Simple ideas and a natural evolution from the obsession with everything virtual. I’ll collect on/offline examples here.

The iPad example below isn’t technically social,  but it could be with a couple of tweaks. Rather than just an expensive remote control as in this example, the iPad has a lovely tactic potential of using its 3G access to deliver advanced, very human computing (rather than compromised mobile phone experiences). I’m sure there’s an app to swap rich online profiles with a neighbouring iPad into the address book via the cloud. It reminds me of the original Palm PDA with its infrared business card sharing app. Those were the days.


This presentation looks at the impact on memory of involvement, in particular  online  involvement with businesses. It goes through approaches for how to harness open business tactics to build brand/product/service recommendation.

This essay was published in the Campaign supplement ‘What’s Next in Digital‘, June 2010.

Summary: This essay proposes that the next big effects of the internet on business and society will be in the structures of organisations. Whilst consumers have embraced new ways to buy, talks find and share, organisations have, structurally, failed to profit from the always on connectedness the internet brings. We expect significant change in this area of the next few years which will impact massively on the role of marketing and the even question the existence of the marketing department.

We wondered what would happen if we banned people talking about ‘digital’, ‘social’, ‘viral’, ‘mobile’, ‘ATL’, ‘BTL’ and ‘TTL’.

As an exercise it’s revealing. What do you sell to clients? What do they buy? What do you ‘make’? What do planners talk about all day?

We believe it’s the end of the road for talking about ‘digital’ and all talk of channel-based silos. Thinking and making in silos prevents us from joining the dots between a business’s activities and the audiences it seeks. Both client side and agency side, silos are the enemy. But what’s the alternative?

We want to see organisations structure themselves around what’s real, not what’s convenient to manage: connected people and the data they provide.

The almost total digitization of commerce, content, media channels, customer service, R&D, research and channels to market has meant a growing two billion people around the world are connected to each other around their friendship groups and interests.

Existing human behavioural norms have been magnified, leading to the disruption of global societal and commercial structures.

For example, now we’re all connected, nothing is secret anymore. Nor is anything unavailable. Nothing is right or wrong because opinion is everything. Nothing is controllable (centrally at least). It’s also a meritocracy out there; no-one much cares unless you’re interesting. It applies for people, and so it applies for organisations. Consequently, everyone’s a marketer because everyone has an audience. So it follows that interest-based niches are the new mass and marketing control is decentralized.

If this is the new normal, what’s next? Well, as Sci-fi writer William Gibson supposedly said: “the future’s here, its just not evenly distributed”. We foresee innovation in organisational structure as the most important consequence of the growth in global connectedness. Those organisations that limit agility and fail to build their offerings around the flow of data between company and consumer will lose competitiveness.

In the marketing world, clients know what they want to buy from their marketing partners, but they’re often not structured to buy it. Agencies know what they want solutions they should provide, but they too are poorly structured to create it. Every agency is talking the same ‘new world’ vision. But only those designed to deliver it consistently (and painlessly) will flourish. Decentralized marketing models are developing, and its proponents are data rich, always on businesses.

Yet much marketing is still stuck in the military campaigning mindset rather than the continuous diplomacy and influencing mindset needed to manage reputations through relationships. We expect to see future-thinking companies re-structure, enabling access to customers and prospects at every stage of a two-way Value Chain.

Few businesses are truly ‘consumer centric’, so this is the opportunity to finally do marketing as it should be by placing connected consumers (and the insightful data they generate) at a businesses’ heart.

So we say ‘Death to digital, all hail marketing’.

In the progressive company, who’s staff are constantly connecting with the consumer through technology, each department will naturally be involved in marketing. Many across a business will be empowered with tools to connect to their respective audiences (both internal and external) and nurture the value of that community to the business. We are already seeing the suppliers of tools (37signals) and advice (Altimeter Group) flourish.

So we say ‘Death to channels, all hail relationships’.

The Innovation and IT functions in progressive businesses have generally led the way: Alibaba and IP exchanges help all kinds of companies outsource their product development, Boeing famously collaborate with thousands of suppliers worldwide at every stage from design to delivery, Amazon organizes data more nimbly with Mechanical Turk while Good Guide and Get Satisfaction are helping consumers make better buying choices. New online players like Threadless (fashion), globrix (property), linqia (marketing), Kiva and Zopa (finance) are using connected and inherently open models to find customers.

As a result of existing marketing experiments, we believe similar models will be created in established businesses as managers seek to continuously test and learn, in real time, with diverse audience communities.

Consequently, we expect to see greater distribution of ‘marketing’ activity such as selling and reputation management responsibility across business functions traditionally out of the public gaze. For example, customer service departments will chat real time to large communities of customers and develop CRM solutions, product departments will crowdsource to aid innovation, or recruiters will promote the CSR initiatives of the company through public webinars to entice new applicants. All of this may come at the expense of the marketing department’s role as the official communications conduit.

The sponsor of this shift will be the CEO. Their internal goal will be for greater responsiveness to market needs and a leaner sales function, while their external aim will focus on creating fans of the brand through ever more personal and relevant service. In effect a consumer centric organisation has a marketing director as their CEO.

Agencies and marketers alike will be forced to forge relationships business wide, to lead the sharing of data and promote openness and solution neutral ideas.

Unless the marketing department takes the lead in developing brands with a relevant and flexible idea at their heart that allows for multiple forms of connection with consumers, the company-wide distribution of marketing activity may shrink its role to simply that of channel co-ordination and brand policing.

So we say,

death to digital
death to channel silos
death to the marketing department?

All hail the connected organisation

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Film for NZ Book Council/Produced by Colenso BBDO/Animated by Andersen M Studio

What struck me about this piece is its natural drama.

The subject matter is drama and then they unashamedly beef it up.

We often find insights based on conflict (the heart of drama) and then we skirt around them fearing offense (in case we put anyone off the campaign or ad, rather than making people love it even more).

If we seek entertainment and joy in the things we consume, why would we be attracted to overly sanitized ads? If drama excites us (books, film, gossip, sport, politics), why do marketers work so hard to avoid it? Are we just too timid?

It seems such as shame that all these talented creative people (who’d rather be in the arts but can’t get paid for it), are prohibited from using their natural sense of drama to promote products in a way people will take notice of by client organisations built to omit drama from their every day lives.

Sports brands do drama pretty well, but not brilliantly. Why aren’t there sports brands creating feature films or theatrical events? They’d argue the drama is in the sport of course, but I’m not sure that should get them off the hook. Timidity again?

This wonderful image by Kim and Tony at W+K is probably the best example of pure drama expressed in the category.

Straw poll:

What was the last ad you were moved by?

What was the last marketing experience that gave you goose bumps?

If you can remember one, then you can be sure the brand tracking was healthy.

I tweeted like an idiot yesterday at Battle of Big Thinking, the APG event. I was trying to record the ideas that had salience as they were delivered. There’s a great collection of people’s opinions on twitter here. Looking back there were nice nuggets. But what do I remember from the event the day after, without needing my memory jogged? What can I take away and use, mull-over, critique?
Sadly, surprisingly little.

I was disappointed by the lack of insight in the 25 presentations. Only a handful were based on an idea with substantiated evidence or a truly new way of looking at things. Most were the same regurgitated en-vogue arguments. Few featured lateral thought, or smart new combinations of seemingly unrelated insight. Few amazed. So I guess few were ‘big’?

My takeout? Most planners are reading the same stuff and thinking the same stuff. And it’s boring.

Age seemed to matter. The most insightful thoughts came from the older guys and the youngest guys. In between (apart from Peter Sells of BBH talking about mobile), there seemed to be a lot of repetition and recycled subjective beige.

I will take away the following ideas:

Guy Murphy won overall with some thinking based on research into brand perceptions amongst the populations of about 15 countries worldwide. What JWT have concluded is that as markets mature, consumer’s interest (measured by ‘time’ spent with or thinking about a brand) declines.

He then compared the creative approach of brands across the world and concluded that a lack of playfulness in mature markets was hampering the efficacy of communications. His Brand Toys application helps companies visualise and explore their potentially playful identity.

This was insight rich thinking which made the audience re-appraise first, their cynicism to emerging markets in terms of creativity, and second, their own strategies for the tired old brands in the West. It also made you want to work overseas. Solid work from a pro!

Justin Basini introduced a proper big thought – that business and therefore marketing must move away from the consumption based economics that is driving us into a resources-battering Matrix-style nightmare, and instead focus on ‘conservation economics’.

A handful of changes to our practice was recommended:

1. Encourage punters to value what they have, rather than value what they don’t have. Demand for services/products can be based on building on what people do/own/use already rather than promoting a disposable culture.

2. We should move from mass marketing to mass interactions as the Cluetrain Manifesto was right and conversations will guide consumer behaviour.

3. We should seek to extend the life of products with additional services. For example, the App store and Nike+ provide added value with few resources being used up.

4. Corporations who are ‘too big to fail’ must now appreciate their role in society beyond making profit. A new obligation to create on social good should be introduced. Marketing can play a critical role in this.

Peter Sells from BBH used his experience as a cognitive psychologist to align mobile technology with human needs. He talked about the core needs we’re driven by:

1. Resolution

2. Connection

3. Contentment

4. Control

5. Information

Satisfying these needs leads to a sense of happiness. Happiness as seen through ‘flow‘, or a frictionless ‘optimal experience’, can become a worthy goal of any service a company might deliver to customers. As a fundamental requirement for the most timely, proximal channel currently existing, happiness is a neat aim for mobile activity.

He pointed out that there is a massive market for happiness. So alongside Guy’s playfulness and another speaker’s reference to VW Fun Theory, a trend to use smart behavioural planning to create contentment and happy people emerged from the day.
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Patrick Cairns from Plum Baby made the simple and refreshing point that, contrary to most large companies, those organisations with innovation naturally at their heart are driven by a vision and by a leader’s instinct. Instinct rules when it come to innovation it seems. Innovation is about opinion (which is future orientated vs past orientated fact). Patrick told us to ’embrace outsiders’ in order to find new ways forward, ‘fail quickly’ and make an idea ‘personal but solidly managed’. And it should be quick otherwise everyone loses. See Nonsense’s 24 start-up idea as an example. In 24hrs they’ve created Dr Hue. And it works!

So while I was disappointed by the lack of new thinking led by research or real insight during the day, Patrick’s opinion was a powerful one. He suggested we find ways to help people who express a fresh new vision (as opposed to a recycled one). We should support and explore their instinctive belief, unfettered by committees and what Malcolm White called ‘Premature Evaluation’ (Number 3 of 15 ideas in 15 minutes).

The most fun part of the day was from the new ‘Open Mic’ section – 5 young planners from places like Fallon, Naked, Grey and Carlson fought it out for 3 mins each. Considering the quality of the content, 3 mins seemed an unfairly short amount of time. Indeed more came from their punchy ideas in 15mins than from almost the entire morning.

The winner was James Mitchell who dared suggest that BOBT’s promise that it would offer ‘a year’s worth of ideas in one day’ might be a bad thing, and that information overload was our biggest threat. It was simple, entertaining and heartfelt. Like Jon Alexander’s sustainability themed talk, James’ vision was Utopian and therefore extremely compelling. The audience was lifted and post-lunch blues dissipated. I think the success of this section pointed the way to the evolution of the BOBT concept.

Robin Wight used the podium to launch an impassioned demand that we must Save Advertising. He argues that market research has failed to evolve since the 60’s when Account Planning was born. A wrong assumption about the way the brain works has led us to rationalising, Link-testing madness.

He argues that brain science has helped us understand that the primal instinctive brain makes most of our purchasing decisions (we don’t like to work hard thinking about less important things as it uses up too much of the body’s energy), while the rational mind justifies it.

We are truly in two minds with tricky decisions (such as moral issues), but for most consumption needs, we think very little.  So asking us why we made a choice is a complete waste of time, as we don’t know (at least we can’t tell you accurately).  Robin used new norms from brain science to discount the use of norms from Link tests and other rationalising research methods.

The danger inherent in this approach is that brain scans and the assumptions being made around them are a) new and b) themselves little understood.

So while Robin will receive much support from planners weary of models that claim to uncover truths that often go against our creative instincts, he has yet to propose a new methodology to replace the old model. I hope a new agreed upon research model emerges from science and psychology soon. ‘Till then, we have what we have. But good on Robin for getting the debate started.

So what should we do next year?

As an APG committee member, I could propose a few tweaks to the format. So ideas are welcome!

Katy from Naked, John from PHD and I thought perhaps a ‘Planning’s Got Talent’ format could work for an entertaining day! A speaker has to make their point and is allowed to continue only if the audience is suitably impressed. Audience voting during the speech however can force the speaker offstage.

A less aggressive version could simply see the BOBT format condensed and the battle elements increased. I do think shorter speeches are needed. But if people like the idea, perhaps longer versions of the ideas could be prepared for further debate later in the day.

Either way, quality control should be excersized and speaker briefings must be thorough. To avoid articles like this one from Matthew Taylor of the RSA.

I have been to good events. I’ve even hosted them — times when the speakers have been well briefed, the event has a clear purpose, the questions addressed have been relevant and engaging. But to be honest they are the exception.

Links to blogs and presentations from the day are being uploaded here. Well done to everyone who took part. It has certainly generated plenty of positive buzz, despite my cynicism.

Here’s a list of the presentations (thanks to @yodanny for compiling)
Guy Murphy – “Brand Play”

James Mitchell – “Too Much Information: a big thought in three short minutes”

John V Willshire – “ Social Production”

Peter Sells of BBH, Scott Seaborn of Ogilvy, Todd Tran from Joule – “Mobile”

Mike Barlett from Skype, Patrick O’Luanaigh from N’Dreams, Claus Moseholm from GoViral – “Free”

Justin Bassini (ex-Capital One) spoke about brand responsibility. Here are a couple of his follow-up projects:

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A handy slice of opinion for your consideration. I will add to this list of requirements and welcome your thoughts on it!

I like the ‘adds the madness to the method’ thought.

I’m not so keen on the advice of avoiding simplicity (or not rewarding it), as I prefer looking at our work as distilling and simplifying (vs one word simplicity perhaps). More reflective of the “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” problem. (Quote by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), not Mark Twain by the way.)

I like the ‘hyphen’ thought: the more hyphens in your title (writer-director-actor) the more opinion on the world. There is a legacy problem with thought ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. This hangs over our heads and it’s unfair. Breadth is important, as empathy and understanding can guide solutions out of silos and into new areas.

The role of specialist is there in the mix, but perhaps the Stephen King vision of planners as ‘master strategists’ is more useful to the future of the discipline. Ad-tweaking should not be our lot. Nor should we be obsessed with minutiae beyond knowing what craft skills to employ and avoiding silly mistakes when generating direct response. Our clients’ days are full of detail, so much so that they can’t always see the wood for the trees. They should look to us to provide inspiration by joining the dots between initiatives and insights from a more objective standpoint, rather than following them around worrying about the day to day.

A clear need comes from the video’s opinions for people with a broad curiosity who are also interesting themselves (‘interested and interesting’), and for people who can add a touch of magic.

What a romantic vision! But it is a useful way of talking about the diagonal skills required in this job.

Mr Pollitt believed this when he instigated the discipline at BMP

“The account planner is that member of the agency’s team who is the expert, through background, training, experience, and attitudes, at working with information and getting it used – not just marketing research but all the information available to help solve a client’s advertising problems.”

(Stanley Pollitt)

One final thought I like comes from G.K. Chesterton. It sums up the ‘no-man’s land’ that planners find themselves in on a daily basis. This place creates fears that can lead to timid proposals. But it’s a reality and one through which we must navigate if we are to find motivating solutions for our clients.

Nothing is so remote from us as the thing which is not old enough to be history and not new enough to be news.


Crowdsourced experiments have popped up in every corner of business. With their market-changing impact, crowd created/inspired/funded/delivered innovations cannot be ignored. And now, finally, the ad industry has been rattled. Victor and Spoils, IdeaBounty, Unilever…what next?

Thanks to Amelia for kicking off the argument with a aplomb:

Maybe it just troubles me as the logical conclusion of an initiative like this is that you don’t need agencies anymore, you simply crowdsource the creative ideas cheaply and then partner with production houses. Maybe that is a good thing – over-paid, over-precious, over-protective are all allegations that can be thrown at some advertising agencies. But I hope they’re not allegations that are true for all agencies. I hope that some a proper creative and business partners to their clients.

Is there an in between place?

Enter a new agency model. Victors & Spoils {that’s us}. We feel like an ad agency. But we work like a crowdsourcing platform. At the core of our agency is our creative department. A creative department made of everyone from art directors and copywriters to strategists and producers who come together to solve strategic problems. A global digital community that will not only be rewarded for the solutions they develop (both individually and as a group) but also for participating in the community itself.

Which all leads pretty nicely to our name. It’s “Victors,” plural, because we never reward just one winner. And we always have multiple ways to win. So not only do our monetary “Spoils” always go beyond first place {we award for 2nd, 3rd, etc}, we also reward for participation. All of which will build each creative’s V&S Reputation Score ~ which will help determine a share of the revenue for each project. It’s a model we’re building every day. And it’s a model we believe in. One that combines the best of what a creative agency can do and the best of what crowdsourcing can offer to arrive at solutions for your brand that are strategic, forward thinking and most importantly, effective. Let’s work together.

Here’s a list of some high profile campaigns and also some business innovations. Send me yours and I’ll keep adding to it.

Do they work? Is the creative good enough? Do they increase sales? Make up your own mind. Personally, most of the ‘creative’ ideas, except the nice Kriss ad above still appear forgettable.

The important point about Walkers, Netflix and the Dr Martens competition is that they are both isn’t what people would call ‘advertising’, rather crowdsourcing R&D ideas with plenty of talkability. I’ve put them in the campaign list below, but they probably live in the ‘business changing’ list. Perhaps this suggests a better way for marketing to go?

The ‘marketing campaign’ list


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A defunct TBWA london project? Why let this go TBWA? Did SingStar buy the ideas? Comments on the 2006 project.


Dr Martens


Converse Gallery (now no longer available at – amazingly. So foolish.)

The PR about Peperami

“We believe Peperami is a brand that deserves radical creative solutions and are confident taking our brief out to thousands rather than a small team of creatives will provide us with the best possible idea and take our advertising to the next level,” said the Peperami marketing manager, Noam Buchalter


Instead of musicians creating art, Becks extended the idea to artists creating art about music they loved. The 100 best albums of recent decades were listed, artists were commissioned and they chose an album to inspire them

Then the rest of the list was opened out to the public

A full US list: 300 more
300 Case Studies of Social Media Marketing

The ‘business changing’  list:

Perhaps more interestingly, and playing into Walkers/Netflix’s hands, is the crowd at the heart of the enterprise.

Wikinomics’ blog has a good post about building success into business ‘platforms’. Openness, vision, a learning model with great analytics and a ‘vibrant ecosystem’ are quoted as essential elements. Do an audit of your clients. Who has these in any healthy measure? Here’s two relating directly to the crowd.

Transparency — Transparency fosters beneficial contagion and excitement among the ecosystem members and interested parties.  An examination of any successful business platform reveals alternative futures.  Alternative future means options.  Options can be valued and hence the investment community can estimate the expected value of such potential futures and model a resulting perpetuity calculation.  Transparency attracts new partners and helps existing ecosystem partners to co-create the future of business platform.  As momentum builds, transparency also strikes fear in the competitors.

Open technology architecture – Open architectures provide the basis for future options and business platform extensibility.  Open means that other technological standards can interface with the business platform, even technologies that have yet to be invented.  Remember, business value is ultimately determined by the market’s assessment of future viability and the promise of future value.  If the business platform is based only on a few proprietary or close technology architectures, future business options will be limited.

A few good general lists on the subject

And good list of crowdsourced acitivity can be found on the *ahem* crowdsourced Wikipedia.

Made by Many’s wiki on the subject.

P2P foundation‘s take with lots of examples.

Open source principles applied to business covered in this blog.

A Swarm of Angels film project. Up to date info on twitter.

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Labuat - paint a picture

Such a simple idea, and so delightful for it. To publicise a new song, Spanish group Labuat have inspired a rare thing: a simple, addictive and beautiful interactive experience. Using the cursor to ‘paint’ your reactions as you listen to their song, the flash code creates calligraphy style strokes and adds animated events reflecting the flow of the music. Great marketing as well as joyful entertainment. Very rare indeed.

A smiled the whole way through. Which is also extremely rare!

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Greenhouse gas emissions per capita in 2000 Da...
Image via Wikipedia

About 40% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions stem from the burning of fossil fuels for the purpose of electricity generation.

Coal accounts for 93% of the emissions from the electric utility industry (US Emissions Inventory 2004).

It is estimated that approximately half (different agencies provide different estimates, but the average is about 50%) of the greenhouse gases that are causing global warming come from the burning of fossil fuels (primarily coal) to generate electricity. The Solar Roadway promise it that they could, therefore, eliminate half of the greenhouse gases currently being produced, and a prototype is apparently being developed.

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I love this! Based on this rap from three years ago .

What a corporate reaction. And what a problem for anyone attempting to create ‘cultural ideas’ or ‘involve’ people, as we claim to. Hmm. It’s fine providing every last company individual is on message. We’ll need to up the internal job, for sure.

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