Friday, April 20, 2012

KIT social program guide

It was just over a year ago that we launched Twelevision here in Australia, while I was at BBDO.

It was our minimum viable product experiment in matching social data to the TV guide, and worked pretty well.

Suffice to say the game has changed in 12 months and the new KIT Social Program Guide or SPG, is in all likelyhood shortly to become the daddy of social tv applications.

Built on the same insight that led Twelevision - that people rely most on social data and influence when they are figuring out what to watch - the Kit SPG takes it up a few levels.

The SPG has also cracked the conundrum that would have been integral to Twelevision 2.0, the ability for advertisers to seamlessly sync their TV ads with an experience on the handheld device.

A nice little feature is the ability to also sync your friends comments into a timeline that matches the content so that the experience is not ruined by spoilers when watching in a time-shifted mode.

The clip is narrated by our good friend, and Global Lead Analyst at Kit, Mr Alan Wolk.

Obviously I'm double pleased to report on the Kit SPG as it has been made by Kit Digital, and Sputnik - where I work- are a division of the Kit Network and so it's in the family.

a cheap holiday in other people's misery

Unbelievably there are over 2 million (possibly even up to 4 million) men, women and children trafficked across borders - and within their own countries - every year.

These people are bought, sold and transported into slavery for sexual exploitation, sweat shops, child brides, circuses, sacrificial worship, forced begging, sale of human organs, farm labour, domestic servitude.

That last quote comes from STOP THE TRAFFIK - originally set up as a 2 year project in 2000 but now grown into a full blown international movement dedicated to bringing about the end of human trafficking.

This clip is from Amsterdam's red light district, where every year thousands of young women who think they are going to the 'Dam or elswhere to work as dancers end up doing something rather different.

This is a splendid and effective piece of d├ętournement - a variation on a previous media , in which the newly created one has a meaning that is antagonistic or antithetical to the original. The original media work that is d├ętourned must be somewhat familiar to the audience, so that it can appreciate the opposition of the new message.

The silence at the end of the clip as the spectators, even in their own passivity, have been forced into realising they are not in fact spectators but participants is eerie.

A stunt that that incriminates its audience - they are participants even though they imagine they are not.

It's moments like these that show the potential power of advertising as a force for good.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

i am not a consumer [revisited #241]

Perhaps the continual use of the word 'consumers' in circumstances when simply saying 'people' is by far more natural and appropriate - not to mention human - is not just the lazy habit of the unimaginative. Maybe these messages from all quarters that prompt us to think like and be 'consumers' are something more deliberate. More akin to 'priming'?

I came across the following study which appears to shine a light on a very subtle manipulation that successfully influenced behaviour in a group.

'….In their study, researchers from Northwestern University asked participants to imagine that they were one of four people sharing a common water source. In the scenario, there has been a drought, and now there is a water shortage.

Participants were put into two groups. In one group, the four people in the scenario were referred to as “consumers,” while in the other group the four people are referred to as “individuals.

After being given the facts about each person’s prior water usage, participants were then asked to rate how responsible their own character in the scenario was for the water shortage, whether they saw others in the scenario are partners or competitors in solving the water shortage problem, and how obligated they felt to be part of the solution to them problem (ie, by cutting their own water usage).

Researchers found that participants in the “consumers” condition rated themselves as less responsible, the others as competitors more than cooperators, and were less willing to be part of the solution than did participants in the “individuals” condition.

In other words, simply referring to people as “consumers” rather than “individuals” caused participants to be less generous, accept less responsibility, and to view the others as competitors rather than allies.'

If we agree that there are basically two ways to influence behaviour - to manipulate behaviour or to inspire it - then this experiment clearly falls into the former category. What's very interesting is the simplicity of the manipulation.

Thoughts > Words > actions > Habits > Values > Destiny...

Full article at

introducing gapjumpers

Over the last 18 months or so I met a number of students from the various Melbourne Universities who are studying or about to graduate from the various courses relating to the advertising/communications business.

The main things they want are intro's to Creative Directors, and a critical eye cast accross their portfolio (or 'book' as is the adland parlance, which as an aside is peculiar in itself inasmuch as it's a fairly elderly concept in this day and age).

In almost 100% of cases one of my main bits of 'advice' - this is a straight lift out of the Russell Davies school - is to do something else, something unique and interesting, on top of their resume and portfolio.

Writing a blog about something you are passionate about, make some films, do some sculpture or whatever.

The point being that every year hundreds of grads pass out of uni with broadly the same background, resume and percieved talent. What is the thing about 'you' - your unique bit of interestingness that means you'll get noticed.

This, of course, is not rocket science.

Interesting-ness has pretty much been subject to the same commodification as 'engagement', and 'social media' and all the rest of it.

What is hard to commoditise though, is commitment, passion and purpose.

Using one's skills for good, going beyond the call of duty, beyond the mundane (because the mundane bar has been significantly lifted in recet times).

There are some new opportunities to up your Elvis.

Enter Gapjumpers.

'What we do for students.

You demonstrate your talents and abilities by answering challenges from brands looking for non-cookie-cutter solutions. If your solution to a challenge is deemed worthy enough, it will earn an endorsement from the brand. This will serve as a significant indication of your skills and a demonstration of your work ethic and aptitude on your resume.

Unlike crowdsourcing and internships, you are in total control, you choose to accept or decline the challenge. All decisions are yours.

What’s not to like about that?'

Addressing directly the graduates dilemma - 'How can you I show that I have what it takes when I’ve never been in a professional situation as an employee to demonstrate my skills and aptitude? Gapjumpers is a new company started by good friends of Never Get Out Of The Boat, Kedar Iyer and Petar Vujosevic. They work out of Santiago in Chile, though their tentacles reach throughout the globe, and are supported by both The Chilean Government and Start-Up Chile - a program to attract world-class early stage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Chile.

So, students. Gapjumpers are waiting to hear from you, now. Go and do something.

that's entertainment!

The jury here is still out on the new aesthetic, I've not heard a decent enough argument that there is anything of any real cultural significance emerging beyond a kind of stylistic arch-ness and wilful contrary-ness.

The whole tension between humans and machines schtick was pretty much done to the n-th degree by Kraftwerk in the 70's.

Having said that it's been a while since any kind of art 'movement' has been driven by such a intense anti-nostalgia kick so I'm still open to see what develops.

NOTE: What do I know? I'm still trying to get my head around the relational aesthetics thing that DB introduced me to some 4 or 5 years ago.

'Relational aesthetics takes as its subject the entirety of life as it is lived, or the dynamic social environment, rather than attempting mimetic representation of object removed from daily life...'

And I'm pretty sure that Weavrs is mixed up this this too.

Anyway, I'm not sure which bucket this falls into but the Scotland Yard 'wanted' app called Facewatch ID, which invites people to view and share CCTV images of petty crime suspects in their area by inputting their postcode on their smartphone or iPad struck me a being something.

It's a peculiar 'gameification' of neighbourhood watch. Spot a suspect, press the face and type in a name. Only those wanted for minor crimes such as shoplifting or anti-social behaviour are featured, it's amateur hour, or like the local, mobile and (anti) social multi-screen version of Britain's Got ASBO Talent.

'The police are seeking to identify the following individuals in respect of ongoing investigations. The individuals pictured are being sought as both persons of interest and witnesses to crimes. No inference should be drawn that any person pictured is wanted by the police for criminal activity. Facewatch Limited has been provided with the images by the police forces identified with the images and is undertaking this service on behalf of such forces.'

Of course there's always been the magnetic attraction between art and the criminal underworld. This is perhaps just our karaoke culture version.

Friday, April 13, 2012

bleacher report lifts the lid on the glasgow r*ngers debacle

There's a common notion that Americans don't 'get' football. They even call it soccer.

This is not a fair assessment, the game is a huge participation sport over there, particularly with women.

Similarly here in Australia - it's the biggest participation sport, but the pro game has never quite taken off as a spectator sport.

But back to America.

One thing the American's do 'get', very well, is the BUSINESS of sport.

I'm going to quote large this chunk from an article by Daniel O'Connell in Bleacher Report, the US's 4th largest sports media site with 25+ million monthly readers, concerning the debacle around the Glasgow R*ngers FC situation.

Yes, as an Aberdeen supporter I'm biased. There is no love lost between the supporters of the respective clubs.

But it's interesting to see that amidst the kerfuffle it takes a US sports journo to step back at the situation, take a wide view and then call it absolutely correct.

Here it goes...

'Consider then the curious case of Rangers Football Club. The most successful club in Scotland, they have won the Scottish title 54 times and claim over 100 first-class honors in their history. They attract the second-highest attendances in the SPL and their fan base probably provide the majority of the viewing public for SPL matches televised on Sky Sports and ESPN.

Despite this, Rangers is in trouble. Since the club was taken over by Craig Whyte in May 2011, they have not remitted any of the taxes due to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Pay as You Earn (PAYE) tax and National Insurance Contributions (NIC).

Under previous owner Sir David Murray, the club operated an Employee Benefit Trust (EBT) scheme from 2000 to 2010. This is a scheme whereby employees are paid (and taxed on) a very small percentage of their wages. The remainder is paid into a trust, which then gives “loans,” to the employee, which are non-taxable and never repaid.

This is perfectly legal, but the key word is “trust.” The employee must “trust” the employer to ensure they are paid, “loans,” from the trust. Contractual payments absolutely cannot be made through the EBT. Evidence has emerged in the public domain which suggests that Rangers players were assured in writing that they would be paid from an EBT, and that they would never have to repay the money.

HMRC maintain that the payments made to Rangers players in this period were contractual in nature, and therefore taxable. They have presented Rangers with a bill for £24m in unpaid taxes, and £12m in interest. Should the First Tier Tax tribunal find in their favour, a further penalty will be imposed, which could see the final bill reach as much as £75m.

Since at least 1999, when a similar tax dodge was operated (Rangers admit this and have committed to paying £2.8m to HMRC), Rangers has therefore used non-payment and evasion of tax to give the club a financial and sporting advantage over every other club.

That’s not all. As Rangers has made payments to players which were not included in their contracts, the players involved were not correctly registered with the national association, and so ineligible. The accepted sanction for fielding of ineligible players in soccer is for the match to be recorded as a 0-3 defeat.

Since 1999, Rangers has won the Scottish Premier League seven times, whilst fielding ineligible players whom they could not have afforded to pay if they were not avoiding making tax payments on their wages.

To the outsider, it seems simple. Rangers must be stripped of all honours won during their financial “doping” years.

It goes beyond even this. The President of the Scottish Football Association is Campbell Ogilvie. He has held influential positions with the SFA and SPL over a period of many years, going back to the 1990’s. At which time, Campbell Ogilvie was the Secretary of Rangers FC.

Indeed, Campbell Ogilvie was himself paid via an EBT during his time at Rangers. Both the SFA and SPL have launched investigations into Rangers’ conduct in the years since 1998, but there is no confidence within the Scottish soccer community that they will take any serious steps to deal with Rangers’ wrongdoing.

One thing Rangers cannot escape though, is financial reality. It finally caught up with them on 14th February when the club was placed into administration.

This is a UK legal term which basically means that a court-appointed team take over the running of the company. It prevents creditors from taking legal action against it, and the administrator must take steps to make the company profitable to ensure creditors are paid.

The administrators may seek to arrange a Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) with the creditors. This requires the agreement of 76 percent of the creditors by value. It means that all creditors would accept a pennies-to-the-pound deal. Once they are paid, for example, 30p for every pound owed, the company can exit administration and emerge debt-free.

If the creditors do not agree a CVA and the company cannot pay them in full, it is then liquidated. All assets are sold off and the proceeds distributed evenly amongst the creditors. As the majority of Rangers’ debt is owed to HMRC, the chances of a CVA are unlikely. It is the policy of HMRC to reject CVA’s.

The most likely outcome for Rangers FC is that they will soon be liquidated. The club will cease to exist. Here’s where it gets interesting. The SPL yesterday published a set of proposed changes to their Financial Fair Play policy.

Amongst them, is a proposal to allow a club, on liquidation, being allowed to transfer their, “share,” or membership of the SPL, to a new company. This would mean that should Rangers be liquidated, their directors, or anyone else who wants to buy their stadium, training ground and players, can do so and be given Rangers’ place in the SPL.

Effectively, this would mean a debt-free company, called Rangers FC, playing in blue shirts at Ibrox Stadium next season, while HMRC and other creditors (Rangers are in debt to possibly as much as £134m) are left with nothing.

One of those creditors is Heart of Midlothian FC, from whom Rangers signed full-back Lee Wallace. They still owe £800,000, which is unlikely ever to be paid. Another is Rapid Vienna, from whom Rangers purchased Nikica Jelavic, whose goals were instrumental in their winning of the SPL last season. Rapid are still owed £1m, and despite Rangers selling him to Everton FC for £5m in January, Rapid are unlikely to ever see their money.

Effectively, the SPL propose to issue a cheats’ charter, and coincidentally I am sure, just as it looks like Rangers are to be liquidated. Nothing like this happened just four years ago when Gretna FC were liquidated.

Rangers FC is in serious danger of being liquidated because they have lived beyond their means for far too long, in the process distorting the market in Scotland.

It has abused the tax system to give itself an unfair sporting advantage over the rest of the clubs in the SPL.

It has bought players from other clubs it could not afford to pay for and had no intention of ever paying for.

And the Scottish sporting establishment, governing bodies and media, want everything possible to be done to facilitate Rangers, who have destroyed the sporting integrity of the Scottish game, escaping the consequences of their self-inflicted troubles.

We can’t allow the money-tap to be turned off, after all. Can we?'

Thursday, April 12, 2012

AR as the 8th of the mass media?

Presumably everyone noticed last week Google announcing it's initial experiments with augmented reality glasses under the codename 'Project Glass'.

I've posted below the video that demonstrates the anticipated capability of the 'device' that shows voice commands being used to send messages, take photos, share to G+, see the locations of friends, view maps, get product information and so on and so forth.

It's been accepted for some time now that the next evolution of computing is likely to be 'wearable'. We've all seen the speculation around wristband iphone, bendy tablets and all the rest.

If, like me, you have a particular interest in the development of mobile technology and how that relates to the promised personalisation of media and the internet I would suggest that you follow the thoughts and writings of Tomi Ahonen, the former Nokia exec, now independent consultant and recognised as the foremost thinker on the present and future of mobile technology and communication.

Ahonen's 2008 book 'Mobile as the 7th of the Mass Media' is a good place to start, and triggered several lightbulb moments in my own head when I first read it in 2010 (albeit 2 years late to the party) Yesterday Ahonen published a post on his blog giving his endorsement to the notion of Augmented Reality being the next, and therefore 8th, mass medium.

The development of Google Glass is significant as it represents a potential curve jump for a technology - AR - that has been held back or bubbling under for the simple reason (or one of the reasons) that the hardware to support the software has been too clunky or inconvenient.

*Yes, it's hard to believe that we are already looking at smartphones as being clunky...thts exponential for you.

I spent several years at the end of the 90's and early 2000's working with interactive tv, similarly the hardware was not there to support the creativity and innovation, and it is only now that the smart tv platforms are emerging that really lends utility to bring the value to life.

Likewise with AR, perhaps now the hardware platform is starting to emerge that allows the software platform to transcend itself from a gimmicky addition to mobile/portable devices to being a real augmentation to reality/daily life.

Tomi says:

'Yes, AR is cool on smartphones. But that is 'part time' use of AR. What if AR was the first unavoidable mass media channel? The first pervasively consumed mass media? Mobile phones as we know from the 7th Mass Media theory, have unique abilites such as being always connected and being permanently carried. So too will be AR (on glasses) but we don't consume media on our phones in uninterrupted way. The media consumption is in our pocket but we also put it into our pocket, away. These AR glasses by Google will change all that. We are seeing the birth of the first pervasive mass media (that might not be the best term, I have to think about it). So yes, am ready to call it. Augmented Reality is the 8th Mass Medium.'

A valuable technological enhancement or a further step into authentic social life being replaced with a representation?
This remains to be seen.

If Google are on to it then it's safe to assume that the Apple's of this world are also on the case so it's a watch-this-space situation, for sure. For those of us in agency land then it's possibly time to dust off those ditched AR experiments from back in the day.

Here's a recap on the table of mass media with the new addition to the family.

1st mass media PRINT - from 1400s
2nd mass media RECORDINGS - from 1890s
3rd mass media CINEMA - from 1900s
4th mass media RADIO - from 1920s
5th mass media TELEVISION - from 1940s
6th mass media INTERNET - from 1992
7th mass media MOBLE - from 1998
8th mass media AUGMENTED REALITY - from 2010

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

the new radicals

View more presentations from Gareth Kay

Here's a splendid deck from Gareth Kay of GSP which got my vote on Neil Perkin's post of the month feature.

The theme is not new, but it's worth continual repetition.

The world has fundamentally changed in recent years yet the advertising world is still remarkably slow to respond, and what are we going to do about it?

Gareth references John Grant's tome, The Brand Innovation Manifesto, which I have been revisiting lately and also touches on several lean principles which are also currently top of the agenda round these parts.

Good work, chap.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

don't you ever stop long enough to start?

Keen eyed readers will have noticed a break in transmission from Boat Towers.

I took the opportunity to have the guts of a month off from writing anything as some changes in the work situation afforded me a bit of a break between jobs.

Sometimes a change in one aspect of life is a good opportunity to evaluate some other things, and so I decided to give myself a rest from the sound of my own voice, do a bit of reading and as I had some 'gardening' leave, do a bit of tending to my own philosophical garden and see if my reasons for maintaining this blog still held true.

The good news (or bad news depending on your outlook) is that I intend to stick with my schtick and have determined continue to weave the thread joining punk rock, buddhism-science and un-advertising in these here pages.

Since you asked, on the work front, I've now left Clemenger BBDO and joined Melbourne and Sydney based agency Sputnik, as Director of Innovation.

Although well established in Australia as a 'digital' agency there's a new management team and new direction that has been established over the last 6 months which means we are, in effect, a ten year old start-up - with the appropriate leanings towards the lean and agile there's some exciting disruptive times ahead and I'll look forward to reporting as we go.

In the meantime... Don't stop - give it all you got.