Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

7th July 2017

A fabulous print campaign from Ogilvy Thailand that did rather well at Cannes.This is Lego : Build The Future. 

Nice infographic from the Economist (source : Thomson Reuters) highlighting the market value of selected major US technology companies since 2000 (as % of combined total). Nice way of looking at the relative decline of  Microsoft, Cisco and IBM and the rise of the G.A,F.A. companies.

In 2008, The Atlantic sat down with the filmmaker David Lynch as he mused about inspiration and how to capture the flow of creativity. Now, they have animated his words of advice. “A lot of artists think that suffering is necessary,” he says. “But in reality, any kind of suffering cramps the flow of creativity.” (short video).

Some interesting stuff regarding the Blockchain, this week. This from @onlydeadfish – ‘Can The Blockchain Save Digital Advertising?’But the BAT (Basic Attention Token) is essentially an attempt to use the Blockchain to solve some of these very pressing digital advertising problems (BAT Whitepaper). BAT thus removes the need for verification and tracking, ensures the ad is seen by an actual human being, replaces multiple layers of the typical ad tech stack, and therefore improves user privacy and helps the publisher to properly monetise their content and attention by ensuring fewer middlemen and a more transparent market. BAT can even go further by rewarding the user for their attention. My related piece on the Blockchain here ( ‘The importance of the blockchain – the second generation of the internet’).

MIT’s has released its 50 Smartest Companies 2017. The top 5?  – Nvidia (intelligent machines), SpaceX (transportation), Amazon (connectivity), 23andMe (biomedicine) and Alphabet (connectivity).

Nice piece from @elevenfiftyfive – What is Content Anyway? ‘Audiences don’t want content. More often than not when we are making them ‘content,’ they want entertainment. Content is a delivery system. An entertainment delivery system. So let’s talk about entertainment, and the many forms it takes.’

The Economist draws a parallel between Jeremy Corbyn and successful disruptors in the world of business. …’most interesting businesses start life on the margins. They succeed by spotting underserved markets and inventing ways of reaching them. Disruptive innovators start off by producing unpolished products for the bottom of the market. Successful incumbents dismiss them as cranks. But as they improve their products they end up revolutionising their markets and humbling yesterday’s incumbents. Think of classified ads (Craigslist), long-distance calls (Skype), record stores (iTunes), taxis (Uber) and newspapers (Twitter).

A rather wonderful, informative and interactive tool that could also work really well in the world of Travel and Tourism – Wikipedia : The Text Adventure. 

HT to @neilperkin for this great example of interactive, scrolling storytelling. From SBNation – ‘What Football Will Look Like In The Future’. PS, whatever you are expecting, it won’t be this.

A celebration of New York in Cinema (a four minute video).

Ten Stories We Have Enjoyed This Week

30th June 2017

From Cannes Lions and @adweek. It is undoubtedly a tough time for journalism and this campaign by Droga 5 for the New York Times needed to engage and drive paid for subscriptions. They decided on a big stage for their first TV spot in seven years – The Oscars, and engaged a high profile figure to accelerate awareness. They knew that when Trump tweets, subscriptions go up. 

Still on the Cote D’Azur, apparently lots of talk in Cannes on the subject of how scent is the new U.I. Racked has a great profile of ‘indie artisanal perfume pioneer’ Frederic Malle. ‘I was at Chateau Marmont yesterday in the elevator and there was this girl preparing for a party, and I was really sad for her because she smelled like Duty Free.

From @geniussteals – Search is more honest than Social. ‘While people carefully craft their social media presences, people Google things they’d be afraid to say aloud. Which is why it’s perhaps much more revealing than social media when it comes to what people are really thinking.’

From The Wall St Journal – ‘In 10 Years your iPhone won’t be a phone anymore. Siri will be the conductor of a suite of devices, all tracking your interactions and anticipating your next moves.’ I addressed this subject in my recent article – ‘Why brands should be bothered about (voice)bots.’

More innovation from Spotify as it builds a collaborative playlist tool for Facebook Messenger, to get people talking music.

The Harvard Business Review on the benefits of ‘Slow Innovation’.’ Slow culture — or, in this case, slow innovation — is the realm of pattern recognition: searching for emerging developments outside the organisation’s immediate line-of-sight or that may be happening steadily, but not rapidly. Slow innovation focuses on changes that you see coming but that may not be ready to transform your business immediately.’

‘Museum visitor numbers have grown to record highs, driven, in part, by global tourism and digital media. Yet museums live with the perception of economic uncertainty, subject to government funding cuts of up to 30 per cent since the recession. Can museums turn their own fortunes around? What if there were things implicit in the business models of museums that could evolve to fit the digital economy?’ @Nesta on museum business models in the digital economy.

From @digiday, video has become a focus for publishers on Instagram since it raised the maximum length on a video to one minute. This emphasis has helped publishers broaden reach and drive traffic, revenue and engagement, both on and off the platform.

@econsultancy interviews Sarah Rose (Director of Consumer Insights at Channel 4) on the future of TV, personalisation & GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).‘One of the key battlegrounds…is the discoverability of content.’

It is 20 years (yes really) since the first Harry Potter book was published. This FT video looks at the reasons behind this phenomenon. Careful brand management, fan power, luck, timing and of course a cracking story, all played their part.

Finally, apparently, the Catholic Church is freaking out about fidget spinners. ‘Is the toy an apt representation of the holy Trinity or is it heresy?

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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’.

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.