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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.

24th March 2017

‘It’s difficult to overstate how big a deal this is. More than 20 years after it first caught mainstream attention and began to destroy everything about how we finance culture, the digital economy is finally beginning to coalesce around a sustainable way of supporting content. It could also make for a profound shift in the way we find and support new cultural talent.’ From NYT – How the Internet is saving culture, not killing it.

Last week I visited the very lovely Austin,Texas for SxSW Interactive. Here is a summary of the main sessions I attended, published on the econsultancy blog. 

Also last week, was a very interesting Google Firestarters session, on the subject of ‘ The Future Strategist Planner’. I really liked the definition of the planning process as – Big behavioural data sets (increasingly interrogated using AI) + ‘Small Data’ (behavioural observations) + Empathy, Intuition and Imagination.

The Google-Facebook digital advertising duopoly seems like a fait accompli at this point as is the less-than-favourable revenue that publishers get from them. A number of major companies are teaming up to challenge the status quo, including Condé Nast which has joined Vox and NBCUniversal in their year-old effort, Concert ; and Fox Network Group, Turner and Viacom who have created a new consortium called OpenAP. They have a lot of money to go for – Google will account for 40.7% of U.S. digital ad revenues in 2017, and will likely seize 78% of all U.S. search ad revenues. Facebook will grow, to control 39.1% of the U.S. display market.

Tap to advance: the rise and rise of the horizontal story. ‘The shift from a vertical, scrolling mode of navigation to an increasingly horizontal, tapping/swiping mode of navigation adds a new consideration. Those of us who are text-oriented will increasingly need to think not just in terms of how we edit our words, but in how we employ ‘cuts’ between parts of our story…equally, we will need to think in episodic terms too.

I recently opted to get Estonian residency via their simple online process, along with 15,000 others. ‘E-residency is the latest and hottest Estonian e-government initiative, allowing people from all around the globe to apply for a virtual residency in Estonia. This gives them access to Estonian e-services without ever needing to visit the country.

From NYT – Snap Makes a Bet on the Cultural Supremacy of the Camera. ‘Snapchat uncovered something deeper about the camera. Not only could we use pictures to document the world, but we could also use them to communicate. Snapchat has two defining features: pictures and ephemerality. When you talk to others on the service, you usually send them a photo, often of your face. The photo lasts for a few seconds before disappearing. Paradoxically..these features make Snapchat much more like talking than writing.

From the FT – Instagram passes the milestone of 1,000,000 advertisers. ‘The Photo app saw a fivefold increase during the past year in businesses promoting themselves. …The service had focused on making it easier for even small businesses to make creative videos, with tools such as boomerang, which creates mini-loops, and Hyperlapse, which speeds up footage. About 80 per cent of Instagram’s 600m monthly active users now choose to follow a business on the platform, and 120m have interacted with a business this month.

A good conversation might be the most efficient way to tell a story. This video piece looks at flirting, bickering, threatening and subtext-filled bantering. From Cinefix – The Top 10 picks for the best film dialogue of all time.

This is rather simply wonderful. A visualisation of inertia, using leaves and a trampoline. 

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Ten Stories We’ve Enjoyed This Week

11th March 2016

I’m currently in the wonderful city of Austin,Texas attending SxSW Interactive. Here is a list of the ‘must-see” sessions courtesy of Texas monthly. 

The highly readable @faris on ‘The Paradox of Buying Influence’. ‘The paradox of influencer marketing is that when we attempt to buy influence, we transform it into endorsement, which everyone understands is a commercially created fiction. Celebrities in advertisements are not influential in this sense because no one thinks they actually believe what they are saying.

Airbnb is on a mission to handle all of your travel with TripsMore than a product, Trips marks the relaunch of Airbnb as a company. “We studied Amazon and how they went from books to everything,” says Chesky (the founder). “We studied Disney’s ecosystem between the theme parks and the movies. The conclusion? The more you can design this as a single system, typically, the better these things work.”

The 4th Industrial Revolution – who will win? From @nesta – ‘The idea of a fourth industrial revolution (4IR) has been in play for 20 years. It usually refers to a convergence and interpenetration of digital technologies, bio, nano, info and things. It’s a catch all for many different technological trends – from prosthetic devices to the Internet of Things and new models of advanced manufacturing. On the present trajectory, the 4IR promises great benefits. But it also risks leading to a widening divide between vanguards and the rest, accelerating job destruction ahead of job creation, and introducing potentially big threats to personal privacy and cybersecurity.’

My piece this week on the Brand Learning blog – ‘The Future (and eternal truth) of Marketing : Trust’. ‘This is not one of those ‘crystal ball gazing’ kind of articles. Nor is it a compendium of mid or long term predictions. This piece is based on the universal ‘customer centric’ truth that consumers have, do, and will always ‘believe’ in brands that they feel able to rely on.’

This is Geo-Search, a technology demonstration of global scale machine learning on a new map visualisation. Or in other words, a clever way to search for similar looking places in the world.

This from quite a few years back, but the great Jeremy Bullmore is always with listening to. ‘Why a Good Insight is like a Refrigerator’.

From @warped, Google and Apple are both hyper-successful companies, but chart their patents, and they have completely different innovation signatures. ‘Apple and Google operate differently. Apple is driven largely by a centralised development structure, stemming from its fabled design studio, whereas Google has a more distributed, open-source approach to new products.’

This really helps explain something I have been struggling with – A visual introduction to machine learning. 

One of the finest ‘car crash’ videos one is likely to see, as an expert’s kids disrupt his TV Interview.

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Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

2rd March 2017

Great piece on the importance of ‘maintenance’ vs ‘innovation’ in society. ‘Capitalism excels at innovation but is failing at maintenance, and for the most lives it is maintenance that matters. Entire societies have come to talk about innovation as if it were an inherently desirable value, like love, fraternity, courage, beauty, dignity, or responsibility. Innovation-speak worships at the altar of change, but it rarely asks who benefits, to what end? A focus on maintenance provides opportunities to ask questions about what we really want out of technologies. What do we really care about?

The UK’s long awaited Digital Strategy launched on the 1st March and will include a review on artificial intelligence. ‘It is claimed, based on figures from Accenture, that AI could add £654 billion to the UK’s economy by 2035. While research from the think tank Reform has suggested 250,000 public sector administration jobs could be replaced by chat bots, artificial intelligence, and automation by 2030.

This is one of those ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ ideas. Blinkist is an app that hosts 1,800+ best-selling nonfiction books, transformed into powerful shorts you can read or listen to in just 15 minutes

@davetrott on the topical tale of Dick and Mac McDonald, and Ray Kroc (recently brought to life by Michael Keaton in The Founder). ‘Ray Kroc is famous as the man who founded McDonald’s. In fact, he didn’t. What he did was spot a great idea and franchise it. It was the brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald, who invented the original concept.They were the real creative thinkers.They knew that real creativity isn’t adding more stuff, real creativity is taking stuff away. Their stroke of genius was in spotting that 87% of their income came from just three items – hamburgers, fries, drinks. If they concentrated on just those three things, they could make them faster and better than anyone else. So they dropped everything else off the menu.’ “As David Ogilvy said: “Strategy is sacrifice.”

Having linked to OpenStrategy’s best articles from 2015, here is a a compendium of their best strategy reads, shared over the past 12 months. Includes, in my view, one of the best articles from last year – ‘The world beyond storytelling’ by Marin Weigel. Definitely work a look. 

Which stories go viral? Apparently, those that tickle just the right spots of our brains.’The researchers noted a pattern: activity suggesting self and social interest weren’t enough to explain virality—the brain also had to involve its valuation system. An increase in activity in the self and social-interest regions was linked to activity in valuation processing. And high valuation activity was key to sharing’.

Not a happy story, but totemic of what threats can lie ahead as the Internet of Things, becomes more pervasive. A company that sells “smart” teddy bears leaked 800,000 user account credentials—and then hackers locked it and held it for ransom.

A murder case tests Alexa’s devotion to your privacy. ‘Arkansas police recently demanded that Amazon turn over information collected from a murder suspect’s Echo. Amazon’s lawyers contend that the First Amendment’s free speech protection applies to information gathered and sent by the device.

Cartographer Gerardus Mercator always got a bit of bad press for his (in)famous ‘projection‘; which stretched the top and bottom of a map when transferred from globe to a flat surface. Here he is again, on even more dodgy footing, as his 16th-century attempt at mapping the Arctic includes such guesses as a giant whirlpool and polar pygmies.

Perhaps the most brutal and honest obituary ever written? ‘With Leslie’s passing he will be missed only for what he never did; being a loving husband, father and good friend.‘ 

And finally (HT to @itsjimmyb) 19 of the most brilliantly awful, punning business names in Britain.