Monday, June 30, 2008

New Directors Showcase

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!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Family ties

From the outset, the idea of Lovemarks was inspired by the emotional dynamics of a loving family. I have always thought that the way families adapt to one another’s idiosyncrasies, offer unconditional support and stick together through thick and thin, was a great metaphor for the relationship brands should aspire to. After all, family relationships are about empathy and love across the past and present and into the future, as well as the ability to understand differences and to enjoy them for what they are. It is by our differences that we define ourselves. Our family life is where we learn to deal with the paradox of difference. To acknowledge its importance to the creation of individuality and personality and to know that at the bottom-line, differences are always relative. Literally. I can criticize my kids, but let anyone outside the family try!

Lovemarks were also inspired by the research I did with colleagues into what makes great sporting teams great. This work resulted in our book Peak Performance. Here again we found that what makes families strong is very close to what makes sporting teams great - a sense of shared purpose inspired by the understanding that our differences can be strengths rather than weaknesses. When I am asked by businesses how they can improve their performance and help their people understand the world as their customers and users and shoppers do, I say, "Feel like a family, think like a team".

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Making history

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.

Already we have seen crowds of amateur astronomers grid-scanning the skies and finding far distant objects that had eluded more random inspection. All of us have always been more powerful than any one of us. Now I read that historians are at it. That gets onto my radar instantly as I think of history as a record of emotional decisions through time. They’re talking crowd sourcing. Instead of spending days in the archives of libraries and museums, modern historians are going direct to the people who made the history they want to write about. It’s a version of reading personal diaries that only the Internet can offer. At the moment it sounds too one way with historians hunting sources, but you can imagine as people get to understand what is going on, that more blogs, more sites and more chat rooms will flourish, making available vast amounts of on-the-spot material.

At Saatchi & Saatchi we use blogs to record our interactions with people when they are shopping, playing, driving, cooking, teaching, learning, hanging out. Reading these blogs, I am constantly astonished by the insights our teams of Xplorers gather simply by getting close to people as they go about their everyday lives. When these insights emerge in a blog in close to real-time, it makes a riveting record of lives lived. Sounds like history to me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Diesel Walls

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

Hearts and minds at Coca-Cola

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a day in Berlin. It was the kind of day I love best, full of paradox and insight. For a start I was in Berlin, a city of paradoxes if ever there was one, to talk to the marketing staff of Coca-Cola. Any of you who follow this blog will know that a can of Diet Pepsi is never far from my hand and that I was once the CEO of Pepsi in Canada. And those of you who have gone so far as to read my CV know that I shot up a Coke vending machine once at a sales conference. The goal was simple: to galvanize our Pepsi marketing team who needed to let off steam after finally reaching the number 1 slot in that market after many years in Coke’s shadow. Would I do it again? Probably not. The climate has changed dramatically, but I’d have to say that as an example of direct action it was unforgettable and has followed me ever since. I mention this because Verena Nabrotzky, who introduced me at the Coca-Cola event, retold the story in some detail.

You can imagine that being in Coca-Cola’s German HQ felt a little like straying into the lion’s den. Fortunately, the members of a mainly young audience were engaged and kind. They face quite a challenge, like any mature brand whether it’s Tide, Pampers or Cheerios. Coke has one of the greatest brands in the world (in every list they always come in the top two or three no matter how the list is constructed). They are a Lovemark to millions, but are also under constant pressure to innovate and be fresh and relevant for new audiences. The aging population in Germany poses a special challenge for what has been a youth attractor. I’m particularly excited by the possibilities of Coke Zero. Great name, great qualities but in need of more Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy, especially in the packaging. For people to love Coke Zero they will have to love it as part of their lives, as part of what they think is important. That is Coke’s challenge, just as it is the challenge of many major brands. Now that the data that retailers collect and analyze tells them just about every detail of what’s in the minds of shoppers, it is time for brands and Lovemarks to step up and know everything that is in their hearts. Do that, and as John Wayne almost said, “their minds will follow.”

Monday, June 23, 2008

Get lost? I don’t think so

To paraphrase, there is a time to be lost and a time to know where you are. Today’s technology makes getting lost much harder than ever before. We’ve all heard how ‘they’ can track us via email, credit cards and CCTV, but there is another dimension to the new detailed knowledge of place. With great inventions like GPS you not only know exactly where you are, you can go get lost with impunity. Just punch in a place you want to go and bingo, there’s the map and there’s Brad or Sue or whoever telling you to ‘turn right’. Doesn’t matter an iota that you have no idea where you actually are. The big thing is you know where you’re going and that you can always get back to where you started, or anywhere else for that matter.

This is where it gets murky. If we know where we are via smart technologies, there’s a good chance someone else will too. Apparently in the UK (now there’s a country where they really have a thing about knowing where people are – it has the most CCTV cameras per population of any country in the world), some university boffins tracked 100,000 mobile phone users to see where they were headed. Nowhere much it turned out. Most of the people tracked moved less than six miles and most of them returned to the same few places again and again. Why am I not surprised by this? The study concluded that its findings could help control the spread of pandemics or traffic jams. Hmmmm. Aren’t there more immediate uses? The mobile phone as our connector to local services and attractions becomes a lot more realistic once we realize how regular the patterns are we follow. Insight into what people desire can spring from understanding of what they actually do. From insight to foresight accelerated by paradox. Maybe as our access to virtual worlds unbounded by geography grows, we’ll keep even closer to the physical world we inhabit with our friends and families. Let the mobile phones loose!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Telectroscope

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

Planet and People

When I hear people discussing sustainability (and that’s happening more each day), one thing jumps out: most of them stick to the environment. Carbon footprints, global warming, water shortages and the rest. Nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t enough. Sure the environment needs fast action but to shape our future we need to focus on Planet and People. We have to work on them both at the same time. It’s always good to be able to call on the support of a Nobel Prize winner for an idea. In this case I can claim five. The big five were part of a bunch of economists faced with a huge challenge. To rank a list of 30 different solutions to ten of the world's biggest problems. The problems had been worked up by 50 academics, all specialists in their fields, so a lot of heavy-weight brain power went into this project along with a good solid kicker. The economists’ rankings were dollar-based. They had to pretend they had an ‘extra’ $75 billion to spend over the next four years and work out the relative returns to get to their winning solutions.

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.


http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/Default.aspx?ID=788

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Visiting Boulder

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

Stella’s future: Risk all

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

The power of the personal

Mystery and Sensuality are such immediate creators of emotional connections that Intimacy sometimes gets left in their shadow. Perhaps it’s because Intimacy is about the personal gesture and doesn’t have the immediate attraction of the senses, or the allure of Mystery. For me, the personal is one of the fastest ways to create emotional bonds and a key tool in the effort to make the world a better place.

I see the power of Intimacy unfolding through five essentials:

• Hold it close
• Make it passionate
• And true
• And open
• And focused

I’ve mentioned Daniel Dennett’s definition of happiness before: "To find something bigger than yourself, and then to devote your life to it." Emotional rocket fuel. What happens when you get intimate with a social cause?

Nothing heals faster than knowing that someone close by really cares. It is the power of intimacy, the power of the personal. The greater your focus in participating in one cause, the more the ROI. In marketing that means Return On Investment. In the world of Intimacy it means Return On Involvement. Happiness given, shared and grown. Don’t get distracted. It’s better to give to and guide one cause you believe.

Friday, June 13, 2008

There’s Music in the Air

I Left Sao Paulo after reviewing one of the funniest TV spots I’ve seen this year. It came courtesy of Fabio Fernandes and his merry band of vagabonds, and is for an alternative music channel to MTV built around the concept that it is better to have a choice. The spot involves a hero with a musical beard. Can’t tell you any more but it’s ludicrously funny.

Emirates, the best airline experience in the world. Not only is it driven by the private suites I talked about a while ago, it has the world’s best music system, ICE digital world screens. ICE stands for information, communications, and entertainment. The information and communications stuff is terrific, incorporating SAT phone, SMS, Email, laptop and USB coverage. Frankly, I ignore all this and go straight to entertainment central. There’s 150 movies, unlimited TV, which instead of just showing the lowest common denominator American sitcoms, gives you fantastic documentaries, almost 100 programs on sport, (including the game they play in heaven - rugby), great drama such as Rome, Prison Break, and Dr. Who, and lots of British comedy.

But it’s music where they really win. As well as having fantastic world music, Emirates really understand us baby boomers. One great idea they have is the UK No. 1 Chart Hits. You simply hit a year (say 1964) on your remote and you see all the No. 1 hits from that year. They cover six decades from the 50’s to the minute. Talk about a walk down memory lane. To top that, they’ve put down play lists of almost 100 artists from Tom Waites to Annie Lennox with all the artists’ career best songs on the lists. Obviously, they have all the latest CD’s from the White Stripes, to Radiohead, and have the top 100 albums that saw great artists at the peak of their powers, such as the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper. The list goes on, and on. For instance you can listen to all of the individual albums of artists ranging from Dylan to Queen, as well as terrific sections on country, jazz, etc. You can also make your own playlist while you are on board. I can tell you the 14 hours from Sao Paulo to Dubai has never passed so quickly. This is a great example of customer empathy. The music is not standard middle of the road, it is a collection of sounds that emotionally connects with their passenger profile.

These guys at Emirates are going to take over the world (along with Singapore Airlines). Even now, they are leaving the European airlines scrambling in their wake.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Airport reading

It’s not only me! A journalist called Jonathan Miles has just published a book in the U.S. called Dear American Airlines. It’s written in the form of a 180 page letter of complaint from a passenger stuck, interminably it seems, by American Airlines at Chicago’s O’Hare. Believe me, I was that soldier.

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

Stargazer

When I arrived at Geneva airport recently, I was stopped as I hurried across the departure lounge. A man I had not met before indicated that I should walk with him to a car parked outside. Not much was said. I was driven into the city. The building we pulled up at was anonymous with the usual security. I was taken into the foyer and put into a cage. Around the cage and hanging off the stairs and upper galleries hundreds of people stared at me in near silence.

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

Brand-mates

We set up Lovemarks.com as a place people could declare their passion for the brands they loved. The intensity of the response even surprised us. This was real Lovemarks behavior in real time. The site just keeps on growing. Last month we had 315 new members sign up. Recently, I was pumped to see our idea taken another step. I guess by now, all the gloom and doom merchants who said that the Internet would never be a place for an authentic emotional life have changed their tune. The odd one or two who are still holding out should visit brand-mates. The people who started this site wrote me to explain their idea. They started with a simple assumption that was simply genius, and took it all the way. They figured that chances are people who love the same brands have a lot in common. Makes perfect sense. It’s one of those simple ideas you could think about in relation to any business. Affinity by Lovemark! As the people at brand-mates say, “Yes opposites can attract, but brand-mates will help you find a date, a mate or maybe even just a friend who likes more of what you like, than less of what you like, which can make all of the difference in the world”. Sure, the idea that people who enjoy the same thing has been with us since model trains were invented (ok, even before then), but attaching this idea to the people who like brands, not just the brand community itself, strikes me as smart and very much of the moment. Its value of course doesn’t just have to be based on buying the same stuff. It can be believing in the same ideas expressed by a brand. Pursuing the same passions inspired by a brand. There is the opportunity for people who care about sustainable brands to get together. It’s early days for brand-mates, so let’s see how they go. Personally I wish everyone on the site the best of luck and all the fun and love in the world. It sounds like a marriage made in brand heaven.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Looks like an angel

In the early days of this blog, I posted on the sculpture The Angel of the North, that stands close to the A1 freeway at Gateshead, and talked about the power of icons. It’s fantastic that my personal enthusiasm for the giant Gormley sculpture (it is 20 meters or 175 feet high) is shared by the people of England. In a recent poll taken by Travelodge, the most recognized landmark in the UK was singled out as, you guessed it, The Angel of the North.

In their research, Travelodge asked 3,000 people to identify photographs of UK landmarks. The result? Eighty-three percent of the people surveyed identified Gormley’s sculpture – way ahead of more traditional British landmarks. I suspect the reasons for the Angel’s success are threefold. First, like most great icons, The Angel of the North is a big, uncomplicated idea. Second, it represents a deeply emotional truth about the changing face of Britain, with its location near an abandoned colliery. Third, it inspires what can often be a painful truth with hope. That’s why it has raced ahead as a Lovemark. A big idea responding to an emotional truth and facing forward with hope.

Some other UK icons did not fare so well. Many people mistook Hadrian’s Wall for the Great Wall of China, and the dome of St Paul’s for St Peter’s in Rome’s Vatican City. That’s the thing about icons, they need to be kept alive and relevant in the public imagination. There is work to be done in the UK’s tourist industry. By the way, this year is the ten-year anniversary of the The Angel of the North. Join the celebrations.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Restaurant Review: Part 2

A few days ago I commented on the Daily Telegraph’s list of top 50 restaurants in the world.

With homes in Auckland, New Zealand, Grasmere, St. Tropez and New York, I eat out a fair bit and have a number of restaurants that have become favorites.

For the most part, these are not necessarily the more famous spots, but are places where you can get really good food - interesting or comforting. They serve great wine, the people are friendly and welcoming, and there is a casual, family-like ambience. I’m talking about neighborhood places that deliver quality and consistency. So if you are round and about in my parts of the world, and you’re looking for a place for good food that feels like home, here are some thoughts:

1. I have to start with The Fat Duck, which manages to deliver all of the above and yet is still rated second in the world. For me it’s number one and an experience not to be missed. Bray is a lovely village complete with local pub (also owned by Heston Blumenthal), a beautiful church and a classic English village cricket field. If you are there for a couple of days, The Waterside Inn is just down the road!

2. L’enclume. Go now, because next year I’m sure that L’enclume will be discovered and make the top 50 world list. It’s in a tiny village in Cartmel, Cumbria about 40 minutes from my place in Grasmere. The chef is Simon Rogan, who came up north in 2002 and serves a surrealistic menu focusing on rehydration, dehydration, memories of Venus and surrealist nitro slammers. He picked up one Michelin star for the first time this year. L'enclume is a cutting edge restaurant the same way as The Fat Duck, El Bulli and Pierre Gagnaire, but it has more of a sense of humor with many surreal avant-garde, tongue ‘n cheek dishes served in what used to be a former blacksmith shop (which is where the name comes from). No tablecloths here. Just hard, sharp textures. 70% of visitors come from out of town and it is well worth making a special journey.

3. Thalassa on Franklin Street is a Greek restaurant in the typical open fish market style. The fish is flown in overnight from all over the world and sits there in a huge ice counter waiting for you to touch, choose and eat. The Horiatiki (Greek Salad) doesn’t get any fresher, and a lot of the food is made by the family who have been in the business for years. The bar is funky, the beer is cold, the space is open, warm and inviting, and Sayed and the front of house team are first class. This is a great place for a summer lunch or a dinner in winter.

4. Escopazzo. I’ve been going to Escopazzo in Miami ever since it opened 15 years ago. Giancarla is one of the most progressive Italian chefs in the US and has taken her food on a journey from classic village Italian to organic innovation. The staff are well trained, the wine list is excellent with a great selection of Brunello and Barolos and the tasting menu of whatever-is-fresh-that-evening can’t be beaten. There is a hidden back room with a fountain and a beautiful bustling busy front room. Ok, Escopazzo is not in the most salubrious part of South Beach (on Washington Street, next to a sex shop), but once you are inside you feel as if you are in your granny’s Italian home.

5. Even more eclectic is the Jumble Room in Grasmere. Andy and Chrissy run this mad house which is somewhat akin to eating with Alice in Wonderland. The two rooms are full of books, paintings, church pews, odd chairs and noise. Andy does the front of house and Chrissy does all the work. (Andy even drives me back home after dinner in his Range Rover). Everyone who stays at my place in Grasmere has dinner at the Jumble Room and inevitably is adopted by Andy.

6. Tamarind is my favorite Indian place in London. It is in Shepherd Market, 100 yards from the Metropolitan where I stay. It has a beautiful dining room and the food is modern, innovative Indian - light and fun and very, very tasty. I’m told when Tom Cruise was filming in London he ordered in from the Tamarind every night - but don’t hold that against it.

7. Cercle Rouge on West Broadway is a typical French Bistro that serves great snails, pate, liver and steaks. It also has Burlesque in the winter and a great private room where we host USA Rugby Board Meetings (all of which tend to end at 2:00am in a very blurry haze of great Bordeaux). The chef, Pierre Landet, is an ex rugby prop and can cook French country food just the way it should be. Great pommes frites.

8. The Spotted Pig, run by English ex pat April Bloomfield, is still the best gourmet pub experience in New York. They don’t take bookings but you can always get in if you are patient. There’s a busy little bar and a nice couple of seats outside to wait and watch the world go by. Sits slap bang in the ever bustling Meatpacking District and is the best food of its kind in the city that never sleeps.

9. My house in St. Tropez when my mother-in-law Rita is in residence. The combination of St. Tropez sunshine, a sunny day by the pool, French ingredients and Rita’s flair makes it an unforgettable opportunity. If you can ever wrangle an invite, first check that she’s there and take it up. If I were you, I’d ask for the kidneys in mustard.

10. And finally, anywhere Simon Gault is cooking. Simon and I have been partners in crime (in cooking!) for a long time now. He runs a bunch of restaurants in New Zealand and has provided delicious banquets and catering for up to 150 people at my place in Auckland. Nothing phases Simon, who brings in his team and sets up in the garage, our kitchen being too small for his expert needs. So in comes a mobile kitchen and out comes world class cooking with unbelievable imagination and flair, and from a garage! Let me know how many chefs in the world can, or would still do that, when they are rich and famous. Simon is the very best.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Happiness Challenge

The old management rule to measure what matters is a good one. The problem is that the stuff that matters is always the hardest to measure, but we can’t let that stop us. Let’s measure up, rather than measure down.



With the launch of Saatchi & Saatchi S earlier this year, the challenge of relevant, sensible and practical measurements for a sustainable world has been on my mind. Adam Werbach is CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S and he recently gave a speech at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club. Birth of Blue covers a lot of ground and has attracted a lot of attention, but there is a simple idea at the heart of it that I love. The dream of happy people contributing to a healthy planet. We have metrics for the healthy planet part, but we are still inventing how you measure happiness and we are still working out how to increase it. A recent article reported a study showing that in spite of a significant raise in their standard of living, people were no happier than they were 30 years ago. So while we’ve got measures of our living standards running out our ears, as happens so often, we seem to be pointing in the wrong direction.

Here are four factors that can help make us happier.

1) Be of service to something larger than yourself. I often draw on a great thought from philosopher Daniel Dennett: “The secret of happiness is to find something bigger than yourself and then to devote your life to it.”

2) To experience “flow,” or full engagement, on a regular basis. This is one of the fundamentals of Peak Performance. Flow happens when people are unleashed and inspired against the Dream. And what a Dream the aspiration to make the world a better place is!

3) To show your gratitude to the people in your life. Simple, direct and action-focused. If we all followed that one sentence, the self-help publishing industry could pack up and go home to look after its own friends and family.

4) To have at least three people who are emotionally close enough to share your life with. And if you’re lucky, it might be more than three.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

True love

In the very days of Lovemarks, one of the first brands we identified as Lovemarks was Harley-Davidson. It was by studying the DNA of amazing brands like Harley-Davidson that we developed our ideas about what a Lovemark needed to be. Harley turned out to be a Lovemarks archetype. I have always admired the personal intensity that blasts from every pore of a Harley rider. I sometimes contrast Harley-Davidson with Suzuki. One produces an excellent product and riding experience; the other is Harley-Davidson. In in a general downturn on purchases like boats and recreational vehicles, it’s good to see Harley holding its own. They may get squeezed but they have what I call love in the bank to get them through. That’s another sign of a Lovemark. Sales may go down but you stay ahead of the competition. But Harley people are not ones to be happy with treading water. They are making big attacking plays while many others drop into defence. Their new line “So screw it, let’s ride” has attitude to burn. From the Company that brought us the great line “Throw the map in the trash and ride”, who’d expect anything less? Coming up fast though is the push to expect much more. Pride of place in a new sustainable world. It may sound counter-intuitive but I believe that hogs can do it. The new dynamic is to not just do less harm to the environment, to our communities, but to do active good for them. We’re talking the far edges of innovation with materials that absorb pollution, filtrate water and processes that oxygenate purify raw materials. Harley always goes for attitude so now is the time to pick up that amazing optimism and confidence and to make something great happen. When you have so much Love at your back I am convinced that if came to it, and the last drop of oil was needed elsewhere, Harley owners could nourish their spirits by spending time with their machines polishing their beloved ones to a mirror finish.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Restaurant review: the best of the best

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

People power

Making the world a better place one person at a time feels like simple commonsense to me. It is a lesson I learnt from my early days in business. When I was selling stuff, we figured fast that if we could get one box of product into a store, we had the fantastic opportunity to create a partnership for life. It is the same with our current environmental, cultural and social challenges. If one person shifts their attitude, you can count on that shift rippling through their family and friends. From there, it is a short viral hop to workplaces, local communities and out into the wider region. What we have to have is that first bunch of inspirers who take the message to heart, set it alight and share it with the world.

This philosophy is why I am increasingly concerned by how apathetic and hopeless many people feel about the challenges we face. They feel apathetic because they don’t feel they have any control – and this in an era where markets and marketing are being transformed by the shift in control from manufacturers and retailers to the people who buy and use products. Now, while I’m glad Al Gore got the world to sit up and take notice of the threat of climate change, I believe it’s time to move on and focus on what we can each do as individuals. Knowing about a problem is an important first step, but knowing and then simply feeling bad about it, makes no difference at all.

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.