advertising, engaging

When your product is this good, don’t let advertising get in the way

Titian_oneI had a little look Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne this morning.  not in a gallery.  in St Anne’s Court.  on the way back from a meeting.

I was able to do so courtesy of a piece of communication from The National Gallery called The Grand Tour – whereby;

"…over the next twelve weeks [The National Gallery is] turning the West End into a giant gallery by lining the streets of Soho, Piccadilly, and Covent Garden with some of the world’s most famous paintings"

(source: Grand Tour Website)

which is great; when your product is as good as the creations of Europe’s greatest painters, don’t formulate an advertising intermediary – get it out there and let people experience your product on their own terms.  it’s like 50 little pop-up galleries, I hope they become permanent sites, rotating the image every month.


but if that wasn’t a nice enough idea in itself, if you go to The Grand Tour website you can not only view an interactive map of where the images are and find out more about the artist and piece, you can also download a range of audio tours for your MP3 player…

do an hour’s tour over a lunch-break, or take a romantic stroll on summer evening – the route and commentary courtesy of The Lovers’ Tour – all from the web.

a great, neat, joined up piece of communications which utilises digital capabilities not as a bolt-on, but as an inherent part of the idea, genuinely and relevantly adding to the enjoyment of the product.

and I got to view a Titian on a rainy Monday morning, which was more than enough to brighten up the day.

advertising, engaging, internet, social networking, user-generating

From ‘send’ to ‘recieve’ mode; lessons for politicians and advertisers

Houses_of_parliamentpic from

There’s been a lot of media-orientated political comment about over the last week.  Firstly Whitehall last Thursday published a report by Ed Mayo, Chief Executive of the national consumer council and Tom Steinberg, founder and director of mySociety, recommending that the Government acknowledges the importance of, and utilises, existing internet-based communities.

The three specific recommendations were that the Government:

  • welcomes and engages with users and operators of user-generated sites in pursuit of common social and economic objectives;
  • supplies innovators that are re-using government-held information with the information they need, when they need it, in a way that maximises the long-term benefits for all citizens; and
  • protects the public interest by preparing citizens for a world of plentiful (and sometimes unavailable) information, and helps excluded groups take advantage

These sentiments were echoed by Tim Montgomerie – editor of – in The Spectator’s Politics column last week where he suggested that the next general election will be remembered as “Britain’s first internet election”.  He notes that “in this new world [of internet communities] the campaign staff of political parties and traditional media will have a much smaller share of power”; and points to the fact that “more Americans have watched Mr de Vellis’s advert [below] than have watched any official commercial”.

Such is the power of a searchable internet, populated by aggregations of communities with their own opinions, wants and behaviours.  It’s a force that both politicians and brands must understand and engage with on the communities’ terms; Montgomerie notes that politicians “still see the web as a way of providing superior distribution channels for unchanged messages.  They are in ‘send mode’ … the political parties that prosper in the internet age will embrace ‘receive mode’.

Try reading that last quote again replacing politicians with the word brands.  There are parallels indeed.

The third element in all of this is the broadcast media; Montgomerie – in citing predictions that “most print newspapers will have closed by 2025” – takes a different position to Tony Blair, who waded in to the debate this week in a polemic against the print media.  Blair believes that “there is a market in providing serous, balanced, news.  There is a desire for impartiality.  The way that people get their news may be changing; but the thirst for news being real is not”.

But deciding ‘what is real’ will no longer be the preserve of politicians and brands communicating through broadcast media.  In both the advertising and political arenas, that will be for us all – as co-creators and consumers – to decide.  There will be – as there has always been – two key questions; who owns the message and who owns the media?  In creating content we all have the potential to own the message, something politicians and advertisers will have to come to terms with.

As for who owns the media – that remains to be seen…  Different strategies will emerge.  This week HMV appointed digital agency LBi to create a new social networking site to take on rivals facebook and YouTube.  Good luck with that!  Gideon Lask, e-commerce director of HMV said “The HMV social networking site will be an important element in our customer engagement strategy”.  All admirable, but what’s wrong with utilising the networks already out there?  His brand – like politics – is still in ‘send mode’, I’d suggest that the sooner ‘receive mode’ is engaged, the better.


‘The Power of Information’ – a review by Mayo and Steinberg

‘The next general election will be won and lost on the internet’, a Spectator column by Tim Montgomerie

Blair’s Feral Media speech – full text as reported by the BBC here

‘HMV appoints LBi to create facebook rival’ as reported in Campaign

internet, planning, social networking, user-generating

It’s not what I post on facebook; but the fact that I post, that counts

Mark_zuckerberg_facebookpic source: Paul Sakuma / AP File

I’ve been wanting to write a post on social networking for a while now but it’s taken me ages, mostly because I’ve been mainly engaged in rampant friendgeneering.

let me explain.

about a month ago I joined facebook, an act which quickly and forever changed my internet browsing habits.  it became and remains the first and last site I visit in any online session, and keep it on in the background whilst tabbing thru other sites.  a straw poll suggests that I am not alone.  this is significant.

the other key behaviour I noticed myself adopting in the early weeks of facebook was some very serious (and along with my housemate, competitive) ‘friendgeneering’ – a term coined by my colleague and friend John V Willshire in his Artrocker Blog, to describe:

"the accumulation of friends that everyone goes through … because (a) it’s like engineering in it’s very methodical, processed, designed nature, unlike making friends in real life and (b) I have too much time on my hands clearly, and can sit around thinking of terms like ‘friendgeneering’"

now whilst it’s certainly true that John has too much free time – the phrase actually very succinctly captures the various acts of friend-collection I went through, and only stopped when I felt that a certain critical mass had been achieved (note: I don’t know why I felt I’d reached my personal critical mass – would be interesting to find out if other users had similar experiences).  I felt uncomfortable until ‘enough’ of them were there with me, and feel a great deal more comfortable now that they are there.

it’s a concept Faris Yakob – writing on his blog TIGS – described in a post in which he termed continuous partial presence:

"…everyone is always there. The most important feature of instant messenger programmes, in some ways, isn’t the actual messages – it’s the buddy list. With your buddy list there, you’re always in a group, you’re friends are always present, whenver they’re online. This is why it was so compelling, to begin with, to younger people – kids are far more likely to hang out in large social groups. This continuous partial presence is oddly satisfying, and also a feature of services like Twitter and Jaiku"

in her book Watching The English, Kate Fox describes how the mobile phone has had a similar effect:

"The mobile phone has, I believe, become the modern equivelant of the garden fence or village green.  the space-age technology of mobile phones has allowed us to return to the more natural and humane communication patterns of pre-industrial society, when we lived in small, stable communities, and enjoyed frequent ‘grooming talk’ with a tightly integrated social network of family and friends"

what both of these commentaries identify is the fact that the content of the status updates, photos, and now videos (and more) I put on facebook, aren’t as important as the act of putting them up there in the first place.  it’s the contemporary equivelant of "good morning, send my best to X" that was typical of times gone by, and just as reassuring.  indeed – as Fox suggests – the origins of my ‘comfort’ at having my friendgeneered buddies continually partially present, may be ancient indeed…  as old as the highly communal nature of homo sapien society itself.

this last fact alone is reason enough for advertisers and brands to take facebook and it’s rapidly expanding contemporaries very seriously indeed. it fulfills and deeply ingrained social need, and I fully anticipate that I will become as inseperable from my social network of choice as I am from my mobile phone.

but the reasons go beyond human social need…  the act of media planning in many regards is – at it’s basest – the identification and communication to, aggregated audiences (for obvious reasons I exclude direct forms of marketing from this description).  between October 06 and April 07, facebook increased it’s base from 500k to 3.69m; over the same period readership of the Sun dropped from 3.1m to 3.0m (source NRS).  facebook and social network sites per se are big, growing and committed aggregations of audience.

to that end, you can try putting an ad on facebook, but I wouldn’t recommend it; facebook is a place and space for friends, and a pushed media impact from a keen brand is an invasion – unless a brand suceeds in rewarding my just for watching it (for example Virgin Media feeding me live Big Brother updates, rather than a banner asking me to sign up now)…

the commercial model aside (till another day), other ways exist for brands to capitalise on this bigger-than-the-Sun audience (globally) of which I am a proud and active part; a facebook group created around your brand – or something for which it stands – is a great deal more involving that a bit of flash, and also acts as a badge for a social network user should they choose to join.  plus, with the opening up of application development to third parties, brands should be asking themselves what applications they could develop to graciously and appropriately feed and enhance online activities.

brands that understand how to talk to an audience in this way understand that it’s not how many friends you can reach; but how you talk to them, that counts.


How Will You Shape The Internet?

Pmogit’s not something you have to answer right away because some clever people have designed a game that will tell you.  the game is a Passive Multiplayer Online Game (as opposed to a MMOG) and once you’ve signed up it will use your internet browsing habits to define what kind of internet user you are.  plus you get points, cool stuff, and can play additional games.

there’s a neat video that explains the concept here.  the Game has been developed by Duncan Gough, and I was pointed in it’s direction by the lovely Tom at 3rd Sense.  you can sign up for the game here.  do it.  just be careful which websites you visit!