cutting the cord

Future Now had a great post last week that discusses the paradigm shift that is taking place with the increasing prevelance of Internet connectivity. Coffee shops with wireless Internet access are emerging as ligitimate business hubs.

As the author makes clear, this phenomenon has numerous implications-- the most obvious being for architecture. With employees no longer tethered to LAN connected workstations, architects are not inhibited by previous restrictions but instead are free to design creative environments.

The larger questions then becomes, is the 'office' as it is traditionally thought of necessary at all? The age of the multi-level office building--with its solemn boardrooms and stifling cubicles-- may soon be coming to an end, replaced by hordes of laptop-laden nomads migrating from one hotspot to another in search of the perfect space.

This transition is likely to be embraced by planners because the use of public spaces provides an element of social interaction not found in an isolated office setting. This contextual change is liable to spark inspiration that would otherwise lay dormant


great product review

trash can pic
So, we're settling into the new place and need quite a few things, including a trash can. In searching on target.com for one, I saw this review and got a laugh out of it:

"Worst Trash Can Ever, January 21, 2006
Reviewer: Nancy P. Dunavan "npdunavan" (Kansas City, MO)
Only buy this item if you want to fight with your garbage every time you try to remove a bag, have everything spill all over your kitchen repeatedly and be driven to kicking it across the room on a regular basis. It is without a doubt the WORSE purchase I have ever made."

...and it builds on today's theme on trying to keep things in perspective.


Although I missed most of the Winter Olympics, I read a summary of the low/high points of these games and found this gem from U.S. speedskater Joey Cheek. It's a great quote to remind us to stay grounded.

"'What I do is great fun,' he told reporters of skating compared to the charity. 'It's a great job. I've traveled the world and made great friends. But it's pretty ridiculous -- I skate around the ice in tights. And I've trained my whole life for this.'"

If you stop and think about it, what most of us do could be classified as "pretty ridiculous" -- doesn't mean it's not fun, but we're no firefighters...


on the road

What to do with APSW Assignment #4? At this point I've got 2 ideas but nothing more - option 1 is a perpetual student lifestyle, which has already been hit on a little with the "twixter" label, but this would be even more extreme. Option 2 is a lifestyle that rejects modern technology - the "anti-early adopters" - no blackberry, no cell phones, etc. Not hermits, but these are people that have been out there working since their early 20s and have owned all those things and hit the big time professionally, but are sick of the work rush and want to start farming or raising horses, or something...

I've moving into a new place over the next several days. Be back refreshed early next week.

photograph via Flickr user Michael Wingrove


she blinded me with... part II

A couple of weeks back we posted on the topic of science and its quickly decaying image among youth here and abroad. The inherent problem is in how kids are educated, and Seed Magazine posted a nice summary today of two recent studies on science education in the U.S.

Throwing money at the problem won't necessarily help children become more interested, we need to change how science is taught:

"A way to improve science teaching is to tell the stories behind the facts, says Ursula Goodenough, professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis. As part of a team of six scientists, Goodenough reviewed the science curriculums in all 50 states, concluding that teachers need to emphasize the historical narrative of science and focus more on interdisciplinary connections.

'Students go into science classes and hear about cells one day and atoms another day, but lack any opportunity for integrating these understandings into larger contexts,' she said.

By changing the way educators teach and weaving together various fields into a coherent picture of scientific discovery, Goodenough believes schools can do a better job of keeping students interested."

This storytelling idea is intriguing because we've all been hearing about brands and storytelling for quite a while now, and this method does make perfect sense as the way to talk to kids about science. Stories capture the imagination of us all, and especially the minds of children.

On a semi-related note, is there a better last name out there than Goodenough?


under pressure

Ever wonder if the Amazon sales rank, or the "most popular" ranks on other sites influences sales of an item? This article explains an experiment in which two groups of students downloaded songs of unknown bands - one group was able to see the number of downloads a song had (popularity) and the other group was not.

The results showed that the popularity of a song directly effected how many times it was downloaded. With stuff like cyberbulling going on in schools, the evidence is piling up to show the virtual reach of peer pressure.


teen deterrant

Ever wonder how to keep certain customers out of a store? Some storefronts ooze a certain, as Dr. Evil says, "i-don't-know-what" that keeps unwanted customers away.

But loitering teens are being driven away from shops in London with a new device that emits a high-pitch sound that only people ages 12-22 are able to hear. The main purpose of the device is to prevent teens from storefront loitering. After these "mosquitoes" make their way across the pond and into malls, the lifestyles of kids under 15 will be forever altered.

storefront photograph via Steve75


agency profiles

ihaveanidea.org is putting together an impressive number of agency profiles on their website. Their newest addition to the list is The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia.

If you're looking to work at any of these places, this is an incredible resource to get used to the agency before you actually see it in person. And even if you don't want to work at these places, what better way to realize what you do want than to get a glimpse into other shops?

We've collected the list here:

U.S. agencies:
Cramer Krasselt
Crispin Porter + Bogusky
DDB Chicago
Leo Burnett Worldwide Headquarters
Ogilvy Chicago
The Martin Agency

Canadian agencies:
DDB Canada/Vancouver
Subplot Design
Grey Northwest
Axmith McIntyre Wicht Ltd.
John St.

From one of the earlier posts, the site's founder states that the goal is to eventually visit every agency in North America. They are well on the way to creating quite a resource for ad school students, and just about anyone in the industry can benefit from this.

(added 2.27.2006: Strawberry Frog NY)


one more for the toolkit

I'm working on a project which deals with emerging media, and I have found a blog site that may very well be the Mecca of all things viral. It's called Guerrilla Innovation, and it is definitely worth taking a look. A word of caution however, I would suggest making it a down time read, as it can easily distract you from more pressing work. That said, a lot of people may already be aware of this resource-- it wouldn't be the first time I was late to the party.

One particularly cool post deals with one user's customization of Google Maps. As if the program wasn't jaw-dropping enough on its own, a user named Matthew Collins has made a revision that allows visitors to his site, This Is There, to 'plant' excerpts at specific global locations.

One small step for Google... one giant leap for collective storytelling.

a brave new world...

It is impossible to ignore that the gaming culture is exploding. Games such as Halo, Everquest, and World of Warcraft have drawn a die-hard following, and although I've never been much of a gamer myself, I certainly understand the appeal of these virtual worlds and the form of escape/community they provide.

Along those lines, I recently read a fascinating piece in Wired News Online about a game called Second Life that provides users (referred to as 'residents') a virtual environment, which, as a point of comparison, much resembles The Sims.

An important caveat is that nearly all of the game's content is user-created. Users retain the intellectual property rights to objects they create but are required to offer Linden Lab, the games creator, an open license to them.

The game even has its own economy--complete with a unique form of currency, known as "Linden Dollars" (L$). Most interesting is the fact that users can convert the game's currency into real $US via an online brokerage called LindeX Currency Exchange.

The article provides examples of numerous individuals who make their living providing virtual goods and/or services inside the game. Opportunities exist in everything from real estate to fashion design. Crazy..., right?

That got me thinking about the opportunities that this new world opens to advertisers. How effective would it be to sponsor a location/activity inside these virtual environments? Is it possible that companies could even achieve a new line of revenue in delivering virtual goods and services (provided they find relevant content), and if so, what would this look like? Huh... something to think about. Discuss.


the funny papers

In prepping for my response to the APSW assignment #4, I've been thinking a lot lately about lifestyles and the behavior of various groups of people. Seeking out and reading the comics in the daily newspaper is a behavior that can certainly help define a certain lifestyle -- when put into context along with other things it can help build a distinct profile of someone.

Here's a great post by Scott Adams over on the Dilbert Blog about comic readers. He has pulled upon his experience as a writer and painted a vivid picture of three types of readers:

"Gag Lovers: This group looks for classic cleverness in their comics. They don’t care that much about art, as long as it isn’t distracting. Nor do they care about the comic’s relevance to their life. “Funny is funny” would be their motto. They’re about 20% of the population at most. If you laughed at my “half vast” pun, you might be one of them.

Visual People: This group cares so much about the look of a comic that the writing becomes secondary. The people in this group would never admit that their sense of humor is influenced by the art, but their lists of favorite comics will always be the ones that are the most artistically accomplished. They’re about 20% of the population too.

Relevance People: This group cares the least about the art and cleverness of a comic. They look for comics that are relevant to their own lives. They want to know they’re not alone in their peeves and viewpoints. This group is the largest, probably 60% of the population."


animal auditions

We're probably late to the game on this, but go here: http://www.millerauditions.com/ for some hugely entertaining stuff from Miller. Videos directed by Spike Jonze.


inspiration tools

Sometimes the lines on a brief or presentation just won't allow themselves to be written. MouseBrains is a site that can get the creative ideas flowing a little better - it's built specifically for the creative department, but planners can certainly benefit from the lateral thinking that it stimulates.

Thanks American Copywriter - they've got a couple of other resources listed in this post.


she blinded me with...

Influx Insights has posted an interesting thought-starter (round 2): How to improve the image of science?

From this Scientific American article it seems like science's image needs an overhaul for the powers-that-be as well:

"Budgetary threats to some of our greatest projects have almost become ritual, but we cannot assume there will be any public clamor or congressional saviors."

This is a not-so-smart thing for our country to be able to keep up our innovating ways. The American Chemistry campaign is trying to put a dent in our negative perceptions of science, but they are still speaking to those pre-disposed to enjoying science and acting more as a source of information/education than shaking the image of science up. In addition to the kids, we've got to make science cooler and more relevant to people in all walks of life.


more scrubs

More from Dr. Cox on Scrubs - I believe he is a planner disguised as a doctor, especially if he keeps dropping gems like this:

"Never make assumptions based on your own perceptions"
~ to JD, on looking at things with the right perspective

JD assumed that an elderly patient of his wanted to die, but he assumed this based on one fleeting comment she made. The lesson for me is to be aware of my own personal biases when out there listening to people talk about brands and such.


think horsies—an addendum

Like Josh, I too have been slowly making my way through the APG’s How to Plan Advertising. It is a fascinating read and is without a doubt a primer for anyone starting out in the discipline of planning, but time constraints and impending deadlines have made my progression through the book a crawl. Nonetheless, I found the doctor-physician analogy particularly interesting as well.

In addition to the list in Josh’s post, I would add a fourth parallel that, although not explicitly stated in the reading, does serve to strengthen the planner/physician analogy.

  • Willingness/ability to adjust for the societal zeitgeist--or current trends of any particular era.

As Butterfield described, the roles of both the planner and the physician are constantly evolving. In the medical community there has been a shift from treating illness to preventing it, and proactive doctors—those willing to adjust with the trend—have had to invest considerable time and energy to stay on top of the latest innovations in the field. Obviously, this same standard applies to us. As social trends arise and technology expands at an ever-increasing rate, we must evolve along with the trends and adjust accordingly. The freshness of our ideas and our ability to engage in a dialog with the customer will be better for it.

think horsies

I've been reading How to Plan Advertising, edited by Alan Cooper, slowly over the last few weeks (reviews of each chapter to come when some time opens up). The author of Chapter 3, Leslie Butterfield, draws many parallels between planners and doctors, rather than comparing planners to detectives, as is the typical analogy.

Why does the doctor analogy work? I pulled out the 3 main ideas that make this analogy work:
  • breadth of approach required
  • value of experience
  • ability to marry analytical and imaginative skills.
So I've had this stewing in my mind over the last few days. On a somewhat-related note, I've also been watching a tremendous amount of Scrubs lately - tv shows on DVD is one of the best things that has ever happened. Anyways, on an episode I watched last nite a quote really struck me as especially relevant to what we planners do:

"If you hear hoofbeats, think horsies, not zebras"
~ Dr. Cox to JD, explaining that rather than blame an illness on some obscure disease, they should not overlook the obvious

This resonated with me as something to keep in mind - listen to the symptoms of the problem you face and try to think as clearly as possible about how to solve it. Think simple before thinking extraordinary. Sometimes the "golden nugget" that we search so hard for is not so golden, just simple, true, and honest. The Honda UK work is such, especially the grrr... spot, built from the simple strategic idea of positive hate.


the reign of cell phone companies is slowly drawing to a close...

This article from Wired breaks down the process of making your own cell phone ringtone -- why pay twice for the same song? The beginning of the end for cell phone companies controlling content... soon enough consumers will be too smart to pay Verizon for a download of the latest Yellowcard song, and they'll just transfer it from computer to phone via one of many me. Just another example that content is king, and it will eventually end up being user-generated, no matter how hard the old-school execs at Verizon, Sony Music, and others try to fight it.

super bowl

The ads last nite were decent, but spots like the one for that razor company that shall not be named here made me cringe - they just don't get it.

Ameriquest was funny with their situational humor, and Bud Light spots were entertaining as always. I wish that Ted Ferguson would have made an appearance. Kermit the Frog was a great choice as spokesfrog for the Ford Escape Hybrid, total symmetry between his "being green" song and the hybird SUV.

Although I missed it during the game and had to catch up later online, Dove was my personal favorite. It took guts to show that spot in such a huge venue as the SB, where gut-busters are expected. I have a feeling we'll be talking about that one in a few years as the shining star from this year's group.

Another favorite is an oldie-but-goodie: The Hummer Monsters spot -- check out Hummer's beautiful monster-robot love website.


world changing ideas

Here's a cool idea from Saatchi & Saatchi: The "Award for World Changing Ideas" -- $50K in cash and $50K in marketing services to anyone with an idea - the winner is the one with the "greatest world changing potential."

The best point from the post:
"Finally the ad industry does something useful--even if it is just an attempt to help brand Saatchi its party line: "the Ideas company."

via Fast Company Now


espn crew = authentic

Came across an article on the Super Bowl by Chuck Klosterman, hired to blog the Super Bowl by ESPN's Page 2. I immediately thought of authenticity, something I've been thinking about recently thanks to russell's blog.

...I have been shocked by how many of these guys appear to act exactly the same way as they do on television. It's semi-spooky: Many of them speak with the exact same cadence and syntax. They make the same kind of obvious jokes, and they deliver the same type of cliches about how certain coaches are great and about how certain players love to play the game and about how exhilarating it feels to be in a Super Bowl atmosphere.

A lot of these people talk as if they are on television all the time. And I suppose this is a positive thing, because it proves that those particular individuals are authentic. But it still strikes me as alien..."

True, very odd, but now that we know this piece of info, does it change impressions of ESPN's crew?

ESPN.com: Page 2 : Lost in America

culture & cars

Detroit is in big trouble. US automakers have slept on Japan for so long, it is now coming back to bite them:

"The domestic auto industry is as healthy as it has ever been," says Eric Noble, president of Car Lab, an industry consulting firm in Santa Ana, Calif. "The names on the plants are just changing."

From Business Week online: Good News About U.S. Auto Industry

With Toyota making beauties like this among many other reliable cars, the day is coming eventually when Fords and GMs are made in Mexico, and Japan uses skilled US workers to make Hondas, Toyotas, etc...

American cars will then be good, solid cars, but will be missing something tangible (like reliability) and intangible, much like the Mexican-made Fender Stratocaster. The Mexican-made version gets the job done just fine (I own one), but doesn't have the "it" power that an American-made Strat carries (wish I owned one).

Japan cars made in the US, US cars made in Mexico and elsewhere -- a very odd chain of events that the big 3 never saw coming.