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Monday, March 27, 2006

Great Short Stories, the easy way.

Create the mood, set the scene, then add a crazed twist. It's that simple. By introducing a surprising element, you add tension, mystery and interest. Then the reader/viewer is hooked.
See this winner of a short film category called Duncan Removed. Would love to see the full version, not just the trailer.

Great Ikea ad

Ikea have found a lovely way to do low price product advertising without being horrible and boring about it.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Paris with Prakash

Been staying with Prakash in his cool flat in Paris. I'll upload some photos to show you just how stylish Parisians can be.

Not quite so stylish but certainly memorable is our friend's Arif's Goth look. Somewhat derivative of Marilyn Manson and shows Goth's not dead.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Does anyone else think it is incredible that you can see Mars in full detail here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

21st Century Revolution

The rise of the Internet and its impact on business, politics and the media is widely documented. But it is my contention that we have witnessed nothing but the opening salvos in a deeper revolution. A revolution who's implications will be far-reaching and can at present only be dimly glimpsed.

A familiar story; the Internet took control of information away from the few and gave it to the many. Banks, political parties and companies were opened up to scrutiny and greater competition. This cutting out of middlemen and lowering of barriers to entry were closely tied into the widened availability of information. It's hard to charge 15% for a loan when the web brings you fifteen different providers who'll only charge you 5%.

The change in the balance of power between the consumer and the business is clear and progresses still today. Take Zopa, an online money exchange that puts borrowers directly in contact with lenders - there's just no need for a traditional bank to get in the way.

At the same time, the Internet broke down any remaining barriers to the publication of content. This was fundemental in allowing the transfer and sharing of ideas. No more photocopied zines, now its all online.

This is going one stage further as the Internet allows anyone to publish video content, formerly the preserve of film studios and TV companies (think and google video). The point here is that the dissemination of digital cameras and the ability to broadcast video easily over the web is going to speed up the transmission of ideas and the sharing of content.

But there will be other implications too, video piracy, like MP3 downloading, is something traditional industry has failed to cope with. Those businesses that fail to capitalise on the change in the balance of power over video content will be ruined.

There are a couple of other important issues to consider here. Historically, changes in the ability to disseminate ideas have preceded major revolutions in social, political, economic and moral ideas and behaviour. Think how instrumental the printing press was in heralding the advent of the Protestant Reformation of the Catholic church (oh and brought untold death and misery in wars of religion). Fundamentally, without the printing press, there could be no mass production of bibles in the vernacular. Widely available vernacular bibles were critical to the success of the Reformation.

The same pattern can be seen in the printing of 'Libelles' in pre-Revolutionary France. Satirical, politically inspired anti-monarchial books, they helped usher in the French Revolution. Subject of a life's work by Robert Darnton, the Libelles and other forms of communication helped create a mindset that helped Frenchmen forsee a different kind of society altogether.

"A surprisingly large percentage of this illegal literature belonged to a genre that the French called libelles: defamations of prominent people. These were typically scatological biographies of famous people, including the king. They were often racy and obscene and also deeply political. Louis XV appears in this literature as a dirty old man; there is nothing impressive about him except his sexual appetite. Louis XVI has no sexual appetite at all, since he's presented as impotent, and so Marie Antoinette appears as sexually frustrated and promiscuous...

Most historians would say that the tax programs proposed by the crown at this time were sensible and progressive, and that those in the parlements who resisted them were merely defending their own privileges. Yet somehow the parlements mobilized tremendous public support at crucial moments. Why? To put it much too simply, I think the public already had a worldview, a schematized notion of contemporary history and politics, that prepared them to oppose the crown, and I think this worldview was basically derived from the forbidden literature, as well as other forms of communication. Before the end of my career I would like to write a history of the fall of the Old Regime and the outbreak of the Revolution that puts the media at the center of the story."

Clearly the French revolution and the Reformation had far wider causes than simply the publication of radical content - things just aren't that linear. Furthermore, society today is democratic (in the main) and enjoys a somewhat freer press. But we should not underestimate the impact that change in the creation, publication and ownership of content is going to bring about in our society.

So what changes might this revolution bring?

One likely impact will be the spread of radical ideas from the fringes to the mainstream. Some candidate ideas that I suggest might gain a great deal of popular support include;

#1 Eco-living: A strong belief in the importance of recycling, animal welfare and the production of cheap and local healthy foodstuffs. The widespread use of renewable energy. As the impact of man's activities on the environment become clearer, voices that cried from the wilderness in the 1970s are steadily getting louder and louder as they occupy the kitchens of Chelsea.

#2 Citizen Journalism: Media conglomerates weakened by the creation of networks of self-funded, self-directed web journalists, producing articles that stimulate wide interest. They'll get paid by the number of hits their articles generate.

#3 Political and Corporate revolution: Countries with repressive regimes, e.g. Iran, China (0perhaps even the US) are likely to come under intense pressure to allow real democracy. The internet by its very nature allows for real diversity of opinion, for the challenging of corruption and cronyism. The same pressure will be at work on the consumer's behalf against businesses that employ illegal and unfair practices. At a rather prosaic level, see Jeff Jarvis' Buzz machine attack on Dell.

#4 Moral Tolerance and Intolerance: The revolution in the publication of content means that liberal ideas such as abortion, Gay marriage and female clergy are far more likely to become acceptable. Perversely at the same time there will be a spread of intolerance, witness the effects of radical Islam disseminated via the internet. Perhaps it just means more extremes of opinion.

#5 Grass roots entertainment. Witness the creation of celebrity from nowhere as displayed on Big Brother. The same principles will be at work in the creation of popular contnet from the ground up. The Arctic Monkeys did it with their music - turning an underground album into a global hit. How long before the first grassroots soap-opera? The first real grassroots film?

There is obviously a lot more that could be said here. I'd like to revisit and suggest some other key themes that we are likely to spot as the revolution takes hold. One critical piece in understanding the revolution and its implications lies in scouring the internet for interesting, radical and challenging content that points towards ideas that are spreading. Google's Zeitgiest would seem to be somewhere to revisit frequently!

The Future of Computing?

Wonder how long it will take Dell to start making these cheaply... if you've seen Minority Report, you'll get the idea.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Gordon Parks

Worked his way up from the bottom, made some films including Shaft and took some great, simple black and white photos. See more about him here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Marketing Bullsh*t

Today, a client wrote asking for some copywriting to be organised as follows:
-Traditional Easter Promo Headline
- Strategic Easter Headline
- Strategic Easter Tactical Headlines

What a load of rubbish. How does one write a Strategic, Easter, Tactical, Headline?

Simple and straightforward.

Medium drives the message

Not much today... but these two images that are great. One is a superb example of using the medium to drive the message ...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Use yer loaf...

I've been reading a thought provoking book, 'A Whole New Mind' by Daniel H Pink. Part trashy business book, part self-help guide, I found it readable and quite motivating. Having said that, the arguments he presents are not without flaws; for instance he oversimplifies global trends to support his point that the right brain (conceptual, creative, metaphorical, empathetic) is coming to the fore once again. Of course it has always been there, ticking away in the background, and to be fair he does say that.

Nonetheless, he inspired a couple of activities for me and a couple of books to read in future.

Interesting quote #1: "I see us being in the art business, Art, entertainment and mobile sculpture, which, coincidentally, also happens to provide transportation" - Bob Lutz of General Motors. Of course they may not actually be IN business for much longer given the problems of the American Motor industry but I like the sentiment.

I am absolutely, definitely, about to, probably write a short story. Or a poem. Or a book. Or none of the above. BUT if and when I do, then I'm going to read these books first;
'Story: Substance Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting' by Robert McKee. Apparently he's the guru for writers in the States.
Another interesting sounding one is 'Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art' by Scott McCloud. He explains how comics, their illustrations and text come together... using the medium of a comic. How cool is that?

Metaphor as a thought process.
I'm not sure I've quite thought this all through yet, but basically metaphor is a hugely powerful means of expression. Some people use them all the time in the daily speech, you hear them in songs all the time and there's a great article by Jeremy Bullmore all about the way an insight as a metaphor can be a really powerful starting point for the creative development process. Some of my faves from last week (from my 'Metaphor Log', as recommended by Daniel Pink) are;
  • A mind as sharp as a knife
  • She was pulling her hair out
  • A list as long as your arm
  • The seeds you sowed
  • Close to my heart
I suppose that they encourage visualisation, lateral thought, inject situations with emotional meaning and even drama. In short, what a great way to communicate! There's another book I'd love to read called 'Metaphors we live by' George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.

There are a few more interesting points in the book and I'm planning to come back here at some point to capture any others.