Tuesday, 12 March 2013

[New] University Cities - 'an avalanche of change'

The livelihoods of thousands of excellent musicians were wiped out by commercial gramophone recording. When people were able to buy Caruso, the local tenor lost his job. Even when he was almost as good. Maybe he was better but we still don’t get to know his name.

So it may be a hundred and thirty years later with advanced education. Writing was on the wall years before yesterday’s warning from Sir Michael Barber, Education adviser to Pearson 'the world's leading learning company'. Sir Michael warns of ‘an avalanche of change’ coming to sweep away much of what universities are doing today. MOOCs, massive open online courses will deliver star teaching performers at a tiny fraction of the cost of higher education today.

Previously Michael Barber was an adviser to Tony Blair’s government, an administration founded on ‘Education, Education, Education'.

Many of us in the further flung parts of the UK understood at the time that universities were very much part of a regeneration strategy, as well as an educational one. Cities that had lost their heavy industries would revive themselves with campus developments replacing the moribund with the new world of education – a whole new industry and thousands of service jobs. Architecture, construction, property values would all be winners. In my own home town a huge site that had built ships for hundreds of years became a gentle riverside campus.

The cycle of industry this time may have been much shorter. And many cities will have to reinvent themselves again – rather more quickly than they were expecting. The move online always has the same effect. It increases the relative value of the real world – the value of presence. Institutions that have been around for centuries may mostly soon adjust, selling the expensive premium product that is presence, specialising in costly niches and intense face to face tuition and networking. 

The rest of the pack – they had better start learning very fast indeed. Let's hope they are up to it.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Danny Boyle v Kim Gavin

You saw the Olympic opening ceremony.You loved it. I missed it. But I know it was brilliant and that I will agree with everyone else when I finally get to see it.

I did see the closing ceremony. And I agree with everyone on that too.

Like Isambard himself, Danny Boyle had the vision and the balls to carry off the extraordinary and the unexpected whilst the world watched. That sort of  unique was always going to be a tough act to follow for Kim Gavin. So the closer turned out to be just what most people would dream up for themselves at home as a gigantic milestone spectacle.

If you are going to follow expectation the only way left to excel is to be superb in execution. If you are going to smash those expectations the ideas had better be really marvellous. And then you have to be even better at delivering as well. That gets close to genius.

Further note: both the opening and closing shows featured cigar smoking. 

One more: Danny Boyle did not, of course, take the absurd risks with life and limb that IK Brunel took. That's one reason why in two hundred years people will still celebrate Brunel but for that sort of adulation Danny's going to have to build the Great Eastern.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Serendipidity - Live from Beirut and London

The Hay Festival has packed its bags and left Beirut. Yes, that Beirut, the exciting Levantine capital west of the Beqaa Valley. Yes, that Hay Festival – Hay-on-Wye. From the Wye Valley. Why Beirut?  Possibly because it’s as exciting as you get without being in Mogadishu. That would be too exciting. The success, if not the very purpose of the Festival, is, according to Hay's Peter Florence, is in large part the creation of serendipity -  ‘of bumping into your favourite author at the bar’. It is manufacturing ‘opportunities where accidents can happen’.

A lot of us are in that business now. This is serendipity as product. Bringing people face to face in the Age of Facebook is the big unseen monster business of the internet era. And it's expensive. Expensive ticket, expensive time, expensive to travel too. But as they used to say to say of education, if you think that's expensive, try the alternative. 

In June this year I was getting paid to produce an award event in London's Park Lane when I was asked at the bar 'can you do one of these for me?' And that way of doing business carries on even when the phones don't ring.


Make sure you have something people want or you will soon become poor.

If you are poor, it's tougher and the winnings often to go those with deep pockets. But you've got a church hall, haven't you?

And ...once the whole world catches on there there is no competitive advantage. Start a new party. 

And Beirut probably is cheaper than London.

The photograph of the Temple of Bacchus, Baalbeck, Lebanon is by Varun Shiv Kapur reproduced under Creative Commons licence. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A Short Story of Signal and Noise

Two weeks back I asked five London venues - really good venues - to quote for a small daytime conference. The total billing would be in the region of  £25k. Three of them came back to me straight away. Two venues didn't respond at all.

Seems the problem was that I was being over-optimistic. The enquiry was sent by email.

On second asking both business deniers said - 'ah, spam filters! We sometimes miss stuff that way'

So what is it that they are paying attention to? And is it wrong to think that not so long ago they may not have needed to filter so much stuff? Or that in recent history they might just have had time to check for gold washed into the filters?

Talk is cheap - attention comes pricey. Or ... take care of the pounds - the pennies will take care of themselves.

I would like to have illustrated this post with a still from Monty Python's cheese-shop sketch but I'm not messing with that IP.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Tweet to Page One

No politico wants to look like an ass. So all errors on social media should, whenever possible, be ascribed to 'a junior member of staff'. But if it's important enough not to end up on the front page of The Sun, then it's also too important to leave all the tweeting to junior. Otherwise one might end up looking like an ass.

Of course, if you're a red top reader maybe you're unlikely to know twitter first hand. If you read a broadsheet you're unlikely to know it either. That's because almost no-one is on twitter. Almost the entire population of Earth is not on twitter.

And so, this is product - like soaps and reality TV, a world that papers can filter and sell on to consumers. This is all very welcome with voicemail hacks out of bounds. The Sun is bringing readers the Very Best of Twitter - the howlers.

And so, as far as attracting eyeballs, getting it right is rubbish. Perfect political, for that matter, perfect commercial messages are noise, and will be ignored. The 'wow' signal that everyone's waiting for - is the error.

So don't ask 'was the Ed Miliband story, tweeted by a junior member of staff important enough for the front page?' It's was important enough for The Sun.

Postscript: you can shoot your mouth off the old-fashioned way about Tourette's but it is more difficult to blame the tea boy.  

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Calm Down and Carry On

A cruel light is cast on performers at the Commons despatch box - the position demands an application of wit that David Cameron simply didn't display with 'Calm Down, Dear'. What he did, without thought, was to grab an easy meme - and Michael Winner's was an early offender from the commodified insurance brands.

Nike and Man Utd get their consumers to re-advertise them through the wearing of logos. Insurance in the UK gets its agencies to create some very clever marketing that we carry around as latent stuff in our heads, ready for re-use - without thought. Children make excellent meme-carriers - endlessly re-purposing the annoying 'Go Compare' song or the sweeter meerkats of 'Compare the Market'. But Prime Ministers? Should know better.

It may be time soon to get a little less populist and matey. Maybe to look for guidance from some of the great orators of our history. So what would Churchill say? Oh, yes. 

Note for non-UK readers: Oh, yes, Churchill is an insurance brand and the dog is a device owned by the brand. Oh yes, Dear.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Love and High Fidelity

It’s got to be great fun selling books, right? Or wine, maybe? Or collector records in a high-fidelity kind of way?

Not for a friend who works in a multiple book chain. His new boss doesn’t like books. Worth saying twice: the boss of the branch is proud not to like books. For her, books are units. Like the shoes she used to sell in her last job.

And now the business is being torn to shreds by reductions in public spending – and by Amazon. Maybe that's enough to make you make you hate books. But customers don't hate books - that's what makes them customers. And the same goes for records, and wine, and beer. And the people who love these things can smell contempt.

But that bookstore brand isn’t going to bring back the good times even if it replaces every philistine boss in every branch.

Easy to believe that there’s no room left for the things we love on the High Street? Reality may be that's it's the only thing that there is to offer.

Amazon will own the mass book market. Hypermarkets can have the Gallo business. Apple can do seventy nine cents [or British pennies] per song. And they will all do it well.

But long after the sectoral brands have disappeared into cyberspace there will be people keeping bookstores and wine shops, and places to buy music.

The new ecology of online and massive warehousing turns it into a small but vital need. Our bookstore boss will move on to sell units of something else. People who truly love what they sell will carve out their own place - an antidote to the gigantic.

It’s a long tale.

Photo, Creative Commons, courtesy Thomas Hawk

Monday, 14 March 2011

Train Mad - anything for a new Mad Men spot

Characters in fiction may have endorsed product in the past. I can't recall any that became involved in lobbying. And none that lobbied from some place more than forty years ago. If there is one, they never did it as elegantly as Mad Men. The meme worms itself further into real life via the cut and paste function:

Not just 'cars, floor-wax and brassieres'. Seems they also do penance for the role taken by Stirling Cooper in the destruction of Penn Station in 1963 [Season 3, episode 2]

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Premium Network pt 1

Time was when we all knew that cyber-liberation would come when the broadest of broadband penetrated the farthest of far places. This utopian vision predicted that a crofter's farm in the islands could be part of a great knowledge economy. Anyone would be able to work anywhere.

The crofter now has millions of possible connections with a low entry price. Cheap connections. Valuable possibly, but cheap. The price of communication is rock bottom. Everyone's doing it. Facebook relationships are normal relationships.

So what do we do to be outside of this norm? How do I enhance this relationship? If social media is ubiquitous, what is it that costs more, takes more effort and offers more sensory data? What is the premium product? What offers the competitive advantage?

It's travel. It's the trip to town. The digital crofter has a broadband connection. The guy in the middle of the city has a broadband connection and a possible six million real life face to face ones slap bang in the middle of influence.

Otherwise successful digital businesses with real influence would have no need to choose London or New York. Simple network mathematics.

Here's a graphic of a network:

Monday, 1 November 2010

Tweets, made from Coal

Old technologies often find new homes. This beauty is shot on discontinued 16mm Kodak black and white stock. We are seeing it through digital media powered by electricity. The coal mines of Western Virginia and other US states provide half of America's power today. Half of the energy used for every tweet and Facebook update is made of coal. In the UK it's still a third.

Black Coal from Madison Rowley on Vimeo.

Thanks to Brainpicker - www.twitter .com/@brainpicker

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Gladwell - to the barricades! - in person.

In his New Yorker piece Malcolm Gladwell's was expressing what most people know. The average on-line relationship is not as strong as the average one in real life. The average telephone relationship, or letter relationship - they are second class mail. We are all animals and we like to get the millions of tiny cues about other animals that only come from physical proximity. Twitter doesn't doesn't do body language, smell, fear, inflection, pupil dilation and everything else that tells us good things and bad things about the other.

When politicians meet to end wars they do so in the flesh. When business people sign contracts they meet. When we party or pray, we meet.

Social media is doing a curious thing. It is starting to make meeting in its forms into the premium product. When everyone is available in virtual form, there is competitive edge in meeting. Advantage goes to the on-line guy - who's there on the ground as well. It's expensive - it's time consuming - and it works.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Gordon for Speaker - & Marketing Moral Hazard

Here’s a short piece I wrote for another blog. It belongs here too:

Spectator Coffee House suggests that Gordon Brown is now on the speaking circuit for around $100,000 a go. That may be a starting point, but it’s close to a list price before negotiation. Expenses are additional. The story the red tops and the blogosphere will want is the follow up. If Gordon gets a gig, what will he do with the money?

The son of the manse may be expected to make a very significant contribution to charity. But what is left is still a five star lifestyle.

And now the electorate may start to ask questions. We voted you in, ex PM. We paid your salary. So just what incentive is there for any high-ranking elected official (of any party) for what we may call prudence? What incentive, when no matter what your decisions in office might be, a more lucrative career talking about ‘how to learn from our mistakes’ will always await? Present administration included.

That will be $100k please.

Great instance of how presence is sale-able. In a world of online ubiquity live appearance and event is the other side of the trend. Its competitive advantage is non-virtuality. Profits can be made in the non-scalable world of live appearance: at the gig. This applies to ex prime ministers as much as it does to U2. Just just don’t try it at home. Not unless scalable mass communication made you a household face first.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Rupert - Free at Last (from readers)

Rupert Murdoch should have had something up his sleeve when came to the paywall. It always looked so much like a loser that Rupert had to know better than us. There had to be a way that he knew to take direct payments for commodified news.

WSJ worked for News Corporation. Unique news that’s ‘vital’ to your livelihood – that will always sell. And we did not expect The Sun to hide its boobs behind the wall.

The Times was always going to be at the margin – a brand whose potential lay on the grey border between free and pay. The title may yet carve out a profitable niche leaving no room for another paid-for competitor. But is not the risk that threatens that of a long term decline in terms of the political influence of the paper?

Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel. Whatever the digital equivalent of ink, Rupert is buying a lot less. And hence – it looks like he may be buying a lot less clout. Or in the future will he depend on Sky News? And a new friendship in Downing Street.

The Alexa figure for reach for The Times are here.

This article first appeared at businessandpolitics.org on 5 July 2010.

Monday, 19 April 2010

A Long Strange Trip

When The Atlantic ran the 'Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead' it must have seemed to deadheads that the time was due and respectable company was inevitable. The band was (are) 'visionary geniuses in the way they created customer value, promoted social networking, and did strategic business planning.'

The Atlantic is respectable liberal, that's US 'liberal', company to be in. But how about Mises? This shrine to the School of Austrian Economics, ultra free-marketers, ran recently a short blog post 'Doing Business The Grateful Dead way' - February 17, 2010 by Douglas French

Doing business The Grateful Dead way — Mises Economics Blog http://blog.mises.org/11689/doing-business-the-grateful-dead-way/#ixzz0k580OuYP

Back in '94 the Dead's writer John Perry Barlow wrote in Wired that in the information economy, “the best way to raise demand for your product is to give it away.”

In 2010 he explained to Joshua Green of The Atlantic: “What people today are beginning to realize is what became obvious to us back then–the important correlation is the one between familiarity and value, not scarcity and value. Adam Smith taught that the scarcer you make something, the more valuable it becomes. In the physical world, that works beautifully. But we couldn’t regulate [taping at] our shows, and you can’t online. The Internet doesn’t behave that way. But here’s the thing: if I give my song away to 20 people, and they give it to 20 people, pretty soon everybody knows me, and my value as a creator is dramatically enhanced. That was the value proposition with the Dead.

Here in the UK 'sixties hippiedom soon turned to statism. The view from here was that in the US equality always seemed subservient somehow to liberty. We might have expected Mises to join Murdoch: show me the money and we'll show you the goodies. But there's a real tension here as the free-est of free marketers pledge alliegence to a smaller state, one that doesn't spend blood and treasure on war.

Is the 'Austrian' view that intellectual property is theft? Theft by government fiat? If so then the biggest media guns of today don't have many friends amongst the purest of capitalists. Strange days make for strange bedfellows.

If the work of Austrian economics is new to you then seven minutes of time is worth spending here: not with wonderful Dead but with music made for talking money: Frederick Hayek v John Maynard Keynes...

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Another gift from News Corporation...

..in which billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch holds forth on just about everything, but most interestingly on the future of newspapers. The future is that it's free when you want people to listen to your life story. Otherwise you can pay for the Wall Street Journal like everybody else who picks it up free in the lobby.

Video removed - just couldn't get the damn thing to stop self-running. Rupert is here http://fora.tv/2010/02/05/Rupert_Murdoch_The_Future_of_Newspapers

Use in association with Lanier below and Austrian economists/Grateful Dead hopefully coming soon.

Video courtesy The Hoover Institution at Stanford
'Billionaire tyrant' - The Simpsons, 20th Century Fox
Thanks to Miguel Barbosa at www.simoleonsense.com Visit him often.

Friday, 5 February 2010

If You Liked Irony...

Jaron Lanier on advertising. A message that works for all of our communication industries. Applied to business: people need to make a living and we do that by creating things. And then you don't give it away.

The video came for free on YouTube via Contagious www.contagiousmagazine.com

Monday, 14 December 2009

A Gift from Behind the Paywall

Haven't posted a video freebie for a while, but I find this effort irresistible. You will hardly notice that anyone wants to sell you anything.

The concept is leaving designer chairs around New York City - for the taking. Each chair has GPS and there's a whole load of effort that's gone into concept and into shoot. The agency who wants to sell their services is Mono - let's hear that name again a couple of times in the vox - it's Mono. And the Real Good Chair from Blue Dot does a nice appearance in the recession-time objet trouve role.

And the source of this video left by the kerb with code all ready to embed? Giving it away for the all the right reasons, News Corporation's Wall Street Journal.

Thanks to Andy Jordan at WSJ.

The chair? It's here for $129 http://www.bludot.com/Browse_Products/Seating/product/Real_Good_chair

PS: you guys made up 'kerb mining', right?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Event, Meet Social Media, Part Two

What a temptation it is for the naive. 'Let's put the tweets on screen - it's the innovative coming together of event and social media'. It's remarkable how the live public screening of a previously unseen tweet will change the nature of that message. Usually for the worse. Herding can ripple instantly through a room. Here's one instance via @ExponentialEdge : http://socialmediagroup.com/2009/11/18/just-because-its-a-crowd-doesnt-make-it-wise/
as Danah Boyd of Microsoft is twitterbullied by the crowd at Web2.0 Expo, New York last week.

Let's not name the awards event in London where the first tweet following arrival of the MD on stage was 'bloody hell..it's that boring old bloke again'. The brand owners were pleased they had decided against displaying message on the big screen behind the hapless man. It had been part of the plan until a couple of hours before the show.

It's a lot of power to hand to an audience. But at least it's not a vote for life or death.

Not yet.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Not Like Newspapers

Blogs are not like newspapers in that we don't have to publish every day. Or every week. Not unless we have advertisers who may be peeved if their ad doesn't show. Or if we have readers with regular habits like people who read the papers and watch TV. We do?

Or we do, or may do, if we publish regularly. Like every day or once a week. Otherwise we don't. Those newspaper guys were really on to something way back then - habituation.

It's why the blogging amateurs will go away and the pros will stay. Others... hell, they are out at work.

For the pro tips:

For a contrarian view of how to do it: make it up yourself.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Event, Meet Social Media, Part One

We return to professional matters:

The end of the world was kind to conference and awards. Sponsorship was hard hit. But annual events are annual and cancellation was as thinkable as football skipping a season.

And now, with a consensus that recession may soon be behind us, we have new colleagues. Event, meet social media. A match made in heaven. Just think of all the things we can do together. And all those things we don’t yet know we can do. Extending a live event brand has never been easier. Problem solved at a stroke – a brand that spiked on the timeline and then went dormant for five sixths of the year – hey presto, extended year round via SM. Mindshare and revenues ahoy!

Note of caution is that when you provide a place for people to communicate, people do communicate. And the glacial rate of innovation that happens when you stage episodes annually can undergo rapid climate change.

What customers (now participants) want of your event/forum/club/brand/validation service, etc, may not what the brand owner had in the business plan. What such interaction will bring to event brands, we do not yet know. What I think we do know is that it will probably be lots.

Let's come back to this over the next few days.

NB: the idea that the great economic unwinding/resetting is over and done with may not reflect the view of the author, and may be for the sake of convenience.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The Scientist, the Minister and everyone else

The twitter exchanges last Friday between Professor Brian Cox and Lord Drayson were textbook high class tweeting. The subject matter was weighty - Britain's scientific research base. The conversation was erudite and informed. No one mentioned breakfast or pets.

It has been hailed as a great example of social media democracy in action. An interest group presenting a case to to the guy with the access to the money. The fact that Paul Drayson is in the House of Lords doesn't negate the fact that it was a direct real time dialogue with government. He and Brian Cox came out of it as people who cared very much about the direction of real scientific research.

During the afternoon Cox had tweeted a link to a piece in The Register - For everyone who cares about science in the UK - read and RT : http://bit.ly/BDF4O

Ministers of the Crown have busy days and it was possibly not until about 6pm that Drayson spotted the thread. The conversation on the funding of science went on until around 9pm. My expertise in science money is zero. So I went to dinner. Presumably Lord Drayson did not. Absurd as it sounds that really is the crux of the matter as a social media issue. This exchange has been hailed in the UK and the US as some sort of basic model for new democracy. But it's not a system. These exchanges will not fit into diaries. They are spontaneous. And when Iain Dale suggests that Ministers are sub contracting their tweeting, whilst it's denied by many, it has plausibility.

Two days later Drayson was subjected to what he described as a 'twitter blizzard'. This regarded a rumour that the UK was about to pull its funding from CERN. The story seemed to be groundless.

Great experiment. Great fun. And just maybe a result for science. But if social media is going to have that sort of access and influence it's going to require government that doesn't look like anything on offer at the moment.

The Twitter thread is available from mid afternoon Oct 1st. You can pick up on @ProfBrianCox at:

@lorddrayson knows what I think. STFC funding situation is a disaster for UK, probably accidently. He can fix it, and I urge him to do so.

@lorddrayson crops up at about 1800

@tonyveitchUK Exactly. If people want to make a point to me- just tweet me!
@tonyveitchUK Fact is you have to follow people if u want 2 have a conversation with them.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Essence of Sugababe

The band of the Coldstream Guards features no original members. Nor does Manchester United. Both are accepted by majority decision to be the real thing. Sugababes now have no original members. So are they Sugababes? It seems that they are.

In dance hall days there was an unspoken protocol. Bands were allowed by fans to soldier on as long they still had the legacy of at least one original member. And recourse to law has often decided just who owns an identity.

I researched this with some rigour. There is an example at http://www.wordmagazine.co.uk/content/bands-with-no-original-members of T Rex appearing, as the post says, ‘without an urn in sight’ . The Sugababe innovation is to apply the principal to a current big name. And hence to create brandband – or bandbrand. Bandbrand is a promise of a vibe. The folks on stage are employees. That’s fine for brands.

Just don’t expect to see Pink Floyd on stage in your old age. Something else is demanded of bands.

PS: since posting have read re Neil Mccormick in the Daily Telegraph, http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/neilmccormick/100003474/sugababes-what-makes-a-band-a-brand/ He has uncovered the work of The Blind Boys of Alabama, gigging since 1939, undeterred by death. Also checked out www.sugababes.com. Someone should tell them.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Embed Me - with passion

Madmen went well (see below). We all did what we were supposed to do. If it runs for a dozen seasons then story lines will catch up to real time. Sterling Cooper will have to deal with the uncertainties of Social Media.

The agency would catch up to a world where the blogger, the tweeter, the viral sender is free to choose only the very finest content with which to be associated. Material of the quality of AMC and HBO.

Chosen embedded video for this post was about to be a viral from a global consumer electronics brand. It was all about social media. And it was mildly amusing. Then this came along - spotted on the day we are gifted a whole new series of Peep Show. Please pay attention to the sponsor message whilst enjoying David Mitchell's passion to the full. Thanks to the Daily Mash.

The Daily Mash is at www.dailymash.co.uk

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Reflection on Smoke and Mirrors

If you live in the USA you may know of Derren Brown. You may not have known of him before last Friday. The UK’s star illusionist had promised to predict the lottery live on TV and to explain how he did it.

The public was disappointed with the result. A padded hour of flim flam showed us people who had been brought together in the preceeding week to deliver the wisdom of crowds whilst Derren interpreted the ‘deep mathematics’.

Accusations flew of cheap post production tricks, and of no real explanation as to how he ultimately revealed all the pre-slected balls to be correct. YouTube reruns have been forensically examined. Professors of mathematics have spoken.

Derren’s in - crowd were pretty convinced their wisdom had delivered the numbers. A large part of the UK population now believe that he fixed the lottery in advance. The BBC on Saturday morning ran the story in its main news. The Sunday papers are full of Derren Brown. And as the story grew on-line over the weekend Twitter search now returns a lot of ‘who is DB?’ from accounts outside the UK.

That's a lot of tricks delivered - including the gall of saying that no matter how shabby this looks – people will believe. Misdirection. The biggest trick that Derren Brown pulled off was to understand how media works today - and to go global.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Cameron and the Philosopher

Also published at Business and Politics, 25 August 2009

Ironic that neither David Cameron nor Nassim Nicolas Taleb seemed to be quite prepared for the risks they ran at the rather odd RSA ‘debate’ event. Yet they emerged unscathed.

Both guys seemed surprised: Cameron during the event that NNT was going to introduce subject matter that wasn’t on the Tory agenda. Taleb’s revelation came afterwards at a media mauling and at the obvious fact that not all of the press in this country would be on side. Given his assertion that news is entertainment it should not have been that big a shock that The Mirror should express ‘outrage’ at his rather complex opinions.

What was Mandelbrotian complexity was ever going to have to with bumper sticker policy was never clear. NNT had been the darling of the bank bashers … overnight he became Philosopher to the Tories. NNT’s own agenda was to tell the world it’s going to hell in an over-leveraged handcart.

The risk lesson for every aspiring PM could easily have been ‘don’t mess with complicated stuff’. What was Cameron supposed to do if Taleb came up with a persuasive argument? Argue back? Change policy there and then? Philosophers don’t necessarily provide the policies you need for votes. Nuance is always off message. NNT found that even in the more intelligent British press, nuance is off message there too.

That was what I wrote until I was about to post and then in interview with Channel 4 Taleb hands gold to the Conservatives. ‘You and your party may be the only hope for a resilient society insulated from black swans’. ‘Only hope’ is a slogan coup and a half. Forget that what our Levantine thinker probably meant was that DC is the only person likely to be elected soon to lead a major government with its own currency together with the political room to start to work down debt.

In the aftermath The Economist called Cameron brave…although not for that bizarre encounter. The genuine bravery of the debate will probably not be repeated. That same edition points out the difficulty President Obama has in getting his Afghan/Pakistan policy on to a bumper sticker.

Politicians who need winning policies may well be best advised by philosophers in more private surroundings.

Truth is complicated stuff.

Update: thanks to RSA for opportunity to show the debate

The posts below have been moved to 'We are all Mad Men now'. The original post by (Bestshow)Watch was inadvertently misposted here.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

We are all Mad Men now

PR is changing. But not as much as advertising. Advertising is being replaced rapidly by PR – we're told. And according to a twitter today the new series of Mad Men is to be promoted big time with massive PR. It’s enough to make a Madison Avenue man choke on his Lucky. PR? Sterling Cooper did not have a PR division!

But look a little more closely at the current view. This is in fact the view across the street from my hotel on Madison Avenue just a few days ago. There’s the hotel, just behind the car. And here’s the advertising just in front of the car. An ad on Madison for Mad Men.

An ad well crafted and well postioned. Great execution. Great media work and planning. Looks like advertising to me. Well, yes. But this is a viral phone booth and it's saying to me 'write about me' (Does anyone use them to phone anyone anymore?)

And the addition of a whole range of Mad Men clothing via Banana Republic clothing seems as much a WoM point as a genuine sell. MM King Size would not be far behind, at another time.

The exchange of value here is that we can use the hashtag and search term ‘Mad Men’ to attract you to this blog and I and thousands of others do the work for free. So, according to Theano Apostolou at producers AMC I have become a Mad Men evangelist. What is without a doubt is that the brilliant PR, excellence in craft and the integrated campaign that runs event, merchandise, press and TV delivers wonderful value for money - for me and thousands like me, as well for AMC.

Perhaps the greatest irony is something else altogether. This is a campaign that doesn't require me to own anything new or to consume any more than a simple forty-five minutes of TV.

It's been a pleasure to work for Stirling Cooper.

Get to http://www.amctv.com/originals/madmen/ for the 'recreate yourself in 60's style' avatar treat and the 1960's cocktail guide of evergreen delights. I'm a sucker for advertising.

PR Week US: http://tinyurl.com/nh2mm7

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Analogue for a Digital World

I have a friend who was at a loose end. The answer to boredom was a start-up. I was at a loss to understand the business model. He would direct people to great products and services. He didn’t mind paying out in time and labour until he could think of a way to monetise the whole thing. He would have a bit of fun on the way too.

So, there on Oxford Street, he would stand with his sandwich board - tantalising images of exciting products. The tourists could drop him a dime for the entertainment, or just walk on. Most of them walked, but he kept telling them to visit Debenhams, shop at Selfridges or such. He couldn’t make them buy, but he did consider that there might be mileage in bringing friends in to push people in through through the shop doorways.

You would have thought the stores should have been happy. All that free marketing. All those potential saps with currency. All they had to do was to present products that these people wanted to buy. But that wasn’t the way they saw it at all. The shopkeepers wanted to be paid for the privilege of the sending customers to them. But his business didn't make any money for them to harvest.

Without revenues my friend has had to rethink and remodel. He is going to Fleet Street. Just along from where the newspapers used to be. He will buy a paper in the morning, shouting out the headline to people who are interested – and urge them to read the story in a real newspaper. This time he will pick content that is in the interests of his paying clients, and urge them too to read the papers. I hope he doesn’t get into trouble over this. Best however, if he checks it out first with the Newspaper Licensing Agency.

PS: OK, not quite, the links about to charged for go back to the client, but that is the gist of it. I am a blogger and I can send a reader to a newspaper for free. If I am a PR company and I have the throw weight to send many more customers I have to pay to do so!

For a clear exposition of how newspapers wish to charge for businesses sending links to clients you could always go to:
an unpaid link to Communicate where David Pugh for NLA and Kevin Taylor of CIPR, slug this one out.

The lithograph is one of many wonderful drawings of early 19th century London by George Scarf, including lots of street marketing. He died in 1860 and it should be safely out of copyright. If not, George can contact me at a time of his choosing.

Friday, 24 July 2009

There ain't no cure...

...for the summertime blues. Except possibly to knock off for two weeks and to see you back here on the blog on August 5th.

Let me know if anything happens.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Nice Work #2

As we enter the dog days of summer the randy mice become ever more reluctant to post. Unless it's very easy, takes little effort and is extraordinarily worthwhile. We offer this in the spirit of never posting on the subject we are supposed to be discussing because that would represent nerdified, tunnel vision. Our qualifier therefore courtesy of CNBC. Nassim Taleb a couple of weeks ago and more relevant now. Sorry about the BIG SPACE below. It seems to come with CNBC embedded player and I'm not going to start trying to hack it about.

Note that the CNBC model actively encourages and invites us to do this quick cut and paste embed job. They must think it's in their interests. It doesn't say 'CC' anywhere, that I can see, just 'embed me'. OK, that's it, we are off to count the black swans for the weekend.

Friday, 3 July 2009

A Really Good Friday

Good Friday 1930 was the day the BBC had no news. ‘There is no news today’.

That hasn't happened again in seventy nine years. News has just kept on growing on a first past the post basis. Biggest story of the day wins.

A friend was asked yesterday if she could pop a post up for a growing blog because nothing had appeared for twenty-four hours. But maybe nothing of interest had happened. Nothing that people were going to break into their daily lives for.

Charles Arthur claims that blogging is dying. That the long tail is shorter, or at least, narrower than we have imagined. Eight out of ten blogs are abandoned ships that still float. He says so in print - The Guardian on June 24 http://tinyurl.com/lsy36b

Personal blogs are a lot of hard work. They cost a lot of time. And the format really is an analogue of traditional media. There's an expectation of regular publishing updates.

Now twitter has released everyone from the drudgery of the past. If this was just a text message then I could it send anytime. Right? Or not at all. If you don’t see my tweet then someone else’s message will appear on your tweetdeck. And I can wait until I have content and context that really is king.

Yes, there are wars, there’s politics, there’s business, but despite all the everyday suffering and the joy, it’s still noise until a big new story comes out of nowhere.

So, today, there was no news.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Did you know Michael Jackson is dead?

Two hours ago the world was told by Twitter that Michael Jackson had died. Informed by the re-tweeting of a report from one LA based website. I guess many people reacted by going straight to the BBC or CNN to see if it was true. I did. And those sources were more much more circumspect (although Sky News was not) 'MJ in a coma'. 'MJ reported to have died'. This is what reliable news sources are for.

Isn't this why in a world of billions of messages the trusted news brand becomes ever more important, not less?

If a brand is a promise, the great news titles of the future have a most extraordinary opportunity. Gather and verify. Then comment.

And, yes, Jackson was a great artist.

additional: guardiannews
Web grinds to a halt after Michael Jackson dies http://bit.ly/31F2yG

additional: with the loss of Farrah Fawcett Majors earlier in the day, rumour began of the death of Jeff Goldblum in a movie accident. An attempt to build a loss of youth meme methinks. But stubborn Jeff is OK, below:

additional: the point on verification: from Kevin Spacey's verified twitter account at 0014 GMT,
*Jeff Goldblum is alive and well. I just spoke to his manager. Stop these stupid rumors.*
(this completely negates my point as the definitive facts came from a individual source using microblogging and cutting out any middleman except Twitter!)

additional: the death of one of the first truly global performers, an icon known by all humanity, will have communication outcomes that are yet unforeseen. So I won't try to see them.

Friday lunch GMT: Video from Charles Arthur at the Guardian and on YouTube, but worth reading CA with it
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2009/jun/26/michael-jackson-twitter-trends-video shows Twitscoop responding (do you record it all Charles?!)

Monday, 15 June 2009

News Less Perishable - read all about it!

Read newspapers from a year ago. You already know things that their most informed writers never dreamed of. It’s time travel into their future.

A dear friend who works in the public sector claims he never reads his Guardian until it’s four weeks old. He’s a Sunderland supporter. I must tell him they are still in the Premiership. The news about Newcastle and Middlesbrough will interest him too.

A few weeks back this dear friend, (who couldn’t know there might be those tiny green shoots), asked how business was going. After all people wouldn’t have the same spending power to buy into shindigs. Shindigs!

It was explained - probably pompously, that many events were remarkably recession proof. That they were core business in a big global industry. They were what made the profits. Imagine Sunderland not bothering to play football. There is season for footy and for other events. It’s a long cycle planned a long way ahead. Life really is going on.

But there are nevertheless far fewer news stories than one might expect about recovery. I know there’s a mountain of debt ahead. But right now for quite a lot of people it all looks a lot like life before Armageddon. Read those recent papers and speculate on how we mostly dodged the bullet – so far.

And as news goes online it should become easier, not tougher to see past and present together. The archive is always available. Read it at random. Read last year, and the year before – and wonder. Gosh, I knew so little back then.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

New Politics - New Media

The next live event Business & Politics Show, supported by redbrand, is at City Rooms, Leicester, June 30th. Iain will be on the panel along with John Willman of the FT and others TBA. http://www.businessandpolitics.org/

The reporting of this week's local and European elections will be 'rough and ready' according to Iain Dale speaking of his citizen-powered on-line radio effort.

Iain has been canvassing for volunteers to report from counts around the UK, whilst blogs do the marketing. To quote:

'We're not going to try to repeat the kind of election programme the mainstream broadcasters do - it will be very much live and loose, and totally reliant on citizen journalism and bloggers to make it work.'

So tune out of the mainstream and drop in. The medium, and the way is the message is owned and distributed, may be as big a change as anything else that's happening in politics today. This is blogging goes verbal.

Are you ready for 'rough and ready'? And for the archive it looked like this. (Blogger asks if is should aligned left, centre or right!!)

Friday, 22 May 2009

Skills for the Future (wherever it is) - further memo to Andy Burnham (or now Ben Bradshaw)

'So then, what are you doing at the moment, my friend?' '

'Oh, I'm looking after the lighting and IT systems on the stage set bus in the musical of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at The Palace, London, and commuting between York and Kings Cross'.

This exchange took place on a train on Tuesday. Not a conversation that had ever happened before. My friend's careers teacher didn't have a brochure on becoming carer to Priscilla's bus. Life in the creative industries can take us to unexpected places irrespective of what formal qualifications say we should be doing.

You see, training to a very exacting specification is required for brain surgery and for the piloting of jet airliners. On the job innovation for these people is not usually successful.

But for those of us that exist in the fold that encompasses business, technology, communication and entertainment, our prime skill is the ability to re-skill, to tinker and make it up as we go along.

We know now that the world did not end with the recession. We will not return soon to a simple life. We can pretty well bet the farm on the unusual and unexpected to be an even greater part of the inter-connected culture of the future. So how do we educate and prepare people for challenges we can not conceive of ? How can we help make and stretch minds that are more capable, that are more creative, that have an ability to think across categories and boundaries?

What can people learn that allows them to become flexible, innovative and adaptable? If by 'creative jobs' we mean brilliant technicians, then train away. If we mean creating innovative new stuff we have never thought of before and can't yet imagine...

Well, maybe we have to add to the vocational the disciplines of mathematics, physics, English, and...how about Latin? Stretch the mind, understand structure, and let us learn (and invent) the rest in the playground.

(with apologies to non Anglophone nations) (and apparently Priscilla and the whole of the West End is doing v nicely, thank you)

And we have a picture of the set itself, credit pic of bus by Jeff Busby, for full details go to http://tinyurl.com/owk372

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Government to Create Jobs - apparently

Couldn't get old head around story from Media Week http://tinyurl.com/o3jfd6 telling us that Culture Sec Andy Burnham had 10,000 creative industry jobs up his sleeve. Haymarket stablemates Brand Republic and Event magazine puts us straight on this going for a more modest 5,000 creative industries APPRENTICESHIPS. http://tinyurl.com/q2p3db

I would like to be very constructive on this one. Event and especially A/V does suffer skills shortages. That's partly in the nature of a highly seasonal industry. Don't know how happy today's freelancers would be when day rates are pressured by lots of supply. But that would be years away.

Anyway, we trust it's not the exciting number of jobs that ends up as the most creative element of the story.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Get on down to the House of Disrepute

And another note on the subject of on-line identities - provoked by a tweet link to the Outspoken Media blog sent by Dinis Guarda. The gist is, how to leverage benefit from negative press and flame wars that might come from your innocent commercial opinions expressed in your branded blog.

It's all good advice I'm sure, although possibly less guaranteed in outcome than suggested. But maybe the real clincher for discussion here is just how many previously innocent brands might want to join a new axis of evil. There's eyeballs in those hills. Some people might look pretty longingly at the sort of metrics that people like Guido (and The Telegraph) are getting. Let's call it disrepute management.

Setting fire to your own house would attract attention. Until everyone does it.

is Outspoken Media.

PS: we all know Skittles Twitter thing, but have you read #skittles? This doesn't remotely qualify for the notion above but I could not imagine this post in support of a Mars sweetie product a matter of weeks ago:

HallLife: Omg skittles new commercial so f**kin funny you guys got to see it I almost spit out my drink its called reflect the rainbow

Sunday, 3 May 2009

And the most popular awards in Manchester are...

Last Thursday night in Manchester. At Old Trafford: How-Do, the awards programme for all UK NW regional media, about 540 takers. The long standing Roses Awards for regional advertising over at the Hilton on Deansgate, about 300 I am told by folks. Something else on at The Midland - googling it seems to be PPMA Recruitment Advertising Awards - add unknown number, let's say given its capacity, another 300. Organisers of all events welcome to amend my estimates.

Not a swine flu mask in sight in an industry that might have 'challenges' with the sponsorship revenue stream nowadays, but is still putting an awful lot of bums on seats. (Ref to self http://tinyurl.com/ctxmtj)

Note to any transatlantic readers - bum as in ass, not as in 'Buddy Can You Spare a Dime' - mostly anyway.

Does this v small (but important) sample say 'bring the event to my town and I'll pitch up, make me travel and, hmm, well...? Anyway congrats to both brand owners for a substantial cumulative total. Better numbers next time if they are on different days?

Many thanks to HGA for last minute ticket sort-out. And how do you punctuate How Do for search? How-Do I assume.

Monday, 27 April 2009

The Brand - Corporate & Personal, err, Intertwined

Following the Duncan Bannatyne train thing (see below) here’s some sort of brand antidote to issues on this eastern side of the island. Pictured is the West Coast’s Sir Richard Branson at work. The Virgin Leader is illustrated creating content for his blog and for mine. From this hands off management position, the good knight is able to keep an eye on how those toilets are holding up on his Pendolino trains. And to dream of spaceships. Of course businesses like Stagecoach, Scaled Composites and MBNA are delighted to help out.

I have resisted bowing to Virgin's PR power by not using this picture for a whole week now. Until I just couldn’t resist the man's brand power any longer. Hat tip to The Fact Compiler for bringing this gem to my attention. It had appeared previously in the Mail on Sunday.

There now, remember the tremendous value of this sort of photo opportunity to your brand/client. Of course, what we really do have here, is clear demonstration of the benefits to entrepreneurs of getting off the stock exchange and going private without those troublesome shareholders. So, if you want to create a multi billion dollar empire that breaks all the brand rules, has a name that won't work, doesn’t know its demographic, stays off the equity markets and becomes a global giant, you know what to do.

Now then, get on with it.

STOP PRESS: ask Sir Richard for hints and tips on how to create your very own global empire:

http://digg.com/dialogg/Sir_Richard_Branson_1?FC=UATDRB1(note Q2) and at Huffington Post http://tinyurl.com/cytvo2 Yep, all the news that's still around and hasn't gone away.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Celeb Customer Complaints Department

Duncan Bannatyne is not happy. He says why at http://tinyurl.com/cuwmqr . Never a shrinking violet, Duncan lays into the East Coast rail service with venom. So remember, when you need customer service to improve, live near someone on the Dragon's Den panel. It may not get a result, but it makes everyone feel a whole lot better.

(Charities have harnessed the power of the famous for years - how about consumers?)

PS: Just spotted DB's biz biog 'Anyone Can Do It'. I hope you not confusing that idea with 'Everyone Can Do It', Duncan.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Running out of Blogroll

Apologies for the disappearance of the links to blogs. We will investigate and call up standby holiday repair teams. Or you could just go straight to Iain D in the blue corner and Tom H in the red - miss out the middleman. That's called disintermediation - the internet's all about it and Associated Press has thoughts on the subject. This humble aggregator points you to New Jersey http://tinyurl.com/dalvqw

OK - they are back! With interesting new stuff.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Events - not too dear, boy!

I'm going to come back to this very soon, but right now right now I'm canvassing views. There seems to be a consensus that the B2Blive industry is, so far, rather resilient. I received this today,...this is in the North East (UK)

Thinking Digital is now SOLD OUT
Hi All, I'm slightly amazed to announce that the Thinking Digital Conference is now soldout. To register for waitlist pls visit
Thanks for all the support.

Herb Kim

I'm part of the industry and as Warren Buffett says 'don't ask the barber if you need a haircut' but maybe, together with social media, we are disruptive and providing marketing and networking spaces at much lower costs. Opinions, views and experiences, send by mail if you don't want to post.

Sunday, 5 April 2009


So ad agencies are done for in these times, are they? BMB hasn't heard that news and opens up shop in New York. Bil Bungay, the B that goes together with Beattie and McGuinness, believes that out of chaos comes opportunity and new order. Bil’s sample time was the overturning of the applecart in the late seventies when pomp rock got eaten by The Sex Pistols (for a while).

Well, advertising and design is rock and roll. It’s a scalable enterprise and as such has few winners, but they win real big. Most talented folks will keep on gigging for a lifetime down the pub. But that’s OK too. One or two will get through.

As far as those who are already of superstar status, well, starting conditions apply and capital is required in downturns. Intellectual and brand capital is amongst the very best.

In the last few years Bil B has given over lot of valuable time to Fresh Creative Awards to get people to notice new talent from the regions. So, we'll see what Madam Upturn brings.

Your hero I K Brunel would have liked your Atlantic Bridge, Bil. We wish BMB well in NYC and beyond. We still have exportable products.

The story is at Brand Republic. http://tinyurl.com/cjl9f2

East Coast - the drier side

Thanks to peezedtee for this charming infringement of copyright. Like some of you, I am a poster fan, a graphic design freak, an enthusiast of the late 1930's up to September '39 and a frequent passenger between KX and the North. In that aggregated spirit I offer this delightful piece of transport advertising together with the challenge: does this campaign show more than two things you can't do any longer on the East Coast Main Line?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Mandy and Macmillan

OK, let's get this over with. I've already been asked once.

1. Randy mice has been a mildly amusing expression in the UK since Mandy Rice Davies and Christine Keeler helped to discredit Macmillan's government in 1963. Find your own exciting pic.
2. Randy mice is a nice way of expressing a desire to meet and mingle on the desktop. OK?
3. It has nothing to do with Mandy as in Lord Mandleson.
4. Macmillan when asked what scared him most in politics said 'Events, dear boy, events'.
5. She was one of those events.
6. Events - part of the industry we make our living from.
7. Apologies for the explanation to those of you who are already acquainted with this stuff.
8. Never apologise, never explain.

Post script: and then The Spectator of all people decides to do this:

Friday, 27 March 2009

Who are you?

Long before The Who made money from forensics they seemed to think that schizophrenia involved multiple personalities. In reality it involves multiple miseries. Take my word for it - we have lived with it in our family. No, sir, multiple personalities are usually elective. We've all created a whole series of different faces for ourselves ever since we first did social around the camp fire. And now we do social media. This party doesn't require our total attendance. Just send along part of yourself.

Viewing tweets recently I wondered, how far are ordinary people prepared to go? Political allegiance? Social policy beliefs? Sexual predelictions? What about, opinions on your employer? And just how much you would like to throw that brick - and who at? This is quite a big personal brand thing. This is danger, this stuff isn't on your CV. And it's starting to bother corporations.

Twitter is a medium that brings out a candid comment in one hundred and forty characters. And if you are prepared to put the hours in, you can have one hundred and forty different characters of your own. I've don't think I've witnessed anyone actually have a spat with themselves, as yet. A matter of time.

This is a public medium - but it feels like the public house. Here is a building where everything you say is pasted up on the outside. No wonder organisations are getting nervy. I expect very soon corporations will make their feelings known quite specifically via their contracts of service. You see, it takes effort for the disgruntled to blog their ire, but stuff is more likely to hit the fan more often in the heat of a mobile moment. And this will come from an employee with inside info - as anonymous as a guy with a gun in a balaclava. Logged in via one of his nastier personalities. Reputation will be at stake in cases of malice as well in situations of justified disgruntlement. This is a world of both transparency and potential duplicity that few enterprises have fully yet to understand.

This really was me, and both of my twitter persona are very nice guys indeed. I'm sure they won't get fooled again.