Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Red Rose Rising

2009 has been more maelstrom than magic. Faced with rolling shocks ranging from the great crunch to swine flu to the passing of a pop king and tarnishing of a tiger, most people have felt a gust of blowback. It feels pretty good to be at year-end, and I’m hoping that people, families, businesses and communities the world over will be able to flip the switch from survivor mode to come-back mode. On my read, 2010-20 is going to be a more hardworking and meaningful decade, a time when abundance is generated by hard work rather than borrowing on the cheap, when creativity rides in as a revolutionary, when social impacts are accounted for up front – and when success is earned. I got an inspiring note of gratitude recently from a marketing student, Lisa, who I encouraged half a dozen years back. As a struggling student she dug deep to get through her MBA, topped her class, and now plans to go for a PhD.

A return to old fashioned hard-work and to big creative shifts takes me back to my Red Rose Roots in Lancashire where I grew up on the unswept side of the street. Red is for boldness, passion, optimism and that priceless feeling of “nothing is impossible” that we lived for in the 60’s revolution. Lancashire of course is an inventive powerhouse. From the jelly baby to the Beatles, from cotton to the Co-operative movement, the region has been rolling out magic since it birthed the industrial revolution. Here’s to the Red Rose County, here’s to the red of Christmas, to a big creative year ahead – and season’s greetings to all.

E-Readers Hit the Big Time

Fear of new technology is not new. In 1982, the king of all Hollywood lobbyists, Jack Valenti, told the US Congress:

“I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.”

Hysteria aside, the movie industry was utterly convinced that the advent of video cassettes would destroy the film industry. 30 years on, video and DVD have had the opposite effect – far from undermining the industry, they are integral to its ongoing profitability. How could Hollywood keep producing so many films, at such great cost and such variable quality without the “straight to DVD” option? Even the notorious box-office bomb, Waterworld, almost broke even in the end, thanks to DVD sales.

There has been similar angst about the fate of books and the publishing industry since the arrival of the Internet and new technology like e-readers. In 2007, the US National Endowment for the Arts reported a “remarkable decline” of American reading habits, its chairman saying that it would damage the civic, political and economic fabric of the country. The New Yorker chimed in, quoting sociologists who claimed that “reading for pleasure will one day be the province of a special ‘reading class’, much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy.” The Boston strangler strikes again!

E-readers are all the rage this holiday season. Industry experts forecast that Amazon will sell 900,000 Kindles in the last two months of 2009. The Sony Reader and Barnes & Noble Nook, which sold-out before it even hit the shelves, are also on a tear. There was a lot of skepticism about e-readers in the first couple of years, and a lot of doomsayers who thought they spelled the end of the written word.

The truth is that technology has ended the monopoly of bound, mass-produced manuscripts we call books, and expanded choice for readers. We can read on the computer screen, on dedicated e-readers like Kindle and Nook or on our cell-phones.

We love books for the stories and the emotional power, the insights and inspirations. Who ever puts down a great book and says, “Wow, I loved the paper-stock, and the font was awesome!”

People who love reading will read more than ever before – I know I do.

Circumstances, mood and moment will determine how and what we read – the Kindle is great for plane trips or train-rides; the cell-phone works well for a quick catch-up with emails or news, and nothing (for me, at least) will beat the pleasures of a book on a beach, or a bookshop on a rainy afternoon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Selfless Gene

Biology fascinates me. I love the work of Stephen Jay Gould who theorized how change in evolution happens at the edges, the margin, the fringe. He calls this ‘punctuated equilibrium”, and it explains how evolution doesn’t take place on a predictable, linear path but with unpredictable and dramatic bursts coming from the outer reaches of the species. The same can be said of the world of ideas and innovation.

Another biologist, Richard Dawkins, a brilliant communicator, created a lot of confusion when he called his 1976 book on evolution, ‘The Selfish Gene’. The book details the brutal efficiency of evolution, but the phrase itself has entered common usage to mean that human beings are genetically programmed for selfishness. It means nothing of the sort – and isn’t it great when research comes along that proves the exact opposite.

The NY Times reported last month that research into young babies demonstrates that we are born with an in-built instinct to help others. Before parents have even begun to teach the rules of social behavior, researchers saw kids as young as 12 or 18 months in small, selfless acts of kindness. This innate generosity and willingness to share and cooperate is unique to humans; even our closest ancestors have no interest in helping out a fellow chimpanzee unless there is something in it for them.

Researchers are quick to point out that there is ample evidence that selfishness plays a part in our make-up too. As one of the researchers puts it, “That’s why we have moral dilemmas, because we are both selfish and altruistic at the same time.”

These findings confirm what radical optimists already believe, and it’s nice to have some science to put in the back pocket.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Will Avatar Spark More Originality?

Avatar, opening in the US tomorrow, has Hollywood holding its breath. The $350 million spectacle by writer/director James Cameron seems destined to one of only two possible fates: spectacular blockbuster or massive bomb. The middle road never seems open to Cameron, who famously drives Tinsel-town bean-counters bonkers with his uncompromising vision and gargantuan budgets. Sigourney Weaver calls him an “idealistic perfectionist”, which is a pretty good aspiration for all of us.

I haven't seen the film yet, but I wish it well for three reasons.

One, Peter Jackson's Weta Digital in New Zealand has been responsible for the special effects, which are said to take 3-D animation to a different plane. Another hit for Weta would be great for this awesome Wellington Lovemark – and for the city itself.

Second, I love James Cameron's gutsy approach. In an industry teeming with yes-men, corporate cronies and wannabes, Cameron stands apart as a maverick who rises and falls on the size of his talent, not his Rolodex. He put his philosophy this way: “If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success”.

Most importantly, I hope that Avatar succeeds because it represents something that has all but disappeared from mainstream film – a truly original idea. It is not recycled from a TV show or old movie, nor is it based on a book, play, musical or comic book. James Cameron is the sole writing credit, and the story is woven entirely from his imagination.

The rise of innovation in Hollywood (and Wellywood and Bollywood) has been startling, but it has not been matched by the rise of great originality – in fact, the opposite has happened. The graphs below show how the number of films made from an original idea – as opposed to sequels, book or musical adaptations, comic books or earlier films – has declined dramatically in the past decade. Instead, we are saturated by sequels….15 of the top 20 box office hits of the 2000s were sequels (and some of them were brilliant, but the point is valid).

The last decade will be remembered for awesome innovation we used to help tell stories on screen. Let’s hope that the ‘10s is known more for the creativity and originality we bring to storytelling itself.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Challenge – Cut Jargon Emissions

It’s getting to that time of the year when people start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. For anyone working in business, here’s an idea: let’s try and make 2010 the year of plain English. A good way to start would be to read George Orwell’s 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language. Orwell understood how language could be used a weapon against the powerless, and how jargon and clichés are used to hide meaning, not clarify it. He offers six timeless rules for effective communication:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I am not 100% on number 6, and here’s another one for people in business:

7. Try and express your thoughts in one breath.

MBA-speak started by infecting the workplace but has tragically made its way into sport (losing teams now “lack accountability”) and even the home (KPI’s in the kitchen!).

  • Why do we have to touch base to get our ducks in a row when we could just meet?
  • Why must we synergize our learnings going forward, when comparing notes would do fine?
  • Why wouldn’t a busy person save time by saying “I’m busy” instead of due to cascading workflow, I am lacking in requisite bandwidth?
  • Why reach out when you can just make a call?
  • Why can’t we leave a meeting with things to do, rather than take-home actionables?
Communication is about accountability. If we express ourselves clearly, we have no choice but to stand by what we say. By resorting to clichés and jargon, people are blurring meaning to avoid scrutiny. It’s also laziness.

People are hungry for clarity and authenticity. In every part of life, let’s commit to using language to amplify meaning, not bury it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tis The Season To Be Jolly (Careful)

Memo to guys planning to cut corners with the Christmas shopping: watch this video!

Men have a knack of doing the wrong thing, especially when it comes to choosing gifts. (Does your wife really want that PS-3 or the Bourne Trilogy gift-box?)

This video is a sequel to the smash hit interactive campaign, Beware of the Doghouse for JCPenney. Doghouse 2 is also from Saatchi & Saatchi New York. The original campaign attracted 14 million YouTube views, won the 2009 World Retail Award for Best Digital Retail Advertising Campaign at the World Retail Congress, and surpassed previous industry benchmark viral campaigns like Burger King ‘Whopper Freakout’ and Dove ‘Evolution’ in key metrics. 7,000 occupants sent to the doghouse and over 9,000 additional warning messages issued.

It’s funny but serious. Guys, do the right thing these holidays; be romantic, generous and unconditionally loving – and in doing so, avoid the dreaded Doghouse!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Howling Under The New Moon

What is it about vampires, witches, warlocks and werewolves? I shouldn’t have to ask. Apart from lurking at the bottom end of the alphabet, they are dead proof of the emotional storytelling power of mystery. A recent dark proof point is the vam-wolf flick “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”, taking Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books loved by girls into a new realm of Gen ZY mania. On its opening weekend in the North American market, the second Twilight film ‘New Moon’ was the third largest box office take on record…coasting past the Harry Potter films and beaten only by The Dark Knight and Spiderman 3 (yep, more dark guys). A love triangle between a human (Bella), a vampire (Edward) and a werewolf (Jacob) is asking for success, so no surprise they were breaking down the movie doors.

And don’t discount the zombies, another tribe of Lovemarks for some. From recent books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Zombie Christmas Carols (It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies) through to zombie walks around the world, this lot has a macabre irresistible pull. In October 2000 people donned the worms for an annual zombie walk at Monroeville Mall, near Pittsburgh. This is where George Romero shot the classic chiller, Dawn of the Dead in 1978.

An ironic connection here is that some of us live with vampires and work with zombies without realizing it (I’m talking power here, not people!). At home, one way to DOT – do one thing to make the world a better place – is to disconnect your vampire electronics, those stand-by plug-ins like microwaves and TVs that can suck energy even when devices are turned off. At work, get your IT guys to venture downstairs and check there are no zombie servers hidden. They are the computer servers that were once useful but now have nothing to do except just keep on running… and feeding.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Skill And Will In World Cup 2010

It’s been exciting times in football land (that’s soccer for those in the US, still), with the draw for next year’s World Cup taking place in Cape Town a few days ago. New Zealand is in Group F, which has been called an “easy group”. I’m optimistic by nature, but any group that includes the defending World Champions, Italy, along with Paraguay and Slovakia isn’t going to be easy for New Zealand. In fact, there are no easy games at the World Cup, and next year teams will have to deal with the problem of altitude as well, with games in Johannesburg sure to sap the energy of even the fittest teams.

The great Muhammad Ali said "Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill." Every tournament carries a massive upset, so I’m hoping New Zealand can surprise everyone and get to the 2nd round. That would be huge. To do that, the All Whites have to forget about the difference in skill and have the will. That’s an issue for those other all whites – Fabio Capello’s England. With one of the best squads, one of the best managers in the world, and a relatively friendly draw in a friendly nation, I’m backing England to go all the way and win... vs Spain in the final. Capello will have them more mentally ready than ever before.

There’s always a star of the tournament too, and next year we’re due to see the newly crowned Ballon D’Or European Footballer of the Year winner on the global stage a little way in to what is already a truly great career. Argentina and Barcelona’s Leo Messi beat his nearest rival Cristiano Ronaldo by more than double in the vote for Europe’s best player, recording the highest ever score in the history of the vote. Messi is the classic made good story: a child from a family of limited means, with a growth hormone deficiency, who only grew to his current size of 5 foot 7 with the help of medical treatment paid for by Barcelona, who brought him to Spain at around 12 years old.

He’s done it all with good grace, humility, and the most sublime skill seen since a certain other Argentine graced the world stage at high altitude in Mexico City. He’s often been criticised for not being as good for Argentina as he is for Barcelona. But if his will is greater than his skill, 2010 is going to be something special for fans of football the world over.

And watch out for one man with real will. Wayne Rooney. England's next captain.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Old Dog, New Trick

Newspapers are up against it in the Participation Economy, the Internet-powered revolution of joining in, taking part, sharing and joy. For the modern consumer, the idea of reading newspapers full of day-old news hand-picked by faceless editors seems, well, very early 90’s.

These days we get to be our own editor-in-chief, selecting the bits of news, opinion and analysis that best suit our tastes, politics or predilections. The news business still hasn’t worked out a way to make this work financially, but I suspect that will change soon. Free is not sustainable. Walter Isaacson, former editor of Time, proposed one possible approach to the issue of payment here.

There may be some spark in the old format yet. On the first day of the climate talks in Copenhagen, 56 newspapers in 20 languages pulled off a dramatic and high-impact stunt. They simultaneously published a front-page editorial calling for action on climate change. Papers included The Guardian (which got the ball rolling), the Toronto Star, the Jakarta Globe, Le Monde, The Brunei Times, la Repubblica and The Cambodia Daily.

This degree of collaboration across geographical and political boundaries carries a high degree of difficulty. Whatever you think about the editorial itself, the scale and audacity of the maneuver is impressive. The old-school newspaper editorial is long past its heyday, but -- on this occasion at least -- some creative thinking and collaboration breathed some life back into the art-form.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Opening Bell

I spoke this morning with Alexis Glick on FOX Business’ The Opening Bell. We discussed the ongoing impact of the recession on advertisers and society, the importance of priceless value and the creation of loyalty beyond reason, the opportunities for creating intimacy and conversations through screens, and even played a word association game. This was my second interview with Alexis (having met her at the World Business Forum in October) and it was fun - while I do a lot of media, nothing quite compares with the buzz you get from working with a great interviewer on live TV.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Brief History of Online

The curators of the best of the Internet have recently come out with a list of the top web moments of the past ten years. David-Michel Davies, the Webby Awards’ executive director, called the Internet the "story of the decade", and while I may question his objectivity on that perspective, I’d be hard-pressed to disagree.

The chronologically-ordered list, below, is interesting to me as it’s a clear testament to the growth of the Participation Economy. More and more, people online are finding new ways to create, share, and connect. And as the two most recent selected “influential moments” show (the US Elections and Iranian election protests), when movements form online, the rest of the world feels it. Davies concurs: “The recurring theme among all of the milestones on our list is the Internet's capacity to circumvent old systems and put more power into the hands of ordinary people”.

The other thing that jumped out at me was that, despite the Internet’s worldwide nature, the websites the list is based on are by and large US-centric (although of course their users are more widespread). I’m confident that another such survey in ten years time would show more stories of change starting in the margins, or at least outside of the West. In China alone, the number of Internet users surpasses the total US population – despite the “Great Firewall”. And with Internet regulators voting to allow website domain names in non-Latin scripts, the barriers are coming down even further for the 50% of Internet users who speak languages based on other writing systems. While in the USA Facebook is social networking base du jour, don’t forget that in India it’s Orkut, South Korea has Cyworld, and China’s biggest such site is Renren.

The Webby’s Ten Most Influential Internet Moments of the Decade

2000 Craigslist expands outside San Francisco
2000 Google AdWords launches
2001 Wikipedia launches
2001 Napster Shut Down
2004 Google IPO
2006 Online video revolution
2006 Facebook opens to non-college students and Twitter takes off
2007 The iPhone debuts
2008 U.S. Presidential Campaign
2009 Iranian election protests

Thursday, December 3, 2009

John Key, New Zealander

In Tokyo recently when I spoke to the Japan-New Zealand Business Forum meeting I was able to spend some time with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. I was impressed. He’s definitely a new age leader. Practical experience, successful track record in business, excellent at international relationships, passionate and committed to purpose and ideals with the nation at his heart.

John Key is producing a dynamic can-do attitude towards politics and has created favorable impressions wherever he goes.

At his core he is committed to seeing New Zealand’s farmers and exporters producing more and getting better prices for their goods. He is a believer in our tourism industry. (I applaud the appointment of Kevin Bowler as CEO of New Zealand Tourism. I’ve known Kevin for many years now and he will bring transformational up-to-the-minute thinking given his recent Telecom/Yahoo experience). John’s core belief is that New Zealand’s future lies in the hands of Kiwi entrepreneurs selling their ideas to the world so they can expand businesses and provide new and better paying jobs. As many of you know, I’ve been committed to this very same belief for over a decade now. New Zealand must export or die and intellectual capital is what we have to offer. The role of business is to make the world a better place and the way we do this is through creating jobs, choices, growth and self esteem.

John Key is also committed to seeing more of New Zealand’s young people realizing their potential in New Zealand. I agree with this but I also feel that it’s necessary for New Zealanders to go overseas to stretch their legs, find their feet, and learn more quickly. My three children have all experienced this positively and successfully. The trick for New Zealand is to offer them a combination of lifestyle and opportunity so they will eventually return.

I’ve read John’s six part program which I feel can be a manifesto for the modern politician everywhere in today’s world, irrespective of political affiliation.

  1. Ensuring our tax system encourages people to work hard, save, and invest in productive Kiwi businesses.
  2. Focusing the Government’s activity on better, smarter, frontline services, and not bureaucracy.
  3. Providing all New Zealanders with the education and skills they need to perform in productive well-paid jobs.
  4. Building the transport, broadband, and other infrastructure networks that people and businesses need to get their jobs done as efficiently as possible.
  5. Removing the red tape and cumbersome regulation that can prevent businesses from expanding, taking on new workers, and making the most of new ideas.
  6. Supporting New Zealand firms to grow and develop new ideas by connecting them with our researchers and scientists, and helping them reach more global consumers by signing free trade agreements with our trading partners.
Count me in.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Creativity Is Fun

I don’t get a lot of free time, and that’s the way I like it. For me it’s never been about work-life balance, but always about work-life integration. Finding compelling and compatible work to who I am and who I want to continue being, and devoting everything I have to performing at peak, getting into flow.

In these new straightened economic times, we’re all having to work harder, knuckling down to the task at hand, and making sure we’re building a future that is sustaining and rewarding. It’s not easy. But it’s easier if you love what you’re doing, and you’re doing it all the time. Naysayers will say nay, but its actually easier than ever to devote yourself to what sustains you. All you need is a computer, and the desire to make a difference.

Probably nowhere in the world is this more clear than in my home of New York City, where once again, creativity is biting back and inspiring people to throw everything they have at their situation. I don’t know if the people who run the http://www.overthinkingit.com/ blog do anything else with their day, but something tells me everything they do has to be fun. At least they have enough time to bring us the graph above.

Which is fun, and will get you arguing about rock music, Rolling Stone, or crude oil. Their blog is classic pop-culture with a semi-serious spin. It’s fun for the readers, but what fun is it for the bloggers themselves? These people have created their world and devoted their time for their own enjoyment. It just so happens we love it too.

Our only way to make the long road ahead through our economic crisis run faster is to enjoy ourselves, to be creative in everything we do, and integrate work and life. Start today with something simple. Eliminate the reasons not to, apply yourself wholeheartedly, make sure you’re smiling, and enjoy the (bumpy) ride.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cumbria Is Open

Video by Martin Campbell

The recent floods in Cumbria have certainly caused a lot of heartache for many and a complete recovery will take some time. But in the wake of this, the famous Cumbrian community spirit has emerged, with many stories of the heroic volunteer rescue effort and the determination of local businesses to get back up and running immediately. The county is once again looking tranquil and beautiful, and Cumbria really is open for business. See the video above for stunning footage from this weekend, and come pay a visit.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Victory Gardens

Tough times call for people to rally together for the common good. One of many examples of this during the World Wars were the victory gardens, where those at home were called to get planting to reduce strain on food supplies for the war effort. Gardens sprung up in backyards and vacant lots, churches and playgrounds.
Today, gardening is seeing a renaissance of sorts. In my conversations about DOT (the Saatchi & Saatchi Do One Thing personal sustainability practices), gardening is an example that keeps cropping up again and again. No wonder, considering its many benefits – great for the environment, for exercising, for healthy eating and saving money. It’s even reached the White House, which under the Obamas is seeing its first vegetable patch since the days of Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in WWII. And Saatchi & Saatchi New York’s Blue team are designing their own rooftop garden at our 375 Hudson St headquarters.

Holly Hirshberg saw the effect of the recession beginning to hit people’s pantries and decided to help others grow their own food. Inspired by the victory gardens, she started giving away seeds to anyone who asked through her website The Dinner Garden. "The Dinner Garden isn't just about the seeds," she says. "It is about giving people hope… creating communities where families spend time together in a productive way and children learn that they can create something beautiful and useful to their family." The idea snowballed, and since the project started in early 2009 her team has provided seeds to almost 14,000 families in 42 states. A victory indeed!

In other gardening and sustainability related news – it seems the xixi no banho (pee in the shower) idea is taking off in a different way – the grand country house Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire is encouraging its garden workers to relieve themselves on straw bales alongside compost heaps to save water and help the composting process!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Worshipful Company Of Marketors

Formed 25 years ago, The Worshipful Company of Marketors are part of the City of London Roll of Livery Companies, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. Livery Companies have played an important role in the development of trade over the centuries. As well as the obvious focus on promoting the benefits of their professions (from ironmongers and haberdashers to surveyors and solicitors) Livery Companies also have a strong charitable focus, with the Marketors granting over forty educational awards each year.

I was recently invited by Professor Michael Jones to give the annual City Lecture to the Company in the magnificent Great Hall of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London. Founded in 1123, St Bart’s is the oldest working hospital in England, (some say Mozart had his tonsils removed here!) and its great hall was a special venue for an event so tied to tradition.

Enhanced by the traditional robes, livery badges and the grand surrounds, I certainly felt the ceremony of the occasion. This was pomp and ritual without a hint of stuffiness and those I spoke to had a real warmth and appreciation of their heritage. Just one expression of this is the handwritten letters of thanks guests traditionally send after these events, a personal touch of intimacy.

Under the watchful gaze of Henry VIII, I spoke on the challenges ahead and how to face them. While the true impact of the recession on society is yet to hit and should not be underestimated, overall I’m positive. Creativity, connectivity and collaboration can deal to the forces of darkness. The future will be real and after speaking with this group, I have no doubt that the rebuilding of the City is in good hands.

Many thanks to my gracious hosts, including Master of the Company Peter Goudge, Michael Jones and Diane Morris.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Toyota - Better Together

Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney recently revealed this clever ad for Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. It’s even more clever when you know that the spot was filmed in a single take, with no special effects – just some very coordinated guys who put in two weeks of choreography practice. The spot illustrates the idea that two working together are better than one – a metaphor for the petrol/electricity combo – and I think it’s a good illustration of True Blue thinking. Hybrid cars are better for the environment, but they also provide immediate benefits for the people driving them, like fuel savings and increased efficiency. Acknowledging these advantages to people and planet is just one of the ways we can help to make sustainability irresistible.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Create It, And They Will Come

I’ve been amazed by the global enthusiasm for the iPhone apps that continue to proliferate around the world. Creating an app is as simple as thinking of something useful. It’s the modern day inventor’s route to riches, and the modern day consumer’s lifestyle compressed onto a small device. The creativity just keeps on coming, and it has the consumer at the heart of every decision.

The Urban Spoon app lets you define the parameters of what you want to eat. Anything you’d like to leave to chance, just solve with a shake of the phone. Is That Gluten Free? will tell you what you’re eating while you are at the restaurant. The World Factbook ’09 can solve discussions over dinner. Then GymGoal can help you work it off. And on it goes.

These apps are the ultimate conversation starter. “Have you got this app?” The power of the idea is transmitted every minute through conversation. Phones have got the world talking, but few guessed it would be in this unique manner.

Where was all this creativity before the iPhone opened a space for it? Are we using the other screens in our Sisomo family with the same creative, open approach? Cinemas, TV’s, billboards and bus stops are all waiting for the app magic. The future is wide open, and screens are everywhere. Let’s bring the world’s creativity to every screen, not just the little ones.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Road to South Africa 2010: NZ All Whites in Finals

The New Zealand “All Whites” football team has scored an emotion-rousing 1-0 victory over Bahrain to win its slot for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa. New Zealand has been to the finals of the world’s biggest sports tournament only once before, in 1982.

Everyone who has been to the Wellington Stadium for a big time rugby match (like the All Black’s second test win against the British Lions), or a World’s Sevens tournament, or a pulsating Hurricanes on-night, or a Wellington Phoenix game, will tell you why the ground is called The Cake Tin. It’s circular, it gets really noisy, and the energy flow is just incredible. The Mexican Wave was invented for this place. And so it was with the All Whites, the round ball drew a record crowd in the round house.

There’s a phrase in Peak Performance we call “feel like a family, play like a team”. Ricki Herbert drew this feeling out, and you could see it in the father-son joy of Rory and Kevin Fallon. Striker Rory scored the game’s goal, a handsome header off a corner. Kevin was assistant coach to the All Whites for the finals in Spain 27 years ago. He’s been in soccer every day since and Friday night’s game must have been a dream come true – again.

The largely amateur team had many heroes including goalkeeper Mark Paston who saved a penalty goal to save the match. Bloggers have been quick to examine the passion that was so keenly on display in Wellington, to the hardy spectacle I sat through on Saturday night in Milan, the All Blacks playing Italy. The Italian pack were just terrific to watch, but not a lot else unfortunately. Might we wish for champagne rugby this weekend at Twickenham? A good hammering will do just fine.

My own nerves will be focused on the USA Eagles vs Uruguay Rugby World Cup qualifying knock-out being played at in Fort Lauderdale. USA won last weekend’s game by five points, scoring four tries but having a poor final quarter. The outcome will be decided on total points and at the moment we’re only a try ahead. It’s no wonder that sport is the world’s seventh largest enterprise.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Brand America Is Ba[ra]ck

I’ve written in April and June this year on Brand America, which had became deeply unpopular through the decade. I had put my case for new actions and new messaging to The Pentagon through to Paper magazine. I tell people that what made the USA great is still there in abundance – a tremendous human energy, ideals of a better future, and the capacity to be the force for good in the world.

While the reality that President Barack Obama is only human has only recently dawned, and his popularity is now ranked at about 53% approval, his inspirational message already has delivered benefits to the USA as far as the ROW (Rest Of World) is concerned. In the week that Fortune magazine named Steve Jobs as CEO of the Decade, FutureBrand, which ranks country brands, has announced that the United States is back on top as the country that most people want to visit and do business with.* NY, DC and LA are each powerhouse cities (add San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and Cincinnati and many more). The countryside is unbelievably diverse and historic.

This is hope and dreams made real for the Administration. The President has the near-impossible job – everything to deal with – wars, economic crisis, health care, environment, the future of America. He’s accountable for it all. So hats off for this achievement – restoring international preference. Millions of people came through Ellis Island to make a better world. America is a vast and beautiful country with idealistic values, beliefs and principles. Barack Obama has the ability to be a focal point for the aspirational dreams of Americans, and to people everywhere – to be the best they can be. The world is noticing. Here’s what Paul, who nominated America as his Lovemark, said back in 2004:

America is the greatest of all my Lovemarks. It stands for freedom, liberty and choice. Whether you agree or disagree with the brand, it gives you the freedom to speak out, to take control, and make it better. If you invest everything you have in America, it is the only brand that will truly reward you.
These are big ideals to live for. A footnote, of the top five countries, I’ve lived in Canada and Australia, (2nd and 3rd) and presently have homes in the USA, New Zealand, and France (1st, 4th and 5th). The opportunity is clearly there for Great Britain (8th - also home!).

*From Futurebrand: From best overall country brands and top brands within regions, to detailed rankings of the top ten brands across a breadth of categories including Authenticity, History, Art & Culture, Resort & Lodging Options, Ease of Travel, Safety, Rest & Relaxation, Natural Beauty, Beach, Nightlife, Shopping, Fine Dining, Outdoor Activities & Sports, Friendly Locals, Families, Value for Money, Rising Star, Standard of Living, Ideal for Business, Easiest to Do Business In, New Country for Business, Conferences, Extend a Business Trip, Political Freedom, Most Like to Live In, Quality Products, Desire to Visit/Visit Again, Advanced Technology and Environmentalism.

The year’s CBI tracks the perceptions of approximately 3,000 international business and leisure travelers from nine countries—the US, the UK, China, Australia, Japan, Brazil, the UAE, Germany and Russia. The insights from an expert panel of 47 tourism, development, policy and academic professionals are also featured. This sample has a margin of error of ±1.8% at the 95% confidence level.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Emotional Primacy

Don’t you love it when scientists come out with studies proving the completely obvious? The advertising industry is not immune from such studies, as the American Association of Advertising Agencies has recently released a paper entitled: “Why You Need to Incorporate Emotional Messaging Into Your Marketing Communications.” It states “Recent studies have proven that emotional advertising is more effective than a rational strategy.”

The AAAA paper points to a study of the 880 winners of Advertising Effectiveness Awards from the UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) which has offered further proof (as if there was any doubt) that if you put your message in emotional terms, it will carry more weight.
Some highlights from the analysis:

  • Emotionally based campaigns outperformed rationally based campaigns on every single business measure in the cases studied—sales, market share, profit, penetration, loyalty and price sensitivity.
  • Emotional appeals are almost twice as likely to generate large profit gains as rational ones.
  • The more emotion dominates over rational messaging, the bigger the impact on the business; the most effective ads are those with little or no rational content.
  • Emotional advertising is particularly good at reducing price sensitivity, and hence leads to large profit gains.
I’ve given hundreds of speeches and written a couple of books – Lovemarks: the Future Beyond Brands, and The Lovemarks Effect on the very subject of emotional primacy. I religiously reference neuroscientist Donald Calne – people are 80% emotional and 20% rational; reason leads to conclusions, emotion leads to action.

Whilst the 4As are “surprising with the obvious”, their survey is actually very timely. The job of keeping clients on an emotional track is a never-ending one. My #1 job when I started as CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi was to “emotionalize clients.” There is frequently a tendency on the part of brand managers to cram too much information about product benefits into advertising; to be overly prescriptive; to run with facts not stories. There are only two questions that matter in advertising: “Do I want to see it again?” And “Do I want to share this?” An ad crammed with data ain’t gonna be revisited or shared.

Btw, other startling “surprising with the obvious” findings from scientific studies include:
1. Gun-Toting Drivers are More Prone to Road Rage
2. Too Many Meetings Make You Grumpy
3. Swallowing More Than One Magnet is Dangerous
4. Memory and Concentration Fade With Age
5. Time Flies When You're Busy

Monday, November 16, 2009

Celebrating the Red Rose

I was born in Lancaster, the county town of Lancashire.

Lancashire, The Red Rose county, stretches from the River Mersey in the South to the banks of Windermere in the North. It has five cities, Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, and Salford. I live just outside now in Grasmere, Cumbria.

Lancashire has a proud history as well as a close rivalry with its neighbors across the Pennine’s Yorkshire. At the moment the county is dominant in England’s most popular sport, soccer, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley all in the Premier League. And isn’t Wigan virtually in Lancashire too!! Many people think that England begins and ends with London. I’m not a big fan of London, or the South of England, and certainly have not found much very interesting outside of the mighty Red Rose. Lancastrians are warm, open, cheerful, very friendly and very funny. The complete opposite of our Yorkshire neighbors! Three of the top English chefs hail from Lancashire, Paul Heathcote, Marcus Wareing, Nigel Howarth. And you can’t get past Morecambe Bay Shrimps, Mrs. Kirkham’s Lancaster Cheese, Bury Black Pudding, and Herdwick Lamb.

Lancashire Life, that great monthly magazine, is celebrating Lancashire Day next month and listed some surprising inventions from Lancashire. How about the kilt, the torpedo, the co-operative movement, the jelly baby, tide times, the Tiller girls, the police force, Meccano, white road markings, and Suffragettes. Beat that Yorkshire!

Of course it does rain a lot in Lancashire. In fact, over my birthday it pretty much rained non stop for four days. Annual rainfall where I live in Grasmere equals that of the Amazon. But who’s complaining. That’s why we’ve got lush grass, healthy livestock, beautiful hills and, as Lancashire Life said, it’s probably the reason we invented so much. We have to do something when it’s raining.

So thanks very much to Paul Mackenzie for reminding us not only about our inventiveness, but also about nine other things that make Lancashire great. Including, of course, Lancashire County Cricket Club, and the Mighty Manchester City.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Entrepreneurial Edge

It’s been shown to me repeatedly that New Zealand is full of edgy, creative, radical, flexible, ideas people. Our future depends on our ability to educate, inspire and export these ideas and help them grow and take on the world. Entrepreneurs will lead economic growth during these tough times.

At the University of Auckland Business School, the Entrepreneurs’ Challenge has announced three winners from 100 entries across a phenomenal range of visionary businesses utilizing physics, virtual reality, earth sciences, broadband, taste and touch, water, New Zealand tourism. I spoke at the awards on Friday evening as an Honorary Professor of the Business School.

The Challenge, made possible by a $3m founding donation by UK-based New Zealand industrialist and investor Charles Bidwell, is based on the power of enterprise, innovation and tenacity. It encourages New Zealand businesses with an energy and drive for international expansion, by providing them with growth funding, mentoring and well-deserved kudos. It’s a really positive approach, and Derek Lockwood and his Saatchi & Saatchi Design Worldwide team in Auckland are behind the idea as one of the Challenge’s partner organisations.

The awards ceremony was last Friday where the winners were announced:

  • coffee roasters Allpress Espresso who will use awarded funds to expand into the UK market with a flagship roastery and espresso bar in London;
  • smart water meter technology developers Outpost Central who have had boosted sales by demand from water-deficient Australia and plan to grow into a $100m business, using funding to hire a chief operating officer; and
  • hot water heating control technology company Senztek who will put funding into R&D and marketing new products for Europe.
Successful entrepreneurs have grit, guts, and genius. Three cheers for the 100 ideas presented to the University of Auckland Business School’s Entrepreneurs’ Challenge.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Analytics Of Me

The advertising industry loves crunching numbers and it’s not alone. A growing number of people track their behavior and analyze data for everything from eating, sleeping, working, reading, spending money, losing weight, keeping track of when you’re happy, when you’re sad, anything and everything!

The new iPod Nano has a built in pedometer to count your steps; FertiliTrack tracks and predicts fertility; and if you want more in depth analysis on your sleep patterns, ZEO can track your brain waves and sleep data all for $400. But it doesn’t stop there, Moodstats can record, track and evaluate your moods and Bedposted can even track those non-sleeping activities in bed and much more!

As technology gets more advanced by the day, there are no doubt many more ways people will be able to analyze and track any sort of behavioral patterns, perhaps you’ve come across an interesting one lately?

Ultimately, it’s not enough just to measure these days, that’s like looking in the rear view mirror of a car. To win, you need to be looking through the front windscreen anticipating the road that lies ahead.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pump Up The Volume

We all have a soundtrack to our lives: the music that was thumping the night you had your first kiss; the football song you sing to cheer your team on; the nursery rhymes you teach to your children; that karaoke number that you feel you can really knock people’s socks off with; the track you always put on when you want to relax. Your favorite radio station. Your iPod playlists. Your new devotion to Spotify. The special song you have with your partner, and on it goes.

Music is such an integral part of our lives, so entwined with who we are, and who we want to be, that a new study on branding in music from Jakob Lusensky and his team at Heartbeats International shocked me. Check out this statistic: 97% of brand managers surveyed think that music can strengthen their brand. But 7 out of 10 spend 5% or less of their marketing budget on music. Can there have ever been another time in history where music moved people less to action than this example?

You’d have to ask Brand Managers why exactly they don’t invest in music. Luckily, Heartbeats did. The responses were short-sighted and “no-can-do” in nature. 38% of respondees say that it’s too hard to measure return on investment. And thereby lies the problem. In asking the wrong question you automatically arrive at the wrong answer. In the new Participation Economy, the only measurement they need is return on involvement. Measure the right ROI and the sound of branding will instantly improve.

Branding with music can be pervasive and persuasive without being oppressive. If hearing is the second most used sense in brand communication today – then radio advertising, in-store, website, TV and even telephone hold music needs a real boost. There are some good examples out there – T-Mobile’s audio logotype is instantly recognizable, and Starbucks have jumped in with both feet with their own record label, and some clever deals. But when Heartbeats report a study that says “brands with music fitting their brand identity are 96 percent more likely to be recalled than those with non-fitting music or no music at all”, then you know there’s a crisis in courage in brandmanagerland. We need talk to the consumer in our universal language, music.

Brand managers, get a great DJ and turn it up to 11!

Monday, November 9, 2009

School's Out

It sometimes feels like I’ve run the full gamut of school-related experiences – from being kicked out of school at 17, to being invited back as a Governor. I frequently speak to students at universities around the world, but having an eternally curious granddaughter like Stella in my life has piqued my interest in the way primary schools approach the first few years of learning.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem we’re doing our children justice in this regard. Despite being one of the richest countries on earth, America’s education system is notoriously rife with difficulties. A recent in-depth report from Cambridge University on UK primary schools suggests a grim focus on state-determined curriculum and assessment is dampening childrens’ appetites for learning. The researchers recommend a new approach where formal learning begins age 6 (rather than 5), and that younger children be left to learn through play.

I’ve spoken here before about the importance (and fun!) of free-ranging play outdoors, and I think this principle remains the same in the classroom. Of course core frameworks are important – as long as they allow great teachers to inspire their young pupils to experiment, keep asking “why?”, and start coming up with their own answers. Sure, sometimes they’ll get it wrong. Sometimes they’ll get their hands dirty. But if their curiosity is sparked, they’ll develop a love and appreciation for learning as adventure that will last a lifetime.

I like the approach taken by President Obama in a recent speech to young American school children. Always big on hope and inspiration, the President pointed to where the best kind of education leads – discovery, innovation and creation. Not just retaining facts and ticking off boxes, but being able to take what you’ve learnt and use it to make something exciting and new that benefits everyone. His concluding questions put the future firmly in the hands of his young listeners:

“So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make?”

Fittingly, a bunch of open-ended questions best answered with imagination, not just textbooks.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Future of Shopper Marketing

The Sam Walton Business School at the University of Arkansas is on our
calendar every October because of the superb annual conference run by
the Center for Retailing Excellence. Andy Murray, Global CEO of Saatchi
& Saatchi X, was a founder of the conference, and this year a keynote
speaker. His subject was "the future of shopper marketing" - which
should apply to anyone and everyone who wants to sell something to a

The presentation featured five key points (and a whole bunch of
arresting stories, insights, and examples):

  • Put yourself at the heart of the customer (most companies try it
    the other way around)

  • Navigate the experience of your customer from the "shelf back"

  • Create ways for customers to participate and be involved in your
    brands and store experiences

  • Explore the fringe/edge/margin for new ideas (Wal-Mart was a
    fringe idea, it came from Bentonville, not Chicago)

  • Find new ways for manufacturers and retailers to collaborate
    authentically based on trust, transparency and shared goals
This is a special presentation and will be viewed in five years time as
a definitive statement about the world's biggest activity: shopping.

The Future of Shopper Marketing from Andy Murray on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

Only ten sentences total, written almost fifty years ago – and yet Where The Wild Things Are continues to capture the collective imagination. It goes without saying that Maurice Sendak’s book is a Lovemark (it’s currently sitting at #28 in the Lovemarks.com rankings).

Like all great picture books, Wild Things is high on Intimacy – it’s perfect bedtime story material after all – looking with great empathy through the eyes of a rambunctious young lad to show a world both tremendously exciting and a little scary. But it’s also a tale doused in Mystery – tapping into the powerful dream of running fearlessly into adventures much bigger than you are, and providing the iconic figure of Max in his wolf-costume, staring down the monsters.

The long awaited movie adaptation from Spike Jonze looks like it’s heading in the Lovemarks direction too. From what the trailer reveals, there’s been great thought put into the preserving the magic of the book, without grounding it in the past. And while the otherworldly landscapes and beasts bear true to Sendak’s legendary illustrations, the soundtrack songs – all rousing indie-rock anthems from the likes of the Arcade Fire and Karen O – couldn’t be more modern and they fit perfectly. Talk about past, present and future!

The creative team behind the movie have got the Participation Economy down pat. Check out the very cool fort making competition they ran - fans of all ages were invited to take up Max’s mantle and turn a humble bedroom into something much more wild and mysterious. And through a collaboration with US label Opening Ceremony, those who want to wear their Wild-Thing love loud and proud can pick up inspired shaggy coats, talon rings, and – the ultimate – Max’s wolf suit.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lost At E Minor

The Participation Economy is about conversations. Lots of them. We’ve been through the Attention Economy, which was a conversation of one to many. We morphed into the Attraction Economy, which brought more pull than push. Now the Participation Economy has joined the circle: it’s many to many. Everywhere we go online, we can talk to everyone and everyone can talk to us. You might say that real democracy is finally at hand.

Someone who understands this is Zolton Zavos and his brother Zac at a great site out of Newcastle, Australia, and Brooklyn, New York, Lost At E Minor. Zolton, the son of my friend the venerable Sydney rugby journalist (and Kiwi) Spiro Zavos, has created a community of conversations that showcases the zeitgeist - new creative projects and emerging culture sourced from the most diverse corners of the Internet, in all flavors – Twitter, Facebook, and Free iPhone app; and is spiced with free downloads, guest writers, a cool online store including the Dosh wallet, and much more.

A few years ago Zolton invited me to speak to his team mates on a previous gig, the New York-based online publishing company, Flavorpill. I talked pretty much about how to create a Lovemark, and clearly something stuck because Lost At E Minor has become a Lovemark. At least that’s what his readers are telling him in a recent survey:

“What I really love about E MINOR is the unexpected .. I love random moodbrowsing, and E MINOR is pure sensory indulgence!! I love all of the amazingly gorgeous art in all its forms presented on E MINOR. Thanks for the bottomless pit of inspiration.” Tambo

“I love the movement of Lost at E Minor, it goes from funky design in Prague to Diners in Nowhere USA. From creepy craigslist reenactments to cute funny commercials to awing murals.” Hayley

“It’s so refreshing knowing that there are so many people in this world that have such passion for what they do and create. Thanks for the constant supply of outstanding, shock, horror, beauty, talent.” Hannah

“There are a lot of websites that pull together the miscellany that I love, but Lost At E Minor has survived all others for a spot on my bookmarks bar.” weatherjam
Read here for more reasons why Lost At E Minor’s readers think it’s a Lovemark.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Let Mana Grow

I was the closing speaker at the United States – New Zealand 2009 Partnership Forum in Washington DC last month. As a believer in soft power, I talked about the power of language to create frameworks of freedom, freedom based on metaphors around family, creative edge and a higher role for business. I finished up with two observations. The first was on rugby (naturally!*). The second was on youth justice, a subject I feel strongly about and support through TYLA - Turn Your Life Around – which runs programs for at-risk youth in Auckland.

New Zealand and the US bear some resemblance as big-time human lock-ups. The US is world leader in incarceration and New Zealand is in the top quartile. New Zealand is the 125th most populated country in the world out of 258, yet the 57th most incarcerated. This gives new meaning to the cliché “punching above our weight.” I outlined three things New Zealand could offer to the US in this area: learnings about our system of restorative justice (with its emphasis on “repairing the harm”), our Maori-Pakeha experience of biculturalism, and an appreciation of the development of mana, that special Maori concept denoting personal bearing, presence, and character.

The point of this post is a story that came out of this. A few days later Roy Ferguson, New Zealand Ambassador to the United States, sent me an email with a story that underlines a more inclusive approach to accountability. A couple of years ago the organization American Humane gave an award to New Zealand for what they called "New Zealand's gift to humanity." This was for the Family Group Conference System of justice. Roy received the award on behalf of New Zealand along with our Chief Social Worker and the Chief of our Family Court. New Zealand first introduced this system into legislation around 1988 and it is now regularly used when teenagers get into trouble to see whether the extended family can take action rather than use the criminal justice system. It has been adopted by about 20 countries around the world and about 30 or so States in the US. Roy said how moving it was, after the President of American Humane had made a presentation, to have a Chief from the Lakota tribe of North Dakota come up and present Roy’s delegation with blankets. This was to show their gratitude for the fact that introducing family group conferences on to their Reservation had prevented a number of their young people going off to jail. A great example of how sharing ideas can make the world a better place for everyone.

Ps you can read here a paper ”Restorative Justice in New Zealand: A Model for US Criminal Justice”, 2001, written by American (Indiana) prosecutor Donald Schmidd, who came to New Zealand as an Ian Axford Fellow in Public Policy.
*The rugby references in my Washington speech were to:

  • Acknowledge the close relationship between DC’s Hyde Leadership Public Charter School and Auckland rugby.
  • Preview two movies that will putting rugby on the big screen – “Forever Strong” and “Invictus”, the story of Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, with Matt Damon as Francois Pinnear, directed by Clint Eastwood.
  • Pump up the American Eagles’ for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand – our qualification hinges on matches against Uruguay on November 14 and 21.

Monday, November 2, 2009

50 People, One Question

Dreams are where the soul takes flight, but the greatest dreams are those that are real, and happening every moment. Looking at these beautiful pieces filmed in London and New York, how great is it that so many people answered the question with “my own bed.” But what’s the question? http://fiftypeopleonequestion.com/

This is an idea by creative studios Crush + Lovely from NY/SF and Deltree, from New Orleans. It’s a sisomo showcase all about Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. The directors are Kenneth Chu (Brooklyn) and Benjamin Reece (London).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Facing The New Forty

Many years ago I read a poem called “Facing 40 Without Fear.” I was in my 20’s at the time and had just lived through a generation of Pop Culture telling me “I hope I die before I get old” (Roger Daltrey), and “Never trust anyone over 30.”

The poem was progressive and optimistic and offered some hope. I thought about this last week when I turned 60.

I checked out of my life for a couple of days and headed off to Grasmere and the comfort of my Lancaster home where it all began.

I spent two days thinking about growing up in Lancashire, friends I had then, the relationships that have lasted a lifetime, and remembered how great it was to be part of the 60’s revolution in the UK. Truly we felt nothing was impossible; a recurrent theme which has been the foundation of Saatchi & Saatchi since its inception. A classic case of work life integration.

There was only one place to be on my 60th birthday. I went into Lancaster and pounded the old streets for a while checking out my birthplace, primary school, and childhood neighborhood. A lot of people have been reassuring me that 60 is the new 40. They might be right. As Bob Dylan said, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

Returning to a rainy but comforting Grasmere the afternoon of my birthday, I opened a bottle of 2000 Haut Brion, looked around at the photos of my heroes of the era, and slowly opened the presents piled up in my study. I was overwhelmed by the cards, emails, texts, phone calls, and gifts I received from friends and family.

There were two common themes running through every message; the 60’s and Love.

I guess these milestone birthdays are times when everyone reflects on what was and what will be. What was heightened when I opened up a large container which turned out to be a beautiful Perspex box covered in original 60’s music and scenes, and recordings of many friends reflecting on moments we shared in the 60’s (including two great LRGS teachers, Doug Cameron and Peter Sampson. Who said teachers have no soul!). Following then was over an hour’s worth of classic 60’s music video clips from Ready Steady Go, Top of the Pops, and other US and UK sources. The music is still great. The fashions are still liberating and fun. The production values are a sight for sore eyes!

Thanks to my friends and family I was reminded of this great period of creativity and freedom and was reassured by all of them that “All you need is love.” Not bad.

I’m facing the new 40 without fear.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

150,000 Good Ideas

Ideas are the currency of the future and can come from anywhere, and Google probably know this more than anyone right now! To help celebrate their 10th birthday, Google invited people to submit their ideas to help make the world a better place for everyone with their special “Project 10 to the 100th”.

150,000 ideas were sent in from people living in 172 countries, speaking 25 different languages. There were eight different categories that ideas: community, energy, environment through to health, education, shelter and opportunity, and not to forget the “everything else” basket. The same people who submitted ideas were then invited to vote on the best ones that should receive the $10 million that Google are going to invest and which should be announced soon.

You can see the full range of ideas here. Some of the finalist ideas were:
  • support efforts to increase young Africans' access to quality education by creating "cyber schools";
  • create a fund to support social entrepreneurship by providing targeted capital and business training to help young entrepreneurs build viable businesses and sustained community change;
  • coordinate a rapid-response tool for natural disasters; introduce an ecological VAT instead of income tax;
  • create an advanced health monitoring system;
  • encourage positive media depictions of engineers and scientists; and
  • create a transportation system that enables electric cars to run on a rail-type system.
When so many ideas struggle just to see the light of day, it’s wonderful how the project has given people the opportunity to spread their ideas. The project has just finished voting and winners should be announced shortly, when the ideas go to work they will surely help transform the way people live.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kris Kristofferson

One of my all time heroes is road warrior Kris Kristofferson. I guess he’s in his early 70’s now and living in Hawaii. I saw him at the Royal Albert Hall a year or so back and have been listening to his album Closer to the Bone this week. A bunch of songs celebrating experience, scar tissue and perpetual optimism. “I ain’t afraid of moonlight, I ain’t afraid of freedom, blood will make you crazy but your soul will keep you sane.”

He’s one of the greatest all-time poets and songwriters and has lived a life full of hope, dreams, principles and values. “From Here to Forever” was written for his kids and I’d recommended it for parents and grandparents everywhere. “Fill your heart for the morning, tomorrow you still got a long way to grow, and the love that you’re dreaming will guide you and live like a song in your soul.” And finally, “Darling, take all the time that you’re given, be all you know you can be, and if you need a reason for living, do it for love and for me.”

On behalf of Stella and all grandchildren around the world, Kris, thank you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Billion Views Can’t Be Wrong

TV will never die, YouTube will never kill it. YouTube (or its future manifestations) will never die either, TV will never kill it. We’re in the world of and/and, where possibilities are not mutually exclusive and creative exposure is based on merit.

A couple of weeks ago, YouTube hit a billion views a day, and the inevitable happened. TV and YouTube are looking at working together. The Daily Telegraph says that the UK’s Channel 4 is looking at a deal to sell its own advertising around its own content on YouTube and sharing the revenue with YouTube (read Google). It’s like someone moving into your house, renting your living room unsolicited, and giving you a cut of the profits. And I say, good luck to them!!

The power is with the creative champions, and YouTube have proven to be just that. As Steve Jobs said, “creativity is just connecting things”. YouTube have connected the techno-geeks, mobile phone users, and home movie recorders together like never before. Their revenue share model has been around for a while, and high volume users are already benefiting from a share of the profits. So why not a TV Channel? It’s a Sisomo world, and the game has changed forever. Channel 4 are getting a second bite at their own content, and more importantly, integrating with other platforms online will drive users back to TV, still the focal point of living rooms around the world.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tanks to Tank

Despite using my Kindle for newspapers, I’m still a mad magazine fan. Whenever I fly, which seems to be everyday, I carry a bagful of mags with me. From the mass (Vanity Fair), to the cool (Monocle), to the eclectic (Dumbo Feather). On the eclectic side is Tank. A quarterly cultural magazine published in the UK. They’ve just relaunched in a big looseleaf binder format, which is very cool. I love its physical sensuality. Of course it’s also available on-line. Visit http://www.tankmagazine.com/ for information and visit their new on-line fashion concept, http://www.becausemagazine.com/.

The current edition has fantastic photography; soundbites on Tate Modern, Frida Giannini of Gucci and her flower power innovations, a terrific article from cult heroine Vivienne Westwood, a superb article from a guy who interviewed me recently, Peter Day from the BBC, with tables turned and him being interviewed this time on the financial crisis. There’s also revolutionary stuff on lots of topical art/cultural topics. The magazine is full color and 150 pages long and thriving, not just surviving. (The Claudia Schiffer cover is not bad either.)

It’s great to see Tank zigging as we, unfortunately, see Conde Nast closing down four more magazines this month. Positioning and appealing to a movement rather than a market is at the core of a magazine’s success in today’s participation economy. Tanks Tank for reminding us.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nail It With Love

For my wife Ro and daughter Bex, Air New Zealand Fashion Week this year involved a fair amount of elbow grease. Here's Ro's story of how she swapped the heels for a hammer...

I recently had the opportunity to be involved with a very special project in Auckland called “Nail it with Love”. Spearheaded by renowned New Zealand Fashion Designer, Trelise Cooper, a group of us built a house as part of Habitat for Humanity New Zealand.

However, this was no ordinary building project – Trelise and her husband Jack, who has been a volunteer builder for some time, are huge supporters of Habitat for Humanity, and Trelise came up with the idea of building a house down in Auckland’s Viaduct outside the venue which was hosting Air New Zealand Fashion Week. Trelise enlisted the help of family and friends – all women – and for a period of 6 days, while Fashion Week was in progress, we built a house!!!! The format was simple – each day was divided into two sessions – the volunteers enlisted for a session, or more if they could manage, and were asked to get themselves sponsored in order to raise money during that week to continue building homes for more worthy families.

It was a humbling experience indeed – our family was more than worthy. Fredarh Salamo, a single mother and her three young children, have been living in a garage on her mother’s property in South Auckland for three years. Fredarh’s chances of getting into a proper house were slim. She had heard about Habitat for Humanity, which is an organization that builds homes for low-income families and part of the scheme involves the chosen family to volunteer labour and help build their own home. Fredarh had been a volunteer on one of these projects for her cousin and decided to apply herself. When she learned that her application had been successful she says that she could not hold back the emotion!!!

Visualise if you will, Air New Zealand Fashion Week – beautiful models, Fashion Designers, fashionistas, makeup artists, media and celebrities all converging on the Viaduct, and just across the water, some of the same women in old jeans/t-shirts, thick soled shoes – definitely no Christian Louboutins here – with their toolbelts and hard hats on getting stuck in!

My initial session took place on the first afternoon, Trelise and Fredarh were there to welcome us, as they were for each session (a remarkable feat for Trelise who was producing three Fashion Shows that week, the first two being the following day). Again, a humbling experience as we listened to Fredarh speak and thank us profusely through her tears. You could tell that it was a Women’s Build as we all had to grab the Kleenex before we started! We had been told to expect to be doing anything – from standing up walls, fixing cladding, exterior joinery, sealing, roofing, framing, to plumbing, electrical cabling, sanding and painting and using all manner of tools in the process. I was astonished upon arrival to note that since I had walked past the site 4 hours earlier, the floor had already been laid. Under the supervision of three gentleman builders and two lady builders from Habitat for Humanity, along with two Auckland Unitec students, Vicky and Kartika, we were given instructions, put in teams and just got on with it. By the time that afternoon’s session had finished we had the walls up and the ceilings on!

Each day I walked past and marveled at how quickly the house was going up – despite the weather being very typically spring-like with a lot of wind and rain, work continued and the Teams were having so much fun at the same time. Women from all walks of life and ages were there, including a large number of Fredarh’s family.

With Fashion Week and my involvement over on the Friday, I enlisted to do the full, final day on Saturday. Saturday morning’s weather was dreadful, cold and wet. It didn’t stop us though. I spent the morning with Vicky doing the architraves under the roof, on tip-toes I could just about reach to wield the hammer, the cold rain on my saturated gloves dripping up my sleeve and down inside my t-shirt. I loved it! It was so great to be doing something physical, for such a worthy cause and to be getting stuck in. Saturday afternoon saw the sunshine come out and I had the pleasure of being on the roof with Kartika and my trusty hammer – it was a pretty sensational 360 degree view from up there too - Auckland CBD, Sky Tower, Harbour Bridge and Rangitoto Island!!! Bex was on the ladder wielding a paintbrush!

By 5pm we had finished everything that had been scheduled, the kitchen was being fitted in as we began putting away the tools and the following morning the house was being uplifted to it’s new site in South Auckland. We had a very informal celebration on-site and listened as Fredarh, her Mum alongside her, eloquently described her life and her dreams and how much the week had meant to her. Her gorgeous children were there, so excited to be seeing their new home and to be choosing their bedrooms.

I found the whole experience truly inspirational – so much so, that I have enlisted for a further Habitat for Humanity Women’s Build – this time as part of the Jimmy and Rosalind Carter Work Project Mekong Build 2009. This is a week long project which will unite volunteers from around the world to build houses in the Mekong Region which includes Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and the Sichuan Province in China.

I am going as part of the Thailand contingent of around 40 – 45 volunteers, again I am in the Women’s Build Team led by Trelise. There will be approximately 3,000 volunteers, including Jimmy and Rosalind Carter and we hope to build 82 houses in one week – celebrating the King of Thailand’s 82nd birthday.

Fredarh and her family stand in front of the completed house with Trelise Cooper. Image source: Habitat for Humanity

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bright Lights At The World Business Forum

Last week I stepped under the lights at Radio City Music Hall in New York, home of the rockin’ Rockettes. It wasn’t high leg kicks but it was the HSM World Business Forum, with a line up of high-profile speakers. It felt fantastic to be on a big show stage, and against the recessionary backdrop I ripped out seven ways to Win Ugly*. Judging by the negative forecasting of the economists and finance guys speaking, this stripped back approach is going to be needed for some time.

The general sentiment was that the recession may be over, but the bad times are far from over. David Rubenstein, founder of private equity firm The Carlyle Group, presented a sobering outlook for most sectors. Among the fast-fire statistics: the US government has $57 trillion in unfunded debt, unemployment rates are rising to the point where 7 or 8% will become normal, and inflation is coming.

With typical verve, Jeffrey Sachs underlined the successive failure of two US administrations (don’t leave a $62 trillion market unregulated!), the great sustainability challenge, and the continuous threat to democracy of public policy being written behind closed doors in Washington (the public debates being a side show). Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman showed that world trade has taken a bigger hit than during the Great Depression. He thinks trade will come back and development is possible again, but – ever the economist – warned trade may not end up as buoyant. Texas billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens, who nowadays backs alternative energy such as wind, underscored that cheap oil is why America has not managed energy in a smart way. If we keep on, he said, we’ll be importing 70% of our oil, and paying $300 per barrel for it within ten years.

On a more animated note, George Lucas (Leia! Vader! Luke! Obi-Wan Kenobi!) distinguished writing from storytelling. Writing is what he likes least and ends up doing most, because “I’m the only one who knows the universe.” He defined art as a way of telling stories that are meaningful in an emotional way. He thought it possible that the primary screen medium could become the iPhone. Lucas admires Spike Jonze as a rising Director, and described Peter Jackson as a genius. On day two business strategist Gary Hamel gave a presentation on how management needs to reinvent from a command and control institution that turns people into robots to an inspirational one where power is granted from below and is contingent on value-add. Hamel points to the Internet to see the future, where power flows to those who add value (think top Amazon reviewers) and away from those who don’t. “You won’t make any progress here if you are benchmarking the Fortune 500,” he said. “The future always starts on the fringe.”

The Blackberry and i-Phone flashes came out for President William Jefferson Clinton as he wrapped the day up. Bill Clinton’s star power was evident, as thinker, performer, storyteller and man of action. His framework for seeing the world is interdependence, not globalization. The three persistent challenges he framed were inequality, instability, and sustainability. The President closed it out this way: “We have to find a world where we can all win, otherwise, none of us will.” All up, a successful show. Congratulations to Eduardo and the team at HSM.

P.S. The Seven Ways to Win Ugly:
  1. Face the truth and act swiftly.
  2. Reframe all your beliefs about value.
  3. Measure only what matters.
  4. Embrace the Participation Economy.
  5. Let Emotion Rip!
  6. Go for High Respect and High Love.
  7. Act True Blue .

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Participation Economy, Pt. 2

I like to think of good ideas having a theme song. For the Participation Economy maybe it would be “Come Together” by The Beatles. But the manifestation of that spirit and energy has to be embodied by the current world tour by U2. It’s a lesson in participation with scale.

Stadium shows of yesterday were known to have poor sound quality and a vast distance between the performers and the rest of the crowd. But U2 wanted to innovate on that model and create something awe-inspiring.

U2 play upon a 164 foot tall stage positioned in the middle of a packed audience, nearly 70,000 strong. Bono says to the audience: "We built this spaceship to get closer to you." It’s the biggest concert stage ever built, has no defined front or back and is surrounded on all sides by the audience. The stage design also includes a cylindrical video screen and will increase the venues' capacities by about 15–20%. "The band is just sitting in the palm of the audience's hand," said Designer Willie Williams.

Mark Fisher, Design Architect for the U2 Tour, spoke about the set: “The inspiration was to make a set that was as intimate as we could make it in a stadium. So everybody in the stadium feels like they’re real close to the band and the band feels like they’re real close to everybody in the stadium.”

After the crowd sang along to “With Or Without You,” Bono had everyone hold up and wave their cellphones in the air saying “Turn this place into the Milky Way.”

One recent Chicago concert-goer blogged, “Once again it was a spiritual moment. There's a vibe you can't articulate.”

In an era of declining CD sales, the tour is expected to be a major source of income for the band. About 2.5 million people will see this current leg of the tour. And for anyone curious by all the massive trucks carrying the heavy stage around, U2 will, it seems, purchase carbon offsets to take into consideration the environmental impact of the massive production, which has been estimated to be up to 65 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide; approximately the same amount that would be emitted in flying a passenger plane to Mars.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Five Minutes With Fox Business

I recently caught up with Alexis Glick from Fox Business at Radio City Hall who asked me a few questions on the state of the ad market, consumer confidence, and how our clients, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, General Mills and JC Penney are approaching consumers in today’s environment, see video here (5:28 mins).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Olympic Rugby

If you haven’t heard already, the reigning Olympic champions in Rugby, the United States, will have the chance to defend their title at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016. Rugby sailed through the voting process with an 81-8 win (with one abstention) at the International Olympic Committee.

This is great news for Rugby which has been absent from the Olympics since 1924. The Olympic format will be a Sevens style (7 players instead of the normal 15) four-day tournament involving 12 men's and 12 women's teams. Each country will bring 12 players to the games.

Congratulations also to Jacques Rogge, being overwhelmingly voted back to his post as president of the IOC. It can’t have hurt that Jacques represented Belgium in rugby! Jacques has said that rugby is a sport with a strong ethic. It’s a contact sport, but there is an accepted code you must restrain from injuring opponent, as such, it’s a sport of “utter control.”

For me, it’s even more than that. It’s a game full of the three “S”’s – Strength, Speed, Skills, where the better team usually prevails over the better individuals. It fits the Olympic ideals perfectly, and I’m hoping that all 96 countries which are members of the International Rugby Board will send teams.

Rugby itself will benefit from the increased exposure, and the glory of Olympic gold will be a powerful inspirational dream.

In 1924, in Paris, the United States beat France 17 – 3, and there was fighting in the stands and police escorts for the victorious Americans leaving the field. 92 years later, in Brazil, the atmosphere in the stands, and anybody who has been to the Hong Kong Sevens will tell you, will be celebration, no matter who wins. It’s Rugby, and it’s Brazil. Two of my Lovemarks come together.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chicago, Chicago

I had an eclectic week roaming around the US. It started in NY, then down to Miami, up to Washington, DC and then across to Chicago. It seems as if the world revolved around Chicago this week, (not because I was there!) but because two of its most distinguished citizens, President Obama and Oprah Winfrey, were in the news.

President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. A staggering selection in my view. Whilst no doubt a good man, he’s only been in office 10 minutes and hasn’t had time to achieve anything. I find this an incredible selection, and even his hometown of Chicago seems stunned.

Oprah had been in Copenhagen all week leading Chicago’s Olympic effort, which was absolutely battered by the IOC committee. They took exception to what they perceived as overbearing behavior from the US OC and voted down Chicago’s bid in the first round. $50M of public money went up in flames.

So a mixed week for an underrated and brilliant city.

Architecturally, the city has a lot going for it and it’s still one of the best places to hear authentic American Blues. With a bird’s eye view from my desk this morning in my hotel I can see the Allerton Hotel. At night a huge red neon sits on top of it proclaiming that fact with the intriguing words, Tip Top Tap underneath it. Memories of a bygone era.

Put Chicago on your next US itinerary. And don’t miss a visit to RL. Ralph Lauren’s only restaurant. Beautiful bar, great leather chairs, terrific black & white photographs around the room and great down home American comfort food. It’s the real Ralph Lauren experience expressed in a restaurant.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Change the World? Why Not

I’ve relied on a number of mentors in my life. Starting with Lancaster Royal Grammar School teachers Doug Cameron and Peter Samson, the late great Jack Byrum who worked with Presidents Nixon and Reagan - and me - (and a few others), John Wareham who made me believe in myself creatively, Bob Seelert who stands shoulder to shoulder with me today, and Norman Ellis, the Greatest of them all – currently battling Alzheimers in a Nursing Home near Lancaster. Mentors can’t be programmed. They find each other. As this lad and I have done. Twenty minutes in I told Cameron I’d love to see him again next month. He stood up, stripped off his shirt and revealed the t-shirt pictured above. And then gave me the t-shirt I’m holding. Make a note of the name. Cameron Gallagher. You’ll be hearing more from him. Here’s his story of our meeting. KR.

Kevin asked me to write a post for his blog today. And that's a little bit difficult, because my brain is telling me to write something profound and superb, but I'm not a writer so I'll do what my fifth form English teacher said and KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)!

Six months ago I wrote to Kevin and asked if he would meet me. He said yes. Today, I walked into Kevin's office and told him that a friend and I wanted to change the world. I asked him if he would consider mentoring us. He said yes.

If that sounds simple, it's because really, it is. But it certainly wasn't easy. To describe it as a life altering moment for me would not do it justice. The landscape of my world has shifted so fundamentally in the last few hours that already yesterday seems like it does not exist.

Kevin is a hero of mine, who I first saw on Youtube a year ago, so the very idea of being mentored by him is beyond my wildest dreams.

But how does something like this even happen?

Well for one, this never would have happened if I had not chosen to put my balls on the line and give it a shot. 99 percent of me said it wasn't possible, along with pretty much everyone I told about it. The words out of their mouths when they said 'that sounds like a great idea', didn't match the look on their faces if you know what I mean. But one percent of me believed it was possible. One percent. That's all. One percent of me, said why not... And fortunately for me, in this case, I chose to listen to that one percent.

So today I'm really writing about listening to that one percent. You see, every day we make a million choices. And most of them get us nowhere fast. Why? Because most of the time we make the choice that 99 percent of us tells us to make, and that 99 percent is the loud voice of the status quo.

Now I'm not going to sit here and advocate the status quo in any way just because it might help some people sleep better at night. The fact is that the status quo right now is not working. It's broken. It robs people of their potential and keeps us living in fear. We complain about the problems of the world but we don't fix our own backyard. If you're not pursuing your dreams, it's unlikely that you will ever be very happy. And unhappy people cause problems, a lot of them.

So my question to you is, do you want to change the world?

If you don't think there's a roadmap, you're wrong. It starts, and ends, with you. And to start, you have to have the courage to leave the status quo behind. You must find the courage to pull the dreams out of the box at the back of the proverbial closet in your mind and look at them. Accept that you want them and stop listening to the 99 percent of you telling you that they are not possible.

If you want to know what the road looks like, here's an idea. In trying to pursue your dreams, you will fail. A lot. And it will hurt. A lot. But you will get back up. And that will feel good.

To say you will have the boundaries of what is courageous for you pushed will be an understatement. Sometimes you won't find the courage, and that too, will hurt. Sometimes, a lot.

But with each challenge, you will grow stronger. And you will learn, as I am learning, that the reward of living life in a world where everything remains forever possible is a reward far greater than any material prize could ever be.

So now I must live up to the seed I have sown, and the very idea of trying to do that terrifies me. The 99 percent is already telling me I'll fail and stuff it all up. However, in reality, that just means I have another opportunity to prove those voices wrong.

So, my question to you is this;

Are you ready to Change the World?

Because you are only one choice away.

- Cameron Gallagher