Thursday, August 31, 2006

Statistics can be scary - this post now comes with a health warning

Was caught by some smoking statistics in an article in the Guardian. So did some sums on the way-in. Sorry if you smoke, but thought the results quite interesting.

500,000 35+ year olds die a year.

Of that 90,000 die due to smoking.

Approximately 1 in 4 people smoke.

Which means of the 500,000 people that die a year, 125,000 of them are smokers.

Which means 71% of smokers die of smoking.

Or 3 out of 4 smokers will die because of smoking.

The question is would you do something if you knew there was only a 29% chance that you would survive? Or 71% chance it would kill you?

I know most anti-cigarette smoking advertising is shock based, but I've never seen the odds quite as starkly as this. Maybe it's already been done, but might actually make people sit up and notice.

Although from my experience, I used to simpy blank it out, switch channels, or believe it wouldn't happen to me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nothing like a cup-a-tea

I don't seem to be the only one who spotted this article on tea from the BBC.

I don't remember tea ever being particularly bad for you, it just fell out of vogue, what with the rise of soft drinks and now coffee. But even so better than water?
"Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so its got two things going for it" Dr Ruxton
Surely this is a vindication to every avid tea drinker. The thing I can't get my head round is I thought tea was a diuretic. But apparently that's a misconception, only very highly caffeinated drinks are dehydrating.

I just wish they could prove coffee was as good for you!

Oh and then I read the bottom of the article:
The Tea Council provided funding for the work. Dr Ruxton stressed that the work was independent

Design of the week: a website and a power extension

So I'll start with the power extension

Curtesy of Boing Boing , I came across this lovely piece of design. I can just imagine this sitting under my desk, or being tucked in behind an armchair, which will only be discovered when you need to plug in your mobile charger. I like the play between making something usually so dull, quite pretty and fun, but also the whole consumerism angle to it. Must find out where I can get one.

Visualising the news

This is a completely different way of displaying the news. Fallon picked up on this earlier in the week, it is a news agregator site, which has taken a novel graphic approach to visualising the news. I think it's great, but also because it is surprisingly intuitive and simple in showing what is happening right now, but importantly what stories the newsreporters think are important.

I love design

Always have. From the simply beauty of graphic design:

To brilliant industrial design:

I'm not sure why 'design' captures me, might be because my dad trained as a designer, or might be because I grew up in the hey day of advertising and logos, or it might be simply being brought up in the greatest city in the world, being surrouded by the vibrant, creative place that is London.

In any case, I think design has never been so exciting.

Where form used to follow function, indeed when form was the sacrificial cow of function, now we seem to be in a time where form is as hallowed as the function. And personally I think that is fantastic. I love seeing the juxtaposition of something totally utillitarian, with something totally wacky.

Why shouldn't everyday objects be beautiful?
Why shouldn't all the really boring dull stuff we look at, not be fun, playful and interesting? It's something that has interested me for a while. So from now on, once a week or so (we'll see how it goes) I'm going to post examples of great pieces of design.

Is YouTube losing its way?

Whilst most people have been talking up the success of YouTube, and the incredible number of hits it receives per day, there are those on the fringes who are starting to talk of its demise. At first I thought it was tall poppy syndrome, corporate jealousy and simply people looking to shoot down another internet success.

But then came
Paris Hilton. John Grant I think only yesterday commented on this fact and whether the internet community will accept this type of 'advertising' on its site.

The thing I'm starting to wonder about, is whether YouTube actually has a plan. If the rumours are right YouTube is losing $1 million per month, without an effective means of recouping the bandwidth costs. So they start by introducting Google Ads, and now branded channels.

It looks as though they are jumping at ideas as to how to make money.
What I can't quite fathom is why the people behind YouTube would have started up an online business, which had the clear potential to hemorage money. It smacks of the early days of the internet, when people just setup random online companies, backed with a huge marketing spend and hoped they were bought out. Can YouTube really be the same?

But then there's the Paris Hilton thing! They clearly can't be sane if they think this is how YouTube can make money. Especially if you see the user commentary - any researcher would tell you it probably isn't working.

I guess the old adage "there is no such thing as a free lunch", may well come to bite all of us who use YouTube.
Ach well it was good whilst it lasted.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Verbal Overshadowing

You know those times when you come across something and that "of course!" thought strikes you, well I've had one of those whilst reading a post from Jason. It's a pretty interesting article generally on the whys and wherefores of the creative brief. But something leapt out at me when I was getting down the bottom, in reference to why one shouldn't write everything down whilst working on a strategy - Verbal Overshadowing.

This is a phenomenon that I came across whilst doing my psychology degree on facial recognition. I'd completely forgotten about it, but essentially what has been discovered is that if people too early on in a process (in this case recalling the details of a criminal) talk about certain details they inhibit their future memory and ability to accurately recognise the said criminal.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder whether there are greater implications than simply brief writing. One of the things I find difficult is being asked to pitch or work on something that I have previously have had a lot of experience with before, I always find it more difficult to come up with something startling new, because my previous experience seems to get in the way. In fact I wonder whether one really can come up with something startling new, simply because of that fact.

So a Friday question to ponder on, how many pitches are won by planners (ok I know it's not all down to us, by roll with me) coming up with great insights as a result of previous experience in that field vs. those with none or only lateral experience?

Accepted wisdom would state that those with the more experience will come up with the richer insights, simply because they have more grasp of the subject, but I wonder whether this is true...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My Music Tower

I came across this a while back and really thought I should post this on my blog, mainly because I think it's pretty cool.

It's been created by those clever people at the beeb. I've stuck it in the sidebar and is, if you roll your mouse over, a tower of my musical tastes. As you can see (and hopefully hear) I am more of an indie/rock planner, so what sort are you?

Jon, I suspect you're going to struggle with this, having one of the braodest tastes in music that I've ever met, but if you do manage it let me know and I'll check it out!

Why planner's blogs are great

Richard from Adliterate, who I've never met, but feel I know, has proposed something more useful than any IPA or APG planning paper award, he has set a challenge to see whether really good thinking by people (planners I assume?) that has led to really great work, actually works.

I've always thought the IPA Effectiveness Awards somewhat pointless, endlessly proving advertising is effective, is a bit like endlessly proving that if you drink alcohol you will get drunk. In fact, if anything these days it seems to be more about proving just how effective it is, i.e. how drunk you got, rather than whether the advertising was any good i.e. a glass of Chateaun Petrus vs. Vodka Redbull.

My dream would be to be able to prove that through brilliant thinking, and brilliant creative/engaging execution you were able to reduce media spend because of its effectiveness at generating sales. Imagine a client setting that as a target...

In case you're wondering I proposed Persil's "It's not dirt" campaign. Great thinking and beautiful strategy, I'd be really quite upset if they haven't sold bucket loads as a result.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Ultimate List of Driving Songs

3 Brits, 1 Aussie, two weeks, a car and a trip across the US of A.

We want to create the definitive collection of driving songs. Can you please help us on building the ultimate playlist?

The goal is enough tunes so that we don't have to play the same song twice. The only criteria we have is:
  • the songs should either be evocative of America
  • be about being on the move
  • or as you will probably notice just be classic (cheesy is fine if it feels right)
And the songs so far:

American Pie - Don Mclean
Mustang Sally - Wilson Pickett
Highway to hell - ACDC
Achy breaky heart - Billy Ray Chris
Fairy Tale of New York - The Pogues
Eye Of The Tiger - Survivor
Pina Colada Song - Escape ?
Dallas theme tune
Cross Town Traffic - Jimi Hendrix
Dueling Bajos - Jean Pierre Danel (from the film Deliverance)
Shaft theme tune - Isaac Hayes
People Everyday - Arrested Development
Ring of fire - Johnny Cash
Magic America - Blur
Running Bear
I left my heart in San Francisco - Tony Bennett
Boots were made for walking - Nancy Sinatra
Friends in low places - Garth Brooks
Top Gun theme tune - Harold Faltermeyer/Steve Stevens
Blueberry Hill - Chuck Berry
Final Countdown - Foreigner
Copacabana - Barry Manilow
Driving in My Car - Madness
Fast Car - Tracy Chapman
This is the greatest song in the world - Tenacious D
A-Team theme tune

So what's missing?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Refuting Future Shock

You may be quite familiar with the concept of Future Shock as proposed by Alvin Toffler in the 1970's. If you're not, he proposed that too much change, in too short a time creates an overwhelming state of being and stress.

Not being particularly concious in the 1970s (I was a baby through most of it) it's hard to imagine sufferers of Future Shock back then, but in the 1990s it is very easy, mainly due to the rate of technological development and change. Suffers of said syndrome were thought to be those in the older generations, who simply struggled tot keep up with the pace of change, my girlfriend's mum is one of them (she's still scared of fax machines).

So you might think that the internet would be a place less visited by those in their 80s, and especially something like YouTube. But think again, I came across an interesting post on the fruits of imagination yesterday that points to something happening over at YouTube, a chap in his 80s is posting his life story on video. Why? Because he loves YouTube, and thought he'd like to get involved, and maybe just maybe, there might be a few people out there who quite liked to hear his story. It's turned out a hit, he's had loads of responses and posted around 8 videos which are getting something like 50,000 views.

Which demonstrates several things:
  • Perhaps technological developement isn't as scary as we all think
  • Don't make assumptions over who you think uses technology
  • Old people can be interesting, lets face it they always have fascinating stories about their past
  • The importance of community no matter how young or old you are
If wisdom in knowing how little we know (Socrates)

Then here are two staggering examples of just how little I know, and how little I will ever know:

First I read this about some brilliant new mathmatical theoretical thinking, which quite went over my head, if anyone can explain this simply I'll buy them a pint.

Secondly, Whistle Through Your Comb pointed me to this on string theory, which is quite brilliant and fun. Now this is what the internet was designed for, it's like a much better version of Open University. I don't fully understand it, but I might look into it more.

I wish I could have a Groundhog Day experience so I could know just a little bit more, than the little I do, and learn to play my bloody guitar.

Monday, August 21, 2006

ASDA vs the price cutters

When you position yourself as cheap, the cheapest and always lowering prices, what do you do when you're not the cheapest anymore?

This is what ASDA faces and it looks as though they're trying the tried and tested route of sticking their collective heads in the sand over at HQ. At least that's what I gleamed from a Radio 4 programme, who interviewed those from the price cutter brigade: Allders and Liddle and those at ASDA.

What's happened? Well Liddle, Allders and others have increased in size to account for something like 10% of all supermarket sales. They've done it by self-selecting a range of goods, and then offering them at a very low price. So rather than having a choice of 15 olive oils like at ASDA you get the choice of 1, but it's bloody cheap and it seems that we price sensitive creatures that we are, are shopping at the price-cutters in ever increasing numbers.

Meanwhile...ASDA bleat on about range and value, but what does value mean in ASDA terms? If you've educated the public that value means price, then that's what the public will think.

And if you're not the cheapest anymore? You go to somewhere that is. The amazing thing is neither Liddle nor Allders have done any form of brand advertising. It's all been word of mouth; they're just slowly growing and growing.

Personally I hate the concept of cheap, cheap food, it can't be good for you, it must be full of crap, but plenty of people do, so expect a Liddle on your doorstep soon...
Word of mouth

(The following rant has got nothing to do with the rest of this piece, but I need to do it to ease my conscience.)

I do not like Simon Cowell, he may be successful, but he's clearly a bully and a narcissist, and quite possibly a psychopath (the evidence for psychopath's in business is well evidenced).

OK with that off my chest, I hate to say it, but he said something quite interesting the weekend before last, that has stayed with me.

Quite why Simon Cowell was on Desert Island Discs is beyond me, but he was, and near to the end he was discussing with Sue Lawley what it takes for musical success. Now what Simon said is hardly new in itself, but what was interesting is that it came from him, and not because I loathe him, but because he does have a well attuned antennae for making popular and successful records. So when asked what it took to do just that he replied something along the lines of "to be truly successful, I'm increasingly of the opinion that word of mouth is really the only important factor".

And the thing is, he is right of course. And this is hardly new news, but what struck me about this is that it didn't come from a marketing hack, theorist or person who philosophises about such matters, it came from someone who operates in probably the toughest arena to create sales (albeit it seems Simon Cowell's trick is to ensure they are good looking, put loads of money behind it, and write cheesy tunes). At the end of the day Simon Cowell is a slick marketer. He taps into what a certain generation of people are looking for (or currently attuned to) and provides it, but he does more than that and in Pop Idol's case I believe he's actively moulding culture.

In the interview Simon Cowell pretty much admitted that Pop Idol's success was its ability to tap into young people's desire to be famous, not to be a famous singer or actress, but "fame for fames sake". He wasn't sure whether Pop Idol was the fuel for this phenomenon, or the follower, but that was what was behind its success. I suspect that Pop Idol had a role in the former and capitalised entirely on the latter, but it's word of mouth effect came directly out of this powerful understanding.

It is my belief that we should be trying to apply these princples to the brands we work on and how we approaching marketing. There are truly great examples from high profile campaigns such as Sony's bouncing balls ad to Bud's Wassup campaign, but it's just as effective with lower profile marketing efforts too, Innocent's fruitstock or nPower's urban cricket (more of that to come) are just two examples that spring to mind. So I wonder whether this should be the permanent state of desire for all planners: how can I influence culture to create a word of mouth effect?

Lets face it as media costs go up and up, and as fragmentation only multiplies, this surely will be the only way to go...

p.s. thanks goes to Russel whom put so succintly the thoughts of brands influencing culture

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I'm off to Wales!

And during the short break I have some decisions to make, do I migrate my blog from the rather difficult to use blogger, to the more elegant Vox?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What sort of planner are you?

This is a question I've been asked several times in recent weeks and it's one that always puzzled me. When I first came to Mustoes, Nick (Mustoe) asked me that question and to be frank I didn't know what to say. It's one of those questions that you are damned by what you don't say as much as what you do say. In the end I muddled through with some sort of response along the lines of creative planning.

Do I know what sort of planner I am now, two years on? I'm still not really sure, but think maybe I've found something that helps at personaldna. It's basically a personality test, but for once produces a pretty accurate description of who you are. On the whole I agree, so now when someone asks I'm going to describe myself as a 'benevolent creator' planner.

It would be interesting to see what other planners come out as. Iain Tait, for example is an advocating creator, so who are you?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Where does everybody find the time?

I'm trying to:
- Write an interesting blog and a useful one too (for me mainly or anyone else who reads it)
- Keep up to date on latest trends and stuff in the industry, so reading books like "The Long Tail"
- Reading interesting books not related to work, because my imagination likes being fed
- And trying to have a social life

I can manage three out of the four, but not all of them, so one always seems to suffer. The last one isn't an option or the love of my life will leave me, and anyway being the love of my life I quite like spending time with her! So right now, number 2 is suffering, even though I'm finding it a great read (for once, one of these marketing books, is actually quite good!).

Anyone got any tips?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Too much time on their hands

Yes it's dangerous, yes it's not particulary clever, and of course newspapers are getting on their high horse about the recklessness and stupidity of teenagers, but it's also hillarious. The thing is I imagine lots of teenagers out there would have done the same thing if they had thought of it, so would I, if I had a 50cc scooter. Here's to the mad mad kids of Crawley!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Oh so pointless

I was given this on the way home last week. I couldn't quite believe I had been given a teabag, and couldn't work out why in the hottest of weather, Thames Water would be encouraging tea making.

The message was even more confusing, surely the reason for only partially filling a kettle is to save electricity not water. I mean I can see how I might save water, but it just feels so inconsequential, especially when down my street a mains has been leaking for two days.

If Thames Water were really concerned about water loss, rather than producing this rediculous sampling pack or spam or whatever it is, they would do better to speak to people like PG Tips, and Tetley and get them on-board on some water saving initiative. People might actually think they cared if they actually made some effort.