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On the road again October 29, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, intent, marketing, philosophy, work/life.
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Cover of
Cover of On The Road

I have had Jack Kerouac‘s On The Road given to me a gift to keep at least three times. I imagine some combination of traits my friends spotted in me (wannabe-philosopher mixed with restless-and-easily-distracted) focused their attention on this book. When people visit, they remark on the copies that line my shelf:

“You liked it enough to buy it twice?”

“No. I ignored it long enough to be given another.”

This is not about that book though. This is about perception (and a little intent).

Your friend and mine Mark Earls referenced a piece from Lynne Truss in the UK’s Sunday Times in which she states:

…I like to see what other people are reading on the bus or the train; how far they’ve got; whether they’re enjoying it. It seems to me that such information needs to be public for the good of us all and I’m sad to think of reading in public places ultimately becoming so private…

Lynne was lamenting the arrival of E-Readers and the disappearance of actual book and magazine covers from the parks and cafes and public transport systems of the world, along with the loss of a shared look or a fleeting conversation about the work at hand.

Lynne Truss’ worry stems from the removal of social identifiers in public spaces; it seems we don’t just judge a book by its cover, but the reader as well. I smile whenever I see another grown-up reading Harry Potter in public, because I remember being consumed by those books and also embarrassed to have them out in public without an 8 year old in sight. We use these things (and clothes, iPods, cars and holidays) to signal via the perceptions we assume others will have. My intent given my office wardrobe today of boho-cardigan and falling apart at the seams (but limited edition John Varvatos-collaboration) Converse sneakers, is to signal something true about myself; unfortunately that truth is little more than the clothing equivalent of the never opened copies of Kerouac’s masterpiece, or as I wrote in Everyone 2.0, you’re unique.

Just like everyone else.

I have friends (they shall remain nameless because I love them dearly) who have taken great pleasure in displaying tomes they have conquered in the name of enlightenment. These friends drew more pleasure from others seeing they had read (or at least bought) the appropriate books than perhaps they did from the work itself. On The Road is a book a selection of my friends feel I am supposed to have read, and as anyone who knows me will tell you, something someone says I am supposed to do instantly defaults to the thing I am least likely to do. Their intent is to help me appear a culturally astute and well-rounded individual; my intent is the equally pretentious attempt to thumb my nose at convention simply for the sake of it.

Now, my favourite magazine is British GQ as its collection of columnists is a veritable who’s who of the UK’s newspapers. They are regularly funny and insightful and it pains me when the publisher stoops to putting a scantily clad woman on the front cover, partly because the writing is better than that suggests but also because I then feel the need to explain to others, much as the joke about Playboy goes, “I read it for the articles.” Perception reveals, or so we would assume, intent. Perception is also said to be reality, and so given the option of tangling with the looks I imagine women might give me on the subway in the mornings, I opt for Wired and instead leave Heidi Klum in her various states of undress on my coffee table for next Sunday (sorry dear, you know how it is).

Back to the Kindle, on one hand I like where we’re heading as I could potentially just read A.A. Gill‘s column without wondering if someone’s nipple is slipping out on the other side for the rest of the train to see.

On the other hand I’m envisioning a birthday not too long from now, where a gift arrives as a download along with a note “Didn’t see it in your “Read Items” list on Amazon and thought to myself David is supposed to have read books like this!!

The identifiers are perhaps moving out of the physical world in some ways, I doubt however this will have much impact on the intentions we have for everyone else’s lives.

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This is for everyone out in the real world September 3, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, marketing, social media.
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There was always something about the idea of influencers I didn’t quite get, as if someone interested in being one somehow popularised the term, and it became self-evident based on that. It was easier for me to believe the audience tuning in to American Idol were environmentally pre-disposed to engaging in that type of content than it was to accept mass stupidity had somehow infected the entire known world. Mind you, that may still be the case…

Never the less, your friend and mine Katie Chatfield has a stunning piece up about this, citing research suggesting the important thing is not key influencers changing behaviour en masse but rather easily influenced people influencing each other in an interminable cycle. The main deck she references is below, but go visit her and say hi, she is a bit of a genius after all.

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And the world seems to disappear August 18, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, marketing, storytelling, strategy, technology.
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So I was watching Curious Films’ Best Ads on TV vodcast this morning, the latest installment of which has a cracking Johnny Walker ad in it featuring Robert Carlyle. It’s below, enjoy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

posted with vodpod

So as I was watching this I got thinking about the length of this “commercial”. It may get a few runs on TV in its entirety, may get a few more in cinemas, but will most likely find its life, if it is to have one, online. So, that takes us quickly to a place where it isn’t a TV spot, it isn’t anything other than video which will be consumed in various places and fashions.

We’re seeing the destruction of industries built to sell physical things in large quantities. Text, pictures and sound are things that will shortly exist almost exclusively in bits, not atoms. Fred Wilson talks about the destruction of industries that are “end-to-end digital”. We’re seeing in the music industry, in publishing, in television, in marketing, in R&D and we’re going to start seeing it in a bunch of other industries that perhaps aren’t as innately adaptable to being entirely digital, but you can bet that the parts that are will follow swiftly.

Clay Shirky said in a recent TED talk that advances “don’t become socially interesting until they come technologically boring”, and we’re almost there. When everything is delivered via what we used to differentiate as “the Internet”, the medium may infact cease to be the message.

That strikes me as, social or not, very, very interesting.

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It’s all about them words June 25, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, business strategy, marketing.
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A few years back I did a consulting gig on a print directory service everyone is familiar with. The project looked at how digital media was changing the landscape they existed in and they were interested in finding out how they could continue to be profitable while these changes happened. In the end the recommendation was to ensure migration from the offline service to the online one, and involved a strategy for doing so. Having delivered the final report however, the response came back stating their print directory represented X-million dollars of revenue so they expected it to still be a thriving business in years to come, regardless of what we had to say.

No prizes for guessing how that turned out.

I was reminded of this when I got home one day last week to see the below in the lobby of the building I’m living in at the moment.



Now, Yellow Pages wasn’t the company so desperate to display their desire to stick their head into the sand, however they must, at some point, have had someone have a similar conversation with them. Three years ago when I was doing that project I stood in the middle of my agency and asked the entire office who had used a print directory in the last 6 months. Unless I was willing to accept “door stop” as an appropriate use, I had nothing.

It used to be if you weren’t in the Yellow Pages you didn’t have a business. Now it’s a matter of being on Google‘s pages, and you best make sure its the first one. If I was advising a company still advertising in the Yellow Pages, I would tell them to take that spend and invest it in SEO, optimising its site for core competancies and locality.

Understand I don’t think it is a good thing that a once proud business is dying, but few things are more Darwinian than business itself; ignorance should not be rewarded, nor should an inability or unwillingness to change with the times.

And we definitely shouldn’t invest in delaying the inevitable.

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All I wanna do is to thank you June 16, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, business strategy, conversation, marketing.
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Readers who recall my 5 step marketing mantra will remember point 5 stated the most remarkable thing you can have is exceptional customer service. We’re sadly still in a place where a number of organisations don’t get this, due in large part to the customer service departments being seen as a necessary evil, a cost of doing business. As a result, the people staffing these roles are not empowered to simply solve problems and instead are hamstrung by rules designed to elicit the bare minimum of support; enough to keep the customers at the table but not nearly enough to actually make them happy to be there.

The contrast between the great and the not so great was rammed home for me recently thanks to a lousy experience with one of the world’s largest magazine publishers and one of the world’s smallest cafes. Those who know me know my love for coffee is wholly unbridled, bordering on obsessive. They will also know the outright contempt I hold for the Starbucks of the world, suffice to say North America is not David-friendly when it comes to my dark master.

Reach out and touch somebody

Reach out and touch somebody

Thankfully here in Toronto I have found Balzac’s, an independent coffee house which roasts its own beans and makes, quite simply, the best coffee I’ve had here so far. Having fallen in love with the store-bought goods I began ordering online, and when the first batch showed up, I was greeted with a hand-written card, offering up a 15% off code for my next order and a note about their Facebook application.

Let’s review that people:

  • I already love the product
  • They’re making it cheaper for me to get
  • AND they’re offering me another way to interact with their brand.

Contrast this with Conde Nast, who told me, when my issue of Wired failed to appear (while my co-workers waltzed around with their’s) that I needed to wait 2 weeks before they could fulfill a missing order. Having waited patiently, I contacted them at the appropriate time to be told:

We are sorry to inform you that the issue you requested is no longer available.

To be fair, they then told me my subscription would be extended by an issue, but this is not the point. I understand magazines are having a hard time of it lately.

Can I suggest though the ways to innovate in your business model are not to deprive people of the thing they desire in the interests of saving a couple dollars.

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Digital ash in a digital urn May 15, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, digital strategy, marketing, Viral.
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So I wanted to find a site that compiled the best work in digital over the past week. It seems there are a bunch of niche sites doing this well but nobody covering the entireity of the space the way Best Ads On TV bring you…well…you get the idea. A couple categories are obvious: best site, best banner execution – however I’m keen to track down the best applications, be they in Facebook, in the browser, Adobe Air, whatever. I sould take the time to note that a pretty piece of Flash that could be a TV commercial (or, in a lot of cases, IS a TV commercial does not count). Leveraging my previous thoughts ojn the subject, I’m looking for executions that couldn’t have been done in any other medium.

If somebody knows of a site that exists doing exactly what I’m after, please let me know, as there’s lots of other thigns I could do with my time. On the assumption they don’t however…

This week’s best site is…The FWA’s 50 Millionth visitor takeover.

  • Because: It lives by that most important principle of bringing people togetehr and giving them something to do. Instantly leveraging its own community, the execution with Facebook Connect extends the community into the personal profiles of each person who takes part, making it instantly viral. Drawing a baseline at common interests and going from there, it plays to the narcissist in each of us by allowing a profile picture on a highly trafficked website and offers opportunities to connect. Brilliant execution.

This week’s best banner execution is…Apple (struggling to find this to link to, so I’ve included an image and a link to a previous Apple banner which is different but still quite cool).iLife Mac Banner

  • Because: Each time I think they’ve taken the idea of PC vs. Mac to the end of the road, they find a corner to take. The content will be familiar but I like the use of space the best – yes lots of people have done this and pused the space better, but this got shared around with friends due to it being enjoyable to watch, not because it was clever. It’s almost sponsored content in a way, Apple making me smile for 30 seconds a day. Microsoft, what have you done for me lately?

This week’s best app is…Skype.

  • Because: Apps, particularly on Facebook appear faster than anybody can document them. I didn’t manage to get hold of my Mum last week for Mother’s Day, so in making good on that, arranging a trip in July to see U2 in Ireland, and generally being a bit easier to get hold of, Skype running through Facebook has it for me.

So next week I’ll think about this a little more. I wanted to dive into it today as I’m a big believer in digital requiring more of a willingness to figure it out on the fly. If you have things you find during the course of the week please shoot them through. For those, like me, in Canada today, have a great long weekend!

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Treetop Barbie March 5, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, marketing, philosophy, politics, work/life.
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On the subway this morning I was watching the below TED talk by Nalini Nadkarni on her work as an ecologist, studying life in the canopies of rainforests. It’s a great talk which i recommend you check out, my favourite part though was her institution’s appropriation of every girl’s favourite doll, Barbie.

They buy them from thrift stores and other cheap outlets then hand-sew costumes for them and send them out. They’re also available for purchase which makes me wish I had cousins who were young enough to get one for!

A few thoughts:

  • I love the appropriation of a classic symbol, recast with new meaning in this day and age
  • Is this brand-jacking? Maybe, but not in a way that casts the original in a bad light
  • If I were Mattel I would be all over this. Nalini’s group send a booklet out with each Barbie on the work they do, Mattel could release a whole line of eco-warrior Barbie, created entirely from renewable materials in a series of different guises. Sea-Rescue Barbie, Treetop Barbie…Ivory Coast Barbie? (ouch!)

I’m wondering about other campaigns, brands, products, services, whatever. Major symbols like Barbie that can be given new purpose in an eco-aware age. There’s a lot of chatter right now on how green issues will be cast aside as people just try to hang on to their homes, I’m hoping initiatives like this might manage to keep it front of mind for people.

This post is also a special dedicatuion to Alex White, one of my best friends and a tireless eco-warrior himself. He gets married to an extraodinary woman (hi Fern!) tomorrow, a wedding I am sadly not in Australia for. Mate, I love you to absolute pieces and am sorry I can’t be there to share your special day. I cannot wait to hear about it, watch the videos and catch up when I’m back home at the end of the year.

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Marketing quote of the day February 27, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in marketing, technology, web 2.0.

Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. – Chief Seattle, Amerindian. pg. 10 – The Art of Looking Sideways, Alan Fletcher.

There’s always so much written about how social norms can go out the window when the anonymity of the web or even the simple removal of a human face takes over. I believe it’s a temporary state though, and as much as I am loathe to admit it, I think the rise of Facebook has done more to bring about social change over the web than any other service, placing a premium back on the connections we really do have, versus say MySpace, Friendster, or whatever came before which was mass convergency at the expense of  intimacy.

Of course lots of people still choose to use Facebook in that manner, personally I like to keep things a little more closed. But I think we’re just about past the idea that what is appropriate social behaviour somehow differs face to face versus online. What we do to the web – or on it – we do to ourselves, and when we reduce the connections we have down to a series of contact details and earning potential, we get nothing more than that in return.

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Do you see what I see? January 20, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in marketing, philosophy.
Like I said...perspective...

Like I said...perspective...

As I walked through snow to Union Station yesterday, counting the number of beaches I used to live near that I’m not currently spending time on, it occurred to me that marketing is so often just a matter of perspective. We say and do things in order to alter someone else’s perspective. To manipulate, maybe, but there’s a point of view people attempt to get across; the more successfully you alter someone’s perspective, the more compelling your message is going to be.

My friend Michael has a fun twist on this, he calls it CVS2BVS – Current View of the Situation to a Better View of the Situation. CVSBVS (everybody now…), CVS2BVS. Once you move to from the current view of the situation to the better view of the situation, the improved position becomes the current one, and you’re free to figure out what the even better vantage point to be in is.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. Once he has achieved the BVS, he can never go back to the previous CVS. Once perspective is altered, it is permanent.

I was thinking about all of this as I walked through the snow, aware of how warm I actually found it. And I smiled as I realised that less than a month ago I could not conceive of hearing it was -5 degrees, and be glad it had actually warmed up.

It is, after all, simply a matter of perspective.

Social capitalism December 6, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, marketing, work/life.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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I have an obscene habit of opening tab after tab after endless tab until Firefox starts to resemble an attempt to learn about everything there ever was to know. People spend their time playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, I can get you from Miami Art Basel to Dave Eggers talking about after-school-learning projects (watch that by the way, it is amazing) to NASA’s space imagery without currently needing to open any new links. I can get you there, but I can’t tell you how I myself wound up on them in the first place.

I love teh interwebs.

Anyway, one of the tabs open is a piece I’ve been meaning to blog about since it was posted, instead I’m just going to give you the link and tell you to go read it. It is from Tamir over at Frank Thoughts and it is to do with TAXI’s 15 Below Project. When I bang on about experiences facilitated by brands but not about brands, this is what I’m getting at.\

Fantastic stuff.

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