Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pottering On

For years readers around the world have dreamt of going to Hogwarts and taking part in the adventures of Harry Potter. It’s a world drenched in mystery and magic that has engrossed millions of fans, thanks to the masterful storytelling of author JK Rowling. Seven books, soon to be eight movies and a theme park later, it looked to be the end of the boy wizard’s adventures. Then Rowling announced Pottermore – an interactive online experience where readers can travel through the books themselves.

After teasing fans last week with promise of a new Harry Potter project, speculation was rife and eyes around the world watched the clock tick down to the announcement – after all, who can resist a good mystery? (Rowling is a master at this, something I’ve written about before). Finally, Pottermore was presented to the world, explained as an “online reading experience unlike any other” – a hybrid of social-networking and gaming, packed with encyclopaedic content… and a new glimmers of magic.

Sisomo will bring the online world to life through a combination of visual effects, detailed imagery and sound. Take a look at Rowling’s short announcement video to get a grasp of just how magical this online universe is shaping up to be. Also note the continuing use of mystery – Pottermore doesn’t open until October, but a lucky few will get a sneak peak by “following the owl…”

What I like about this project is how intimately Rowling is connecting fans with the wizarding world she imagined. On signing up, readers receive their own wands, are sorted into their own Hogwarts house and have their own homepage to return to after virtually venturing into this magical universe. Rowling has also hinted that users themselves will be able to shape what happens on their journey through the books, enabling them to truly make Harry Potter their own.

The author herself will be on active on the site, emptying new content into the corners of this online world. So far over 18,000 words of inside knowledge have made it to the site, and Rowling has promised she will be writing even more for Potter-thirsty fans.

Platforms like this have the potential to reshape the way we think about books, as entire imagined – and magical – worlds are no longer bound to printed pages, or just the glowing screens of e-readers. In true story-telling style it’s AND, AND, AND...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Farewell to a City Hero

I have a 1976 Manchester City League Cup Winner's shirt hanging on the wall of my Grasmere gym. It's signed by Mike Doyle (the captain and a hero of mine), and Dennis Tueart, who scored the winning goal that day, 35 years ago, at Wembley with a brilliant overhead kick.

Mike Doyle played 558 times for City and captained the Club from 1975 to 1978. He bled blue.

As an apprentice, he once asked iconic keeper Bert Trautmann if his back was OK...Bert had just conceded 8 goals against Wolves!!! He ended up washing Bert's VW Beetle every morning for the next 3 months.

Mike died yesterday. A part of every City fan did too.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Five Minute Theatre

Here’s another great concept crunched down for the Age of Now: the National Theatre of Scotland has just celebrated its fifth anniversary with five minute theatre, over 200 (mostly live) plays in 24 hours. Reviews in The Guardian and The Scotsman hail it as a success, brilliantly executed, winning over cynics. The verdict: some fantastic work, some less convincing, as a package…irresistible. There’s an echo of 7x7 in this, the SweeneyVesty-produced format for presenting great ideas with absolute brevity and impact: seven x seven minute speeches (Advertising Week called SaatchiNY’s recent effort Seven Minutes In Creative Heaven). Congratulations to everyone at NTS for defying the critics, achieving the impossible, and opening minds.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Clarence Clemons: Sax Man

Anyone who has been to a Bruce Springsteen concert – and I count myself lucky several times over – will have been moved to ecstasy by the big fat sound of Clarence Clemons, sideman and saxophonist for the E Street Band. Clarence died on June 18 aged 69 after a stroke. His collaboration with The Boss stretched almost 40 years. His solo on Jungleland has been called “the best sax solo in rock history.” Call it chemistry, call it bromance, it’s clear that that they had a bond that ran deep and strong. The Church of Bruce has lost one of its cardinals.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is It A Kiss?

Australian Scott Jones and Canadian Alexandra Thomas became an Internet sensation when this picture was snapped in the midst of the riots after the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup. The lightning speed with which it circled the globe shows the power of mystery (are they kissing or not?), sensuality (the closeness is beautiful) and intimacy (which is only heightened by the violence around them). It was a compelling moment, a protective embrace in a dangerous scene, another example of beauty in the chaos. Kudos to Scott – this is heroism in HD.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chaotic Beauty

NASA’s Hubble telescope has captured a stunning image showing that chaotic beauty is universal as well as global. Not unlike the wandering ash cloud from Chile’s Puyehoe volcano that I wrote about yesterday, this is a picture of clouds of dust and gas drifting in another galaxy, 11 million light years away, residue that hints at a catastrophic origin. Flecks of red are the signatures of young stars; in the centre is a “supermassive” black hole that weighs 55 million times as much as the sun.

It says something for focus and perspective. This galaxy was first spotted in 1826 but generally ignored for the next 100 years, dismissed as a blurry, shapeless mass thought to be more or less in our own back yard. But sharpen your gaze and the close becomes distant, space opens up and the blur becomes breathtaking. Where’s the beauty in your chaos today?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crazy Clouds

In a VUCA world upheaval in one sphere or another is pervasive, global and daily, creating strange patterns, overlaps and juxtapositions as our worlds shift in several directions at once. One that feels ironic is a Chilean volcano unleashing a global cloud of ash just two days after Apple launched its iCloud suite. While the volcanic ash plume has circled the globe, disrupting and disconnecting, Apple’s latest offering pulls things together, making content serve the consumer as it should. Neither is new; both are powerful creations, shaking up usual orbits in a shared moment. Here are some pictures from Chile, a power shift to match Iceland’s firing volcano system a year or so ago, beautiful and chaotic.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Straight Shooting

David Perry, our EVP/Head of TV Production at Saatchi & Saatchi NY, was recently polled with a bunch of other ad people for an item by Shoot, a hot hub on all things production. David is a veteran, a director and producer par excellence who’s tasted it all, and cut to the chase with some clear insights and advice…

I am amazed at the resilience of television. For 15 years the cool kids have been trying to kill it. But TV thrives in a world of choices.

Everything that was supposed to kill television actually makes it better. YouTube is television, Hulu is TV, VOD is TV, Vimeo is TV. Everything we look at on tablets and phones and computers is TV. And the 60-inch HD screen in our living room is really great TV.

On DigitalWe should banish the word ‘digital’ as a collective term for everything that isn’t TV. ‘Digital’ doesn’t mean anything. Refrigerators are digital.

We need to be specific because all the digital devices and media are different, and we use them all in very unique ways. And we fail to appreciate their uniqueness if we just think of them all as ‘digital’.

On Directing
The last skill that most directors develop is that of directing people. I would tell anybody who wants to be considered a director to develop a skill at casting, dialog and performance. Pretty pictures are easy. People are hard.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Familiar Faces

Chances are when you’re wandering around your local store doing your weekly grocery shop there are brands you gravitate to. Without a second thought your trolley fills with brands that have a familiar spot in your cupboards at home. And you feel happy about that – happier than if you’d actually bought the exact same products under a different label, because these are the brands that mean something more to you. They fire positive emotions that inspire loyalty. Some may even be Lovemarks.

BBC food journalist Alex Riley recently dug deep into the emotional connection we have with our favorite food brands (check out Alex’s blog here). With a simple experiment he confirmed what we’ve known for some time – if you love the brand, the product actually tastes better. Effectively, your mind has seasoned it with love.

He then sought the help of Professor Gemma Calvert of Neurosense – a research group in the UK – to see just how close to our hearts our most cherished brands are. Using MRI technology, the pair mapped a volunteer’s brain’s reactions to two different sets of images – one of his loved ones, the other of familiar brands. The results showed the same area of the brain lighting up for both sets of images – the region associated with happiness. The reactions mirrored right down to the brain area associated with facial recognition.

It’s another line under Lovemarks and the power of emotion, science affirming what the heart knows is true and market leaders build sustainable premiums on. The brands that bring us the greatest joy are like calling home, meeting a friend or turning through the pages of a photo album. In at least some way, Lovemarks are part of the family.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kea Kaha

One rainy evening in London a few weeks back I had the pleasure of speaking at an event organized by Kea. Kea is a great organization with the mission "to connect New Zealand with the rest of the world by building a network of global citizens who take an active interest in the future of our country". It rings out across hemispheres in harmony with NZEDGE, and after several weeks bouncing around the globe it was good to be back with a bunch of kiwis. No other group could have expressed such a murmur of excitement when it was mentioned early on that hot pies would be served later.

The event was opened by Dave Currie, the Chef de Mission of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, who gave a call for people to feel connected and get involved in supporting everyone in the NZ team coming across the Atlantic to London 2012. They’ve got an exciting program planned to get people asking themselves “When were you most proud to be a New Zealander?” so keep an eye out for that.

I had been asked to give some comment on where New Zealand is placed in the world currently, and a “loving nudge” on where the country should be focusing on for the future. I think New Zealand has huge untapped potential, and called for a heavy dose of passion and ambition to come to the fore, led by a revolution in language (for the full download on the new lexicon you can read my script from the night here). In this age of people-power and the democratization of knowledge, NZ has the potential to be a vibrant hub for world champions in every sphere of business. The key is for our people to embrace that attitude.

There are so many opportunities to reframe the way we think. There’s no brain-drain – there is a growing network of inspirational New Zealanders around the world, brilliant points of presence spreading the net of influence and opportunity for our country; they’re essential to a big haul. New Zealand isn’t remote or irrelevant – it sits at the edge, where all innovation takes place. We can forget “tall poppy syndrome”; let’s talk about legends (for a dose of inspirational education on our electric DNA check out the heroes page on NZEDGE). We don’t need to aim to be world-class. Good is the enemy of great. New Zealand can be world changing, competing not just by following the rules, but by creating a whole new game.

Above all, we need people full of energy and enthusiasm, living and breathing the New Zealand Dream in the world, an irresistible force of nature. That starts with attitude, wired by language and more emotion than reason. As George Bernard Shaw once said: all progress depends on the unreasonable man (or woman). To press ahead we need a show of strength from the heart. Kea Kaha, New Zealanders at large.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

London Calling L’enclume

One of my favorite restaurants is Simon Rogan's L'enclume in the beautiful village of Cartmel in Cumbria. A one star Michelin, and surely on the verge of achieving a second.

This year "a two-year pop-up restaurant" opens its doors in Marylebone, London, under Simon's ownership. He's taken the remaining 2-year lease on the site and will serve the same kind of food as L'enclume. The restaurant is yet to be named. Head chef will be Ben Spalding. I'll be giving it a try as soon as it opens.

Update: The doors will open at ‘Roganic’ on 25 June, located at 19 Blandford Street in the heart of Marylebone. The tasting menu will no doubt be superb as ingredients are organic where possible as well as deliveries from Simon’s very own Howbarrow Farm. The next time I’m in London I definitely will be booking a table...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Giant Leaps for Mankind

NASA is an ideas factory. The agency has generated countless spin-off innovations in their quest to repeatedly go where no man has gone before. Now as the ageing shuttle fleet heads into retirement and fiscal pressures keep the space program planted on terra firma, it’s worth remembering how imagination and the pursuit of excellence has benefited the rest of us. Here are 10 inventions we use everyday that we owe to rocket science:
  1. Memory foam – we’re all safer and many of us sleep better at night thanks to this one, a foam that can absorb intense pressure but ‘remembers’ its original shape (think mattresses, crash helmets and a raft of other applications)
  2. Ear thermometers – the same technology they use to measure the temperature of the stars means there’s no need to stick anything where the sun doesn’t shine…
  3. Shoe insoles – the technology used in your sneakers was first used in moon boots
  4. Invisible braces – the most popular innovation in the history of orthodontics
  5. Scratch-resistant lenses – tougher, longer-lasting glasses, indispensable for near and far-sighted geniuses without the patience to be more careful
  6. Long-distance telecommunications – NASA didn’t just make the world seem smaller from space – thanks to the satellite you can talk to almost anyone, anywhere, anytime
  7. Adjustable smoke detectors – that is, smoke detectors that can prevent false alarms, straight from the space station
  8. Safety grooving – sounds boring, but is life saving; these are thin grooves first used by NASA to improve runway safety by reducing surface water levels, now used on roads everywhere
  9. Cordless tools – an extension cord would probably be the least cool thing you can imagine in space, so NASA did away with them altogether
  10. Water filters – millions of people use them everyday; NASA was the first to make water taste great in the modern era, so next time you’re grateful for a cool glass of water spare a thought for the space program.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Go Sit Somewhere Else

Ever wondered what goes through your mind when you choose where to sit on the train? Or in a waiting room? An interesting study by researchers for the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has an interesting take on it all.

By analyzing seating distance, Sean Mackinnon, Christian Jordan and Anne Wilson found we sit closer to people who look like ourselves. People with glasses are more inclined to sit near others who wear them. Those with long hair sit closer to others with long hair and so on and so on. The assumption our brains seem to be working on is that people with similar physical traits will share similar attitudes - and we're more likely to be accepted by people like ourselves. Sensible as it sounds (even if opposites attracting is another law of nature), it's pretty dismal news if we aspire to a society that's more integrated and thrives on diversity. So now that you know, be the cat among the pigeons. Go sit next to someone different.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Irresistible City

Each year media heavyweights like Monocle, Forbes and The Economist publish a list of the world’s most liveable cities – the very best places to live in the world. Europe dominates the lists, with Vienna, Zurich, Geneva and Copenhagen regularly appearing as the global front-runners. But are these cities really the best places to live? And why are ‘big cities’ like London, New York and Paris so conspicuously absent?

The Financial Times ran a good article on all this about a month ago. Apparently what gets you near the top of the liveable list are things like your proximity to nature, global connectivity, education and even chain store metrics. But it’s a classic case of irreplaceable and irresistible. Or as FT puts it, liveable versus loveable. I’d like to see a list of the most loved cities in the world. Places that ooze sensuality, mystery and intimacy. That pulse with energy and excitement. Mine would start with Istanbul, Santa Fe, Rome and Auckland. Forget about places that are liveable. Let’s talk about places that make you feel alive.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Want Your Career to Go Somewhere?

Here’s a hot shot of inspiration: The Big Think has a one-minute interview with New York Times deputy editor Adam Bryant on a quality many CEOs (myself included) prize above all others in their employees. To find out what it is, click here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Walls?

All sorts of walls are tumbling today as the world shifts and reshapes in radical ways.

Now technology is making light of the ones we choose to keep up. Scientists at SRI have created a wall-climbing robot. Others from Cambridge Consulting have developed a device that lets you see through bricks.

The technologies are still evolving – for now wall climbing is for robots only, and the wall radar is the size of a backpack.

Both have obvious military applications, but I’m all for tomorrow’s crunched-down consumer combo.

Sign me up for a pair of wall-climbing boots and x-ray goggles.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Beautiful Religion

How To Pray The Rosary - The purpose of the Rosary is to help keep in memory certain principal events or mysteries in the history of our salvation, and to thank and praise God for them. There are twenty mysteries reflected upon in the Rosary, and these are divided into the five Joyful Mysteries, the five Luminous Mysteries, the five Sorrowful Mysteries, and the five Glorious Mysteries.

I was at the launch of Spiro Zavos’ book How to Watch the Rugby World Cup 2011 at Unity Books in Willis St Wellington. Spiro grew up in Wellington and has lived in Sydney for 30 or so years. He writes rugby for the Sydney Morning Herald. He’s a journalist, historian, author of several political - and rugby books - and brings the full erudition and nuance a Greek can to any script. It’s no wonder his column is called Rugby Heaven. (See a rave review for Spiro’s book from the heartland of NZ rugby, The Southland Times).

Book launches are as lively a place to meet people as a country pub, and at Unity I met Mary O’Regan, who with lifelong friend Jan Kehoe, makes rosary beads. When in Rome, these two Irish Catholics hunted for rosary beads to buy as gifts for their mothers, but couldn’t find the perfect set. A contemporary beautiful set. Their epiphany: make their own. Back home in Wellington, they are doing just this.

“A lot of ritual and ceremony has gone out of our lives,” says Jan. “We thought contemporary rosaries would resonate with many people and we’ve had a very positive reaction, not just from Catholics – lapsed or otherwise – but from anyone who appreciates beautiful things.”

Made from emeralds, pearls, jade, glass, painted wood, coral and other materials, their rosaries are designed to link ancient tradition (from Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam) with contemporary ritual. The luxurious part: they’ll customise them for you.

It’s satisfyingly meditative (in this case the slow click-click of beads through the fingers) using the senses to reach deep into emotions and refresh the spirit. Or you can just appreciate Mary and Jan’s sparkling rosaries as simply beautiful pieces of jewellery that honor a time-honoured ritual. Pattern recognition as prayer.

And great to see two friends follow a dream. The role of business is to make the world a better place – if beautiful religion is what you love, wrap your fingers around Rosaries by Regan Kehoe here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Connecting with Gen Y

I’m permanently wired as Gen B; and CEO for some thousands of Gen Y. I’m interested in the literature of both. Call it GenLit. TGI Global, interactive solutions for the hospitality industry, published this article about reaching out to Gen Y. This up and coming generation has some serious spending power, and are in many ways more willing to spend than Gen B. We have different values (work to live vs don’t live to work), are more demanding (loyalty is won moment by moment) and are more connected than anyone. Gen Y is always, always on. The advice is for travellers, applies across the board. This is it crunched down:

1. Remove the “Yawn Factor”... Keep it fresh
Gen Y is not attracted by the ‘proper’ message. Use social media to get your voice heard in the online marketplace. Build unique microsites for your Gen Y promotions that feature a more edgy design element. Create specials that include amenities that are important to them, like the availability of wireless networks, iPod docking stations or touch screen room service access on site.

2. Get conversationalA moment’s attention isn’t enough. It’s likely that a Gen Y-er will be tweeting from check-in to check-out, commenting on every experience in between. Give them the incentive – an experience – that will make them your destination or brand ambassador.

3. If you build it, they will come…
A series of networks that is. Gen Y is hooked on mobile. Try something like Google’s “Favorite Places” mobile based bar codes to leverage your your with a Gen Y consumer.

4. Make it “bragworthy”
The Gen Y crowd is looking for an experience that will wow their friends and earn them bragging rights on their return. This is evident in the glut of new hotels that follow extreme themes, such as the Ice Hotel in Sweden that is the equivalent of living in an igloo or the Drainpipe Hotel in Austria, that enables visitors to sleep in a capsule made completely out of repurposed municipal drainpipes.

5. Start nowGen Y may not have the extreme buying power that you seek right now, but this innovative group represents the future of your business, and they will take some wooing. By reaching out to younger employees on your property to get their feedback, or having them help manage your social media campaigns on your site, you stand to connect to this audience on a closer level.