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Digital Strangelove – or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Internet October 19, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, best of, business strategy, digital strategy, social media, social networks, storytelling, strategy, technology.
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I mentioned last week I had been staying in on weekends and up at night trying to get everything I was thinking about out of my head. The space I feel was created in my head is amazing, leaving room to think about a bunch of other projects I have on the go but have also played second fiddle to this.

I’m not presenting the below presentation as gospel, if I may be so bold as to quote myself, I am not looking for right, just for least wrong, as one of the premises I state in the presentation is that so much of this space will continue to change for a long time to come.

The deck covers a lot of ground, mainly from the point of view of where we are right now in the evolution of the Internet and culture, and where I think we’re going. I welcome feedback of all kinds, from bursts of agreement to arguments against each and every slide.

If I have moved the conversation along in even the slightest way, I have succeeded. As always, thanks for reading, I really appreciate your time.

Moving day February 14, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in blogging.
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An oh-so-short note to say I’ve just finished moving this blog to a new location. I’d love you to click here; it will add the new RSS feed into your current reader, and you only need to do it once. I decided to move as WordPress wasn’t quite giving me the flexibility I wanted, and the new platform, Tumblr, simply facilitates easier expression. As those of you who’ve been with me for a while will know, this revolution we’re in right now is driven by the increase in expressive capabilities; it’s not the technology that is interesting, but what people do with it.

Thanks for your time, and as always I look forward to continuing the conversation at the new Sw’ei Industries blog: Notes From The Revolution.

All the best,

David

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Lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice February 11, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy.
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So I went on a wee tear the other day, and in response to Bud Caddell’s pondering if the future needed agencies, posted a series of points on what was and was not going to work for companies who sought to play the kind of role in business agencies have played thus far.

As part of that piece I wrote the following:

Agencies with big technical production capabilities need to send the work out to be done more cheaply, take the best and brightest they have and remake that department as a research & development arm. There is no reason Foursquare could not have been created by Zagat’s; but nobody was working on that kind of problem.

I bold the particular line there for the following reason: FourSquare have just posted this on their Tumblog:

And today we announced a partnership with Zagat aimed at rewarding foursquare users for discovering and experiencing Zagat Rated places in their city.  If you’re in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago or Boston you can now “follow” Zagat on foursquare to unlock insider tips about nearby restaurants. And of course, we’ve added a Zagat “Foodie” badge that can be unlocked by dining at some of these Zagat Rated restaurants.

…I’m just saying…

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It’s as simple as that February 9, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in technology.
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One of the big ideas I’m working on right now is a statement: everything gets easier. It brings together a few chains of thought, but primarily Fred Wilson’s notion of life being “end to end digital”, and something else I saw summed up brilliantly on Tumblr from Amanda Mooney – it was a John Maeda quote that went as follows:

If there were a prerequisite for the future successful digital creative, it would be the passion for discovery.
The fact is, the future does not belong to the people building walls around complex things in order to keep them complex, it belongs to those who recognise the sooner everyone understands something, the sooner we innovate and get to the next thing, and so sets about trying to demistify that which is currently complex. It belongs to the passionate and curious, wherever they are.
I was reminded of this reading AVC today and seeing Fred Wilson talk about a company called Twilio. From their own site:
Maybe we want a customer to be able to call in and get information, or maybe we need to coordinate our employees more efficiently. Before Twilio, you would have had to learn some foreign telecom programming languages, or set up an entire stack of PBX software to do this. At which point, you’d say “aw, forget it!” Twilio lets you use your existing web development skills, existing code, existing servers, existing databases and existing karma to solve these problems quickly and reliably. We provide the infrastructure, you provide the business logic…and together we rule the world.
That is just a simple example of the kind of application Twilio has, and maybe a telephony app doesn’t excite you, which is fine. But the point is important – everything gets easier. This also creates a new ecosystem of value that others can build upon; but that’s for another post entirely.
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But I first had to take care of the world I know February 8, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, business strategy.
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Budd Carrell

Bud Caddell, as surrounded by Post-It notes.

So nothing like 2 hours in customs and then more hours sitting on the runway because it’s snowing at your destination, but it gave me time to read through this thought-provoking article from Bud Caddell on the future of the ad agency.

First off, it’s great; it doesn’t claim all the answers but it probes in all the right places. And for whatever reason I was thinking about this a lot over the weekend, and you should totally read Bud’s piece first, because this is my take, and there are a bunch of synergies.

1. We do not need more web shops.

Now, I say that with a lot of friends running their own places, so let me qualify that statement. Most companies only need some simple hosting, a WordPress install, and should spend the majority of their money on design. To saddle people with cumbersome, proprietary content-management systems and code re-written from the ground up when someone else’s plugin will do exactly what you want is morally bankrupt.

On top of that, it can be done more cheaply and to a reasonable level of quality for around US$20 an hour. Sad for some, but it is the modern equivalent of the industrial revolution. And the money is best spent elsewhere.

2. This is “elsewhere”.

Content. Content content content. I recently did an audit for a company and came out of it with the exact thing I expected: they didn’t give their customers anything other than coupons, so subsequently that’s all they talked about.

3. Everything gets easier.

This is the biggest truism, and it exists as uch inside the ad industry as it does outside it: everything, I do not care what it is, will get easier. It will happen in manufacturing as much as it will happen with technology, so companies whose existence relies on technology have but one choice: to make problems that are difficult easy for the people facing them.

Agencies with big technical production capabilities need to send the work out to be done more cheaply, take the best and brightest they have and remake that department as a research & development arm. There is no reason Foursquare could not have been created by Zagat’s; but nobody was working on that kind of problem. Not hard enough anyway. The digital shops need to go back to their engineering roots; they need to sit a bunch of curious minds from across the board together and be inventors; that work is far too important to leave to agencies – and they’re not going to do it anyway.

4. No points for second place.

One of Al Ries22 Immutable Laws of Marketing said it was better to be first in a new category than 2nd in an old one; that is basically positioning but it speaks to a fundamental truth: marketers need to stop inventing problems for products to solve and focus on creating products that get back to the existing ones, which I suppose just echoes what I said in point 1 more generally. And particularly in the CPG space, they need to udnerstand the conversation around the product is always more interesting than the product itself (e.g. baby formula or parenthood? Which is more interesting?).

5. What we used to call digital will lead, and it won’t survive without traditional talent.

Bear with me: it doesn’t make sense to talk about “digital” anymore, it’s too ubiquitous to mean anything. What we’re really looking at is a kind of “curation of connections”, which happen in various places. Great strategists can lead that, but they’re going to need content produced – and occasionally a short, branded spot or a still image. One thing traditional advertising still has over new media is the ability to tell a story in a heartbeat; we’ll always need that sort of eye, but there’s no longer any reason for it to lead, its importance is decreasing by the day.

6. This only applies to the companies that don’t create true value.

Apple, Zappos, and the other handful of brands that create products and services so compelling they don’t need to market the way everyone else does are going to continue to chart their own course. Long term, companies are better off focusing on that than trying to advertise their way into people’s wallets, as that stops working the second the ad stops.

So, in summation: the agency will be replaced by strategists defining touch points and curating content for those points, and that can be a 3rd party or it can be a savvy brand manager. Regardless of who it is, a lot of people currently in agency land are simply not capable of that. It isn’t a sell, it’s leading by being meaningful, and advertising just isn’t good at that.

Web shops who want to remain web shops need to use the cheapest technologies available, and make their own approach more turn-key. If they don’t, they will lose out to overseas suppliers who can do it all cheaper (and likely faster). The whole notion of a “digital” agency needs to be ditched, we’re talking user-experience and connections, regardless of whether that happens virtually or in the real world. The shops who don’t want to do that need to be inventors.

And brands that don’t want to deal with either need to create products so compelling and in-tune with their customer base they largely sell themselves. Advertising was always the price you paid for being boring, and shortly it may not be a price you can pay at all.

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I need some time to ease my mind February 6, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in Uncategorized.
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When I was writing Digital Strangelove, it was born largely out of work being so busy that I didn’t have time to write semi-daily about the things I was thinking, and I’m starting to feel like I’m all clogged up again in my head – a week where one of your days runs over the course of 18 hours will do that to you.

Anyway, enough of my complaining, I’ve wanted to write this for a couple weeks, and I’m excited to now as I feel really strongly about it. Your friend and mine Fred Wilson was interviewed in January and one of the questions asked was “What common mistakes do start-ups make?” He responds with this:

One mistake  see people make is that they hire out the development of the technology…I think that’s a huge mistake. I think the companies need to have the engineers as part of the core founding team…and a company needs to own its engineering and product in a way that you could never own it if you hire somebody else to build it.

Back in March 2008,  wrote the following:

I’m a big believer in a business being free to focus on its core product(s). If it ain’t what you do, then it ain’t what you do! Far too many times I’ve seen companies get distracted by an interesting piece of technology or an idea outside their scope or ability to act on. When that happens, your core product suffers, and your competitors who may have been running a distant second seem to close the gap over night.

At the time I was thinking about the future of a start-up I was working in at the time, Hippo Jobs. Hippo had made a range of decisions ranging from ones I agreed with to ones I didn’t agree with at all, but that is going to be the case in any workplace where you are an employee and not an owner, and I don’t pretend for a moment to fully comprehend the situations that lead to some of those decisions.

What I believed then and believe now however is exactly what Fred said; a company needs to be in control of its lifeblood and make everything else someone else’s problem. When Yahoo! finally outsourced its search to Microsoft, it acknowledged what everyone else had long known – they were not a search company. Mind you, neither is Microsoft, which is why I can’t see them taking that battle to Google in a meaningful way.

Hippo had chosen to work with Areeba, an innovative and talented dev shop in Melbourne, Australia. The issue was never the quality of the work, it was a team that cared about the product in a way that was more than a job. Where Fred says “a company needs to own its engineering and product in a way that you could never own it if you hire somebody else to build it“, listen to it. He also says the key engineer(s) need to be founding members of the company, which again I agree with.

At the end of the day, ideas are a dime a dozen, and you need the people who can execute to have as much skin in the game as you have; anything less is a recipe for disaster.

See video below, quote begins at 4:48.

posted with vodpod
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What more can I say? February 2, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in conversation.
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That is all.

I’m gonna take you on a surfin’ safari January 27, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, digital strategy.
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While back home over Christmas, I caught up with your friend and mine Ben Rennie to discuss Digital Strangelove, media business models and a host of other things. This is the first of three videos, I’ll be sure to link to the others when they’re ready (those reading this in email or RSS readers can click here to see it).

posted with vodpod

Ben is also continuing the good work he started last year with Innovation Forums with a couple events coming up soon. The next is in Melbourne on February 23rd, and there are still early-bird tickets available for a paltry $29!

Ben will be following the Melbourne event with one in Sydney shortly afterwards.

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Give me something I can write about January 25, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in creativity, philosophy.
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From the It’s-been-sitting-open-for-a-week-just-write-about-it Department, this great short video called Making Is Connecting from David Gauntlett, Professor of Media and Communications at Westminster University. In it he argues tools that exist to facilitate expression of one’s self are inherently more powerful than tools that exist only as an expression of someone else (think the rise of social platforms versus the dominance of 20th century media) as this connects us to the world around us.

Gauntlett backs up his ideas not with the latest digital media thinkers such as Charles Leadbeater or (my hero) Clay Shirky, but with quotes from Ivan Illich, a philosopher from the 1970’s, and William Morris, a textile designer from the 1800’s. The examples point to something I’ve been banging on about for quite some time: the rise of social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. are an interesting development, but they are successful due to facilitating expression of self, and conenction with like-minded others.

As I wrote about Posterous last March, tools will continue to rise that make it easier and easier to express yourself, creating content for others to consume in the process. Making is connecting indeed, and as the world gets radically smaller on a daily basis, understanding this becomes ever more crucial.

(found via altnytterfarlig)

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Tell me that you’ll open your eyes January 24, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, creativity.
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From the desk of Iain Tait, who wrote about this video simply saying “Best. Lecture. Ever.” My vote there goes to Sir Ken Robinson’s excellent TED talk on how schools kill creativity, but on the proviso I won’t have the chance to repeat childhood and not go to school, then this is certainly the next best thing.

The speaker in question is Professor Barry Nalebuf, author of a book called Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small. I only assume the ideas in the book are the same he expresses here, it’s earned a spot on my Amazon Wish List and it’s probably worth a spot on yours too.

posted with vodpod

Right on time January 21, 2010

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news, technology.
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Looking at yesterday’s post on Conan O’Brien’s situation within traditional media, this announcement from Boxee comes right on time:

Image representing Boxee as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

…users will be able to make purchases with one click on the remote. The content partners we launch with will offer shows, movies and channels that were previously not available to Boxee users. The content owners will be able to package and price as they wish, including pay-per-view and subscription. Content partners will have the flexibility to decide what they make available, whether it’s premium content, content from their existing library, or extras that will never make it “on air”.

…The Internet represents a great opportunity for the major media companies and for the independent content producers to create more engaging and immersive experiences around their content and for them to be paid for more eyeballs on yet another screen.

Now Boxee itself is a service not too many people know about. And while it is now relatively easy to hook a computer up to a TV, there is a mental barrier Boxee have to overcome, as they’re pioneering an open source approach to this.

The flip side of this is something I got at in Digital Strangelove – we’re moving from a place where the type of media has been defined by the medium (a TV show versus a movie, which happens in a theatre) and is now in a place where we’ll just talk about video, text and sound as the environment in which it is consumed ceases to have anything to do with what type of media it is.

Boxee moves that agenda along in a fairly dramatic fashion; it will be interesting to see how content producers respond.

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