Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Go Dubai

Six days in Dubai have been a head-turning experience. I first went there in 1972 as a Gillette brand manager when it was a small port town, then as a Marketing Manager at P&G in the early 80s, and again as regional CEO of Pepsi-Cola in the 90s. I’ve made four trips in the last decade as Saatchi & Saatchi CEO, and let me say first up that it is entirely possible to have a Zen-like experience in Dubai. For me this was a beautiful quiet hotel residence One&Only Royal Mirage, being accompanied by family (Rebecca and her cousin Luisa), tennis, the sound of the beach very close by and shady trees.

But step outside and meditation is immediately over. Dubai is a confronting experience. It’s massive, it’s focused, it’s been very well thought about (a seaplane tour of the city – New Zealand pilot of course – reveals a masterplan). In between mid-morning levitation and a foot high stack of faxes to process, I gave one presentation (P&G Dubai, fantastic to have continuity with the same, albeit a tad bigger group, that I was part of 36 years ago), one speech (to the Dubai advertising community where I said the work needed to get more emotional and less functional), had a book launch (Lovemarks, The Lovemarks Effect, Sisomo and One in a Billion) at Borders in the Mall of the Emirates (that's the one with the indoor ski-field), a regional Saatchi & Saatchi heads meeting, a client dinner and several media interviews.

One of Saatchi & Saatchi's clients is Nakheel, a government-owned property development company that announced last week that they are to build 100 new shopping malls (in between building housing for three million people). Another client is Atlantis,The Palm, which will bring uncompromised resort experiences and sensations to Dubai. I went on the hard-hat tour of the close-to-completed resort at the center of the crescent of The Palm Jumeirah; the 1,539 room ocean-themed destination, marine habitat and water thrill park opens in September. Red Bull is also a client, a perfect attitude for the city of altitude. The Burj Dubai has just been topped at 160 stories (project director is Greg Sang, a New Zealander who started his career as an engineer managing Takapuna’s water mains). A commonly quoted stat is that about 20% of the world's cranes are in Dubai (what is lesser know is that most of them are owed by one guy from India). A new airport, the world’s biggest, is being built with six parallel runways. It’s a car place like LA; one time at the lights there were five Toyotas spread out in front of me and a Lamborghini behind.

The Emirates is planning for 15 million tourists in a decade’s time (oil is just 6% of the current economy), with hundreds of billions of dollars being invested in infrastructure and real estate developments. It’s Vegas without the casinos. Nearby Abu Dhabi, currently the richest place in the world, has the Guggenheim and Louvre coming. Self-doubt and therapy are not part of the Dubai landscape, this is a place that’s going for it with unbelievable confidence. The Middle East has been a recent byword for conflict and war. Trade however has been in the DNA of Arab nations for a few thousand years, and the Emirates are showing a different hand that will change the perception of the region.

'Does Dubai have a soul?' is one question that passes a visitor’s lips. The number of neighborhood mosques suggests that the question is rhetorical. I think that the challenges for Dubai lie in harmonizing its relationship with nature, which will take only so much building and buffing; in balancing its spiritual integrity with a consumer paradise; in transforming a carbon-intensive urban/desert environment into a green/blue sustainable oasis; in being genuinely new rather than simply replicating; and in leveraging the power of riches for the benefit of the world’s poorest. It’s energizing to be in a place which has do-it-really-big vision. Dubai is all about FREDA (focus, re-invention, execution, distribution and accountability). Go Dubai.

Photos: One&Only Royal Mirage; Mall of the Emirates; Atlantis, The Palm; Burj Dubai under construction

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Back to school at Wharton

Last month, I had a great time with the next generation of business stars at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. It’s a fantastic school with the latest facilities and stellar faculty. Being accepted by Wharton means the students have already made it into contention. Now it’s up to them to decide how far they can go. I can tell you these kids were switched on, and savvy.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I was asked to leave school when I was 17, so I didn’t get do an MBA at a school like Wharton. From my first job at Mary Quant, I learnt how to sell and make stuff to sell. I then went to Procter & Gamble for about eight years. I realized quickly that although I was faster, tougher and more aggressive, my peers were smarter. I set out to do something about that. I must have learned 30 things a day and just about everything that I now know about marketing I can trace back to those days.

Don’t get me wrong, you can’t beat a good education – but it’s nothing without a dream.

That’s why at Wharton I asked the students to ask themselves these three questions:

• What’s my five year dream?
• When am I at my best?
• What will I never do?

The result was electric. Immediately I could hear the tapping of laptops, people shifting forward in their seats, thinking about themselves, their futures and the kinds of knowledge they’d need.

We had a discussion at the end of the session and some great thinking came out of these fresh challenging minds. One French student even had the courage to ask me how I felt about the All Blacks being knocked out of the World Cup by the French. I told him I felt great! I love a challenge.

If you haven’t already got it in your bookmarks, check out Knowledge@Wharton, a must-see site that gets picked up all around the world. This is what university is all about – thought leadership, time to explore the big issues that will impact us all, and fostering strong and successful connections for life. Living the dream.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Start with a fact. George Michael owns the piano John Lennon used to compose his great song 'Imagine' in 1971. OK, now inspire this fact with an idea. Michael decided to take this iconic instrument on tour. He didn’t have in mind any old tour. He was convinced that this piano was such an extraordinary icon for the human desire for peace that it would do its work best in places with powerful emotional resonance - places touched by acts of violence. So the piano has been played in emotional hotspots like Dealy Plaza, Dallas (where JFK was assassinated), the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and New Orleans. At first blush, this comes across as a “what-are-they-talking-about?” idea. But the results have been remarkable. In New Orleans, the piano was offered to the public to sit at, or play, without restrictions. This was not a shrine to John Lennon but a chance to be inspired by this icon to think and act for peace. As one of George Michael’s colleagues said, “It gives off Lennon’s spirit, and what he believed in, and what he preached for many years”. Guess what? People everywhere totally get it.

I am often asked how people can love inanimate objects. “You say that an Apple computer is a Lovemark, but how can anyone really love a computer?” That sort of thing. Well the answer is John Lennon’s piano.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Arting up Las Vegas

When Bugsy Malone opened the first casino in Las Vegas, he would have had no idea. He would have laughed at the thought of it as a Disneyesque family destination, and wept to see hoards of kids with their moms and dads coming out of M&M’s World and racing over to watch the Fountains of Bellagio do their thing. Now there are signs that Vegas is moving market again, and this time the signs aren’t neon, they’re art.

This is not the first attempt. The Venetian checked a few of the right boxes back in 2001 by partnering with a famous art museum brand. We’ve signed the Guggenheim. Check. Another one couldn’t do any harm? We’ve got the Hermitage. Perfect. Check. Employ a starchitect. Rem Koolhaas is on the job. Check. The Venetian’s project was ambitious, but while the collection shows continue, the temporary exhibition space lasted just over a year. I remember hearing that the incredible 'Age of the Motorcycle' exhibition included a bike by New Zealand inventor John Britten. And now the Hermitage has also bitten the dust.

But don't give up art-lovers, help is at hand. Vegas is taking art to the streets. This time, MGM Mirage is the lead husky. As the biggest resort corporation in town, they’re putting up $40 million to commission large-scale public sculptures. The line-up of artists and the scale they’ll work at is impressive. Maya Lin is creating a 130-foot cast silver representation of the Colorado River in the foyer of the MGM Mirage. Lin created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and knows as much about the power of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy as anyone. She recently said in the The New York Times, “It’s kind of nice to come across art where you least expect it sometimes.” Las Vegas continues to be a surprise.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


It will be my eldest daughter, Nikki’s, birthday in a couple of months. She just moved into a new house in Beckenham, Kent, when I asked her if there was anything she wanted. Nikki trained to be an actress at ALRA and has since devoted her life to helping animals, and kids with learning disabilities. She is passionate about art and design and told me what she would love is something by Banksy.

Banksy has supplanted the young British artists as the hot young thing. A graffiti hero who started out on the streets, his stuff is beautiful; anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-establishment. It’s humorous but with a bite. In April this year, his Pulp Fiction image of Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta clutching bananas instead of guns stopped people in their tracks, so much so that Transport for London found themselves forced to paint over the image!

This guy Banksy is the real deal. The only gallery he works with is Lazarides in Greek Street, Soho, London.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

15 things I like about St Maarten

As I shoot around the world a lot, I thought I'd start a regular feature listing the 15 things I like about the places I visit.

Let’s start with St Maarten, which is where I spent Easter weekend.

1. Room 100, the Baie Rouge Suite at La Samanna. For a start, it has a wrap around balcony with outdoor shower, shaded area and seating/party space for probably 20. It also overlooks the Baie Longue and sits right on top of the pool. From there all you can see is the Caribbean, palm trees and beautiful golden sands.

2. I discovered La Samanna 10 years ago. It is one of the world’s hidden treasures and has now expanded to around 80 rooms. Recently, its barefoot bar has been replaced by a very modern Mondrian-like structure 100 yards down the beach. The perfect getaway.

3. The brand new airport terminal at Juliana. There is a great Philippe Starck-like mural saying, "Sand, Sea and Sun" which certainly sets the theme. Also, something that’s becoming increasingly rare, your bags are delivered within minutes and everything works.

4. It’s one direct flight away from wintery New York.

5. St Maarten is an island that is half French and half Dutch. So you get the Dutch value around Phillipsburg and French flair and cuisine around Marigot and Grand Case.

6. Music. The island is full of Calypso and Reggae. Check out Radio Calypso on 102.1 FM when you arrive. Non-stop flava.

7. Carib Beer. Brewed in Trinidad and Tobago, it’s 5.2% alcohol and tastes like the most refreshing lager in the world. The perfect drink to enjoy at sunset around 5:30pm, barefoot in any beach bar.

8. Johnnie Cakes. Deep-fried treats served from open air stalls, on beaches or from roadside vans. Made of nothing but sweetness, flour, salt, baking powder, butter and water, they are bit like the beignets of New Orleans - the perfect hangover chaser.

9. Cricket. It’s a Caribbean religion. The recent Cricket World Cup saw the game take hold in St Maarten and now there are clubs all over the island. Go to Carib Lumbar Park in Phillipsburg to watch the locals go at it.

10. Dominoes. Who hasn’t played dominoes? The game originated in China, spread to Europe and then, via Britain, to its colonies. Backgammon is the national game of Greece and Egypt, poker is the national game of the US, and chess of Russia. In St Maarten, wherever you look you can see old men sitting around domino tables in the evening, cracking hands, banging dominoes down and getting pretty excited.

11. Tuesday nights in Grand Case. Every Tuesday, Grand Case turns into a great big cultural street show with singers, dancers, painters, sculptures, poets, storytellers and steel bands all out on the street. Carnival time every week. Bring it on.

12. Marigot Market nights are every Wednesday and Saturday morning on the seashore. In St Tropez, where I have a summer home, we have a great weekend market which travels all around Provence selling the flavors and scents of the region. So does Keswick in the Northwest of England, 15 miles from my Grasmere home. In Marigot, the Caribbean comes to life with spices, sauces, fruits, all in incredible colors and sold by smiling locals dressed in colorful local fabrics. Real sensuality.

13. Shopping. St Maarten is totally duty free. Jewelry, designer brands, fashion, are all available at prices way below Europe and much of it even below New York.

14. Great French restaurants. All of the restaurants are French family owned. They bring in high class French wines directly from the mother country and great local fish and produce prepared with the magic that French chefs infuse. Try Le Cottage, Bistrot Caraibes, L’Hibiscus, Le Pressoir and Le Tastevin. If you want to eat right on the beach, go to La Cigale.

15. Windsor Castle. Anthony Bourdain of Les Halles in New York has written a bunch of articles about adventurous places. One of them is Windsor Castle. It’s a trailer in Simpson Bay with no menu and not much of a sign on the trailer, but it’s worth the effort. They make salt fish, Johnnie cakes, fish patties and great fish steaks. You’ll be the only non-local there.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Falling waters: the art of Olafur Eliasson

In July, New York will get to see Olafur Eliasson’s waterfalls. Two are to be located in the East River and the continuously flowing water will be electrically powered with a fall of around 90 to 120 feet. What a spectacle. Eliasson is a new breed of artist who took off from the earth artists of the seventies and put an environmental twist to it. The East River falls will speak more about the regeneration of resources than about changing the look of a landscape. The connection between the earth artists and artists like Eliasson is surely James Turrell. Over the years he has created a series of magical skyscapes in museums across the world. I’m fortunate enough to have two of Turrell’s works in my New York apartment and it has soothed the wrinkles out of many a tension-filled day. I am a great believer in life following art, so watch out for more businesses delivering stunning environmental experiences as a way of creating emotional impact in the Attraction Economy.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rule Britannica

The New York Times recently declared that print encyclopedias are on their way out. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Sales of the most illustrious encyclopedia peaked in 1990 and then dropped over the next six years by 10 percent a year. Yes, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, that bulky 32-volume knowledge fest that took up serious shelf space in any library, is on its way out. Personally, I find it amazing that they have been producing a print edition for the last decade. What business can sustain a 10 percent drop in sales year on year? No business I’ve been involved with! Of course Britannica has tried all the obvious fixes. Once they were at only 40 percent of their original sales, they went online. That makes sense. Then they dropped their iconic door-to-door salesmen (at one stage in the 1970s, there were over 2,000 of them!). Then they started slimming down the world’s knowledge. Today the print edition is only 10 percent of what it was in 1990. So the volumes that helped thousands of kids reach high cupboards, and yes, open their minds, looks like it will soon become a phenomenon of the screen alone. I don’t have any insight into how successful this will be when confronted with the march of Wikipedia, but I do have some advice to give them better odds in this brave new screen world. Embrace sisomo.

So far, a reader’s advantages from the screen version are more images and standard features like a decent search. Not good enough. To survive and thrive they need to become Irresistible. To engage seekers after knowledge with interactivity, movies, animation and sound. With sisomo they might be able to climb back to the top of the encyclopedia heap.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Weekend in NYC

I’m not often in New York over a weekend, but when I am, my Sundays have a distinct pattern. It all starts with a lazy breakfast at one of the many neighborhood joints in Tribeca. Unfortunately, although I’m just across the road from Bubby’s, it’s become such an attraction it’s lost its local charm.

From there it’s into Barnes & Noble which just opened on Greenwich Street. Nothing beats early Sunday morning, Starbucks in hand, browsing the latest fiction and listening to the newest CDs. Ritualistically from there it’s into Soho, where I used to live. When I first came to New York, I lived on West Broadway between Prince and Spring before it turned into a shopping mall. My two favorite stores are Ben Sherman and the adidas old school store on Broome, both of which feed my nostalgia. Moss is also right up there, as is my newest Lovemark, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada. Her store is opposite the adidas shop and has a large heart in the window. The heart is what keeps Agatha’s designs pumping. She is a breath of fresh air in the jaded world of 'me-too' fashion. This is a women who drips with radical optimism, energy, life and buoyancy. Starting out in 1980, she still manages to see the world through a teenager’s eyes. Recently she’s created a complete fashion collection for Absolut Vodka, an exclusive Citroen Berlingo, and a collection of Espardrills for Camper shoes. We are also talking about a sustainability disciple who has even created an ad campaign for the Green Party. This is a person who believes the future will depend on today’s children and has created a range of kid’s clothes full of promise, sunshine, joy and blue skies. I’m in there every Sunday when I’m in New York making sure that Stella is covered in happiness.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Light a candle for sisomo

I love all forms of sisomo but this sisomo card created by artist/designer Julie Ruiz for VH1 is special. It’s proof again that the size of the idea isn’t always about the size of the budget. With simple stop motion photography (ok, it would have taken thousands of shots but anyone with a camera, a bunch of candles and steely determination could do it), Ruiz has created animated images that will burn right into your heart. Iconic, compelling, authentic. Catch some pics of the set-up here. The music is "Cloud Winter Breeze" by Orba Squara. And finally, VH1 which commissioned the work, should take a bow. It was VH1’s Brian Graden who inspired Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s animated Christmas card that turned into the phenomenon that is South Park. Hold onto your hat Julie.

Ingredients: Fast Food Heaven

One of the best fast food experiences I’ve enjoyed recently was in, of all places, Cincinnati. It’s called Ingredients and it’s healthy, fresh, tasty, a far cry from pizza and fried chicken, and it really is fast. Imagine a large, spacious production line with four production workers. You choose your base - Romaine, Mesclun, lettuce or mixed lettuces - and the production worker adds your choice of black beans, peas, asparagus, cheddar cheese, bacon, tomato, eggs, etc. As you make your choices, he grinds them up on top of the lettuce in a salad bowl. Then the bowl is passed on to another worker along the production line who adds your shots of protein - chicken, tuna, steak, salmon and so on. Again, as you choose, they are pounded into a salad bowl along with one of nine dressings, including three very tasty fat-free Italian, Ranch and vinaigrette choices. When you meal is complete, it is handed over to you.

It’s lightening fast, faultless, efficient and very tasty, thanks to all the ingredients being fresh, fresh, fresh. The whole process takes zero time but delivers maximum freshness. If you don’t want to take the salad option, there’s a grill and pizza oven which works along the same principles. You choose and personalize, they produce at lightening speed. There’s also pre-prepared cereal, drinks, snacks, etc. Then, for dining, there is a very spacious, airy environment.

Ingredients is one of the best combinations of interactivity, personalization, great service, mobility, freshness and health I have ever come across. In the two days I was in Cincinnati with P&G, one of their great salads sufficed for 2.5 meals. American portions after all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jane Lumb

Another of my great influences from the 60’s has passed away. As a teenager, I was inspired by the creativity of Mary Quant, David Bailey, Brian Duffy, David Hockney and Peter Blake. I couldn’t get enough of the fashion, music, poetry, art and design that was churning out of London and Manchester at an incredible rate. It was also the era of the first supermodels: Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton and one of my favorites, Jane Lumb.

You might not have heard of Jane. She died recently from breast cancer and was about 65. Jane was always a favorite of my favorite photographers, David Bailey and Brian Duffy, and she appeared in the 1964 classic A Hard Day’s Night and a hard to find fringe movie called Reflections on Love (I remember Patti Boyd’s sister Jenny also appeared). Jane was featured in one of the most iconic cultural breakthroughs of the era, the first Pirelli calendar. It published in a chic limited edition and was a must-have for every garage in the UK (and for every teenager who could lay his hand on one). Photographer Brian Duffy used Jane for the 1973 calendar created by one of my favorite artists Allen Jones, who I’ve been collecting ever since. To all these iconic firsts, you can add the fact that she was the first blond ever to be the face of Fry’s Turkish Delight. To anyone living in England at that time, we are talking about the forefront of groovy, sexy, chic appeal.

In true 60’s style, Jane Lumb lived with David Bailey’s assistant for a while and then got involved with Tony Hicks, the guitarist of that great Manchester band, The Hollies. She had an English degree and continued to work in music through the 80’s and 90’s.

More recently, Jane worked for Anton Mosimann (a great chef) and, accordingly to some press reports, spent the past two years as a receptionist in Harley Street, along with marking exam papers.

What a life. A Hard Day’s Night to marking papers. Sic transit gloria. I was very saddened to hear of her passing.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Reading the future

A couple of further thoughts about books and reading post the Lovemarks launch in Frankfurt. The first thought is that most of the innovation in the industries based on reading is not coming from traditional book publishers. The latest attempt to encourage e-book reading is the Kindle from Amazon. Still out of stock and only available in the U.S., this wireless portable reading device (what a description!) has sparked huge passion for and against, but the publishers seem to be trying to remain neutral. Maybe they’re waiting to see who’s standing at the end of Round 1: the makers of books or of reading devices. It was the same thing with the invention of the automobile of course. Did the Model T Ford come out of the factories of the leading carriage makers of the day? No, it did not.

The second thought is really a question. Will the Kindle end up being used to read books? It’s possible, but it’s also possible that Kindlers will find some other, more interesting use for it. When Alexander Bell invented the telephone, after all, he assumed it would be used to listen to concerts. Marconi was convinced that his invention the radio was a way for two people to talk to each other. In the end the people who use them will decide. The future use of the Kindle, like so many inventions before it, is in their hands. That’s why I felt Steve Jobs’ observations on the Kindle were so misplaced. He reckoned the Kindle would fail because Americans have stopped reading. I reckon that reading might be only part of it – although, yes, I am sure that Apple would have made a nicer job of a reading device than Amazon has.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The hotel industry raises the stakes

I haven’t stayed at ANdAZ in London, but my son Ben sent me some intriguing info. This type of hotel is a new initiative by Hyatt and they have certainly learnt some new tricks. The hotel business today is a great example of how competition can transform an industry by raising what are table stakes. When I talk table stakes today, I mean absolute comfort, brilliant service, great food you actually want to eat and stunning decor. Ten years ago? Not so much.

ANdAZ has dispensed with the my-one’s-bigger-than-your's type lobby. Maybe you need somewhere to assemble the odd tour group, but most of us would prefer the lobby as a living room than a cattle yard. ANdAZ also understands that most of their guests will not be asking room service for a band-aid or another clean glass (if they’re not already there, you’re dead in the water anyway) but for things that are going to make their visit more fun, more interesting or more surprising. This is where ANdAZ gets adventurous.

During the London Book Fair, ANdAZ has a reader-in-residence. That’s right. Someone who is available to come to your room and read aloud to you. And if that’s not for you, how about their hiring Times journalist, Damian Barr, to talk with guests about the kind of books they like and make some hot recommendations. You can also book him for an entertaining lunch or dinner. In the Attraction Economy, people are going to drift away from anything that just offers up the same-old-same-old no matter how brilliantly it is done. If I were a hotel manager and I looked across my dining room and saw the inevitable single diners flicking through magazines as they ate their meals, I’d be deafened by warning bells. Sure, some of them might be very happy to be left alone, but we’re gregarious creatures, and as ANdAZ has figured, some of them might prefer being with friends.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Memories are made of this

Music creates memories. Rich Robinson wrote about this magic in a recent post and of course he’s right. All five of our senses are packed-up and waiting at the door to send us back to our past. I love music, but for me the most evocative of the senses is smell. Maybe it was my early days working in the Middle East that gave this sense such a workout. It’s been overdeveloped ever since. In the bazaar, you can catch literally hundreds of scents, from spices and perfumes to yeast and onion to smoldering wood and beaten metal. And yes, beaten metal does have a very distinctive fragrance. It is harsh and inhaled as much as smelt. When I was working on the first Lovemarks book and developing the idea of sensuality, I was astonished to learn that there are around 400,000 recognizable odors. This was way beyond what I’d ever expected. Immediately, I realized what an untapped storehouse of potential this was for innovation in every field you could think of. Fantastic new products, a new attitude in the store, another dimension to service, a fresh capability to infuse into entertainment choices.

Now I’m finding that these intuitive ideas are being backed up. Big time. Scientists are finding that our sense of smell brings up our oldest, rarest and most vivid memories. Smell was a front-line flight or fight indicator so it had to get its message across fast. Apparently it did this for our ancient ancestors (and still does it for us) by bypassing consciousness and heading straight to, you’ve got it, the emotional part of the brain. Getting to the bottom of this won Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck a Nobel Prize in 2004 (if we got to vote on Nobel Prizes, they’d have mine). It seems to me that as we spend more time with our screens, the senses become more important as physical, real, open, direct, emotional connection points. It also becomes important to truly understand what they offer. This deep understanding becomes crucial when you also think about how (relatively) narrowband a sense like smell is. It is amazingly sensitive and overwhelmed real fast. The phrase "fragrance fatigue" says it all. When everything has fragrance, we can’t distinguish between them and any possibility of differentiation is lost. Just think of running the department store gauntlet. Great fragrance experiences demand focus, care and attention. A bakery. A field of lavender in flower. A superb Burgundy.

Farewell Jack Roberts

My dad just died.

Jack Roberts




Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The comic book and the coffee table

Remember the story of the super book? The coffee table volumes that require super-strength coffee tables? The trend is spreading. Now even comic books – which when I was a kid were the ultimate disposable (and swappable) items – are headed the same way. Blame Marvel. A few years ago they came up with an exciting tie-in to the Fantastic Four movie. The brief was to excite the ‘extreme collector’. The solution? A 5.4 pound, 848 page monster crammed with the magic of Jack Kirby. The comic 'brick' sold out almost as soon as it hit the shelves. Now large-scale comic books are everywhere. I’m told part of the reason for their success is that comic collectors are very reluctant to read their precious originals but another part is probably what I call The Collector’s Dilemma. Having something rare and scarce is great, but giving other people access to a version of it is even better. Then they know how amazing it is. When I was a kid reading comics, the thought of them having pride of place on the living room coffee table would have been risible. The fact that adults hated them was part of their irresistible attraction. In Japan, comic lovers are taking another option. There, thick Manga comic books have been hugely popular for decades but today the appeal is cooling. The reason seems to be that young people no longer want to lug heavy blocks of paper around when they can have the same, or better, experiences on their lighter laptops or handhelds.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Stella's world

Making change and taking action are personal. Always has been. Now I find my commitment to sustainability has gone to another level as I – like millions of grandparents before me – have seen my worldview expand dramatically with the birth of a granddaughter, Stella. Immediately the idea of long-term is not just my lifetime, or even my kids’ lifetime, but hers as well. That takes us well into this century and perhaps beyond.

Such an expanded lifeline came into focus recently when I was whacked on the head yet again by British independent scientist and well-known climate change catastrophist, James Lovelock. The 88-year-old recently declared in The Guardian, “Global warming has passed the tipping point, and catastrophe is unstoppable.” His only words of optimism? “Enjoy life while you can. Because if you’re lucky it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.” OK, 20 years is not nearly enough for me and the man is famous for being provocative, so I decided to be provoked. How can I help hand on to my granddaughter the sort of world she deserves? Here is my wish for Stella’s world.

Sustainability. The new bottom-line. We all need to put back more than we take out. Through Saatchi & Saatchi S we will work with clients to make our businesses more sustainable. To move from sustainability as an obligation to seeing it as an opportunity. My optimism is charged by the idea of one person at a time. Ok, this may sound slow, but when you think of a million people inspired by a new attitude to the future and each getting out there to inspire just ten more people, a billion people committed to sustainability doesn’t seem impossible at all. Yes, our goal is one billion – Nothing is Impossible.

Time. I hope the people of Stella’s world have a new attitude to time. I’ve posted before about the Aborigine concept of the Everywhen in which the past, present and future coexist. No one loves change more than I do, but I believe that the desire for sustainability will move us, particularly the people of the developed world, toward a simpler, more focused, more harmonious life. I hope Stella has more time to dream, imagine, explore and love.

Energy. Stella’s world will be shaped by the world we live in today and one of our dominating ideas has been energy. We see energy as a limited resource. I hope Stella sees it for what it is: the fantastic quality of human beings to improve and make the world a better place to live in. Our energy can be as valued on this planet as that of polar bears and whales, but only when we act with care and attention.

Lightness. When I hold Stella in my arms, I am reminded what a light touch we have on the world when we are new to it. (I don’t want this to sound like T. Texas Tyler’s song ‘Deck of Cards’, but babies, like cards I guess, are a powerful stimulus to emotional memories). So I hope that Stella’s world will be one where people tread more lightly on the planet. As a born optimist, I believe we will be able to transform the way we live to cope with our mounting planetary problems (whatever Dr Lovelock predicts).

Love. My experience with Lovemarks over the last decade has shown me what I always believed intuitively. Humans live by their emotions. That is how we make decisions and how we run our lives, whether it’s around a family dining table or a corporation’s boardroom table. The greatest emotion is Love and because business is part of life, business needs Love. I want Stella’s world to be unembarrassed by Love in whatever form it appears and to have the confidence to reach out and embrace it.

Astonishment. I want Stella to live in a world that surprises and delights: a world that rewards curiosity, cheerfully engages with the unknown and does it all with courage. As someone once wisely said, “When all else fails, the future remains”.