Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sensory Mash

What do you get when you mash up sight, sound, smell, touch and taste? Answer: a fascinating neurological condition known as synaesthesia, a confusion of the senses that leads to a colourful way of describing the world.

Novelist Vladimir Nabokov was a synaesthete. The letter "c" is light blue, "a" evokes a sense of "weathered wood," and "r" feels like "a sooty rag being ripped," he wrote. At a young age he associated the number five with the colour red.

You don’t need cross-wiring in the brain to have a feel for this kind of sensory overlap. Common metaphors depend on the same idea: a loud tie, a sharp cheese, feeling blue. But it’s intriguing to think that some people are experiencing a world that is more richly textured – perhaps seeing reality in greater wonder, drawing connections that for the rest of us are unusual and enchanting. Here’s a (translated) poem by another famous synaesthete, French poet Arthur Rimbaud, on vowels:

A Black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:

A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies
Which buzz around cruel smells,

Gulfs of shadow; E, whiteness of vapours and of tents,
Lances of proud glaciers, kings, shivers of cow-parsley;

, purples, spat blood, smile of beautiful lips
In anger or in the raptures of penitence;

U, waves, divine shudderings of viridian seas,
The peace of pastures dotted with animals, the peace of the furrows
Which alchemy prints on broad studious foreheads;

O, sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds,
Silences crossed by Worlds and by Angels:
O the Omega, the violet ray of Her Eyes!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Right On Time

The real-time web is getting more real by the moment, with Google introducing search-as-you-type, and now Facebook testing a system that instantly targets ads based on wall posts and status updates. It’s great stuff, a stronger focus on being attuned to you the consumer, where you are, in the now.

When the technology is sorted, the test will be for advertisers to connect with sensitivity. Real-time advertising should be more relevant, but will still miss the mark if it’s too transactional or doesn’t have a fine appreciation of a consumer’s feelings in that instant. Meet the consumer in a personal moment and you’d better be ready to interact in a way that’s intimate and emotional. Fail and you cross the line between interaction and interruption. But connect with understanding, whisper the right words and you’ll arrive at the true end-game of real-time engagement: conversation, and a relationship.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One's Life Is For Sharing

The team at Saatchi & Saatchi London have unleashed yet another brilliant viral video for T-Mobile (12 million hits and counting!). It’s a light-hearted glimpse into what the upcoming royal wedding might be like, the latest instalment in the “Life’s For Sharing” campaign. It’s just huge fun. Watch it here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Argentina Alive!

Glen Cameron is one of the SweeneyVesty team who manage my speech and media programs out there on the road. He is an advance negotiator and logistician for keynotes and media around the globe, and occasionally plays onsite diplomat. We were in Argentina 10 days ago. Here’s Glen’s report.

I often wonder if the gods of city planning had my tastes in mind when designing Buenos Aires. Wide avenues and cluttered city streets, beautiful parks, contrasting neighborhoods, often wonderful weather, incredible restaurants, European architecture, and robust, friendly people. Hotels like the Alvear Palace and the Faena couldn’t be more different, but each is fully representative of the supposed Paris of the South. In reality, Buenos Aires has no need to be compared to anywhere. The color and energy of the city made a perfect fit for the FIAP (Festival Iberoamericano de la Publicidad) celebrations – Latin America’s premier advertising festival.

It was noticeable that FIAP was happening around the city, due to the enormous amount of people-who-looked-like-they-were-in-advertising around, and inspiration and excitement was everywhere. Argentina is the home of one of the stars of the Saatchi & Saatchi network, Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, who were voted Agency of the Year again, whilst winning 20 “Soles”. Fertile ground.

Kevin was there to join celebrations and to accept a FIAP award honoring his life time work in advertising, and his influence on Latin America marketing life. A great moment, and honor, capped by the surprise of the night, as he was presented with his medal by the New Zealand Ambassador to Argentina, Darryl Dunn, and a surprise guest: the great Argentine rugby player, Hugo Porta.

It probably meant more to the rugby fans amongst us than others could have guessed – but an evening in the presence of the great No.10 was a real treat to anyone who had seen him play. Given that in Argentina, No.10 usually means Maradona or Messi, Porta is able to describe himself convincingly as a “private citizen”. Not this evening!

Ambassador Dunn and his wife kindly opened up their residence for the evening reception, and the melding of the rugby and advertising worlds caught fire. It won’t be the last time, and not the last time this Rugby World Cup year for sure, but it was proof positive that great deeds are never really undone – Porta was a champion again, and monopolized in conversation. Including by me – we talked about the first time I saw him play, on a day that describes as “foul and windy” – a deliberate understatement. I wasn’t really sure I did see him through the sleet and southerly gales, this led to the belated discovery that I was in fact short sighted, so it was a pleasure to be sure this time.

Argentina is coming into the southern hemisphere’s rugby tournament next year, the Tri-Nations will become Four Nations. It will be the perfect excuse to visit its capital, a city that is alive – with magical no.10s, advertising visionaries, 15 million energetic souls, and plenty of attitude. Check your meat eating credentials, budget for a very long flight, and step into the creative future."

Hugo Porta and Kevin Roberts

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mobile Madness

Yesterday I wrote about our love affair with television. One of the factors that is fuelling the growth of TV in its many guises globally is mobile connectivity, which is going stratospheric, shattering all kinds of limits. In an always-on world our smallest screens wire us to hot hubs, free us to shift to the edge, and unshackle enterprise and entertainment. Here are seven big trends to ponder next time you pick up your iPhone, furnished by a Cisco report earlier this year:
  1. Growth is rapacious. Global mobile traffic nearly tripled for the third year in a row in 2010. At 237 petabytes per month, traffic was three times the size of the entire global internet in 2000.
  2. Sisomo is taking over. Mobile video traffic will exceed 50 percent of all mobile data traffic for the first time in 2011. It’ll be two-thirds by 2015.
  3. Nothing is impossible. There are 48 million people in the world who have mobile phones, even though they do not have electricity at home. The off-grid, on-net population will reach 138 million by 2015.
  4. Competition is heating up. At the start of 2010 iPhone use was at least four times higher than that of any other smartphone platform. That’s changing fast. Towards the end of the year, iPhone use was only 1.75 times higher than that of number two, Android.
  5. Why stop, ever? There will be 788 million mobile-only Internet users by 2015, up 56-fold from 14 million at the end of 2010.
  6. There’s plenty to go around. There will be over 7.1 billion mobile-connected devices in 2015 – roughly equivalent to the world’s population by then (7.2 billion).
  7. Goodbye, megabyte. The average smartphone will generate 1.3 gigabytes of traffic per month in 2015, 16 times more than the 2010 average of 79 megabytes per month. Growth in the next five years will see global mobile traffic reach 6.3 exabytes per month by 2015. How big is that? It’s been suggested that every word ever spoken by human beings would equate to five exabytes. So six every month is a lot of chatter!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

TV Tomorrow, Today

Earlier this year an AdAge study gave grist to my intuition that TV will continue to be unstoppable in our lifetime. TV is the only medium touched by the Web that isn’t crushed by it – it rolls it in, integrating technology and absorbing and colonizing new media as it’s introduced. As a device, a format and a host (of news/sport/drama/entertainment, gaming, social media, web, advertising), TV is here to stay.

Even as television and the Internet merge, what we have always known as television will continue as a vital cultural, political and entertainment medium. Whether you’re watching television on a TV or pc or tablet or mobile, whether live or downloaded, it’ll still be television. YouTube streamed 8.5 billion videos in January alone. Is this television? You betcha!

The distinctions are in fact immaterial, and the language needs to shift. We call it sisomo – sight, sound and motion – and whether it’s high tech CSI from Jerry Bruckheimer or a journalist on a webcam from Tahrir Square in Cairo or a student giving a book review from his dorm, it’s all sisomo.

Last month Netflix helped to dissolve the boundaries further. Netflix is an on-demand online video streaming service that has spent $100m on a yet to be made series called House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey. YouTube is thought to be preparing to spend a similar amount on commissioning content. Those are big moves into original material, betting on the reality that consumers don’t care who delivers their sisomo, as long as they can get it when they want it.

Sure all of this is a shot across the bow of the TV networks. The content wars are heating up, which is great news for sisomo lovers everywhere. But the winners won’t be determined by delivery channel. Inspired, compulsive story telling will be what wins the day.

As consumers we’ll reward those who tell the best stories by paying in several ways – for the device, the connection, the rental, the subscription, the pay-per-view, agreeing to receive advertising or selling access to advertisers, paying credit card fees or buying currencies for playing games.

Even then, competition will bring pricing to equilibrium and (as I’ve written before) only two questions will matter in judging television and where we choose to watch and participate: Will they want to see it again? Will they want to share it? And as participation deepens you can add: Will they want to improve it?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

While You Were Sleeping

Earlier this month I spoke at the National Speakers Association of Australia (no pressure!!!). Shortly afterwards I got a warm thank-you from incoming President, Yvonne Adele, who also happens to be the inventor of a global overnight brainstorming service called Ideas While You Sleep. It’s Twitter-powered, participation-driven, harnessing the fertile mind of the crowd to empower the individual. Clients submit their challenge late afternoon in their local time zone, and Ideas While You Sleep churns out 100 ideas while you’re burning the midnight oil and catching a few z’s, courtesy of hundreds of ideas agents around the world. Great idea, smart business. Ideas are the currency of the future and Yvonne has opened an express-exchange in an always-on world: cash for concepts, now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Blue Heaven

Was at Wembley on Saturday with youngest son Dan ... and 87,000 others. It's 30 years since we reached an FA Cup Final. What a day – felt like a Giant Blue Street Party.

Blue Moon Rising.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Welcome to Port

It’s great to see a new magazine. I’ve been a magazine junkie since the get-go and it makes me very happy to see publishers still obsessed with the dream of the perfect magazine. Welcome to Port. The intelligent magazine for men. Published in the UK 4 times a year, I read the launch edition on an Auckland-San Francisco flight over the weekend. Esoteric, intellectual, emotional, stimulating brain food. A brilliant open letter from Samatha Morton and a riveting article from Daniel Day Lewis. Great photographs, great style, great content. Power to your elbows boys.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Participation to the Core

Here’s a flow in the right direction. WSJ reports that companies are working hard to make business applications more “social”, following the explosive growth of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr et al. Global spending on social business applications is estimated to hit $630 million this year and increase to $1.86 billion by 2014. This will help to break down silos, cut out duplication, over-ordering and re-work, and release creative flows.

There are important differences between social networking as we know it, and how it might work in the world of business. Some information may need to stay under wraps, work conversations have to be focused, and there will always be a place where the buck stops.

But what’s encouraging about this trend is that it says business isn’t faking the participation gene. It’s one thing to use social media to reach out to consumers, another for a company to embed participation in its DNA. This bodes well for the consumer: firms that nurture great relationships internally will more naturally reach out to consumers in a way that’s relational rather than transactional.

In the same way that movements are displacing markets, institutional systems in the business world are evolving as demand grows for more human ways of interacting. Participation is penetrating to the core.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who's the Boss?

This Wall St. Journal article suggests that more kids are their own boss in a tough economic climate. At a time when it’s hard for high school students to find the typical jobs that see them through the summer, many are opening up shop, commercializing the proverbial lemonade stand and taking it to new levels. But the story that’s most inspirational in the article belongs to a young guy who understands who’s really in charge.

Josh Bostick, 17, has been running his own car washing business for three years. Starting from humble beginnings – scouring the neighborhood for business in a golf cart – he’s now marketing his services through a variety of media and is projecting revenues of $15k for the year. And boy does he know how to win a customer’s heart:

Mr. Bostick watches weather forecasts and warns customers of impending rain, suggesting they delay washing their cars until after the storm. Josh says, I do lose a good amount of business doing that, but my customers are really appreciative. He hopes to have $50,000 saved when he leaves for college next year.

Here’s a guy at 17 who understands something that plenty of corporates and marketing divisions never get: As friend and former Procter & Gamble head AG Lafley would say, the consumer is boss. Put people first, deliver priceless value – like a car wash service telling you when not to wash your car – and the sky is the limit for your business.

Monday, April 11, 2011

That Human Touch

This is fun. The European Union is backing the development of a Robot intended to learn much like a baby would, through experience, rather than being pre-programmed to perform set functions. The ‘iCub’ is equipped with 53 motors that allow it to move its head, arms, hands, waist and legs in smooth, natural movements. It can flex its fingers. It can see and hear, thanks to its camera eyes and microphone ears. Occasionally, it blinks.

Participation is bringing iCub to life. Universities around Europe and in the US and Japan have iCubs (you can pick up the entry level model for the princely sum of 200,000 Euro) and are collaborating on its development with open-source software. They’ve done some fun things like getting the iCub behind a drum kit and simulating a gym workout.

In theory a learning robot could pave the way for intelligent machines that can do all sorts of things, from working on production lines on less than predictable processes, to helping out around the house. It would be nice to have one that can iron a shirt and make good pasta. Maybe the best news is that iCub 2.0 will have a sense of touch, which means that just maybe one day it could learn to tell when you need a neck rub.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Etching Inspiration

Michael Mayell, entrepreneur and founder of New Zealand icon "Cookie Time" recently sent me a great story (Michael is a top guy full of enthusiasm and enterprise. Experience one of New Zealand’s most loved brands and Michael himself on your screen here).

The story brings the “Nothing is Impossible” founding spirit of Saatchi & Saatchi into focus, super-miniature focus.

The motto has long been engraved in the steps of Saatchi & Saatchi’s founding Charlotte Street office in London, thanks to Maurice and Lord Charles Saatchi. Enter “the world’s smallest engraver” Graham Short, a man with hands of genius who thinks in microscopic extremes and swims at least 5,000 metres a day. This combination of thinking and swimming led to his idea to engrave “Nothing is Impossible” on a Wilkinson Sword razor blade, available to buy for £47,500.

Invisible to the eye, it took 400x magnification, late nights, 7 months and 150 attempts to create the world’s smallest engraving by human hand. This is a guy who has engraved the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a gold pin and the right to bear arms from the American Bill of Rights on the firing pin indentation of a silver bullet. For the world cup, Mr Short catalogued on a football stud all England’s goal scorers, from Wilf Mannion (1950) to Steven Gerrard. Another case of Nothing is Impossible.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cool Colombia

Glen Cameron is one of the SweeneyVesty team who manage my speech and media programs out there on the road. He is an advance negotiator and logistician for keynotes and media around the globe, and occasionally plays onsite diplomat. We were together in Colombia for a first-ever visit. It won’t be the last. Here is Glen’s perspective.

Polls devoted to finding the world’s happiest people in recent years have shown Colombia turning up in the top 5 countries. If “relaxed” equals “happy”, then Bogotá (population close to eight million) easily lives up to the hype.

It’s just that for Colombians, that’s not the hype they normally have to live with. While Colombia has moved past the days of cartels, rebel incursions, corruption and uncertainty, the rest of the world has more trouble forgetting the not so distant past. Yet every Colombian who was asked the question “is it safe here?” answered, “Yes, Colombia is safe. Don’t worry”.

I was with Kevin in Colombia to assist with his speech to Expomarketing, and to announce the launch of Saatchi & Saatchi Colombia. This event, for over 1,000 attendees, is proof positive that the Colombian marketing community is ready to hit the next level – albeit not too early in the day! The (wildly) ambitious 8am kickoff passed without murmur and a general lull ensued for the next 75 minutes when, as if by magic, everyone suddenly felt like the conference should finally get underway. Relaxed.

Progress is key to Colombia though, and nothing gets in its way. Perhaps it was the presence of the progressive President of Colombia elsewhere in the complex that contributed to the zeal – but running a version of the All Black Haka Kevin shows at the start of his speeches to the sound of power drills and compactors, in a massive congress hall in Bogotá – was a mash-up I hadn’t predicted experiencing just a few months earlier. Under duress, those workers did stop, but this only served to refocus our ears on the preparations of the lunchtime entertainment at the other end of the hall – a band doing a sound check. Nobody seemed to mind, and after a while, neither did we.

Watching serenely throughout the morning, and indeed all the time we were there was Kevin’s security officer, whom we’d been advised (paradoxically) to retain. A clean cut, dapper, and occasionally engaging figure, he had little to do, but rarely have I seen so little done with such low-key aptitude and clarity. In more questioning times you might call it quiet menace or massive authority. Although mainly unnecessary, the key to having this security was the lack of police checking that slows down life in Colombia. It seems the security firms have a sort of carte blanche to do as they wish. This was reflected in our man’s ability to move through gridlocked traffic at some speed, without recrimination from other drivers … We moved like comparative quicksilver.

After the speech, and the generous audience, we headed off to do interviews with El Radar, El Tiempo, Dinero and W Radio. Here we must say special thanks to Claudia and her team at Newlink assisting with top-notch professionalism and a human touch. After that, it was time to leave the world’s third highest capital city. No time to see the sights (although I was told that Monserrate, a monastery overlooking Bogotá, is pretty special). It wasn’t about the sights though – it was about people engaged in progress. Looking forward.

In Colombia, positivity rules, and the future is to be won. Maybe it’s really true that the past is a foreign country. From Cartagena to Cali, Bogotá back to Barranquilla, Colombia feels like one of the most welcoming, relaxing and (whisper it) relieving experiences you could surprise yourself with. Even better, they have beautiful, clear, easy to understand Spanish, making it easier to engage. We all feel better for having been there. Happier.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stringing It All Together

3D seems to be everywhere at the moment. Burberry made history at London Fashion Week last year by streaming its catwalk show live in 3D. Adidas has a touch wall that lets you browse for your sneakers in three dimensions. Nintendo has just released the first 3D handheld gaming device with no need for special glasses. Movies have been in the 3D space for a while. TV is also breaking through the screen limit – 3D promises to turn sports and adventure shows into richer viewing experiences; make animation more animated, drama more dramatic; and bring the jungle to your living room for National-Geographic-style programs.

All of which invites questions not only about how many dimensions we experience the world in, but how many we actually exist in. For most of us the mind boggles when we try to imagine more than a few steps beyond time and space. Movies conjure images of blackboards and notepads covered in enigmatic equations punctuated with Greek letters and wayward vectors, exciting but incomprehensible. But one of the co-founders of Modern String Field Theory has come to the rescue on The Big Think. CUNY’s Dr. Michio Kaku believes we exist in no fewer – and no more – than 11 dimensions. I like the musical metaphor that connects it all together:

The subatomic particles we see in nature, the quarks, the electrons, are nothing but musical notes on a tiny vibrating string. What is physics? Physics is nothing but the laws of harmony that you can write on vibrating strings. What is chemistry? Chemistry is nothing but the melodies you can play on interacting vibrating strings. What is the universe? The universe is a symphony of vibrating strings.

What a sublime thought. Here we are, trembling together, quivering imperceptibly in harmony on levels we can only imagine.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Canterbury Draft

Last week I received an impassioned email from Christchurch lawyer Grant Cameron about getting business moving again in Christchurch. Grant was NBR’s New Zealander of the Year in 1996 for his work representing the families and victims of the Cave Creek tragedy, among other notable cases he has handled. He has taken on a variety of institutions on behalf of people and groups seeking fair and just outcomes. In the February Christchurch quake Grant and his team had a dramatic escape from their office, abseiling down six floors – and then attempted to get their computers and servers down the same way.

Grant has a keen interest in Canterbury business, and agitated to get action for business owners to get access to their premises to recover computers and stock. After some heated scenes there was a meeting with Civil Defence which seemed to get some action. Grant’s broader plea though is to get a massive injection of “Canterbury Can” into the national psyche. He makes the good point that the focus should be on “rebuilding the economy” rather than “rebuilding buildings”.

Indeed, the language needs to shift from rescue and recovery to revival (and avoid passing through rage). Christchurch is the international gateway to the magnificent South Island; a vigorous export hub for agriculture, technology, and education; a strategic global entry point to Antarctica. Christchurch needs the world, and in a variety of ways, the world needs Christchurch. Let’s make sure that the term “revival” stays in the headlines, and that the decision-making is intelligently fast.

Concurrently, there is a TEDx coming up on May 21 specifically focused on the revival of Christchurch. I was invited to contribute but I am elsewhere in the world at this time. My input would be to devote a segment of the planning process to re-imagining Christchurch around the three elements of Lovemarks, Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy: how to communicate stories; what the symbols and icons of the revival are; how to get the right balance between past, present, and future; how to activate the five senses; how to do it all with empathy, passion and commitment. It would be a lateral and emotional approach to urban planning, and a way to generate revelations rather than mere insights about what to do.

Also check out the presentation at the recent TED by Christchurch innovator Kalia Colbin who has a vision of a 100% sustainable revival; in nature, not against nature.

The opportunity exists to do something extraordinary in city planning. New Zealand has world-quality architects and engineers; and it will take bold leadership to unify all the agendas and priorities. The first step is to get the language right. “Canterbury Can?” You betcha.