donderdag 20 november 2008

thoughts on brands

Parts of an exchange about brands. Was very helpfull in clarifying some of my thoughts, so it is being reprinted for those who like this sort of stuff with kind permission of Rob Campbell

Why would a brand want to live forever? especially with the life span of 18 months when it comes to brand managers why doesn't anybody retire brands like they do rockbands (and releasing a single to pay for your ex wife does not count as keeping the beatles alive, they died the day ringo stopped replying to fanmail!).

Killing it prematurly is surely a strategy. Hendrix, Che, JFK, The Wire will live on more powerfully with the great "what if..? question" sparking the imagination then say the brand of Law & Order or Bill Clinton...

I would really like to hear your opinion on heritage in brands, does this burden or enhance? and should you sometimes kill them off? The product life cycly is just another midless act people refer to. Brand euthanasia is surely in order. who needs 2000 jeans brands?

I think it’s an interesting strat however there’s a few points that will probably stop it from ever happening …
1/ No company will kill a brand that is making them tons of cash. Apart from the fact they crave profit, if they are listed, it is a legal duty to do whatever is in the best interests of the company and as much as you could argue it will give the brand ‘emotional longevity’, it’d be a hard sell to shareholders.

2/ There are lots of brands that meant a lot to people that got pulled [because of poor sales for example] and whilst they still live in the minds of the fans, their commercial value [unlike Hendrix/Elvis etc] is minimal.

3/ The fact is that in the main, ‘brands that are manufactured’ just don’t have that much importance in people’s lives. Sure they like them, but they don’t love for them – mainly because their communication is primarily blatantly commercially based as opposed to musicians that often represent a more emotional value, even if in reality they are designed to get money out of your wallets.

As I said, I do think it’s an interesting idea, but killing the goose that laid the golden egg – especially from a corporate standpoint – is sadly, quite unlikely.

like i said, I believe that legal issues (such as obligations to shareholders) are preventing growth of brands.

So I believe that first of lifting the copyright protection on a brand will free up a brand and simultaniously scare them into delivering tangible value. If you look at the stock market crisis it's alot down to intangible fears. A lot of companies are very liquid but lose value.

If it's free market you want, well let the market decide. basically it's Rome. You got two brands (copyright free) and the consumer get's to decide if they live or dy. They can vote (think the brandtags thing of Noah Brier but with thums up or thumds down vote, not asking abbout associations).

And secondly by making brands creative comm licence esque, the public will indirectly decide what happens to a brand. If a brand is good and acts proper, you will most likely see small charities and other projects hop on their name. If it's shite you will see most likely some cynical and satirical stuff on youtube and in other media that will kill it. self regualation, much like wikipedia.

If 'i've learned anything it's that brands only exist in the minds of those who buy/believe in them. So either you deliver uplifting meaning and raise spirits (such as Nike) or you flog a good enough product at cheap prices so it meet needs.

I see a future where there are two type of tangible product brands: autonomous brands that deserve to live and the Unicef brands. by Unicef brands I mean that the major (multi religious and otherwise) charities start adding their label to products. so you get the typhoid south africa pants, the fresh water shirts.

This way not only do we rid the world of bad brands (and the hacks that support them in their comms) but we make sure that either you get someting great or you do something good. Web based brands will be a different story, because of the low cost of scaling.

Might never happen, but that's what they said about communisme in the usa!

Quick question, if we follow your idea to its natural conclusion, what role does marketing then have given it used to be about ‘influence’ whereas you seem to almost be saying it should be totally upto the people’s choice or am I missing something?

It's about filling in the akward silences that occur when conversation is turning from interesting to not [PR is gaining in importance]. it's about becoming the one people can turn to in time of crisis.

So instead of toning down their presence to inlfuence, marketing has to ramp it up, when it matters and with different content!

1) internal company development (structuraly, legaly, productwise, making JFK "we will put a man on the moon in 10 years"goals)

2) relevant culture converstation starter/matchmaking problems with solutions (enabling journalist to do work, filmmakers to talk, taking the real beauty strat to a more abstract level)

3) community outreach (perhaps like a state that takes care of it's citizens [yeah it's going back to industrial age practice of job for life, but now it's about quality for life]; how many brand consumers can't afford their healthcare? why are not all the brands pooling resources to come up with something. loyalty = 2way street)

I believe that brands should put their faith in the hands of consumers. it's like that exercise where you fall backwards and hope somebody catches you. now brands expect to be caught, but don't catch.

Nothing wrong with making money, nothing wrong with making mistakes.

We talk about brands behaving more human or treating consumers more humane. So why not than see how we can make brands as vulnerable as possible so that a) they are seen as one of "us", b) they can change people's minds and actions because they will do like brands/companies.

So perhaps I was a bit black and white about the rome analogy, but I stick by my Uplifting vs Valuable categorization. either you make me feel good, or help me be better/do good while offering me good enough product I don't have to think to much about.

By putting yourselve out there you will see if you are good enough. The goose /currency = people. Pete was right. And like oil, we are abusing it untill there will be no more.

How many people will say with pride: I work at....? That is another the role of marketing. Making sure that the consumers, who happen to work for them, feel proud. kingdom for meaning!

Hope it makes sense

dinsdag 18 november 2008

branding at the speed of law

You've probably read, seen or heard about this. It's the reality of business today. Shit can hit the fan. But what peakes my interest is the fact that it's a losing reality for most brands. Why?

The legal department.
The aim of the game back in the day was to protect image. And when it comes to that game, most major companies are well equiped. cease and desist, halting actions.
Only nobody told them the citizens are playing a different game. A bit like cops and robbers, Batman and the Joker.

It's about being able to talk the fluid fast paced, truth based talk. How may companies are structured in such a way that they know the exact margins of communication, so that they can act without concern and stay in conversation?
So riddle me this agencies:

When it comes to briefing or presenting strat + concepts, how many are concerned with the facilitation of an ongoing dialogue from a legal structure p.o.v.?

For so many intergrated agencies it seems that ad/marketing and p.r. are still seen as silo's and not letters that, read out loud, form the word experience.
Yet if you do not set yourselves up to learn real time, you are just setting yourselve up to fail. And just thinking about the initial setup whereby courting controversy (which in turn can ignite passionate followers and fierce detractors; the bedrock of branding against beige) is in some cases a viable way to go, is not enough. It's always about the next move.
Asking yourselve questions like: what if we don't create followers, but just piss people of ? What is our Time to Reponse ?

As a client I would very much appreciate the fact that my ad team has legal experts on board who played a role in the overal strategy and have paved the way for advertising and pr to flow into one another. Creativity is reading and knowing the fineprint. And this is not a plea for further focus group testing, this is simply asking companies and agencies to level the playingfield for themselves so that they are not hijacked.
For as long as a brand does not truly belong to it's consumers (in every sense of the way) companies have to think about how to become as agile as citizens. Or at least know what game they are in and the rules that apply.

dinsdag 11 november 2008

note to self: the art of storytelling

For sale: baby shoes, never used.

Ernest Hemingway

more reflections on agencies: the client agency relationship

Terry: You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.

Charlie: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

Terry: You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it.


brand lessons from Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any.

The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.

The only way to have a friend is to be one.

The world belongs to the energetic.

A man of genius is privileged only as far as he is genius. His dullness is as insupportable as any other dullness.

Character is higher than intellect... A great soul will be strong to live, as well as to think.

Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.

He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

donderdag 30 oktober 2008

some thoughts on strategy and agencies

The agencies that will survive/thrive in the (near) future will be structured as the BDA’s (big dumb agencies) of today. They will be international conglomerates that do full service work and help the client grow successfully into profitable companies. Jusqu'ici tout va bien.

Ideology and recruitment
The main difference will be the following. The agencies will limit themselves to the clients they will assist. Some get it, some don’t. Those who do will get help. What that it is, we all know. It is not just bottom line, not just the lowest common denominator, not just satisfying the boss above you, not being non involved with the business, because you have no vested interest in the success or failure.

It’s a state of mind, a inner manifesto, based on part naïveté, part reckless ambition, part idealism, part stubborn feeling that there is a better way of doing things (this a personal view of the world, I admit, but go look at the people/things you admire and you will see these elements surface).

The problem with the agency of tomorrow is, the same as the discussion about the role of advertising in general in the future. It’s always from the angle of service. Submissively catering to the needs of the client. That has to change or everything else is just dryfucking.

Agencies need to choose clients, better yet not choose clients. It is neither the execution, nor the work nor the strategy; the fight is in alignment of worldviews and the destruction of institutionalizing effects. We want to have successful families with sound values that can grow and evolve, not one night stands.

For better or for worse we will need to demand from our clients that they state a point view publicly that is ours. The talk need to be about fundamental, not instrumental reasons for doing stuff/going about stuff. Middle or wing is detail work. But we have to demand a show of colour. It’s not about one word, brand energy or any tactical proprietary tool/system. It’s about ideology.

Business strategy will be more replaced by the achievement of audacious non business goals across multiple types of business (since you will have blue and red business in tech, food, logistics, non profit) and regions, religions that need to be achieved via business funds (think providing every kid in Tanzania with an education till the age of 16 instead of 12, or new technologies or what not). Multinational clients cram local territory, yet still function as silos when it comes to solving problems within the territory they operate in.

It’s the role of the agency of the future to pick businesses that fit a certain mould, connect them with local consultants from the agency, who will help the business grow and keep focus on the grander ideological goals. To spot business opportunities with other likeminded business to achieve growth.

Forget media neutral, transmedia, matchmaking is our business. Once again, fundamentals, not instuments. Instead of servicing one client we shift to becoming middlemen that connect those who can do more without us than with us interfering. That means design, movie producers, farmers, whoever can help solve the problem and advance the business towards the non-business goals.

to be continued


maandag 27 oktober 2008

note to self: strategy is...

"Real strategy lies not in figuring out what to do, but in devising ways to ensure that, compared to others, we actually do more of what everybody knows they should do."

"You can't achieve a competitive differentiation through things you do 'reasonably well most of the time.' "

"The necessary outcome of strategic planning is not analytical insight but resolve."

"Strategy is deciding whose business you are going to turn away."

David Maister (via TomPeters)

woensdag 22 oktober 2008

What do we do now? Help Obama during first 100 days in office

The above clip was the inspiration;

Obama is the side chosen;

Facu is the partner in crime;

the work is: WhatDoWeDoNow

It's very beta, so if anybody wants to help or shoot it down, chip in.

zaterdag 18 oktober 2008

maandag 13 oktober 2008

weapon of choice pt 4: stuck for inspiration

Oasis are mad for the Beatles.

Little Steven has love for garage rock.

Nickelback are stuck in the Seatle grunge sound.

When it comes to inspiration I have to admit I am also stuck.

Certain albums, movies, books always seem to offer up deeper insight than the last time I checked them out.

Same goes for the era in advertising called "the creative revolution". The time of Bernbach, Krone, Lois, Koenig, Callaway, Della Femina, Gossage.

Although the current times offer up a great deal of stimuli, food for thought and are truly interesting times, when in comes to all out-aim for another universe- type inspiration the 60's are my era.

Perhaps it's the fact that they were pioneers, troublemakers and the art of advertising was held in higher esteem. Sure it's a sentimental view, and there was shite back then, but still..

But strip all that away and what get's me everytime is the power and abundance of the ideas. Some would say that it was also the era of the mass media, and you could buy your way into popular demand.

Perhaps. But mostly thought it is the sheer audacity and freshness (after all these years) that stands out. There is no need to contexualize the work (like say some of the work that was done prior). There is no need to explain the thinking behind it. it speaks for itself.

So here's to the brave admen and brave clients, to sharp ideas and great execution.

And here's to hoping that the next decade out shines the 1960's. It's about time, don't you think.

vrijdag 10 oktober 2008

Strawberries in January pt 5: from the head of Zeus Jones

In keeping with building on existing relationships:

A very sharp and clear discription of the distinction between telling about usefullness and being usefull.

The Aesthetic Divide by Adrian Ho

donderdag 9 oktober 2008

maandag 6 oktober 2008

show me and I will make up my mind, guide me to understand and I will teach others

"Let's compare technology to works of art. Even masterpieces appear somehow lacking until people appreciate them. That's when they become truly complete. Beyond the works themselves, it's how people interpret or receive them that matters. And it's the same for technology. What matters is deciding how people will want to embrace new technology or features."

Kenya Hara

zondag 21 september 2008

Strawberries in January pt 4 : the magic starts after the trick

A very important rule in magic (the real kind, not the one that creates 700 billion, ha!) states, that the real magic starts after the trick is done.

When a trick is performed correctly, the audience will go home and add stuff to the trick that was not there, but does enhance the trick.

Once home they face their audience and at that moment their own biases kick in. The trick grows, from a simple sleight of hand, to three lions and a midget bellydancer. The real magic starts after the trick.

The magic is in the story. It is the delight that the teller has in building on the groundworks laid by the magician, it's the delight the listener has in hearing the story, half shaking his head, knowing the story is probably bollocks, but kicking himself anyways for not going. It's the simple act of having something interesting to tell somebody else. That's the real deal the audience paid for. Not the trick.

So should we, as marketeers keep this in mind. The real story starts after the trick is done. Whether this means handling the client by giving him what he wants, but not how he wanted it, or by making sure that the products we sell are more then just one layer.

So much stuff is about the story we sell. But in actual fact it's the story they tell. So when done correctly, their work will do the business for you. And often in these jaded times, it's not about the, shouty, over the top, disruptive, big thing.

How are you gonna build on that? It's so distant and leaves nothing to the imagination. It's gone, but you don't buy it. The reaction is: ok, how did he do that? you go all CSI and start deconstructing it. The trick did not pull you in, it just triggered an reaction to disprove it.

It's about the up close and personal small gestures. They stop us in our habit driven lives and catch our imagination and give us permission to build upon them and make life interesting. Bold trumps big these days. In these days of obiquitousness and larger than life events that our minds can't comprehend, you gotta feel it to believe it.

And like anything in else in our lives, nothing feels stronger than the stuff that happens close to home.

dinsdag 16 september 2008

the view from a far is sometimes sharper

Derren Brown is a mentalist. His book about the trade is quite a spell binding (boom tish!) read.

Among the many gems, he discusses the fact that it is easier for him to play his tricks on those who watch him the closest. He flipped the old saying "for every action there is an equal reaction" by stating that for every bit of concentration in one part of the brain and on one part of his act, there is a loss of concentration in another part of the brain and on another part of his act.

This simple insight allows him to play with people. With great ease.

However, the people he as a magician fears most are the once who don't give him their full attention, those who glimpse out of the corner of their eyes to see what it is he is doing. No pressure is there on them to follow. They are not paying attention to a single part, but just glance to see the entire act. And then spot the cheat quite easy.

Sometimes we as admen to can get so deep into research/work or as a brand in our products, that we just see parts and are being played without even knowing it.

So remember to cultivate blank slates. Be it in your agency, or those that don't fit into the target group you do focusgroups with.

Those with no pressure to come up with anything, that have no stake in your brand. Have them glance your work, brand or thinking. Forget territorial pissing and be suprised to learn a lot.
P.S. over on his blog Northern makes an very good case for blank slates in your own life. Go and read.

maandag 15 september 2008

the power of words

Watching a regional football derby yesterday it struck me: these players were more ferocious, more physical, more inclined to play rough, to do whatever it took to win that derby not because of what the derby meant to both teams. It was because of what the word derby means. period.

It is this implicitness, the context of the word that these players understood. The reff understood, the crowd understood. Derby = hard play, full of fouls, at breakneck pace. More was allowed, because of the frame it was presented in.

Briefing is one of those words that lately has frustrated me. If say the agency we work with gives feedback about the briefing they received it somehow always revolves around questions of format, channel choice, pay off. It seems that the auto pilot kicks in whenever they hear the word briefing, and it takes them back to when they learned about it in school. Briefing = ......

Words. Context. We often glance over it, but once you get down to the nitty gritty of it, it is powerfull. Especially when the implicit meaning is understood but not articulated. When the illusion of civility is upheld or explicitly removed.

They can grant us room to grow or close our way of thinking down.

Exploring vs Drilling for oil

Immigrant vs illigal Alien

Words dictacte so much of the space we can, allow ourselves to take, and can help us articulate the reasons behind actions not explicitly mentioned, that a dictionary is this marketeers new friend. Perhaps obvious to some, but important enough to me to repeat.

zaterdag 13 september 2008

House MD or Doctor Melfi

McCain and Obama. Bare with me. From an archetypical point of view.

the US/Western voter is a Hyperchondriac (compared to 90% of the people of the world, in terms of problems)

Obama is the Therapist.

McCain is the Surgeon.

O is centered around the mind and emotions. 

He talks and he listens. He is a chance for all the people to wallow in their own sorrow and to feel bad together. dream of better together. He is sympathetic. He wants to get to the root of it all and change us, it. He wants us to reach our full potential. But what he does not mention to much, but what people instinctively do know is that profound change is a long and hard road to travel. It takes guts to look at oneself and say, I do not measure up, I need to change. He knows that the problems patients talk about are not the root, that the solutions that they ask for are patchwork at best. He must educate and change.

But in reality there is no clear game plan from his side, it's a bit ambigious. We know it's cureable, but there is now easy one fit's all solution. it's a combo of medicine and therapy. It takes time. 

And like the great Soprano's have shown us, It's not always up to the physician, but the patient, whether one get's better.

Most (and please do not see this as a lightharted attempt to make fun of menatal illness,) people who see someone about their problems,  just wanna have an excuse " I am depressed, give me medication" or hear " It's not your fault, your childhood was bad" and then walk out with a solution.

Positive Change does not come easy. Negative Change does. Negative stuff impacts us way more than the good. Think sickness, death, pain etc. Negative is profound yet instant. Positive is fleeting yet longterm.

Enter the Surgeon. he talks about the body.

M says: mam/sir, you are ill. Boom. Negative. But the good news is, I am a Surgeon and I know what is wrong and how to fix it. Let's cut it out. He validates and than goes into default mode, whatever the problem. You don't know, because at that time the patient is asleep.

The fix is quick, but the recovery takes time. See how it's framed nice. Sure, you do not mind the long recovery, if the fix is immediate. 

You like this. it's straight talk. No flip flop. this it what you wanna hear. Perhaps not what you need, perhaps so.

And so what do you as a hypochondriac do? U want validation of your problem!

The validation comes in the form of the solution u get. A scar to prove it was real after all, or a mirror held up that you that confronts you with the fact that it's all in your mind and it wll take time to deal with that? Both hurt, one on the outside and not for long, the other on the inside and long.

Real change or illusion of change. 

If you ask the people at QVC, they'd laugh at the fact that you even have to ask.

vrijdag 12 september 2008

right to healthy food

I know this is a bit of a western train of thought, but amma go with it anyways.

Why does the constitution in most western world countries not have a garantuee in it with regards to healthy food? with epidemic proportions, it seems that the basic right to food (as part of the right to shelter, water, freedom of speech, etc) needs some re-evaluating.

Food in itself has become something of an abstract thought. That what most of us consume today, would not be recognized just a couple of generations ago.

This in itself is not evil. But the elements of food have not changed as dramatically as the form in which it is being presented.

So should there be a garantuee in the constitution?

Well for one it would kickstart checks and balances principles. If it's a right, it will have advocates and governamental protection.

Secondly it would also serve as a prerequisite whenever the west starts to export democracy again. Whick they/we will always keep doing. So the kids in the EU to be countries than would have some inbuild protection, when the socities there get all the aillments of luxury we now face in the West.

On the other hand: how to define and enforce it? food is culture and culture does not always paint in broad strokes.

I know for a fact that my father used to be laughed at by his Dutch pittbosses when he used to eat garlic at lunch. It was considered a weed and not very good for you. Times do change, as now the Dutch eat it almost as much. 

So if we are to garantuee the right to healthy food, perhaps we should look at it from a reverse angle, the obligation to produce food or feeding elements, that in the tradition of medicine: Do no harm. Food that has an Darwin-esque quality to it. Food that has been around for more than two generations. If you have a food that has been around for more than 2 generations, you could argue that the negative effects of the food are outweighed by the postive ones, thus adding to the survival of the species, with adjustments possible for cultural difference.

So in short order: we get all the old folks and put in front of them dishes. if they don't know them they are gone. of course this would hurt the world economy, but that's an added bonus ;)

crackpot thinking or something to it?

donderdag 11 september 2008

world community grid

via mr Maschmeyer

great example of building on existing relationships

woensdag 10 september 2008

what if...rapid response via existing means

this idea got me thinking.

There are printshops, shops for t-shirts and the shops like Kinko's. These shops have an infrastructure in place to produce. 

What if you created a UN server? this server would kickstart when great disasters happen. 

From this server you, as a shop, could download prints. On this server as a designer, artist, you could upload stuff to be printed. all for charity. What you do is three things: 

1) make use of existing worldwide distribution to facilitate a charity/money scheme.

2) you could kickstart an extra money revenue, by having a online/televised fashion show, with limited editions. Like you could have a Paris limited edition done by some designer, and have an London Hirst limited edition.

3) make use of existing desire to have t shirt with great motifs on them, and or the need to have something haning from the wall.

a tentative first step in a new thought direction for me. So any and all feedback is welcome

maandag 8 september 2008

note to self: sender is nothing without receiver

If you are a planner, remember the consumer, if you are a creative remember the consumer, if you are a client remember the consumer. Sure it helps if you can throw it 50 yards, or do a behind the back no look bounce pass between the legs. But...

If it ain't caught, you don't score

digital planning: a case for running after we learn how to walk

Over on sunshine's blog there is interesting debate going on. Should digital planning be separate and be the domain of digital planners or should it be a tool in the box of planners? Period.

After having some lunch, I have come to the following conclusion. Yes and No.

It's time we (?) learned a lesson from the restaurant industry. Chefs are in many ways a great inspiration for me as they are the ultimate advertising men. They have to do the planning and the creative execution all in one. Plus making sure that they do it on a budget , like good Account Handlers(well most have to), and advancing the craft further. All the while they never lose sight of the strategic anker of their proffession: serving up great food that customers want to eat.

That's the trick. Serving up food that people wanna eat. Some do it via the classical French Cuisine, some do fusion cooking.

Another small trick is that the majority of the Chefs with 1 or more Michelin star have been trained in the classic French cuisine, the basis of modern cooking, at some point or another in their career. Some have chosen to move on to do different styles and explore different cuisines, some have choses to perfect it. But the root understanding and appreciation of the craft is there.

So why not have digital agencies. there could well be a market for it. That is not the real question.

One could argue that Nike did the right thing by not having Wieden do all the Nike+ stuff. Their strength is with emotional stuff in print and telly (bit of a generalisation, but for arguments sake, let's play along). You don't go to a restaurant to eat tapas with your coq au vine? why should you demand McDonald style service from your agency but that's a client problem and a post for another time.

The question is: Do planners understand the root of their craft, the consumer and what drives him? If they do, well than there is no reason why they should not serve up their food in a digital form. If their is not, well than it's time to re-evaluate the relevancy. For if you can not meet the never changing demand for consumer insight (but taken to a new medium) you should go back to school.

P.S. what if there was a Cordon Blue with a "Classis Cycle" for planning? I'd sign up. Just like mr King's book should be read by all.

vrijdag 5 september 2008

Strawberries in January pt 3: the way forward: enhancing relationships, not creating totaly new ones

I realized there was no need to create new forms; all I had to do was design the relationship between a human, an object, and what is around the two. That realization gave me a big relief.

For example, if a client asked me “Please design a chair” while sitting in a good chair, I might go so far as to say, “Why? You’re already sitting in a nice one!” That’s almost it. People think that design is about making new things, creating new stimulations. But what about the good relationships that already exist? Why abandon all that and make things all over again? If there is already a relationship with a chair that is 95 percent good, then all that has to be done is to adjust the remaining 5 percent to suit the current needs. The client might persist and say “No, no, I want you to design it, Mr. Fukasawa.” But what I’m trying to say is that the important thing is how much design you can do with the remaining 5 percent of what has been 95 percent completed, how you can make the best out of the design that has already been developed and improved, and make your design along with what’s already there, instead of just throwing everything out and starting from scratch. Of course, to design that 5 percent is not as easy as it sounds because you have to further improve what’s already a great design.

Naoto Fukasawa

vrijdag 22 augustus 2008

friday open vault: deutsch telekom + Oasis

call it cheezy, call it easy, but I admit this clip moves me

Can't wait for the album to drop...

have good one..

donderdag 21 augustus 2008

what if...we changed the budget

So here is one from real life actually that got shot down.

One of my targets, in my official capacity, for next year is to help Sales increase revenue (somehow it seems that's always a target). So to achieve that here is what I proposed.

Cut the target and budget meetings down from once a month to once every three months.

See most of our sales managers know at the beginning of a month whether they will achieve their targets. So when they know it's gonna be negative, they go on defense. cutting costs to reach margin targets, squeeze old clients for more and go on sales driven binges by offering everything at lower prices. This then only wrecks havoc on the revenue side, because if you have a bad month you go to the same clients a s always and dump the price even more. It's a cycle.

But what if you knew you had two months to make up you current negative? This would allow you to use a month, that is "lost" anyways to go on offence and take chances with new business. It would free up sales manager to be more proactive and the trickle down would be positive instead of fearfull.

Yes this is all just a theory, but never put to practice it remains that.

Back to the drawingboard.

what if: whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me

A comment I made about breaking the competition sparked the above quote from Matthew 25:40 in my head, given by Senator Obama at mr Warren's debate last week. That in turn lead me to think back to a comment made on the blog I commented on.

"Droga5 had the chance to lift the norm of Aussie adland" was in essence the comment.

What if, the responsability was put in the hands of the client, instead of the agency? Speaking as a client, I know that customers don't care.

They don't care that I have a 10.000 papers bigger circulation or that the competition has more display points. They base their decisions on emotional associations we trigger in them and the amount of interestingness we can offer in a fresh and original way. The only thing that they do care and share is their loathing of those who sell advertising space. So it's a question of getting them to a point of " I hate all of you as a category, but I like you personally..let's do business".

Because customers are tainted by experiences with others, you pay a price.

So why not as a client do the following:

Write a brief to your agency to do work for your competitors (off course presuming you got a good agency). It's like opposition research in politics, but in reverse. You do not want to be better than your competitors, you want them to be better for the sake of all.

You want to lift them to new hights and the category as well. Knowing off course that the better the competition get's the better you've got to be.

I am aware of category strategies that have been applied in the past, think Juan Valdes, but that was out of co-operation between competitors.

But has there been a client who actively demanded that he be surpassed by his competition, and even helped the process along? I hope so..

vrijdag 15 augustus 2008

what if...some thoughts on the music industry

So there is a lot of music talent out there. Youtube has produced some stars (?). Everybody is a virtual platform that can act like a label and produce and distribute music, jadajadajada..

But on the other side we have the record label. They ain't going nowhere soon.

And the guys hurting the most are the A&R reps. The artist and repetoire peeps.

So here is the thing.

If you get famous on youtube or whatever, you can get signed by a label. But this way of doing business decreases the value of the A&R. He did not find the talent, millions of viewers kinda did.

Now...what if you had platform that was a a step ahead of the current distribution king, Youtube?

Say..if you have platform where you can tell the musicians/performers/actors that on the other side of the mirror you have the world A&R reps/casting agents sitting and sifting throught the acts, would this be interesting to a budding musician?

You make the money of the A&R reps by providing him with the acces to musicians sorted by genre and you give him the opportunity sign someone right before they mega explode. All at a monthly flat fee. So no ad revenues, just a check every month and a back end from 360 degrees artist income. That means shows, tours, sponsored deals, albums, dvd's etc..

On the other hand you get the content, because you have an audience that the musicians/content providers (still, no matter what everybody says,) want to connect with.

I like Youtube. But for the pro am who wants to get a something going, Youtube lacks the ability to connect me with people who want to pay me so that I can be a full time musician.

Labels do pay you, but don't want to sign you via a bidding war after 30.000.000 people have seen you. You have already lost money by free exposure.

Would this kinda solve those problems?? Would this be a proposition the A&R's of the world would pay for?

donderdag 14 augustus 2008

what could be champion of the world

Just a quick post on an even quicker idea.

What with all the user generated content, 2.0, participation of the peoples going on in the world I have an idea:

What if we create the WCEF: World Championship of Everything (u like) Federation.

U got an activity, hybrid of old stuff or something u do with friends: sign up to the website, pick a date for regional preliminaries etc and (most importantly) declare yourself world champeen and allow people to challenge you.

Who does not want to be able to say he is world champion at something, anything??

the Role of the WCEF is the following:

  1. to give you tools to plan your own world championship;
  2. to look for sponsors (local to international) to help you out with any and all costs;
  3. help you quickly determine whether the current format is ok, or needs some adjustment to make it spread;
  4. fighting indifference and cynisme by promoting the cause of doing something/anything to world champion standard, instead of doing nothing;
  5. buying every world champion a cold beer;
  6. to make sure that the broadcasting rights are fairly distributed amongst all the championships;
  7. to facilitate the breakaway of succesfull championships on their own (as with everything; money changes stuff, so why not make the split amicable)

just an idea (or a widget; or tv show; or nothing)

What...did I hear anybody say Innocent ;)

n to the h presents: lazy person's guide to briefing volume I

Basically all briefs can be boiled down into achieving two goals:

business goal and comms goal.

On the business goal side it's about one of three ( or a mix of the three):

  1. get new customers
  2. retain current customers
  3. get more out of current customers

On the comms goal side it's about one of two:

  1. create a "I knew there was a reason I liked his product/company/etc" reaction
  2. create a "I never thought of it that way, that's interesting"reaction

Of course multiple business goals are mixed with the two comms goals. Like getting more out of current customers could need a "I never tought of it like that"reaction, etc..

The supporting evidence to help your agency along is:

  1. new feature
  2. new product
  3. old product
  4. old feature
  5. mental position in relation to current culture

So there you have it.. the lazy person's guide to briefing.

dinsdag 12 augustus 2008

what if...loaded words + ambiguity = interesting t.v.?

A little concept (kinda candid camera meets talk show meets gonzo porn) I have been playing with and can't quite make work yet..

Here it is:

You get a host and you make him put on a t-shirt. On it he has a word. Just one word. Say, Halliburton or Tibet or Abortion. that's it. And he walks the city. Waiting for someone to approach him and ask what he means by wearing the shirt. Better yet u get some one coming up and taking a stand pro or against the word.

The host than takes the opposite view and tries to start a semi spontanious debate with passers by.

What I like:
the thought of ambiguity. A word in itself is just that. a word. But the implicit connatations attached to it are your's. So by not being overtly pro or against we can play with the implicit connatations.

the fact that it's legal and democratic with a twitst. It's legal to wear a shirt with the word abortion on it right dead center in Vatican City. Would have to check the facts, but a shirt with the just the word Jihad is not illegal to wear in Down town New York or at Capitol Hill.

the p to p effect. I kinda see it as a possible thing for everybody to contribute to. Whatever you feel you wanna debate, do it by putting just one word on a shirt, check if it's legal and start a debate, film it and send it in.

What I don't like:

The businessmodel. Can't see how I am to make money of it. It's basically a creative comms format.

That's if anybody wan't to shoot some holes in it, please do..

woensdag 6 augustus 2008

the festival to end all festivals

Today the Guca Sabor, aka the best fucking festival in the world, begins.

For those with any knowlegde of Eastern Europen music, know this is the highlight of the year...

For those who don' t know, now you know..

I'll take that Pepsi test with any festival, so bring it on if you think you can hang

maandag 4 augustus 2008

maandag 28 juli 2008

not to self: sometimes a blue ocean is just water

"There is a gap in the market, but is there a market in the gap?"

vrijdag 25 juli 2008

six simple rules for changing you life (always wanted to write tabloid headlines)

take a look at the clip. It's from a documentary called Air guitar Nation. It follows the ups and downs of random people chasing the title of world champion air guitar. The doco in itself is one of the funniest, hartwarming pieces of movie I've seen in a long time.

But it also reveals a simple framework forward in a world where parity in all aspects of our lives triggers a pavlov-esque reaction of buying ourselves out of blandness.

perhaps a bit simplistic, but it comes down to a couple of things:

  1. the act is the reward
  2. the act can not be bought or have a physical manifestation of it's reward
  3. finding others to enjoy it with you ( we do stuff so others can see, let's be honest about that)
  4. being a member comes at a price (monetary + participatory)
  5. doing something that requires you to have a point of view (satisfiying our inate desire to be different among likeminded )
  6. the act has real and symbolic meaning to you and the group (think dieting, walking for elders, digital bingo etc..)

This it not new, but it seems like an effective business model on a small scale. Air guitar is making money (be it to mostly to cover cost like venue and travel). And local seems the future, from enviromental points of view, so why focus on physical scaling of businesses (scaling digital beats its hands down)?

So go out do something that makes you smile and better for it, do it together and enjoy..

Just some thoughts

have a nice weekend

donderdag 24 juli 2008

weapon of choice pt 3: shades of grey

this is Killer Mike and this is the cover of his street album: I plegde allegiance to the grind vol I.

this is Young Jeezy's new single ft Mr West.

Good music, music I like to listen to. but that's not the point.

It's those black American flags.

It's how they are able to capture feelings (that I myself as an second generation immigrant had/have) of growing ambiguity in life, that to often get's confused with apathy. On the one hand they (getto peeps in jeezy's clip) are America's second class citizens, but on the other it's home nonetheless. It's a place people die for, but don't love living.

The black flags shout out: It's not that I don't love you , it's just that I don't care. Make me care again!

It's the Yoshimura Kanichiro principle if you will. By individualizing ourselves from clans, tribes, society we have become ronins, serving those who meet our needs. Yet this way of living is also a constant reminder that at the end of the day, though we might live for ourselves, for money or for things, it's in our sacrifice for others (those we might not like even) that we find our purpose.

I'll leave the obvious brand lesson unwritten..

p.s. on the subject of ambiguity, nation pride is an interview with basketball star Carmelo Anthony that touches on some of those issues.

one for the books

filed this one under..."hé I thought of that also a while back, but different. "

still a nice idea: blank2clothe

zaterdag 21 juni 2008

Lost in translation

The web is discriminating. The victim is: ME! In all seriousness, I have noticed the last couple of weeks that somehow I do not translate well on to the www. Whether it is via this blog, comments elsewhere or skype talks, important elements of the person I am are getting lost when I digitze myself.

2.0 is funny that way. In many ways it strips people down to the core of their being; their inner personality. And that's where I run into trouble. Not that I don't have one ( I actually think quite highly of myself, hah), but it's just words (in my case) that are used to convey who I am and what I believe. The physicality of human interaction is left out.

I feel I am being robbed of instinct. The web stripped me of the ambiguity I thrive on in real life. A certain look you give, a pause you take while speaking, how you walk in to a room, the fact that I am 6"7 or left handed. Gone.

Recently I played some poker online. And I went down in flames. It was clinical, without context and safe. Yet when seated at a table in a real life cash game, I hold my own, being able to fully explore the one element 2.0 is advocating, but I am missing; the human element. Does this expose me lacking fundamental math skills required for this game or exposes me to be a good soft skill player? How do you make such a judgement about a person? Do we start keeping tabs about online and off line feelings towards one another?

Would a nice template, some more pics, tweets, tags, clouds and streams enhance me on the web? Perhaps.. and yes the offline versions of tags and pics etc, are clothing and haircuts, make up etc, so If I do not translate well I should use the tools at hand better (get a make over of sorts), but there is still the loss of that ambiguity of flesh.

So what's my point: Will the web, like a great poetry translation, ever capture the nunaces of the meaning of people and convey them to full effect, or will it stay what it is now: a part of the picture that is editable to make you more or less than you really are. And if it stays this ways, but keeps gaining importance, where do I, we go from here?

woensdag 18 juni 2008

coke needs to be pushed

So the Carter III is out. and it's a hit. First day sales are predicted to be well over 400.000 copies. First week over a milli.

From a businessmodel and from a brand perspective there a couple of interesting observations to be made. Observations that hark back to some old school marketing lessons and some seem to encompas some 2.0 tricks.

In classic disruption fashion Lil 'Wayne's path to releasing his album has offered (often) lower quality in some ways (depth and comprihensiveness), but offered atractive trade offs as lower cost or free of charge, fresher output and anytime access.

1) Segmentation is crucial/Stand for something!

Wayne claimed "the best rapper alive" tag and stuck with it. He was ridiculed, laughed at by industry types and old hip hop heads. But that was never his core audience. Best rapper alive is not so much a slogan as it is a call to action for those who feel him and feel the same to join him in staking their claim (to call him the Obama of rap would be overstating it, but is yes we can so much different except for the "we" form).

His audience are the "80's + 90's babies", much like himself. Kids who heard of Biggie or Nas, but actually don't have a connection with those guys, much like you daddy's fav player being Best and you thinking Ronaldinho is the bees knees. Kids who got mountains to move. Kids who the record execs kinda ignored because of some common believe that they don't buy albums, they just go online...

2) However whenever where ever
So now that he knows who he is catering to, he needs to push his product in a way that appeals to his peoples: short, free and without delays. So he was out there: mixtapes, leaks, guest appearences. In 2007 he dropped 77 songs without releasing a official track. that's a track a week. Bit of a strategy like the toyota company. While other artists wait years to drop something, waiting for the perfect song, he just drops. Good plan right now, beating a better plan tomorrow type thinking.

3) primer inter parus + live your audiences lives
Yes he has the money, the fame the women..but he shares. Not the money or the fame or the women, but his experiences. He talks about going out and blowing money, about being dumped. It's not all glamour, nor is it the hard knock life that other rappers talk about. It's basically teen angst wrapped in syrup stories. Just like the kids who buy into him want it. 

The sense of talking to your audience is gone. Wayne is not an authority figure. It's more about being amongst the herd and making moves that they understand and respond to.

4) it's not the content, nor the competition, stupid!

He has flow, but little or no conceptual thinking in his non official material. But that's ok. With a song a week average he does not need to be deep, he just need to be out there. Going on mixtapes assures that he has the hottest beats at hand, making it easier to ride the wave of what's hot and what's not. piggybacking may not be original, but it is helpfull. 

What Wayne, and rap in general teach us, is that coopetiton is where it's at. Shared resources, like hot beats, producers and even verses written by other rappers can be used by different competitors. It's not even about them, it's as Wayne says about " doing you" and giving the crowd what they want.  

The time of keeping stuff in the vault is gone. Why try to create the hottest track all the time by yourselve, when the ecosystem that you are part of provides you with all you need to re-use and re-sell. All it asks is that you share as well. 

The best rapper alive (Lill Wayne) and the God MC (Jay-Z) share the same stage, beats, last name ;) and it's all good. The crowd want the best and are willing to pay for it. So they give it to them. With great profit.

5) Everybody likes an event (especially if their parents don't care for it) and once in, you stay the course

So you hear stories about Ali vs Frazier, about the Golden age of rap ( when wutang, nas, big, jay-z, dr dre, snoop and tupac dropped albums between 1992-1996) and what do u have? fuck all. So if the "best rapper alive" announces he is to drop his masterpiece, and then builds up by delaying a couple of times, buzz starts to create. Add to that the fact that he was not liked alot by the establishment and u got the makings of a perfect storm. 

From an strategy point of view Wanye was also creating commitment amongst his fans. Every time he delayed, people cared (either positive or negative), blogged and talked about it and in the end were more eager to get the album. 

6) The game is to be sold, not to be told

Reciprocation is about how, if you do something for somebody, they will feel obliged to do something for you, or they will at least feel better about doing something for you. And Wayne made sure that his fans knew he had given them enough and that is was time to return the favour. We are in the business of selling, lest we forget.

7) Scarcity AND ubiquity.

Lil' Wayne is talked about, written about. His drugs, women and money. Yet he remains elusive. Yes he does interview, but really tells nothing. He keeps it interesting. All the while being quite ubiquitous with his music. Like stated before, 77 songs and no official album did not saturate, but caused major interest. What would he do next? So by giving a lot (online), but also holding back (offline) he pushes and pulls people in. Know your channels and how to use them. Know how to start a converstation and how to provide tools to keep the conversation going.

8) Breathing space

Lil' Wayne has managed to created different brand molecules (idea John Grant) for himself. He is not a straight gangsterrapper, although he can lay claim to that aspect of life with some cred. He is not a straight pop artist, yet can do that quite well. 

He freestyles on various subjects and thus has created many layers and operating space. He has the room to stay current without being seen as bending to popular demand. He has fluidity to his persona/brand.

So what do we learn:

Create addicts, ha! 

Give your shit away (even if it's not top as long as it meets demand), isolate them by making sure they feel besieged by outsiders who don't understand, hype stuff up so that it feels monumental, leave room for yourself to stay current (either by sharing resources or by stretching who you are), cash in + don't forget to ask for the sale. repeat cycle.

Off to make some money...

dinsdag 10 juni 2008

note to self: what is it in itself?

if the bloke in the picture has found a way to make a light bulb glow without electricity, why the fuck is he trying to contain the light in his hands? There's not much fucking use having a great idea if you dont let anyone see it.(
Over at Rob's blog there was a post about some workshop about ideas + creativity. The comments went in to detail talking about the above poster offering the workshop.

The comment above shows us (me) the importance of asking a basic question when reviewing strategy/ creative output: Does it hold up without additional support? For if your output only works with you standing there and explaining the point that people should get from the output, well things get messy and sloppy and no end will be met. Basic stuff, but worth remembering.

zondag 8 juni 2008

note to self: lessons from hiphop

One of those obvious things, but good to remind myself of (and I kinda wanted to share two great songs, so I forced a planning-esque lesson in it..haha).

It's ok to borrow. As long as it's a stepping stone for something new and fresh. So go into other fields of business/life and sample and remix, but don't become just a coverband.

Case in point.

Evidence A

Evidence B

vrijdag 6 juni 2008

competition in a 2.0 world

"The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot." Mark Twain

fiending for it; what Kobe can teach business

So it's the finals of the NBA. Boston vs LA. Game 1 was for Boston.

But that's ok, it is after all a best of seven.
So why this post: well because my fav sports writer Scoop Jackson analysed Kobe Bryant and in the process tells us what it takes to be succesfull.

I will leave you with the opening paragraph, the rest you can read here

There's a term used in the community called "thirsty."
It means what you think it means, but it's now being used in different contexts. Only to make a point of the extremes to which some people will go to get what they want. More severely, what they need. Kobe Bryant, for lack of more sophisticated terminology, is thirsty.
His thirst for another NBA title is that of an amplitude we may not have ever seen before. Not in sports, business, crime, corruption or politics. Keeping it community: He's thirsty like a fiend

Have a nice weekend

dinsdag 3 juni 2008

how to deconstruct strategies and analyze the competition

great video + song and a lesson to be learned (kinda)

maandag 5 mei 2008

stick and stones may break my bones, but don't forget about words

this post may seem abit all over the place, but since I will be out of orbit for a while I just wanted to put some stuff out there that has been festering in my mind of late.

I have noticed a sublte change in my vocabulary when talking to clients or when talking to creatives. To better make sense of where clients should go or what way creatives should view the problem the following changes have been slipping into my vocab and briefing.

1)Coherence vs Consistency

This one has been here some time now, but it's relevance still is great. It is not about the right CMYK codes or the right dimensions of the logo. it's about stuff making sense when it's out there. it shoud fit together like a music album, more then a math formula. the sum of the parts shoud be you (the brand, company, etc) but the individual parts should also be enjoyable on there own and still ouze some of your flavour. which brings me to the second vocab change...

2)Gestalt vs tone of voice

This is by no means a new distinction, but to me it's more and more important/back in vogue. Product parity makes for a use of advertising human emotions, but advertising parity and a lack of attention makes for the need to be recognizable in al the things you do. Gestalt is an old theory explained here. But the basic difference is that tone of voice is about presentation of one self. Funny, sarcastic, cool whatever. Gestalt is about owning something. it's about having a unique (tangible?) quality that cannot be applied to something else. all this is basically been influenced by me reading more about design, art, city plannig etc. Apple being a very easy example of this, particulary with their iphone, pod, ads.

See one can have a romantic feel attached to anything (almost),but for many the feeling of seeing the city lights of Paris from the Eiffel tower is not something that can be transported. That particular zone is owned by the Eiffel tower, due to it's physical elements. So while it's may be contrary to say coherence is more important then consistency and then to say non portable elements are more important then portable, I can just say, yes and yes. Can't explain it better yet. but you gotta be like a diamond, with many facets but still one diamond.

3) Finite solutions vs Infinite

It's all about this generation, this era. the sky is not the limit. How can you make a difference now without trowing everything at the problem but the kitchen sink. restrictions, discrimination are a couple of tools/ideas that are needed more and more to create something that has focus and leaves no burden for the next group to come along.

3)bold ideas vs Big ideas.
Can't realy put my finger on this one but it actually feels the most important. For me when I use the word big this is what I kinda think of.

The complicated, intricate elaborate scheme. Which is great, and can be/is still very usefull. Bold thinking on the other hand gives me a whole different feel, point of entry.

Bold makes me think of

or this

Perhaps this all is thin thinking and not very clear, but somehow bold can be /mostly is big, but big does not always mean bold. perhaps there is more of an rebelious streak to bold ideas then to a big idea. this one I will need to come back to...continue

4)Politics vs people

due to the nature of the problems challenges and demands of the current and future world, politics is more and more important. While the rise of the consumer/prosumer is a much talked about and has had great impact, politics is where the pendelum of true power is swinging back to. it's a realisation that we will not solve growing fuel prices, shortages in food. We, people, are firestarters, we are able to make things roll, but the big Mo come from running with the elected wolves. so what does this all mean? Reading fine print, finding pressure points to help people activate politicians that can move mountains, doing the non sexy stuff. while not every product lends it'self for all out politics, actualy every product does lend its self for politics. now matter how small we all leave a footprint that effects someone.

SO ask yourself, what small print can we use to make changes that riplle through society? just by thinking more about politics, (not ideoligical, but more practical), gets juices flowing that normaly don't move much.

anyways, these are words that have been changing my thinking and actions, as well as the actions of clients. If anybody has some other words that they feel have changed their points of entry into discussions, let me know...

I leave you now with some nice music and a not so sublte message. Dovidjenja!

Heard about the guy
who fell off a skyscraper?
On his way down past each floor,
he kept saying to reassure himself:
"So far so good...
"so far so good..."
How you fall doesn't matter. It's how you land!

vrijdag 2 mei 2008

Interesting Amsterdam

Just got my ticket for Interesting Amsterdam !!

So all you guys and gals wanting to see some random but interesting stuff, go on over to pinkair, and book yourself a ticket..

month of may

So here in Holland the month of May is the month we remember the Second World War, the liberation of Holland and the loss of so much life.

So in memory of those passed away, those who survided and those who chose to fight; some chilling, uplifting and spot on quotes to give us (wannabe) planners that much sought after insight in to humans, and perspective on this thing of ours.

* We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

* "Nietzsche's words, 'He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.'"

* "When we are no longer able to change a situation—just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer—we are challenged to change ourselves"

* "Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him - mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp."

* "We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing a something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering."

* "It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual."

* "Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary

* "We have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips."

Viktor Frankl

maandag 28 april 2008

the utopia of better advertising

A lot of people have talked and are still talking about the end of image advertising, because it's bad, not working, run it's course, etc. It's all about 2.0, utility etc...but the fact is, it is not, nor will it be, because advertising has got a built in factor that prevents it from growing, gaining absolute quality improvement; humans.

Right now people are kinda falling in the same trap as in the ' 20, during the time of Claude Hopkins. We think that advertsing can somehow be scientied, just because it has more technical tools at it's disposal. People seem to believe that unless you provide a tool within the advertising, you are doing rubbish. We think this we such a zeal that we forget that it's just the hope we have manifested in herd talk. Bit like the neo cons, thinking that they will create a democracy and that oil will go down to $20,- a barrell and all will be peaches and cream, anyways...

The underliying mechanics of advertising prevent this because they are flawed in the sense that they are emotion driven. We look for insight into human beings and we tend to focus on communicating some value/bond between product and and customer. This basic fact allows for inversion of progress. If empowering women works (Dove) let's do it, if degrading them (lynx/Axe) works, let's do that.

No absolute progress is possible, because in order to feel like we are moving we will go in any direction, even backwards.

So why am I writing this? Because I just today talked with an agency who did no advertising, but " created solutions on a business and emotional end" and the talk got 'round to Gorilla ads and the usual bitching began. It was shite, waste of money etc.... They make fucking horrible websites and are gonna piss all over fellows comrades who at least entertained?

Advertising is about communicating something, right now and here. Something that makes a connection so that you will move from a to b.

Method acting looked more realistic and great then the old style stage type acting (and searched for character from an inside point of view/ kinda like the when planning came along), but it's still acting..nobody was any more a doctor then the actors 200 years before the method.

The future of advertising is already here and has been here since it's invention. Sure we will get better at using tools at hand. But it's role will not grow nor will it's quality be better 10 year from now.

That type of change will be driven by industrials, by people who build absolute stuff, who deal with the binary. Fields where once you go forward, you can not go back, because new reality denies regression. 1+1 is 2. It will never go back to being 1. Once you have an cure for something, there is no gain in talking 'bout the opposite.

Call me crazy, but perhaps that's the really brilliant part in Cabral and Fallons thinking; they know their limits and play their part of court jester with great applaud.

maandag 21 april 2008

Non Advertising Planning Hall of Fame: Pierre Wack

So here is little segment looking at guys and girls from all over the world, who can contribute to the education of me, fellow wannabe planners, those doing it and those just wanting some new info.

To kick it of an article about Pierre Wack. The Stephen King of Shell ( this does him no justice, nor mister King, but hopefully will trigger you to read on)


I had the feeling,” said Pierre Wack, “of hunting in a pack of wolves, being the eyes of the pack, and sending signals back to the rest. Now if you see something serious, and the pack doesn’t notice it, you’d better find out — are you in front?”

That observation is probably the most succinct description there is of the practice of scenario planning. Scenario planning — the use of alternative stories about the future, many with improbable and dramatic twists, to develop strategy — is one of the few management innovations to have actually been created in a corporate setting, amid the real-life battle for profits.

Pierre Wack, who died in 1997, was the leader of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies’ elite London-based scenario team. With his colleagues and successors at Shell’s Group Planning department, he designed and refined this important business tool, in effect serving as the chief analyst of Shell’s version of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Scenario planning alerted Shell’s managing directors (its committee of CEO equivalents) in advance about some of the most confounding events of their times: the 1973 energy crisis, the more severe price shock of 1979, the collapse of the oil market in 1986, the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of Muslim radicalism, and the increasing pressure on companies to address environmental and social problems. The method has since become widely popular outside Shell, not just in corporations but in some governments. In South Africa, for example, scenario planning played a major role in the peaceful transition from a system of apartheid to a stable multiracial government.

Yet for all of that, and despite its reputation for prescience and panache, scenario planning has not always been influential within the companies that use it, including Shell itself. To be sure, the “energy crisis” scenarios, in particular, helped Shell prosper more than its rivals. Called the “Ugly Sister” by Forbes for its relatively weak financial position in the late 1960s, Shell moved to become one of two breakout leaders (Exxon was the other) of the industry. Even so, the company often seemed to ignore many of the warnings from its own scenarios. For example, the scenarios might have helped it avoid some extremely costly failed investments in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the public relations and legal damage associated with its 1995 plan to dispose of the Brent Spar storage facility by sinking it in the North Sea.

Shell is hardly unique; most companies that create scenarios of potential risks and opportunities find it difficult to actually make effective real-world decisions based on the stories they imagine.

Pierre Wack understood this paradox as well as anyone. Today, his legacy is more relevant than ever: The political and economic uncertainties that Mr. Wack foresaw (he christened the future “the rapids” back in 1975) have become a fundamental part of business life. A clear sense of the future’s obscure challenges and opportunities is the most valuable asset an executive can have. To Mr. Wack, the ability for which managers are most celebrated — the ability to get things done — was only one part of their necessary skills. Equally important, and much harder to come by, was the ability to see ahead. The more aware the wolf pack is of the terrain in which it runs, the more effectively it hunts. What does it take to engender that awareness in managers, particularly in these shocking and skittish times?

Early in October 2002, I visited Shell Centre in London for an answer. Officially, I was there to attend a commemorative celebration of 30 years of scenario planning at Shell. The first great scenario event at Shell had been a 1972 report to the managing directors anticipating the impending energy crisis. With host Ged Davis, Shell’s vice president of global business environment and the company’s genial and erudite leader of scenario planning today, we met in a corporate banquet room.

On the walls were brightly colored murals with the names of futures from years gone by, some of which never came to pass and others of which were counterintuitive but did come true: “Oil Tightrope,” “Greening of Russia,” “Liberalisation,” “Business Class.” The room was filled with Group Planning members and alumni ranging in age from 30 to 80, along with about 30 outsiders who had used or explored scenarios in some noteworthy way.
During one breakout session, I joined a group of obstreperous firebrands (Shell’s Group Planning department has always employed some of these) on the subject of “life after scenarios.” They were keenly aware, of course, that scenarios have become a widespread consulting practice, popularized by such futurists and management writers as Peter Schwartz, Arie de Geus, Joseph Jaworski, Charles Hampden-Turner, and Kees van der Heijden — all former senior officials in Shell’s Group Planning department.

There is also now a collegial network of scenario planners and consultants around the world; one Shell alumnus, Napier Collyns, was honored at the celebration for his role in fostering that network. (Mr. Collyns and Mr. Schwartz went from Shell to cofound Global Business Network, another central source of scenario practice.)

But Mr. Collyns pointed out the essential contradiction in scenario work: Shell’s original insights came from “years of deep research, rigorous analysis, ongoing conversations, and multiple iterations of the scenarios themselves” — all conducted by Shell’s mysterious and brilliant team. But over time, the method seems to have been watered down into just another three- or four-day workshop in which people feel like they’ve expanded their thinking away from the office, but still return to business as usual. Perhaps, some of the firebrands suggested, the golden age of scenarios is ending. Maybe some new methodology is needed to help companies see their own troubled futures as clearly as Shell saw the energy crisis in 1972.
I felt that if Pierre Wack were at the anniversary celebration himself, he might find the discussion beside the point. He had, after all, experienced the same sort of frustration throughout his career with scenarios, which began in the 1960s.

Thinking the Unthinkable
The seeds of scenario planning methodology were planted in the late 1940s, when the futurist Herman Kahn, then a young defense analyst at the Rand Corporation, started telling brief stories to describe the many possible ways that nuclear weapons technology might be used by hostile nations. (For this, Scientific American described Mr. Kahn as “thinking the unthinkable,” a characterization he embraced gleefully.) Near Rand’s Southern California offices, Mr. Kahn hung out with screenwriters and moviemakers — one of whom, Stanley Kubrick, used him as a model for Dr. Strangelove, and another of whom, Leo Rosten, suggested the name “scenarios” for these storytelling exercises.

But by the mid-1960s, Mr. Kahn’s methods had become a mechanistic smorgasbord approach, serving up dozens of possible forecasts (often generated with mainframe computers). The method would probably have died of sheer complexity, except that two individuals from Shell sought out Mr. Kahn. One was Mr. Wack, then head of planning at Shell Française (originally from Alsace-Lorraine, he pronounced his surname to rhyme with “Jacques”).

The other was Ted Newland, a senior staff planner known for his incisive, unsentimental views of global politics. When Mr. Wack and Mr. Newland joined forces at Shell’s headquarters in 1971, they already shared two key insights. First, change in the Arab world was about to destroy the stability of the existing oil regime, which oil companies had dominated (and drawn a profit stream from) for 25 years. Second, everybody in the oil industry knew it, but nobody was prepared to do anything. With sponsorship from several far-seeing Shell managing directors, the two assembled a team to bring that awareness to the entire organization.

Scenario planning was just a starting point for them. Mr. Wack, who had studied some of the mystic traditions of India and Japan in depth, had been a student of the Sufi mystic G.I. Gurdjieff in the 1940s, and he had learned to cultivate what he called “remarkable people” around the world; this phrase in French means not so much gifted or eccentric people, but people with unconventional insights about the world around them.

At that time, most oil executives believed that tensions in the Middle East would soon abate because Western-dominated stability would triumph; it always had before. Mr. Wack and Mr. Newland systematically examined every possible angle of the situation, with particular attention to the pressures faced by the ruling governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia. They concluded that it would take a miracle to avoid an energy crisis, and a set of keenly focused scenarios to make managers not just intellectually realize the danger, but prepare for it.

“People today could not possibly believe the degree of inward-lookingness that there was in the companies [of the 1960s],” Mr. van der Heijden told the 30th anniversary celebrants gathered in London last October. “Suddenly Pierre and Ted came in and showed us that you could open the window and look at the world.”

Shell RespondsDuring 1972 and early 1973, the Group Planners’ message percolated through the global Shell organization: The oil price could soar from its current $2 per barrel to an unimaginable price of as much as $10 per barrel. (Actually, by 1975, it would hit $13.) Despite resistance from some Shell managers, the organization began to put in place many of the commonsense, mundane frugalities that had been lost amid the frenetic growth of the 1950s and 1960s.

This put Shell in an enviable position when the crisis did occur, and an even more enviable position during the Iranian revolution of 1979, when the oil price soared a second time, up to $37 per barrel. As the shock from that shift subsided, the industry entered a bubble. Through the early 1980s, oil traders assumed the price would keep rising; they kept bidding for oil futures and driving the price higher.

Once again, in the early 1980s, Shell’s planners offered a counterintuitive message: They said the bubble would collapse. The forces holding OPEC together would fragment, energy demand would finally slow down, and the industry would have to retrench. Mia de Kuijper, one of the young planners of that era, proposed that oil was about to become a commodity product. This was a shocking notion to many executives because it meant, as Ms. de Kuijper later noted, that “a trader in Rotterdam would have more to say about the price of oil than the managing directors.”

Ted Newland actually stood before the Shell managing directors in 1982 and intoned a nursery rhyme to describe OPEC’s impending disarray: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.” As the price fell over the next three years, it set in motion an industry consolidation that eventually swallowed three of the major oil companies known as the “Seven Sisters.”

Mr. Wack and Mr. Newland left Shell in 1982. Mr. Wack began consulting for Anglo American, the South African mining corporation, on its efforts to globalize. One of his fascinating insights involved the effect of apartheid on the price of gold production. He said, “South Africans live with the feeling that they are blessed with a geological miracle: their gold and diamond deposits. But it is actually a human miracle: People work in horrible conditions for very low wages. ‘Be careful,’ I told them. ‘You are going to be the highest-cost producer, because this human miracle is not going to last.’ ”

To Anglo American executives, Mr. Wack seemed to be predicting the end of apartheid, and they wanted to hear more. So did their spouses; indeed, they wanted to know if there was a future for their children in South Africa, or whether they should emigrate.

An Anglo American executive named Clem Sunter picked up the challenge, and, inspired by Pierre Wack, he suggested two scenarios for the country: A “low road” scenario in which the whites fought to hold on to apartheid, and a “high road” scenario in which they accepted the inevitability of a multiracial society and pushed for the kind of widespread economic growth that would allow such a society to thrive (in part by bringing South African business back into the flow of the international economy). Mr. Sunter’s 1987 book, The World and South Africa in the 1990s (Human & Rousseau Tafelberg Ltd.), became a bestseller in South Africa during the late 1980s and early 1990s, second only to Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. It is credited with helping South Africa’s white population see the value of a peaceful transition from apartheid.

By the time Mr. Wack left Shell, he had concluded that scenario planning, in itself, was not nearly effective enough at changing, as he put it, “the mental maps of managers.” The best way for me to explain this deficiency is to describe one of my own scenario projects, conducted for an Internet service provider at the height of the dot-com bubble.
We came up with four possible images of the future.

Three represented glittering futures of easy success, and then there was the sad story called “Gruel,” in which the venture capital market for Internet entrepreneurs dried up. During our sessions, I tried but failed to coax the group to pay more attention to Gruel. Preparing for that future would have meant building some cash reserves, being more frugal, and focusing on short-term revenue streams.

Had they done all that, they might still exist today. Had I paid better attention to changing their mental maps, I might have had the confidence to tell them not just that this worst-case scenario was plausible, but that it was predetermined. By not seeing the possibility of Gruel, my clients were helping to ensure that it would happen.

What, then, does it take to come up with the kind of scenario that makes people shed their natural defenses so they can understand and prepare for the futures that are inevitable, if only they could spot the factors that create them?

Mr. Wack spent his last year with Shell traveling the world, trying to come up with an answer to this question. He returned with a single cryptic diagram labeled “the gentle art of reperceiving.” It showed a process involving not just study of the business environment (through scenarios), but a rigorous and intuitive examination of one’s own intent, of competitive advantage (à la Michael Porter), and of strategic options.

But even Shell, which based a set of workshops on the Pierre Wack process, couldn’t make them stick. It turns out that you can’t develop this kind of capability in a set of workshops — or even through an elite agency of analysts and internal consultants.

If you truly want to create a “pack of wolves” attuned to the environment around them, then the people making decisions have to devote their careers to increasing their collective awareness of the outside world. Scenario planning, as Mr. Wack conducted it, provides precisely this kind of in-depth training over time.

You research present key trends; you determine which are predictable and which are uncertain; you decide which uncertainties are most influential; you base some stories of the future on those uncertainties; you spend some time imaginatively playing out the implications of those stories; and then you use those implications to start all over again and develop a sense of the impending surprises that you cannot ignore.

Very, very occasionally, a company takes this way of using scenarios to heart. For instance, the South African energy company Sasol Ltd., working with a scenario practitioner named Louis van der Merwe, has used an elaborate year-long exercise to shift the entire culture of the company toward scenario thinking — in part by having managers throughout the company take part in writing and publishing their own highly polished scenario book. Only time will tell, of course, whether or not that translates into better results. Managers and executives already report themselves taking risks more confidently and seeing options more clearly, which is not usually the case after scenario exercises.

Successful companies typically have one or two people with the ability to see their environment clearly. Pierre Wack’s methodology, which he never fully articulated while he was alive, is a way of developing this aptitude throughout the organization. Companies that achieve this tend to remain out of public view for fear of being copied or outdone. (Sasol, for instance, is ruthlessly private about the content of its scenarios.)

If executives at many companies seem paralyzed or in retreat during this moment of exceptional business uncertainty, perhaps it’s not just the environment that’s gotten to them. Perhaps it’s that, while pursuing the numbers day after day, they haven’t been systematically training themselves to be like wolves at the front of the pack. They haven’t been training themselves to see as far as they can see.

Article courtesy of : Art Kleiner for strategy+business Mr Kleiner is the “Culture & Change” columnist and a regular contributor of “The Creative Mind” profiles for strategy+business. He teaches at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. His Web site is

more on Pierre Wack can be found here, here and here