Archive for June, 2011

My kids are tripping nostalgically on Tamagotchis.

And they’re not the only ones.

The reason that my kids are tripping (nostalgically) is that they found out that lots of other kids like them are too (tripping) (nostalgically) (on Facebook).

So, just like “we” used to trip nostalgically in the high school playground about the “silly” programmes that we watched as nippers – Roobarb & Custard, Cloppa Castle etc – they now do the same about “silly” retro technology on Facebook.

(Fuck me. Roobarb and Custard are on Twitter and Facebook!)

TV programmes => Technology

Playground => Facebook

I don’t remember rushing from the playground to the shops to buy a nostalgic VHS copy of Cloppa Castle.

But I have watched three of my kids bid, fail, bid, fail, bid, buy secondhand Tamagotchis on eBay. They use my iTunes account on their iPods so that I can keep an eye on their app purchasing. And last week my iPhone kept lighting up with “you’ve just been outbid” push messages.

They have spent roughly £7, £7 and £9 of their own pocket money on toys that they almost certainly won’t be playing with this time next month.

Plus ça change and all that.

The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have
no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all
restraint. They talk as if they alone knew everything and what passes
for wisdom with us is foolishness with them.

(Aristotle - or possibly Peter The Hermit apparently - a long, long time ago).

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Disclosure : I used to work on the Coors Light account. So, whilst I’ve tried, I can’t promise that this post is entirely objective.

I find myself liking, in a bordering on admiring kind of way, the new Coors Light ad with the frozen-panted Jean Claude Van Damme.

The writing, the performance and the message are as tight as JCVD’s pants.

The humour is understated and knowing.

There’s no getting away from it. It’s good.

At the time of writing it has had a decent 255,736 views on YouTube and the comments are mostly positive.

It’s good.

The YouTube video includes a pop-up link to the Coors Light UK – Closest To Cold Facebook page.

This has a somewhat less decent 1,679 likes at the time of writing.

Only 1,679 likes in spite of the incentives to Like of more JCVD content (how could you resist?) and the chance to win 2011 festival tickets.

And thereby hangs the tale.

The new ad is good, bordering on very good.

But I don’t believe that the UK has ever got its head round light beer in general and Coors Light in particular.

And I’m not sure that, outside of small pockets of male evangelists and small pockets of females, it ever will.

There is a huge disconnect between advertising that is easy to like or admire and a brand that struggles to be relevant.

And the trouble is that it’s hard to pinpoint what could be done better.

The association between a light beer that comes from Colorado with ice cold refreshment is intuitively credible.

They’ve somehow managed to get away with the line “The World’s Most Refreshing Beer”. Hats off again.

And the new ad is good.

If it were me, which it isn’t, I’d be seriously considering a radical shake-up of the brand’s targeting.

Coors Light is inherently female-friendly and it is a massive brand for women in Ireland.

But that approach brings its own challenges. How to market a beer to women when women recoil from beer marketing that is overtly targeted at them?

Not my problem any more, but I wish any client that bought the latest ad the best of luck.

(Views on this blog are my own and not those of my employer etc. etc.)

(Enjoyed tagging this post with “tight pants”.)

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Competitive agency X sent a bespoke new business mailer to Blonde client Y.

The creative thrust of said mailer was that Agency X would give its right arm to work on Client Y’s business.

And the mailer included a fake arm.

Only it wasn’t a right arm.

It was a left arm.

Client Y invited us to join in their department-wide laughter at Agency X’s expense.

Rude not to really.

And it’s too good a story not to share.

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Crowdlistr is a simple, smart idea that adds value to Twitter users who are interested in community. It allows you to open your Twitter lists such that, rather than self-curating, other users can add themselves. It facilitates a crowd-sourced approach to creating a Twitter list.

You create a list in Twitter, then sign into Crowdlistr using Twitter OAuth, click a button to open the list(s) of your choice and you’re done. Crowdlistr gives you a bespoke URL for that list, at which other people can add themselves with a single click.

Crowdlistr was conceived and executed by Yahel Carmon, a smart guy who can code and who was nice enough to answer my questions about his creation.

I stumbled upon Crowdlistr on behalf of the EdTwinge crew.

(EdTwinge is a crowd-sourced, Twitter-based, Edinburgh Festival Fringe review service – click for a fuller explanation of the service and the maths behind it.)

We’re gradually revving things up ready for this year’s Fringe, and part of this is generating a Twitter list of acts and performers at the 2011 festival.

I wondered whether it would be possible to open our list up to allow the acts to add themselves, rather than us having to conduct laborious searches.

Enter Crowdlistr via Google (Crowdlistr is the number three return at the time of writing).

I created a list of 2011 Fringe acts (pre-populated with 70 known acts) and then opened it up via Crowdlistr. And, for about ten days (at the time of writing) I’ve promoted the list in tweets from the EdTwinge Twitter account and via a link in the bio.

So far about 40 acts have added themselves to the list, of whom 14 have also subscribed to follow it, as can be seen from the grab of the Crowdlistr dashboard below.

Two things struck me about the early progress.

Firstly, all the crowd-sourced additions to the list are genuine Fringe acts. No bogus additions. No spammers.

Secondly, if you compare (already) this year’s open list with last year’s closed lists, there appears to be a clear correlation between adding yourself to a list and a propensity to subsequently subscribe to that list. A much higher proportion of this year’s list members are subscribers. (And remember that I had pre-populated the list with 70 acts, so 14 out of 40 people have added themselves and subscribed).

I decided to “reach out” to Crowdlistr’s creator, Yahel Carmon, and put these points to him to see if EdTwinge’s experiences had been shared by others. And he was kind enough to respond and share the insights below.

We’ve had a gratifyingly spam-free experience of Crowdlistr thus far. Has our positive experience been share by others?

Contrary to my original concerns, spammers adding themselves to lists has yet to present itself as a problem. I had always planned on adding spam protection features (options for requiring approval, captchas, follower minimums, etc.), but the need never came up. I think there are 2 reasons for that. First, a lot of spambots are automated, and the process of Twitter OAuth authentication for a user adding themselves to a list via CrowdListr cannot be done by a bot. Second, I don’t display any central directories of ‘open’ twitter lists that would make such an effort worthwhile — all promotion is done by list owners, so even if a spammer were looking to exploit it, it would be too diffuse to be worthwhile. There is, of course, a bit of spam protection built-in to Twitter: if you block an account, they’re not only removed from any list you own, but they cannot re-add themselves.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there seems to be a positive correlation between people adding themselves to a list and then also subscribing to it. Again is that an experience that has been shared by other users?

As far as people adding themselves to lists and then following them, yes, that has in fact been the case. From casual observation, I’d say about half of people who add themselves to a list proceed to follow it. This is, by the way, totally unprompted; the site doesn’t give any prompt for people to follow the list. (It would, however, be trivial to make this a quick-one-click follow for them after they’ve added themselves to the list; I may in fact add this feature.)
Crowdlistr’s usage has been picked up by exactly the types of groups I built it for: communities looking for easy ways to self-organize on twitter. I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic of the ability of hashtags to create lasting community amongst a group on twitter; they’re occasionally great for transient events, but there’s often so much noise around which hashtag people use. If you were tweeting at Monkey Conference 2011, regardless of how prominently the organizers display the ‘official hashtag’, tweets will be diffuse amongst #monkeyconf, #monkeyconf11, #monkeyconf2011, #monkey2011, #monkey11, #mc11, #mc2011, etc. People should be able to opt into joining a community’s conversation, and that be the end of their effort; obviously, the attendees of #monkeyconf are going to keep tweeting about monkeys even after the conference ends; why not create a way for people to easily keep tabs on that conversation?
That’s an interesting point to end on. The relative merits of hashtags and lists in terms of sustaining a community on Twitter. If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to share in a comment.

For me, this spam-free dabble with Crowdlistr, and the conversation with Yahel has once again demonstrated the ability of social channels to restore your faith in human nature.

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Scriberia sketch of John Willshire's Firestarters presentation

Process increasingly gets in the way of problem solving.

Thus spake John Willshire, Chief Innovation Officer at PHD, at last night’s excellent Firestarters event. The event was generously hosted by Google and masterfully curated by Neil Perkin.

John will no doubt post his slides in due course, and I’ll link to them from here when he does, but several of his points really struck a chord.

To paraphrase…

1) Process is a crutch

Piss-poor photo-journalism

Process is reassuring because it’s a thing you can see and buy.

But whilst process might help to make bad ideas good, it also tends to make great ideas good too.

Process breeds homogeneous mediocrity.

(Thus spake John Willshire).

2) Process is a broken crutch

The dynamism and interconnectedness of today’s technology and communication channels means that a silo-based, division of labour approach to process doesn’t work any more.

We should be more agricultural (generalist) than industrial (specialist) in our approach, behaviour, culture, organisation, recruitment and training.

(Thus spake John Willshire).

3) Process is anti-collaborative and counter-productive.

Crap photography again, but this got a lot of knowing laughs.

Everyone has their own proprietary, trademarked planning and creativity process to sell.

Everyone’s proprietary, trademarked planning and creativity process is better than everyone else’s.

It’s a farce that we’ve all seen played out at first hand.

I’ve felt the encouragement (pressure) from above to package, productise and hence monetise intellectual property, when experience, intuition and a base desire to just do great work tells you that a one-size-fits-all solution is no solution at all.

Modern problems demand intellect rather than pre-packaged intellectual property.

(Thus spake me).

(Inspired by a thus-spaking John Willshire).

This is why a lot of start-ups do really well coming out of the blocks. Enlightened, like-minded clients can buy direct access to experienced intellect (in its fullest diagonal thinking, t-shaped sense) in an entrepreneurial environment, before it gets sucked into a larger-company, productising, monetising, intellectual property mindset.

It’s also why my favourite creative brief format is a blank sheet of paper that allows the experienced practitioner to frame a challenge and hint at possible solutions in a bespoke, problem-specific way.

The problem with that approach is that less experienced practitioners need to be able to write briefs too. That’s when some structure, some brief writing process is useful.

But, as John spake thusly last night…

Process is a great place to start your education but a shitty place to stop.

Agencies and clients need to move on from this shitty, process-driven place at which they’ve (we’ve) stopped.

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I received this notification on Facebook this morning.

It does not compute.

LinkedIn is for professional networking.

Facebook is for friends.

Ne’er the twain shall meet.

Thanks but no thanks to BranchOut.

And bloody typical that the only immediate response options are Like, Comment, Accept. No “Thanks But No Thanks” option to be seen.

I’m with Jemima Kiss and Nev Stokes on this one.

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A bold claim I know.

But if this post on the All Facebook blog isn’t the most fatuous piece of Facebook statusness of 2011 then “I just had Shreddies for breakfast. LOL.”

All Facebook, and it’s counterpart (competitor?) Inside Facebook, usually provide a valuable early warning and insight service for any developer or marketer that deals with Facebook on a commercial basis.

But yesterday must have been a light Facebook news day.

(Actually it wasn’t because of the leak about this alleged Instagram-killer photo app, but never mind.)

A reputable Facebook blog talking about whether men talk about Facebook.

They (we) don’t.

They talk about stuff they’ve seen on Facebook.

But, unless they deal with Facebook for a living, they don’t talk about Facebook per se.

Like they (we) don’t talk about television.

We talk about stuff we’ve seen on telly. But not television per se.

Like television, Facebook must enjoy pretty close to 100% awareness in US and UK.

It’s not a “per se” talking point any more.

And not being talked about is not news.

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