Tuesday, September 25, 2007

the road to domestos

To paraphrase CJ from Reggie Perrin 'I didn't get where I am today by not writing pretentious biogs and generally blowing my own trumpet at the drop of a hat to whoever happens to be wandering by'
Heres the article about my self what I wrote for Sam and Will's adgrads blog, just giving some background as to how i got from A to B on the murky dark underbelly fringes of advertising. For some reason they reckon this might be interesting to graduates looking for their first jobs.


It's 1992 and I'm in the back office of the record shop in Aberdeen that I manage.

I'm clutching a brown cardboard envelope containing an Italian white label 12" record that's been mailed to me by one of the specialist importer/distributers I buy from. The note attached tells me they are hopeful of doing some business with this record and what did i think? It will be available as an import in about 3 weeks.

On the blank white label the words Glam - Hell's Party are scribbled in black marker.

I dump the record onto the turntable and drop the needle on. Its a full on Euro house/disco stomper that samples Curtis Mayfield from 'If theres a Hell Below..'

On first listen, I'm thinking that I could probably shift about 20-25 of these on import before any UK release and decide to give it a whirl at one of my dj engagements at the weekend.

Over the next few weeks I play it at every gig and everywhere it drops the roof goes off. It's a monster tune. When the labelled copies are finally available I end up selling over 250 12" on import over the following couple of months before it's picked up by Sony in the UK, remixed and released for a stab at the charts.

The Sony rep calls me to sell in his new releases and offers it as a 1 in 3 deal (ie buy 3 get one free) expecting a big order. I buy 6. Ive already sold 250 on import so I'm done with it, now it's time for HMV or whatever to takeover.

A 'Tipping Point' in action before anyone had properly coined those phrases.


The distributer gave me one of the few white labels knowing my history of being able to sell decent numbers of Italian imports. I'm also a reasonably well-known dj in Scotland. An influencer [sic] in my niche.

I play the record at the clubs I'm booked at (the small ones that are full of the clued-up kids on the scene in their towns) - the cool kids love it and want it. When it's available they are the first to have it and play it at there own parties. The idea spreads. The specialist shops sell shed loads on import.

Sony cool detectors pick up the record for mass market - its in all the chains and hits the top 40.

It's hit the early and late majority.

It was round about this time I realised that I was destined for marketing because, without any formal training or anything, I just intuitively understood a bit of this stuff.


It's now 2007.

I'm working with Weapon7, a specialist digital advertising agency in London, using basically the same principles to develop digital marketing campaigns for global brands. It's come full circle again as traditional mass advertising is looking like it's not as as effective as it was in the pre-digital age, with word of mouth - this time accelerated by networked connectivity on an unprecedented scale. An evolved (fuzzy) role (geek marketer? T-shaped creative? Job 2.0? – delete as appropriate) with an evolved agency.

I quit the music industry around ’96 after helping launch a group of indie labels. We released about 15 records a month for 3 or 4 years. No big hits but being in the Long Tail kept us ticking over – we could sell about 2,000 of any release so it made sense to release loads rather than look for one big hit.

I then picked up my crayons again (I had hardly drawn anything since leaving Art School in 89 with a fine art degree) and spent a year or so learning how to work a mac on the job at the local newspaper setting ads.

Next stop was a small design and comms agency based in Aberdeen where we worked with the oil companies on everything from brochures, intranets and safety videos. The big lesson there was – never say no to a job. If we didn’t know how to do it we’d just go and figure it out. Try, fail and learn.

Decamping to London in 2000 I had the idea that interactive tv was going to be the next big thing, post dot com crash. After about 18 months at Sky I realised that probably wasn’t my smartest move (fail and learn, again) and then became Creative Director with Littlewoods Gaming, an old fashioned company looking to launch its gambling products into the 21st century and a market dominated by young pretenders like 888.com.

Around this time, I had my next epiphany when I was given a copy of Seth Godin’s Purple Cow. It seemed like everything I had been thinking but unable to articulate properly was encapsulated in those pages.

‘Pouring off every page like it was written in my soul’ as Bobby D would say – that’s maybe a bit dramatic but you get where I’m coming from, however naive that sounds now.

My advice for grads making their first tentative steps into industry?

Well, if you are clever enough to be reading this blog and participating in these conversations you don’t need much from me. You already realise the power of community and dialogue in modern marketing. You are smarter than the average bear already.

Your potential employers and clients are desperate for new thinking, fresh approaches and innovation that’s going to keep their products/services and marketing relevant – beyond 30 second spots, no matter how smarty pants (I’m thinking drumming gorillas here…)

Be fuzzy, poke your nose in where its not wanted, challenge the status quo, don’t ask permission for anything and be prepared to fail and learn.

That’s about it.

Packing Up The Big Top from Modern Marketing

Another great article from James Cherkoff on his Modern Marketing page, musing on a wisdom of crowds theme.

When people want to know about something they go online and see what everyone else thinks. They don't rush to the corporate website to check out what gems the guys in marketing have come up with. Or to see if the new jingle is going to pique their aspirations. They jump in the bazaar. Trip Advisor. Amazon. Blogs....These days the problem isn't a lack of helpful opinion or market intelligence.

Read the comments as well as there's some great stuff in there.

Monday, September 24, 2007

mind the gap

A wee while back we were playing the Beatles 'Love' mash-up (sort of) album in the office. Much debate ensuing over the merits of the remix experiment, who might have done it better etc etc. One of our designers (i'll not mention her name so as not to completely destroy her credibility) pipes up...

'Who is this we are listening to?'

Hard to belive that someone can get to her mid twenties and have never come across the Beatles but there you go. It happened.

So, where are the gaps in your culturals? Which phenomenons have completely passed you by, much to the amusement and/or derision from your workmates/friends?
I've started plugging one of my gaps this weekend.

The Sopranos.

Somehow, despite devouring Goodfellas, the Godfathers, Casino etc and every thing Scorcese so much as farted I completely missed the Sopranos.

So to HMV where the boxsets are on £25 special offer, season 1 purchased and this weekend spent glued to the box catching up. Basically looking to do a season every two weeks so by about November-ish I'll be there, and can then rejoin the rest of the human race.

What's this got to do with anything? nowt really, but just to note the fatblogging has taken a knock as we felt compelled to stuff ourselves with meatballs and spaghetti all weekend for some reason. I'm 6lbs heavier now than when I started the diet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

the revolution will be televised?

Heard Alex Cameron from Digital TX giving it the big one last night at Chinwags TV on the Web thing. I’ve been a bit of a fan since his glorious, if slightly flawed, Hendrix inspired rant at BT Vision’s iptv-lite last year.

Difficult times for network tv for a while, of course.

So heres the thing as I understand it.
Old style network tv existed mainly through advertiser funding. Digital and cable exploded as the first wave of fragmentation, advertisers don’t get the eyeballs they need for the critical mass so ad spending gets similarly fragmented. Less revenue means less new programming gets commissioned/made/bought and we get cheaply produced reality shows etc. More viewers switch off, advertisers get twitchy, programming gets worse etc etc – downward spiral.
Next wave of fragmentation, web delivered content, extends the long tail even further, mass media advertising becomes even less effective, media spending diverts even more to digital and interactive, more viewers desert tv.
In fact the tv content gets so poor that consumers end up making ther own instead.

What now?

In the Q&A Project Kangaroo was mentioned. As far as I can glean this is an idea around consolidation of all the media players and on-demand services. from the major UK broadcasters. The BBC is working with ITV, Channel 4 and the service will be built on the same P2P basis as the iPlayer, and later as a digital TV service. Can’t get my head round this working against the Long Tail distribution though? Dunno.

At the end of the day, we the viewers want great content, movies, live sport etc, same as ever, but don’t necessarily want to pay for it. Whether the broadcasters like it or not this is the model going forward so that’s what needs to be figured out.

But who is going to pay for it? The advertiser funded model is not really sustainable is it?

One heckler correctly noted that the future may be in a return to a sponsorship model from the old days of soaps (I’d forgotten that The name soap opera stems from the original serials broadcast on radio that had washing powder brands as sponsors)

Maybe, but perhaps a more evolved sponsorship model where the brand as sponsor is integral to the content. Theres a movie precedent of course with product placement – FedEx famously supplied all the transportation facilities for production of the movie Cast Away in which they were heavily featured (although no dirty cash changed hands)
I keep coming back to Where are the Jones’s partnership idea. Production co and community co-created, corporate sponsored (Ford) and Long tail distributed. (Though I’m not 100% sure the sponsor is integral to the content, keep me right here Dave!)
Brands as providers kind of thing.

As an aside, what does stuff like X Factor and those awful Lloyd-Webber find a star things mean? It's a kind of stealth product placement. The ’entertainment’ is the deconstructed production process of the one hit wonder fodder or whatever.
Although this has being around since The Monkees – but at least they had a few good tunes.

more perspective on the Chinwag Web TV take-over
Fiona Blamey
Rags Rupta

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Electric Business

I spent Monday evening having a conversation with a group of small creative business owners - from the Surrey/Hampshire area - in Guildford.

Many thanks to Kate from the Farnham Electric Business Club for asking me to fill in.

I was asked to give a short presentation and kick off a discussion and braindump to see if we could collectively come up with some ideas and tactics around the theme of 'Know your Product'.
In retrospect I think I tried to squeeze a bit too much content into the presentation as I had to whizz through to allow enough time for the dialogue piece, and despite leaving my notes in the cab I just about managed to wing it.

My presentation was loosely themed around the value of conversation and connection strategies for small businesses with low or no budget for marketing.
I started off with a sort of case study of a piece of work we did at Weapon7 for the launch of Xbox360 which went viral via the Xbox fan forums. Using a fraction of the media budget it created a disproportionate buzz compared the more expensive media and showed how getting the early adopters and influencers talking can accelerate the spread of an idea.

I introduced gapingvoid's Stormhoek blogger outreach from 2005 and neatly segued in the launch of the Blue Monster label (how cool to be featuring it on day of launch) to demonstrate the influence of social media and show the value of unlikely partnerships, and followed that up with a look at Go Home Productions - how garden shed remixer's cgc ends up on MTV and remixes for David Bowie.

The homework for the group was to connect to me, join the conversation, start experimenting with new tools/tactics outside of traditional marketing and look into the kind of innovations that can develop the talkability of their product or service.

I also promised some recommended reading to get some thinking going, I'm going to list a couple of things here for those who have done the homework and looked me up.

BOOK - Seth Godin's Purple Cow , when I first read this about 3 years ago all sorts of lightbulbs started going off in my head.

PODCAST - to get enthused about all things new media you could do worse than Six Pixels

BLOG - Any of the links on my sidebar will lead you off to many more links.

And in the spirit of link-love heres the people who left me their cards at the end.

Claire Harrison, Fine Artist
Designer, Nick Cannons
Another designer, Andrew Cross
The Boiler Room, Guildford music and arts venue.

Whats the pic all about? On my way to work I usually buy a coffee off Mr Coffee, a van parked on the courtyard ouside new Spitalfields market. Despite having Starbucks, Costa and numerous other established coffee chains around them, Mr Coffee has a long line every morning. Instead of the usual boring loyalty stamp cards you get a free pair of pants with every 20 coffee's. Or if you just ask they will give you a pair anyway.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Look out kid, You're gonna get hit

As a Dylan freak, I'm loving this.
Send your own Subteranean Homesick Blues message.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

too much monkey business

"We've created a branded space in which Cadbury's can be generous in bringing joy,"

Yep, the Cadbury's ad with the gorilla doing Phil Collins.
You can't argue that it's a pretty funny and entertaining piece of content, decently executed. A bit of random Youtube-esque silly-ness in fact.

Yes, it's gone viral and theres a lot of debate about it

but did it need the massive tv budget to do that...?
and is it more about the clever dicks behind it than the brand...?

It's here

Quechup spam

sorry if i've spammed you with that Quechup thing. I got an invite from a trusted source and signed up to see what it was, then the b'stards hi-jacked my address book and spammed everyone. apologies again.

Go Home Productions retrospective

Arguably one of the finest exponents of the art of mash-up/bootleg/bastard pop - Go Home Productions - has released a 20 track retrospective 'cd' compiliation this week. "This Was Pop (2002-2007)" A 5 year bootleg retrospective.
GHP has delivered some of the most celebrated examples of the mash-up genre over the last few years including the Madonna/SexPistols fusion 'Ray of Gob' and 'Rapture Riders', the Blondie/Doors hybrid.

The mash-up phenomenon exploded around 2001/2 as bedroom mixers, enabled by the democratisation of music production allowed by software such as Acid, Ableton and later garageband fused acapella tracks with the instrumental tracks of other records to create new 'remixes’. 'Stroke of Genius' was probably the biggest of the time and that spawned an MTV slot with the video mash-ups to compliment the tracks and Mash-up club nights like ‘Bastard’.

GHP’s retrospective is a pretty decent introduction if anyone’s missed out.

GHP is also a pretty interesting case study in a couple of the basic ideas of the new marketing.

I'm thinking about, the power of free, permission and the product is the marketing.
By giving away the tracks for free via his website and mash-up community blogs like GYBO and Boomselection (early example of the long tail of distribution..?) GHP has build a fanbase and mailing list, with permission to contact the list when there’s new tracks uploaded.
With this comes reputation and with that comes dj bookings, ‘legit’ remix work etc.
From fiddling in the shed to official remixes for Bob Dylan and David Bowie is quite a ride.

Of course, it helps that his work is shit-hot. As an art form that is by nature ‘user-generated’ there are thousands of wannabe mash-up artists making pretty average at best, shoddy at worst mixes, but GHP’s ‘Purple Cow’ is the vast musical knowledge from years of fandom which allows him to introduce the little extra elements into his tracks that the less detail focussed would miss. In ‘Rock in Black’ - the Queen and AC-DC blend – the little addition of Freddie’s ‘..get on your bikes and ride’ line is that knowing final piece of polishing that gives it the extra 5% .

Anyway, the tracks are here.