Thursday, December 22, 2011

Life's A Happy Song

It’s hard to be down on the world when you’ve got muppets and music, brought together by the genius of Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame. McKenzie’s ‘Life’s A Happy Song’ is three minutes of pure happiness and is widely tipped for an Oscar nomination. Check out this rendition where he sings with Kermit.

Merry Christmas and keep on singing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kiwi Love

Here’s one to warm the cockles of every Kiwi’s heart, a festive message from USA Rugby Vice-Chairman, Bob Latham, full of generosity and good cheer. KR.

Ah, New Zealand, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
  1. I love that your motto for the Rugby World Cup, which you hosted (and where I spent time in September and October), was “a stadium of 4 million” – and that it was actually true. There is no another country where the DNA of one sport is so ingrained in the culture. And during the RWC, in remote fishing villages or the tiniest hillside vineyards, every single citizen was conversant in the match results from the tournament.
  2. I love that your national team, the All Blacks, facing the enormous pressure of a stadium of 4 million people, won the World Cup with a tight, physical 8-7 victory over France. And – due to injuries – they did it with their fourth-string flyhalf, showing the incredible talent they have. That is akin to an NFL team winning the Super Bowl with a fourth-string quarterback. Your citizenry deserved the pride that comes with that crown.
  3. I love that your political leaders are true fans like the people they serve. Your Prime Minister, John Key, attended two of the four United States Eagles’ pool matches and we were not even playing New Zealand. The fact that your public officials consider themselves part of the throng was evidenced by my encounter with Harry Duynhoven, the mayor of New Plymouth, where the U.S. played two of its matches. Mayoral status brings with it the title of “Your Worship.” When I addressed Duynhoven as “Your Worship” he stared me in the face and said, “‘Harry’ would be fine.”
  4. I love that you were able to overcome tragedy and disaster earlier this year, specifically the earthquake in Christchurch – a city that could no longer host seven of the RWC matches. Many in your country consider the Christchurch area to be the spiritual home of New Zealand rugby, and it is fitting that the All Blacks paraded the championship trophy through the streets of Christchurch (as well as Auckland and Wellington).
  5. I love that your national team players are part of your local and national communities, and are known by everyone as simply “Richie” or “Dan” or “Sonny Bill” (yes, the latter is from New Zealand and not from Texas).
  6. I love that the people of New Plymouth held a memorial service for the U.S. team on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 where townspeople spoke from the hearts in their church, and where the reverend revealed that he long had an eagle tattoo on his bicep, to the delight of our Eagles.
  7. I love that your 4 million people seemed to follow every team and every player. I traveled with U.S. team captain Todd Clever from new Plymouth to Auckland for a disciplinary proceeding after the U.S. victory over Russia. On the plane back to New Plymouth, the flight attendant came to our seats and said the pilot would like to know if Clever was going to be eligible to play in the Eagles’ next match against Australia, New Zealand’s archrival. We were as pleased as the pilot as we reported that he was.
  8. I love that small towns on the South Island adopted teams from countries such as Georgia and Romania, studied their history and their players, and attended matches in those teams’ colors.
  9. I love that the president of the New Zealand Rugby Union and former All Blacks great, Bryan Williams, following the awards banquet the night after the final, led an impromptu sing-along with his guitar in the host hotel bar, up to and beyond last call. We could not picture our own Bud Selig doing the same thing in a hotel bar in St. Louis after the Cardinals won Game 7 of the “World” Series.
  10. Finally, I love that your spirit is so infectious that it causes reciprocal sportsmanship. In the final – the All Blacks versus “Les Bleus” – only one team would be able to wear their preferred color. The other would have to wear a lighter alternative jersey. French team manager Joe Maso won the coin toss and the right to select France’s color. Remarkably, he deferred to New Zealand, thereby allowing the All Blacks to wear their iconic color as a show of respect and appreciation for their hosting of the event – a magnanimous gesture. But it was no more that what you deserved.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You Can't Beat Moscow

I’ve just been to Russia for the first time in 6 years. After my first visit I wasn’t in a huge hurry to go back. Many travelers to the country take perverse pleasure in trumping each other with stories of difficulty, bleak weather, challenging bureaucracy, bland food and incomprehensible complexity. Three hours of traffic from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport made me feel like I might be in for the same again.

What a difference 6 years makes!

Moscow is now alive with a youthful spirit, and truly impressive people. Recent events show idealism on the streets, bars and cafes around the city are full of the best food (check out the Ginza Project restaurants), and busy cosmopolitan people from all over the former Soviet Union, and the world.

That same spirit was found in abundance at TV Rain, where I did a long interview that covered all bases, and from interviewer to production staff everyone was aspirationally global/local, passionately restless, savvy but genuinely smiling. The station, set in a great warehouse type space, is a perfect SISOMO blend built on fresh ideas and a fast philosophy. It’s on TV and online, mostly live and with some great pre-recorded material! (My interview will screen before the New Year). TV Rain express the new spirit of Moscow and those who share the same dreams further afield in Russia. It’s no surprise that they’re tapped into what’s happening on the street post-elections.

Just a few meters away, a day later, any lingering doubts about Russia were consigned to the history bin. I thoroughly enjoyed my public lecture at Digital October to a young crowd stuffed full of potential. I loved the responsiveness, the brightness in the eyes, intelligence and emotion all rolled up together. Not just interested in jobs, the audience understood the idea of being part of a movement, making the future happen. An inclusive and supportive Russia values all of its precious resources, especially its young. The challenge for the young is to grow in the same inclusive and supportive way, recognizing the work and sacrifices of the past, and celebrating the sustainable future that is theirs to develop and enjoy.

Hats off to everyone who made my visit a special memory – my amazing interpreter (a total pro), good, reliable, on-time (and patient) drivers, the great people of Saatchi & Saatchi Russia (proud of you all), the probing and comprehensive media interviewers, and all those who left me wanting to return.

You can’t beat Moscow. A 2012 Lovemark in the making.

Monday, December 19, 2011

E-tail Mash

eBay has gone physical with a pop-up Christmas boutique in London’s West End. It’s a hands-off, shopper-powered setup – no tills, no queues, just an array of products with QR codes that consumers can scan with their smartphones to buy from the eBay website, delivered in time for Christmas.

The store is experimental, but this feels like a case of surprising with the obvious, possibly the first indicator of a mega-trend in reverse: once the web was an extension of retailers’ physical presence; here the physical presence becomes an extension of the web as the primary “store”.

Is it a sign of things to come? Maybe. But there will always be a place for the full-service shopping trip where grand masters of retail surprise and delight and the shopper is hero. It’s vintage AND AND – it’s more likely that eBay’s sideways shuffle will spark more deeply integrated physical and online offerings, providing richer shopping experiences everywhere. Where you want to shop doesn’t matter – the only thing that matters is that you can, when you want to, how you want to.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


There are plenty of people locking themselves in rooms at the moment to try and sort out the world economy. But not many invite a bunch of comedians to help out with the mess. Such was the inspired thinking behind Kilkenomics, Europe’s first economics festival, held in Kilkenny, Ireland. The idea was to cut through the jargon and have a bit of fun at the same time by getting a sharp bunch of comics to help a bevy of financial gurus explain what the heck is going on in the world, in a way that’s digestible for the average punter.

The economists dressed down. The comedians wore ties to boost their credibility. In true comedic style, the timing was perfect – the festival ran the same week that the Irish Department of Finance discovered the country was 3.6 billion Euro less indebted than previously thought, thanks to an accounting error. Oops. With the bean counters already a laughing stock, people turned up to Kilkenomics in droves.

It may be that not everyone at the festival was looking for answers, but Businessweek’s report suggests there was an honest mix of hard thinking and hard laughing. If nothing else, people left happier than when they arrived...and surely that’s what good economics is all about.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

11 In 11

Year endings are a great time to catalog the good and the great: here’s a download from my son Danis at Red Rose Music in London, on the best 11 albums of 2011. KR.

2011 was a great year for music. There were at least 15-20 albums I loved and I have spent a good few weeks chopping and changing my final 11, then a few more figuring out the order they should go in.

If you don’t have time to read the whole thing I have included hash tag summaries to allow you to skim through and get on with your day.

First off, honourable mentions for Bon Iver, Danger Mouse & Danielle Rossi, Planningtorock, Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx, Forest Fire and James Blake. #nextcabsofftherank

11. Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow: Highly controversial pick as it only came out a week or two ago but I immediately loved it. I still don’t really know what the hell it is about but track titles like ‘Snowflake’, ‘Snowed in at Wheeler Street’ and ‘50 Words for Snow’ start to give you an idea. It is only 7 tracks long but clocks in at well over an hour and features some stunning arrangements. #1neige2schnee3sneeuw 4neu…

10. The Antlers – Burst Apart: I have tried to write about these guys before and always struggle to come up with things to say. There doesn’t appear to be anything remotely remarkable or marketable about them. A four-piece indie group from Brooklyn – how many of those are there around? But they continue to put out critically acclaimed records. Words like ‘atmosphere’ and ‘intelligent’ often get used, and I think they would probably appeal to fans of Arcade Fire and Radiohead. #hipsterhospice

9. SBTRKT – SBTRKT: When I first heard this album I must admit to a wave of anticippointment. I guess I wanted it all to sound like the first single ‘Wildfire’ and it didn’t at all. But as the months went by I grew to love it and I think it is the best offering from the post-dub-step/singer songwriter sound that really defined the year for me (in the UK at least). Better than the 3 Jameses – Jamie xx, James Blake and Jamie Woon. #pubstep

8. Action Bronson – Dr Lecter: It is said that you have to know the past to understand the present and Queens-based, Albanian-born rapper Action Bronson would no doubt agree with this. No auto-tune, no pop-star hooks, just throwback 90s East Coast rap. If Ghostface Killah spent 60 minutes rapping about gourmet food this is the album he would end up with. #michelinstarred

7. tUnE-YarDs – w h o k i l l: Tune Yards is Merrill Garbus who makes ‘looped’ music ala Liam Finn. Her music is centred around the ukulele, drums and her very distinctive voice, you will either be completely transfixed or utterly irritated. I am definitely the former #marmite

6. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake: I can’t say I have ever been a huge PJ Harvey fan and it took me a long time to bother with this album even after the near unanimous praise and the Mercury prize – but boy is it good. Throughout the album PJ acts as a sort of English historian and war correspondent telling the tales of World War I while still including catchy hooks and great compositions #greatwargreatalbum

5. David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights – Left by Soft: Disclaimer: anything made by members of the Flying Nun fraternity immediately moves up a few spots on my lists. Even with that this is still a great record. You get the impression that Kilgour could bang out indie-pop hits in his sleep. #tallyho

4. Peaking Lights – 936: This is a very unique album. Part psych, part dub, part woozy haze. It is repetitive but never monotonous. It is expansive but very DIY. It sounds like a sunny San Francisco day but was made in Wisconsin. #analoguealbumdigitalworld

3. Jay Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne: Definitely not the best hip hop album I have ever heard, it’s not even as good as Yeezy’s 2010 effort ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. But what it does have going for it, is that it is one of the most fun and quotable rap albums in years. #fishfillet

2. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost: Their third release in 3 years and they keep getting better and better. If you don’t know them, here are the Cliff Notes. Lead singer Christopher Owens was a former member of the Children of God cult. His brother was murdered in said cult. He was forced as a child to busk to make money for the cult. As a teenager he escaped, then travelled the world until a Texas millionaire took him under his wing. Now he makes unbelievable music inspired by 50s and 60s pop. To say he wears his heart on his sleeve is an incredible understatement, his lyrics are extremely open and honest and he has a great ear for melody. Girls are my favorite band in the world right now by a long distance. #swoon

1. Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise: If Girls are my favourite band, Nicolas Jaar is my favourite artist (I even dedicated a whole mix to him here). If you don’t know him already he is a 21 year old Chilean living in NY who splits his time between studying comparative literature and making music that is part house, part world, part hip hop. His debut album is unbelievable, his live shows are fantastic and he remixes everyone from Nina Simone to Missy Elliot. Go check him out right now #notenoughsuperlatives

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stand Up The Storytellers

Last week I spoke to the nextMEDIA conference in the beautiful Carlu Center in Toronto. I was asked to speak about creating Lovemarks in the digital age. I showed how the power of stories is the most important element of digital communications, no matter what you are told about search optimization, email fulfillment, discount turnover, price transparency, screen resolution yada yada; these are all technical details.

The more platforms we invent, the more stories we need. Stories are critical to winning in the "Lifestream" we are in. When you're a marketer with an annual sales target to hit, stories are your best friend for connecting with consumers. Here's how:

Great stories are fast workers, outstripping our reason and logic, with their compelling truth. In the Age of Now you have to get your story across quick and clean.

Great stories touch us. They locate our inner fears, hopes and dreams - vampires and werewolves included!

Great stories are contagious. The three things to ask when judging creative work are:

a. Do I want to experience it again?
b. Do I want to share it?
c. Do I want to improve it?

Great stories bring people together for shared experiences. Sport is an innovator. The 2012 London Olympics will bring the next wave of interactive and collaborative television.

Great stories reframe the market. Lady Gaga reframed weird as wonderful. Steve Jobs reframed presence into absence. Facebook and Twitter have reframed Madison Avenue by literally moving into the street.

Great stories introduce us to great characters, people we want to spend time with. And some you don't.

Great stories make us laugh. Humor is the short cut to the heart.

Great stories create a bigger meaning. To do this you must have a consistent equity across screens, across borders, across retail end-to-end. Tactical promotions and micro-digital CRM plays have their place, but all too often brand managers slip into off-message tactical promotions.

Great stories Surprise with the Obvious. They make you think "Why didn't I think of that?" Apple's retail stores are so obvious! The Start button of the Prius is so obvious. To develop a pen that could write in space, NASA spent millions on advanced technology. The Russians used a pencil.

Great stories are crafted. If you want your talent to shine, give people Responsibility, Learning, Recognition, and Joy.

Great stories result from continuous practice. Like ideas, you have to produce lots of small ones all of the time. This is dedicated work, like Gladwell's 10,000 hours. Perfect practice. Big ideas are scarce, strung out over time, investment hungry. Shelve the idea of writing the 'Great Canadian Novel.' Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Did you hear the one...

Check out this article from the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute. It’s an oldie but a goodie, dissecting the science of a joke – what it is that happens in our brains and bodies when someone says “did you hear the one...” and then rips a great punch line.

There are some insights for business here – especially that joy comes from the incongruous, something we didn’t see coming. Like a good joke, a great consumer experience is about defying convention and expectation, creating happiness by breaking the mould. And – a lesson we knew from the comics – as in much of life, timing is everything. The best jokes are delivered in Lovemarks style – with carefully timed attraction (Intimacy), tension (Mystery) and revelation (the reward that leads to Sensuality, in this case the ring of laughter).

The mind moves the heart when you hear a good joke. Mental process drives chemical reaction, which translates into hilarity. This is alchemy – the conversion of leaden reason into the molten gold of emotion. Not surprisingly, going through this process is good for you.

So here’s the challenge: give the consumer something she’s not expecting, not from you, not from anyone – but will love. Draw her in with the three magic ingredients – Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. Do it when she expects it the least...and wants it the most.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Star Gazing

The experts said this photo couldn’t be taken without highly specialized equipment. But a keen New Zealand stargazer has captured the first amateur image of faraway galaxy from his backyard in West Auckland with a 25mm telescope (that’s not big or flashy!). Theory held that stellar glare made it too bright to shoot, but Rolf Olsen took a nothing-is-impossible approach. With a bit of ingenuity (subtracting one image from another) he now has his own personal snapshot of a solar system 60 million light years away.

Some people like Rolf’s result more than the efforts of professional observatories. I like the idea that he saw a challenge in the distant star’s name, Beta Pictoris, which sounds suspiciously like...Better Pictures?

If you like the concept of bringing the cosmos into focus through a tiny lens, check out Tweeting the universe. It’s a bite-sized collaboration that breaks down everything you ever wanted to know about the origin and mechanics of everything, 140 characters at a time. Happy star gazing...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Taking The Low Line

Urban revival has been a routine fascination of mine, from Pop-up Parks in San Francisco, Urban Gardens and deep reflection in Detroit, to Greening the Rubble in Christchurch. I like the spirit of continuous renewal behind these projects, using streets as a re-writable canvas, an opportunity to be creative in a way that improves people’s lives, every day.

Here’s another cool concept to breathe new life into a forgotten corner of New York. Inspired by the transformation of the city’s High Line, the idea is to turn an old trolley terminal, last used in 1948, into a hidden park, a green space under the streets. The park would be lit using fibre-optic technology that channels natural light into the space, a concept suggested by one of the two bright minds behind the project (ex-NASA and Google no less). Trees and vegetation would grow naturally, an underground oasis.

What’s great about this project is that it literally takes urban regeneration to another level. There’s a certain symbolism about greening your city’s foundations, especially in a VUCA world where responses to problems (whether municipal, national or global) often feel skin-deep. We need to let more light in and re-imagine dark places. Fresh thinking like this helps.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eric de Vries

We lost one of our Saatchi & Saatchi family at the weekend. A 26 year veteran. A typographer. A craftsman. A good bloke. Our love runs deep. KR

You wouldn’t call Eric de Vries a loud man.

Unlike so many in our advertising family, he was softly spoken. Gentle. Understated.

Not humble exactly – for there was a quiet, strong pride that he brought to every day and everything he did. It was at the heart of his careful, immaculate work, his natural generosity and easy humour, and most of all in his infinite patience.

He made tough times easier, and good times better. He inspired love, and the greatest respect, every single day of his 26 years as a multi-award winning studio artist and typographer at Saatchi & Saatchi, Wellington.

For those who didn’t know him, this might seem a cliché. One of those nice things people say. But those of us who do, know the truth of someone unique and extraordinary.

Because you wouldn’t call Eric de Vries a quiet man.

He lived powerfully and remarkably. He was full of energy and curiosity and passion – for creativity, for the open road, and for the ocean.

And it was here, as a highly experienced and well-regarded free diver, that he lost his life doing what he loved on December 3rd, 2011.

Eric had achieved an extraordinary peace and a balance to his life that he shared, in a million little ways, with those around him – a peace that ultimately sprung from the joy and devotion he shared with his wife Joanne, and his children Rose, Jules and Alexander.

In the words of his Saatchi & Saatchi family, he was genuine. A gentleman. Genuine. Magnanimous. Genuine. Welcoming. Serene. A champion. Unwavering. Flawless. Immaculate. And genuine.

His legacy is immense, as is our sorrow at his passing – and our joy and gratitude at having known and loved a truly talented and remarkable man.

Tribute by Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Act Happy

This one from the Huffington Post – a blog on the idea that we sometimes need to act first to change how we feel. It’s the emotion-action lever in reverse, creating good vibes by doing something. The author, psychologist Shawn T. Smith, has the right credentials – he used to work for the Colorado Department of Corrections and the International Commission on Missing Persons in Bosnia, two emotional nerve centers.

As Shawn points out, it’s important to understand the action-leads-to-emotion principle to break out of the mindset that you can’t do something just because you don’t feel happy or confident. Rather the reverse is often true: get out there and do the thing you dread, and you’ll soon feel good about it. It’s a feel the fear and do it anyway deal.

Get it right and a virtuous cycle fires up. Where fear and anxiety can breed inaction, leading to more fear and anxiety, taking charge puts the emotion-action gear back into go-forward mode: take action, feel good, feel good and act again. Soon you’ll be feeling great and you will have done something! So get started today – it’s time to act happy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


“It’s impossible,” said Pride.
“It’s risky,” said Experience.
“It’s pointless,” said Reason.
“Give it a try,” whispered the Heart.