insights, ironies and idiosyncrasies in communication and design

from the wide, wide world and the world wide web

Monday, 30 June 2008

Knob off.

Rather than screeching to tell unwanted guests to go away or hanging a conspicuous 'Do Not Disturb' sign on your door, there is a more subtle and sophisticated answer to keeping unwanted visitors at bay – a doorknob that says it for you. 

Pull the sleek, pulley-activating handle on the inside and everyone on the outside will know to leave you alone. And if they don't get the message, they won't have much joy breaking in, as the door – dubbed the Doorknob Connection by designer Arnaud Lapierre – is made from super-strength industrial steel.

This piece of design and communication gets top marks from me for being equally strong conceptually and functionally.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Nothing to Singha about.

With alcohol advertising in Thailand outlawed in all its forms, the mission to increase brand visibility is limited to events in pubs and clubs and the like – with brands like Beer Singha hosting shows featuring big name international superstar DJs and numerous other nights featuring local musical talent.

But for all the cash they plough into such events (current statistics show that Singha sponsor more than one event every single day of the year) reports on the ground claim the Lion of Asia are not reaping the benefits – with brand recall (and beer sales at these events) according to one unnamed insider at worryingly low levels for a market worth at least 2 billion USD. 

It's been alarming enough that image-conscious consumers continue to snub Singha for international brands in neutral venues on Thai soil, but completely soul-destroying for Singha that they're providing their competitors with large crowds of premium alcohol-hungry hipsters and fashionistas (with the events they are organizing). These crowds, it seems, while enjoying free top-notch entertainment from Singha, sup mostly on Heineken.

Friday, 20 June 2008


I'm sure there's been at least a little bit of backslapping going on at Cannes this week and because I'm not there I'm going to slap myself on the back right here – by shamelessly pointing out how much I'm on the money.

Self-congratulatory Grand Prix:

In his comments on BBDO New York's Outdoor Grand Prix winning work for HBO, jury president Prasoon Joshi points out that what the jury were looking for were ideas that "tried to capture the sense of the medium." This was exactly what I was saying (just not with these words) in my post only 24 hours earlier.

Love this stuff, by the way, but think that 'Voyeur' would be totally paradigm-shattering if (a) the scenes that were projected were projected onto a variety of buildings and even transparent billboards (in different types of location) relevant to the content of the clips, and (b) the footage projected was actually footage shot on set (with a camera from a hidden POV) at the time of filming the HBO shows. This might sound logistically tough, but BBDO new York have just raised the bar and so what else do you expect?

Further support of what I'll dub the 'media-last' approach comes from creative godfather David Trott's agency CST. In their Response First principle they underline the point that a channel can only be selected effectively when strategy and message are locked down.

Thanks to Nonny for the graphic.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Powerful print.

Admittedly I'm out of sync chronologically with the real world here, but when this copy of the Evening Standard fell on my lap last summer while on the London Underground I didn't feel that my day had been interrupted I had been negatively distracted; I was very pleasantly surprised. And as I didn't have a blog then I'm forced into telling you all about it now. 

Media strategy too often comes as a pre-requisite on a client brief and media purchasing decisions are too often made by media buyers who have no idea what the campaign actually demands. Free airtime and the lure of barter cloud the vision of advertisers, who tend to make hasty (but seemingly efficacious) business decisions rather than thinking what type of media would serve the message best. 

I'm all for strategy that minimizes effort and maximizes impact, but reserving media before the creative has been sold is putting the cart before the horse. If the message, for instance, doesn't need motion images to carry it then then why waste money doing a big budget TV commercial? Why not establish a longer term relationship via two-way discourse through blogs and forums instead – or at least split the media budget and funnel some funds into a real online presence as well? Communications here (if authentic and crafted well) will be seen as a contribution rather than an interruption.

Perhaps this work for Ecotricity is a fluke (admittedly though the ad is strong also because it appears genuine and personal, being signed off by the company's CEO) but for a pseudo-public announcement tied to a particular date (the day Brown went into office) press is clearly the most apt format for this message – a message that's resonated in my mind for nearly 12 months now – and that's what gives this ad its real power.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Canon can do.


In most new markets these days brand ambassadors are citizens who are paid to talk up a product or service openly and honestly or otherwise, not overpaid starlets who receive vast sums of cash to be associated with the brand – though still in some parts of the world, where fame is everything, celebrity endorsement is thriving more than ever.

At the age of seven years old I wasn't taken in by Steve Davis' endorsement of a reduced size snooker table in the Argos catalogue. I wasn't particularly marketing literate at that age – I  just didn't believe that Davis actually practised on a three foot table in preparation for the Embassy World Championship final, or even that his son would have unwrapped a table anything like as small as that on Christmas morning either. And even if this lack of authenticity largely worked as part of the slick overkill of the 80s, I find it hard to believe that there's currency in such flagrant endorsements in the marketing-savvy Noughties.

Currency there might not be much of, but amusement there is plenty. And what's particularly risible about all of this is how the gulf between market leaders and wannabees is exaggerated by the status of their ambassadors, with the smaller brands simply failing to attract anyone of any fame as these stand ups from Bangkok's IT mall Fortune Town show. If you're Canon you can do (pun intended), but if you're the ominously titled Asus you're stuffed. Claim all you want about being "number one in quality and services" but when the only ambassador you can attract is some spotty orphan in a tartan dress no one's going to have any of it. The same can be said about the no name printer ink girl – she's B-list pantomime circuit material at best.

But perhaps the strategy adopted by these challenger brands in the Tiger economies of Southeast Asia sidesteps fame altogether in favour of something much bigger and ultimately more persuasive, the oldest marketing tool in the box – sex. And if that is the case, one can only assume that with the broad range of ambassadors being employed (in places like Fortune Town), marketeers are spreading the net very wide indeed, attempting to appeal (worryingly so in some cases) to a diverse (read: dubious) audience with a range of tastes.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Your choice.

Choice is ironically both the privilege of the few and the biggest bane of digital denizens the world over – though not only is there an overwhelming amount of digital content available online, but such a plethora of aggregate sites around these days that one might be forgiven for seeking an aggregate site to link them all together.

The Filter, Peter Gabriel's new recommendation engine, is one service that is promising big in this department – in claiming to act as a "life jockey." Drawing inspiration from computer scientist Bill Joy, who in describing the service claims, "The first wave of freedom is of choice and the second wave of freedom from choice", the site brings together applications such as iTunes, retailers such as Amazon and Flixter and social music platforms such as, while also enabling you to add word-of-mouth recommendations from people you know in the real world, too.

It might sound like they're having their cake and eating it, but try out The Filter's new aggregate service yourself if you want to – or don't go near it if you haven't got the time. It's, er, your choice.

Via The Guardian's Tech Weekly podcast.   

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Strategic positioning.

Spotted this absolute beauty of a photo on the W+K London blog of an off license next door to an undertaker's office. Enough said.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Don't get drawn in.

Although scam work in the world of advertising is rife and shows no signs of abating (even with the presence of numerous digital, peer-congratulatory forums like Ads of the World), it's unusual to see anything other than faux stuff at school – unless of course you initially claimed that the work was in fact the real thing.

Getting someone else to do your homework or other such schoolboy laziness is more common, and even though I admit I thought that I'd seen it all at the age of 14 when I witnessed two kids at the school I attended catching the bus during our annual 3.5 mile cross country run, the following classroom cheat is on an altogether different scale.

In order to create what he hoped would be the biggest drawing in the world, Swedish design student Erik Nordenankar handed DHL a suitcase, inside of which was a GPS tracking device, together with exact instructions of where to take it. By tracking the device through six continents and recording the route on a map, Erik created the largest portrait the world has seen – or at least that's what he claimed. 

He later admitted – rather unnecessarily you might feel – that the case never made the journey, citing lack of funds as the reason; but Erik grassed himself up because as a hoax the tale was far hotter. In less than three weeks the story has created a viral storm boasting more than 1 million Youtube hits and plenty of blog coverage – which has all helped to raise the piece to a higher conceptual art form and gain the artist added anarchic kudos. 

I am just left wondering whether he got any extra credit at school for all his efforts and his cunning use of new media.

Check out his website for a personal confession. 

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Wonderful stuff.

Although I'm finding print advertising increasingly more and more offensive as it trudges ungainly through the Noughties, interrupting and obstructing the lives of citizens – for whom many control, choice and contribution are the norm, powers that are exercised freely in their digital cosmos – this Wonderbra work from last year reappeared on my radar recently and I felt it deserved a nod, if only for its audacity.

When the work that global planners demand you must produce will surely be doctored by local censors, self-censorship is hard to avoid. And so actually building this obstacle into your strategy, basing your creative mechanism around it – while taking a jab at the censors themselves – is an approach truly worthy of note and must be applauded. What's more, as this type of local tailoring is often executed off-brand, it's wonderful to see some stuff that's so Wonderbra.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Communal billboards.

Key to the new rules of marketing, we are told, is the process of having dynamic 2-way conversations with participants. Advertisers are propelling their brands into the future with blogs and podcasts specifically geared to a niche market – though there is evidence that more traditional media needn't be left out of the new equation. This billboard in Notting Hill shows not only how BMI been have involuntarily engaged in this new practice, but the potential for dialogues to take place in offline communities, too.

Money for nothing?


So immune are we to scams and marketing schemes with catches, we'd turn down the chance for a free handout of hard cash it seems, according to a post on the A-list blog

If only 28 of the 1800 people took up the offer as reported (a measly 1.6%), then it only cost Money Supermarket (the organisation behind the sandwich board) 140 quid (275 USD) to fund this guerilla stunt – a stunt that's getting coverage all over the blogosphere and beyond. Money well spent, if you ask me.

Friday, 6 June 2008


It's standard procedure to have a cop on your set when shooting in Thailand, though you don't usually need one when doing casting – but I suppose that's what you get for doing a screen test in a BMW.

We left the scene (of the crime) with the talent's portfolio and he left with a 500 baht fine (around 15 USD) which the agency later agreed to pay. The cop performed admirably, refusing all bribes offered to him from my art director in the rear of the car and only pretending to notice my camera towards the very end of his monologue.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Bum ending.

Just spotted this Danish commercial on Charles Frith's excellent Punk Planning blog and just had to link to it.

As a film it's clearly the front end of the Nike 'Touch of Gold' viral, the midriff of Jeh United's powerful Por Peang TVC 'Exercise' and the back end of er, well, a very talented office worker. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The number of the beast.

Not as fierce as the now infamous Chuwit sledgehammer election poster but equally as evil in its insidiousness, this Bangkok election campaign candidate boasts preciseness of man-bouffant and laser-white brilliance of teeth [two assets that the PR team behind this believe are clearly more relevant to the electorate than honesty and integrity] that could only be the result of Photoshop.

The poster actually took me back to my student days when local Tory MP Michael Fabricant was roaming the Shires of the UK. You may be forgiven for thinking that Fabricant is not actually a real person at all, but British comic Harry Enfield in disguise.