broadcasting, content creating, remixing, television, viewing

No more than Skins deep: how a direct Remake misses the opportunities presented by a Remix

Zaac pointed me in the direction of the above this morning.  it's the trailer for MTV America's remake of the UK's beloved Skins.  as someone who watched and loved the show it makes for strange viewing.  on one hand the new cast and setting looks strikingly different.  but after a while the similarities between the above and the original UK version become not just clear but blindingly obvious.

the car going into the water.  the quick edit phone conversation.  taking to one's own genitals.  even the back garden (yard now) trampoline.  all conspire to indicate that this is a clean remake of the show.  something which, if true, presents not only a missed opportunity but a huge failing of producing.

a missed opportunity, in that the best adaptations of shows for US audiences haven't been remakes but remixes.  same show, different culture.  think about how The Office transferred from Slough to Scranton, or how the boys from Manchester evolved into a very different Queer as Folk Baltimore.  great remakes, or should I say remixes, protect and nurture the truth of a show whilst mixing in a new culture and society's perspectives and nuances.

Office_uk The_office_us from Slough to Scranton – same Office, very different culture

Queer_as_folk_UK Queer_as_folk_US from Manchester to Baltimore – same, err, well totally different actually…

that "the remix is the very nature of digital", is of course now so widely held to be true that it's almost too obvious to quote it.  but Gibson's elegant maxim is too often ignored.  by TV makers and brands alike.  just as in the case of TV shows that fail to capitalise on the opportunities that a remix affords, how many global ads do we see land on the screens of shores a far cry from their (often European or American) origins?  or worse, dubbed out of their native tongue, so that we are sold to by smiling fresh-faced lip-synced avatars…

the pressure to create ads that can be deployed across a multitude of regions leads to centrally developed, but often locally less-relevant communications.  distinctiveness in communications is key – it mitigates misattribution and builds brand cues that extend the return of a media investment out of the short term and into the longer term.  simply deploying a global property locally is no guarantee of success.

this presents a problem for TV producers and brands alike … a problem that, for the latter, will only be exacerbated by a shift away from broadcast interruption as the de-facto method for audience reach, towards a two-way content and community-led platform that seeks to engage an audience.

MTV's gamble with Skins – to create what looks like a remake rather than a genuine remix – should give pause for thought for marketers.  to what extent are we acting in a brand's best interests by picking up and redeploying content into a country – and culture – for which it wasn't designed?  how many opportunities are missed, and investment wasted, by failing to reflect the nuances of a culture with whom you seeking to engage?

brand extending, social media-ising, social networking

Lustable, Paypal, and the polyfaceted brand: why brands need to evolve a diversity of identities for a diversity of platforms


yesterday saw the birth of Lustable – a site designed to be the ultimate companion for online shoppers.  partnering with five of Australia’s most highly regarded fashion and design bloggers, the site aims to be a living breathing online shopping resource profiling the web’s best kept fashion secrets and is designed to be the ultimate companion for online shoppers.

describing the site, Adrian Christie of PayPal Australia commented that “Lustable celebrates the world of online fashion, covering everything from up-and-coming young designers, to fashion sites that offer great value – like free shipping and seasonal sales”.

I should say at this point that I'm breaking my first and most important rule of blogging in writing this post.  I am for the first time writing a post about a client of an agency at which I currently work.  I'm breaking the rule because Lustable makes a very valuable and necessary point about the future of brands, and specifically the diversification of the identity of brands…

there are examples aplenty of the diversificaton of brands, the goal being to grow and engage with new audiences – some of these are very tight (think UK telco O2's creation of the The O2; an engagement space with an identical name to that of it's parent brand) … but increasingly, brand extensions are differentiating from their parent companies.  so diverse that they become wholly new offspring of their parent brands, with their own identities and behaviours and affiliations.

all of which begs the question… why does Lustable exist?  why has PayPal – which is an established and trusted brand in its own right – invested the time and effort to create a whole new and differentiated brand?  what would be so wrong with  it seems rather counter-intuitive to create and invest in a brand that's not your own.  a worst case scenario exists in which that investment delivers no payback to the parent's brand ie the strategy is actively mitigating ROMI.

the reason Lustable exists, as I see it (I wasn't involved in planning it's inception) is for the simple reason that it needs to exist.  the opportunity to aggregate and stimulate a community of online shoppers is, for obvious reasons, high up on the agenda for a brand like PayPal; but PayPal isn't necessarily in a position to aggregate and stimulate an audience around fashion.

it would, for a host of reasons, be a leap too far.  much better to reach out to existing experts in the field of online fashion shopping.  much better to amplify their voices.  much better to invest in conversations that they will have with existing and new followers of their sites and online spaces.

Lustable can aggregate an online fashion community in a way that PayPal couldn't.  it can have credible and transparent conversations, and stimulate that community, in a way that PayPal couldn't.  in this regard Lustable is a brand intermediary – a site designed to reach out to and engage with an audience more efficiently and effectively that PayPal ever could.

is it a risk?  yes.  but the greater risk is choosing to either not engage with an audience or engaging with an audience in a sub-optimal and ultimately inefficient way.

what Lustable is evidence of is a direction of travel for brands into polyfaceted creatures.  as platforms for engagement (a word I choose very deliberately over reach) proliferate, the ability of brands to spread themselves ever thinner becomes more difficult and tenuous.  think about the number of successful branded TV channels?  OK … think about any successful branded TV channel?  the reason it's hard is that brands don't necessarily stretch that far – multiple facets are required and called for.

all of which of course requires new and emerging specialisms.  Lustable was created and deployed by social media agency We Are Social* – who's expertise in this space was necessary to ensure that the project was developed and implemented as effectively as possible.  as brands become polyfaceted so too do the specialists and skills that marketing folk need to surround themselves with…

all of which begs another question – who is the brand guardian?  fortunately that's easy … people are, of course.  people who use PayPal, and now people who engage with Lustable.  Lustable creates new associations and connections between people, and a brand that was brave and sensible enough to give birth to a wholly different creature.  a brand brave and sensible enough to understand that PayPal and Lustable are greater than the sum of their respective parts.

disclaimer: PayPal is a client at PHD Australia, where I work.  I was not involved in any of the discussions or planning that led to the execution of Lustable.  * PHD Australia shares offices and the more than occasional glass of wine with We Are Social, who have developed the Lustable strategy and concept for PayPal.


A tale of two logos: what GAP and MySpace can tell us about the power of identity

what's in a logo?  quite a lot according to the thousands of people who rushed to condemn GAP's logo redesign.  the size and ferocity of the sentiment seems – surprisingly – to have caught GAP off guard, to the extent that their U-turn is now fully complete and the new logo has been abandoned.

which is just as well, because it really IMHO isn't very good.  retrospective, ordinary, old, etc etc etc … what's more important than my personal feelings about the logo is the observation that GAP seemingly (1) thought that the logo was any good and that (2) they showed it to the world without a great deal more thought and planning.

that said, skeptical me instantly wants to put this in the category of New Coke, that organisation's ill-fated attempt to reformulate a formula that was far from broken and which I and a great many other people are convinced was a stunt to get people to collectively and publicly acknowledge their support and love for Coke.

I'm tempted to think that the above effort by the GAP aimed to achieve the same.  deep down, people really rather like the GAP but they're just not very forthcoming in saying it these days.  launching a crappy new logo is a perfect way to galvanise sentiment in the brand's favour.  and if the current corporate guys need to take a (perceived) hit to do remind people how much they love GAP then it's a small price to pay.

in other breaking news, MySpace have just redesigned their logo too.  check this out…

now a lot of people don't like this.

I love it.

I really really really do.


a post on the eBrand site describes how "the new logos are not live yet, but the site has demonstrated it at the Warm Gun Design conference … [MySpace] elaborated on the idea saying that it plans to use the blank space in the logo to display artwork by remaining MySpace users. The artwork will only appear when individuals place their mouse cursor over the blank space though."

it goes on to quote MySpace VP of User Experience Mike Macadaan: "MySpace is a platform for people to be whatever they want, so we have decided to give them the space to do it."

what I love is that the new logo is not the logo of a social network.  it's mine.  it's whatever I want to do with it.  that's a very powerful statement for a logo to make.  moreover, its a statement that is derived from the truth of what the MySpace site is.  it certainly has more credibility than the announcement earlier this year that MySpace was the site for discovery…

"MySpace will be the best tool for Discovery" was the assertion of the social network's International Co-President Mike Jones, who in his keynote speech at an event in April highlighted projects from the network that are "allowing people to get Discovered".

but my favourite thing about this logo is that it can only exist in the 21st Century.  this logo can only exist when the predominant means of accessing MySpace is digital (which of course it is), but it can't fully exist in a static image, and it certainly can't exit in the written word.  it has to live digitally, it has to be interacted with… a participative logo for the participation age.

both these tales – of Gap and my_____ (see what I mean?) – are potent reminders of the importance of identity.  too quickly and too often a brand or business attempts to reinvent itself with a new identity / logo.  but that's a bit like a friend who used to be cool and interesting but who now doesn't really go out much or have anything interesting to say, putting on a new t-shirt and expecting you to think they're cool and interesting again.  they're not.  they're just wearing a new t-shirt.

identities – and specifically logos – are not sticking plasters that you can change at will.  rather they are a key and important part of a brand's identity which, at their best, say a great deal more about that brand that simply what brand it is.  if this new MySpace identity holds – and I really hope that it does – it will say more about that social network than any positioning statement will.  logos with actions, it turns out, speak louder than logos with words.