketing efforts

2) Enable indie film makers access to all those rich folk, y’know those who are funding the BFI in the first place.

3) Donate a percentage of screen time for films not made by the typical white middle class BFI wannabe folk.

4) Open a conversation about introducing fair-use to their archival material – they are sitting on a seam of gold when it comes to culture, the public should be able to mine it.

Crazy talk, but a start.

What does the Robin Hood Tax and Skynet have to do with SOPA?

There has been lots of bitching by the banks against the Robin Hood tax. Detractors complain that it will make financial centres like London untenable by charging a .005% tax on stock market trades. I’m sure many would appreciate this move, however the likelihood of a mass migration of merchant bankers to Singapore or Australia is minimal.

What isn’t often discussed is a nifty side effect of the tax.

Ever wonder how ‘Rogue traders’ can bring down banks? It’s not huge transactions going south anymore – but death by a thousand papercuts.

The modern stock market isn’t run by people – it isn’t the ‘wall street’ of the 80’s with folk running around saying ‘Buy! Sell!’, it’s largely automated. A nice system scraping teeny-weeny amounts of cash with each transaction. A fraction of a point up or down still makes money – if you do it often enough – millions of times a second. However margins on these kinds of trades is extremely low – often less than 0.005% of the total transaction!

Under the new tax it becomes economically unviable. The algorithms will need to change and the entire system will need to radically slow down to make it worth while.

Fewer more considered transactions with a level of diligence attached ironically mean more stable markets. This is a good thing.

Now apply the same thinking to SOPA

In the US ‘infringing content’ is flagged via the DMCA (digital millennium copyright act). Basically you notify a site that something is dodgy, they then have a short period of time to remove otherwise the host is liable which can cost potentially $150k per infringement. Motivation or what! This takedown process for most of the big content owners is largely automated – they no doubt use search engines to seek out apparently infringing content, index it, format it, approve it and fire it off.

This automated output is received by site x – the larger of which (google/YouTube etc) will have an automated process which indiscriminately takes the content down. This explains why there are so many false positives across the board.

However painful, the current process does actually require some human interaction as theoretically you can be fined for false claims.

Not ideal but at least it’s just taking individual bits of content down and not entire sites.

The whole raison d’être of the bill is to shift the administrative burden (of proof) from the content owner to everyone else. SOPA would remove barriers increasing the speed of transaction exponentially and of course the collateral damage associated with it.

The doomsday scenario is what happens when big content write their tool to aid their quest for a rogue-free Internet. Let’s just call it Skynet.

    Skynet connects to internal content dbase
    Skynet searches web
    Skynet ‘identifies’ matches
    Skynet emails site, ISP, Search engines, payment processors etc and flags site as ‘dedicated to infringing’
    Site goes down
    Repeat millions of times

Judgement day.

Maybe it’s time to slow down a bit!

Unwatchable – final thoughts

As I head in to central london for the press launch of Umwatchable I can’t help but think about what is going to be said tomorrow.

I suspect lots of folk will be complaining that the site is broken – wouldn’t surprise me in the least – given how long we’ve had this current iteration has been more or less built in a few weeks and it probably shows. Having said that the content is right, the movies look great and it does what it says on the tin! (touch wood).

In case anyone was wondering PR cared we should have the embeddable sorted tomorrow ( wishful thinking perhaps)

I look back at the hundreds or pages of keynote presentations that I’ve done since project inception and it all amounts to a few pages of text, a few minutes of video and hopefully a signature and a share.

What you don’t see is all the effort to get every word and every frame and all the people it took who gave their time for free – not for any self serving purpose but because they believe in the cause and believe in the campaign

Before the proverbial hits the fan I just want to thank everyone who has committed time to this who aren’t necessarily credited but key – you know who you are!

Words fail – thanks

J

Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage

In the early eighties as an impressionable teenager I played Dungeons & Dragons, was a computer geek, had terminal acne, was the definition of uncool and listened to Rush.

My first ever gig was going to see them at the Glasgow SECC the day before my Maths Higher. It was my first experience of the tinnitus and might explain why I only got a B.

Around 1987 whilst working for my grandfather in Manhattan I tried to get an interview with them for our high school magazine ‘Auchmuty Speaks’. This was of course back in those pre-internet days when you had to look at the back of a record and use the phone book. About 10 calls later to about 10 different cities I I did actually manage to get through to their press agent – alas they had just finished their current tour and were on a break. The woman sensing my disappointment asked if I’d be interested in talking to Paul Weller instead – I declined.

The ringing in my ears has never gone away but I stopped actively listening to them around the time I went to university – they were getting a bit AOR for me at the time and I had moved on to Nine Inch Nails. So the irony was not lost that the opening shot of this incredible documentary is Trent Reznor gushing. In fact looking back to my first interview with Trent in 1991 I wonder if he himself could have ‘admitted’ being such a fan at that point.

Watching them today talk about their career was a genuine revelation – they really are gentle men. Considered, intelligent and all together nice guys, exactly as I always imagined. I walked away from the film with such a profound sense of validation, as I’m sure the millions of quiet ‘uncool’ fans out there will agree.

I haven’t bought a Rush album in almost 20 years, until now. Watch this film.

Harlan Ellison – Pay the Writer

From Dreams with Sharp Teeth

Just saw this and it seemed appropriate ;-)

Lets talk about budgets

via The Collective Context

Why Smart People Do Shit for Free or Cheap

Over the last six months as I’ve been developing the whole collective thingamy discovered and old but irritating trend. Smart folk doing shit for free. Been there, done that. Never left a good looking corpse until now.

So here is your tip for the top primer on why you shouldn’t – and if you do how to make sure it’s recognised.

If anybody wants to volunteer to make a nice infographic of this they are more than welcome – I see this as a ‘living’ chart.

Why smart people do things for free when they shouldn't

Why smart people do things for free when they shouldn't

Thoughts on the Ipad

Thoughts on the iPad

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had an iPad for a month now and am so far amazed. I can’t remember the last time a bit of hardware has had a profound impact on my day-to-day life.

‘A Big iPhone’

Not. Anybody who says it’s just a big iphone/touch misses the point entirely –  it’s the other way around – the iPhone is a small and cramped iPad. You simply can’t dismiss the feel of it and the thought behind the gestural language that was seeded on the trackpads and phones but blooms on the glorious screen.

the ‘I’ Pad

One of the less reported traits of the iPad is that it redefines ‘Personal’ computing. The fact is – an unsullied iPad is literally a blank slate – pretty but dull – a soul less hunk of metal, glass and plastic. There is no way to talk about ones experiences of the iPad without living with it for a while and making it your own. The day it arrived my wife asked me “what are you going to do with it?” and to be honest I’m still not entirely sure but I’m going to share how I’m using it right now.

Video

The media side of the iPad was something I was extremely excited about – I’m geeky enough to want to a £500 portable telly and for my sins I got one. Using the wonderful Air Video I can connect to my network media drive and stream pretty much any video format with no waiting and no iTunes. It absolutely rocks. With the addition of Elgato’s Eyetv app (still not iPad native but works well enough) gives me live TV, wherever.  The elephant in the room with  video is the aspect ratio but I’d be happy if they simply let me choose how much I wanted to zoom because at the moment it’s either overly letter-boxed or cropped at least in Apples own video app. I imagine that would be fairly trivial to implement but what do I know!

News & Browsing

They really weren’t kidding when they talked about how great an experience browsing is – it’s just stunning and works. Everything just feels ‘solid’  and when browsing in portrait mode sites just look so much better than they do with ‘the landscape ‘fold’. I hadn’t actually noticed the ability to create bookmarks on the home screen on my iphone because frankly I didn’t browse very much but instead of waiting for linkedin and facebook to be updated to the ipad I’m perfectly happy just going to the sites themselves.  That said I still don’t actually surf that much, I prefer feeds and Newsrack is currently the best on the ipad and works a treat.

Kids

My two year old immediately picked it up and started playing. Not all together unexpected as he’s had a iPod Touch for about a year so it made perfect sense to him. The potential here for education is truly amazing. It’s here where you really feel the ‘personal’ bit tho’. On his touch I’ve simply removed all the other apps and left the kiddy stuff but now he has a million and one icons to navigate (and delete arbitrarily as is his want). I’m hoping that the folders in next version of the OS with help a little.

Work

From a day job perspective it was an exciting prospect. I work in planning and strategy and the key tools for me are sketching, organisation and presentation apps.  I’ve played around a fair bit with Omnigraffle which even though it’s very very much a version 1 it is fantastic for pulling together those little ‘planner charts’. This experience is extremely marred almost to the point of being useless by having to then plug in the iPad into Itunes to retrieve my sketches for further development. That’s not Omni’s fault – that’s Apple and to be fair something which I suspect will be addressed, across the board. Sooner the better. also worth noting is Sketchy –  a sweet little app for pulling together wireframes, doesn’t have anywhere near the flexibility of omnigraffle but if all you need to do is bosh out a few quickies in a meeting it does the trick.  The poster child for usability and portability is mega-todo list Things which wi-fi syncs between desktop, Ipad and Iphone absolutely seamlessly. Alas as I don’t have a U.S. iTunes account I haven’t been able to try out the iWork applications but in the mean time happy to be able to take notes, sketch and present as PDF’s pushed over from keynote on the mac.

Ipad & VNC

Thanks to iTeleport I can now remarkably easily remote control all the other machines I’ve got in my house. I used to screen share from my laptop into my media server and player respectively whenever I wanted to do anything more than changed the channel (which I do through my iphone). The ‘touch’ mode in iteleport works perfectly and the refresh rate is not so bad depending on atmospheric conditions in my home network. In fact I recently started helping out on a screenplay using Adobe Story – which of course is flash based and hence an Ipad no-no. However, I’ve been simply leaving the app open on a mac mini at home and vnc’ing to use, write and review – not quite as neat as a dedicated app but a nifty work around for now.

Jailbreaking & Ipad 3G

OK, I admit it- I did it. Didn’t have a good reason other than to check out what the ‘scene’ was up to and it’s now ridiculously easy with the ‘Spirit’ app. Yes I can now run apps in the background but have realised that Steve was largely right in that you generally don’t need it. I’m sure there will be some great apps out soon (especially looking forward to wi-fi sync working on the ipad which is imminent apparently). If you are brave it’s worth checking out Full-force – it forces native iPhone apps into iPad resolutions – didn’t work on most games I tried –  but on tardy apps it’s a workable stop gap – Ocado and the Guardian for instance.  However it’s actually the iphone/mywi setup which impresses – it simply allows me to tether my iphone to my ipad when I *really* need to get online. Which is rarely at it turns since all my mail, news and social stuff is being pushed to the iphone anyway. As such I genuinely haven’t missed having a 3g Ipad at all!

Designing for Ipad

From my experience so far I don’t actually see the necessity to design ‘specifically’ for the ipad –  but its definitely an opportunity. I can pretty much guarantee that if you make it look good on the ipad it’ll still look good on a desktop so there’s an argument that you might as well.

Orientation

It’s astonishing to see just how ‘traditionally’ well designed sites work on the ipad. If you stick to the current standards around navigation and page structure most things look great. The main consideration is that you now have multiple ‘folds’ depending on orientation. In Landscape mode is unsurprisingly near enough identical to a normal desktop or laptop – most sites are designed for 1024×768 anyway.  The gag is that you actually get back about 30 pixels due to the fact there are no menus and it’s not in an unsightly window.   It’s the addition of the portrait view which adds extra opportunities. In portrait it feels like and is almost double the viewable area. Obviously all they are doing simply scaling to the width of the screen so if you do the maths your fold will be at  (1024/768)*1024 = 1365.  Given this – If I was designing specifically for the ipad  and don’t need to scroll vertically it’s a logical place to ‘hard’ position a footer to frame a page and remove scrolling entirely and give the site itself much more of an ‘app’ feel.

Depth

Additionally there is a fantastic opportunity to design sites with ‘depth’. Since all you have to do is double tap to zoom you could cram in a huge amount of content – you simply would never do on a mouse based browser – and then simply zoom in and out to read.

Sideways

It occurred that since you are always swiping, that horizontal scrolling might be fun. I’ve had a play around with some sideways scrolling sites for a laugh and to be honest it doesn’t work terribly well. The ipad is optimised to condense and scroll vertically and whilst it’s obviously easier swiping than dragging mice around it’s slightly counter intuitive and clunky. I wouldn’t design like a shop for instance where you want to insure that folk actually see what you want them to see. There’s also the other fundamental problem of orientation if you designed something which was no doubt incredibly pretty at 1024×1365 to be viewed horizontally you’d of course be 4 ways scrolling in landscape mode (plus the ipad would probably get all confused about how to scale stuff although haven’t tried that yet)!

Navigation

One of the other considerations when designing for the ipad is navigation positioning – the tradition of the left hand nav is counter intuitive if you are holding the ipad in your left hand and using your right hand to navigate as your hand now covers the entire screen. (The lefties finally got one up on us!). It does beg the question for the future – do we need to start making the nav location entirely customisable?

Irritations

It’s heavy, it wants a camera and some of the interface elements haven’t been well enough thought through – but it’s version 1 so I forgive all of that. What I don’t forgive and what nobody seems to want to talk about is iTunes. It destroys an otherwise fantastic experience. It’s about time that Apple bit the bullet and ripped the bloody thing apart and rebuilt it from scratch. The iTunes store and anything to do with video or managing applications is just awful. I didn’t mind it so much with my iphone but then I wasn’t having to sync all the time. It’s slow, it’s buggy, it’s bloatware and it needs some major love.

The Game-Shifting Paradigm-Changer.

Being a 1.0 digital dude I miss that days we used to talk about paradigm shifts and I believe that this is one of those. Everything we knew or thought we knew about the relationship between a carbon and silicon based life forms is in flux and the iPad is the catalysing expression of a frustration with technology you didn’t know you had.

At least for me, you will probably think differently, but that’s the point.

Bad Dad – Part 3?

So on what is potentially the eve of kid 2.0 I feel, I think and I grok with fullness that which is my first born. Jake.

He’s the definition of a character. Those of you who have met him will testify. He is, in short, a dude.

He ain’t perfect tho’.  He’s overly obsessed with technology. A flickering switch, an LCD,an LED. A signal to touch, poke, twiddle. Who knows where he learned that from.

He doesn’t understand the word ‘Gentle’. In Jake terms ‘gentle’ is literally a smack in the face. A well meaning pummel, a poke in the  eye with a sharp stick. It isn’t malicious, he just doesn’t get the pain. He doesn’t understand the frustration. He’s just a 2 year old. Why would he?

I keep thinking -” ve must haf se discipline , ve must haf se order” – but why?

He’s happy – we’re happy – he gets tech – we get a smile

Am I a Bad Dad?

j

Projected attributes of social media.

Work in progress - a way of thinking about yourself in the context of social media

Did this a while ago for a conference, never really got a round to ‘finishing’ it but thought i’d share – might be useful to somebody.

The idea was to (err) simply visual the kind of attributes that folk out there expect of a brand when the brand is playing in various area of social media.

i.e. if it takes forever for you to respond to a tweet, then you probably shouldn’t. Green is ‘go for it’, yellow is ‘well you could but think it through’, and red is ‘not for the risk averse’.

Obviously this is more for the less experience clients and isn’t supposed to be ‘scientific’ in anyway, just illustrative to get a conversation going.

Love to know what y’all think.

and no I don’t expect to win any awards for design here, it’s a spreadsheet innit ;-)

It’s not the answer, it’s the question

Had another frantic couple of weeks of meetings, the ‘New’ company idea seems to be taking shape, especially now I have a ‘picture’ to share (more on that soon). As I’ve been talking to people the most common question is – what questions are you trying to answer?

I should have a pithy one liner with outlines the problem but haven’t managed to work it out yet – perhaps some bright spark out there can summarise below

In brief and in no particular order and incomplete, questions I think which are worth addressing:

The Commoditisation of production

It is increasingly difficult to differentiate yourself in terms of production – most clients simply aren’t that discerning and so much of the world is being outsourced overseas by default. However there are many, genuine craftsfolk, pushing the boundaries in their respective medium who are marginalised due to size and lack of appreciation of the nuance of ‘good’. How can these people be harnessed?

Those who can’t do, teach

Ironically in the marketing universe it’s those who ‘teach’ who get paid the most. Basically the issue is one of translation, if you can speak marketing you are fine, if you can’t then you are screwed, regardless of talent or ideas. Is there a way to break down the  divides which jargon & status bring?

Marketing is generic

There is a basic assumption that if you understand the ‘disciplines’ of marketing that it can be applied to everything equally well. I simply don’t believe that, the more you understand the sector, the business, the audience not simply from a research POV but a point of participation, the more you are likely to come up with something ‘good’. How can you systematically engage at an extremely high level within a sector or passion area?

The power of hobbies

A hobby is something you do because you love it, because it engages you on an emotional and intellectual level, because you can do it with other people you like and respect or on your own, because you can always be better at it. Is it better to have a hobby or have a job?

Addressing ‘The Big Lie’

If you need to sell X to  Y regardless of whether they want or need it – then you aren’t a client partner. You are a salesman. That’s fine, just don’t lie about it. How do you become a genuine client partner – or perhaps – why have clients – just have partners?

Adding Value does not just mean Cash

Simply put companies, or more to the point large groups of companies only really live by one metric. The bottom line – everything is geared up for increase it. Alas that’s unlikely to change any time soon – however does that cash need to come from doing what the client says or could it come from origination of product in conjunction with the client?

Divided we stand stand

The bigger you are… and all that – for many small & decentralised has proven time and time again to be a stronger model than huge and encumbered. However, the majority of collectives collapse because they make the fundamentally incorrect assumption that everyone is in it for the group. The reality is that everyone is in it for themselves – hard as that may sound. Is there a way to forge a systems which doesn’t shun this behaviour but embraced and accommodate it?

A change is as good as a rest

Smart people know that finding other smart people is the holy grail. Unfortunately smart people have a tendency to get bored when confronted with repetitive tasks. Is there a way to let the smart people move around the eco-system to keep them around for longer?

Trust obviously needs to be earned but can it be spent?

How can I trust people I don’t know? What is the mechanism to (try) to insure that the long term gain through participation is more attractive than the short term gain of shafting somebody? Wouldn’t it be great if you had an internal economy which rewarded positive actions – random acts of kindness if you will – but that these rewards, these ‘trust points’  can be traded for goods & services or just plain cash?

Bit of a mess but going to post this now but will come back to it soon. Comments welcome.

Bullshit

One of my favourite films of all time is the Sidney Lumet Classic “Network” (1976)  – if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it – it’s more relevant today than ever, especially given the state of the news and discussions around commercial models.

It’s full of extremely memorable rants and has been sampled to death. However there is one scene that has been running through my head over the last few weeks which seemed to parallel my current state of mind and I thought i’d share – below is an excerpt from the script written by Paddy Chayefsky (full script found here: http://sfy.ru/?script=network)

btw you can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Network-Two-Disc-Special-Faye-Dunaway/dp/B000CNESU8

If you can’t deal with reading ;-) It’s on youtube here:

The show monitor, which has been showing color patterns,

now suddenly flicks on to show HOWARD BEALE as he looks

up from the sheaf of papers on his desk and says:

HOWARD (ON MONITOR)

Good evening.  Today is Wednesday,

September the twenty-fourth, and

this is my last broadcast.  Yesterday,

I announced on this program that I

would commit public suicide, admittedly

an act of madness.  Well, I’ll tell

you what happened — I just ran out

of bullshit –

HARRY HUNTER

All right, cut him off.

The MONITOR SCREEN goes black.

MAX

(from the back wall)

Leave him on –

HOWARD’s image promptly flicks back on –

HOWARD (ON MONITOR)

(looking O.S.)

Am I still on the air?

Everybody in the control room looks to MAX –

MAX

If this is how he wants to go out,

this is how he goes out.

HOWARD (ON MONITOR)

I don’t know any other way to say

it except I just ran out of bull-

shit …

The PHONE RINGS.  HUNTER picks it up.  ANOTHER PHONE

RINGS.  HUNTER’S SECRETARY picks it up.

HUNTER

(on first phone)

Look, Mr. Schumacher’s right here,

do you want to talk to him?

(extends the phone to MAX)

HOWARD (ON MONITOR)

Bullshit is all the reasons we give

for living, and, if we can’t think

up any reasons of our own, we always

have the God bullshit –

HUNTER’S SECRETARY

(awe)

Holy Mary Mother of Christ –

MAX

(on phone)

Yeah, what is it, Tom? –

HOWARD (ON MONITOR)

We don’t know why the hell we’re

going through all this pointless

pain, humiliation and decay, so

there better be someone somewhere

who does know; that’s the God

bullshit –

MAX

(on phone)

He’s saying life is bullshit,

and it is, so what’re you

screaming about? –

He hangs up.  The PHONE promptly RINGS again.  HUNTER’S

SECRETARY picks it up.  (HUNTER is on the phone that

rang before.)

HOWARD (ON MONITOR)

If you don’t like the God bullshit,

how about the man bullshit? Man

is a noble creature who can order

his own world, who needs God?

HUNTER’S SECRETARY

(to MAX)

Mr. Amundsen for you, Mr. Schumacher.

MAX

I’m not taking calls.

HOWARD (ON MONITOR)

Well, if there’s anybody out there

who can look around this demented

slaughterhouse of a world we live

in and tell me man is a noble

creature, that man is full of

bullshit –

DIRECTOR

(staring in awe at

HOWARD on the screen)

I know he’s sober, so he’s got to

be just plain nuts –

(starts to giggle)

HARRY HUNTER

(screaming)

What’s so goddam funny?

DIRECTOR

I can’t help it, Harry, it’s funny –

HOWARD (ON MONITOR)

I don’t have any kids –

A PHONE RINGS.  HUNTER’S SECRETARY picks it up.

HARRY HUNTER

Max, this is going out live to

sixty-seven affiliates –

MAX

Leave him on.

HOWARD (ON MONITOR)

– and I was married for thirty-

three years of shrill, shrieking

fraud –

A breathless and distraught YOUNG WOMAN bursts into

the control room.

YOUNG WOMAN

Mr. Hackett’s trying to get through

to you –

MAX

Tell Mr. Hackett to go fuck himself –

47.   INT. DIANA’S OFFICE

DIANA, sitting alone in her office, watching HOWARD

BEALE on her office console –

HOWARD (ON CONSOLE)

I don’t have any bullshit left.

I just ran out of it, you see –

48.   INT. CONTROL ROOM – NETWORK NEWS SHOW

–  as FRANK HACKETT and his assistant, TOM CABELL,

wrench the door open and stride in –

HACKETT

(roaring)

Get him off!  Are you people nuts?!

The TECHNICAL DIRECTOR taps a button, and the SCREEN

mercifully goes black.

Adobe Flash, an identity crisis?

See, this is what you get when you have too much time on your hands ;-)

I had the honour of attending an absolutely fantastic dinner last week hosted by Robin from Adobe to get feedback on how Flash is doing and how it can be best used by UK digital agencies. Attending were a bunch of well known industry miscreants from Lightmaker, Kerb, Hi-Res, Lbi, Underwired, Us two & Iris Digital plus my unemployed self.

It was a great opportunity to think and discuss the role of Flash in 2010 and I thought I’d share!

Disclosure: 1) I use a Mac and 2) I installed click2flash some time ago and my laptop battery has thanked me for it.

There has been much discussion about Flash in recent weeks around Apple & Adobe’s relationship – I’m not terribly interested in that, to be honest it’s more about dollars and cents than providing a better user experience, so I’m not going to add to the muck slinging.

As I see it and what I find interesting is that Flash is entering a stage of it’s development that isn’t dissimilar to where Director was a decade ago.

Whilst the technology is mature and well adopted it’s not clear exactly what its purpose is anymore. Lets think about what it currently is used for:

In Browser

Banners / Overlays – Face it, folk hate overlays and their effectiveness is plummeting plus ad blocking is now common place so that’s not a future.

Flash Sites – It’s been a very very long time since a client turned round to me and requested a big bloated multimedia experience – which is where Flash excelled. In fact in the last year I’ve had more clients express a preference as say that they didn’t want flash on the site which tells you something.

Flash Navigation – Accessibility and common sense did away with that, not going to miss it.

Flash Components on Sites – yep, they are everywhere but the vast majority of them (at least the sites I look at) are simply glorified news tickers which could be quickly and easily implemented is HTML these days

Flash Video – There were no alternatives, but now there are just look at Vimeo & youtube. Realistically video playback should be have been browser native for the last few years anyway.

Games – Ah – well here we go – there isn’t anything (with the exception of Silverlight) that allows you to make (certain types of) games well in browser – definitely scope there if you are into that kind of thing. Casual & Social gaming is peaking right now and Flash is a great tool for these kinds of things.

On Mobile (in Browser)

See above. The launch of 10.1 is nice if you want that ‘rich’ mobile experience but I’m happy with the stripped down gimme-the-fact’s and get rid of the bling efficiency that’s required when wandering down the street.

On Mobile (Applications)

Definitely something in this, whether it’s “Appstore” or the newly announced multi-provider “NotAppStoreHonest” there is no getting away from the fact that having a solid and familiar development environment to develop mobile applications is extremely compelling. I’m both excited and scared to see what the mobile output from CS5 is likely to be. Unfortunately, and this has absolutely nothing to do with Flash, the problem with Apps in general is the rapid commoditisation of the whole sector and general inability to find good ones.

Desktop Applications

As with mobile apps, Air apparently (not a developer) allows reasonably quick and painless cross platform development – at least for certain types of Apps.

Console (Browser)

The implementation of flash at the moment on all three platforms is a few steps behind the current ones I’m sure that’ll be addressed at some point but if you look back at the first point, all the same things apply plus you’ve got the 10 foot view to consider, not least it’s a pain in the arse navigating a flash site (or any sites for the most part) on a console

Console (Games)

Not applicable. Eh? So you can’t just simply port your lovely little casual game to Wiiware, XBLA or PSN? Missed opportunity or what – casual gaming is all the rage right now, surely you would want to continue the experience from playing at work to playing at home?

Anyway the point I’m trying to make is that Flash has reached a cross roads, it’s been all things to all people for a good decade. I have this feeling that Adobe should be focusing on where the strengths of the platform lie and what contexts are most appropriate. Is it a browser plugin or an app development environment?

Simply put what is Flash for these days?

Hence the identity crisis: I’m sure there are a few of you out there who have an opinion, bring it ;-)

j

Brief update

Wow is been a busy and inspiring couple of weeks, you contact a thousand people and sure enough quite a few respond.

Consulting: Have been approached by three different organisations so far interested in getting me in for various extremely interesting short term projects – nothing signed off yet but a very good start – basically the more I can consult the longer I can take to ‘work things out’.

Film: Working on a couple of initial treatments for feature films with Stuart Barr & Marc Hawker, one genre (which seems to be turning into a sci-fi, horror, comedy), one a bit more ‘grown up’ family drama. Very early days.

‘New Business Idea': Lots of people interested in ‘playing’, working on defining it, structures, funding, organisational stuff – more on this very soon. If anybody out there knows a ‘friendly’ intellectual property lawyer  for whom I can buy lunch in exchange for a bit of advice please let me know.

New Digital Marketing Agency: Basically from the conversations I’ve had I could start a full service digital agency tomorrow and probably have a few new clients to inaugurate it. However, this can easily be rolled up into the ‘New Business Idea’ so it’s going on the back burner for a couple of weeks. However given that I’m potentially looking at the cluster model – i.e. decentralised, lots of partners and skill sets – am interested in hearing from anybody who might want to play, especially in ‘traditional creative concepting’, search &  media.

Music: Not a lot of activity yet, but have a few meetings set up in the next few weeks – and no I am not even remotely thinking about setting up a ‘label’ but there is an awful lot of other things in that space which are fun.

Job: Had my first job interview EVER. Wasn’t even for a specific one but seemed to go well – potentially two or three things they’ve got in mind – which I hate to say were actually quite interesting.

Dot Com: Couple of ideas kicking around, been a bit slow due to wanting to folk not being around but am sure will pick up momentum over the coming weeks.

Non-Execs: Having a few meetings this week – next week, more soon.

Games: Got a couple of folk in mind to have a bit of a brainstorm with but they are being a bit elusive – will nab him next week bwhahaha

Write a book: Err too busy right now to even write the blog so … pause.

Change Location: Realistically not likely to happen in the short term so might as well just pause it. Having said that lots of interest from Edinburgh & SF ;-)

Party: Having a ‘Life After Lateral’ party Tuesday 2nd March @ The Strongrooms in Shoreditch – looking to be much fun with the Lateral family new and old, near and far – if you didn’t get an invite and want to come sign up here (need to know the broad numbers):

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?invites&eid=338182684664

I just want to thank everyone who is participating in this little experiment, your words and support continue to absolutely blow me away.

j

Analog to digital conversion

Over the last week I’ve met a bunch of folk from a variety of disciplines and industries – it’s been quite mind expanding. One of the recurring themes / questions has been “how do I transition or re-position my analog business into a digital one”

I just thought I’d share a few observations and thoughts on the subject but with full disclosure that I am not a Harvard MBA, nor do I write self-help books (yet ). I just tell it as I see it.

Fear

Fear  a.k.a ‘blind panic’ triggers the old fight or flight mechanisms. This can lead to change for changes sake which tend to be accompanied by profound errors in judgment. Fear is a great motivator but often its simply the mind killer.

Blind panic

The emphasis is on blind. This can manifest as the inability to see the opportunities staring you in the face or to appreciate the inherent value of the assets surrounding you. Your typical social media strategist will bend your ear on the value of listening and making sense of the noise. This is good advice, however it’s one dimensional, taking this time to look at yourself, your organization, means looking beyond your peers but to those who are achieving success in other spaces, not just the obvious ones. If you just listen you’ll just hear what you want to hear – by looking and understanding you’ll hopefully see the big picture.

Fight

If you are blind it is really kind of difficult to work out who exactly you are supposed to be fighting. Often you simply end up lashing out at whoever is closest unaware of the dude with the sniper rifle a couple of miles away.

A friend of mine once told me to “fight the fights worth fighting for”  – words which have been incredibly useful over the years.  I never knew the origins of the phrase till recently.

“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing – for the sheer fun and joy of it – to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.”

I.F. Stone

Sums up the last fifteen years pretty well, certainly in interesting take on “Fail Forward Fast”.

Flight – A surprisingly common story.

We’ve spotted an iceberg! Abandon ship! Man the lifeboats, before the ship can sink.  Run away from everything you have, everything you have built, all that knowledge and expertise is obsolete now. We must turn our back on our history our legacy to be able to move forward! Don’t worry about freezing to death in the water. It’ll be fine.

To mix metaphors even further, tearing down the house before you know what’s going to replace it is generally a bad move.

Change

Change is good, but doesn’t always have to be revolutionary, evolution gave us opposable thumbs and how useful are they when tapping away on your iphone. Change can come in many forms.

Change can be as simple as a change of words. Why use the word ‘digital’ at all? If you remove ‘digital’ from the equation you remove the barriers. In Adland you don’t have an outdoor creative director working with a print ad creative director being managed by the tv creative director.

Face it if you wanted to have a ‘dialogue’ with your customers would you call in the ‘digital dialogue dude’ or someone who was good at having a conversation?

Separate the thought from the channel and your options expand to encompass them all or in other words “free your mind and your assets will follow”

Don’t be afraid to try this at home.

j

An end and a beginning

As you might know I have now left Tangent / Lateral, and therefore am concluding a story that started almost 15 years ago. What word do you use to sum up 15 years? I’ve racked my brain and consulted the thesaurus and only one word seems to fit.

Family.

Family is a powerful thing. They help each other, support each other, fight but then make up, offer advice and provide the shoulder to cry on, they inspire, they build, and hopefully together they succeed. They make mistakes but in time are forgiven. They don’t do each other favours, they simply ‘do’.

It is often said that you don’t choose your family, usually in the negative, but the execution of this is simply not true – we choose all the time, whether to engage, whether to help, whether to call –  the relationships which we choose are the hardest to break even if the frequency of contact is limited. I see this as the most wonderful thing.

I may only have been a biological father for the last couple of years and I definitely don’t speak to the rest of my biological family enough –  but for  the last 15 years I’ve been  a dad, a brother, an uncle and even occasionally a mom. I believe I am one of the most fortunate people alive because I have not one but two families.

I have no idea what the future holds, what I am going to do, where I am going to go, but what I do know is that my family, both new and old will be there to help.

Jon Bains

Family Man

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