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Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

16th June 2017

The great Sir John Hegarty on creativity. ‘No great idea has ever come out of a brainstorm meeting,’ Hegarty says. The trouble with brainstorms, he believes, is that they operate at ‘the speed of the slowest person in the room.’ ‘Einstein didn’t work in a brainstorm session,’ he adds. He sees parallels between brainstorming and communism. “Germany got the BMW, while East Germany got brainstorm sessions and the Trabant. Who wants a ******* Trabant?!”

Google is perpetuating a very bad definition of eugenics. ‘Google’s practice of highlighting one answer to a search query has led the tech giant to inadvertently endorse the idea that the Earth is flat and that Barack Obama is planning a coup, as well as give credit to the wrong person for inventing email. This is Google’s ‘definition’ of eugenics – ‘The science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. Developed largely by Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, it fell into disfavour only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis.

This is very nicely done. To launch Gatorade’s new electrolyte water they made a true-to-life water athlete, animated it in mid air, and caught it on camera. G Active : Water Made Active.

The online media transparency crisis is turning into an opportunity(?), as Google has promised a U-turn on giving brands a third-party guarantee that most of their ads can be seen by users. Google promises independent viewability verification by the end of the year.

Cannes Lions 2017 starts next week. According to Digiday, these are the storylines that will dominate – ‘keeping brands safe’, ‘platform power plays’ ‘WTF Trump’ and ‘gender equality.’  You can sign up to Digiday’s Cannes Daily Briefing here.

Why algorithms make surprisingly good Creative Directors. ‘It started as a joke. But writing a computer program that would generate ideas for creative projects sounded like a worthwhile challenge to pursue’.’People are actually interested in the idea of a computer as a character, as a personality, we all sort of have these personal and intimate relationships with our computers.’

A look at the world of Travel and Tourism. A leader in The Economist observes that younger business travellers are more likely to extend trips for fun.’ACCENTURE‘, ‘advertorial’, ‘jeggings.’ The competition for ugliest portmanteau is fierce. Few constructions, though, can match “bleisure” for barbarousness. For the uninitiated, the word is a blend of business and leisure. But ugly as it is, it exists for a reason: the practice of adding a few days of pleasure to a work trip is becoming increasingly popular.

From  a couple of months back, but still highly topical – another fabulous infographic from @informationisbeautiful. The World’s Biggest Data Breaches.

This is a painstaking piece of work and quite some achievement. Someone has edited the Wizard of Oz to be in alphabetical order. Worth skimming through to the speaking parts. This then is ‘Of Oz The Wizard.’

Ever wonder what your plane looks like from the outside when it’s cruising above the clouds? Wonder no more. This weather balloon camera captures an airliner rocketing by at 38,000 feet.

Finally, just say there will be no newsletter next week, back on the 30th June.

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Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

2nd June 2017

Great piece in Wired, regarding teenagers social media habits. ‘How Streaks, Deep Likes and Ghosting are defining millions of lives’. These are Social Media’s Teenage Kicks

Mary Meeker is back with an even bigger compendium of informationon the current state of the web and digital ecosystem – 355 slides in all. Luckily for us, Recode has highlighted 8 takeaways we can pick up straight away.

How publishers are drawing on the serialisation strategy employed by Charles Dickens, to get readers to read (rather than doing a multitude of other things) on their mobile devices.

From nymag.com, an interesting article – ‘How the self-esteem craze took over America and why the hype was irresistible.’ The self-esteem craze changed how countless organisations were run, how an entire generation —millennials — was educated, and how that generation went on to perceive itself (quite favourably). As it turned out, the central claim underlying the trend, that there’s a causal relationship between self-esteem and various positive outcomes, was almost certainly inaccurate.’

In a related area, I really liked this piece from The Economist , on why Donald Trump (perhaps surprisingly?) is so popular with Evangelical Americans. ”Mr Trump’s language is filled with echoes of a much-mocked but potent American religious movement with millions of followers, known by such labels as “positive thinking” or the “prosperity gospel”.

As virtual reality grows in popularity, so will the scare stories surrounding it. ‘Look back to the birth of other new forms of media and you’ll see how quickly public sentiment shifts into moral panic. Victorians embraced telegrams for the purposes of commerce and government, then panicked at the idea of women sending telegrams to clandestine lovers. The rapid adoption of the telephone in the early 1900s was followed by fears it would lead to the demise of the “old practice of visiting friends”. When games consoles became commonplace in the 90s, that lead to hand-wringing that they could incite violence in young men.  It’s time to prepare yourself for ‘VR panic’.

The 50 best TV theme tunes of all time (?) 

Rather lovely editorial piece in Borough Market Magazine this month, on the ‘Social Life of Markets’ . ‘Since time immemorial, market squares have provided a focal point for towns and villages, and they can do much the same now, even in a vast modern city, by offering a lively hub in which countless interactions play out every day. It is through these interactions that ideas take shape, preconceptions fall apart, relationships are forged and new businesses are started. That busy energy streams out into the wider area, with an impact that can be felt for miles around.’ Amen to that.

This is how a self driving car sees the road (short video).

Inside the cut throat world of Toddler Bike Racing. ‘The kids kick their bikes up to speeds that would make most adults uncomfortable, and carve through the course’s maze of sharp corners with tenacity and grace. A few kids don’t make it.

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Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

26th May 2017

Well, this a radical and rather worrying revision. As part of the BBC’s science series Tomorrow’s World, Professor Hawking said he thinks due to climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, humans will need to find a new planet to populate within a single lifetime (100 years) – revised from the 1,000 year time limit he gave last November.

A powerful piece made up of images, video, data and maps created by Google and the UN Refugee Agency. Worth spending some time with this one. Searching for Syria.

My article on the Econsultancy blog this week. ‘Facile Externality – or when efficiency is inefficient.

Americans began the 20th century in bustles and bowler hats and ended it in velour sweatsuits and flannel shirts—the most radical shift in dress standards in human history. Happy or horrified? Silicon Valley is responsible.

Really nice idea in the travel and tourism category. Tourism boards are teaming up with Airbnb to promote their destinations. ‘Visit Sweden’s partnership is based on building awareness rather than driving actual bookings. In fact, there are no additional listings for Swedish accommodation since the campaign launched. It is merely a marketing campaign that involves Airbnb posting fictional listings from nine areas of Sweden, including locations like the mountains of Sarek and Skuleskogen National Park.’ For Airbnb this tactic appears to be another way for the brand to market itself as a destination resource rather than a straightforward booking site.

No laughing matter – why Advertising isn’t funny anymore. A highly entertaining piece lays blame at the door of a wide range of individuals/organisations, including Tony Blair, The European Union, Michael McIntyre and Sir Martin Sorrell. 

Moment is an iOS app that automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day. If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can even force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit. As the Ad says – ‘Put down your phone and get back to your life.’

…And on a related note – ‘Why iPhones are killing creativity’.’We’re not allowing our subconscious to break through often enough because our brains are always having too much fun or are simply too busy. That means creative outputs are inevitably more rational and less interesting. And if we do eventually get to unexpected places, it takes us longer to get there.

Great sequence of ads from Spotify, launching Spotify Premium for Family. The excellent ‘Door’ and even better ‘Dinner.’

Funny, not funny. A demolition crew accidentally knocks down the house next to the one they’re supposed to be demolishing. 

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Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

19th May 2017

Interesting piece on what Sushi can teach us about creativity. ‘By all accounts, Americans were scared of the stuff. Eating raw fish was an aberration and to most, tofu and seaweed were punch lines, not food.Then came the California Roll. While the origin of the famous maki is still contested, its impact is undeniable. The California Roll was made in the USA by combining familiar ingredients in a new way. Rice, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds, and crab meat — the only ingredient unfamiliar to the average American palate was the barely visible sliver of nori seaweed holding it all together. People don’t want something truly new, They want the familiar done differently.

One interesting takeout from the disastrous failure of the Fyre Festivalhas been its negative association with high profile promoters including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin. Partly as a result of this event, it looks like the backlash against Influencer Marketing has arrived. ‘The influencer bubble will totally collapse in the next 12 months if people aren’t very careful about the money being thrown around as brands try to buy influencer placement.’

Facebook is in trouble with its metrics again (the 5th time since September) as it finds a new measurement bug. This time advertisers are being reimbursed. 

@neilperkin on the Trust Equation – Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy divided by Self-Orientation = Trustworthiness. ‘ Credibility (is being credible on the subject); Reliability (is dependable, someone who delivers, does what they say they will do); Intimacy (referring to the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with something); and Self-Orientation (referring to the person’s focus and whether, in particular, their primary focus is on themselves and what they can get out of it, or on the other person).

One organisation very much on the way up. ‘ I believe that Amazon is the most defensible company on earth, and we haven’t even begun to grasp the scale of its dominance over competitors. Amazon’s lead will only grow over the coming decade, and I don’t think there is much that any other retailer can do to stop it.’

And one on the way down – ‘The painful verdict is all but indisputable: The golden era of Pixar is over. It was a 15-year run of unmatched commercial and creative excellence, beginning with Toy Story in 1995 and culminating with the extraordinary trifecta of wall-e in 2008, Up in 2009, and Toy Story 3 in 2010. Since then, other animation studios have made consistently better films. The problem, ( as one might expect) seems to be to do with Disney. 

An Interesting example of the trend of products becoming services – Citymapper is launching a bus service. 

A great example that innovation in the print medium is still alive and well. Sports retailer Asics is helping people find out more about the shape of their feet using a print ad. The two-page ‘Tread Test’ ad, created in São Paulo, is printed with thermochromic paint, so anyone interested just needs to step barefoot onto the advert and it will react to the heat of their body and show them the shape of their footprint.

From Mashable. Some Americans think North Korea, is in Australia, Or China. Or maybe Indonesia. 

My colleague @itsjimmyb is particularly pleased about this development – Redhead emojis could be coming our way in the next update. 

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Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

12th May 2017

What Filter Bubble? A study conducted by the7stars in partnership with Newsworks, found that 82% of UK consumers have never heard of the term ‘filter bubble’ and 64% do not know that their Google search results are personalised, while 65% ‘disagree’ that the news they see on Facebook is matched to their personal profiles.

Nice piece on ‘How Smart Brands Connect With Culture’ . Brands need to decide precisely where on the cultural spectrum they want to play. This choice is made up of three tactical options – Behaviours,Values or Interests.

AutoDraw is one of Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) experiments, working across platforms to let anyone, irrespective of their artistic flair, create something quick with little more than a scribble. It guesses what you’re trying to draw, then lets you pick from a list of previously created pictures. This is the ‘Art of Algorithms’: How automation is affecting creativity.

The Circle by Dave Eggers is a great book (in my view) but perhaps not a great film. The Outline, thinks it is yet another film that doesn’t get the internet.

The End of the World is Nigh? The Aztecs predicted the world would end in 2012. It didn’t happen, but plenty of other prophecies abound.’ People seem to enjoy imagining that they’ll live to see the curtains close on history, but it’s more than just enjoyment; a sense of finality seems to be built into our experience of the whole strange, senseless show that surrounds us.

The insidious rise of the micro-celebrity and how the quest for fame will destroy us. 

About time for an updated map of the Marketing Technology Landscape? As you’d expect its got even bigger – the landscape grew again this year, by about 40%, to a total of 5,381 solutions (from 4,891 unique companies).

The shape of (marketing) things to come? Nevada teen Carter Wilkerson has successfully ousted Ellen DeGeneres for the world record of the most retweeted tweet of all time. The new record comes a little over a month after Wilkerson asked the Wendy’s Twitter account how many retweets he would need for a free year’s supply of chicken nuggets, and the company responded with ‘18 million.

A first look at Uber Freight, Uber’s long haul trucking venture,

This legendary TED talk is from a few years back, but well worth revisiting. ‘ Suspicious emails: unclaimed insurance bonds, diamond-encrusted safe deposit boxes, close friends marooned in a foreign country. They pop up in our inboxes, and standard procedure is to delete on sight. But what happens when you reply? Follow along as writer and comedian James Veitch narrates a hilarious, weeks-long exchange with a spammer who offered to cut him in on a hot deal. 

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Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

29th April 2017

The first blockchain book? This bizarre digital book requires you destroy it before sharing. What sets A Universe Explodes apart is how you access it. “We wanted to see if we could make a limited edition digital book,” says Anna Gerber, co-founder. ‘This idea stands at odds with how the internet usually works. Most content on the web is open to whoever wants to access it. If it’s not, then it’s usually locked down, accessible by password only. A Universe Explodes sits somewhere between these two. Anyone can read the book, but only a select number can own it.

Perhaps a little ironically, some tech giants are looking to make recommendations for our reading list. Facebook , which has long been accused of exacerbating the effect of the filter bubble, (and despite the fact that Zuck has said that it doesn’t exist) is now seeking to reverse this effect.  ‘Facebook will start adding “related” articles from different publications underneath a news post about a trending topic in your News Feed.Facebook says the goal of the update is to help “support an informed community,” which is another way of saying it wants to offer users alternative news sources.‘ Sounds like just a bigger or different shaped ‘bubble’, but we shall see.

A lot of bad press regarding the Gig Economy this week. From @NYT : ”The promises Silicon Valley makes about the gig economy can sound appealing. Its digital technology lets workers become entrepreneurs, we are told, freed from the drudgery of 9-to-5 jobs. In reality, there is no utopia at companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Handy, whose workers are often manipulated into working long hours for low wages while continually chasing the next ride or task.’

Although not a new idea, this is a nice summarisation of how older generations, often through their use of technology, are now staying younger and staying more similar to younger generations, than ever before. Increasingly the days of targeting media and products at people based on their age is over. Meet the Perennials.

Brilliant (and slightly unnerving) from @wired  – ‘Forget drones, deliveries could soon be made by robotic ‘dogs’. Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog has been put to work delivering packages to people’s homes.’The Google-owned firm is well known for its lifelike (read: terrifying) robots, including Spot the four-legged canine-like machine, on display at the TED2017 conference.’

Although the above represents incredibly impressive automation, there is one area of human endeavour that robots are struggling with. In the area of shoe production, they are unable to tie shoe laces. 

Looks pretty busy up there?  A new plane tracking app shows the air traffic that is moving above our heads.

As the NFL Draft kicks off in Philadelphia, an interesting piece on the NFL’s racial divide. ‘According to the annual racial and gender report, the NFL is almost 70 percent black, and only 12.5 percent of running backs are white; while the inverse is true for the special teams positions of kicker and punter, where 97.8 percent of players are white.’

Since the days of Knight Rider, the Hoff has always been in tune with technology. Scroll forward 35 years and in this bizarre short film It’s No Game, we meet the Hoffbot, whose lines are entirely written by an algorithm.

Quite some play. A Blue Jays baseball player scores with anacrobatic flying dive over the catcher. And finally, The Simpsons celebrate Donald Trump’s first hundred days in office. ‘We’re 6.8% of the way home’.

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Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

22nd April 2017

Wikipedia’s great experiment – finding a definition of ‘happiness’ we can all agree on. ‘Wikipedia’s current definition is the result of nearly 6,000 edits by over 3,000 users (including some bots) to the page. In this way, Wikipedia understands something that most philosophers after Socrates didn’t—definitions are not static, and cannot be perfected and finalised. They must be constantly challenged, updated, reverted, and discussed. Wikipedia is like a Socratic dialogue on a massive scale.

People who predict the death of brands, don’t understand why they exist. ‘Some marketers are, deep down, serial killers. It wasn’t enough to call the death of TV. Then it wasn’t enough to call the death of advertising. No, harbingers are now chanting the death of brands themselves.The usual suspects normally include four trends: e-commerce, consumer reviews, the decline of mass advertising, and Artificial Intelligence. Seeing no future for mass brands ignores the arithmetics of what makes them mass brands in the first place: it’s not because people love them beyond reason, but simply because a lot of people use them.

To celebrate Earth Day, Google Earth has received a major update. The latest version, puts a big focus on guided tours via the “Voyager” section, which serves as a jumping off point for YouTube videos, 360° content, Street View, and Google Earth landmarks. The tours are led by scientists and documentarians, with some content produced by well-known groups like the BBC’s Planet Earth team.

Snapchat ups the AR ante with ‘New World Lenses’. The move to add augmented reality lenses is one that sees the company build on its camera abilities. ‘In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones’.

My piece on the Econsultancy blog this week. Why brands need to bother about voice(bots). 

Perhaps not as sexy, but this piece argues that the future of content is ‘marketplaces’ and not AI. ‘Content generation is increasingly being undertaken using management platforms and dispersed teams of freelancers, rather than traditional fixed role, in-house teams.’

Martin Wiegel on why ‘strategy’ does not exist and why everything is strategic. ‘For if the mark of a strategy is a set of coherent actions driven by intent, it must follow that everything is strategic. Every moment represents a choice as to what to do in the world, and how to do it. And at no point in the process does the engine shift gear from theory to action. Or from abstract thinking to concrete doing.

This is a great idea, Lastminute.com teams up with Spotify to soundtrack travel adventures. It includes collaborations with six international artists to create podcasts offering insight into a given city, starting with house star Jax Jones on London. In total there will be interactive maps of ten cities – beginning with London, New York and Berlin – overlaid with musical information about particular neighbourhoods, and playlists across six genres.

This split screen music video, a collaboration between Pharrell and Cat Power, is a great deal better than your average offering. Definitely worth a watch.

This video is from a while back but is just as relevant (and funny) now. An elevator’s voice recognition system, made in America, struggles to understand the Scottish accent.

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Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

8th March 2017

On March 31, 2006, only one out of the top 5 market caps, namely Microsoft, was a technology company. The top market caps were rather diversified, including financial services, industrial groups, technology, and of course oil production giants. In the first quarter of 2017, all five were technology companies. This is how technology has eaten the world.

WARC’s best marketing campaigns and companies of 2017. Interesting to see the three top themes across the report are – Data-driven creative, stunt led campaigns and the continued importance of TV. 

Women on average are paid 20% less than men and black and hispanic women are paid even less. What would happen if they received 20% less of everything? This is a rather amusing video perspective from Funny Or Die, created to mark Equal Pay Day, on April 4th.

Feeling sad about Britain leaving Europe? Well, you may want to keep in mind that the really big split happened more than 100,000 years ago, when dramatic waterfalls and flooding destroyed the land bridge that joined England and France.

Interesting perspective on the the subject of marketing led growth, from McKinsey. ‘Every company we know is sweating out efforts to increase revenue from their brands. Earning a spot in consumers’ highly valuable initial consideration sets has never been more crucial….In a world where market noise will inevitably increase, initial consideration has emerged as marketing’s most critical battleground’. Perhaps the old ‘shopping list’ strategy is just as true now, as it has ever been? 

Visually entertaining take on this week’s Pepsi / Kendal Jenner train wreck. How to make millennials hate you, the Pepsi way.

From Abigail Posner, Head of Strategic Planning, Google – ‘Beauty and the Beast: A Blow to Feminism or Something Powerful For Us All?

Sounds like one of those university entrance interview questions. When you hear the answer, it seems obvious. From @NYT, why do escalators move people more quickly, if they all stand still?

Channel 5 this week aired the first programme in a series looking at how London’s Underground network (154 years old this year) was built. First episode started with the Northern Line, originally called the ‘deep tube line’.

This is from a while back, but as Google Home launched in the UK this week, worth revisiting this video in which Google Home and Amazon Echo are drawn into an ‘infinite loop’ conversation.

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Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

31st March 2017

From Luciano Floridi – ‘This is what I have defined as the Fourth Revolution in our self-understanding. We are not at the centre of the Universe (Copernicus), of the biological kingdom (Charles Darwin), or of rationality (Sigmund Freud). And after Turing, we are no longer at the centre of the infosphere, the world of information processing and smart agency, either.’

@theeconomist on the inexorable rise of Amazon and how the only thing that may stop it, are the regulators. I like the prediction of Amazon becoming the global utility company for commerce, and an essential partner for many of it competitors. ‘Amazon is an extraordinary company. The former bookseller accounts for more than half of every new dollar spent online in America. It is the world’s leading provider of cloud computing. This year Amazon will probably spend twice as much on television as HBO, a cable channel.

Continuing to enjoy the content regularly shared by Brilliant Ads, via Twitter and LinkedIn. This is the latest Dettol ad, from their stream, Whose Hand Are You Holding?

Despite the fact that this research was commissioned by a newsprint organisation (Newsworks), I think it’s still worth a look. From the report – ‘Advertising aligned with news media is 85% more likely to attract new customers. Analysis of the last three years’ worth of winning entries to the IPA Effectiveness awards…found that newsbrands were a boon to advertisers’ long-term effectiveness, profit and penetration. Campaigns that use newsbrands are 43% more likely to generate “very large” market share growth, and twice as likely to deliver a reduction in price sensitivity and an increase in customer loyalty.

‘This wish to preserve life as we know it, even at the cost of dying, is profoundly human. We are encoded with the belief that death is the mother of beauty. And we are encoded, too, with the contradictory determination to remain exactly as we are, forever—or at least for just a bit longer, before we have to go. This is Silicon Valley’s ‘Quest To Live Forever.

Promoted stories placed at the bottom of some of the world’s most-respected websites are being gamed to show fake news. From @wired – We need to to talk about the internet’s fake Ad problem.

Interesting new report from the IPA, curated by @neilperkin, on the Future Of Agencies. Themes covered include – ‘customer experience,’ ‘agency as platform’, ‘the martech explosion’ and remuneration.

This is rather wonderful. A new online NASA library offers all your free space porn in one place.

‘In the famous street scene, the two are leaving the movies as she pauses over a grate to enjoy the breeze from the subway as it blows up her dress on a hot summer night. “Isn’t it delicious?” she purrs.’ From @NYT  – The Lost Footage of Marilyn Monroe

Disney just shared a new, unreleased Pixar short on YouTube called Dante’s Lunch… A Short Tail.