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Ease up on your iPhone
I lost my iPhone 6 weeks ago.
It was rubbish.
I felt completely unplugged. Out of the loop. Every excruciating second I was missing out on brilliant digital (or didge) conversations. With my mates. With Holler (my agency, they’re pretty didge), and with the hundreds of clever chaps I’ve never met (twitter).
Not to mention ‘digital downtime’…
Digital Downtime (Jackson, P. 2012) is the automatic deference to your iPhone during micro-moments of inactivity. In non-wanky terms - when you have nothing to do; queuing for the Oyster card machine, waiting for a bus, whilst your breads in the toaster, etc. The classic example of this you’ll probably notice in the next 12 hours after reading this. In a pub, restaurant or cafe - when 2 people are together and one of them has to go to the toilet, the other will immediately partake in a little Digital Downtime.
I read somewhere that this automatic deference is biological. It’s addictive. Apparently, the little harmonious chime of a twitter mention, or a Facebook comment, or even an email - triggers a little hit of dopamine in our brains. The pleasure bit. The same bit that responds to nicotine.
Addictive. And it’ll take over your life if you let it.
The thing is, we think all this Digital Downtime is productive. We’re reading stuff, connecting with others, building our social profiles, what’s wrong with a little angry birds on the tube?
But it isn’t productive. It’s random. Scattergram. We’re patrolling the Internet like magpies perusing stuff that’s trending, or being shared. ‘viral’ shiz yeah?
If we add up all those micro seconds of wasteful clicking and swiping, hours and days of our lives are being dedicated to nothing. Imagine if all that time was poured into something meaningful- an idea you’ve had? A goal, a target?
I’m not saying this can’t be achieved by smartphones. I’m writing this article on one, on a bus- that’s amazing. But surely addictive, repetitive perusal of twitter, FB and the like is time we could be spent thinking, reading something powerful, planning something amazing.
So put down your iPhone. Take a deep breath. What was that idea you had again?
Banksy on Advertising
I saw this yesterday on Bobby Solomon’s lovely blog…
If you’re into your anti-advertising stuff - I can recommend having a look at some of Robert Montgomery’s arresting, up in your grill, poetic billboards that have been on display at the KK Outlet in Hoxton..
And of course you can always read the bible on anti-marketing…
Obviously working in advertising I want to find counter-arguments to all of this quite frankly, persuasive and compelling cultural commentary - so I can sleep better :)
One viewpoint helping me on my way to do this is Dave Trott’s refreshingly honest and straight to the point, take on Banksy’s rant.. for want of a better word (above).
We do come uninvited into people’s lives.
If we can’t do that in an amusing, informative, fun way, we shouldn’t do it at all.
- Dave Trott
Some ad people make economic ‘excuses’ for advertising = “We’re helping to accelerate growth which is good for the economy”
Some daring ones say it can be a force for good = “Anti-smoking, anti-drink driving, anti-knife crime ads can help save lives”
Some even boldy say it has become a cherished part of culture = “People recall the iconic ads from their youth with fond memories”
But I like Dave’s take better than all of these. The brutal and frank realisation that we are uninvited guests in the lives of real people. Either we treat them with respect and amuse/ inform them and enrich their lives - or we are just a dark blotch on the landscape of a failing society.
Smoke and mirrors.
That’s my final conclusion on social media. And this thrilling story will testify to my doctrine, in a kind of crap trilogy type of way…
PART ONE: I did something: I went to Scotland. It was a nice trip, nothing special. A couple of days mosing about on farms and beaches with my cousin Allie visiting young spritely Scottish rellies, and old drunken ones. Nothing to write home about. Nothing significant.
PART TWO: I made my doing cinematic: This is a photo of Frankie the Foal. It’s a great photo taken with my oars ham (that’s awesome in a welsh accent) photography skills, with my very own fingers and eyes, and with technology that transforms my lazy aimless snapping into something nice looking. And like all nice looking photos, I can now cast back my memory with fondness and spectacles bulging with roses, to a moment in time that was no where near as epic as this photo may suggest to others, that weren’t there. Abbey Road is my favourite ever album cover. It’s floaty and simple and lovely. But bugger me the cameraman probably wasn’t that blown away with snapping 4 beardy Liverpudlians walking over a zebra crossing. That’s how photos work. That’s how films and documentaries work. That’s how media and TV and advertising works- we’re all chasing and aspiring to things and people and lifestyles that are sold in cinematic parcells with pretty bows on. And now through social media we’re selling our lives to each other.
PART THREE: I broadcasted my cinematic doing: So you know how stalkbook and twatter and instagran all let us be our own broadcasters, yeah? Well I did that. I actually did all of that, with this photo. Uploaded on instagran and shared immediately on the other 2 social wotsits. I now have to fess up, I did this to project myself in a certain way. I’m happy to do this because I know if you’re reading this you know you do it too (don’t lie to yourself Steve*). In one simple post it says, amongst others, 5 things about me:
1) I’m in Scotland so I’m doing something with my day off (I’m not a stay at home loser)
2) I’m in Scotland. On a farm (I’m outdoorsy)
3) I’m in scotland. On a farm. With a horse. (I like animals)
4) The photo is cool (I’m creative)
5) The photo is cool (therefore I’m cool (inception bracket: people who actually know me, know this not to be the case))
These are things I deem to be a positive reflection of me so I broadcast the sh£t out of this photo.END OF STORY.
WARNING OF UPCOMING WANKY PLANNERY TAKEOUT …and in an embarrassingly honest and roundabout way, that is social media, nowadays, in the oncoming era of smartphone apocalypse. People carefully creating and selecting cinematic snapshots of their experiences that in no way reflect truthfully on their actual lives, and broadcasting them to the digital world in order to influence their social standing, back in the ‘real’ world. I also need to point out this is not a bad thing. Reading this back now makes me feel slightly cynical but in essence it’s just an uncomfortable truth (not to be mistaken with Al Gore’s very successful Inconvenient Truth) - but it’s natural and it’s human and it’s how we work. Knowing this means as a marketing thingy person you have a nice shit test for all your social activity do dahs.. Just ask yourself “will my audience actually look cooler for sharing / clicking on / engaging with this?
If the answer is no. Don’t do it :)
*i don’t actually know any Steves. If your name happens to be Steve and you enjoyed that personal touch please email me ten pounds.
For years my old dears been making it. It’s the best ever. And I’m not saying that because I’m biased. I’m saying it because I’m biased and because it is really is.
One of my mum’s friends has asked her for the recipe, every year, for 20 years. Mum won’t tell. Why would she lose her USP in the competitive bakery micro community of leafy south west London? Well I’m outing her. The recipe is from the seminal 1960 version of the Martinborough cookbook. Martinborough is a town, a very tiny, homely town in New Zealand.
She won’t worry for 2 reasons. Firstly the housewives of east sheen are notorious in their hatred for barely noticed planning blogs. And secondly, no one is selling these cookbooks on eBay. Why am I telling you this? Because I think the secret and mystique behind things is brilliant. Often, like magic, better than knowing the actual truth. That the creamy, warming, delicious fudge from Mrs Jackson’s kitchen is actually just drawn from the tethered pages of an old kiwi cookbook. No fairy dust, no secret techniques. Just ingredients, added, in the right order, to other ingredients.
There definitely aren’t enough brands and advertisers doing this. Leaving gaps for people to wonder and gossip and dream. If you haven’t done so, google ‘Liquid Mountaineering’ and you’ll see how brands can do this frighteningly well.
Find them on Facebook. Find them on Twitter. Why? Why should we? Why not print a fan’s tweet instead and hero someone? Do something interesting or conversational that entices people in, instead of demanding that they seek you out?
Time will bend and blur what advertising is and where it lives, but whether it’s coming from the TV or masquerading in Facebook, or looking at you from the back of a label, the same rules still apply; shout at people and be ignored, provoke people and they might take notice.
Cue timeless quote… “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad” Howard Luck Gossage.
Every advertisingy person goes on about them. How to sell ideas, how to sell brands. Do it in stories. Storytelling, it’s the way forward yeah? I’m a bit of a sceptic. I think there’s a time and a place for everything. Sure, a compelling story is very powerful. But I don’t want to know the trials and tribulations a big mac has suffered on it’s magical journey to my questionably clean tray.
But what about a product or brand AS a story? 120 (the bottle pictured) happens to be a very good wine, but I love the story behind it - 120 Chileans who led the country to independence against those conniving Spaniards in 1826. There’s a beautifully written prose to accompany on the back of the bottle. Something interesting and intellectual to consume for interesting and intellectual wine drinkers* *in my case the exception proves the rule :)
Why Twitter can own Dual Screen
Broadcasters and advertisers are licking their lips.
Us people who buy stuff, are packing more rolls of media hours into our bulging suitcase of attention. What do you do whilst you’re watching the tele.. Stalking on Facebook? Showing off on Twitter? We tweet during shows because it feels like one big community event. Plus, Twitter is about attention seeking. Every tweet is bate cast into the big trout river of the Internet. Every retweet or @ response is a comforting bite on the rod. It’s affirming, a little dopamine hit of satisfaction. This is why broadcasters are rushing to encourage this behaviour, but so far it’s a bit clunky.
Promoting a hashtag at the start of a show is now a hygiene factor, but we know people are looking for tweet kudos (tweetos?) so why not encourage the thing at the heart of it, the attention seeking. The funniest tweet gets tickets to the show? Vote for the best tweet? Tweet debates? I’m confused as to why this hasn’t happened yet.
Are broadcasters and advertisers missing a trick? Or should Twitter be creating platforms for broadcasters to do all these cool things on? Maybe a 3rd party developer will sneak in and take advantage, like Electric Lab’s Zeebox. They’re developing things called Zeetags that let you delve deeper into programs, giving you more info and allowing you to buy stuff related to the show. Imagine clothes brands scrambling to throw money at this, so on X-Factor talentless person number 4 is tagged up to the max with shopping info. 2012 will be an interesting year for Twitter and TV.
You know when you’re 11 years old and you sign off a letter to your Nan with a spectacular yet completely unintended jolt of sarcasm?
Just me then…
I love finding things, old things, things I’ve made, things I’ve written. I don’t know why, it’s not nostalgia. There a strange undefinable buzz from staring in a mirror at your younger self.
This buzz, for want of a better word, underpins the stacks of nostalgia based branded apps on Facebook. Who were your first friends? Your first likes? The first time you checked in somewhere with Dave?!? There’s so much branded crap on Facebook. Which is why I have a soft spot for things that tap into the random, peculiar tit bits of human nature.
Ever been back in time?
I found this book that belonged to my grandad, the Story of Peter Pan. It was printed almost 100 years ago. The care and attention and beauty of it is startling.
There are 2 things I want to note: Number one. iPads. I totally get how amazing they must be for kids, and how it must make reading so frickin exciting. But I really really hope that it doesn’t spell the end of families handing down these beautiful, physical things. Number two. Can you see the music printed inside? This is so mothers and fathers could play the lullabies as they read to their kiddies. The publishers thought clearly and insightfully about how parents might want to use the book and designed it accordingly. This is User Experience design in action.
We so readily talk about the importance of ‘engagement’ and this is it. A beautifully designed tool shaped around natural human behaviour.
3 nuggets for junior planners
First of all you shouldn’t be wasting your time here, go to Mark Pollard’s blog. He writes about Planning with frightening honesty and simplicity.
But before you go, here’s a couple of things I noticed when I was a junior planner (n.b. I think its healthy to always consider yourself an up and comer)
Number One. Listen to people.
The most frustrating people in agencies are the ones who you don’t feel listen to anyone. You may have some brilliant, clever, wonderful insights and opinions - but be careful how you go about airing them. Listen first, build on people’s ideas, make people feel liked and useful - then find a polite way of introducing your ideas. If you have to butt in or digress, think about being apologetic.
Number Two. Muck in.
Let’s be honest. When you’re being paid real money to do a job where you deal in thinking and inspiration and ideas you’ve completely lucked out. So don’t take the piss. Don’t be that worthier-than-thou intellectual up in t’ivory tower. Muck in, do your plannery stuff but do much more if you can and be useful - write some copy, take notes, organise meeting rooms and lunches and cabs. Also think about how to turn your ideas and thinking into useful outputs - write presentations and show them to people, or send them to clients. Think of ideas for other brands and present them to your boss or someone in New business.
Number Three. Ask questions.
There’s a balance to be had here. The more wisdom you can suckle out of the brilliant people in your agency the better, but don’t be a pest about it. Keep a note of things you’d like to discuss and ask people politely for a catch up where you can go through your questions. And then there’s the internet. There’s a shed load of lovely, altruistic planners out there who’ve written posts on pretty much every problem.
Clearly there’s loads more secrets to navigating the tricky journey through plannerhood - you might notice though that the above three things all touch on humility. For me, advertising and ideas are a team game. If people dont buy into you, the game is that much harder.