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.