content creating, user-generating

How Creating Pictures with Wordle Makes Content More Consumable


this is what the content of this blog looks like when it's pushed thru Jonathan Feinberg's Wordle application.  Wordle is a digital toy which generates word clouds based on any string of text you put into it; words that appear more frequently have greater prominence.

not only do the images look great, they also demonstrate the usefulness of a visual image in absorbing information.  our brains are much better at consuming and processing visual information than text…  a glimpse of the above immediately conveys the content and most pertinent themes of the musings on my blog than any scan of the text would.

this could be a great way for companies, brands and even government to convey in a glimpse long bodies of text – for example company reports or even white papers…  not as a replacement for the publication of those documents (!) but as an interesting and compelling way to introduce someone to the content and themes before they start reading the document proper…

branding, broadcasting

Visa settle for Silver as the BBC takes Gold in Olympic branding negotiation

all smiles; announcing the acts for the VISA London 2012 party in July

in a few hours the Olympic Games will be handed over from Beijing to London.  to celebrate, the city is hosting a party on the Mall.  McFly and The Feeling are going to play.  its all very exciting for everyone taking part.

its also been an exciting time for Visa – the corporate sponsor of the party – and the BBC.  they've had to come to an agreement over the prominence of Visa's branding on the stage.  why?  because its going to be broadcast live on BBC One and Radio 2, and the presence of Visa's branding contravenes BBC's editorial guidelines on product visibility.

this is only the earliest of many negotiations that brands will be engaged with over the coming four years in the run up to and during the 2012 Olympics.  in the wake of TV trust scandals over the last few years – and specifically the BBC / Robinsons association (read: sponsorship) of Sports Personality of the Year controversy – the BBC is more keen than ever to ensure that its seen to be upholding its own standards of non-commerciality.

but this poses a big problem for LOCOG and Olympic sponsor brands… how many future marketing opportunities are going to be compromised because of the BBC's stance?  the contradiction that lies at the heart of the debate is that the BBC is the broadcast partner of a commercial event.  LOCOG has to facilitate a better deal on this… Visa has given the most ground this time – but we need to avoid setting a dangerous and potentially costly precedent.

advertising, branding, broadcasting, internet, planning, viewing

Negotiating the digital divide: why immigrant brands must learn to go native

Natives going to meet the Spanish navy in 1792 (source)

the Pew Research Centre's biennial report into the
changing nature of news audiences has confirmed what we've known for a while;
that a generation of digital natives are growing up demanding immediacy and
plurality of content.  the report described 13% of the US public as 'net newsers'; under
35, affluent, and sceptical of many of the mainstream media's offerings.

it comes hot on the heels of last week's report by Ofcom which confirmed what
TGI and CCS have been telling us for a while…  that as our world shifts
from one ruled by digital immigrants to one dominated by digital natives, an
entire generation are defaulting to multi-tasking their media consumption.

this isn't just behavioural – our brains are physically adapting to enable us
to compulsively multitask.  digital technology changes the way we absorb
information.  as such – as Lord Saatchi was reported as pointing out in 2006 – the digital native’s brain is
physically different; “It has rewired itself. It responds faster. It sifts out.
It recalls less.”

the fact that recall rates for traditional television advertisements have
plummeted led Lord Saatchi to the conclusion that companies must now be able to
sum up their brands in a single word if they are to grab the attention of
restless digital natives, but this is to miss the point…

if digital natives demand multiplicity, brands – far from retreating to one-word over-simplification – must give it to them.  both
the above reports confirm that TV remains predominant in the media consumption
habits of digital natives.  in the UK we're watching more TV than ever;
communicating to digital natives doesn't mean abandoning TV as a means with
which to communicate; rather it means using it in conjunction with other media
channels – specifically the internet.

brand communications need plurality
– the notion of what constitutes 'critical mass' within a media channel has to
be rethought and replaced with consideration as to what constitutes critical
mass across channels.

some may not like this compulsive plurality of consumption – in his G2 column
last week, Alexander Chancellor bemoaned a "compulsion to keep in
touch" liking it to a "kind of disease".  "Addiction
to communication" he comments "seems to me as dangerous as addiction
to cigarettes or alcohol".

as hard as it may be for digital immigrants to comprehend, consistent and
constant consumption of content is as natural to digital natives as
breathing.  both immigrants and brands has better get used to it.

content creating, experiencing

How Fraser and Rik came Back From The Future and did a bit of cultural remixing on the way

so here's a video of the lovely Fraser and Rik performing at the Fringe this year.  I'm posting because its actually a great example of cultural remix; of users re-appropriating broadcast brands in a new context.

I wrote back in November a post about the evolving ecology of TV and how it had to learn to sit in peace alongside its new user-generated siblings.  at the time I commented that:

"both [corporate and user-generated content] are entertaining, and both have their place in the new TV
ecology.  it's notable that DoomBlake's recreative remix is 
entertaining because of the original context as defined by
Lucas's commercial creative vision [of Star Wars].  these content siblings need each
other – one as source material, and the other as a way to stay
contemporary in a changing world"

I kinda think that in their own unique way, Fraser and Rik in coming Back From The Future are doing their own little bit for the future of communications…

ad funded programming, advertising, branding, content creating, experiencing, planning, regulating, viewing

Transparency; how Mother’s Pot Noodle has it and MG OMD’s Beat: Life on the Street doesn’t

on a visit to Edinburgh's Fringe Festival this weekend Mediation was lucky enough to catch a performance of Pot Noodle: The Musical.  created by Mother Vision, the show is a surreal and entertaining hour long advert for Pot Noodle – and it doesn't really pretend to be anything else.  in fact its quite clear on the matter…  its an ad.  it knows it is.  its written in the script.

I couldn't help but contrast this to the recent discussion and debate there's been around MG OMD's AFP for the Home Office.  Beat: Life on the Street was a Sunday night show first broadcast last year on ITV.  the show is now reportedly being investigated by Ofcom amid concerns it broke the broadcasting code requiring that programmes "must not influence the content and/or scheduling of a channel or
programme in such a way as to impair the responsibility and editorial
independence of the broadcaster".

so what we have here are two very different bits of content, each designed to form part of the brand narrative for two very different organisations.  but whereas one has (at the time of writing) a two and a bit star rating on the Fringe website, the other is being investigated by the regulator.  what sent them in such different directions?

well… what divides them is transparency.  Pot Noodle's musical has it, and Beat: Life on the Street just doesn't.

you can't make a programme that's funded by the Government and which is specifically designed to change people's perceptions of a state organisation and not tell people thats what it is and what its trying to do.  that's not smart media planning, its propaganda.

what's such a shame is the strategy from MG OMD is great.  in a video on the site, Head of Strategy Jon Gittings comments that the aim of the the programme was to amplify the real experience the public has with PCSOs, to:

"use communication to recreate [the] direct content that would then go on to increase value [of PCSOs] … we would create virtual experiences that bring PCSOs and the community together"

thats great thinking.  de-branding it is not.  brands have to be explicit about their intent.  whether you make noodle snacks or uphold the law, you have to protect your integrity.  say what you like about Pot Noodle making a musical, they were up front about what they were doing…

as one comment on the Fringe site notes: "I doubt that i'll ever be convinced that branded shows at Edinburgh are
a good thing but i struggle to criticise when i'm entertained as such"

well I doubt that I'll ever need convincing that smart relevant content creation – including AFP – can play a part on many a schedule; but I'll sure as hell won't struggle to criticise it when brands and (worse) their agencies think they can do so without being honest about the communications' intent.


thanks to Phil who pointed me in the direction of a BBC report on Pot Noodle which includes an interview with the creatives from Mother who devised the thing…

broadcasting, internet, praising, viewing

How South Park gave a little love and it all came back to view

pop quiz… what would most brands give to have people say the following about them?

"And in widescreen format, too! Oh God, I just pooped my pants!* This is
an awesome gift! Thanksyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou…"

"It's true! You do love us! This entire website is proving that! And you don't stop surprising us! Thank you for Imaginationland!!!!"


the above posts are from the South Park Studios website, where (if you're in the US) you can watch all the South Park episodes for free. the site this week added the full, uncensored, directors cut of the acclaimed three-parter Imaginationland for free. all packaged up as a reward for the fans of the series.

the genius of this is twofold. in the short term they're packaging up something that anyone can get, as a reward for the show's fans. because they're fans they'll be on the site, pick it up first, and get the social currency of being able to tell their friends about it.

but in the longer term South Park understands that giving their back-catalogue away for free will encourage and maintain viewing of new stuff. which generates a fair few impacts and revenues for Comedy Central, so South Park can keep getting made. so everyone's happy.

what are your brands doing to demonstrate how much you love the people who consume you?

advertising, branding

Why we have to be braver about brand communications that ‘might’ offend

you have to sympathise for creative agencies.  I don’t envy their position…  required as they are by clients to create things that get noticed but don’t cause controversy.  the most recent case in point is Mars who have pulled the above Snickers ad because it might offend the gay community.  is it offensive?  to speed-walkers possibly but certainly not, I suggest, to boys who like boys who like boys.

the key word here is ‘might’.  ‘might’ cause offence.  ‘might’ cause controversy.  well ads ‘might’ do a lot of things, but one of the things they ‘have’ to do is get noticed…  especially when said ad is for Snickers and therefore carries a need to convey macho, retrosexual, masculine tones.  what’s a creative agency to do?  make ads that get noticed but only get  talked about it the right way?  brands never had that kind of control, let alone thinking they have it in the digital age.

if there’s a problem here is not with ads.  its with one of two other things.  either (1) the brand positioning is wrong; if communications that establish then reinforce the positioning are being pulled then Mars has to ask themselves how sustainable this is in the long-run (they always ‘might’ piss someone off)

or (2) the problem lies with marketeers who lack the courage of their conviction to approve, run, and then ride the discussion and debate caused by their communications.  the more they pander to people who ‘might’ take offence, the more we move away from a culture that engages in and enjoys public debate.  and the harder it will be for creative agencies to produce genuinely ground-breaking and challenging work.

of course if a brand was really smart they’d make ads that engage by virtue of normalising (I use that word carefully) gay life.  the below was made by Guinness.  it challenges some whilst no doubt affirming the beliefs of others.  its a brilliant piece of brand communication.  its a shame Guinness never had the courage of their conviction and broadcast it.