Thursday, May 31, 2007

Serious Fun and Games

As you get older there is always one thing that younger people do that makes you think, “That would have been perfect for me. I would have loved that”. For me that thing is computer games. I’ve got kids so of course I’ve tried the odd one – crashed a few cars, chased some mean looking critters through the dark corridors of a castle, kicked a ball or two, but that’s pretty much it. I have never had the time you need to play intuitively and learn the wider language of games. Although, having said that, my session with Robin Harper of Second Life at Google Zeitgeist last week inspired even me to think I could make it...the trouble is my First Life is so much fun I don't want to leave it.

My goals have always been limited to winning (or rather not losing for as long as possible) rather than participating and exploring. I think my experience is typical of people of my age and it is important to acknowledge this and do something about it. We don’t all have to become Wii Masters, but knowing what you don’t know can often be more important than knowing what you do. Games are shaping the way we learn, transact, communicate. In the field of education this is a no-brainer. Already we can see how gaming can make learning more fun, more engaging, more committed and potentially more shared. Tell someone something, show someone something, let someone do something for themselves; this has always been the hierarchy of learning effectiveness, and games sit on top of that pyramid. It is fashionable for people to criticize games for the way they keep kids indoors, inside their rooms, inside their heads. Where have I heard that before? Oh yes, I remember. My parents!

Games are challenging all our stereotypes. Teenage boys who need to get a life are outnumbered by… women? AdAge reported a while back that when women aged 55 to 64 were asked what their favorite leisure activity was, playing online games came in second. That was ahead of listening to music, watching DVDs and reading newspapers or magazines. TV just snuck in as number one. As women are way ahead in changing centuries-old patterns of behavior in every field, who can be surprised they are jumping on games? I guess it’s time I tried again to work out how the hell to stop that dragon incinerating me every time I get near it. I really want the treasure chest it’s sitting on.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Museum of Moss

On every day that doesn’t start with an ‘S’, I can guarantee one moment that will make me smile. That’s when I check out the Daily New from Moss. This is another bright idea from the brightest of design gurus, Murray Moss, who runs New York’s best design store and was featured in a recent Vanity Fair. The Daily New is always surprising, often mysterious and sometimes provocative – just like the store itself. The Moss enterprise unashamedly sets out to create a different kind of experience. Forget the feel-me/touch-me spirit of most retail innovation and check out Moss souvenirs to get the spirit of the place. T-shirts, pens and mouse emblazoned with "Please do not touch" and "Photography is not permitted". Murray Moss’s inspired idea was to combine retail and a museum. To examine what lies in the glass cases in his store in Greene Street is to experience the frisson that comes from untouchable, amazing objects and the knowledge that if you really want them, they could be yours. This is the promise of Mystery at its most sophisticated. Moss is soon to open in Melrose in LA (as soon as any of you get in the door I’d love to hear what it’s like). Let’s see how he meets the LA challenge.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Loving the Music of John Prine

One of the most underrated country singers of our age is John Prine. He’s been around for over 30 years now, living the life, and he’s written one of the most brilliant anti-war songs of all time – "Sam Stone". As far as I’m concerned he is one of the most natural, humorous artists performing today. A great way to introduce yourself to Prine is to check out his DVD, John Prine – Live From Sessions at West 54th and also his album In Spite of Ourselves. The album starts with relationships breaking up and expands into broader themes of how relationships get started, go on, and then sometimes break up. Sad, poignant, funny, John Prine sings our lives, and has the amazing ability to sing as if he’s your best friend and he’s there in your living room or your local bar. Don’t forget the great earlier albums including Live and Live on Tour. I also just picked up what I think is the only other Prine DVD – John Prine Live on Soundstage 1980. Last year, following a struggle with throat cancer, he put out the album Fair & Square. On it he sings great love songs such as "Taking a walk", "Long Monday", "Some humans ain’t human", "She is my everything", "I hate it when that happens to me" and the biggest put down of conservatism and incrementalism I’ve ever heard, "Safety Joe".

I’ve got 112 John Prine songs on my iPod. Ok, it’s bordering on obsessive, but listening to him in the early hours of the morning on a long, frustrating crossing over America from San Francisco to Miami last week, was like going to bed with your favorite comforter and teddy bear when you’re a kid. That’s a rare feeling when you’re 36,000 feet high in American Airlines’ not so tender care. In fact, if American Airlines wants to start its own very long journey toward becoming a Lovemark, they might begin by giving their passengers an iPod filled with John Prine’s music. Since writing this I see Prine has just released a new CD called Standard Songs For Average People with Mac Wiseman. I’m guessing the two of them made it because they both love old songs sung simply. They make sounds that feel like you’re putting on your favorite old rugby shirt and washed out 10-year old Levi's.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Cool Idea

I have always believed that the way to achieve great things is often best done one person at a time. Trouble is, we are all human and we struggle to see how any single action can make a big enough difference to matter. That mind-set is why I was impressed by the Japanese Government’s on-going campaign to encourage business people to take up the Okinawan shirt. This famous garment is very like the Hawaiian shirt. The idea? To get businessmen out of their hot suits and ties and into cooler open neck shirts so that the amount of air conditioning can be reduced. The Government is serious about this initiative. Thermostats in government buildings will be set at 28 degrees Celsius from June 1. Now that’s smart. Help individuals combat global warming – and feel more comfortable doing it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Homage to Big Bill

Last week ten of us from Saatchi & Saatchi took Big Bill Cochrane, our Worldwide Chief Financial Officer, to lunch at the Soho House in New York. It was a sunny Spring New York day and we booked the private dining room to celebrate Bill's 25 years with Saatchi & Saatchi. Bill is a rare and perfect CFO. For a start, he is a true business partner who ensures we always deliver the numbers and that governance is total, but on top of that, he always manages to add his unique touch of emotional commitment, empathy, and business savvy. Bill has seen them come and seen them go. He has weathered every conceivable storm and is the glue that keeps the Saatchi & Saatchi Network operating in good times and tough times. He's also the go-to guy for everyone in the company and knows where all the skeletons and bodies are buried. In our industry, 25 years of service is a rarity, and I can tell you Bill's got plenty more years ahead of him.

Three years ago when the Greater New York Toyota Dealers Association’s business was walking out the door, Bill got a new lease of life. In a case of management brilliance by me (or a desperate throw of the dice!), we asked Bill to save the business. He immediately assembled a team of pirates and vagabonds who loved selling cars and then hit the road for ten days, meeting with every Toyota Dealer in the Greater New York Region. Miraculously they saved the business and have gone from strength to strength delivering brilliant campaigns, great ideas, and terrific initiatives 24/7. Kevin Honey and Neal Foard lead the team with Bill and having lunch with the three of them is an experience not to be missed. The stories they tell of the New York automobile business are a cross between American Idol, The Sopranos, and 24, with maybe a touch of Lost thrown in. The last time we did it, lunch started at 1:00pm and we were still going at my place at 7:00pm with Bill telling stories – most of which had happy endings.

Bill Cochrane has been one of the main connectors of past, present and future in our company. He is the model for what a real world CFO business partner should be. We need more of 'em!

Chair Passion

When Marc Newson’s groundbreaking aluminium sofa, Lockheed Lounge, was sold at auction for over a million dollars, it ended up as the star attraction in the first exhibition at a gallery not far from where I live in New York. This is no ordinary art gallery, although it is in New York’s art district, Chelsea. We’re talking about Sabastian + Barquet who specialize in twentieth century design. A visit to this showplace is a design history lesson. I have always been a huge fan of twentieth century furniture and have managed to collect a number of classic chairs including How High The Moon by Shiro Kuramata, Eero Aarnio's Bubble chair, and a couple of great examples by the Eames. I have a special passion for chairs, as does my good friend Jorge Oller down in Costa Rica. I think it is because of the intimate and yet shared associations they have with people’s lives – more than tables, lamps or sideboards. The scrape of a chair being pulled up to the family dining table is one of the most evocative sounds in my world. I also love the ghostly presence of previous owners adding a frisson of mystery. Ramis Barquet has an amazing collection of more than 700 pieces of modern furniture, but the gold standard of collecting in the field has got to be the Vitra Design Museum near Basel, Switzerland. There, in a perfect Frank Gehry designed building, you can see even more of the best of modern furniture design.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reading Portfolio Magazine

Have you read Condé Nast’s Portfolio yet? Edition one came out late April. Bold, ambitious, smart and entertaining. Just when you began to wonder how another magazine could capture you, there it is. The successful ones do it by creating familiar personalities. In earlier times, readers were fed the things magazine editors felt they ought to know. Not anymore. Now it’s the readers who are in control and the new editor has to attract them by carefully layering stories and pictures that have intimate appeal. I’m talking about turning a page and getting that buzz of delight when seeing an article on the very idea you were thinking about that morning. The magazine business is no longer in the information trade, it has become an empathy business. Portfolio gets this in a big way. For a start, it takes business writing into a completely new space, beautifully combining emotion and intellect. The first edition includes a fantastic mood piece on Hedge Fund managers by Tom Wolfe (that might sound dull; it’s not) and great articles on Bill Ford, women in private equity, and the race for blood stock supremacy between the Irishman John Magnier of Coolmore and the Maktoum family that rules Dubai. The publisher of Portfolio is David Carey, the man who made The New Yorker hip again, and Joanne Lipman is Editor-in-Chief. This is the first innovation in business writing since Alan Webber and Fast Company, and is the perfect answer to another dreary delayed domestic US flight. In-depth analysis, great storytelling, quirky opinions and tongue-in-cheek provocation with serious analysis and contemporary art direction – what can I say? Subscribe now!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Phenomenon of South Beach

I was in South Beach last week sharing Bob Isherwood’s induction into the Clio Hall of Fame and his Lifetime Achievement Award. I’ve been going to South Beach for around 15 years now and boy, is it booming. Ian Schrager and the Delano kicked it off around a decade ago, and now everybody is in on the act. This time I stayed at the Setai, which has delivered laid-back Indonesian chic to Florida. In the meantime, Philippe Starck is cleaning up, the Shore Club continues to rage, the renovated Raleigh offers one of the most intimate secret bars in town, and the Sagamore can be counted among the great art gallery/hotels in the world. Now, Giuseppe Cipriani is getting into the act; building a resort and apartment complex a few blocks from the Setai. This is branding at its ultimate. Taking what started in 1931 as Harry’s Bar in Venice, the Cipriani concept of sophisticated style, tradition and luxury has inspired restaurants in London and Hong Kong, as well as all over New York, and is now transforming into a fantastic lifestyle experience in Miami. These guys can teach all of us something about creating global luxury brands by their use of smart brand extensions, meaningful, long-term equities, and adjacencies with real potential. If you are between 21 and 30, South Beach is not to be missed. What the hell I was doing there is beyond me.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The World Of And / And

When I first saw this incredible picture of the Hindu God Ganesha as Spiderman, my belief that India is set to become the new ideas capital of the world ratcheted up a notch. With China such a looming presence in business these days, it is easy to overlook the extraordinary growing power of the Indian continent. I put a big part of the future of India’s success down to their incredible ability to give new meaning to and/and. Over the last 50 or so years we have come through a culture of either/or, this/that, my way or the highway, to a world of more exciting possibilities exemplified by the term and/and. As the Indians so intuitively understand, we now live in a new world of hybridization. The principle is simple. Put two elements together with equal passion and no compromise and you get something you never thought possible. This is what has made mashing such an influential process in the current idea generation. New ideas rarely completely replace old ones. What happens is both the old and the new run parallel for a while until the best of both are absorbed into the new way of thinking. It’s and/and. Spiderman and Ganesha.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Stepping Out At Speed

I am not a big fan of statistics and statisticians. They seem to drain the life out of ideas and creativity and focus on what has been, rather than what could be. I have even been known to call number crunchers 'research vampires' to their faces! And yet every now and then, even the most rational minds can inspire and delight you. That was how I felt about a research report that announced the world is walking faster! Apparently teams of researchers with stop watches had been timing how long it took 35 men and women to walk a 60 foot (18.3 meter) stretch of sidewalk in 32 cities. The results? We’re walking ten percent faster than we were a decade ago, with men generally about 25 percent speedier than women. The city that leads this lifestyle acceleration is – probably to no one’s surprise given their amazing progress – Singapore. Copenhagen, Madrid and Guangzhou follow in that order. Cruisey old New York comes in at eighth, and in my home country New Zealand, Wellington is there in twelfth place. My advice to the speed freaks? Slow down and smell the coffee.

Nicolas Sarkozy – President of France

I love France. When I was 14, I crossed the Channel with friends from Lancaster to Perpignan, a beautiful village close to the Pyrénées, to play rugby. At school I studied the romance languages French and Spanish, as well as Latin of course, inspired by great teachers like Jim Bates and Eric Smith. Then in the mid 1970's, we discovered St. Tropez and we went there every year, finally making a dream come true by buying a house four years ago.

Six years ago, Saatchi & Saatchi merged with the Publicis Groupe. It was one of the most significant choices of my business career, up there with joining Mary Quant in the 1960's, persuading P&G to take a chance on me and following Doug Myers’ dream in New Zealand. Working with Maurice Levy and Publicis takes me to France on business every month and this has given me a great appreciation of the French - their wine, their rugby, French food and the French philosophical intellect. It was, therefore, with much happiness and great relief, that I woke up one morning to find Nicolas Sarkozy elected President.

The French have lost their way politically and economically over the past few years. The danger was that they could slip even farther backwards and become completely out of touch with competitive peak performance. Nicolas Sarkozy is committed to progress, to performance, to execution, and to results. He believes hard work and output is good for you and good for the country. His kind of leadership is needed now in France to get it through a growing “laissez-faire” attitude, deal to its entitlement malaise and inspire minorities to be the best they can be rather than rage against the world.

Allez Les Bleus!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Watching Movies In Three Dimensions

No one disputes the emotional power of sisomo on screen. Sight, Sound and Motion. But the spirit of creativity is always restless and the temptation to add more senses to these three has sometimes proved irresistible.

The first real attempt to pump up the big screen experience with scent that I know of was back in 1956 for the movie Around The World In Eighty Days. Apparently Smell-o-vision wafted scents into the theater that synchronized with the action using a complicated system of perfumes encapsulated on the side of the film. The verdict? Too noisy and too weird. It could only get weirder when Baltimore movie legend, John Waters, got involved. In Waters’ version, the audience took scratch cards into the theater. When a sign appeared on the screen just as, say, a bunch of roses came into close-up, everyone scratched their card. Inevitably, trickster Waters panned quickly to the floor to focus on a pair of socks. You guessed it, the smell matched the image. The sisomo + scents combo continues to pop up from time to time (The New World was given some aroma therapy in Japan last year) but it seems to attract quirky headlines rather than solid commercial investment.



This odd history comes to mind as I see a bunch of movies in production in Hollywood that push our senses in another direction. 3D. The biggest – and here I’m guessing based on his earlier movies – is James Cameron’s Avatar. You will still have to wear stupid looking glasses, but apparently the 3D effect will be totally convincing. Weta Digital, based in New Zealand, is involved, so that’s cause for confidence. I’m guessing the glasses will just be a phase and that 3D will go on to add its magic to sisomo. But even given its chequered history, I think if they can also get us to smell the roses, we might be onto something big.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The French Laundry

On a recent visit to San Francisco, I visited The French Laundry. Along with El Bulli near Barcelona, The French Laundry is one of the top three restaurants in the world, with its chef Thomas Keller, among the top three or four chefs in the United States. Keller presided over a stunning vegetarian degustation menu and a full Chef’s version to die for and yet, the experience was a tremendous disappointment.

The food was beautiful and the vegetarian nine course tasting menu is tough to find anywhere else in the world, but the décor is pedestrian. Guillaume, the maître d' who hails from Versailles, does his best to add color, but the whole place is dull and unimaginative. If you’ve read my book, you’ll know I believe in the power of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. These qualities were all there in the food but were lacking in the total experience. For a start, when you first arrive you’re parked in the garden with no music and no offer of a pre-dinner drink. Zero intimacy and a profit opportunity missed. Once you are inside there is no art on the walls, so the effect is rather like eating in a cell in the Villa San Michele in Florence. Restaurants are about conviviality, social interaction and fun, as well as great food. The French Laundry takes itself far too seriously. It seems to me to have a very Calvinistic attitude to food, seeing itself as a temple of haute cuisine. Literally.

Meanwhile at The Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal and his team rock. The French Laundry feels to me like listening to music – before Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

Broader Horizons

I’ve been to San Francisco many times and love its eclectic personality. From the Haight-Ashbury to Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf, it has its own very special identity. Recovering from a terrible hammering by AIDS and then the dot.com meltdown, it remains one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Yet until last week, I had never ventured out of the city and into the Napa Valley. What an experience. We stayed at the idyllic Auberge du Soleil. Provence style luxury with a revamped swimming pool, a beautiful restaurant overlooking the valley, and over 2,000 different bottles of exquisite wines to choose from. Over the weekend we explored the Napa and were fortunate enough to drive into Calistoga, home of the famous mineral water, just as the Cinco de Mayo parade got under way. Cinco de Mayo is emerging as a major national celebration in the US. This fantastic event has become community-focused fun, with the odd Margarita and Mariachi thrown in. Where better to enjoy something so richly local than in an area like the Napa. A few thousand miles away but with a well-deserved global reputation for inclusiveness, beauty and authenticity.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Power Of Icons

I was watching a TV show produced by my favorite funnyman Peter Kay of Bolton, Phoenix nights and Paddy and Max fame (well fame in Lancashire anyway) when I saw The Angel of the North. Antony Gormley, was commissioned to create a sculpture on the site of a former colliery pithead at Gateshead. Gormley chose as his subject - an angel - in memory of the thousands of men who worked below the ground in often appalling conditions. He explains: "People are always asking, why an angel? The only response I can give is that no-one has ever seen one and we need to keep imagining them". If you have ever had doubts about the power of imagination and the power of icons to evoke emotion, this incredible sculpture will silence them. At 20 meters (65 feet) high with a wingspan of 54 meters (175 feet) it soars from its grassy hilltop as a beacon for the skills, the achievements and the stubborn courage of the people of the North-East. Move over Rio. Hello Gateshead.

Click and drag your mouse over the image below:

Monday, May 14, 2007

Looking Into The Future

If you’re a blog-trawler you might have caught up with a list of predictions for the future made by the Ladies’ Home Journal. What makes it interesting is that the predictions were made in 1900 about the future in the year 2000. If you missed it, it’s a fascinating insight into how deeply embedded we are in our own time. It’s easy to score the many technology predictions (the Journal gave the thumbs-up to high speed trains and global networking of communications and thumbs-down to air-ships) but I find in the more personal and social ideas many insights into the spirit of our time.

  • Our obsession with fitness is spectacularly anticipated, but the emphasis is on health rather than beauty. "A man or woman unable to walk ten miles at a stretch will be regarded as a weakling."
  • Our growing concern over food safety is seen clearly from 1900. "Shopkeepers who expose food to air breathed out by patrons or to the atmosphere of the busy streets will be arrested."
  • Our passion for speed is captured by the prediction that English will be a language of condensed words expressing condensed ideas. We call it texting.
  • Our love affair with takeout food is predicted in detail – they just got the delivery system wrong. Pneumatic tubes never made it!

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Rubell Family Collection In Miami

The last time I was in Miami, I visited an extraordinary private collection of contemporary art. I say privately owned, but in fact the Rubell Family Collection is open to the public and behaves like a major museum. If you want Mystery, this museum has got it starting with the building. Think it has the no-nonsense look of a fortress about it? You’d be right. The building used to be a D.E.A confiscated goods warehouse. (That’s Drug Enforcement Agency). Once you’re inside you are confronted by mysteries that excite and inspire. This is one of the most impressive contemporary art collections in the world. Don and Mera Rubell take their responsibility as collectors of major cultural icons seriously. The collection has its own curator and professional staff. There is an education program, publications, a rich library and a fantastic Phaidon bookshop. The Rubells have always been smart, fast and intuitive in their selections. They were among the first to collect work by artists like Richard Prince, Paul McCarthy and, more recently, the new Leipzig painters. If you love the excitement and challenge of contemporary art, and enjoy seeing it displayed by people with passion, then a visit to the Rubell Family Collection will be a great Lovemark experience.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Honoring Bob Isherwood

When I joined Saatchi & Saatchi, I knew I had to have at my side the most inspirational person I could find in this new world of ideas and creativity. That this person was Bob Isherwood turned out to be one of the most amazing strokes of good fortune I’ve had in my life. Bob is a fantastic creative, a true connector, a great friend and an inspired Worldwide Creative Director for Saatchi & Saatchi. Although he has been in advertising all his life, and is still one of the most modest men I know, there is only one word to capture who he is. Winner. He was a winner when he stepped up to receive the first-ever Golden Lion for Australia at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. He was a winner when he helped found Australia’s legendary advertising agency The Campaign Palace. He was a huge winner when he dedicated his passion and commitment to the Award for World Changing Ideas. The list just keeps on growing, but inspiring it all is what I personally value most about Bob - his extraordinary empathy and intuition. Bob’s brain seems to be hot-wired to his heart in some unique way I can’t quite figure out. I have seen Bob come up with extraordinary, simple and beautiful ideas and solutions, not once but a hundred times, and each time share them with a generosity and warmth that delights everyone involved. I am in Miami to join the advertising industry as we honor Bob with the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Clio Awards. What an amazing and inspirational contribution you have made, Bob. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Brilliance Of Ben Sherman

I watched the movie Quadrophenia again a few nights ago. The music that inspired Franc Roddam’s film is just as emotionally charged as the day it was written. When I was growing up in the sixties the Mods and Rockers, rival British teen gangs, were all the go. The annual Easter bash involved the Rockers coming into the seaside towns of Margate and Brighton on their motor bikes, all leather and cowboy boots, to have a punch-up with the Mods. Mods rode zippy motor scooters and were spiffed up in pencil-thin trousers and fitted shirts. Mods v Rockers was a major event on any teenager’s calendar. It was also the time around the time Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry were hammering out My Generation. This album was written by Townsend for the Mods and became The Who’s anthem. It was also the time that the Ben Sherman bullseye logo made its first appearance.

I bought my first parka from Ben Sherman in the middle of that decade. Along with Fred Perry, Ben Sherman was obligatory gear for any self-respecting Mod. And now Ben’s back again with a signature Ben Sherman store on London’s Carnaby Street and another on Spring Street in New York’s SoHo. Both are going gangbusters. The SoHo store is particularly neat with Union Jack armchairs and great British Mod and Punk music blaring. The store has tons of vintage Ben Sherman men’s wear, and a smaller selection for women. All the classic designs are there featuring the bullseye, the Union Jack and finished off with the famous individualized buttons. On one visit I brought a blue blazer with Union Jack lining to go with a red, white and blue check shirt. I’ve now added a couple of classic sweaters that are identical to ones I wore forty years ago (except they are two sizes bigger!).

How good was Quadrophenia? It’s worth watching just to see Sting make his debut as The Ace Face - King of the Mods.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Food Dreamers

As anyone who has been following this blog knows, I am very interested in food, not only in how it looks and tastes but in the role it plays in our lives. Let’s call it the culture of food. Whether you are eating at home or in a restaurant or at a fast food counter, the experience of food is one of life’s great pleasures. The most expensive places don’t always make the most memorable connections. It is all about context and company. That’s why people who market meals are not only selling us the taste and texture of the food but the whole experience, from the moment we order to the time we leave. Fortunately, they are helped by the fact that we are all constantly thinking about food. In his fascinating book, Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink tells us that while the average person usually thinks they make about 15 food-related decisions a day, in fact they make over 200. That’s about one decision every five minutes when we are awake. And let’s face it, some of us dream about food too!

If you happen to live in Tribeca like I do, those dreams often come true. In Tribeca we have some of New York’s best restaurants at our doorstep. I live in the same building as Mr. Chow, half a block from Nobu and Chanterelle, three blocks from New York’s finest Bouley Bakery and only seconds away from the best in French, Portuguese, Greek, Spanish, Italian and German dining. If you’re in the neighborhood you should try, Thalassa, The Odeon, The Harrison, Danube, Blaue Gans, Landmarc, Walker’s and Il Giglio. Life is good.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Inspirational People - Bridget de Socio

One thing you can say about working at Saatchi & Saatchi is that it is never dull and it’s mostly fun. And the greatest fun is getting to meet a wide range of inspirational people. Some of them are creatives, some of them are clients and all of them are people who light up a room with their energy and optimism. As I meet them so will you, so let me tell you about Bridget de Socio.

Bridget is one of a kind and a brilliant aesthete. She comes dressed in a black Cossack hat, black leather skirt, black Chanel horn rim glasses, and high black boots. While she was the creative director of Paper, they created a unique look and feel, and she has also done outstanding work for Vera Wang, Pantone and Rizzoli. Graphis even celebrated her work in the book Exhibition: The Work of Socio X. Now she can be found on the 17th floor of Saatchi & Saatchi in New York where she has developed the look and style and flair of our JCPenney work. Bridget has also worked up a whole new name and look for our biometrics client Pay by Touch. Bridget's approach is nothing less than challenging, but her innate ability to bring Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy to life makes the process worthwhile.

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Friday, May 4, 2007

New Zealand At The Venice Biennale

When the chips are down, you need to get stuck in and not wait around for the State to lend a hand. Nowhere is this attitude more essential than in the arts. Government funding is important but it comes with its own issues, and one of them is speed - or should I say lack of it. The reason I bring this up is because I have recently become involved in a fast moving, passionate alternative to a Government funding initiative in New Zealand.

For the last three Venice Biennales, Creative New Zealand the New Zealand Arts Council has sent one or two artists to represent the country. One of them was Michael Stevenson whose work I collect and have hanging in my Auckland office at The Strand in Parnell. Another was the collective known as et al.

We loved having an exhibition of their work at Saatchi & Saatchi’s New York offices, but unfortunately the installation that was sent to Venice caused a huge fuss. I’m talking about back in New Zealand, by the way, not in Venice where innovation is welcomed. While people like me think fuss is to be encouraged, Governments find fuss tough. This year the Arts Council decided that instead of sending an artist, they would send a committee to check out the scene and report back. Fortunately a committed curator, Alice Hutchinson, was not interested in reporting on anything. She moved fast and secured not only a venue in Venice, but also the blessing of Robert Storr, this year’s Venice Biennale director. As I write there is a container with an art installation called Aniwaniwa by Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena on a ship heading toward Italy. In a typically bold private-sector move, the people fronting this venture acted first and thought about funding later.

Another independent Venice initiative led by Brian Butler of Auckland’s Artspace leapt in with the same enthusiasm. They are creating and distributing a beautiful book featuring New Zealand’s top artists. It will be given away to curators and visitors in Venice, and it’s looking fantastic. I’ve joined other supporters and agreed to purchase a set of stunning photographs by Brett and Rachel and help with funding both projects. This year in Venice, the private goes public and I predict it will be a huge success.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Spending Time With Wendy’s

Hamburgers are big business in the U.S., and in many other countries too. The 37 million or so burger fans in the U.S. float between McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. Since we won the Wendy’s business a few months back, my interest in hamburgers has increased exponentially. I’ve turned into a Wendy’s fanatic (but then, as Mandy Rice Davis said in the Profumo scandal of the 60’s, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he”).

I’m an Old Fashioned Hamburger guy – fresh beef, fresh salad, fresh tomatoes, and that's Wendy's. Yes, the quality and taste are exceptional but what inspired me to write about Wendy’s is not the taste experience but the people experience I had in their headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, last week. Wendy’s legendary founder and front man Dave Thomas was a value-driven guy and an inspired dreamer. His influence is still everywhere in the company, its franchisees and its customers. Dave believed in always doing what was right and was obsessed by execution, delivery and customer satisfaction. I’m not sure he was ever recognized as the true leader he was. When I look at the lauding of so many financially driven, private equity business leaders today, it seems to me most of them wouldn’t be fit to lick Dave’s shoes. Dreams, values, beliefs, and actions are what make great sustainable companies, not just financial performance. And it’s great to see Dave’s example living on in Wendy’s CEO, Kerrii Anderson, and CMO, Ian Rowden.

I was lucky enough to attend the Board of Directors meeting at Headquarters and saw for myself the passion for Dave’s ideals and the Wendy’s brand. Nelson Peltz and a few other hedge funds have taken an equity position in Wendy’s and management is having to deliver real growth to keep everyone satisfied. The trick will be to do this at the right pace without sacrificing the values that got Wendy’s where it is in the first place. The Legacy Board Members are very supportive of these standards and you can bet that the advertising we’ll be breaking in May will portray them in a contemporary, humorous and engagingly inspirational way.

One of the highlights of my visit was attending the dinner chairman Jim Pickett hosted for the Board at Muirfield Village Golf Club. We sat in the dining room overlooking the 18th hole, a Jack Nicklaus designed masterpiece. It was a sunny April evening, the Becks was cold, the food was beautiful and the conversation was stimulating. And, no, we didn’t have Double Cheeseburgers. If you are in Ohio, make the pilgrimage for a round at Muirfield Village. You’ll find plenty of Wendy’s restaurants en route.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tyler Brûlé’s Monocle Magazine

When are people going to stop predicting the death of print magazines and get inspired by their transformation? Sure we’ve recently seen a bunch of low-brow, celebrity-driven stuff hit the market, but it’s time to celebrate Tyler Brûlé again. The man who made great design accessible through Wallpaper* has come up with Monocle. He describes this new magazine as “a briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design”. If that sounds too much like The Economist for you, relax. The Economist doesn’t look or feel like Tyler’s new baby which kicked off in March. I have read the first two issues and they are jammed with words and images, opinions and facts. Politics, economics, design, architecture, music, film, fashion. A tightly curated slice of the world at your fingertips.

Monocle flatters us with the same illusion as Wallpaper* - that we are all global citizens ready to dash off to San’aa or Seoul at a moment’s notice. I’ve been to both places and I would never want to lose the physical sensation of difference you get from other local communities that a magazine can never capture. My only quibble so far? The covers. They feel a little self-conscious. Determined not to attract or entice us to reach out and touch although they put everything into attracting us through ideas with personality and attitude. Monocle is showing a welcome taste that I share wholeheartedly for quirky lists. One I noted in the first issue came from Barter Books in Northumberland. Who would know better than ‘The British Library of secondhand bookshops’ the books that always sell?

American readers might find a couple of oddities in there that are worth chasing up.

Story Time

In my book Sisomo: The Future on Screen I quoted Rolf Jensen. “The highest-paid person in the first half of the next century will be the ‘storyteller’. The value of products will depend on the story they tell.” If you find the idea of storytellers worth billions hard to grapple with, look at these great examples. They show how stories can get right inside our heads while facts just slide off and hit the floor.

1. 77% of Americans can name at least two of Snow White’s dwarves while only 24% can name two U.S. Supreme Court justices (at least one of them must be Grumpy.)

2. 60% of Americans know Bart is Homer’s son on The Simpsons. Only 21% know anything about the Greek poet Homer.

3. 60% of Americans can name Krypton as the home planet of Superman. Only 37% know Mercury is the closest planet to the sun.

Get the picture? In sisomo I was fascinated by the power of stories on screens. Stories are our way through information overload and the screen is their natural home. When stories are set against information, the story wins. Look at this.


The next time someone presents you with a long report, be firm. “Don’t bombard me with facts. Tell me the story.”

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

300 - One Thing You Should Know

One thing you should know: Gladiator is my favorite movie. I was encouraged at school in Lancaster to love storytelling. This passion came from two inspirational teachers, Peter Sampson and Jim Bates. It was Peter Sampson who taught me English and how to dream. Jim Bates taught us the great Greek and Roman legends of Homer and Virgil. As students, we were totally engrossed by the Punic Wars, the Trojan Wars, and the tales of Hannibal, Achilles, Ajax and Co. The greatest story of all was the Battle of Thermopylae. Here King Leonidas and 300 Spartans resisted Xerxes and his army by diverting them to the Hot Gates pass where they could not use their superior numbers.

Frank Miller (creator of Sin City) wrote 300, a graphic novel version of this incredible story, and the movie version has been a box office hit. I caught it at the Imax Theater in Auckland, New Zealand. The movie theater was packed and nobody moved for the whole 117 minutes. In your face Thermopylae, at last. My conclusion? 300 is Gladiator on steroids. Seventeen years ago we marketed the beer Lion Red in New Zealand as a drink for red blooded men. If Lion Red were a movie, that movie would be 300.

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