Sunday, December 18, 2011

RIP Vaclav Havel - reading his 1990 speech is a fine use of 5 minutes of your life...

The Hebrew University

Jerusalem, April 26, 1990

Mr. President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

First, I would like to thank you for the great honour of being awarded an honorary doctorate from your university today. This is far from the first honorary doctorate I have received, but I accept it with the same sensation that I always do: with deep shame. Because of my rather sporadic education, I suffer from feelings of unworthiness , and so I accept this degree as a strange gift, a continuing source of bewilderment. I can easily imagine a familiar-looking gentleman appearing at any moment, snatching the just-obtained diploma from my hands, taking me by the scruff of my neck and throwing me out of the hall, because it has all been just a mistake compounded by my own audacity.

I'm sure you can see where this odd expression of my gratitude is leading: I want to take this opportunity to confess my long and intimate affinity with one of the great sons of the Jewish people, the Prague writer Franz Kafka. I'm not an expert on Kafka, and I'm not eager to read the secondary literature on him. I can't even say that I've read everything Kafka has written. I do, however, have a rather special reason for my indifference to Kafka studies: I sometimes feel I'm the only one who really understands Kafka, and that no one else has any business trying to make his work more accessible to me. And my somewhat desultory attitude about studying his works comes from my vague feeling that I don't need to read and re-read everything Kafka has written because I already know what's there. I'm even secretly persuaded that if Kafka did not exist, and if I were a better writer than I am, I would have written his works myself.

What I've just said may sound odd, but I'm sure you understand what I mean. All I'm really saying is that in Kafka I have found a large portion of my own experience of the world, of myself, and of my way of being in the world. I will try, briefly and in broad terms, to name some of the more easily defined forms of this experience.

One of them is a profound, basal, and therefore utterly vague sensation of culpability, as though my very existence were a kind of sin. Then there is a powerful feeling of general alienation, both my own and relating to everything around me, which helps to create such feelings; an experience of unbearable oppressiveness, a need constantly to explain myself to someone, to defend myself, a longing for an unattainable order of things, a longing that increases as the terrain I walk through becomes more muddled and confusing. I sometimes feel the need to confirm my identity by sounding off at others and demanding my rights. Such outbursts, of course, are quite unnecessary and the response fails to reach the right ears, and vanishes into the black hole that surrounds me. Everything I encounter displays to me its absurd aspect first. I feel as though I am constantly lagging behind powerful, self-confident men whom I can never overtake, let alone emulate. I find myself essentially hateful, deserving only mockery.

I can already hear your objections that I style myself in these kafkaesque outlines only because in reality I'm entirely different: someone who quietly and persistently fights for something, someone whose idealism has carried him to the head of his nation.

Yes, I admit that superficially I may appear to be the precise opposite of all those K.'s Josef K., the surveyor K., and Franz K. although I stand behind everything I've said about myself. I would only add that, in my opinion, the hidden motor driving all my dogged efforts is precisely this innermost feeling of mine of being excluded, of belonging nowhere, a state of disinheritance, as it were, of fundamental non-belonging. Moreover, I would say that it's precisely my desperate longing for order that keeps plunging me into the most improbable adventures. I would even venture to say that everything worthwhile I've ever accomplished I have done to conceal my almost metaphysical feeling of guilt. The real reason I am always creating something, organizing something, it would seem, is to defend my permanently questionable right to exist.

You may well ask how someone who thinks of himself this way can be the president of a country. It's a paradox, but I must admit that if I am a better president than many others would be in my place, then it is precisely because somewhere in the deepest substratum of my work lies this constant doubt about myself and my right to hold office. I am the kind of person who would not be in the least surprised if, in the very middle of my presidency, I were to be summoned and led off to stand trial before some shadowy tribunal, or taken straight to a quarry to break rocks. Nor would I be surprised if I were to suddenly hear the reveille and wake up in my prison cell, and then, with great bemusement, proceed to tell my fellow prisoners everything that had happened to me in the past six months.
The lower I am, the more proper my place seems; and the higher I am, the stronger my suspicion is that there has been some mistake. And every step of the way, I feel what a great advantage it is for doing a good job as president to know that I do not belong in the position and that I can at any moment, and justifiably, be removed from it.

This is not intended to be a lecture or an essay, merely a brief comment on the subject of Franz Kafka and my presidency. I think it is appropriate that these things be expressed here in Jerusalem, at the Hebrew University, and by a Czech. Perhaps I have put more of my cards on the table than I wanted to, and perhaps my advisers will reprimand me for it. But I won't mind, because I expect it and deserve it. My readiness for the anticipated reprimand is just another example of what an advantage it is for doing my job when I am prepared at all times for the worst.

Once more, I thank you for the honour, and after what I've said here, I'm ashamed to repeat that I accept it with a sense of shame.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thinking about today's media-savvy terrorists

I thought you smart worldly people would find this of interest - some of you may have seen it before, forgive me. 

If it's offensive, apologies - I think  understanding our 'enemies' is far more valuable than screeching about them.

Inspire is Al Queda's quarterly magazine - available free on the Internet. I've not read it before, but I spent some time reading the latest edition and found it kind of interesting.

First of all, there's a strange sort of Good Morning America feel to it; which is part comical and part unnerving. 

The "Hear The Word - a collection of quotes from friends and foes" section is kind of amusing and the section on reactions to Inspire is really interesting - it's like a "review of our last edition" section...

The second part in the series "Training with the AK" is informative and easy to follow - if you happen to own an AK47, I'm sure this will be of interest to you.

The letter to the editor this month was a long and interesting one from Imran Khan (of cricket and now political fame) which is meticulously answered by the Editor in quite some detail. The response is factual, polite and informative (often coming with recommendations of further research that can easily be done on Google) and the tone is more reminiscent of the pages of Monocle or Men's Journal than of some loony terrorist cell.

There is also a "Send your questions to Anwar al-Awlaki" section that I think he's going to have trouble delivering on given that he's currently indisposed courtesy of as US drone attack.

What fascinated me most was the coolness (cool headedness, not cool) of the tone and attitude - one section called 'Open source jihad' says it's useful because the advice given "allows Muslims to train at home instead of risking dangerous travel abroad".... This is clearly a group with an excellent understanding of themselves and their position.

I guess my point in all this is that AQ have again demonstrated that they are far from tone deaf and are, in fact, very innovative in their thinking. To publish a glossy quarterly in English is a smart move on their part and to talk in such measured ways is clearly going to play to a certain audience.

It always annoys me when the Sean Hannities of the world rage on about these people being animals or living in caves - it's just ridiculous. This is a sophisticated and well educated enemy that we would do well to respect even as we distain.

For more on this, check out a very interesting study from Radio Free Europe called the Al Qaeda Media Nexus 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

George Lakoff - Don't think of an elephant

Even if you don't like elephants or American politics, this is a fascinating read.

I hate the Occupy Wall St movement

Well, I hate their positioning and here's why.

Words matter...a lot. They matter a lot more than we usually give them credit for - especially in today's world of PowerPoint, tweets and emails. Words matter the most, as you'd imagine, at the highest level - naming things...or framing things (which I think is a better way of thinking).

I wrote a blog a while back, or I meant to, about 'framing' and the importance of framing issues correctly and how names play a really big role in that.

Think of phrases like pro-life or war on terror or no child left behind, their naming isn't just a name, it's an idea; the name describes the idea or FRAMES the idea perfectly.

So, to the point of all this.

I heard Bill Maher on the Rachel Maddow show last night describe the Tea Party as the best brand the Republicans have come up with in decades; and he's right. It's a great name that frames the issue in the context of the war of independence and shrugging off the dominance of America's oppressor (my people, as it happens). A great brand name that is a lighting rod to deep-seated issues and histories.

He went on to talk about the liberal equivalent - the Occupy Wall Street movement. And it struck me that the Occupy Wall Street has done, in my opinion, a horrible job of naming and framing.

First of all, 'occupy' reeks of student sit ins, hippie movements or G20 anarchists and is easily trivialized by the conservative media - it's child's play for O'Reilly and his mob to paint the protesters as deadbeats or freaks and he's doing it every night.

Secondly, the name is about what they are doing and not WHY they're doing it. Big mistake. The tea party, when it began, could have easily called itself the Occupy Wall Street group because they were essentially anti bank bail outs. But they didn't. They were smarter than that.

Thirdly, to tie the cause so closely to Wall Street is short sighted, limiting and a bit naive. Wall Street is a symptom not the cause. If this is an anti-greed or pro-middle class movement (to be honest I'm still unsure what it really is) then there are broader targets than Gordon Gecko - which they have realized with their millionaire march through manhattan today.

If this is to be the liberal equivalent to the tea party it needs re-framing and fast. The OWS need a much tighter idea if they are going to have the impact the Tea Party has had.

Here's some hastily penned ideas that I think get closer to framing and naming.

BTW if you're interested in understanding the notion of 'framing' you must read George Lakoff's book "don't think of an elephant" - its wonderful, like the text book of the movie Wag the Dog.

I think this is about the fight for the middle class so I would frame it so.

Fighting for our fair share movement
Reclaiming America for the people movement
All for one and one for all - sorry Alexandre...
Work hard, pay hard movement
Mothers for the middle class - that, over time,expands way beyond mums

I would make it more about coming together than breaking things apart. I'd make it more about American pioneering spirit and working together (God knows we need it) than I would about hating fat-cat capitalists - going against rich people is just butting heads against the American Dream.

Clearly these aren't the best ideas, but someone, somewhere is, I hope, thinking along similar lines and going to Marshall this rowdy rabble into a serious movement. If they're not, it will be to Prez Obama's detriment and possible undoing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Novartathon is now is Franglebrook...

One of the types of advertising I enjoy the most is when one company you've never heard of runs ads to tell you it's now changed its name or merged to become another company you've never heard of. This example is particularly noteworthy because they've done it in such an ugly, ham fisted manner.

I'm not sure why Campaign doesn't dispose with their articles and just let FTI Consulting have the whole damn page.

I also don't think they needed to TM their tagline, not much danger anyone else is going to want a line like "Critical thinking at the critical time"...... Could you take yourselves a bit more seriously? Does one of your competitors have the line "Pointless thinking at the worst time possible"?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

TOP SECRET/Subject: America today.

I'm reposting this wonderful article from Tom Friedman because it's even more relevant today than it was when he wrote it 10 months ago.  With what the republicans and the tea-baggers are doing to the standing of the United States, Beijing must be ecstatic. If only they can offload some of that US$ debt they own!

Published: November 30, 2010

While secrets from WikiLeaks were splashed all over the American newspapers, I couldn’t help but wonder: What if China had a WikiLeaker and we could see what its embassy in Washington was reporting about America? 
I suspect the cable would read like this:

Washington Embassy, People’s Republic of China, to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Beijing

TOP SECRET/Subject: America today.
Things are going well here for China. America remains a deeply politically polarized country, which is certainly helpful for our goal of overtaking the U.S. as the world’s most powerful economy and nation. But we’re particularly optimistic because the Americans are polarized over all the wrong things.
There is a willful self-destructiveness in the air here as if America has all the time and money in the world for petty politics. They fight over things like — we are not making this up — how and where an airport security officer can touch them. They are fighting — we are happy to report — over the latest nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. 

It seems as if the Republicans are so interested in weakening President Obama that they are going to scuttle a treaty that would have fostered closer U.S.-Russian cooperation on issues like Iran. And since anything that brings Russia and America closer could end up isolating us, we are grateful to Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona for putting our interests ahead of America’s and blocking Senate ratification of the treaty. The ambassador has invited Senator Kyl and his wife for dinner at Mr. Kao’s Chinese restaurant to praise him for his steadfastness in protecting America’s (read: our) interests.

Americans just had what they call an “election.” Best we could tell it involved one congressman trying to raise more money than the other (all from businesses they are supposed to be regulating) so he could tell bigger lies on TV more often about the other guy before the other guy could do it to him. This leaves us relieved. It means America will do nothing serious to fix its structural problems: a ballooning deficit, declining educational performance, crumbling infrastructure and diminished immigration of new talent.
The ambassador recently took what the Americans call a fast train — the Acela — from Washington to New York City. Our bullet train from Beijing to Tianjin would have made the trip in 90 minutes. His took three hours — and it was on time! Along the way the ambassador used his cellphone to call his embassy office, and in one hour he experienced 12 dropped calls — again, we are not making this up. We have a joke in the embassy: “When someone calls you from China today it sounds like they are next door. And when someone calls you from next door in America, it sounds like they are calling from China!” Those of us who worked in China’s embassy in Zambia often note that Africa’s cellphone service was better than America’s.
But the Americans are oblivious. They travel abroad so rarely that they don’t see how far they are falling behind. Which is why we at the embassy find it funny that Americans are now fighting over how “exceptional” they are. Once again, we are not making this up. On the front page of The Washington Post on Monday there was an article noting that Republicans Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are denouncing Obama for denying “American exceptionalism.” The Americans have replaced working to be exceptional with talking about how exceptional they still are. They don’t seem to understand that you can’t declare yourself “exceptional,” only others can bestow that adjective upon you.
In foreign policy, we see no chance of Obama extricating U.S. forces from Afghanistan. He knows the Republicans will call him a wimp if he does, so America will keep hemorrhaging $190 million a day there. Therefore, America will lack the military means to challenge us anywhere else, particularly on North Korea, where our lunatic friends continue to yank America’s chain every six months so that the Americans have to come and beg us to calm things down. By the time the Americans do get out of Afghanistan, the Afghans will surely hate them so much that China’s mining companies already operating there should be able to buy up the rest of Afghanistan’s rare minerals.
Most of the Republicans just elected to Congress do not believe what their scientists tell them about man-made climate change. America’s politicians are mostly lawyers — not engineers or scientists like ours — so they’ll just say crazy things about science and nobody calls them on it. It’s good. It means they will not support any bill to spur clean energy innovation, which is central to our next five-year plan. And this ensures that our efforts to dominate the wind, solar, nuclear and electric car industries will not be challenged by America.
Finally, record numbers of U.S. high school students are now studying Chinese, which should guarantee us a steady supply of cheap labor that speaks our language here, as we use our $2.3 trillion in reserves to quietly buy up U.S. factories. In sum, things are going well for China in America.
Thank goodness the Americans can’t read our diplomatic cables.
China Embassy Washington

Advertising Scam - the tabloid journalism of our trade...

Think about it.

Tabloid journalism is barely journalism as scam is barely advertising

Tabloid journalism lacks integrity as does scam advertising

Tabloid journalism is clearly filled with dirtly little secrets (not that little) as is the fact that our
industry wastes so much time and money on scam

Tabloid journalism turned a blind eye to questionable practices in the same way that many in our industry turns a blind eye to Scam.

Tabloid journalism serves little public interest as scam serves almost no 'client-interest'

Tabloid journalism's value is essentially tittilation as is Scam's

Tabloid journalism operates on the fringe of the law in the same way that a lot of scam lives on the fringes of the unspoken rules of our business.

Tabloid journalism hides behind the skirts of investigative journalism as Scam hides behind the skirt of the real business of advertising communications.

I think it's time we took on this issue properly as an industry because it's a racket we don't need.

The money wasted on chasing awards with fake work is incredible. The entry charges, the statuettes for all and sundry, the awards night tickets and expenses, not to mention the tens of thousands of man hours all add up to a monstrous number. Cut the Scam, save the money and re-invest it in building the talent you have at the agency with much needed training and support.

Credit to Ogilvy Ukraine for this anti Scam ad - now that should win an award...

"If you a scared motherf%^*&r, go to church" - another great blog from Ben Horowitz

Ben's blog is some of the best stuff I read these days. I especially like how he embeds Snoop into his thinking. I wish I knew how to do that...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The world's oldest branded content idea?

"It's not necessary to change, because survival isn't mandatory"

I've spent a lot of time over the past few months talking with people in the industry about the state of play, and I'm sorry to report that the general consensus is gloomy. Despite this being an incredibly exciting time to be working in the media/communications business, the model seems very broken. Here's a quick laundry list of what I heard.

- Shorter and shorter client relationships
- Increasing shift from retainer to project based relationships
- The rise of procurement
- Intense margin pressures at agencies
- Talent leaving the industry
- Lack of training
- General dissatisfaction in the ranks - "Another weekend in the office"
- Similar dissatisfaction at senior levels "Where else would I move to...they're all the same?"
- Increasing resentment to the culture of awards

On the positive, I heard a lot of excitement over how things could be if we could only work out how to change.

My reason for writing this isn't to be a downer, but to promote a bit more discussion about the future and the changes that need to happen. My endeavor isn't purely charitable. As a small business owner in the industry I'm acutely aware of the need to change and move with the times. As such, getting the debate going can only help me to think ahead.

Lee Clow (TBWA God) famously said the we are living in the most exciting time for our industry since the invention of television. My question is how do we get from today to the place that Mr. Clow has in his head? Any thought welcome.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

To brand dictators

It's always nice to see a brand that has a very clear sense of its own self and its tone of voice.

Apple is great at this and the front page of the website over the weekend is a fine example - smelling very strongly of Steve Jobs.

Most brands in the tech sector would have gone on some superlative rampage about "seductive whiteness", "alluring perfection" or "sublime smoothness".

No, Apple takes a subtle shot at itself and the lengthy delay in the launch of it's white iPhone 4 with the headline "Finally". You can almost hear Jobs screaming it at someone at Chiat Day - or whoever comes up with these things these days...

Yeah, being the second most valuable company in the world does give you a certain amount of swagger.  But, Apple has always had a very clear sense of itself - that's what happens when you're run by dictators I guess. Maybe we need more of them - in business at least.

Ps. It's important to distinguish between visionary dictators & bullying sociopaths - we need more of the former and yet are blessed with an abundance of the latter.

Monday, April 18, 2011

WFIO - We’re F#%ked, It’s Over

I know blogging is all about "original content" but I read a lot of stuff that's just someone writing what someone else said in another blog but doing it less well. As such, I'll just post this lovely lovely blog and leave it at that.’s-the-most-difficult-ceo-skill-managing-your-own-psychology/

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lose the poodle...

Warning. Real Estate communications can seriously insult your intelligence

There are few areas of the communications industry that still remain locked away in the 70's, but real estate is one of them.  Open up any paper in Singapore and you'll be confronted by nonsensical advertising that, frankly, insults the intelligence of even the most challenged reader.

Because I'm all about helping and not hating, here's a few suggestions for Real Estate developers and their agencies that I hope will be of use.

1. When you show your artist's impression of the building, don't photoshop out every other surrounding building and replace them with park land. We have eyes and most of us can process geographical landscapes. This is Ascentia Sky (ridiculous name I know) and it's on Alexandra Road at the junction of Tanglin road. Behind it is the building I live in which is the same height - I don't see that building in this picture. Also, when did the Alexandra Rd area become overrun by tropical forest?

2. Putting D' in front of a building's name does not make it either French, premium or desirable

3. Enough with the olde worlde copywriting and the use of super-sulperlatives. Who speaks like that? "Live in the lap of luxury, where pockets of modern facilities weave rhythmically amidst hanging gardens in the sky"


My advice is, if you've got nothing to say, say nothing...

4. When people visit your showroom, they are trying to imagine what their lives might be like in your new building. They are NOT trying to imagine what it would be like to live in Ivana Trump's trashier sister's apartment in central Moscow. Enough with the over filling of show flats with chintzy trinkets and awful decor. Who lives like this? Really?

5.  Cost conscious consumers get suspicious when the show flat building looks like Col. Gaddafi commissioned it. You may think it impresses people, but more likely it leaves them wondering "how much cheaper would the properties be had the developed not dropped that much cash on the showroom".   This is the D'Leedon showflat and it took 5 months to build.

6. Stop telling people what is aspirational, we are living in one of the richest countries in the world with the fastest growing economy in 2010. We understand aspiration. And, if you are going to insist on holding up an image of 'opulence' and 'sophistication' lose the poodle.

There's a lot of money spent on communications in the real estate industry, it would just be refreshing to see someone bypass the cliche and talk to consumers in the kind of language that most other luxury categories have managed to adopt. Would brands like LVMH or Cartier, that your target are very familiar with, ever communicate luxury in such a ham fisted manner? I don't think so.

Thomas Barnett on what's wrong with our military...

This is quite an old TED talk, but given what's going on in the Middle East/Africa currently it's well worth a re-visit. Barnett is very dry and very funny - I guess you need a sense of humor to work at the Pentagon.

Barnett's key point is that we have an excellent "Department of War" but we sorely need a "Department of Everything Else". NATO/USA can take down pretty much any military force in the world, however, it's increasingly about what happens next. Libya right now is an excellent example of this. We've taken down Gaddafi's military machine, however, what we do next is unclear from a political, military and reconstruction standpoint.


Count to ten and breathe slowly into the brown paper bag

Before I start, let me say I am not a technology laggard, a Facebook hater or in general a person who longs for a life more simple; filled with rotary phones and weekends at the allotment.
With that said, I gave a lecture last week at a University in Singapore (yeah, I know, scary) and was enjoying a post presentation coffee when I was approached by one of the students from the lecture. For about ten minutes, this nice guy gave me his point of view about all things technology and new media and why it was revolutionizing the world – all delivered with a Def Con 3 level of self confidence that only 3/4 of an MBA can give you.
My point to him was, that while all of this new stuff was exciting and consequential, it was important not to miss the fact that the underlying human motivations have not really changed and that these things he was fawning over were symptomatic of a more important and slower moving thing – humanity.
As you can imagine, this didn’t go down too well and the new media fawn-fest went on. I finally gave him an example of why I believed that the fundamentals of marketing had not in fact changed despite all the changes. My example was a simple one, that what’s at the heart of new media isn’t new at all, in fact it’s very old.
Since time began, humans have been about sociability – things that today we would readily attribute to things of a social media nature – storytelling, connecting, talking, sharing opinions, getting closer (1-2-1), building communities and exercising word of mouth. It’s just that in the past, before we lived in blocks of flats and flew around in planes, we didn’t need social media or things like that – in Roman times, the equivalent of ‘signing in’ to Facebook was knocking on a neighbor’s front door. Ebay was the forum and tweeting was done via a distinctly bricks and mortar pedestal called the Rostra.
To me, new media is simply old media fundamentals brought to life through new and constantly changing technology. What’s at the core remains pretty much the same – I think the quote is something like “technology changes, people don’t” – and I think we’d do well to keep this in mind.
Clay Shirky agrees with me too, which is nice. In a recent (excellent) McKinsey podcast he said the following of today’s net-generation “they’re not different kinds of people than we were when we were their age, human nature hasn’t changed. But, behavior is motivation filtered through opportunity [and today the opportunities open to people are different and greater]” I couldn’t have put it better myself, really.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The economics of scam

Ok, this is my one and only rant on scam.
If Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, spent a couple of days looking at the economics of scam, what would he say? I'm not Steven Levitt, but here's my guess.
Scam takes 3 points off of an agency's margin every year - yeah, I said it!
Money: A huge additional draw on already scarce resources. Simply put, chasing awards with scam (as against real work paid for by clients) costs an awful lot of incremental time and money - money that I believe could be put to better use. 
Morale: When I started in the industry, awards were a movement for motivation; increasingly they have become a rite of passage...without them you don't get to progress. It’s also a morale downer for the rest of the agency who don’t get to play at the awards game - a fact that can eroding trust and respect within the other departments who see scam put above real work in the creative pecking order.
Clients: Every hour spent on scam is an hour less spent working on actual client  business. Today, with clients more demanding than ever and competitors more ferocious than ever, this is suicide. Ask yourself; are you better off winning an award for something that doesn't really exist that no-one will ever see, or trying to do better work on real client business?
Inflation: Win more awards, get better jobs, get paid more, win more awards, get better jobs, get paid more...and round it goes. Agencies are creating creative salary inflation and using the company’s money to do so. I say pay great creatives great salaries for real, not made up, work. Creatives remain the engines of our industry and they should be paid as such.
The Emperor’s Clothes: Scam work is a scam in and of itself. No-one believes it’s real and everyone sees it coming a mile off - clients, colleagues, other creatives, journalists, everyone. A very well known industry expert shared some data with my former agency last year which said that, in his 2010 survey, the most important thing clients looked for from agencies was “creativity” and the least important thing they looked for was “awards”. Some of my creatives colleagues (you know who you are) couldn’t understand the incredibly obvious distinction - a distinction that clients clearly got!
I'm not a creative hater, not by a long shot. But I am a selective award hater - at least when it comes to awards given to scam work. 
The over emphasis on awards creates and the proliferation of scam in those awards shows creates a false economy in our industry. Furthermore, it wastes money, time and energy that should be put to better use - hence my 3 points of the margin lost guesstimate. Too often it doesn't reward real effort on real business - which is so much harder than cranking out a scam ad for some local museum - and it can create a false sense of achievement and standing.
The problem is that we've convinced ourselves that we need awards - the amount of times I've heard "if we don't play the awards game, we won't get the best creatives". I think that may have been true in the past, but today's best agencies increasingly look for real work on real clients - maybe they always did. You show up at BBH or Weiden with a bag full of scam metal and you won't be taken seriously.
Young creatives, don't take a puff of that award joint. Do great work on whatever clients you get the chance to work on, be proud of pushing work from crap to acceptable, and from acceptable to great.  Jump on real opportunities to surprise the world with your creativity and by all means enter your best work into the best awards. But don't fall into the trap of thinking that's all that matters, because if you do, it’s a hard one to get out of and once you have that reputation, you have it for life.
The consistent push back I get on this subject is that clients in the region rarely give agencies the opportunity to do "good work". I'm sorry, I think that simply shows a cock eyed understanding the business we are in and a distorted view of what constitutes "good work". But that's for another time.
Stepping quietly down from my soapbox....
Now, bring on the firestorm of indignation....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My proposal for an Anti-Dictator Low Earth Satellite Internet Access program

I don't know if this exists already, my five minutes of googling the topic left me equally convinced that it does AND doesn't exist already, but I have an idea of how to get round those pesky dictators shutting off the Internet mid-revolution.

I think that the United Nations should have a handful of low earth satellites on hand that they can quickly position over a country or a city to provide Internet coverage for the people; even if their feared leader has switched it off.

 The only way for a dictator to get round this would be to shoot a UN satellite out of the sky which, even for Gaddafi-level crazy, would seem like a pretty risky proposition these days.

The cost wouldn't be cheap but maybe the UN could offset the venture by selling the music streaming rights to iTunes or by allowing the US to mount Stinger missiles on the satellites and use them as drones during non-revolutionary peace time periods.

If anyone knows how I could fund this as a start up, please let me know, I think demand is only going to grow...

Monday, February 21, 2011

The NASA of healthcare...

Interesting news today that a bunch of big tech firms are clubbing together to help the Stanford Medical Centre build a new $2bn hospital. From what I can grasp this would become something of a skunk work hospital showcasing, testing and creating state of the art new healthcare technology products.

What a genius idea. It could be the NASA of healthcare - which we surely need!

This is the kind of innovation and innovative thinking that America (everywhere) needs - especially today.

Ironic that this is happening the same week that congress is trying to "Cut to success" taking chunks out of the Obama budget - education, healthcare, long term investment and other luxury items!!!!

North African revolution, brought to you by BNP PARIBAS

Maybe I'm cynical, but I was somewhat taken aback to see BNP Paribas running this ad on BBC World tonight in-between the news of Libya's potential fall and the rest of the unrest in the ME. Nice media placement, lucky/unlucky co-incidence, cynical marketing ploy.... you decide.....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Enough of the 'winning talk' all the time

Lucy Kellaway is the best. She puts her finger on the subject or the needless grinding positivity about everything an organization does these days and stands up for Stephen Elop for his extraordinary email last week that took his own organization to task for opportunities missed.

Chiat Day's old ad about why they lost the Honda business back in the day is a nice example and a breath of fresh air from the usual "What, that big global loss? Oh no, that was only 1% of the business we picked up this year...." Ha!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Change is good...

To me the prospect of faster and more prolific change (especially out here in Asia) is what gets me out of bed (albeit late) in the morning.

A nice bit from Fareed's GPS a couple of weeks back where, a frankly relieved looking, Tony Blair reflected on the change he inflicted on the British population.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I'm not a burn your bra liberal, but....

If I'm getting this spot right - and I've seen it a lot as it's running non stop on Star Cricket channel during the ashes debacle - then i'm Neil appalled from Holland Village!

The story seems to be about a series of indian men who are rushing to get to work and are apparently running late. Towards the end of the spot we realize that their job is to be human light bulbs for their masters because of the teeth whitening effect of Happydent chewing gum... Sometimes they're illuminating the tennis court with their dazzling teeth, sometimes their heads are the headlights on their bosses cars and sometimes they are simply part of the human chandelier that their bosses use to light their dinner time.

REALLY? Thats here we are in 2011? That's how India wants to present itself (albeit via a chewing gum brand) on Asia-wide TV?

Shame. Or am I being way too sensitive?