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Archive for the category “Strategy”

A learner’s resolution. Guide to surviving the new world of advertising.

I was fortunate to meet with the great Sanjay Khare a few days ago. For those who don’t know Sanjay, he is an advertising veteran having spent over three decades in the business. He is now reinventing himself as a digital marketing specialist at Pinstorm. Sanjay was speaking to a bunch of students at a college do, telling them how he always wears an “L” board every time he goes lecturing.

In a world that’s changing every day I think everyone of us could do with Sanjay’s attitude.  Hang a metaphorical board around our necks, step out to embrace change by understanding new ideas and concepts as they emerge and get drawn into the mainstream.

So here folks, for whatever it’s worth, my game-plan to learn and stay relevant as things change around me. Over the years I have put down a process, a ritual as I call it, and if I have not already bored you to death at a party with my theories, maybe worth spending the next few minutes on.

When I started out in this business, the world was still analog. We relied on expensive award show annuals from One Show, British D&AD, Art Director’s Club or magazines like Communication Arts, Archive, Print and rare issues of Creative Review and Admap to feed our need for knowledge. Today the world of learning comes to us at broadband speeds, and free (mostly).  With sites like Ads of the World, The FWA, The Inspiration Room, The Dieline and not to miss out on a very important plug, this very website Campaign India.

Now I have never been a person who only looked at other advertising for inspiration and knowledge. So part of the learning process involves devouring magazines like Wired. I started out with second hand copies bought off the pavements of Brigade Road, Bangalore. Pop Sci. Reading authors like Tom Peters (don’t forget to check out his brilliant collection of PPT slides under the resources link), Ries & Trout, hell I even read their lame duck tome, Horsesense. Edward De Bono. Sun Tzu, Martin Lindstorm

By the late 90s, the web became my feeding ground. Using bookmarks and later a MyYahoo page, I dived deep into the endless pool that the information revolution had created. For a guy interested in new things, there was no end to know much he could read and understand. Soon blogs were upon us and some of the best minds whose books I waited for, for months and years, started to write their own blogs. Seth Godin, soon Tom Peters and Sally Hogshead.

Then in around 2003 I discovered RSS. Or Real Simple Syndication. For a learner, discovering feed readers was moment of nirvana. From a forager of information, feed readers like Bloglines brought stuff I liked onto my desktop. Instead of me looking for stuff on various sites, knowledge was waiting for me everytime I opened my browser. At the peak of my feed addiction, I was reading up to 700 blogs and RSS enabled websites a day (now it’s a more manageable 56). From ones that posted a few times a month to others like BoingBoing and Metafilter that posted many, many times a day. Glancing through some 2000 bits of new information a day, reading some 50 pieces or so that interested me and absorbing, sharing and using a dozen or so a day.

On a personal level I have had to make a few adjustments too. First and most important to set aside some time every day for learning. It’s easy to make excuses. We are busy, working hard, travelling, making presentations, pitching. Yawn.

For me, the fear of irrelevance, even worse obsolesce motivates me to get off the bed early every morning. And I do this every morning, every day, no matter how late I have slept, whether I am in town or on holiday. If I can have net access, I will clean up my feeds by the time I head out of home.

These days, Twitter has become a rich source of new stuff. G+ from being seen as a Facebook killer has become more like my Bloglines killer, where people I know and respect post interesting links and videos. I pick up an odd bit or two from Facebook through the day. As information and content sources grow online, I feel I am using other people as filters to filter what reaches me.

So what do I take forward into 2012 as a learner’s resolution? To glance less and read more. To read more books. The brilliant Brain Picker Maria Popova reads as many books a week as I have read all year. To seek out and find new semantic reading tools like Zite to help me discover more of what I will like and what I would skip. As Lord Alfred Tennyson captured in this pithy little line in Ulysses: “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”

Thanks for reading everyone. If you are sober in the weekend, do go out and make an L board for yourself. And have a great 2012.Image

When technology fills in for human connection

Sharin visited your path, my phone alerted me the other day. For all the things Path does, this feature is a killer. In a real world context the alert could mean many things. Sharin came home. You bumped into Sharin on the street. You met Sharin for coffee. Except that you didn’t.

If you have not already, you must try Path. It’s an app for the iPhone and Android devices. Share Life says this video that advertises Path. While it does many things that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare do, there is a little bit more. A nuance that makes a new kind of connection.

While Path is the new shiny, and this story is not specifically about Path, but about technology beginning to make a human connection. Not just for the shy and the socially inept. “If I have been to sleep and don’t have at least four messages when I wake up, I feel no one loves me” said this quote from this study of 2005. The world has moved on, and for many of us checking our phone for email or SMS messages is the first thing we do when we wake up in the morning.

We are the first generation of humans touched by technology.

What started in analog with telephone answering machine has been converted into bits and bytes and is coursing the veins of the digital nervous system we call the world-wide web. Soon we will be hearing about the Internet of things, like how we did, Web 2.0 a few years ago. And as it unfolds, more things will be connected to the Internet. Objects like the streets of Tokyo or if you can call cows objects, like in this experiment in Holland where a startup, Sparked, is connecting animals to keep track of their health.

It is easy to understand how we can build bridges between objects and the Internet. Haven’t we have heard of concepts like connected refrigerators that could order for fresh stocks of milk and eggs or cars that could made SOS calls when in an emergency, since the early days of the internet? Many of these ideas are not just concepts anymore and as this video from IBM tells us there are more things connected to the internet than there are people.

However what makes my experience with Path a little different is that unlike objects that have an IP address and make dumb connections, Path can play with human emotion. What did Sharin find out about me when she dropped by my path unannounced.

There are others. Take Availabot, one of the early examples of an Internet connected object that could play with us. A USB device that would wake up when a friend of mine logged on to IM. Made me smile. Or Mingling Mii, a virtual Nintendo Wii avatar that, if connected to the internet could popup in the audience as my friends played virtual games no matter where they were.

We are going further as this breathtaking idea from Interaction Design shows us. With PillowTalk you can sleep next to your loved one even when you are far, far away. Wish I had thought of that.

As we move into a world with omnipresent Wi-Fi and 3G networks, RFID and NFC chips, QR codes and augmented reality overlays. Of connected databases that know us, our friends and our preferences better we will see more richness, more meaning being built around us. Ideas that can change our moods, play with our feelings and mind states.

The reason why this fascinates us is because we are the first generation of humans who have been touched by technology, as this baby born into a home with an iPad thought that a magazine is an iPad that does not work.

Eight lessons marketing professionals can learn from Kolaveri

The digital world has so disrupted the business models of newspapers, radio, television, music and even Hollywood that the yin and yang of mass media and mass marketing are flying apart. We are in the midst of total collapse of the media infrastructure we have taken for granted for 400 years.

– Bob Garfield Advertising Age Columnist in The Chaos Scenario, 13 April 2005

Aye, have you heard this weird song. Kolaveri, Kolaveri? Is got close to a million views on YouTube. Is it Malu or what? What does Kolaveri mean?

– Digital Dude Aged 24, 17 November 2011

Screen grab from Youtube

Six years after Bob Garfield provoked the marketing and advertising industry with his seminal piece in Advertising Age, Digital Dude (quoted above) discovers that Kolaveri Di has gone viral on YouTube. Dude does not know Bob Garfield nor has he read The Chaos Scenario. But he is among the millions who have given Kolaveri another view, helping to further shoot the video on to the centre stage of India’s pop culture and unwittingly endorsing the premise of Bob’s book.
Now clients want agencies to do a Kolaveri like video for their brands. Yes we got two briefs in the last two days and are struggling to explain why we cannot do a Kolaveri. What we do have are some lessons from the said video and similar memes.

Lesson 1. You don’t make a Kolaveri. It happens. Amen. Here are, one, two stories from the guys at Jack in the Box, the digital agency behind the viral on how it happened.

Lesson 2. You can’t separate marketing and PR from the agency anymore. Being a movie based video Kolaveri has an advantage over traditional marketing content. Yet reading the agency’s POV on this, PR was strategically used to give the video the traction.  Starting now we need to create all kinds of synergies to get people’s attention. Marketing, PR, HR, sales, service working together, in tandem…

Lesson 3.  Speed is the new element in a marketing person’s arsenal. To read Dhanush’s interview post the success of the song and to believe that the song was written in some 6 minutes. Well that’s as much time it takes to find an empty conference room these days. Speed was on display when W+K decided to bring on the OldSpice Man on to Twitter and YouTube. 180+ videos created in two days. Wow!

Lesson 4. YouTube is the TV channel for urban Indian youth. Mahesh Murthy (look up his 20 new rules of marketing here) and Reem Syed are some of the prominent voices in India who believe how lopsided marketing budgets are with respect to digital media. The impact of Kolaveri Di should put an end to that discussion. In fact this Google Trends comparison between two recent hits, Airtel’s Har Friend Zaroori Hota Hai and Kolaveri shows you that without a dime spent on TV, Kolaveri has blown past an ad that was heavily promoted on all channels, online included. Even in places like Ludhiana and Chandigarh,  Kolaveri beat out the Airtel ad.

Lesson 5. In a low friction world,  we learnt a great idea will have imitators like in the case of Cadbury’s s Gorilla. In India we have struggled to get people to create interesting content that feeds off a rage. Kolaveri is showing us that good ideas will be copied and remixed in real time. What are we agencies and marketers doing to create memes that can be remixed?

Lesson 6. Hum-ability counts, not meaning. Cartoonist Hugh McLeod had something fundamental to say  in this cartoon. Most marketing messages are so overloaded that they lose any humanity whatsoever. The lyrics in Kolaveri are so nonlinear that they start a conversation and further its spread.  RIP Link Test?

Lesson 7. Ideas like these can spawn real time marketing opportunities. Pepsico’s Digital Marketing Head talks about how the best marketing in the future will need to grab real time opportunities that could come by. A viral the scale of Kolaveri could have spawned many opportunities. A line of Kolaveri Di Tshirts. A promo around the song. A smart entrepreneur could have started a Kolaveri Di FAQs page and made some money from placing Ads on the page. Missed opportunities.

Lesson 8. The long tail brings interesting content back into circulation. This one has nothing to do with Kolaveri. But another video that’s been doing the rounds recently, the  flash mob in Mumbai Central has been doing the rounds. The Youtube video has already notched up an impressive 200,000+ views in two days. On the back of this, an older, forgotten one from May this year is getting a second life, for free. The Internet never forgets, but no ad that’s shown on TV can ever have a second coming without the advertiser wanting to rerun it.

Digital story telling. View from a massage table.

Come on. Dim the lights. Bring out the aromatherapy candles. Play some soothing Thai spa music. Lower the volume just a bit. Oh yeah!

I can barely see the warm tubs of oils, hot stones, moist towels, the steam rising. Not to let my mind wander though. I am at work. Need to complete a strategy note by EOD.

You know why I am advertising, don’t you? It’s mid-afternoon, I am lying on a couch in a posh spa getting pampered. The Mad Men days may be over for our business. And anyway, I am a digital guy.

I am putting together a strategy presentation for a new client. And I am soaking it in, the brand experience. Exploring options, feeling the stuff, poking, prodding and getting my thoughts ready.

As the masseur’s trained fingers run up and down my back tickling out hidden knots and pockets of stress, I am thinking of the brand story. A spine, as it were, around which this luxury spa brand will unravel it’s POV to the world.

Ah! I love my job.

The client will see no numbers, click thru rates, fan counts and such in this presentation. This is higher order stuff. The foundation of a brand, built around its brand story, its truth.

What’s the big deal, you may ask. Any good advertising person is supposed to experience a brand, live the experience, use the product and come up with a POV. What’s new?

Well, digital needs brands to be richer. Offer multi-layered story lines that get played out depending on the channel that is being used. More importantly, since brands can own media platforms on the digital channels they operate in, they can tell longer, more detailed stories unlike with traditional media, where they are constrained by sizes or time limits.

So how is this story coming along? Let’s for argument sake call the spa at home brand “Soul” and imagine that I am putting together this multilayered brand story document for them.

Let me begin with the brand proposition. Soul. Luxury spa at home. Hmm nice. Looks like new territory for me. I begin to construct the brand’s story.

If you have, like me, been lucky enough to interact with a smart lady called Story Ninja you too would have learnt a few things about stories. The theory around stories. About concepts like the Monomyth and The Heroes’ Journey as propounded by Joseph Campbell. In conversations with Story Ninja I have come to learn that there are basic patterns that can be found in all universal stories. And as I construct a digital strategy for Soul, I dive in to build a compelling, multi-dimensional narrative that can make deep connections with people.

Additionally, I reach out to the teachings of former MIT Professor Henry Jenkins and his wonderful approach called Transmedia Storytelling. Or, how in today’s world with multiple digital and traditional media platforms stories can play out differently, across these platforms and yet create a powerful and unified whole as the participants in these stories (people) put them together. Advertising planner Faris Yakob has taken this thinking and furthered it for use in advertising, which he calls Transmedia Planning.

So as I think of the brand story for Soul I am constructing a simple, universal narrative from within the Heroes’ Journey and then use transmedia planning to play it out to the world.

I can’t disclose the brand story that is coming alive in my mind (NDA and stuff my friends) but I can share the platform thinking. From the company’s website, to the many digital and social media channels that are available to brands these days. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, 43 Things, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin. Throw in a porn site even, YouPorn, why not? For a brand that makes massage oil, let’s have some sensual “how to” videos up there too.

Told you, love my job…

So I can see the streams coming together. Soul: Luxury Spa at home, if that is the proposition. Unlike a traditional advertising, where I will be constrained by ad sizes or spot time limits, I can think free. Have long sensuous videos play out on video sites. Seed them across the web using Facebook and Twitter. Build a good profile of the company using a smart website to help Soul come across as a solid and reliable brand. Talk about individual products and their secrets using blog posts. Show beautiful images of Soul products and how they can be used, on Instagram and Pinterest. Build the reputation of people behind the company on Linkedin. Cross link stuff around so I can optimize the company’s site for search engines. Sweet! I can see this working on me. Not the massage, silly! The startegy.

Apart from the cost of building the Soul website and some monies incurred in production, I have not spent a dime in media costs. So while historically a brand would have a 90:10 split between media and production, all that Soul is incurring is in production costs, and of course the fat fees they pay me for helping them get their digital act together.

So before I doze off, and if you are still with me, here are the take outs. In the world of digital brand building, we need to imagine richer, multilayered brand stories. While executing these stories don’t worry about space and time constraints. Instead think platforms. So what you do on YouTube need not be what you will do on Pinterest. Each platform has a grammar of its own. Consider that when building brand stories. People who are on these platforms expect a certain behavior from others around. So instead of thinking traditionally and narrow casting your brand around one line, or around a slogan, think wider. Think richer.

Finally. There are a few kits of Soul that my client wants to give away. Would you like to receive one? Post a comment below and I will reach out to you. Brands in the digital world are all about giving.

An Agency of Makers.

In a first for a non-technology company, Unilever brand AXE had called for a developers’ day in early October.  One that I believe has a strong message for agencies.

Digital is the way ahead. Yes!

While there’s nothing path breaking about this fact, I’d like to argue that agencies can participate in the digital revolution in ways we have never imagined. Not just by being partners of our clients as we have always been, but by making things for ourselves, and profiting from it.

Planner Griffin Farley is one of the smartest minds out there. He makes an interesting point in this presentation on Fringe Planning, and I borrow shamelessly (God bless the Internet).  Slides 16 and 17 are noteworthy.  “Ad Agencies have recruited some of the smartest creative people out there.” And 17, “the byproduct of agencies are ideas that don’t get sold, or are not appropriate for a particular client.”

I see the second point as particularly appropriate. With agencies thinking up more business ideas as part of the integrated marketing communications mix these days, than merely communication ideas as they did in the past. For example, this Cannes winner from Tesco is not so much a communication idea as much as a business changing idea. Or the recent announcement from Shoppers Stop of setting up a Facebook store is a business idea, and less a marketing one.

So how are agencies taking advantage of the rich stream of “by products” they create? Griffin has listed out a few in his deck.

Anomaly, an agency with offices out of New York and London discovered YouTube amateur Lauren Luke and helped her develop, manufacture and market her own range of cosmetics. This is not a one off from Anomaly. They have developed a few IPable ideas, including ShopText, a mobile based shopping and couponing and commerce service.

There are other agencies too who think alike. Among the better known ones, BBH has Zag, a brand inventions agency. Deutsch has Consigliere, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal and Partners  have KSBP Ventures. While independent traditional agencies have set up innovation shops, there are a new bunch of making agencies building things and creating a niche for themselves. Breakfast out of New York, Definition6 , the guys behind the Coke Happiness Machine, Deep Local, who built the NikeChalk bot, or London based agency, ustwo, who have a portfolio of client work and a bunch of independent products.

What connects these new agencies? Unlike traditional agencies that spend their energies creating communications ideas, the new ones are focusing on out and out innovation for their clients and for themselves. Thinking product ideas, which can be patented, to create intellectual property and build new revenue streams in the future.

A simple way for agencies to take advantage of “making” opportunities, we have to go beyond the campaign mentality. For example, with mobile apps, now accepted as a tool for marketing. (Most traditional agencies have an app or two to show off these days which means we have cracked the model of how to imagine and make them.) So instead of doing an app for, say, a diwali mela campaign, could we think long term? If we can understand the key reason for a person to buy a brand or use a service and then build something that fulfills an unmet need.

As this story in Fast Company points, can agencies think more like startups, and less like communication partners? Or as advertising planner Russell Davies goads us so eloquently in Wired UK, make things, not messaging platforms.

In a changed world, there are ways of making them happen. Thomas Freidman pointed us to some mega trends in his bestselling tome The World if Flat. For this story, the key ones from the book are outsourcing, rapid prototyping, workflow software and supply chaining.

So an idea, that comes up in a brainstorm, ideas that we agencies are so good at spotting, can be scaled up with help from partners who the agency has relationships with, and taken to market with the support of a client, or independently.

To do this we will need to add new skill sets though. Which is where agencies will have to have the startup mentality. We have rarely hired to build revenues in the future. But an agency with a headcount that runs into many hundreds can afford a small team of geeks, engineers and project managers for sure.

In a state of the union address early this year, Barack Obama told his country that their future lies in taking leadership of innovation. I believe the same should apply to the communication business that is seeing its fundamentals shifting with the arrival of the digital revolution.

DIY culture is a growing trend. This trend is spawning whole revolution, led by small groups of people who are using technology, easy connectivity, access to venture capital and microfinance.

Advertising as an industry that has a rich history of identifying and nurturing creativity. Unlike engineers, we are masters at helping find a way to make things that make an emotional connection with people. Could an agency create the next Angry Birds, Instagram, Klout or Hipstamatic asks this story. I believe we have the credentials. The inclination? Let’s wait to hear from the winners of the Axe developers’ day.

Is Social Networking Building Internet’s Caste System?

Ah! To be an internet user in the 90s. When modern browsers introduced us to webpages and hyperlinks.  Click, click click and you were away, connecting random things. Girlie pictures, right click to download. Football scores I know the address. Email, done in minutes.

No pressure really. If you could log on, you could be online. No one knew who you were, and really no one cared.

How could the net just meander along like this, asked the Internet gods? Soon people will get bored. Let’s throw in some complexity, they said. And Google was born. Out of a paper that Larry Page wrote. With Page Rank, Google’s algorithm for ranking pages, we started to see changes in the way we consumed the web. We moved away from individual web pages and started visiting to the Google home page. Search for something and out came a bunch of results. Simple we thought, yet complex it was. Who decides which result should come up tops? Not Google surely. No.

Thus was born the origins of Internet’s caste system.

I have more heads of cattle then you have; if you are a villager living on the Serengeti plains of Africa. I rank higher up in Google search results than you do, if you’ve decided to make the Cyberspace your playground.

Thus was created a new generation of narcissists. Googling their names to find where they stood when compared to their peers and namesakes. I have done it myself secretly, I must admit.

What Google started didn’t end there. When platforms like Blogger, Typepad, WordPress and others gave anyone online the opportunity to create, it also started to create a pecking order of sorts. Arianna Huffington, Robert Scoble, Michael Arrington. India’s own Amit Agarwal, Rashmi Bansal, soon became the Brahmins of the web. Six figure speaking assignments, insider tips, first looks at new stuff, publishing contracts.

The social media curation business was in full flow, creating clear class systems with award shows, lists and more. Bloggies. AdAge’s ranking of top marketing bloggers. Indiblogger complied India’s own list. I saw your blog, chipped in an enthusiastic intern who dropped by my office. I have one too, he said, has an Indirank of 67. Crash! My world went down. With a score languishing in the 20s. Woe to ye writer for a blog few care to read.

It wouldn’t end there. Nike+, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more. Some of us were just better at doing stuff and the world could know. I just ran 18 Kms a friend’s Nike+ status update mocked at me. The last I ran for exercise was 18 years ago.

NigaHiga has 4 million YouTube subscribers my son told me the other day. I looked up mine. Four. As if the zeroes really didn’t matter.

Facebook fans and friends, Twitter and Instagram follower lists – I wasn’t making a mark. Falling away in the social media leaderboard.

And then came the rating guys. Standard & Poor’s of the internet, as it were. Size does matter, they say, knowing my abysmal record so far, I wasn’t sure how I would measure up.

The big name around in this nascent business is Klout, as the name suggests measures your clout, online.  Klout, the standard of influence they claim, 80 million people have apparently compared themselves using the algorithm. Justin Bieber scores a 100 on 100. Unless you are a movie star or someone such, I urge you to stay away. With a score in the low 50s and my activity across various social networks I am classified a specialist. If it were like India’s multilayered caste system I would be a barber, probably. Nice hair! Oh go away now.

There are others out there waiting to divide us. Each one with a proprietary method. Peer Index, inviting you to understand your online social capital. One that groups you basis your activity, authority and your network.  There’s Twenty Feet described an ego tracking service. Carl Jung has met his match. The Times UK has another The Social List, a system set up to measure your social wealth. Could a bribe help, I wonder?

So why these class systems you may ask. We are seeing some answers already. Klout has introduced Klout Perks, a system to reward people basis their social influence. They worked with Facebook and Audi to deliver different experiences to people depending on their Klout scores. Stephen King recently gave away his new book Mile 81 free to select members of Klout.

Looks like I am falling short in the ranking game, with middling numbers across the board. Wish I could go back to the simpler days of the Internet. Or maybe I need to move on.

Gardening, anybody?   

The Joy of Failure

In most agencies Digital is cool these days. And as a digital guy, you can walk around with this smug,  know-it-all expression. Augmented Reality? No problem! Shoskales? You should ask me! SEO? I know abbreviations!

Or you can expect to be branded a heretic and be ready to be foisted onto a stake for giving clients and agency colleagues the feeling that something complex can be done, without actually having done it before.

I must admit that I have been at the receiving end lately. Accused of being a complete loser who jumps onto new technology bandwagons (Hype Cycle, as Gartner puts it) because it’s out there waiting to be done (a campaign on Percolate anyone?). Or plunging smooth running client relationships into crisis by trying to do audacious things.

Frankly I’d rather die a trapeze artist trying to do one new stunt after another, rather be a Spanish goat herder stuck by lightning while he took a midafternoon siesta. Yes! More than ever…

Since the early seventies theorists have been postulating the emergence of the Attention Economy, where for brands and ideas, getting people’s attention is going to be the biggest problem. Traditional communication models like AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) are being threatened because of our reducing attention spans and the proliferation of devices.

While old theories are being laid to rest every day, ideas that once sparked and shone are biting the dust more often. This is not just true for traditional advertising ones, but for newfangled digital and nontraditional ones too. While Coke’s Happiness Machine version 1was a viral rage globally, attempts to recreate the magic have not been as spectacular. The original Old Spice Man Twitter response campaign got far more traction digitally than the recent shootout with Fabio.

But that’s not the point.

The point frankly is that we don’t know. We don’t know for sure what will work, and which ones won’t. And we have to believe that this to be the first principle of our business. Be prepared to throw away rule books, process documents, research methodologies and more in today’s over communicated world. Many ideas that fall in within our brand and communication comfort zones right now may not make any impact at all amidst all the noise around us.

Sure not every idea will be worth people’s attention. And that has always been the case. But to believe that tried and tested approaches will work again and again is to believe in the value of diminishing returns. I think we in agencies and at client offices have to build a culture of trying new things time and again. Create ideas that can creep into people’s attention spaces that may not necessarily fit within the boxes of advertising or marketing. So even if they are too busy to pay any attention, the sheer novelty of these ideas mean they get seen, heard and discussed.

Now there’s so much more motivation to step out and swim across to the unknown. The Cannes Lions Advertising Festival broke the rules this year renamed itself to the Cannes International Festival of Creativity. Awarding ideas that refuse to be contained in neatly defined boxes and silos that fall in our traditional comfort zones.

What would you call the Bing J-Z Decoded campaign or Tesco’s tryst with stores in the subway? Or the exceptional work done by the German agency Kempertrautmann for Hamburg Philharmonic? Here even the conductor agreed that the idea was crazy, when she first heard it. How would you measure such ideas even before they are approved and executed? What frameworks would they fall in?

We may want to pause and reflect on this.

Are we asking enough questions about our ideas, when we complain that are 99% of all advertising campaigns don’t cut it creatively? Why are we satisfied with just 2%, .2% or .02% banner clickthru rates? I could go on…

While attention is scarce on one hand, we are spending more time to seek out things that really interest us. Surely some of this can be advertising. Additionally, in this age of wonderment, most of the magic is being created outside departments that may not be designated creative. Also, the landscape of communication is being disrupted even by little kids armed with a computer and an internet connection.  As organisations that are being looked at as places that produce new and breakthrough ideas, we need to step right back in and claim our position. Whatever it takes.

As author Kathryn Schultz celebrates so evocatively in this TED talk, On Being Wrong. “Our capacity to screwup, it is not some embarrassing defect in the human system, something we can eradicate or overcome. It’s totally fundamental to who we are.” So if you have 20 minutes to spare. And it is not totally wrong to spend some time watching TED in office, maybe worth jumping in and listening up. Steve Jobs urged the class of 2005 at Stanford to stay hungry, stay foolish. Maybe we should too.

Mum’s on Twitter. #Help

She’s 72, mom is, and she has a new toy. Hashtags. Unleashing her fury on the village fishmonger. Pomfret not fresh #eipcfail. Auto drivers, vegetable vendors, the weatherman and now the fishmonger, all at the receiving end of her recent and often generous use of hashtags.

She DMs (direct messages) me often. “r u in del?” Checking on my recently busy travel schedule. “Feeling g8”, giving me feedback after her 5K morning walk. Were’s da cheq?? Asking when the cheque I promised her will reach. I respond promptly, avoiding #epicfail(s) and #nasty(s) as she plays around with the grammar of another tool she’s just discovered.

Mum’s been a learner all her life. Over a decade ago she enrolled for Literacy Mission’s evening classes – to learn Kannada- when she moved to Bangalore. She attended every class, the certificate she received now adorns her mantel shelf.

I wonder if she’s heard of Google+ yet. There’s been so much talk about it recently that the local news channel must have reported something. Mum hasn’t sent me a DM yet via Twitter, “where’s my Google+”, not yet. Knowing mum it could come in anytime.

I wish the world had a bit of mum’s spirit. Plunging headlong and trying out new and unknown things. In the digital world, registering and using emerging tools and technology platforms.

Now I can foresee smart one liners coming my way. But hold on a minute.

Despite all our early cribs and complaints about not wanting to let the world know about when we burped or farted via our status alerts, hasn’t Facebook become our fireplace on the web? Come on now. Aren’t we almost unconsciously clicking on and reading the odd Twitter link or enjoying juvenile cat videos posted on YouTube?

So how come we get into these discussions on the need for another platform? When we don’t even know how useful it might turn out when a million of your friends sign up to it. How useful and serendipitous Foursquare could be if we bumped into an old flame at an airport when checking in becomes a new favourite game. When an Instagram you posted get 20 “loves” from people who we’ve never ever met.

I am not a new platform junkie as many of my friends think I am. No I’m not. Trawling Mashable and GigaOm to see when new digital toy is signing up alpha users. This is not a manifesto for that sort of thing. But I do have my ears on the ground; discovering, using and trying to understand the next tool that could change people’s behaviours and effect the way we live. I am a sucker for that. About being where people are, and knowing why we do what we do. A revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new tools – it happens when society adopts new behaviours declared Clay Shirky. Wonder when mum will RT that.

Dear Nike, I am not a consumer…

I have been a Nike fan forever.

Just looked in the shoe rack and there are 5 pairs of Nikes of varying vintage there. I wear Nikes for work and play, my kids wear Nikes to school. Recently a pair that I use for my morning walk lost a rubber padding on the sole. So being a fan, I thought why not write to the company whose products I so love.

The email id put me off a bit. “consumercare.india@nike.com. While I do understand where the word comes from, I never think of myself as a consumer of anything. In Nike’s case, I am a fan, a believer, an advocate and more. I have a poster pinned up in my head from an old Nike campaign that goads me every morning, to wake up and run. It reads, “Either you ran today, or you didn’t”.

If I have to get in touch with Nike, alas, I have to come under the nomenclature “consumer”. I want to be a fan, perhaps a team member, a co-runner…

But I am only a consumer in their books. They have a section on their website under a link called consumer care policies. Care is a better word though. Policies, terrible…

All of this put a bit of doubt in my mind about my relationship with Nike, and since the mail was formatted, I shot it out.

Promptly comes an auto response from the server.

“Dear sender”

My relationship with Nike is coming apart 😦

P.S. To be fair to Nike. I did get my shoes repaired for free at the local Nike store.

Sleuthing through the recent Facebook shutdowns

There’s been fear and loathing in social media land recently. As some of India’s most visible Facebook fan communities started to go missing. It all began early this month when the Pizza Hut India page was shut down. The news was important enough to feature in mainstream media and on digital blogs. While the Pizza Hut page came back up, two other Indian properties, FCUK India and Cadbury Bournville, went down too. Both the pages are back up after the blip. Check out this interesting inflection of the FCUK India page on Wildfire Social Media Monitoring App.

So what’s happening in social media land? Is the promise of limitless, free consumer engagement is beginning to evaporate even before we have started? What are the future challenges that brands and social media managers will have to keep in mind to ensure that their carefully built properties do not disappear?

The simple answer. Adhere to Facebook terms of service. Live by the rule book, they are straightforward, and everything will be fine. No problem.

In reality things are a bit different. Most brands want to grow their fan pages exponentially, And Pizza Hut India has had some success as this report from December points out. A good promo can do wonders to your page and your confidence, terms of service or no terms of service.

These takedowns are widespread. Allfacebook reports that there has been a slew of app take downs around the world where one of Facebook engineer tried to explain “We’ve been getting a lot of user feedback recently, spiking significantly over the past week, on the amount of application spam people are seeing in their feeds and on their walls. We turned on a new enforcement system yesterday that took user feedback much more heavily into account.”  Apologies and a form on a disabled application appeal page continued in the engineers post.

Spam and blackhat stuff aside, what can legit brands and social media companies do to avoid seeing their efforts and nascent fan pages go down? Once again, play by the rules. There’s no escaping that. Don’t misuse the “like” button, don’t try to induce fans to comment, tag or post.

If you have been managing a Facebook community, you may have received mails from Facebook staff urging you to remove apps and promotions that violate Facebook’s terms. We have received a few and  have been proactive in working to ensure compliance.

We think the problem arises when you don’t respond.

The Facebook platform has been written to record every action that a person makes on a page. Dig around the code and even you will know who commented, who posted, who shared something on any page. So it is easy for Facebook to track admins and what they do, the promos and apps they post etc. And if they find an offending app or promotion on a page they write to the specific admin who posted it.  Now this could be the reason why some pages are being taken down and others narrowly missing the cut. The admin who posted the app or the violating promo has moved on and is still the page admin, or has not checked his Facebook designated mail in time. Our experience is that Facebook does warn offending admins and if they respond and take necessary action then the page stays on. Simple.

So going forward. Stay within the limits of what Facebook allows. Ensure that the admins you have on the page are people who are actively managing the page. And three, and this is a tricky one. If you are an admin look thru every one of your Facebook mails, yes, you get a lot many of them from your friends, fans and the community. Read through them, lest one of them happens to be a mail that warns you about an offending item and the future of your million fan social media community.

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