Once a year I can guarantee to know that for a couple of hours I will be able to sit back in astonishment and delight. I know this because I’ll be watching the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase, the highlight of the Cannes Lions festival. The show was started by a great Saatchi & Saatchi person – Paul Arden. Paul died this year but his spirit is alive and kicking hard in the Showcase, now inspired for some years by my friend and Saatchi & Saatchi’s Worldwide Creative Director, Bob Isherwood. In a very moving speech, Bob dedicated this year’s show to Paul and it was a fantastic event. This year the theme was 'Fearless' and included clips for Fat Boy Slim, a 3D movie that required special glasses and an incredible film featuring Bill Shannon, a dancer who performs on crutches. There were also some great ads featured, including Cadbury’s 'Gorilla', one of my all-time favorites. If you haven’t seen this surrealist sensation, catch it right now on YouTube. A great show, a great event and a great talent showcase with Bob, as usual, downplaying the huge care and creativity needed to make it happen. We get to see work from the very top of the pile because people like Bob are focused and fearless. Roll on 2009!
Monday, June 30, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Kids are a great way to keep wired to the world. The day they leave home you find yourself drifting away from the now to the might-have-been or worse, the good old days. Keep them close is what I say.
The benefits of kids came rushing back when I had a look at the OurBrew site that my son Dannis and his mates have put up. He explained a particular feature called 'crowd clout' and I needed his guidance across the generations. As usual, I came at it from an emotional perspective. The idea of groups of people coming together to create actions and effects bigger than all of them is not new, but what makes it so relevant today is the ability to form these crowds so quickly and in such numbers thanks to the Internet.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I’m a great fan of the Diesel spirit – provocative, irreverent, forever-young. Maybe because I was recently in Berlin, the idea of wall art has been circling in my head. Diesel have been doing their Dieselwall project for a couple of years now. The idea is simple. Get a blank wall and an artist and put them together in one of the world’s great cities. Barcelona, Zurich, New York and the rest. The resulting collision attracts hot creative design into parts of a city that have been blanded out. I’ve always loved the idea of artists and designers let loose into the city as disrupters, illuminators and change agents, and this competition of Diesel’s looks like it achieves all three. If you check out Dieselwall there are still a couple of walls hanging out for great designs to impress the judging panels. You don’t have to be a professional designer or artist to win a wall, just a restless creative spirit with a big idea. As Diesel say, “Big ideas need big spaces.”
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Once a technology has been invented, the real fun starts. How are people going to use it? We all know that in its earliest days, the telephone was touted as a great way to listen to concerts. It never took off as people rushed to talk instead of simply listening. Failure can often illuminate what truly matters to people. Consider the case of video conferencing. Remember the efforts of telcos to take this technology mainstream? A large screen in a shopping mall linked to another screen in a different city so that people could look at each other and chat. It was all a bit sad. After a few months of desultory waving (and worse), the mostly young audience moved on. The problem? There was no experience, no engagement, no conversation, no entertainment. It was simply dull. A screen in a box in a mall.
But get that same screen technology together with an idea, an artist, an epic story and a great name, and you’re on a different planet. Planet Telectroscope as devised by artist Paul St George. The Telectroscope is a steampunk-inspired viewing contraption. St George has constructed one at each end of a tunnel between London and New York, enabling people to see down the tunnel via a complex series of mirrors across the Atlantic. The device offers sight and motion, no sound. St George relates that the tunnel was started by his great grandfather a century ago and has only been completed this year. The Telectroscope is supported by interviews, technical details, videos and a mission: to prove that St George is neither a fraud nor a madman.
Do you believe in the Telectroscope? I believe in the Telectroscope because I believe in stories and imagination, engagement and fun, sparked by a real sense of community. The Telectroscope accelerates past the Attention Economy limitations of a screen in a box in the mall to the delights of the Attraction Economy.
Why do I think the rather cumbersome Telectroscope is such a great name? Because it was what the first TV set was called. For all its retro design, the Telectroscope reminds us of the continuing power of emotional connections, whatever the technology.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
So much for the rules. What topped the list as the best return on investing extra dollars? Global warming? No, it came in bottom as number 30. New ways to reduce fuel consumption? Wrong again. Pretty much all the top ten investments were aimed at malnutrition, disease control and education. People power. It’s a simple idea. “If an oxygen mask falls from the compartment above your head, put on your own mask first.” There is no future for a world where everyone is too exhausted, too hungry and too under-educated to help with the problems at hand. If we don’t look after our people first, we won’t have a dog’s show of looking after our world.
The top ranked solution to the world’s biggest problems? To get Vitamin A and Zinc supplements to 80 percent of the 140 million children who live in developing countries. Both Zinc and Vitamin A are essential to how kids develop physically and mentally but the problem is that Zinc is found in protein-rich foods, dairy, whole grains and Vitamin A in dairy, oily fish and veges like spinach. The kids we’re talking about get far too little of either and the effects will be felt for decades in their impaired physical and mental performance. For $60 million a year for four years, our team of economists reckoned investing in these supplements would amount to the equivalent of $1 billion worth of development investment. What a return!
This final dispatch from the 2008 Copenhagen Consensus Conference deserves to be discussed, challenged and imagined. You can read the report here. Let me know what you think.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I spent a terrific May weekend in Boulder, Colorado. It is one of the most laid back, spiritual, inspirational places in the United States. Nestled in the heart of the Rockies and home to the University of Colorado, Boulder is the nearest city I’ve ever seen that compares to magnificent Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island.
The creek, which surrounds Boulder, was full of kayaking, swimming, fishing and tubing. I took a Schwinn Cruiser bike from the St. Julien Hotel and rode ten kilometers everyday alongside the creek. Boulder is a town made for bikes rather than cars and the climate is perfect. I saw rabbits and lots of prairie dogs burrowing away in the sun.
In Boulder, the people are friendly and completely stress free. It has a retail environment that is individual, local and high quality. The independent Boulder bookstore is one of my favorites, with three floors including an old ballroom full of Western, mountain and hard to find stuff. If you get to visit, don’t miss the little independent record store on Pearl Street which is opposite one of my favorite fish restaurants, or should I say fish shacks, Jax. The service at Jax is friendly and unpretentious, the fish is fresh, the beer is local and cold, and the white wine is delicious. Nothing beats an early Sunday dinner here on the sidewalk in shorts and sneakers. Having said that, Brasserie Ten Ten on Walnut Street serves French bistro food with great snails, pates and steak frites. We went there on Saturday night with the USA Rugby board and closed the joint at 1am. Then it was back to the St. Julien, which is one of my favorite hotels. It has a great bar, a terrific spa, an indoor pool, a great gym and suites with outdoor balconies overlooking the Rockies. This is a city that is terrific in any of the four seasons. Boulder is a special place that I urge you all to visit.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Do too many of us live in a risk-free world? In response to my post about changing habits, regular reader J gave an emphatic “yes!” and I’m with J all the way. This is not about bungy jumping with frayed ropes or driving blindfold. It’s about the unintended effects of too much caution and too much protection. An example. My home country New Zealand has all but banned the personal use of fireworks. Who remembers the nerve-wracking thrill of holding a firework, its fuse spluttering, and waiting to the last second before throwing it (preferably under someone’s feet) just before it exploded? What made the thrill unforgettable was the sure knowledge of real consequences.
There are now real questions about how young people adjust to the adult world of consequence after risk-controlled childhoods. Rubberised playgrounds, being ferried to every school event, no playing in the street, no rough-housing. And the replacement? Too often adult scheduled activities, screen time and following instructions. This has to take a toll on how a child works out how to take risks and push boundaries, and to learn from the experience.
What happens if we devalue risk in our lives? We start to starve some very important human motivators. Passion, curiosity, courage. Without them innovation is impossible, exploration a waste of energy, and change not worth the effort. That’s a huge risk right there for all of us. Never have we needed the fruits of risk more.
That idea was movingly endorsed in New Zealand recently. Six young people and their teacher were tragically drowned in a flash flood while canyoning which is one of those adrenalin sports New Zealand is famous for. The father of one young man said he hoped the deaths would not prevent other kids from having this kind of experience even though the risks in this case proved to be loaded with tragedy. It was a courageous reminder that risk is part of nature and part of our lives. To remove it risks dulling our existence.
“Dance like there's nobody watching
Love like you'll never get hurt
Sing like there's nobody listening
Live like it's heaven on earth
And speak from the heart to be heard.”
Inspirer William W Purkey wrote those fantastic lines. You see them everywhere attributed to anyone from Mark Twain to Bono. Apparently Purkey decided not to maintain his copyright and put them into the public domain, it’s the same spirit we have followed with Lovemarks
So here’s another wish for my granddaughter Stella’s future: a life of adventure, the freedom to be curious and a passion for the unknown.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Apparently, a few years back Miles was circling O’Hare when American diverted him to Peoria, Illinois, and then bused him hours later to O’Hare. No apparent reason for the delay was ever given. So he started writing a letter in his head, “Dear American Airlines”, and let loose all that pain, resentment and frustration at today’s U.S. airlines. As he wrote, the letter transformed into a novel telling the story of Ben Ford, a washed up poet trying to rehab his life. The book is full of little nuggets like, “I had a marriage so brief I used the same bath towel for the entire duration”.
Summer’s looming with inevitable congestion, delays and frustrations in sight. I’m heading to Europe to avoid as much pain as I can. Right now I’m considering buying a few copies of Jonathan’s book and sending copies to the American Airlines Board. Buy the book and ease your pain.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Sound like a nightmare? It could have been in some countries. Fortunately for me the cage was the place I was to speak to P&G friends. As some of you may have guessed, my theme was Saatchi & Saatchi’s Social Work campaigns and the exhibition that is the result of them.
I have always believed that social advertising is about the power of a simple but unexpected idea to connect in a sea of clutter. It is not about using shock tactics for the sake of shock. Over the years, Saatchi & Saatchi has created many high impact campaigns that have played their part in helping to make parts of the world better places to live in.
There are a lot of problems in the world. At Saatchi & Saatchi, we believe the response is not to despair but to be inspired to take action. In the bigger picture, I see what we do as one of the ways business can lead the way in identifying and helping deal with social, environmental and cultural issues. Businesses can play this role because they power progress and turn people’s lives around like nothing on earth. It is, after all, businesses that create self-esteem, prosperity, jobs and choices. It is business innovation that touches the lives of people everywhere.
Speaking from inside my “cage”, one thing was absolutely clear to me. The way forward is optimism: believing in the power of people to resolve their problems and work towards a common good. “Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars”. Put me down as a stargazer.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The Daily Telegraph just published their ranking of the world’s top 50 restaurants.
For the third year in a row, El Bulli in Spain took the prize away from Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire. Pierre Gagnaire’s three Michelin star, just off the Champs Elysées took the bronze.
The full list is:
1. El Bulli, Spain
2. The Fat Duck, UK
3. Pierre Gagnaire, France
4. Mugaritz, Spain
5. The French Laundry, US
6. Per Se, US
7. Bras, France
8. Arzak, Spain
9. Tetsuya's, Australia
10. Noma, Denmark
11. L’Astrance, France
12. Gambero Rosso, Italy
13. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, UK
14. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, France
15. Le Louis XV, Monaco
16. St. John, UK
17. Jean Georges, US
18. Alan Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, France
19. Hakkasan, UK
20. Le Bernardin, US
21. Alinea, US
22. Le Gavroche, UK
23. Dal Pescatore, Italy
24. Le Cinq, France
25. Troisgros, France
26. El Celler de Can Roca, Spain
27. Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville, Switzerland
28. Hof van Cleve, Belgium
29. Martin Berasategui, Spain
30. Nobu, London, UK
31. Can Fabes, Spain
32. Enoteca Pinchiorri, Italy
33. Le Meurice, France
34. Vendôme, Germany
35. Die Schwarzwaldstube, Germany
36. Le Calandre, Italy
37. Chez Panisse, US
38. Charlie Trotters, US
39. Chez Dominique, Finland
40. D.O.M, Brazil
41. Daniel, US
42. Oud Sluis, Netherlands
43. Cracco-Peck, Italy
44. Asador Etxebarri, Spain
45. Les Ambassadeurs, France
46. L'Arpège, France
47. Tantris, Germany
48. Oaxen Skargardskrog, Sweden
49. Rockpool (fish), Australia
50. Le Quartier Francais, South Africa
I believe restaurants are totally personal (eating is an emotional experience after all) and, as I’ve been to a few on the list, here’s an assessment based on my personal experience.
Rated #1 – El Bulli, Spain
I’ve never been to El Bulli, but I will. It is run by Ferrán Adriá, was named the best restaurant in the world for the third time in a row and has three Michelin stars. It is also in Roses Catalonia and serves a constantly changing 30 course degustation menu. El Bulli is only open from April to September and only takes bookings one day per year. According to The Daily Telegraph, 8,000 people eat there every year with around 400 attempting to book each table, and for a meal that comes to $300 per head. One day!
Rated #2 – The Fat Duck, Bray, UK
This is a brilliant place where I try to eat every time I’m in the UK. Last time I was joined by Sean and Bronnie Fitzpatrick and Stephen Jones, The Sunday Times rugby writer, for an evening of rugby talk. The time before that it was at a table hosted by Lord John Browne from BP. Eric Doerr runs a great front of house, and the wine list is second to none. To give you an idea of the Tasting Menu, here are a few samples: Ballotine of Anjou Pigeon and Parsnip Cereal with my two favorites, Egg and Bacon Ice Cream and Snail Porridge. The Fat Duck’s use of personalized iPods with a sand and sea combination is brilliantly theatrical. If El Bulli is better than The Fat Duck, it deserves to be #1.
Rated #3 – Pierre Gagnaire, France
Maurice Levy first took me to Pierre Gagnaire, along with Procter & Gamble’s A.G. Lafley and Jim Stengel. We also had the experience of having Zinadine Zidane at the next table. Since then I’ve eaten twice at this terrific restaurant and have had wonderful experiences each time. It’s top-notch French cooking in a completely contemporary style. One of the things they offer is a complete menu of lobster options. Sensational. There is also a list of Bordeaux to die for.
Rated #5 – The French Laundry, US
I went there last year and it was a disaster. Of course, it was very exciting to go to Thomas Keller’s landmark restaurant in the Napa, but as I reported on this blog, the whole experience was overblown and overrated. For a start, they served two sittings, which I find primitive in a top-notch restaurant, and also kept us waiting for 30 minutes in the garden. No drinks, no aperitifs, no hors d’oeuvres, bare walls with no art, and all this (allegedly) to prevent us being distracted from our food. It was pomposity taken to the extreme. The food, when it turned up, was predictable and middle of the road. The service was American artificial.
Rated #9 – Tetsuya’s, Australia
I first went to this place 15 years or so ago. It was crowded, eclectic, exotic and incredible. Terrific Asian fusion dishes served in tiny portion degustation style. Casual, social and very Australian.
Rated #13 – Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, UK
A disappointing, middle of the road, mid-1990’s kind of place, in spite of its high star quotient. Very see and be seen. When I was there, Mick Jagger and Pierce Brosnan were both in the restaurant, so it was highly charged from that perspective. Everything was pretty good, but it lacked true impact and memorability.
Rated #18 – Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, France
A Gordon Ramsay like experience but with better food and more beautiful surroundings. Classic, traditional and top class.
Rate #20 – Le Bernardin, New York, US
The best cooked fish in New York. A pretty good spot with interesting cuisine, good service and well worth its rating.
Rated #22 – Le Gavroche, UK
I’ve been going to the Roux brothers emporium for around 20 years now. Over that time, I’ve celebrated a few milestones there with my eldest daughter Nikki. Its basement like environment is not too uplifting but the art on the walls compensates for all that. The place is jam-packed full of Chagall and Picassos and is a complete contrast to The French Laundry. A good three Michelin star French experience.
Rated #30 – Nobu, London
When I’m in London I stay at the Metropolitan where Nobu is housed. I also live one block away from Nobu in New York. It’s hard to get bad food at either place. The fish is fresh, the menu is interesting and all in all, it’s a first class experience.
Rated #37 – Chez Panisse, US
Its glory days might be over but it’s a great setting and has a strong organic point of view. Chez Panisse has a point of difference and it delivers. Definitely worth a visit.
Rated #41 – Daniel, New York
I’m more of a David Bouley fan than Daniel Boulud one but, having said that, I have to admit Daniel delivers.
Rated #49 – Rockpool (fish), Australia
Neil Perry’s place on The Rocks in Sydney is just opposite Saatchi & Saatchi’s office. It’s a terrific spot. Fresh fish with interesting Asian fusion and great chilled white wines. It deserves its place in the top 50.
Later on this week, I’ll write up my 10 favorite restaurants in the world to go along the big names on The Daily Telegraph’s Top 50 list.
Monday, June 2, 2008
If you think this one-person-at-a-time approach is too low-key, take heart from work Saatchi & Saatchi S did just before they joined us. Working with people from Wal-Mart, they developed what they called PSP (Personal Sustainability Projects). Some of these projects were as small as walking to work. Others involved community clean-ups. All represented a shift in attitude toward sustainability and people power. I’ll post more on this remarkable program as it begins to take hold in Saatchi & Saatchi, but let’s remember that even when doom and gloom surrounds you, one step can be the beginning of a journey towards rejuvenation and change.
Dream as if you'll live forever; live as if you'll die today.