Friday, November 28, 2008

Bob Isherwood

I have held off writing about the departure from Saatchi & Saatchi of my good friend and colleague, Bob Isherwood. Partly it’s because I am having difficulty imagining what the place will be like without him, and because I’m enjoying memories of challenges overcome, ideas unleashed, and the fantastic times we’ve had together.

Bob was already a mainstay of Saatchi & Saatchi when I arrived. In the early days, we’d talk for hours about Saatchi & Saatchi as an ideas company and what it meant to our clients, our people and to the ones who matter most – consumers. For Bob who has been in advertising all of his life, the shift was bold and courageous. Over the years he has been up and down more award stages than he can count. He had a serious investment in the advertising industry while I had just jumped in from the client side, but he was passionate about the potential of ideas to make sustainable emotional connections. He always understood that an idea is not an idea until it engages consumers.

Bob has always had great instincts for what’s important, whether it’s the juice in an idea or the spark in a untested young creative’s eye. Simply having Bob Isherwood in the room has cracked countless campaigns and sent hundreds of creatives back to the drawing board with a brilliant solution to what seemed like an unsolvable problem.

Saatchi & Saatchi was founded on the belief that “Nothing Is Impossible.” Bob’s ‘footprint in the snow’ are the words “World Changing Ideas.” We stay dedicated to both.

Sail well my friend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

To Dare

Thinking about the Theodore Roosevelt quote* the other day, also reminded me of a quotation from a completely different source. The great photographer Cecil Beaton who died 30 years ago said, “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play it safers, the creatures of the common place, the slaves of the ordinary”.

Zigging while others zag has always been at the heart of my personal belief set. It is why I’ve always felt so comfortable at Saatchi & Saatchi whose founding purpose was “Nothing is Impossible”. The times we live in today will not be illuminated by the ordinary, by the standard, by the play it safers. Today’s reputations will be made by those who dare to be different.

Happy Thanksgiving, United States of America.

* “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Don't Bank On These Guys

I’ve been railing against idiot bankers for years now. Wall Street was driven by greed, dishonesty, and dishonor. The salaries paid were obscene and the arrogance amazing. Watching this latest meltdown from neighboring TriBeCa has been horrendous. I don’t really care what happens to the bankers. In fact, I’m more than a little pissed that so many of them have walked away with fat cat bonuses over the last three years and we found no way to get that money back.

What depresses me is what happens to the average person. Many employees at Saatchi & Saatchi have seen their 401K retirement funds decimated by the greed, stupidity, and arrogance of these so-called 'Masters of the Universe'. And the worst is yet to come. Management around the world are taking radical cost actions to survive. In my job, I get to speak to CEOs all over the world and no matter what business they are in or in what geography, when you ask them this question, “What’s your most important resource?”, they always have one answer - their people. But at the first hint of trouble, the first thing that many of them do is get rid of them, indiscriminately and usually starting with the innocent in the middle and at the bottom, rather than at the top where in most instances the blame lies.

Last week in the U.S., mass layoffs reached their highest level since the recession month following the September 11 attack. Unemployment hit 6.5% in October, the highest rate since 1994. No industry is immune. Chrysler laid off 6,825 people last month, 25% of their workforce. The once mighty Goldman Sachs laid off 3,250 people, 10% of their workforce. Poster child Yahoo laid off 1,500 people, 10% of their workforce. And Merck, once all powerful in the pharma world, laid off 7,200 people, or 12% of their workforce.

My view is that the role of business is to make the world a better place for everyone. The way it does this is through innovation and ideas that create jobs, not by highfalutin, fancy-named pseudo technological financial instruments which destroy wealth, hope, and dreams.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Guy Ritchie is back. Two of my favorite movies were Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch; funny, clever, fast-paced, brilliantly shot and full of larger than life British characters. Ritchie’s been distracted the last few years trying to cope with the demands of the me, me, me, Material Girl, Madonna. As a result, his creative performance went out the window. Now she’s left him (anyone surprised by that?) to chase baseball stars. The good news? The Big Guy is back.

I went to see RocknRolla last week and it was fantastic. We’re talking great direction, fantastic music, terrific performances by the actors, especially from the star, Gerard Butler. All in all, a rollicking good time. Set in contemporary London, it tells the story of old school English gangsters dealing with the new Russian mafia, including a Roman Abramovich look-a-like at the Emirates Stadium, not Stamford Bridge. The characters, One Two, Mumbles and Archie are perfectly pitched to bring out the best of John, the RocknRolla.

The plot has typical Ritchie-like twists and turns but is more mature, more subtle and slightly darker than earlier movies. The good news is that it threatens to lead to a follow-up movie.

Great to have you back, Guy.


In the 60’s I was an avid fan of Manchester City’s glory trio of Lee, Bell, and Summerbee. Manchester United had Charlton, Best, and Law, and we had Franny, Nijinsky, and Buzzer. All three played for England, all three were mavericks and all three were inspirational characters.

Franny Lee was a hustling, bustling striker who made millions in the toilet paper business and later became Chairman of Manchester City. My hero, Colin Bell, who had his leg broken in a horrific tackle by Manchester United’s Martin Buchan, had a stand named after him at the City of Manchester Stadium and is rated by most as Manchester City’s best ever player. He came from Bury, a homely club I used to watch with my Uncle Roy when I was 8 years old. Buzzer Summerbee was George Best’s best friend (in fact, Besty was Buzzer’s best man at his wedding to the beautiful Tina). I’ve just finished reading Buzzer’s autobiography, which is a great working class kind of book about football in the 60’s and 70’s.

These entertainers were paid so little but they certainly lived the good life. What struck me about the book is the inspirational quotation from Theodore Roosevelt that Summerbee claims as his life long inspiration. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Great thoughts from a great man. And how appropriate they are today when the whole world is running around blaming others, feeling depressed, without hope, and is in danger of withdrawing into its own shell. This is the time for people to have a go, to be optimistic, and enthusiastic, and to give your all. Go Teddy go!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fireworks in Dubai

I was a guest, with my wife Rowena and daughter Bex, at the opening of Atlantis-The Palm in Dubai on November 20. Saatchi & Saatchi London and Dubai won the Atlantis Palm account earlier in 2008, this was the big moment. For everyone interested in the future of world commerce, Dubai is inescapable, given its strategic location to China, India, Africa and Europe. Dubai has thought ahead in bold and daring ways, and has created infrastructure that is regionally and globally important. For a start, fly Emirates, to 100 countries. And in a world where tourism is trending local for a year or two, the list of truly spectacular architectural (and engineering) wonders narrows tangentially: among them Dubai, where I first visited and did business in the 1970s when it was a port and fishing town. Now Dubai is a global business and tourism hub. Sol Kerzner, creator of Atlantis, has produced several of the world's best experiences in hotels, vacations, and dream-times. The #1 core value of his company is "blow away the customer." And at the opening of his second Atlantis (the original is in The Bahamas), this is what he did. Rowena takes up the story.

There just aren't enough adjectives to describe our experience at the Grand Opening Celebrations of the Atlantis at The Palm in Dubai.

We arrived on Thursday morning feeling very refreshed after a wonderful journey courtesy of Emirates Airlines. Bex and I flew in from Auckland and Kevin flew in from New York. After checking in at the Atlantis — a masterpiece of towering arches and arabesque domes located at the very tip of The Palm Jumeirah — we were handed a very extensive welcome package. Inside was a beautiful gold, brass, and cord bracelet handcrafted by Taj Taj that turned out to be the most important thing we had been given. It was this bracelet that ensured exclusive access to all the events and activities relating to this "once in a lifetime" three days.

The following night we were privileged to be part of the invitees at the US$20 million Grand Opening. After leaving our room drapes closed as instructed (more on this later!), we met up in the Grand Lobby of the Royal Towers. You could feel the buzz and air of excitement — all the guests were very elegantly attired in black tie or national dress. We were escorted down the red carpeted staircases to the Royal Deck whilst sipping our champagne. From there we mixed and mingled amongst the VIPs of the world, including Charlize Theron, Robert De Niro, Gerard Butler, Janet Jackson, Lindsay Lohan, Michael Jordan, The Duchess of York, Mary Kate Olsen, Mischa Barton, Wesley Snipes, Agyness Deyn, Lily Allen — the list was endless. All the celebrities were happily mingling with everyone else, there was no special area. In fact, the whole evening was very inclusive — at one point we watched Michael Jordan having a quiet drink by himself at the bar!

The stage was set amongst the palms and swimming pools and we were accompanied by beautiful Middle Eastern music as we made our way to our tables to experience "The Birth of an Icon", the more formal part of the evening. We were absolutely delighted to be sitting on a table with a very eclectic bunch of guests including Karyn McCarthy from The Leading Hotels of the World in New York. This was particularly interesting for me from my earlier days working in corporate travel, and very interesting for Kevin, being such a traveler and supporter of their wonderful hotel portfolio. At the table were Albert Herrera from Virtuoso in New York, Nigel Page from Emirates Airlines, Helen McCabe-Young from Kerzner International, and Sol Kerzner, who was the the visionary behind this amazing resort. Richard Branson and his family were seated at a neighboring table.

The dinner was a feast of traditional Arabic mezzes and delicious international cuisine created by celebrity chefs from the world renowned restaurants, Nobu Matsuhisa, Giorgio Locatelli, Michel Rostang, and Santi Santamaria (all four restaurants making up part of the dining choices at Atlantis). It was just one delight after another, all while being accompanied by a magical performance by Lebanese singer, Nawal Al Zoghbi.

Imagine this scene — here we were in a restaurant outside in the balmy desert night, situated amidst the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf, gazing upon the most beautiful piece of architectural excellence — on land that five years ago was all water. It was surreal! And this was only the beginning. Quincy Jones appeared on stage to welcome the star guest of the evening and we were treated to an electric performance by Kylie Minogue in her first appearance in the Middle East, accompanied by her band and dance troupe. This got the younger guests up and dancing between the tables and very much in the party mood.

Then the evening really took off!

Bollywood superstar and former Miss World, Priyanka Chopra, appeared as the Goddess of Atlantis and introduced the largest display of fireworks in history. It was created by the Grucci Family — $6 million worth, seven times larger than the Beijing Olympics ceremony.* The whole story of the search for Atlantis was created using the hotel facade as a screen, complete with amazing sound effects — camels and mythical sea creatures flashed across this "screen" accompanied by music and perfectly in sync with the fireworks. On and on it went, dazzling flashes of color after color, flumes and sprays splashing across the starlit night sky. The whole 43kms of the Palm Jumeirah was illuminated (and apparently visible from space) and the whole of the audience stood mesmerized — in awe. It was incredible and almost impossible to describe. You had to be there to see it. The fireworks, including rhythmical sprays from each guest bedroom (hence the closed drapes) tinkled and swayed in time to the beats. The whole display lasted for about 20 minutes and when it finished there was silence — then rapturous applause. The general consensus was that we had witnessed something, the like of which we would never see again.

As the moon rose higher over the Arabian Gulf, the celebration continued with the Royal Afterglow — DJ spinning sensation Samantha Ronson kept the guests dancing till the early hours.

What a night! Sol Kerzner's team certainly know how to put on a party!

Luckily for us it was still not over. Today we spent hours in the Aquaventure, a water adventure playground in the grounds of the Atlantis — thrilling water slides, awe-inspiring river rides, tidal waves and rapids — and guess what — there was hardly anyone there (obviously still recovering from the Royal Afterglow!). Kevin conquered the Leap of Faith, and with Bex, the Surge and the Shark Attack. Bex also spent 60 minutes in a one on one with Lexi the dolphin in the Dolphin Adventure. It was amazing — surrounded by the blue Gulf waters and the backdrop of the Dubai skyline, camels and a Bedouin tent on the beach — it couldn't have been more perfect.

Tonight we are being hosted by Sol Kerzner's team again. This time to "eat, drink and dance the night away". We are to meet in the Poseidon's Court and we will be given our table at either Nobu, Locatelli, Rostang or Seafire — followed by another high energy party in the Sanctuary Nightclub with Sam Ronson on the turntables.

Bex and I think we've died and gone to heaven!

* For those of you interested in the fireworks statistics:

220 pyrotechnicians produced the display. It was one of the most ambitiously designed and technically advanced computer-controlled fireworks performances ever attempted and was managed by 62 computer systems operated by 1,200 satellite controlled modules, which initiated more than 36,000 circuits.

More than 100,000 specially designed pyrotechnic devices were fired in less than 9 minutes.

Fireworks were launched from 716 locations including 50 points along the 17km crescent of Palm Jumeirah, 226 floating pontoons across 46 kms of water outlining the Palm fronds , 40 locations along the 5.5km monorail on the Palm's trunk and over 400 balconies of Atlantis.

Some series of shells burst at an altitude of 245 metres, and were visible from space.

The largest aerial shell rose 300 metres and displayed its flowery burst the size of two soccer fields.

Fireworks illuminated the entire 69,403 square metre facade of the Royal Towers of Atlantis.

Special effects fireworks were designed and manufactured in China, Spain, Italy and Taiwan in addition to the designers' (Grucci) versions made in the US.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Off the Map

The Edge is a fantastic metaphor for connecting creativity, innovation and risk. I use it often. The potential of the Edge was inspired by living in New Zealand and discussions with my colleague, Brian Sweeney. We both strongly believe in the potential of ideas that are born beyond the center, beyond the conformist, beyond the well-known out there on the Edge. People who live on the Edge get the idea immediately but people who believe they live in the center – and are proud of it - find this tougher to understand and even tougher to get why it’s important.

Enter an extraordinary tool, one that we’ve twisted and turned for centuries to reflect how we think and feel about our world. I’m talking about maps. From the guesstimates of medieval times to the unearthly precision of satellite cartography, maps make plain our aspirations, perceptions and knowledge.

Who was not startled the first time they saw a map that put the Northern Hemisphere at the ‘bottom’ of the globe? I’ve always loved the map that puts New Zealand at the center, with every other land mass radiating out from our islands. New Zealanders can savor the paradox of being at the center and on the Edge at the same time. This kind of vertigo is exactly what’s brought on by a fantastic new publication from Thames & Hudson: The Atlas of the Real World.

This extraordinary publication is deeply provocative. It raises surprising questions and gives us insight we didn’t realize we needed. It is a wonderful example of surprising with the obvious.

For instance, a map that shows all the countries of the world by their exact land area. At first sight it looks like any other map of the world you might have seen pinned up behind an office desk, travel agent or school room, but on closer examination prepare for a surprise. Europe shrinks to a small proportion of the land mass of Africa, and Alaska is not around the same size as Australia. In fact, this frozen landmass would fit around that continent three times.

Even more extraordinary are the social, cultural and historical maps – countries sized by the numbers of troops they sent to wars and by tourism. A map scales countries by the number of fast food outlets, in this case McDonald's. Suddenly China, so dominant in most of these maps, virtually disappears along with Africa and Central Europe, while the tiny islands of New Zealand are plump enough to make up a third of South America.

This is how I like to see numbers used – to make obvious facts so surprising that we gain insight into the truth of our world and are inspired to take action.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


One of the most exciting innovations coming the way of frequent flyers is Motorola’s RFID technology. The initials stand for Radio Frequency Identification, which will put an end to the frustrations caused by the ever increasing lost baggage syndrome. My bags have disappeared twice this year (although they did catch up with me a few days later). Both times were the result of the incredible stress airlines and airports are under as they constantly reduce headcount and costs to stay afloat. Last year more than 34 million bags were lost or mishandled worldwide. And I was that soldier. Now Motorola have invented a tracking system where a small chip is embedded in each bag tag. The chip picks up radio waves emitted by the RFID at different points on the belt, sending a message saying “Here I Am.” The read rate is currently 99.5% vs. 80% for optical scanners. This is where the problem starts. If a bag isn’t read, then it’s handled manually and good luck and godspeed. The system has been tested at Las Vegas which processes around 70,000 pieces of baggage a day. Using RFID, the airport only had to manually handle 350 bags with no losses. I understand Air New Zealand are in the vanguard of this development. Bring it on!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Palms

The excitement is mounting. On November 20 we’ll be in Dubai watching Kylie Minogue open the most incredible hotel in the world, Sol Kerzner’s Atlantis on The Palm. Sol is the original 'Nothing is Impossible' man. 18 million liters of water in the adventure park, 11 million liters in the aquarium, 1.4 kilometers of beach, 65,000 marine animals housed in the Ambassador Lagoon, 1,539 rooms, a 924 square meter bridge suite, a 27.5 meter 'Leap of Faith' waterslide. At a cost of $1.5 billion.

Atlantis is modeled on the brilliant property in the Bahamas and takes its name from the fabled land under the sea. Here at The Palms, Sol and his partner (the United Arab Emirates government) have transformed 17 hectares (42 acres) of water into a themed amusement at Aquaventure.

I took a plane over the property six months ago and have been privileged to be involved in all the launch marketing and advertising. 'The Lost Chambers' brings the myth of Atlantis to life through a maze of underground tunnels offering views into the boulevards of the ruins of Athens. Dolphin Bay is a state of the art education and conservation center affording the opportunity to personally interact with the wildlife under expert supervision. There are 17 bars, lounges and restaurants, including Nobu from Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert DeNiro, and Ronda Locatelli, which is Giorgio Locatelli’s first outpost outside of London. There is also a French brasserie from Michel Rostang. Topping this (because he has three Michelin stars and Locatelli and Rostang only have two!) is Spanish chef Santi Santamaria and his seafood Ossiano.

We’re heading out there for three to four days of partying and parasailing at the Aquaventure park. This will redefine Middle East tourism and bring together all the classic elements of a great break for today’s luxury eco guest. I can’t wait!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The times are a changing

I spent last weekend in Washington, D.C. It is an underrated, beautiful city which is really worth a 2-3 day visit. We were there for a USA Rugby Board meeting and to attend the traditional New Zealand Ambassador’s Shield Rugby Match. The game was to celebrate an amazing initiative with Hyde School, an inner city, low income, urban development with all the problems you would expect in a public charter in the inner city. Over the last decade, Tal Bayer has run an initiative at the school using rugby as a catalyst to create character, growth, recognition and pride. The results have been spectacular. 50% of African-American males from Washington, D.C. never graduate high school. In contrast, 100% of Hyde senior rugby players are accepted to 4-year anniversaries.

We celebrated this initiative with a dinner hosted by the New Zealand Ambassador, Roy Ferguson and his wife, Dawn, at their residence at the New Zealand Embassy. It was a beautiful evening that brought together business, government, academia and sport, all driven by shared beliefs and shared dreams. The conversation, as well as the food, was stimulating and it was a joy to hear Roy talk about democracy and rugby. The timing could not have been better as it was within one week of America’s decision to choose Barack Obama as their president. It was also 12 hours after New Zealand’s decision to elect Prime Minister John Key. Both these choices were driven by a desire for change, the need to refresh and an optimistic trust in shared, inclusive values. America and New Zealand share many things and hopefully these two new leaders will bring their countries closer together politically and in the vital (for New Zealand) trade arena. It was a pretty buzzy time to be in Washington I can tell you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Small is beautiful

Back in the seventies the expression 'Small is Beautiful' was on everyone’s lips. The phrase was the title of a book by British economist E. F. Schumacher. I’m betting that this was the phrase that rang in Steve Jobs’ ears when he was thinking about where to go with the iPhone. I’m talking about iPhone apps, of course; those funny, helpful, entertaining and must-have applications you can download from iTunes.

If you know anyone with an iPhone, and that seems to be just about everyone, you will have been shown how the beautifully designed screen can double up as a spirit level, a glassful of milk, a block of knock-on-wood, a device that recognizes songs and makes them available for download, and so on and on. All this is wonderful in its own way and jump starts conversations anywhere, but the really astonishing thing about these Apple apps is that they are so cheap and that they generate so much revenue. Many of them are free, some can be downloaded for a couple of dollars and big ticket purchases, like a dictionary or encyclopedia, are around the price of a paperback.

'Small is Beautiful' indeed. By making iPhone apps fun and easy purchases, Apple has opened up a new market for people who want to spend small and get big results. The results for Apple have been sensational. The numbers keep heading north, but the last time I heard we’re talking about more than 100 million downloads from the iPhone App Store. As for revenue, we’re talking $30 million a month, and counting.

The iTunes store had already pointed the way to a 'Small is Beautiful' world with its option to download that single song you love rather than having to buy a whole album. Watch 'Small is Beautiful' change the way people package and market over the next five years. Also start thinking about how the reintroduction of this idea, thanks to the digital age, can help us put a lighter footprint on our planet.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Mystery of Chanel

A few weeks ago I spoke with Chanel’s senior team in New York. To me, Chanel is already a Lovemark so these people are in the exhilarating position of keeping that status. With John Galantic, Chanel’s CEO in New York, I also visited the latest in their efforts to show their customers that the love went both ways. It’s the Mobile Art Pavilion. Now located in New York’s Central Park, the Pavilion has been to Hong Kong and Tokyo and will travel to London, Moscow and Paris. It is an extraordinary spectacle. The Pavilion is a true convergence enterprise in the sexy sense of the word. The convergence of art, architecture and design; the convergence of the huge talents of architect Zaha Hadid (Cincinnati’s Rosenthal Centre for Contemporary Art and the Vitra Fire Station) and Chanel’s own Karl Lagerfeld; the convergence of public and private with a substantial donation being made to Central Park; the convergence

of 15 artists from Europe, Asia and the Americas; and, of course, the convergence of culture and commerce. Go Yoko!

The first impact of the Pavilion is surprise; it looks as though it has just landed from outer space. It is so other-worldly that its beauty is hard to place. It stands alone in the confines of the familiar park, drawing on childhood memories of the future as well elemental mysteries that stand outside time. Hadid bases most of her work on the landscape, so the folds and shadows she creates feel both familiar and strange. That’s a weird sensation. It could be a shell, a twisted new geometry, a work of high craft or higher art, or none of the above.

It’s not often you get two such hugely creative and successful people as Hadid and Lagerfeld willing or able to collaborate, or a major company so willing to let them at it, so I‘ve been surprised by some of the negative reactions to the Pavilion. The New York Times went so far as to call the project “delusional” and to claim that visitors were tempted to “stray farther and farther from the real world outside”. That’s not what I saw. I saw people perfectly capable of working out that this was a world-class fantasy brought to New York to enchant and entertain them. Its purpose was to showcase the skills of some of our greatest cultural magicians – and to do it inclusively and for free. I saw people’s eyes light up and smiles appear as they wandered through this extraordinary place. They welcomed such a spectacle as an emotional inspiration and a vision of an alternate reality.

When times get tough people want confidence, and they want signs to show them that the human spirit is forever hopeful, forever striving, forever young. The amazing creation of Zaha Hadid and Karl Largerfeld certainly does all three.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Babe Ruth and the Power of Ideas

Every now and then you hear something that feels so true it takes you by surprise. It happened when I heard Steve Jobs talking about upcoming models of the iPhone. He said, “Babe Ruth only had one home run. He just kept hitting it over and over again”. Pow! Talk about surprising with the obvious.

How often do we see an idea nudged off course and destroyed by incrementalism? A tweak here, a modification there, some repositioning and the beauty of what you had evaporates. The lesson is simple. When you have a great idea, don’t immediately start changing it into a different great idea. Let your idea breathe. More is not always better and this is exactly where Jobs was going with his Babe Ruth metaphor. Most phone companies roll out handset model after model with tweaks to the colors and the layout but with very little thought to what all these different versions mean to the people who are buying them. The important question to ask about any product is how it delivers in terms of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy - and to ask that question relentlessly. You don’t have to hold an iPhone for more than a nanosecond to know that Jobs’ team had that kind of focus and discipline backing up their inspirational design.

Having a great idea is one thing; knowing that you have it separates out the winners. I’ve always been impressed by the way the Kaplan Thaler Group – another member of the Publicis family – harvests ideas. At meetings, and not just creative meetings, one person is dedicated to being the idea catcher. Their task is to capture every idea, big, little, good, bad, and from anyone in the room, not just the person with the loudest voice or the biggest office. How many times have you been at a meeting when you’ve heard a good idea only to let it slip away as the meeting roared onwards?

As the economy tightens, ideas will become increasingly important to move business upward and onward. Why not try the Idea Catcher idea and see what it brings you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beautiful, Beautiful Buenos Aires

I just spent three days in one of my favorite cities – Buenos Aires. I was speaking to 2,000 executives about the future of brands in this tough economic environment, as well as catching up with the MBAs at the Universidad de Palermo.

I stayed at an old favorite hotel, Alvear Palace, one of the Leading Hotels of the World. It has a great French restaurant, La Bourgogne, terrific spa, and a great location right next to hustling, bustling Recoleta.

I arrived on a Sunday when the market was open and it was terrific to walk around the hundreds of art and crafts stalls. Later that evening, I dropped in to La Biela on Quintano, a century old bar where you can sit underneath a huge Ombu tree on the sidewalk and drink fresh Malbec wine. Then it was on to a special evening with HSM’s CEO, Eduardo Braun. He invited us to a beautiful Palermo loft where we were entertained by a wine tasting from Michel Rolland and tango experience complete with singing, dancing and lessons from Eduardo!!

In my mind, Buenos Aires is the world’s hottest city. The architecture and layout are based on Madrid and Paris and the wide boulevards are just a delight to walk. In fact, 9 de Julio Avenue is 140 meters wide. One of the widest in the world. The city is a great contrast of funky nightlife, tango mythology and tradition.

My favorite area is Puerto Madero, where I stayed in April with Bex. It is reminiscent of the Butler's Wharf redevelopment in London by Tower Bridge (where I lived when I first joined Saatchi & Saatchi in 1997). There, we stayed in a funky boutique hotel, Faena Hotel+Universe, designed by Norman Foster and Philippe Starck. It covers the coastal strip from Retiro to La Boca with its old buildings restored into bars and restaurants. La Boca, of course, is home to La Bombonera, the stadium of Maradona’s (the new national team coach) Boca Juniors, the most popular soccer team in Argentina. Watching this working class team play its more upscale rivals, River Plate, is not for the faint hearted.

Close by is Malba, the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires. A few years back I was fortunate enough to host a Saatchi & Saatchi reception at the museum, which contains one of the best Latin American art exhibits in the world.

The nightlife in Buenos Aires kicks off at midnight and goes to 8:00am. Puerto Madera, Costanera Norte, are famous for their steaks, fresh red wine and parilladas (barbecues).

There is no more interesting place to visit nowadays than Buenos Aires. The shopping is outstanding and the prices are low. From there, of course, you can head to Patagonia, Iguazu, Mendoza or Cordoba, and it’s only a hop to nearby Punte del Este in Uruguay, the Hamptons of Latin America. Argentina delivers beaches, mountains, deserts, woods, forests and ice.

I’m going to take a couple of weeks here one of these days.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Simon Gault

Well, my mate Simon Gault has beaten the great Heston Blumenthal to the punch. Heston is about to publish a £100 cookbook at the end of this year from The Fat Duck with rumors abounding of a limited edition of selling for £1,000.

My old friend and partner, Simon, has produced Nourish which goes out on sale today and it’s a thing of beauty. It draws together all the recipes that Simon has worked on in his career, from Antoine’s through to Euro. It includes great stuff from the Jervois Steak House and Shed 5 in Wellington. Both these restaurants to me feel like great home cooking, with Jervois delivering the best steak in New Zealand and Shed 5 delivering its own fish monger and fish filleting service.

The book is beautiful. Instead of just art directed shots of food, it actually shows Simon’s team at work and is a great lifestyle coffee table addition to any home, as well as being a necessity for every serious kitchen. Every home should buy two!

Go to the section on Simon’s own favorites for the best food tips. It’s a joyful read and, for a change, all the recipes are well within the reach of every kitchen.

To cap it off, Ferran Adria, chef of El Bulli in Spain, has written an endorsement personally.

(So there you have it, three of my favorite chefs, Heston, Ferran and Simon all in the same article!)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sustaining Families

Today I want to draw sustainability in another direction. Towards technology. No, not technologies that save energy or clean the environment, but familiar technologies we use everyday. Computers, email, phones and the rest have not only sped up my life, they have also hugely enriched my family life. For a start, it means we can retain close connections when we are scattered across the globe – Auckland, Rome, New York, London. I can catch up on the latest family snaps, talk with any of them wherever I am (and on video if I’ve access to the right gear), get the short version in texts and the long version on email, and of course, there's YouTube and Skype. It means Ro can see Stella every day (well, three times a day actually!). We also have a family blog where we share what’s important to us without talking to the world.

I was pleased that my own family’s experience is in perfect sync with a recent report on families and their use of technology. Five years ago the growing power of computing and the Internet was regarded as a serious problem for sustaining the vitality and mutual support of families. The thinking was that unless a family was sitting around the same dinner table every night, it couldn’t be called a real family. What a difference a few years make! Experience has taught us that technology can nurture the intimacy of family connections and the support that goes with them. However, video games can be a diversion. The lockdown some kids get into when they are playing them is a temporary escape, not a life state.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has the numbers. 60 percent of adults said new technology did not affect the closeness of their families and 25 percent said it actually made them closer. And frankly, I believe that this 60 percent could all go into positive territory if they made some proactive changes on how they use and share their technological freedom. Even more significantly, people who felt that technology had changed their family life felt it had been for the good. That's the feeling we can use to make a direct link with sustainability.

I’ve written often about the idea that sustainability demands success across four bottom-lines: economic, environmental, cultural and social. These four are enmeshed with each other, so dealing with any one of them in isolation misses the point of how sustainability affects every aspect of our lives. So good to have confirmed that technology is proving to be a fantastic inspiration to the social and cultural dimensions of family life and our efforts to create a sustainable world.

Friday, November 7, 2008

News Flash

Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands has done great work for consumers around the world. Now a signed copy of the book is helping to raise money for the fight against paediatric HIV and AIDS in children via the auction site. Get over there and put a bid on it. The auction closes 18 December.

Melting moment

A couple of weeks ago I posted on a lamp that worked by putting coins in a slot. Sustainability was the theme that time. Now here’s a lamp that is pure and simply a work of art. It uses no coins and may even use a tad more electricity, but how it would gladden the heart to come home to. It beautifully makes something we take for granted – light – mysteriously real. If I ever saw an example of surprising with the obvious, this is it.

Netherlands designer Pieke Bergmans has created a magical object from sand and thin air. Like many new generation young designers, she is looking for ways to cut through the commodification of design and connect with people in ways that are smart and meaningful. As she says, "No two people are the same, and neither are two of the hairs that grow on your head. I wish our products were a bit more like this as well”. Surprising with the obvious requires curiosity, a fresh way of looking at things and, I believe, a good sense of humor. Go to Pieke Bergmans' site and give yourself a treat.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Another great Melrose retail experience

As we were blowing down Melrose in Los Angeles on the weekend, we stopped to try and find a casual Lebanese place to grab some falafel. Just then the heavens opened and we were ducking for cover. Amazingly, I saw across the street a newly opened English Laundry store. It’s my all-time favorite shirt brand - Elegant, Arrogant English by Christopher Wicks. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The store opened a couple of weeks ago and was full of shirts that weren’t on the website, as well as a new range of belts, wallets, jackets and a ladies range called English Rose. Irresistible. Four shirts, a belt and a wallet later, I was talking to the very friendly assistants who told me that Christopher himself was scheduled to come in that afternoon. We couldn’t wait but I left him a note. Next day he called on his way to Hong Kong and we exchanged stories of Manchester in the 60’s and how he got the whole business started. He tells me they are expanding in Australia through Myer and David Jones and looking to open three stores in Las Vegas.

The store is at 7519 Melrose Avenue, or you can visit the website here.

Christopher is sharing the space with a Fender/Jimi Hendrix branded funky fashion store. If you are a music lover, there are some great t-shirts, shirts and jackets here as well.

For me, Melrose is still the coolest street in the world for eclectic street fashion. Robertson Blvd has become the upper scale destination in LA. As I posted recently, the Peter Alexander store is tremendous and the new Chanel store next to the famous The Ivy restaurant is a brand new concept in luxury - inside/outside – wow! A real Lovemark experience.

Don’t you just love great retail.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sisomo and interactivity

As you know, I am no great lover of surveys, tests or focus groups. Yet every now and then someone looks at the human condition through that kind of lens and gets results that are fascinating, even if how they got them was kind of dull. My example of the day is a project Disney has going at the moment. As fully paid-up members of the sisomo society, Disney is very keen to find out exactly what works in the screen age. Which screens work best, big or small? Is high-definition more or less compelling? That sort of thing. Important questions, although I find the technology focus old school. Haven't technology users already taught us that what we thought was perfect doesn’t even flicker the dial for them?

For this quest, Disney have set up an emerging media and advertising research lab in Austin, Texas. Led by Professor Duane Varan, it is apparently about the shift from "a paradigm centered on exposure to one increasingly focused on engagement with the viewer". Sound familiar? In this lab, they are testing the biometric reactions of around 4,000 people using measurements like heart rate and readings from electrical impulses via the skin (I did warn you there was a boring part to all this). The goal is to find out which programs and types of content have the most potential for interactivity. Let’s face it, anything that’s not interactive won’t fly in a few years so Disney’s in the right space, but check out how fast Apple is moving and making money right now.

The iPhone App store opened online in September and in one month, Apple had about $30 million in sales. Sales made up of sensible functional stuff (timetables, tools, etc.) and crazy stuff which seems to have one purpose: impress friends. Why else would you want an application to turn your phone face into a block of wood that thunked satisfactorily when you knocked on it? To me, this is where the true value of interactivity will be won – ideas that connect emotionally, ideas that entertain, ideas that entertain and, yes, engage.

Looking at the “I” in sisomo, I’m thinking maybe it should stand for interactivity. Sight, Interactivity, Sound and Motion. Don’t even try to pronounce it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Starbucks: The world's local coffee house

The best connections are the ones that take you to new and strange places. Slate writer, Daniel Gross, certainly ventured off the map when he connected the number of Starbucks locations in a country’s financial capital with how affected the city has been by the recent economic blast. The more Starbucks stores, the worse affected. So, London has lots of stores (256), lots of problems. It’s a snappy tie-up and underneath it there is probably something to be learnt.

I love Starbucks and no one has been smarter than Starbucks at understanding the business they were in. In Starbucks’ case, it wasn’t the coffee business or the fast food business (or the music or book businesses!) but the connections business. The introduction of the Third Place into millions of busy lives was a brilliant insight. Whenever I visit Starbucks HQ in Seattle and talk with them, I am always impressed by how they have touched so much of their business with Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. So why have they been struggling in recent years when they’ve got so much right? I think what happened is they grew explosively and began to drift. They drifted into the property business. They had so many stores in so many prime locations (with some of that value generated by Starbucks moving into the neighborhood) that the coffee struggled to be at the center.

Geoff Vuleta, a Saatchi & Saatchi alumnus and now CEO of innovation shop Fahrenheit 212, used the property business insight to come up with startling foresight for Starbucks. His thought? Get out of the property business. Refocus on being the coffee authority by shrinking the store size. People associate the Third Place with what Starbucks has to offer, but that doesn’t mean Starbucks has to deliver on it in some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. Make the outlets smaller and concentrate on serving really good coffee, go back to being the world's local coffee house, back to being a friend. Starbucks might end up with the same number of stores in London, for example, but each would be more focused, more agile and more valuable. Even Daniel Gross would approve.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween Down Under

Halloween is a major festival in North America. You couldn't move around New York City on 31 October without knowing it was Halloween. It was like Mardi Gras. The harvest festival tradition was brought to North America by Irish and Scottish immigrants in the nineteenth century. Our family lived in Toronto many years back where we were introduced to the celebration. My daughter Bex has re-created the experience at home in Auckland New Zealand. Here is Bex on her latest Halloween adventure. KR.

Halloween – that special night of the year that all kids love! My first introduction to Halloween was when we lived in Toronto and I was six years old. It’s a huge event in North America and you get to enjoy it for the whole day. All the kids are allowed to go to school in their fancy dress and they have a parade and tea party.

The excitement continues as soon as you come home from school and have the fun of going trick-or-treating. Since it’s autumn in Canada in October, the dark night adds to the excitement. We lived in a really family oriented neighborhood and as well as dressing up, everyone dressed up their houses too. We even had a neighbor who themed the downstairs of her house as a haunted house and allowed all the kids to roam round and “be scared”. Another great thing was the way most of the parents dressed up as well. We always decorated the front of our house with carved, lit pumpkins, skeletons and ghosts, and we also had a music cassette which played ghostly, haunted music just to add to the atmosphere. It was so much fun knocking on the doors as they always got answered, even by families who didn’t have children. By the end of the evening, each of us used to have a pillowcase full of chocolate and sweets!

This year I thought I would relive the fun I had in Canada and host my own Halloween party. I decorated the downstairs of my house with cobwebs, spiders, skeletons, fake blood on the floor, tombstones and bloody handprints on the walls. We also had a table spread with chocolates, candy, marshmallow ghosts, black cats and pumpkins (all helped by the fact Mum had just been to L.A. and raided Target). There were also vodka jelly shots with gummi bears and, of course, a big bowl of punch.

Adam and I dressed up as Wilma and Fred Flintstone (handy as I'm a redhead). All my friends really got into the spirit of the occasion and dressed as Patrick Bateman, Minnie Mouse, Peg and Al Bundy and all the characters from The Wizard of Oz. We also had a couple of vampires, Catwoman, Little Red Riding Hood, Poison Ivy, Hillary Clinton...the list goes on. Although we had no trick-or-treaters, it was so much fun seeing all the effort everyone had put into their costumes. Halloween has never been a big holiday for us in New Zealand so I’ve decided I’m going to make it an annual celebration. I’m looking forward to recycling all the Target decorations and doing it all over again next year!