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Everyone wants to be the man at the top (Commented on “Howard Lindzon”) October 26, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in philosophy, storytelling, strategy.
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The conversation taking place around the web about Digital Strangelove is truly blowing my mind. All I wanted to do was move the conversation forward a little, the fact so many people have taken the time to work through it, comment on it, think about it and share it means the absolute world, and it’s great getting to visit a bunch of new blogs and engage with different audiences I would never have had the chance to find out about.

Below is a response I wrote to one post in particular on Howard Lindzon’s blog to an anonymous comment that had said (and I paraphrase) “The ultimate goal is to give people what they NEED”, to which I responded:

“Name” – appreciate your thoughts. And for saying I was smart, I wish my high school teachers could see! ;]

I would suggest the ultimate goal is not to give people anything, except for an easier way to spread their own message. It is entirely unquantifiable, but I would love to know how many people with no prior experience just had a stab at recording some music because of how easy it was to use Garage Band.

At the end of the day, I don’t think you should aim to give your customer something meaningful, you should create an environment where they can give something meaningful to you. To use the Apple/Microsoft example, MS is launching a campaign for Win7 based around having listened to its users, whereas I believe it is arguable Apple’s platform tries to facilitate being able to listen to each other. A subtle but crucial difference.

Now, off to find a cushy job in a Think Tank!

(Written, for the record, on a PC. With a Mac to my left.)

Originally posted as a comment
by David Gillespie
on Howard Lindzon using DISQUS.

The Think Tank comment was due to a wry observation on the part of the poster than I had taken so many slides to say something they thought was blatantly obvious. Maybe they’re right, though other comments had come in stating how concise it was.

Each to their own.

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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.

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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I hope that someone gets my, I hope that someone gets my… June 15, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, conversation, storytelling.
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My Gmail inbox was out of control. I had over 1300 unread emails in it. Part of that is due to poor email handling habits on my end, but it’s also due to a lot of people sending me information I don’t want or need.

My Google Reader is also overflowing, but it’s full of content I have asked for, stuff I want and, very occasionally, need. in catching up on my feeds over lunch just now though, I came across the below video from Gary Vaynerchuk.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

posted with vodpod

I have a lot of friends working in PR, I hope they watch the video. More than that I hope their clients do too.

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This is the great adventure April 13, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, business strategy, conversation, creativity, storytelling.

Every time I play a gig, people ask me if I’m nervous, which I almost always am. And I think that is the way it is supposed to be – if I’m not nervous then nothing is at stake. If nothing is at stake then why am I here? What am I going to learn I don’t already know? What will the audience experience if I’m not pushing myself to some place I haven’t been before; if I know I’m not going to fall, there is simply no elation in flight.

Your friend and mine Sean Howard touches on these points in a recent post, The Scariest Thing I’ve ever Done. In it heleverages an eBook he published called The Passion Economy (rockstars Gavin Heaton and Katie Chatfield contribute as well). It’s a candid assessment of his work, and he’s honest about fis failings. More to the point though, he makes a case for purposefully putting yourself into those awkward and unknown territories. He’s preaching to the choir with me, and, I hope, you as well.

If he’s not, then why are you here?

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I’m a New York City man March 17, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in intent, storytelling.

“I am trying to draw every person in New York.” – Jason Polan.

A few thoughts:

  • I love a big, hairy, audacious goal, and this is exactly that
  • Faber Castell, Caran D’ache, Canson, etc. should be all over this
  • It’s a nice extension of Jason’s own brand as an artist
  • This feels like a visualisation of Hemingway’s “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
  • The trick is going to be in catching the moment rather than the person, the intent rather than the outcome.

Found via Andrew Cafourek’s tumblog. I struggle to think of a better way to pass the time.

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Give me gin & tonic March 13, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, storytelling, work/life.
A Most Unusual Gin...

A Most Unusual Gin...

I’m not a big spirits guy, but I love gin. My favourite, Hendrick’s, is by it’s own admission “Not for everybody.” This little booklet that comes attached to every bottle I adore. It is of course sperfluous to the gin, but extends the brand beyond a drink. You could argue it shouldn’t be about more than the contents of the bottle, but that wouldn’t help explain why Coke’s market cap is valued at only $60 billion in assets, but $120 billion when you take brand into account (thank you The Brand Gap).

Hendrick’s also back it up with a great product site, which moves over into something a bit more experiential with The Unusual Times.

I love this because:

  • I already dig gin, so I’m predisposed and biased
  • It doesn’t take itself seriously, therefore digs into Mr. Ries’ law of candour
  • It makes itself a social object, and larger than the drink
  • Like the Nike’s and Apples of the world, it loves something above its product, in this case the peculiar, and expresses that in the form of a drink the Wall Street Journal named “Best Gin in the world” in 2003
  • The story around the drink makes it tribal and is a clear distinction between those who drink Hendrick’s and those who ask for Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire. That connectedness is crucial in this day and age.

I think it’s about G&T time…happy weekend everybody.

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More than skin deep December 4, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in conversation, marketing, storytelling.
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Dove Onslaught(er)

Image by Capitan Giona via Flickr

So a while back I got up on a high horse (I know I know, say it isn’t so) about story-telling in advertising. I identified the three ways stories get told in advertising, and was making a case for the third way (giving your consumers tools to tell their own stories) as being by far the most powerful. I want to get side-tracked for a second on this and look at two Dove commercials. One made by them, another made by Greenpeace.

The first: Evolution.

Everyone agrees (I think…) it’s a great piece of work and the conversation is continued over at The Campaign For Real Beauty which doesn’t seem to have an Australian presence but is all over Europe and the Americas. It’s a play at talking about something much bigger than the products they produce, which should really go without saying these days. Two years on and it is still a compelling piece of work.

How hollow does it ring though when followed up with this: Onslaught(er)?

Onslaught(er) brought such incredible public pressure to bear that Unilever, Dove’s parent company, had little choice but to work with Greenpeace to help save the very forests they had been destroying to create their product. They began a 6 month program in May of this year to work together to bring the plight of the forests in South East Asia to all companies that were destroying the forests for palm oil.

So here there are two very different stories being told, one the company wants to push about its products and one someone else wants to push about the company. Admittedly the former offered up a platform for consumers to have a discussion about beauty, but when the message is re-framed with the second piece of footage, the whole exercise falls pretty flat for me.

Perhaps it is a cheap or easy shot to take, but it has been repeated this month in the US with a company called Motrin whose light-hearted poke at baby slings backfired out of sight. The first move was a company telling its own story, the next was the community telling one entirely different.

Anyone else have some good examples of this sort of thing?

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Stories ripe for the telling October 28, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in philosophy, storytelling, work/life.
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About 6 months ago a wave of posts flooded the blogosphere with the phrase “context is king”. I was convinced I’d started it, only I couldn’t find the post (turns out I’d written “candour is king”, which is different, but still fairly royal, particularly in social media). Regardless, I was thinking about this last night, particularly in light of the story-telling frame of mind I’m in at the moment.

Jeremy, one of the other Account Directors at IE needed to traipse out into Central Victoria in order to get earrings for his wife from a fantastic jeweler, Lisa Kennedy who lives in a small town called Maldon. It struck 5pm, and with the kind of look I his eye that only those who know Jeremy will recognise, he said “Do you want to go on a road trip tonight?”

Off we set along a highway I hadn’t travelled down in the three years I’ve been living in Melbourne passing town after town that were clearly now the by-products of progress; closed shops could be spotted from the highway, better days clearly visible from a distance of 10 or 15 years.

Anyway, I digress. We got the earrings from Lisa (who is fantastic) and then headed up to a lookout the locals know as the Rock of Ages (I’m promised it has nothing to do with the Def Leppard song, I’m sceptical none the less).

The view from the Rock of Ages in Maldon, Victoria

(It was incredible to be standing there just a couple hours after leaving work, to think most nights are spent a home with a glass of wine and old episodes of The West Wing, which in itself isn’t all that bad, but you get the point.)

Anyway, we stopped off in a pizzeria in Castlemain for dinner on the way back. It was called Capone’s Pizza and had such delicacies on the menu as the Bonnie and Clybe (we had this, I may never feel right about pizza again) and Mugsy’s Meatballs (we didn’t have this, I am OK with that). While Jeremy and I remarked on various things about the place that stood out as being vastly different from our inner-city Melbourne haunts, the thing that struck me most was the front counter which was covered with certificates of hospitality training the staff had undertaken.

Capone's was the kinda joint tryin'a do goodin a no good woild...

5 or 6 of the certificates were from the one family, two or three were from another. Jeremy and I talked about how you would never see that in Melbourne, these kinds of certificates displayed proudly. In addition, to have so much of one family’s story tied up in the place, there was something really nice about that. It got me thinking about the conversations I’m having about story-telling right now, and telling a story your audience wants to hear versus the one you feel like telling. That is rarely what we feel like doing, but there’s a story here about the Cutlers of Maldon I’d like to know.

Maybe remarkable isn’t as far from the every day as we think it is, maybe it’s just not the story we want to tell all the time.

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Using consumers to tell your story for you (or “Hey diddle-diddle to the people in the middle”) October 23, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in social media, storytelling, web 2.0.
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So last week I identified the three ways stories are getting told in advertising. Today I want to talk about the second one: A narrative with the brand at the centre of the story but with the story being generated by consumers, leaving the direction of it loosely defined, usually through a particular campaign moving in a very particular direction. Also known as: User Generated Content.

I said this last week in the office and came under fire for it, but I’m going to wheel it out again because I think it’s true: user-generated content in its current context is a crock.

An absolute crock.

Marketers: you don’t want a UGC campaign. Agencies: stop telling them they want them, they don’t, not if they really understood the trade-offs. And in fact if you really understood them too, you wouldn’t recommend them either.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote the following:

As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

The methods are simple: give people a platform, incentivise their involvement, and then let them get on with it. The problem here is the principles of user-generated content stem from people behaving in their natural state, creating work because they want to and not manufacturing it for a purpose other than self-expression and social currency. Brands see the natural enthusiasm people exhibit in their daily lives and and hope to co-opt it into their own work, which is like U2 showing up at an indie rock gig, deciding they like a song and then wheeling it out at Wembley Arena the following night.

In the above scenario, U2 wins by bringing the indie band on stage with them, playing the song together. U2 gets kudos for being hip and championing the next generation, the new band gets exposed to a new audience, everyone wins. Everyone wins. That is a principle of user-generated content, of social media. Mutual gain and that being a good thing is a principle – method is acquiring content for a campaign; that is neither cutting-edge nor insightful and increasingly out of touch.

I could go on, but instead just read this great synopsis of a terribly poor effort on BMW’s part, which sums it up perfectly. Brands need consumers more than consumers need brands. Without them their stories mean nothing, and without meaningful stories, there’ll be nothing to tell anyone else about anything at all.

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