Friday, August 29, 2008


Finally the power of paradox is gaining ground. F. Scott Fitzgerald probably captured the idea best when he suggested that "The ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function is the sign of a first-rate intelligence". Yes, that’s paradox; the insight you get from putting two unlikely ideas together and discounting neither. It’s what I like to call And/And. People who prefer Either/Or are driven crazy by it, but it is the only way I know to keep eyes and options open in challenging times. Sparks often fly but new and exciting stuff roars out of the heat generated.

Why then would I be surprised when not one but two people sent me a great design website all about the ‘and’, or ampersand, as it is officially named? The ampersand has personal meaning for me and everyone who works in our company. It serves as the glue in our name: Saatchi & Saatchi. Over the years we have taken advantage of this famous name and have used it to push our passions - Ideas & Ideas, Possible & Possible. In fact I have always thought of Lovemarks, with their embrace of Mystery and Sensuality and Intimacy, as the way to put the 'and' back into brand. Making brands more interesting, more provocative, more complex, more beautiful.

As part of that story, the ampersand has always seduced designers who have seized its sensually curved shape and odd position somewhere between a word and a punctuation mark, and rushed with it in a thousand directions. You can see some wonderful examples on the Gose Design ampersand site. Ampersands hard at work in industry, entertainment, the inevitable tattoo, holding up books in a bookcase, and of course, advertising. There are many, many sites on the Internet that look closely at the details of our world and this is a good one. Check it out, you’ll Love it & Love it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I broke my arm a couple of days ago, specifically, the radial head bone in my elbow. I was riding my bike at top speed down a steep hill down to the gym for a workout. I had not put on my sunglasses and when a very large unidentified bug took aim at me and flew in my right eye at great speed, I lost control, veered off the road, pulled back on to the hard cement road (sometimes instincts are idiotic) and came to a shuttering halt. As they say, luckily the ground broke my fall. When 94 kgs at 30 mph hits a cement road, it’s not a pretty sight. In mid-air I instinctively shifted my body to the left to take the fall on my left shoulder and forearm rather than spattering my nose, teeth and head all over the concrete, but that’s where my luck ran out. I’m currently in plaster for at least four weeks and not in the best of spirits. I did, however, complete my workout on the elliptical trainer!

The following day, Dr. David Helfet, a rugby loving South African and Head of Orthopedic Surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery, took the cast off, gave me a loose sling and a bunch of (very painful) rehab exercises. Thanks to him, life is rosier. Freedom. Three weeks of work...use not abuse. And with trips to Peru, Miami, Mexico and the UK all imminent, I need to get some fast practice in one-handed shaving, one-handed dressing and one-handed baggage carrying. But it’s about mobility and movement, not stabilize and immobilize. A metaphor for our times perhaps.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Go for Gold

It can’t have been easy for a New Zealand television reporter to get a word with Michael Phelps, the Olympic superstar, but through good luck, good management or sheer grit, she did it. Maybe it was because Phelps had a connection with New Zealand; a place in which he trained some years ago while developing his style. Her question was a good one for local audiences but Phelps’s answer gave it global resonance. “What advice would you give young people at home in New Zealand who are just starting out in the pool?” Now I watched a lot of sport on television and most athletes talk about the hard work involved and the commitment needed. All very true. However, Michael Phelps didn’t reach for train harder, faster, longer or any of the other 'er' words. He didn’t even hesitate. He simply looked her in the eye and said, “Dreaming”. That’s right, dreaming. He went on to say, “When I first got into the pool…I dreamt I would be at the Olympics…anything is possible”. As the world saw on television, or if you were really lucky, at poolside, the dream came true. To believe that 'Nothing is Impossible' and that dreams come true is one of the most valuable tools to have in both life and in business. Sure your dream has to be backed up by skill and hard work, but without that dream there is nothing to get you through tough times. And believe me, there will be tough times. Michael Phelps is an inspiration to everyone who wants to succeed at anything. Now, follow your dream and go for gold.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Friend FREDA

Let me introduce you to FREDA. She’s smart and knows exactly how to get what she wants. You ask FREDA how to accelerate your business (or your country) to full throttle and she’s right there with the answers. I refer to FREDA every day. Whenever you face a challenge, friends like FREDA are money in the bank.

FREDA, for those of you who haven't met her already, is an acronym. Focus, Re-invention, Execution, Distribution and Accountability. These five inspire a perfect storm of the perfect attitudes and habits. They’re exactly what we’ll need to make the best of the changes that are heading our way. Complacency and “She’ll be right” are history. FREDA is the future. Let’s look at how FREDA works with New Zealand at top of mind.

Focus. As far as I can see, it’s still “export or die” for New Zealand. We have got to trade with the rest of the world to have any sort of future. In a hyperconnected world, Fortress NZ makes no sense at all. While Fonterra and the movie industry are leading the way at the top end, it’s important for everyone to focus on the special contribution they can make. All of us are better than some of us. Musician, teacher, secretary, nurse, bricklayer, all we need is anyone with a better idea - a world-changing idea - about how to make a difference.

Re-invention. The twenty-first century truth? To be world-class is no longer enough. To secure our future we have to change from world-class to world-changing. There are more than 190 countries on our planet and several have recently made the leap to become world-changers. Think of the Dubai/Mumbai/Shanghai nexus. For New Zealanders our greatest inspiration is still the “E” words – Energy, Entertainment, peerless Execution (see below) and Edge. The Edge metaphor shows how to reinvent our relationship with the rest of the world in creative local/ global multiples.

Execution. Lovemarks is a big idea that works across all levels. I have seen small businesses and global companies executing Lovemark programs to achieve super-premiums. A great example is Yemen where the leading mobile network MTN has implemented a Lovemarks program. The result? Preference for MTN has grown to 42% of all mobile users, and this despite the fact that its nearest competitor is 40% cheaper! We need a NZ Lovemarks strategy, and fast.

Distribution. Steve Jobs of Apple got it right when he said, “Great artists ship”. Physically for New Zealand that means the 3As – America, Australia and Asia. But let’s not forget the Middle-East, in particular Dubai. We need a physical marketing presence in all these places and what better place to start the conversation than in their airports? Distribution has another face with potential for us. Digital. The pressure is on to inspire smart New Zealanders to create and exploit our digital capabilities. It provides a way to ship to the whole world effortlessly.

Accountability. The role of business is to make the world a better place for everyone. This means being accountable for the environment, the economy, our social structures and our culture. Sustainability is the new imperative for business and central to long-term accountability. It’s time to shift the focus of accountability from setting limits (less fuel, less water) to embracing possibilities (more inspiration, more love). The conviction that New Zealand can help change the world has to be driven by people, not just by government or big companies. Sustainability is a catalyst for growth. No sustainability, no Lovemark.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Outstanding in the field

One of the experiences I love in Italy (one of the many experiences) is eating alfresco. There is something about the open air and food that brings a whole new dimension to flavor and good company. It’s a kind of paradoxical intimacy – the outdoor space seems to draw you closer to your fellow diners. A bread roll on a park bench does it. So do sandwiches at the beach or a barbecue in the backyard. But for a truly great alfresco experience, nothing beats a long table punctuated with bottles of wine and platters of food, good friends, perhaps some vines overhead and a light breeze. Chef and artist Jim Denevan had the brilliant idea of making this style of entertaining the basis for a food adventure with a serious philosophy. The core of his idea is simple: reconnect diners with the land through an experience he calls 'Outstanding in the Field'. The cool part? 'Outstanding' is sitting there at the table with you. Yes, this is the local gone very up-close and personal. As Jim puts it, “It's not every day you get to sit next to the person who planted the beans, raised the lamb and shaped the cheese on your plate”. The result has been a roving culinary adventure that attracts many different locals. Jim’s team has set up long tables in fields, along beaches, beside rivers and on the tops of mountains. Using local ingredients and the best of the best local chefs, 'Outstanding in the Field' presents a meal reflecting the very spot where the diners have pulled up their chairs. I haven’t had a chance to share one of these meals yet but I know it will be a classic Lovemarks experience. There are about another 25 dinners scheduled up to November this year in places as varied as Montepulciano in Italy, New Orleans and Vancouver. All but six are already totally booked but, when I last looked, you could still join one at Gabriele Marewski’s Paradise Farms outside Miami featuring chef Michael Schwartz of the much awarded Michael's Genuine Food & Drink. Check out the dinners closest to you.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Loving Vinyl

I don’t care what anybody says, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, to match the first play of a vinyl record. When that needle hits the virgin hills and dales of a track, the sound is as sweet as you’ll ever hear it. Sure iPods are a miracle and digital is king, but for a resonant depth and quality of sound you can’t beat vinyl, unless you get yourself to a club or arena and go for the full body experience. So in the Attraction Economy it’s no wonder that so many young (and not so young) people are looking to vinyl for a special music experience. The new passion for plastic, sorry vinyl, has meant turntable sales of 32,000 in April alone according to he Consumer Electronics Association in Arlington. That’s less than 1 percent of music player sales but it’s significant nonetheless. For even more significance, don’t forget that some of these turntables have USB ports for digital downloading; so you’re heading from And/And to ain’t that grand! Plus you can study stunning cover art work and the sheen of the disc, and you get to take part in the delicate ritual of placing a disc on the turntable. Add all these significances together and you’ve got Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy spinning right there in front of you. And let’s not forget that LP covers are highly collectible works of art in their own right. I also regard cover notes as works of literary importance (who ever bothers to read the notes in those tiny CD booklets?). No, I’m not suggesting a return to the old days, but yes, let’s celebrate the fact that a new generation of music lovers have chosen not to throw the LP out with the bath water.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Irresistible Sudoku

Today I’m posting on a Lovemark that was invented way back in 1783, although it didn’t get the name we love (or hate) until twenty or so years ago when a Japanese publisher figured out its potential. There can’t be many people in the world who haven’t heard of this fascinating/irritating test of mental agility. Sudoku has been taken way beyond Fad status by its fans. From a trivial time waster, Sudoku has become a status symbol and endurance test. I’m betting that when the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler put this 81 square puzzle together, he had nothing more on his mind than a curiosity to torture his close friends with. What a long way this curiosity has come. Sudoku sometimes seems to have become a global brain exercising machine. There’s some logic in that – exercise the body, exercise the brain. Knowing my general dislike of number games (unless they’re creating high profit balance sheets), you might wonder how Sudoku came onto my radar. The reason is a simple human connection. Sabine Schmidt from Saatchi & Saatchi in Germany found a way to combine Euler’s mathematics with Lovemarks in this Sudoku puzzle. It might not touch emotional heights for you, but it’s fun and will keep you busy for a while. Usual rules. Use the letters that make up the word Lovemarks to fill the squares. Each of the nine letters must appear in each large square and each complete line. Good luck.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Growing Love

I used to think that every possible sphere of human endeavor has already been the subject of a reality TV series. Initially like most people, I thought once you had put one set of dysfunctional people in a room for a couple of weeks and made a TV show that would be the end of it – little did I know. Reality TV has directed a pitiless eye on everything from models to cooking, boxing to business, fashion design to losing weight.

The other day I heard how former editor of Psychology Today, Robert Epstein, has come up with a twist of his own. Instead of the fierce emotions of competition (anger, fear, disgust) driving his show, Epstein wants to put the emotion of Love at the heart. He starts with psychology and a simple idea. While Love can sometimes be a 'coup de foudre', a thunderbolt, it often grows over time and with experience. He’s right of course. That’s why with Lovemarks we made the important distinction between a fad, which hits fast and fades fast (usually), and a Lovemark, which is built over time with both Respect and Love.

Epstein’s perspective on Love has a fascinating cultural dimension. It starts with the truth that many relationships in the world begin as arrangements between families. Based first on Respect, Love is expected to grow over time. Most often it does. He put this thinking into what he called a Love Contract – and who can resist that paradoxical combo of ‘Love’ and ‘Contract’? Two people make a formal commitment and agree to work at love. They’re helped along to develop intimacy and caring and to bond through both testing and romantic experiences. Epstein put his heart where his money was and I believe signed a Love Contract with his partner Gabrielle.

Now Epstein hopes to extend the Love Contract concept into a TV show, Making Love. He’s even trademarked the name. The idea is to put together ten couples of strangers who have been screened as mutually compatible and watch them grow the love. Or not. Having based Lovemarks so closely on human relationships I’m always up for anything that makes connections through Love. If he gets this show off the ground it’ll be appointment viewing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Starck’s mea culpa

Once you’re convinced that the role of business is to make the world a better place (and the way governments and politicians are headed, who else is there: what was wrong with those negotiators at WTO’s Doha Round?), never has a sustainability response from business been so desperately needed. So hats off to one of my favorite designers, Philippe Starck. He has declared sustainability in typical French fashion; with maximum effect and emotion. “Design is dead,” he told the world. “Everything I have designed was unnecessary...and I am ashamed.” Well, you can put most of that cork back in the bottle, Philippe, although we hear what you’re saying.

The best result of Starck’s apology comes in Starck doing what he does best in support of sustainability. He has designed the most beautiful, small wind turbine you have ever seen. Its name? Democratic Ecology. The purpose of this turbine is as irresistible as its design. To allow every household to have its own supplementary power generator. A crucial function in a superb form aimed in the most inclusive way possible at everyone.

At another point on the design spectrum, IKEA is continuing to address sustainability in their stores and products in smart and serious ways. In recent news, two of their ideas caught my attention. The first was worthy although incremental. Over the next five years IKEA will add items like solar panels to its store inventory. The second has the potential to be world-changing. IKEA intends to put $77 million into clean technology start-ups. What an invitation for fantastic independent ideas to get scale and traction fast. I can see the ideas of hundreds of entrepreneurs grow and spread with the support of a global connector like IKEA.

Around the globe, businesses are starting to work harder with their own communities, to interrogate their own processes and to back innovative ideas. Of the many advantages business has over government, I particularly value the ability to make quick decisions responding to current, local and relevant information. When you add commitment, optimism and courage you have something truly inspiring. Go tell that to the Dohas.

Friday, August 15, 2008


There was a time when announcing something was free virtually guaranteed a queue to form or a box of samples to head out the door. David Ogilvy once called “Free” and “New” the most effective words in advertising. Now, for “free” not so much, as it becomes commodified by internet widgets, music downloads, YouTube and the growing list of free information, entertainment, services. Free is no longer enough. Now people also wonder, “It may be free, but is it me?”

Luckily help is at hand in the form of “New”. Yes, neuroscientists have discovered that the word “New” is hard-wired into our brains (and may I add, hearts). “New” might only be three letters long but there’s a lot of power in every one of them and they’re each packed with innovation, mystery and future promise. No wonder when we hear the word “New” attached to a brand or product, we sit up and take notice. We can’t help it. Choosing the “New” literally turns on the lights in the brain’s ventral striatum (I bet you knew that already). Dr Bianca Wittmann at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London did the tests. However the intricacies of the process work, the result is that the brain sends out a reward signal when the “New” is chosen over the known. And we like that reward.

Enthusiasm for the “New” has to be tempered in marketing of course. The people at Coca-Cola still pale whenever the “N” word is mentioned. Yes, New Coke may have been a flop but the “New” is what drives the creation of Fads. These products or services with a lot of Love but not much Respect in the Love/Respect Axis, are great sources of innovation, differentiation and added value. Help turn the “New” into a Lovemark by adding Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy in transforming quantities and, if our brains get a bit of pleasure along the way, so much the better.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hot, hotter, hottest

Lovemarks are about emotional heat. “How intense is this relationship?”, that is the question. And while I am not a fan of using statistics to measure love, as my regular readers will know, I am always attracted by anything that starts with love. Enter CitySense. This cell phone application out of San Francisco combines dense GPS data with real time feeds to show you a city’s hotspots. Literally. You get a constantly updated map on your phone that gives you a good idea of where people are congregating. The assumption is that where there are people, there you’ll find the action. The hottest restaurants, the coolest clubs and the rockingest concerts. In other words, the emotional hotspots. Perfect. Given our love affair with the phone, it’s not going to take much to create emotional maps with all sorts of different focuses – from nightlife to shaded courtyards with great coffee to kid-friendly restaurants. Entertainment industries take note - and that means stores as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Color me emotional

My clothing may usually be black, but my life and the art I love are filled with color. In fact I have collected a number of artworks that seem to me to be almost entirely about how color can create strong emotional effects and connections. The most inspiring examples are a couple of pieces built into my apartment in New York, inspired by the great American artist James Turrell by brilliantly combining lighting with architectural and perceptual know-how. One is a hologram prism of blues, blacks and golds which can only be seen from the side and, in the upstairs ceiling, we have a rectangle of blue infinity. I have never seen anyone stare up into the Turrell without lapsing into a kind of ecstatic trance. As Turrell himself put it, “Seeing is a very sensuous act - there's a sweet deliciousness to feeling yourself see something”. If more brand experiences offered us a “sweet deliciousness”, what a wonderful world it would be.

Here’s a color question for you. What happens when you can’t see color or only see it in a very restricted way? This is the world of the color blind. Because color is impossible to describe, the absence of color is as well. Much about it must remain a mystery, but I was sent a very interesting site that attempts to cross the divide and show how color blind people see the world, and at the same time illuminates the wonders of full-colored sight that we often take for granted. As you can see from the image in this post, color makes huge differences, but as one assumes most color blind people have been so from birth, they no doubt have created their own emotionally rewarding visual palette. In the end the eye sees, the brain assumes and the heart feels. As Picasso put it, “There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun”. No matter what our visual abilities, our imaginations and emotions do the grunt work of giving us pleasure from the things we see.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The power of postcards

Never underestimate an intimate gesture. How often in your life has it been something seemingly small that has had the most powerful emotional impact? We all have our own stories. The hand on your shoulder when you needed a human touch; the letter that expressed what matters most at just the right moment; the invitation to a family gathering when you were feeling despondent and alone. And I’d add the postcard that turns up in the mail and simply says “I was thinking of you”. In today’s digital world of email and texting there are a lot of ways we can connect with friends and family, but the traditional postcard seems to be holding its own and indeed experiencing something of a revival.

The Guardian notes that in the UK, 135 million postcards were delivered in 2006, 30 million more than in 2003. Why is a nineteenth century idea like the postcard thriving in the twenty-first century? Yes, it’s certainly Intimacy, plus I think a brilliant helping of Mystery and Sensuality. Specifics? The Mystery of trying to work out who the postcard is from. A signature scrawled across the printed caption is often impossible to decipher. The Sensuality of a stunning image selected with you and your taste in mind, and the Intimacy of a handwritten message. I make a point of handwriting comments on as much of my mail as I can for the same reason. My Montblanc fountain pen is one of my Lovemarks and I believe its inked messages have far deeper resonance than the many emails I send. There’s the surprise of handwriting in our increasingly digital world, but there is something direct and personal in this special connection between writer and reader – hand to heart.

If you want a great example of all this, get hold of a copy of Postcards from the Boys by Ringo Starr, who collected over 100 postcards sent to him by John, Paul and George over the years. In this collection of 53 cards there is one from John in Japan meeting Yoko’s parents, and rather poignantly from Hollywood, with the message, “Who would have thought it would come to this? Love John.”

In a world of dumb mass mail-outs, there is a lot to be learnt from the postcard. And I mean more than putting some fake ‘personalized’ Post-it note on the top of an article. Intimacy is something you can’t fake. People take it personally or they don’t. There’s no half-way house. You have to reach out and trust your intuition about what will be welcome.

Monday, August 11, 2008

iPod Update

Whenever I travel I create an on the spot playlist of great music. So traveling back from a USA Rugby Board Meeting and the NA4 Finals, I find myself relaxing and headphoned up on the iPod at Denver International Airport. That’s when I chose these ten albums to comfort me in the tender arms of United Airways.

1. Jakob Dylan - Seeing Things
Following his Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond successes, Rick Rubin just put out an album with the great man’s son. It has the Rubin hallmark touch of simplicity and transparency, and is easy listening. Charming, pressureless and mellow.

2. Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark (second Rubin album)
This album is in the same mold but much deeper given Neil Diamond’s gravely, growly vocal. This has got to be one of the major reinventions and repositionings of our age.

3. Dennis Wilson - Pacific Ocean Blue
Still in that mellow mood, Pacific Ocean Blue has finally been re-released in a deluxe legacy edition. Drink, drugs, sex and insecurity finally did it for Dennis Wilson, who lived a life worth living in the Morrison mode: live fast, die young, leaving behind a beautiful corpse. Five marriages, friendship with Charles Manson and a dysfunctional relationship with Brother Beach Boy did not get in the way of what I consider to be one of the great albums of my youth. Pacific Ocean Blue is the ultimate memory of The Day. It’s romantic, euphoric, and it features 'River Song', the only track to make the Beach Boys live set - and his greatest work. 'Thoughts of You' and 'Farewell My Friend' are also standouts. You can feel Wilson’s love for California throughout the album.

4. Coldplay - Viva La Vida
To follow my Pacific Blue interlude I had to inject some energy, so I dived in to Viva La Vida from Coldplay. 'Life in Technicolor' is just glorious and a great melody. Every track takes you to a new place.

5. The Supremes - The Story of the Supremes
Who doesn’t remember the great Motown sound? It’s their 50th anniversary this year so we can all look forward to inevitable re-releases. My favorite so far is The Story of the Supremes, which is a simple, chronological fifty track story of their lives. In retrospect, it’s an amazing run of singles featuring incredible Diana Ross vocals. I don’t even like gambling but went out with Diana one night to the Ritz Casino in London, dressed in a black leather cat suit (Diana – not me!!). But that’s another story.

6. Joan Baez - Ring Them Bells
In 1995 Joan Baez made her first live album in twenty years and worked with friends like Mary Chapin Carpenter, the Indigo Girls and others to make Ring Them Bells. A double album deluxe version has just been released and I love it. I had a crush on Joan Baez for about thirty years, and when I met her in the late 80’s in Canada, it felt even more intense. A social, sexy warrior.

7. Bruce Springsteen - Magic Tour Highlights
That brings me to another legend. The Bruce Springsteen Magic Tour Highlights MP with Alejandro Escovedo, Tom Morello, Roger McGuinn and Danny Federici is amazing. The version of '4th of July, Ashbury Park' is a passionate farewelling to his best friend, Denny Federici, who was soon to pass away. It’s Springsteen and his mates going back to their roots and looking back at their youth. Magic!

8. Cathy Davey - Tales of Silversleeve

9. King Creosote - Bombshells

10. Heroes of She - Never Going Home

My final three picks were three newer artists. Rich Robinson sent me Tales of Silversleeve by Cathy Davey and I’ve not been able to stop playing it. The same applies to King Creosote's Bombshells. Finally, a good mate of mine, James Mackie formed a group call the Heroes of She. They just released their first album Never Going Home. It’s hot, sexy and dynamic. Hunt down a copy.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Six of the best

An economist by trade, Ben Stein is also a true believer in the power of love. His extended piece on love in the The New York Times is well worth reading, but I couldn’t resist pulling half-a-dozen of his key points into Lovemarks territory.

1. The more you put in the more you get back. Love is a two-way process. No point in trying to get people to love your brand if you’re not engaged in your own love affair with it.

2. Quality counts. It’s the same in love as anything else. The more depth, authenticity and emotion you put into your brand, the more it will be received as a Lovemark with those same qualities.

3. The more you know the more you grow. Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them so if you want their love you have to understand them. That’s all about listening, sharing and caring about the truth.

4. Focus, focus and focus. A Lovemark is about true love. It is about a one-on-one intense connection. You won’t find Lovemarks spread right through a category. There’ll be one, maybe two.

5. True Love is for the long-term. Lovemarks can come out of fads but they still live in the top right hand of the Love/Respect Axis. High Love, High Respect. It takes effort and commitment to win Loyalty Beyond Reason.

6. When you have a winner, hold fast. Even a Lovemark needs care and attention. Never take anything in life for granted, least of all Love.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Way back in online history there was the bubble wrap site. All you got to do was pop the little air bubbles but it was pure sisomo. And like a lot of simple sisomo ideas, it was fun, surprising and irresistible. By adding sight, an iconic sound and motion to a clever idea, the people at fun.from.hell created a memorable experience. An experience that migrated from the physical world of wrapping parcels to the virtual world with each. Now the same experience has headed back to a product with hands-on sensuality inspired by that unique bubble wrap sound.

I’m talking about the Bubble Calendar. Again the idea is perfectly simple. Each day’s date on the calendar is encased in a plastic bubble. As you live the year you get to pop seven bubbles a week, 52 weeks of the year – unless you cheat and attack them all in a single evening. From kids opening a window each day on an Advent calendar until Christmas to the iconic prisoner scoring the days of his sentence on the wall of his cell, the idea of marking off time has a deep appeal. While I think the Bubble Calendar will remain a fad on the Love/Respect Axis, it did amuse me to see the bubble wrap idea circle back to its analogue roots. My advice? Pop out and buy one.

A Fairytale in Ponza 2

From the wedding of Ben and Clarissa in Ponza, Italy

Rowena with granddaughter Stella Antonietta

Ponza is the largest of the Italian Pontine Islands archipelago, located 33 km south of Cape Circeo in the Tyrrhenian Sea, equidistant off the coast from Rome and Naples.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A fairytale in Ponza

My wife Ro and I have just had the great experience of a family wedding when our son Ben was married in Italy. Here’s Ro to tell the tale.

It was a magical fairytale of a weekend encapsulating all that Kevin says about mystery, sensuality and intimacy - on Saturday, 26 July, our eldest son, Ben, married the lovely Clarissa, in Ponza, Italy.

Our weekend began at Stansted Airport, London, on the Friday, where myself, my mum Rita, Bex and Dan met up with a number of Ben’s friends from Kings College, Auckland, and flew to Ciampino Airport, Rome. We knew a memorable weekend awaited us but didn’t realize just how magical it would be. We arrived in Rome and were met by two mini vans and driven to Anzio, the site of the crucial Allied landing during World War II. We were met by Kevin and Ben who had flown into Rome via Fiumicino Airport. We were all in a very celebratory, holiday mood and Kevin managed to find a restaurant that would not only seat 18 of us at short notice, but was also able to accommodate our large selection of suitcases and bags. After dining we took the 70 minute hydrofoil to Ponza, the largest of the six Pontine Islands located in the Tyrrhenian Sea and the holiday haunt of Romans. The picturesque town rises from the harbor in a semi-circle and consists of two main, cobblestoned streets accessed by staircases and has the most breathtaking views of crags, coves and pastel-colored houses on hilltops, all looking down on a variety of boats from traditional fishing boats to sleek yachts.

Located just above the port is the beautiful Chiesa della Santissima Trinità di Ponza – the Church dedicated to the Trinity and also to the Patron Saints of the Isle, Silverio and Domitilla (San Silverio is the patron saint of fisherman and Santa Domitilla is a martyr from the first century). Designed by Antonio Winspeare, the church was built using stones from the caves on the island. The frescoed walls and dome were painted by Pasquale Mancini, who was inspired by the paintings in the Sistine Chapel. Chiesa della Santissima Trinità di Ponza is the most beautiful building and was where we were to celebrate the marriage of Ben and Clarissa and the baptism of our precious little granddaughter, Stella.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Chiaia di Luna, perched on a promontory with a sheer 650 ft drop to the beach of the same name. It is a family run hotel and keeps to the Ponza architecture of pastel colors and white domes, with views of Ponza Harbour and the Island of Palmarola. That evening, Clarissa had reserved us all at the restaurant Acqua Pazza in the Port and we had the most beautiful dinner of local fish delicacies accompanied by a few magnums of 1999 Brunello Poggio Antico Italian red. Could life get any better than this? Well yes, actually it could…

There’s something to be said about a wedding that takes place at 8.30pm in the evening. Time to sleep in, have breakfast around the swimming pool, meet other family members arriving from Rome that morning, including Clarissa’s dad Claudio, her cousin Victor, my sister Julie and niece Laura, wander around town and generally feel very relaxed before the main event.

The wedding party gathered in front of the Church just as the sun was starting to set. Clarissa’s mother, Patrizia, arrived with Stella who looked like a little cherub in her white christening dress with a band of gypsophila (baby’s-breath) flowers around her head. Traditionally in Italy, when the guests are seated, the groom walks down the aisle with his mother, so that was a huge honor for me. Clarissa, meanwhile, was being driven from the hotel by her father in a golf cart specially decorated with white flowers, ribbons and fisherman’s netting, through the village to the applause of all the locals who have known her since she was a small girl.

The wedding march began and Clarissa, looking extremely stylish in a Marc Jacobs dress and Chanel shoes, walked up the aisle with her dad. Father Salvatore delivered a very heartfelt service, which included Communion and a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria while the register was being signed. Then it was Stella Antonietta’s turn to be baptized – of course she was a star and did not cry! As well as being given a candle, she was also clothed in a baptismal gown with the Parrocchia SS Silverio e Domitilla, Ponza, embroidered on the front. The bells pealed and we all exited the church scooping up handfuls of rose petals to shower on the new bride and groom as they came out behind us. It was beautiful and magical.

After a quick couple of laps in the golf cart by the newlyweds - which now had a few beer cans attached courtesy of one of the Kiwi boys - we walked around the corner to the Orestorante for the reception. Another breathtaking view - the three tiered restaurant overlooked the harbor, now twinkling with lights like jewels, one tier set aside for champagne and antipasto, one for our wedding dinner and the third for dancing. Beautifully set tables, covered in fisherman’s netting and named after all the beaches of Ponza awaited us, another delicious dinner, followed by pavlova made especially for the New Zealand contingent and then the wedding cake, covered in iced coral. After Ben and Clarissa had their first dance, the King’s College boys performed a rousing Haka to the delight of the Italians (JT would have been proud of them!).

As befits Italian weddings, all the guests left with a 'bomboniere' beautifully crafted by Patrizia, consisting of four white sugar-coated almonds signifying health, wealth, happiness and longevity and a pink almond to commemorate Stella’s baptism, all lovingly wrapped in fisherman’s netting with a ribbon and silver starfish for Stella, our little star.

Sunday saw everybody in a much quieter mode. The younger members of the family took a small tender out from the port and spent the afternoon on Frontone beach to soak up the sun and enjoy the DJ and dancing. The older ones amongst us were very content to relive the events of the day before and take turns playing with Stella. That evening, we couldn’t resist enjoying another dinner at Acqua Pazza where the owner greeted us as if we were personal friends!

Monday wasn’t so uplifting. It was time to start saying our goodbyes. Ben, Clarissa, Stella, Patrizia and myself all walked down to the port to say goodbye to Kevin and all of Ben’s friends. Clarissa’s friends were more fortunate; they were staying on to enjoy another week cruising around the islands on rented yachts. In fact, that afternoon, Dan and I took the opportunity to go out on a tender and join some of them on one of the yachts so we could experience a few hours sailing around, marvel at the scenery and take even more photos of the beautiful islands to fully capture all the events of the weekend.

We also managed to enjoy another memorable dinner with my mum and Patrizia. I had the pleasure of having my three children together (a rare occasion these days with two living in the UK), my new daughter-in-law and my little granddaughter. We had some beautiful homemade pasta with a “special” ingredient (we never did find out what it was) at Ristorante Il Tramonto, located high on top of a cliff which had the most magnificent views of the surrounding islands and the sunset.

Tuesday arrived all too soon and it was our turn to be on the dock saying tearful goodbyes before we took the hydrofoil and a host of memories with us of what, has to have been for me, one of the most beautiful and special weekends of my life.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Image Nation

The adage that 'a picture is worth a thousand words' may be a little worn in our age of digital photography, but it’s still true. One great photograph can create emotional connections at the speed of a lightning strike while words weave their magic around ideas more slowly. Taking a great photograph, as any of you with a camera will know, and yes, that means all of you, is not as easy as it seems. A while back I posted on how to get some wonderful pictures of Paris and I can tell you that advice came out of many, many not so great photographs and a lot of walking. The Internet now offers us an infinite supply of images. Flickr has thousands of images added every minute. Ok, the quality is variable and stuff’s hard to find, but it is a fantastic resource and insight into what people feel strongly enough about to click and then share. Another great source are the big image libraries. Again thanks to the Internet, they have gone from being specialist resources for advertising and media professionals to becoming far more accessible. For Lovemarks, we drew on Getty Images and Corbis , both massive image libraries built up over decades, but for me the standout has always been Peter Menzel. Menzel has enriched my understanding of the influence of culture, the power of objects and the prospects of a sustainable planet more than hundreds of articles, reports and books. I read somewhere that the average stock photograph, say of someone drinking a cup of coffee, has a useful life-span of about four years. And there’s the difference. Menzel’s works are good for a lifetime.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Loving Sydney

When I was at Lion Nathan in the 90’s, I lived for a while in Sydney. We bought all of Alan Bond’s breweries and overnight moved from being a New Zealand beverage operator to being the biggest beverage marketer in Australasia. Australians are not terribly welcoming to the idea of New Zealanders taking over their icons, especially something as dear to their hearts as beer. Despite this I had a great time in Sydney, although it did occasionally get out of hand. I rented a large house in Rose Bay overlooking the water and was soon joined by David Campese, probably Australia’s most celebrated rugby player, who moved in for a year or so. We were soon joined by Ewen McKenzie, the Wallabies prop, who is now coaching in France, and then for a short while by Phil Kearns, the Australian captain and hooker. It was an action-packed place in the evenings I can tell you.

Anyway, the point of this is I was back in Sydney last week for the first time in three years. I really love the city. I stayed at one of my favorite hotels, the Park Hyatt, which is right on Circular Quay. My room was directly under the Harbour Bridge, surrounded by palm trees, water and all the traffic that comes through this port. It’s only a three minute walk to the agency which has a premo location on The Rocks. As it happened, I hit Sydney on the same day the Pope left and the whole city was in very high spirits - uplifted and upbeat.

Sydney is a modern city but many of its traditional values remain, including some of the best restaurants in the world all of which have been around for 20 years or so. Master chef Tetsuya has now moved into new beautiful premises and is still cooking up incredible contemporary Japanese seafood. Armando and Gemma have operated the best Italian restaurant in the world, Buon Ricordo, for 21 years and that’s where I ate last night. Italian sausages followed by pork and a bottle of great Brunello to wash it down. Neil Perry’s Rockpool goes from strength to strength, as do two other classic haunts of mine, Darcy’s and Lucio’s in Woolarra.

Sydney is the perfect city for food, socializing, sports and shopping. It’s got to be one of the world’s Lovemarks.

To add to the glamor, they won the first Bledisloe of the year on Saturday too...Bugger!!