June 11, 2008
Neil’s produced a cracking presentation about all things around communities and marketing. There are loads of them around, but this is fine piece of storytelling that will make any smart client sign up for experimenting with the live interwebs.
I’m overly humbled to see Where are the Joneses? used as a case study. For good or worst example of doing a project like this.
And if you like, that’s what Neil is pointing at; “getting on and doing it” – and do it well by learning from each part of the project. And that means working with the client team in a different way. Without a strong sponsor / champion on the client’s team, you wont get it out the door. It’s because there is so much detail in the legal framework from licences to contract with a project like the Joneses? it can be a test of patience. There’s also a massive shortage of lawyers who understand the 2.0ness of all this stuff, never mind advice on best commercial practice within open source productions.
Opening up to audience participation has not yet begun to worry legal teams in a way it’s shaken marketing.
“We understand now that piracy is a business model,” said Sweeney, twice voted Hollywood’s most powerful woman by the Hollywood Reporter. “It exists to serve a need in the market for consumers who want TV content on demand. Pirates compete the same way we do – through quality, price and availability. We we don’t like the model but we realise it’s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward.”
I wrote the Joneses model as a format; like Big Brother or WifeSwap, so that it could be reused by different brands and production companys; the overall mechanics of using a central ideal (the branded kernal of the narratives platform’s operating system ) and then expecting the site to grow outwards through social utilities, by always referring back to the kernal’s logic.
The legal framework had to be ‘elastic’ and for me, writing the rules to engagement for the lawyers to approve, was the one of the most fun parts of the project. Sitting in a room of media legals,listening with horror and fear as the project was explained to them and then smiling as they balk at the simplicity of the solutions. I have the Channel4 legals to thank for that – they made me understand every ‘no’ in the book when worked there.
Neil – a slide on legals, especially Creative Commons would have been useful, I think. It’s the device that enables the legalities of sharing within and out of communities.
The aesthetics of the narrative also meant that the operating system (the Joneses’ media cloud == all the objects/pages that connected to the project together) gave the real time production maximum freedom – a massive need if the daily output had to happen. A bit like the daily news, the ‘look and feel’ was synthesised into the tone of the project – Where are the Joneses as an identity had to work with every service that the team wanted to use.
This goes against much of the consenus of how a brand needs to apply itself to content, especially as the project is USER centric.
So where is the brand in all this?
First, does it matter?
If it does, the brand needs to take its place in the sidelines, encouraging, cheering on users – their prospects.
The brand’s ‘essence’ can be woven into the production, through functions, through tone. But a brand ‘essence’ is such a wanky term.
A brand has a story, with lots of tales interwined. A story is an abstract of the company’s values, That abstraction can be performed in many ways – you just need to know the material you’re working with to get the best out of ot; like a stone masion or an enthusiastic knitter would.
I remember speaking to John Griffith‘s about Brand Stories, (I believe he invented them), and how he got clients (agencies) to play out brands – you know, like actors would.
One person is CocaCola, another is Marlboro, another is Sainsburys – and then you watch how they interact in these new roles.
But anyway, most of this is in the production itself.
How to create a spectacle.
How to create meaning.
June 7, 2008
Using Twitter as a command line (Tw00ts) is something that I’m keen on exploring- there’s a bunch of ideas in notebooks just waiting to be pulled into prototypes – but in the meanwhile here’s an example that I just threw together a couple of weeks ago.
Now, as a command line it’s syntax is pretty complex.
Let’s break it down.
First, it’s a mix of English, with bad grammar, mixed in with machine code, and using a currency which is timestamped.
Second, no license used. Attribution in username
Third, the arguments and methods:-
Initiating the command by invoking a question. This pulls in the attention of the user base, acting as a single central processor funnel, thus maximizing on chances of a responding message.
Spelling mistake, but dropping the unnecessary characters acts as data compression.
start argument with a negative, to a tune to early adopters curiosity
3. we all
this is not going to steal loads of time
no need for www or .com
respect to the location of the company
small amount, minor tip, about £1
major currency, easy to convert with twitter timestamp
7. to just
any improvement would be good
Stabilizing is the preferred task, we would all guess
URI, data compressed
Now, using twitter as a command line with such soft parameters, the service would have to be a complex system, superior AI, and capable of setting off a bunch of processes.
Fortunately, Chris Reed picked up the message and processed the command line, in a way pretty much as expected from the syntax. Though in hindsight, I should have appended the command with some extra parameters. More on that in a mo, for now, have a look at the response message.
It’s pretty clear to read, so I can judge that something is about to happen.
And the solution looks simple.
Twitterfund, the actualization of the command line I sent into Twitter, is in itself a curious project. I think it raises so interesting questions.
1. what happens when the community raises money, with or witout strings attached, to better a service and become more attractive then Venture Capitalist’s funds?
2. when running a campaign like this, who should be it’s Guardian’s, or do we really need them if we are all visible on teh interwebs.
3. What if Twitter doesn’t take the money: what do we do with the shared fund? Is it worth using it elsewhere?
4. Will people use the fund?
Chris and I had a couple of emails back and forth before all this was set up. I was keen on TweetCharity as a domain name so that we could use this piece of media.
But using the word Charity opens a another bag of worms.
So TwitterFund was selected.
Next, who owns the paypal account. You know, it’s like who has the ‘God like’ system admin password. I was keen on the hunt of for the most trusted twitter user, suppose it would have ended up with someone like Scobe. But at present Chris is holding the fort on this.
The additional parameters I need to think about compressing into Tw00ts are about tone. What happens when a project using a suite of online tools come together? Chris has Twitter, a blog, a domain name, a paypal account all sync’d. Sweet. Making the components come together, making them sing is another thing. This is now about art direction in 140 characters.
Anyway, let’s see what happens with the fund.
Follow the project’s Twitter feed and send what you think of the project to @fund.
April 16, 2008
Designing for sustainability is a huge desire when considering ROI models for a project. As a client solution from an agency, digital media demands a mindset that seeks productions that persist through reuse: in short, digital should always be aggregating value. Digital should never have a half life. Digital is not for campaigns.
We’re living in a time where beta and ‘release early’ is a mantra, waiting for an audience to pick up on your communications is a requisite, and creating a ‘buzz’ about what you do is consider ham-fisted. Digital, being the youngest of offerings from communication agencies, is picking up bad habits from the elder modes of media, namely broadcast formats of print and TV.
It aways make me chuckle/snarl when a new website is marketed with other marketing. This is missing the point of being digital.
I want to discuss how digital is badly treated when consider an ‘execution’. Digital is business interface that needs caressing and attention – because as a medium, it’s going to change the fundamentals of how you maintain a service orient business (products are part of a service – in case you needed reminding).
Polemics of creative productions, driven by a business case (e.g. something has fucked up | market has changed | you’ve got a new invention you want to sell), clash horribly with expectations of virtue. This is true for all commissions, but for digital, the application of code requires fullfillment not appreciation. Working with a broad range of T-shaped creatives at Imagination, many who are very fuzzy, reveals a huge amount of possibilities and closures about how people should work together.
Now, every agency I’ve spoken with, regardless of their forward thinking team dynamics, billing philosophy or Raison d’être, all rely on people roles to coordinate, organise and deliver the client solutions as a job.
Account handlers, Planners, Creative Directors, Human Resources, Traffic, all have a similar practice where ever you go. Media law, recruitment law, pension schemes and personal assistants all rein in the affordance of the individuals freedom to perform. The context of production is the architecture of society not the business model of the agency owner/stakeholders/banker.
As digital storms through the traditional billings of broadcast media (TV, print and performance – well, anything that doesn’t base itself on audience dialogue), the agency’s role is to convert business requirements to something quite fabulous with a hook to sell, promote or defer the competition collapses around the moment when the teams realise that the story of the construct requires huge amount of faith, believability and patience of an audience.
Brand-as-a-narrative has served Market Communications for hundreds of years, today, we see/hear/look at platforms for the facilitation of conversation – the emperors new banter – with only a thread of brand DNA to hide the hook’s modesty.
Building us towards freeconomics, friend following and DRM free productions, is a belief that there is an audience that is intentionally rebelling against the Market Communications from your clients. The slogan “You don’t own your brand, the audience does” has been dragged through the blogosphere to the point where it realises that it’s being pushed by consultants eager to recount stable reads such as Naked Conversations, Cluetrain and Here Comes Everybody as billable insights. We’ve all done it, haven’t we?
Solutions to business problems, by sucking on the business cases, has been the stock process for devising, designing and executing since someone thought about thinking about solutions. Arguably, the mutha of all invention is bare necessities, and I say arguably, because the agency model, networked or a team of 2, will always be at odds with a guarantee of success. That’s why you must embrace failure.
Indexing with ROI for KPIs are all indicators of reasoning within myths. The belief that x will happen is y and z interact, belongs to the clinical abstraction of calculus, a language non-compatible with myth, but as said, within myth. (Planners – take note)
And here lays the problems with any notion of integration – that is – blending the channels of 360 marketing with that of transmedia narratives. The belief that participation is desirable is at odds with commuication being logical. You don’t ever get what you expect – comprismise is latent in every reception, awoken only by distraction. Choice has begun to chew at the hand that invited consumers to be free.
If we look at the success of software, where scalabity, features and transparency have lowered the access points to diverse interpretation of engagement, the learning curve of use has been inversed by the audience who, when confronted with personal affordances of simple applications (think twitter, friendfeed, yahoo pipes), the question mechanic that always appears is “What is this for?” not “When do I need this?”.
And the answer is always defered by the retort, “you get out of it what you put into it.”
I think I’ve written about roles in system design before, UML using the term Actor, to define the types of users within a system, human or not. What we are seeing today is technology being rolled out freely, inducing individual’s performances confiscating demographic averages whilst establishing Social Graphs (plural) upon reputation and attention not perception of desire.
This freedom of role undermines the need for defining what the experience of your client’s communication solution business solutions is. Rolling in branded utility motifs may save you from having to induce accents of need in presentations, but the role that an agency plays in the progressive design of effectiveness becomes reduced to translator of what the client thinks might happen within a market.
Agencies are bookies if they are left to define client requirements without a framework of the social ecosystem that is defined by freedoms of engagement induced by open-use software. An agency that isn’t gambling on an outcome is playing safe to the point that they wont impregnate the audience with seeds of joy.
This is very different to thinking about how an agency has a ‘digital’ division – normally, they would ‘use’ the digital channel to get at the ‘difficult’ consumer – them the ones not watching the TV. Hmmm, brilliant.
Digital is not a channel, it’s the business interface that can be amended, grown, shrunk, adapted, designed to be adaptive and fundamentally, in the possession of the customer. Emotion is the only channel left in the world of 360 planning, digital is the gateway – either via production, distribution or design.
Twitter is wonderful for all kinds of social discourse, but under the hood, the genius is in the API model. Talk though Twitter any way you want – use a phone, a desktop client or the web.
Imagining buy anything you want through any form of transaction you want. Not just trade (“I’ll give you three horses for that cow.”) but trade through proxy – where currency is not of issue, but affordance of you’re gesture is valued because it’s reusable by the vendor.
Stay with me, there’s a money shot here, somewhere.
Compare Google, a wealth of functions backed up with some outlandish brute force technology, with the late ‘n’ great Jackson Pollock, a wealth of gestures with a brutal temper.
The value in discourse between an individual and a system is retrieval: recalling what options have been preferable may induce you to think along the lines of AI, or training a system, but what really is becoming, for an agency model, is stimulation of creativity for a client so that it’s a recursive feedback loop. This is in fact intercourse for reproductive, relational, and recreational needs.
Ok, let me come at this at another angle.
You know when you look at a image, that you find appealing, you can say, “It hangs together”. The aesthetics is being converted to a value only you appreciate. Ignoring all the talk from peers and critics, it’s your experience that underwrites the value of the image.
Converting that to currency, or better, to business, is where an agency can get to grips with media integration and client gratification.
The joy of a fine production, is unfortunately in the ego of the producer. An audience does not give a monkeys moment to the joy of the producer. If you ever read about Da Vinci’s Last Supper, you see that the artist will always have the last laugh at the cost of the commissioner and the audience. (Da Vinci knew the painting would collapse if he used Tempera.)
Agencies need to work for the audience, not the client.
There, I’ve said it.
This is not to be confused with how a TV broadcaster seems to pander to an audiences desire for programmes, in the process, shafting the advertising industry, forcing them in to 30sec spots/branded evenings / programmes or events.
An agency must develop relationship working processes with the non-client business market, by doing so, gratification comes from reflecting the ego of the audience whilst delivering work that is loved, respected and enjoyed – an agency that gives to an audience, receives attention from a client.
Now, this may start sounding like Agencies need to be rock/pop/hip-hop stars ‘n’ bands. It’s intentional. The problem is, bands are volatile (Spinal Tap). Agency’s tend to have a turn over of staff (The Fall). Client’s objectives change with the Chairman’s wife taste in soft furnishings…
But that’s all good. Because the audiences kind of interested in who is messing with the band’s soft furnishings or if there is a pillow fight kicking off somewhere.
Agencies, on the whole, are not public facing entities, they’re private clubs for clients ‘steaked’ out in cool venues in hip cities. Night clubs for the day time, refreshments and air conditioning on tap, possibly some designer furniture to ease the pain of spending money on myth making.
Now, before that thought of your agency becoming Radiohead (and buy – you want that I know), let’s have a think about your band members, who’s on drums, bass, lead, rhythm… woah! STOP.
Radiohead are a buch of guys who can play. Just play. They are T-Shaped and they are fuzzy. One prefers drums, the another bass. But they swap when they can sense an oppotunity to try something – so to invent. (Go back up and see the fuzzy link if you’re confused..)
Hands up who would like to see the Head of Client Services to the banner adverts tomorrow?
Hands up who wants to do the book keeping?
Hmm.. see. Tricky.
Multidisciplinary teams are visioned as agency roles – planner, account, designer, producer yadda yadda.. making these roles fuzzy (a designer who can do 3D, motion and loves paper stock) is one thing, but find me a designer who is willing to do / try / be interested in co-ordinating travel logistics and (actually – I’d book that person), I’ll be impressed. Find me 10 and I’ll set up a specialist agency tomorrow…
My point is, diversity of teams can help integration if there is a keeness to trade time with other roles, not faking it, but genuinely migrate skills and interests so that the organisation is well, more like an organism. It’s a way of learning. Like jamming in a band.
Now, client side employees already work like this, it’s how the business gains a richer understanding of it’s abilities = staff are encouraged to take a path through the company – it’s good way to retain value as an employer. Agency side, account handlers may move to planning, planners may move into design, sometimes. This is all good. But an audience will only see the benifit when the organisation begins to create with them in this manner. If you become diverse, you will become more open. If you don’t then you’ve misunderstood why you’re in a creative environment.
An audience wants to relate to people, not roles (Britney, Madonna, Vanilla Ice, George Bush) – people who demonstrate a love in being a part of something that evolves. Something substainable so that they can invest their time | attention | money into.
Just as you may read Campaign or Advertising Age, the movers and shakers that move from agency to agency – this is you investing time into your industry. You are building an industry out of attention, not work.
Gratification scales too, it’s a system that you can keep adding to; sometimes bit’s fall off, but it scales. Integration is something that requires no attention when it works – the desire for intergration is the warning call of systems failing to scale.
As advertising disintegrates into marketing which is in turn poisoned and/or digested by culture, we will see the job dissatisfaction of producing for what seems like an ungrateful audience evolve into the stasis of performance – a mode of practitioning that works neither from script nor from rehearsal, improv nor applause, but necessity of creation.
Whilst we live through this open-use software induced transition of production, look around at how your colleagues interact with each other, how the communication of daily agency life is centric to, and it really should be this order, else you’re nuts: the work, the client relationships, the team.
We’re facing a transition towards : the audience, the client relationship, the work.
What happened to loving the team? Who said they were keepers? Teams need to wander from shop to shop. The role of agency is to be part of the audience, not part of the client’s team. It’s access to the audience that you will be charging for, not the productions.
So you see, the team, the people around you, need to be polyworkers, not just for their sanity, but for the relationship with the audience to become rich and meaningful.
As client-side has more and more taken over the business of market insight, looking and crunching the numbers, reviewing ‘segmentation’, the role of agency is to perform to these numbers – but in the persuit of client love the agency model has begun to drift away from the audience – and the work in hand.
Does this help the role of ‘commercial’ communications? Does this help bring “Brand and Consumer Together?” Does this help the audience?
The work is relationships with an audience; making stuff for them is just the easy way to do this.
And so on to the punch line.
The business models of supply and demand are influenced by the same mechanisms the agency uses to convey, construct and cash in on.
Digitalness is meddling with the notion that product is the transactional inducer for profit.
Microsoft don’t make product, they assemble code. As does Google, as does Proctor and Gamble as does any corporation, SME and individual. As this becomes more and more loosely coupled, we’ll see the shibboleth materialise as a currency devoid of form. Data is without form. Data is open for connectivity.
We’ve watched the collapse of the publishing businesses with no great surprises other than the likes of Radiohead, Prince, Madonna and those guys teaming up with Bacardi, invent what is for sale. Exposure. Ambient Exposure. Voyeurism. It’s a game of two halves.
Rock stars acting like an agency for brands to connect with consumers.
They’re just doing their thing without the brand sponsor making minute by minute demands. Owning an artist is a frightening business – ask Sony BMG about George Michael – so brand sponsorship is handled, not with radioactive gloves, but an understanding that the messy business of making creativity is best left to those who love their art.
But the product is not important in any of this. Data supporting the business model, more precisely, the ingredients of data, are the valuable assets within this equation.
CRM is a toe curling concept – not that it is about harvesting email addresses (with permission) but that the concept of data is so poor. Of course a marketing department wants to know as much about you as possible, but CRM will always give a poor approximation – no one hands over habitual data without cringing. Even Nectar card holders.
But, ask the audience(s) if they would like free goods in exchange for their social graph data, and the game becomes interesting. At present you see Facebook, crunching your social graph data as you use it’s people management applications – sucking out all the little nuances about you life as it’s defined by context of your ‘friends’. Imagine a manufacturer doing this. Can you imagine a product developer migrating their business from product to data?
Any organisation, with trust, that has the richest data and uses it to create new, disposable, fragile markets will dominate the consumer/producer lifestyle. Choice within choice becomes infinitely possible when audience participation of product (the transaction receipt – not the economic shibboleth) is the conversation.
Digital is about grooming data – sifting, expanding, performing and refining, the relationships between things in abstractions that defy the premise of spoken/written languages. Invention is within the patterns of existing human activity, the market is the catalyst induced by the audiences request for bespoke productions.
It’s an investment in ego. The participants ego. The sponsor must be modest to be loved.
This leaves the (digital) agency in a curious position – are they to be production centric or performers – their attantion spent on creating or extracting value from audience engagement?
When publishing was backed by advertsing, strict controls were placed to prevent distribution of exclusivity. When the publisher model is replaced by a brand, the business of piracy is the finest way to spread the message.
Excitement must be fluid. Mess is Lore.
If anything, it confirms the notion of integration within the agency context as not a skill based concern, but as a audience based concern – how does an agency operate like a ‘new media’ platform?
Look at Mahalo as a model of this. Pure Splogging mind you, but beautifully riding the Google engines.
Look at the Human Genome Project. Every breath you take, we’ll be watching you.
Look at Top Up Travel Cards. It’s a loan system for the city plus you hand over your travel data – for free!
Agency, will be creative for the remit of a sponsor. Agency, will be loved by an audience. Agency, will be staffed by those who insist on the last word on creativity. Agency will be the gratification of disintegration.
Integration is the speed bump of social realism in the transition from producers to artists.
Ask a Rockstar. Or better, just play with them.
When “Grand Theft Auto IV” launches April 29, it’s expected to gross a record-breaking $400 million worldwide in its first week. That’s good news for the game biz, but daunting for execs in other sectors of the media industry.
Last summer, “Pirates of the Caribbean 3” broke all box office records, with a $404 million worldwide haul in its first six days, roughly the same amount expected for “GTA IV.”
Hot Coffee Mod for GrandTheftAuto: San Andreas
Video of the Mod in action
April 15, 2008
It’s almost a year that I started the Doesday philosophy and every Tuesday I still dodge meetings. It’s far the most productive day of the week AND I look forward to them.
The work diary is blocked on Tuesday with the simple message – “Doesday – Don’t even think about booking a meeting.” and on the whole, the good teams at Imagination oblige my ‘whim’. They all know Tuesdays is for Doing.
After pointing out to fellow Doesdaian, Strategist, blogger, twitterer and fellow of TBWA empire, that tomorrow I’m facing a do-a-thon, he promptly agreed to be the first, yes unbelievably, the first ever guest blogger over on the Doesday blog. This means Doesdays is now powered by AdLads. Awesome.
Give it up folks to Sam Ismail, liberating all our meetings from Tuesday on this very special Tuesday Doesday.
Doesday blog, as if you didn’t know, is here:-
Update: Sam’s post: Read, learn and do as he says.
January 10, 2008
An old sparing partner of mine has released the next installment of Steal This Film.
Jamie (aka Vague Blur) has spent the last year, along with the public donations, producing a surprisingly good documentary about piracy. It offers some tales and insights into the intrinsic need for sharing/copying in a networked world. Unfortunately, it’s very anti-media industries and thus it falls down on being a balanced understanding on the impact of piracy for the future of production.
This approach to debate on how we all use duplication and derivatives in communication prevents a resolution for artists and brands developing a workable relationship; the constant baiting against the entertainment industry alludes to a belief that they are no longer needed, referring to the London Grime scene as an exemplar in production. Grime is a true grass roots movement, but like every home producer knows, you still need professional production values to make the craft shine. There’s a big difference between ‘home recordings’ where you’re ripping a DVD for sharing via bittorrent and ‘home recording’ where you’re making something from existing culture, something with a new construct, architecture, aesthetic or utilitarian purpose.
Jamie’s posted some thoughts about the transitions of the economic model that piracy brings, notable how donations/pre payment are a potential source of revenue for P2P productions. Like Radio Heads ‘Rainbows’, these experiments in marketing are not the same as building a value base for an audience, if the audience have no say in the production. This is where I wish Jamie would spend more activity on – building an dialogue between participants on the project in public. They still have a wiki, but it’s not been used, instead they’ve opted for a ‘broadcast’ model website to tell people what they are doing. As I demonstrated in the Joneses, it’s the audiences engagement that makes the business model work for brands to finance what the audience really want. Regardless of audience size, you need to know if you are delivering the value that is expected. Download metrics, page impressions are broadcasts grasp at Accountable Transactions. Where is the feedback mechanism for Steal This Film? The donation amount? I suppose anything is better than nothing, but the displacement of what should be happening versus what is happening is unaccounted for. Perhaps that’s the message of the movie.
But Steal this Film 2 is a great production, it’s very watchable compared to the previous version. Here it is in 5 parts on youtube. Visit www.stealthisfilm.com for the downloadable versions and the opportunity to donate towards the next production “THE OIL OF THE 21ST CENTURY”.
Nice work Jamie. Looking forward to the next installment.
January 5, 2008
Adbusters have always had this problem. Brands love criticism – all publicity is good publicity – and parody is the highest form of flattery.
The project ‘Ronald’s Crisis’ is lovely example on how to hack social concerns, but the target needs to be understood. Brands are not people – people have feelings.
Steve has a great ‘artists’ statement on his website:-
For me, art is a bridge that connects uncommon, idealistic, or even radical ideas with everyday life. I carefully craft various conditions where I can discuss these ideas with people and have a mutually meaningful exchange. Often this means working collaboratively with the audience, bringing them into the process or even having them physically complete the work.
Spoken like a true marketing man.
The thing is that McDonalds Restaurants are franchises – someone has to pay to run a McDonalds store. If you want to influence the Brand, appeal to the guy who is trying to make a living from being part of a chain. Attacking a franchise means that some guy/gal is having his income damaged – and that get’s personal – really personal – we all have bills.
This guy/gal is also in no position to change the menu, they have less influence than the customers. If anything the store owner is going tobe more resilient to negative feedback, it’ll make him/her stronger – more wary, more defensive.
Sarah Nelson Wright has done a smart write up here.
Because the project is in the street, in the environment we live in, and it transforms that environment, it impacts us differently than, say, reading an article that tells me McDonald’s is bad (which, according to Steve, we all already know). It intervenes at the moment of the behavior, collapsing the distance between our theoretical lives and the lives we actually live. Because the story is so dynamic and unusual, it lingers in our thoughts: it visits me as I shop at another corporate outlet; I tell the story to people I like to amuse. Interestingly, Steve said that his biggest audience is not the people in the street; it’s the people who read about the event on the internet.
I think this is really interesting – how you can use point-of-sale as experiencial that is worth sharing through correspondance, blogs, etc. The media from the performance is the catalyst for awareness; repackage the age old message (junk food is bad for your daily diet) with a thread of the brand’s DNA and see what can be spawned. If you’re going to hack a brand, then you need to create siblings that will grow. Don’t be the Dr. Frankenstein, be Chance the Gardener.
But the efforts of the project could have been better used if the activist participants consider sending the franachise owners a list of alternative, more profitable, careers. Do we expect McDonalds to revise their entire supply chain and thus business and ultimately Brand, to deliver something else? It’s easier to start a new enterprise rather than rework the values of an existing chain business.
At least, give advice to the staff that run the counters and fryers. If McDondalds cant staff the restaurant because there are better things to do, then they cant operate the store…
Or make the last day of the month “McDonalds Day”; give everyone the focus to go to MacDonald’s on a specific day of the month, leaving them to choose something else for the other 30 days of the month. Super Sizing the issue doesn’t give people the mental space to block out the problem, instead, it raises awareness that ‘treat-yourself food’ is available all the time. Think about how this would effect the price and supply chain of a fast-food franchise business..
To hack Friedrich Nietzsche warning,
Battle not with clown,
lest ye become a clown,
and if you gaze into the makeup,
the makeup gazes into you.
January 3, 2008
Industry reviews of the Joneses project for Ford of Europe, on the whole, were a bit rubbish, especially the ‘experts’ at NMA. They made me reminded me how lazy the press can be (“awwwwwww, we want a press release weeks in advance and be the first to know.” “What’s a Wiki? Does it have banner adverts?” “So, like, it’s a TV show?” “Twitter, wassat?” “Nah, I don’t think our readers would be interested in the Creative Commons thingy. No one understands media rights, right?”). Sigh.
It was rare to read intelligent responses from people who were aware of the changes in media production and commissioning. Bloggers were the most fun, check out the Technorati Blog reactions or my del.licio.us collection.
When Contagious called to do an interview, they took their time to try and understand what I was playing with and it showed in their write up. The creative industries need producers like this. The industry needs clients like the ones I have a Ford of Europe. Most of all, the industries need to talk to the production communities, such as BabyCow, if invention is going to happen in ‘Branded Utility Entertainment’.
They’ve just launched the ‘best of 2007’ and I chuffed to see Where are the Joneses? get a decent mention alongside comparable projects: KateModern from Bebo, HoneyShed by the most excellent Droga5, GlamourReel Movies (notably cutting out the role of the Ad Agency) and QuarterLife – the later I’m keeping my eye on, especially with the WGA still on strike. Here’s what they said.
You can download their 2007 round up, Most Contagious, here. Do it. It was a fascinating year.
January 2, 2008
Art is code. So when Nick compiled a list of his top 10 programmers, mainly based around game deveopment, he raised the issue about why great coders are aspiring.
For me, a good coder is like an artists who aspires towards a career in art. The paycheck for ‘production’ becomes their foundation. They shift cliched objects around a virtual space, solving problems based on to them – may they be client change requests, a project managers fuckwit shortcut to deliver or another lazy attempt to entertain the user.
For me, Ward Cunningham, is possible one of the most valuable coding minds we have seen. Ward infamously invented the Wiki model back in 1995 through a need to be self organised but (being lazy) without wishing to do the heavy lifting himself – instead he ‘saw’ the ability of a community to do they organising – aka Crowdsourcing.
Ward, like Paul, are artists who play with Language. Like, my hero, Lawrence Weiner. Here we are at the opening of his first Retrospective: As Far as the Eye Can See at the Whitney in November this year.
Lawrence’s ‘art’ defined the opening of conceptual art. Alongside Daniel Buren, they helped creativity manifest itself as the play within language; a play that sought to overcome the burden of meaning – eroding time into an object, usable to dissolve language’s grasp of context.
When we speak of time, especially since so much art since, I can almost say, since Mondrian, is involved with the passage of time – not the reflection of time, but the passage of time, reflections of times or nostalgia at present. And that’s all we have in our lives. Time is relative to expectations, and it’s based upon the real-time needs to fulfill those expectations. We have no other means of judging the value of time. Essentially, to be really vulgar, it can’t be about lifetime, it can’t be about lifespan. It’s the same problem that all artists have. We all make movies, and yet, a movie is the great imposition on another human being, because it asks them to give up their real time. Your real time is making a movie. I don’t know if their real time is watching a movie, because it’s an imposition of time.
Necessity may have been the mother of invention for many, but the harsh reality is that it is idle meddling that attempts to make a problem out of nothing which leads to invention, understanding and ultimately language regression.
This meddling leaves seeds of curiosity for us all to pick over, accidental hybrid, trade and profit from. Stuff is built not by design, but by constructing problems that arrest us.
Haacke is for me, is the artist that has taken the operations of ‘conceptual art’ and successfully hacked the MarComms businesses, politically and aesthetically. His installation at Der Bevoelkerung stands testament to this. (If someone knows an English transaltion to this project online – please let me know.)
This is why I think the consensus of architecture is flawed. Design-to-build removes the participation of creation that is essential to the constructs future affordances. Imperial casts of iconic skyline buildings shadow the genius of ‘squatting‘.
The best programmers, like artists, seek to unlearn. That’s how they build inventions. Innovation is something we can live without, it has no use value. Only the doing of thinking constructs. The Thinking of Doing collapses the use value.
Why I’m still in awe of Ward Cunningham, well, he’s still playing. Last year, the Graffiti Research Lab drop kicked in the LED Throwie. Ward has hacked this concept with the Talkie Throwie. By programming the LED with Morse Messages, the Throwies now talk. In turn, the race is on to build video recognition applications that LISTEN to the messages.
Forget HD TV, forget AI, forget meaning. Let objects ‘talk, listen and build.’ They ‘mean’ nothing to each other, yet inspire us to react, redo and rediscover. Language is a stepping stone, not a destination. Have a look at “Les Deux Plateaux” by Buren, for example.
Working for a design company, my comments about using design to find the problem are usually met with a sharp in take of breath, at best. Designers, on the whole, have a fixation with makig stuff look and act great, nah, brilliant-fantastic-charming-clear.
BUT, we live in a world where design has to be used to enclose the audience, to help them find a space to occupy, NOT try to satisfy them with aesthetics du jour.
Apple, a design company that uses technology well, is possibly the biggest culprit in closing down progression in the use of aesthetics. Sure the products have charm, I picked up an iTouch recently – it’s a genius product, but it doesn’t need the Appleness for it do it’s job. If anything Aqua and Web2.0 screen furniture are failed languages, they’ve prevented a evolution where Useful (User) Experiences should have diversified and spawned languages; instead we are left with cliches. Interface design should not suffer the same inadequacies of architecture that induce the Stenna chairlift need.
Whilst Karsten is playing between software (Processing) and hardware (Arduino). As a designer, the tool set is never essential, it’s the consideration is expanded when your tools have a broad affordance.
But for both to operate like this, the Ingredients of Data, have to be understood. Artists have always understood their material, from marble (Michangelo) to language (Weiner); today, in the realm of Being Digital, understanding how data is constructed has to be the basis to any designer/artist/creative.
It may seem dull, but understanding how a carrot grows is essential to a farmer. Understanding how Photoshop works is not necessary to use it, but to get the best from the system-as-application, knowing more about the under lying code is more important than understanding complementary colours. That’s why Rob’s Minara is such a smart way to think about the relationship between design and software.
But non of this is of any value unless you wrap in the role of the user/audience/participator. The viewer has a role in a designers work – they are the interpreter – regardless of what ‘message’ you are trying to send. The User centricity of User Experience, covered in length by Armano, has resulted in some pretty lame executions – any web2.0 application that claims to do one thing well, has sucked in 37signals ‘Getting Real’ manifesto. The reality is that no one wants a singular experience, like Photoshop or Illustrator. The ‘I Want to Be Alone’ singualrity of the creative is way past being useful – like Twitter, designers must have Peer Appreciation. By this I mean that conversation between likeminded, non-likeminded and the resulting audience must be in the pre-production, production and the execution.
As soon as designers can get out of the Ivory Tower and get with the participation that has made their technology based tools possible, then we might just get an industry that is more interested in find the real problems for creativity- and I think it’s based in Error Handling.
Ward Cunningham’s thinking evolved Pattern Language.
A pattern language is a structured method of describing good design practices within a field of expertise. It is characterized by
- Noticing and naming the common problems in a field of interest,
- Describing the key characteristics of effective solutions for meeting some stated goal,
- Helping the designer move from problem to problem in a logical way, and
- Allowing for many different paths through the design process.
Think about his Throwie Talkies, think about the mentality of design that encourages Stateless Communications, and then remember the Gorilla Advert. Think how utility can become fun – fun as in learning – education through creation.
None of these modal approaches to design were borne out of necessity – they were evolutions from seeds of boredom. Programmers, like artists, like some designers, hate the thought and practice of spending their time producing the mundane. If they don’t mind – you should question the people on your team – and juniors who do the ‘grunt’ work should consider getting the hell out of there.
Laziness is the vision of the apathetic creative upon the inventions that are being played out by the beleaguered designer.
Architecting, designing, creating, erm, even planning, needs to be used to find problems, not solve them. In return the final product will be as interesting to the audience as it was to you.
I think I’m trying to nudge over Johnny’s Branded Utility concept, as Russell notes, It’s just Utility, and that’s agreeable a bit dull. Schutz and Webb are having a good play around with this too. But for me, as soon as the object-as-utility is defined by it’s use, it’s polydimensionality collapses and so does it’s longevity. Equally, the age old question ofwhat is ‘Brand Experience’, which for me is a simulation of a Brand, and really needs to step up to accountable transactions to be allowed to have the word Brand anywhere near any notion of Experience.
And it’s a bit too easy to point at Twitter and state it’s the way forward. It does have a superb mentality towards poly-dimensionality, but what makes it so? Evan and Biz knew, after Blogger, that the audiences interests were the operating system, and the technology just has to do the heavy lifting between them. It’s the Solow rule of ecconomics. What needs to be examined is the process of design for problem excalvation that’s benificial to the participants.
So, I want to recap on what I think the ‘user pathway’ translates to as a design, production and delivery process.
Previously, I explained that I see a user experience in 4 stages:-
1. Inspiration: Attract the User
2. Aspiration: Get the user to ask what they want
3. Insight: Deliever the request
4. Acquisition: Participate in a trade for the request
Mapping on some of the ideas above, I think the process for the ‘producers’ looks like this:-
1. Inspiration : Peer Appreciation
2. Aspiration: Hackable Aesthetics
3. Insight: Ingredients of Data
4. Acquistion: Useful Experiences
I’m still thinking this through; it’s being written on the wiki, so when I have a better idea about all this, I’ll update in another post.
If I can get this right, I think it’s the key to defining a model for Accountable Transactions for Engagement.
September 24, 2007
In the words of Paris Hilton: “This is hot.”
New York based 3iying, who I wrote about last year, has unleashed over 150 videos of girls critiquing adverts. And they are addictive to watch. This is not girls bitchin’, but smart ladies explaining why sales media is making them depressed – this is what they call a ‘Flip’; they are explaining what they want. And if the industry cant make what they want – they will come and help you do it.
How smart is this? Very. No CMO, Creative Director, Head of Planning/Consumer Insights/Media Planning can afford to ignore these videos. These are not focus groups findings, this is personal, direct, honest pleas from the people formally known as consumers. And before your say “Erm, isn’t this just Girl Power?” go and watch the videos. All of them. These are ‘Social Functions as Media Commerce’ – not a padded Lyrica stage show.
The girls have a new site up and running too: www.3iying.tv
There are the videos, Flickr stream of the girls with their insights – yes insights – not comments. And there is even a Youtube group for other girls to record ‘n’ upload their ‘Flips’. MySpace is covered. I expect the Facebook group to follow…
I’ve been talking to 3iying founder, Heidi Dangelmaier, since I first wrote about 3iying – I’ve seen how the 3iying ideology has formed over the past 18 months, met some of the girls, see previews of these videos and talked at length about the voice of ‘girl’. This has been about using design to find the problems, not create solutions. This work has been born from conversations not planning. This work is not a prescription but social surgery. This work is about making media work.
Not only is there the passion and belief that there is something fundamentally important in this work – raising an awareness of what makes the marketing the crass media creation that dominates mainstream culture – 3iying is enabling the audience to craft their commentary about why so much ‘product media’ leaves us all so vacuous – this makes this agency CULTURALLY RELEVANT.
3iying is not another PR/Marketing/Design agency – it’s an opportunity to make life better – for everyone.
September 4, 2007
Twitter launched Twitter Blocks this week. And it’s sponsored by Motorola. And I think this is great.
Twitter is a platform of massive potential because it’s unfolding in ways that makes no sense. TwitterVision is a spectacle, but it’s not a daily use. Blocks is the same. But over time both will become morphed, tweaked, revised and invigorated with the contemporary users.
And that’s the power of the platform. Think about the mobile phone – we presume it’s a natural evolution of the landline. It isn’t. It’s a very different media channel. The video phone, or Skype, is the natural evolution of the landline. Mobile is also confused by it’s portability and ability to geo-locate the user. That’s true, but the demand is under whelming. The mobile phone is an interruptive technology with the baggage of the land line culture. It’s a less of a ideal of a phone, more an ‘ideal’ of selling airtime. Then SMS arrived and then the brick came alive.
And this is why Twitter is brilliant. It may have some of the IRC mentality, but the resistance of it’s messaging peers (Pownce and Jaiku) to incorporate their features demonstrates the value is in the affordance that anyone but the crew behind Twitter require. Development at Twitter is about scaling – just like the telecom industry. It’s polar to Apple and the fetishistic iPhone (which is really an ultra portable Mac with a lease to AT&T – which seems to becoming to an end – which Apple don’t need to worry about – in fact it’s in their favour – and they know it.)
There has been some good thinking about how to diversify the affordance of a Tweet. Chris Messina has been trying to the the #channel or #group thinking up and running. I’m not convinced, but there is something in the thinking that the strings of texts we send to Twitter do contain more than we say. It’s the Object Oriented thinking within media (video, audio, images, text) that I’ve been privately obsessing about for the past couple of years. If anything, the tweets need to be compressed more, not littered with signposts.
So Twitter Blocks. Being able to visualise (and inspire better visualisation) of the fabric of the one liners is something you can only do by being close to the Twitter developers and Motorola have bought their way in. Using one of the best engineering teams to work on the visualisation, Stamen, and pushed out the project within a month. Now that’s shifting code, getting it out there and watch the playing, comments and ad revenue arrive without months of planning, metrics, management or committees.
I’d like to think there is something inherent in Blocks that is of interest to Motorola, if anything, Connecting People seems like a Nokia type of project. Maybe they we’re offered the idea first. But what excites me is brands willing to pay for play – engaging their staff and their thinking with existing platforms that people use. Twitter is open for any commercial operation to play with – and with all the conversations about dialogue you see via marketing blogs, press and conferences, it’s not hard to think that it wont be long before we see Brand Interfacing of Social Media (BISMs). This is not about portals, maybe it’s closer to branded utility, but what it really could mean is funding of social services that civic administrators cant grasp.
This isn’t any great revelation. Think Tesco and Computers for Schools. I think it was Richard Huntington on a podcast with Paul Coleman (Or Russell Davies) that the discussion turned towards, “Tesco’s should sort out the quality of their ready meals before they worried about the local schools IT department”, but with Twitter, the focus of concern hasn’t been shifted by the introduction of brand funded development on top of a public platform.
And should I object that Motorola is profiting from my Tweets? Well, Blocks wont make me switch to Motorola from my current supplier. Nor will I check out any of their phones because of this effort. But what does stick is that they within my vision, they are playing with the same tools as me, and they are not getting in the way – in fact they are helping me see connections in my postings (albeit minor) that I wouldn’t have spotted before. Should I concern myself about ‘permission marketing’? Nope, I went to them, they didn’t knock on my door – BUT, the lead through from Twitter’s pages doesn’t show the sponsor until the reveal – that is the Blocks interface page.
The ROI model is bound to be the click-through to the sponsors website. The advert is managed by DoubleClick, so the metrics are running alongside other client banner placements. These measurables are massive red herrings compared to the fact that the Sponsors name becomes associated to something that frequents my life.
I’ve been asked a lot (I mean A LOT) about the ROI on “Where are the Joneses?” so it’s no wonder that I find Blocks seductive as a commercially sponsored ‘art’ project that’s built on ‘social’ services. I’d like to know who indicated the project (Twitter, Motorola or Stamen) because there is kudos up for grabs, because that’s where the ROI model would be borne from. Who is getting the most attention from Blocks? Probably Stamen, just like BabyCow have from the “Where are the Joneses?” – which is how it should be.
Producers that make the stuff that we enjoy need the kudos’ because without them, the ideas would never leap from the page. And if Brands want the best talent, it’s not just the payola, but the kudos that attracts and retains quality producers.
But, there is something really missing from Blocks and that is the source code. Tom Carden, a developer on the Blocks is a developer with OpenGL and Processing knowledge. Blocks would have been stunning if Processing rather than Flash had been chosen; with the source code released and the data calls exposed, you would have seen a community of hacks build upon this work – richening it and so, taking Twitter into new ideas. If Motorola are sitting on the code for no reason, then that’s a shame…
The Twitter Wiki seems to be low on contribution to spawning out the platform. Chris Messina does nibble away at it, but the focus is on the mashup, not the value added; that is the extention use of the platform or at least the evolution of messaging. Something marketing should be fixated by.
Would the grass root community within the Twitter wiki be outraged if planners, creatives and technologists within agencies and brands started requesting features and interface suggestions? I doubt it. And there’s only one way to find out.
So never stop playing. Never stop learning. And never fear the future.
Further recommended reading:-
September 2, 2007
Back in June, when we launched “Where are the Joneses?” I was actually in Bradford presenting the project at Btween07 to an audience of broadcasters, producers, software developers and very few marketing folk.
Btween is an event showcasing and discussing innovation that sits between broadcasting and technology. The curious thing was the majority of conversations were based around the migration of ‘TV’ to the web and how production companies were to trying to find the business models.
I was presenting with Patrick Crowe of Xenophile Media; our theme was ‘Freedoms of Engagement’. Xenophile Media are famed for their cross platform TV shows mixing online and broadcast for clients such as Disney.
Amid technical problems they did manage to film Patrick and I in conversation about “Where are the Joneses?” and just last week they uploaded the 3 parts via YouTube (Part 1 is the tail end of my presentation and the first 2 episodes of the Joneses). The presentation deck I used is below the videos and I guess wont make any sense at all by itself, but you might like to see some points of reference to the thinking behind the Joneses project.
If you’re wondering about what Frankie is doing here – it’s something to do with comedy and the semantic web… (Thanks JP)
If you’re not sick of me talking about this project, Btween in collaboration with Channel 4 Talent asked me to do a podcast about the project. It was supposed to be released under CC-BY_SA (Like the last one), but I guess the paperwork went missing. Here it is…
August 6, 2007
The Joneses ‘family’ is growing within it’s audience.
June 17, 2007
Quietly on Thursday the first audience participation sitcom to use an open licence went live. It’s called “Where are the Joneses?”
The synopsis is that Dawn (left) has found out that she is the child of sperm donor and she now has the list of the other 27 siblings who are scattered across Europe. After contacting her new found brother Ian (Right) they begin the search with Jonti, the director filming their journey.
The basis to the project is that it’s a marketing experiment for the Ford Motor Company. Together we have been developing the project for 6 months. Seeing this live is undoubtedly my proudest moment as it’s the form of communication that I left Channel 4 TV to pursue.
The experiment is to embrace the value of networks by using an architecture of audience participation to generate semantic broadcasting. As the actors and their roving production team of 3 explore Europe, they will be posting approx 5 minutes of video daily along with various tweets, image and text posts.
To do this several significant changes to the traditional method of media manufacturing had to occur. First, the use licence had to be correct so that any participation could be freely shared with collaborating communities – so we applied Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0. (For those who follow the Creative Commons project, I bet you’re a little surprised to find Ford being the first global brand to use the licence on a commercial media project. Personally, I’m delighted.)
Second, the project had to be built upon existing web(2.0) services so that we could take the project to an audience rather than drag people into the project. Youtube is being used for video delivery, Flickr for photos, WordPress for the Blog (where the comedy is ‘played out’) and wikidot (where the audience can collaborate with each other, the actors and their production team). Dapper, Yahoo!Pipes, Facebook, various Google Apps, Twitter etc etc are also used to manage data flow and generate material for the actors to work from. If you like, it’s a
UGC authentic media comedy based upon RSS feeds generating free open media.
Such factors begins to blur the answer to ‘what is content?’ We invited BabyCow to work with us on this because of their ability to produce the highest quality comedy and evolve characters. Their team is headed up by Henry Normal (Steve Coogan’s writer and business partner) and Ali MacPhail (Who was the exec producer on productions such as Nighty Night and The Mighty Boosh). They have helped significantly in demonstrating that media can be produced for both entertainment and marketing, outside the normal broadcasting channels and platforms.
By working with a classic TV production company to create marketing that is based upon the audiences input is the opportunity to give the audience the entertainment they ask for. We are encouraging the audience to take part in the project in any way they wish to. Write scripts, design characters, recommend locations across Europe and if you want to, you can be in the production as a character – you may wish to become a Jones yourself. You can also take the media and ideas and use them for you own benifit.
I will post more about this remarkable project over the next few week as we watch it mutate. For now, I really want to praise my employer Imagination and the inhouse team for getting their head around this production, Rob Myers for the original conversation back in Nov 2005 and the continuous remarkable insights into new forms of media production, Loca Records for the music (licenced under BY-SA too) and of course Claire and Richard from Ford of Europe who championed The Joneses from day zero. In my book they are currently the most pioneering clients in marketing today.
I’ll leave you with the first episode of the project. (Don’t forget to subscribe to the RSS feed off the blog). I hope you enjoy the forthcoming 12 weeks of this project – lets see if it goes further than that.
June 11, 2007
Right. So now I have to point and confess to 5 blogs that make me
pause, scratch and sniff think.
Pink Air (Jeffre Jackson)
Because the agenda is always cloaked by the rhetoric of reason.
Rob Myers (Rob Myers)
Because of the relentless simmering of free culture.
Architectures of Control (Dan Lockton)
Because of the dedication given to liberating freedom from the design of engagement.
Data is Nature (Paul Prudence)
Because no one else finds the best visual algorithmic works than he.
Imagineering (Kristin Posehn)
Because of the constant reminding of looking over seeing. (And I miss her.)
Thanks Charles, that was actually fun and made me pause, scratch and sniff.
I forgot about Zeus Jones. Doh.
Because they are like a brother: so close yet so far away. Connected, but so elusive. Friendly, yet masterful.
May 21, 2007
myspace = ghetto
facebook = mall (shopping centre)
blogs = suburbia
facebook = bikesheds
digg = bus stop
google = neighbours fence
twitter = down the pub
linkedin = clubhouse
delicious = Garden allotment
secondlife = Anywhere, whilst drunk
WoW = Scifi Rugby
youtube = hairdressers
Bebo = village hall on a friday night
skype = telephone
AIM = water cooler
internet = salad bar
Really, where is disruption in our lives with online services? Where is the innovation? Where is the remarkable?
That’s the problem with pluralism and convergence. Exponential shifts are harder to see when network values modulate each other, defining each others identity.
As software negotiates with interaction, metaphor language assists in lowering access to entry. Inversely, how do social normals inform software development? This constant invariance, the basis to asymmetrical communications, is under the command of user experience and user interface ‘architects’. Both design by committee and design by author has been replaced by design by beta. But, the role of mediator (nee editor) holds the responsibility of social Velcro.
If we’re encouraged to rewire the web, we will fall prey to simulacra. Optimising for happiness is not a technology solution, nor is it editorial. Working with the flaws in communication, engagement and interaction makes life richer.
So consider changing some of your habits and watch how the software adapts.