9 Aug 2007

On Fire

Just back from 10 days in Tenerife with my Mu Mu (mother). Suitably chilled. This is the only pic I took. Trying to capture an image of a dust cloud from the forrest fires over there. Turned the sky a spooky red. But I got in the way. Lookin even more spooky. He he!

24 Jul 2007

For anybody who loves catz

Yeah yeah, I know this makes me look like a sad cat lovin spinster, but this is just the cutest. . .

19 Jul 2007

She's back!!

The only 'professional' (use the term loosely) blogger, who takes 12 weeks to sort out interruptions to her home internet.

How rubbish am I??

I've also been stumbling about a bit in terms of work direction. Gathered some interesting learnings though.

The main one being just how many companies out there are full of clueless mediocre people!!! Jeez. It's not surprising that so many businesses skirt on the tight margin fringes of making a living/going bust.

And then there appear to be a whole bunch of corporate leviathans peopled by crusty, old school types who thing a blog is a misspell of something you should throw on a wood burning stove. Gimme strength.

Anyway if any of my buddies want to talk. I'm listening (again).

More soon x

PS The pic is me at the 02 festival about a month ago. As far as this summer is concerned the hat says it all.

28 Mar 2007

Slack Alice

Oops, it seems that regular blogging requires some kind of stamina I've briefly lost!! Giving up your job is one thing - what I didn't expect, was the wealth of activities that would rush in to fill the vacuum of a work-free life.

It's been fairly liberating to spend days at a time without looking at a keyboard for hours on end - but it doesn't do much for your readership stats!

The last month has been a flurry of DIY activity, catching up with friends, a bit of consultancy work and a bit of taking it easy.

The upside of this stuff is that it's given me more of a physical and emotional workout - rather that the pure cranial stuff I'm used to. A pleasant side effect is that I feel increasingly angst free - but on the flip side, I don't have a head full of rants that lend themselves to spikey little blog posts.

With this in mind (cue whale music), here is a nice link I found this morning. Don't know if I'd mentioned it before in my blog, but I took singing lessons from my birthday in August last year, through to Christmas. The objective was to remove a mental block I had about my musical ability. Anyway the upshot was that the block is removed - I'm never going to be musically gifted (X factor is safe for the time being), but I did discover that making some noise that is loosely classed as 'singing' really does lift your spirits. . .

Unfortunately, I was struck mute in the new year as I angsted myself stupid about work. And only last week, did I finally break my silence again - hollering some half remembered lyrics from 'Joseph' whilst I ironed. . .

I'm taking it as a good sign. My cats, however, are horrified.

Also just discovered that Slack Alice is the name of a blues band in Lancs - not a million miles away from me. So I'll link them too.

19 Mar 2007

The No Asshole Rule

Ever pick up a book that's rung so true to your recent life experiences that you spent the whole time you were reading it, muttering statements like 'you got it!' 'too right', 'it's not just me then!' in a slightly tourettes stylie?? Alternatively you find yourself grinning smugly and if you're anything like me, you graffitti the names of people who fit the bill for each insight in the margin, just in case you ever forget what crappy treatment you've had at the hands of these assholes. . .

Nope? It's only me then. . .

Having packed this as a holiday read, for break intended to soothe my nerves after throwing in the towel on a perfectly respectable agency directorship, I couldn't have chosen better.

As the title suggest - the book chronicles the kinds of disrespectful and sometimes downright abusive behaviour many of us have to subject ourselves to in order to build careers, or simple get along in business. Insights into the how and why of corporate misbehaviour are right on the money, but perhaps more importantly the implications of dealing with assholes at work - like the way it can sap your energy or batter your confidence are chronicled in a way that transcends 'poor me' and urges the reader to take action in a non-preachy way.

Ultimately the advice this book dishes out isn't ground breaking. You guessed it - if you work in a place full of assholes, maybe the best thing to do is to make like a tree. .


Alternatively there are a number of useful - but probably not that original - coping strategies. So, if you're dealing with assholes day to day, I'd recommend it as good, cheap therapy.

8 Mar 2007

Blink - and I'm back!

True to my previous post, I have spent the last 10 days trusting my instincts.

Laid on a sunbed soaking up the rays, my instinct was to switch off and think about nothing more taxing than whether to go for a paella or a chateaubriand for dinner each day.

Apologies for the break in service. Will upload a pic as soon as I've figured out my new and spangly digital camera. I love technology in a hands-off kind of way. Great when it works - but I'd rather not get down and dirty with the why or how. . .

An IT guy at work used to say I was a 12 o'clock flasher. . .

People like me have a DVD for 2 years and the digital display is still flashing away at 0:00

22 Feb 2007

Blink! and you might miss me

Quickie before I go. Last night I finished reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell - also author of The Tipping Point. He's a very, very clever chap and all round good egg it seems - for me anyone who can make a non-fiction book readable has to be!

Blink! is about 'thin-slicing' - the reactions, judgements and decisions we make about the world around us in a fraction of a second. Contrary to the belief of many, we shouldn't dismiss these intuitive reactions - because more often than not, they're right - thanks to the super-computer-like qualities of our own subconscious.

Being prone to over analysis, I like this idea. Moreover it 'feels' like its an important truth. Years ago I had a friend who spend a year living his life by the rules of The Dice Man (another great book - about a guy who gave himself six options for every decision he had to take and threw a dice to determine the choice). Obviously my friend was crazy - and ended up being fairly close to down-and-out on the strength of this and other equally bizarre activites. But I wonder if you could live your life by the rules of Blink? Trust your first thought in any given situation and see where it takes you??

Watch this space.

The Good The Bad and The Ugly

What a week! Having finally signed myself out of full time employment yesterday, it seems that not working doesn't involve sitting at home watching end to end Kilroy and Trisha. It hasn't involved much blogging either - so my site stats have taken a terrible tumble!

Here's what I have been doing.

The Good. . .catching up with friends who have been short changed over the past 5 years as I turned into an uninspiring and stressed out 'corporate' cipher. (I have a firm belief that money is the Matrix - creating an illusion of 'real' life devoid of any real emotion or feeling. So along that theme I also went shopping to replace a host of black - female undertaker type - suits, with some cool casual stuff. I'm on the other side now - thought I should look the part!) More good stuff came in the form of a hook up with SmallBizPod - a really neat site giving quality audio content to help small businesses and start-ups. From next month I'll be doing a marketing blog on there too - which I'm very excited about. And the guy behind it - Alex Bellinger - seems to really know his stuff. In fact there's a bit of footage on his front page that is really worth a look - it says more about the way the web is going in a couple of minutes, than most could do in a couple of hundred pages! And to finish the 'good' on a high, I also signed up my first piece of business yesterday - just for me! Which strikes me as poetic on the day that I sign myself out of my contract. It's a fabulous little beauty business here in Yorkshire, with big aspirations. But what's really great about it is the two people who are running it are brilliant at what they do - making people look and feel wonderful - but they're also happy to admit that they're not good at marketing. Brilliant! So often baby businesses obsess so heavily on controlling costs (and controlling just about everything else) that their marketing becomes a DIY disaster waiting to happen. Anyway more on these lovelies as and when there's something to show, but no links for now.

The Bad. Despite a couple of attempts at being a 'lady what lunches', I'm struggling with the psychology of working/not working. Up one minute, down the next. I know that I can afford a reasonably long 'break' (or maybe I should be like an actor and 'rest'). But working is like smoking. A tough habit to break. My head is still full of it. I'm dreaming about it. Yuc Yuc Yuc. And as you can see from 'The Good' stuff, I've already got a couple of irons in the fire - so I sense that the vacuum created by stopping one job, will be filled with other stuff before I know it. This doesn't worry me over much - I keep repeating the new and only rule I'll be living by over the next few months. . . If it makes you smile, do it. If it doesn't, don't.
Unfortunately you can't get patches or hypnotherapy to ween you off working. So I'm going for some ultraviolet therapy - a bit of sunshine for the next 10 days.

Now for the Ugly. Grrrr. I ignored my own rule and did something that was never likely to make me smile. And unsurprisingly it didn't! A friend of mine has won himself some office space in Leeds - it's all European funded and seems like a really great set up for baby entrepreneurs looking for their first footing in business. Anyway, said friend, being very persuasive thought it would be great if I pitched for some space too - working shoulder to shoulder - ready made lunch buddy and all of that. And I'm thinking - ok, city centre office space could be really handy - seeing as I live on a hillside in the middle of no-where. So I put in an application and this monday I was invited to 'pitch'. But as you're probably sensing from this blog - I'm pretty clued up about all things marketing and I've done practically every job a good agency has to offer - so I'm potentially a marketing one-stop-shop. But what I'm not right now, is overly ambitious or looking to put my pants back on over my undertaker suit trousers as a captain of industry. I'm in the 'down-shifters R us' club.

Anyway to get back to the point - I walked into the 'pitch' room. To be presented with a row of 4 respectable looking gentlemen and one 'cool dude' sat behind a bank of desks. The room was in darkness, projector screen lit up. Otherwise it was empty - if you discount the fact that there was a full film crew in there from our local TV news!!! Worse to come - it seems my panel of judges were avid viewers of Dragon's Den. Actually, the 4 respectable gentlemen, were exactly that - gentle. But the 'cool dude' on the end - OHMIGOD. He was sat down, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, this guy was no taller than 5ft 2" and obviously laboring under the largest chip on his shoulder. . . Enough said I think. Definitely Ugly. Needless to say I won't be taking office space there any time soon - the whole set up represented so many things I dislike about UK business. Egos, politics, expected cap doffing to authority, and above all little blokes throwing their insubstantial weight around!! Grrrrr. Lesson's learned - don't be persuaded to do anything that doesn't feel 100% right for you. Don't enter into something half-heartedly and expect a good result. Don't ever unwittingly let yourself be featured on local news!!!

Fortunately the good stuff has far outweighed the bad and the ugly this week. And with any luck spring will have made its official debut in blighty by the time I return from my sunshine break. I've purchased myself a couple of books to read in between snoozes - 'Made to Stick' by Chip and Dan Heath and - wait for it - 'The No Asshole Rule - building a civilised workplace and surviving one that isn't' by Robert Sutton. I think the second book may be a case of closing the stable door after the horse has run the derby - but I was highly entertained to discover that Waterstones were displaying this on the shelves face down for fear of offending customers. How VERY English.

13 Feb 2007

Broadband Britain

For the last month I've been happily researching the digital revolution in the UK. Read a few articles and you'd think we're a pretty advanced bunch - quick on the uptake, leaders rather than followers.

Then today, finally embarking on a solo career, I have to perform the simple tasks of ordering myself a mobile phone and getting a residential broadband connection to take over from my business line - so that I can continue with my blogging escapades over the next few weeks and months.

First, the infinite choice of mobile packages flummoxed me. Am I a racoon, a budgie or a fish?? Do I want thousands of free texts? Do I talk at the weekends? Do I have any family or friends?? Do I call land lines. Urrm. Yes to all of the above. Urrm have I got the first clue about what I need? No no no says mrs racoon. .

To help me I signed up for some advice from an 'on-line trainer' who must have been a retard. Waited a couple of minutes and I hadn't been offered a single piece of help and advice - so I'm still untrained and phone free. (Apparently I could get my broadband free if I ever manage to close the deal - but I'm not holding my breath. Or holding a shiny new FREE handset for that matter).

So I parked that one and started with the broadband. Some pleasant chap sent me a mail just this morning. I thought his sales pitch was good. . .

"Our connections give you a dedicated speed, i.e. if you buy a 2mb you will get 2mb, not 2mb at 3am for half an hour and then speeds slower than a modem the rest of the time."

He continues. . .

“Your Call is in a queue….blah, blah, blah, sorry all our operators are busy….. blah, blah, blah. Sound familiar? Of course it does. But you will never hear it at XXXX. One of the critical factors behind our success, is our absolute commitment to customer service. Nothing flashy, just a simple promise. We guarantee to answer all calls within 15 seconds, and then you can talk to a knowledgeable technician who will solve your problem. It’s as simple as that."

So I got in touch. And true to his word - he was quick to respond. Apparently I don't qualify for decent service, now I'm just a residential user. So it looks like I'll be spending most of tomorrow in a call queue, blah blah, lucky if I get my call answered in fifteen minutes by someone who has only this week become familiar with the term 'broadband'.

Next week I'll be making like my dad, stumbling in circles round my lounge, scratching my arse whilst a bloke called Sid systematically destroys my home network and my sanity in an attempt to get me on line.

Viva la Revolution!

9 Feb 2007

Blogging is good for business

As well as getting their websites in order. Businesses are also increasingly going to realise that a well written blog or two can help. Just read a really good article from The Engagement Principles that sums this up well. And this clever chap, in turn refers back to The Copywriter's Crucible which is also packed full of good stuff.

Both these guys give me confidence that jumping on the blogging bandwaggon just about now is a good thing to do. Very addictive and contagious too. I've already infected a couple of friends and I have a two or three a day habit.

The Future's Bright

This is a bit of a milestone week for me. I'm jacking in my job of six years. Leaving a fairly respectable northern agency - and taking a 'career break' for no other reason than 'cos I can'.

When you've been a wage slave for a long while, the idea of just not having to get up in a morning seems divine. But I know it'll only be a couple of weeks before I'm in a blind panic, twiddling my thumbs, desperately DIYing the house and wondering what the troops are up to in the office. (But lets face it even your best work-mates aren't going to thank you for getting in touch and regularly reminding them that you're free and they're not, so emailing ex-colleagues is a bit of a no no).

Soooo, I've pre-empted myself and had a bit of a think about what I can do to wile away the hours and earn a few coppers to pay the mortgage and the new Orange mobile phone bill. (Company paid moby is a gift from god, despite being a taxable benefit and mine is going back - Boo!).

Hence the reason for me limbering up my fingers with the blog - as I'm half thinking of returning to me creative roots and picking up a freelance writing career that I foolishly threw away to become part of the Propaganda Machine.

Anyway - it seems the future's bright. The call for quality writing is on the up, given that even the oldstars are getting into the web these days. An article from the Copywriter's Crucible confirmed something I'd witnessed first hand earlier this week. On a visit to see my Pa, I found him pacing in small circles in his lounge, alternately scratching his head and his arse (apparently become unaware that you're doing stuff that's probably socially unacceptable, once you're retired, so I'll have to look out for myself doing similar scratching). While Dad paced, his mate fiddled with wires out the back of an ancient looking pc, conveniently placed just inside the front door, swearing quietly under his breath. Dad is one of the millions of British, currently engaged in a battle of wits with the British Broadband providers in an attempt to get on the superhighway.

So it seems my last few weeks, spent researching what makes good web-based copy are going to come in mighty handy. Good old Gerry McGovern and countless articles on SEO may stand me in good stead to peddle my services. Now all I need is to put myself about a bit.

8 Feb 2007

Hip vs Cool

A couple of years back I remember being sat in a pub with my brother (pictured right) - discussing the difference between people who are hip, and those who are cool. As far as I can remember, the conversation went along these lines. . .

Being hip is intentional, try-hard and slavishly fashionable. Being cool is not. Cool is an elusive quality that some people just have. It's effortless. Cool is cool. Hip is only very occasionally cool - and only really by accident. Hip people aspire to cool. Cool people couldn't give a sh*t about being hip.

Numerous beers later, we congratulated each other on being the coolest people we knew and stumbled home. I think we may have repeated the conversation in a groundhog day stylie on many occasions since.

However, in one of my daily cruises around t'Interweb, I stumbled on a number of articles with a similar kind of theme. They revolved around the difference between being genuine and being authentic. There's a well developed Vince and Jen reference in there - so it seems three weeks in I'm genuinely proving myself to be a reader of Heat (cool status totally blown).

Anyway, this interested me for a couple of reasons. Being authentic is very similar to being cool - its hard to find, captivating when you do. Authentic people are the ones we want to be around, authentic brands are the ones we love to be associated with. Genuine just doesn't cut it anymore. It's a bit worthy and it's certainly not cool. We like the edginess that comes with authenticity - the possibility of surprise.

The concept of authenticity , in a marketing context, totally blows the whistle on bad branding. All around us we experience examples of brands that fall short on delivering what they promise. We don't fall for fancy advertising messages peddling half truths. We love authentic brands because they give us reassurance at every turn - they do what they say, people (rather than ads) tell us how good they are, they make us feel cool, because we know we're not getting hoodwinked. Authentic brands deliver value - regardless of how they are priced. They're just right.

For me, authenticity is going to be every brand's biggest challenge as they embrace our digital age. If your product's not great, no amount of papering over the cracks with smooth talking brand strategy is going to secure success long term. Savvy consumers already know this by instinct. Brand owners, many of whom have forgotten to trust their own instincts, in favour of slavish research and analysis, are in for a rude awakening.

(Paul - you are still the most authentic/cool/gummi guy I know - cheers!)

6 Feb 2007

Bruised and battered

Oh boy. Yesterday I slipped down a rabbit hole as I went investigating some of the top UK planning blogs. I got so lost, I'm sadly lacking accurate links here - but I found some great stuff, so I'll list it in no particular order at the end.

But I came away very disheartened for a number of reasons. One - without apparent exception this is a male dominated arena. Two - thanks to the amount of oxygen these uber brains are consuming doing their deep thinking, the air is very thin in the plannersphere. It made me dizzy. Three - all the hype about blogging being the democratization of media as we know it is a complete myth. Can't believe it's taken me this long to figure out that wherever there's a community, there's also the potential for a clique.

What has led me to this conclusion? I was reading one of these brainiac's tips for baby bloggers like me (sorry no link - my subconscious is blanking the whole experience). Apparently bloggers should remember there's A List, B List, C List Bloggers. OK OK, I'd gathered this already. Some people are regularly churning brilliant content. Others are mere pretenders to the throne. I guess that makes me a groupie. And two weeks in, I don't think I'm even old enough to legally drink. So I'm an adolescent groupie (worst sort), trying to rub shoulders with celebs who have varying degrees of fame.

Worst comment was still to come. I shouldn't hope to have any real success in my blogging until I'd earned my stripes over FIVE YEARS?? And I'll know that I have 'arrived' because I'll be getting all of my work by contacts made and developed in the blogging community. What's all that about!!?

Five years of blogging at this kind of frequency?? Jeez - it'd have to be delivering some serious returns way before then, to keep my interest. I think of myself as a tenacious lass, but that's ludicrous.

Worse of all, having really put myself about yesterday, I appear to have caught the clap off one of the sites I visited. (Under age and unprotected blog sex, mother would go mental). My Mac is now making spacey wailing noises that remind me of a subliminal re-enforcement tape I got from a hypno-therapist who helped me stop smoking a few years ago. I'm not sure what messages have been laid into the whale music - but it's sending me mental. For sure.

Maybe I should leave planning for the brainiacs and start a new blog exclusively for maniacs?

But before I do, I'll remember my manners - here's some of the great stuff I discovered yesterday: How to Change the World, BuzzMachine, gapingvoid, furtherandfaster, brandtarot. Apologies to any I missed - you probably wouldn't want links from me. I have the wailing clap.

2 Feb 2007

This week I got ENGAGED!

For anyone who knows me - you'll have immediately figured that this is just a ruse. Sid and Nancy (my cats) can also testify that my spinster status is still in tact! But to get to the point, I've spent my week trying to get a handle on where developments in multi-channel Britain are likely to take agencies like mine.

Having wrestled with stats, grappled with yet more predictions and started to build a picture of what constitutes a must-have in any agency's digital offer, I happened on a white paper that made absolute sense to me.

I'd heard colleagues bandying about the phrase 'permission marketing' and I know that a particularly good friend of mine has been doing some stunning work for the Blah! Party. (Love or hate the concept it's really getting some good interaction). But pah! permission marketing (it seems) is old hat. What's much more in vogue is Engagement Marketing. Apparently, 'interruption' is dying a death and engagement is the way to build value into relationships with your customers. If you want an incredibly well written (and quick to read) low down on The Engagement Principles.

The idea of connecting with customers on an emotional level is nothing new - but the argument for authenticity and its implicit call for marketing delivered with integrity AND ingenuity has to be worth celebrating.

Obviously, you're all invited to the reception. Drinks round mine at 7pm?

1 Feb 2007

SEO Bingo

Reflecting on my previous post - Are UK Agencies Too Slow To Embrace Digital Marketing? I wondered if I had been too fast to judge. So bearing in mind that SEO is hailed as one of the key drivers of the Revolution - I applied the following logic. . .

If UK agencies are on the ball with developments in integrated digital comms, then (maybe) it follows that they will have their SEO house in order too. Anyway to cut a long story short - my brief interlude of SEO bingo suggested that my initial hunch hadn't been too far wrong.

Bang Digital Branding or Digital Agency into Google and none of the big, well known UK agencies appear - with the notable exception of Interbrand (those boys appear to be good at, well, just about everything). What you get instead is a crop of really fresh digital 'boutiques' of varying sizes - who's own virtual shop windows combine a mix of gorgeous eyecandy with some really smart thinking and lovely intuitive navigation. There are a couple who take the moral highground - and use the content argument, in order to excuse their lack of design.

Here are a couple of my favorites. . Rubber Republic, appeals to the kid in me and seem to have a family of services each of which does what it says on the tin. Then there's Agency Republic. These guys just blew me away - go and visit their client sites, particularly the Mercedes site, or for foodies the Hellman's sandwich bar. Just lovely work - captivating, to different audiences and for different reasons.

My view is that traditional agencies who are clued up will be frantically forging partnerships with smaller digital agencies - and white labeling bought in digital capabilities as their own. That, or they'll be busily boosting the freelance books in order to be prepared as and when the client briefs drop. In the meantime, it's ker-ching! for the digital boutiques as they cash in on their top spot on the digital leaderboard.

31 Jan 2007

Sticks and stones may break my bones. . .

I'm a fortnight in to my blog and I wanted to record a couple of things that I've learned so far.

Apart from flexing some writing muscle that had atrophied over the past 5 years, due to lack of activity, I have been asking myself on a daily basis. . .'What's the point of this blogging lark?'

At present I have a point - I've been given the task of getting more traffic to my agency's web site - and I'm seeing if blogging can help. So far I've delivered a full SEVEN visitors to my company's site. . .

So for me this is no more than an experiment. But there's a whole community of bloggers out there - some more and some less mercenary than myself. Some just seem to love having a voice. Others are unmerciful in their commercialism. I found one young chap, who can only be in his young teens (or wants us to think that he is), who seemed to be putting down some great content - but who had also diversified into merchandise. I think it will be a long time before I'm selling t-shirts and mugs. . .

As far as my experiment goes, Friday was a hi-point. I'd stumbled on myweblog.com in an attempt to get some stats for my site. And in doing so, I started to make some friends. One of them - my guru - blog tipped me on thurs/friday, sending my readership soaring up to 80 in a day. Once I'd got my head round blog tipping and realised it wasn't painful, I was very grateful for his intervention. I don't even have 80 names in my phone book!!

So it seems that I've blagged some readership (and now I'm looking for more gurus to inspire me - or forums where I can set my stall out). But having visitors sent me into another tailspin. What did people look at? Did they hang around? Was I 'interesting'?

I suppose anyone who has ever done any writing is probably super critical of the quality of their own work - and I had conveniently parked this concern in my frenzied attempts to get sufficient content 'up there' to give people something/anything to look at. But with with traffic on the up, I started to think about what would constitute quality content and judged myself to have failed miserably so far. .

This seeded another set of anxieties. In my research I'd uncovered a number of blogs that I'd earmarked as 'good stuff' - a view shaped very much by current work challenges and personal musings. But I was worrying about the superior intellect and writing style in evidence. And I was feeling increasingly inadequate - my blog is generic, widget free, rambling, random and most of all lacking original thought.

Before my downward spiral turned into a complete nose-dive I reminded myself that the WorldWideWeb is a vast space full of ideas - good, bad and indifferent. And in this climate original thought is pretty hard to come by. Brilliant. I could stop beating myself up before I suffered a broken rib. And then I spotted a posting by one of the chaps who I had been nurturing a growing respect for - Russell Davies. Anyway, this guy appears to be a bit of a pro-blogger who had (because he can do Trackback - something I haven't mastered yet) tracked back to some ungenerous criticism of his blog.

Despite us all being told by our parents that 'sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me', it's still really hard turn the other cheek if someone starts doing you (and your thoughts and opinions) down. Anyway, now Russell's got supporters queuing up to to tell him how great his blog is. And quite rightly so, should he ever pay me a visit he'll realise what fully fledged rubbish is available for criticism on the open market.

For me, still clawing my way up and slipping back down the bottom of a long and steep learning curve, I'm glad and amazed to have some visitors. I love it when they leave me comments - please do, please, please. And I suppose I'm prepared to accept comments - good, bad or indifferent. But of course that's easy to say when you're blog visit stats have fallen back to three fifths of bugger all!!

30 Jan 2007

Archiving Ideas

Nearly a week into my blogging adventure and learning fast. Our new media guys at work tell me I haven't made any super stupid mistakes yet. But equally I'm not sure if I've attracted interest from any passers by yet. But an article I spotted on blogging as archive struck a real chord with me as to the usefulness of blogging activity.

A couple of weeks into researching a project in support of various new media solutions, I have managed to fill five lever arch files with various articles and thought-pieces that I judged good enough to keep. . .

Having also had my eco-consciousness pricked very hard over the same fortnight, my filing habits really aren't doing the planet any favours - although the files themselves are a pleasing green and an attractive addition to my 'pod'. So it dawned that my blog would be the natural replacement for these babies. The only drawback is having to string a load of links - that mean something to me - together with some words that might mean something to someone else happening on my little virtual repository.

It's so true that time is our most valuable resource and this blogging lark seems to burn it faster than China does its fossil fuels. Hot damn!

29 Jan 2007

Spirit of the Age - In pictures

As a post-script to my previous post. . . someone pointed me in the direction of 10x10. Maybe I'm easily impressed - but this is a neat site that can give you an instant flavour of the influences that shape our collective consciousnes. And if you like intuitive interfaces, this one operates in pictures.

It's a smart way of dipping into the headlines. I am just easily impressed, aren't I?

Are UK Agencies Too Slow to Embrace Digital?

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Consumer media consumption habits are changing all around us. But UK marketing agencies appear slow to respond to the brand and communication challenges this poses - with digital branding expertise considered a nice-to-have, rather than a must-have part of the service portfolio for many agencies.

So what's really changing? And why the apparently slow response?

45% of UK homes are considered multi-channel and will have anywhere between 3-200 channels at their disposal. More than 10M of UK homes now have Broadband, via BT alone. The Internet is fast becoming a broadcast media thanks to the popularity of sites like MySpace and YouTube and ever increasing bandwith finally making streaming video a reality. Proliferation of hand-held media devices mean that programming can be supplied to the individual, on demand.

So as well as being savvy consumers of products and services, consumers are becoming truly complex consumers of media at precisely the same time that channels are exploding and fragmenting.

Now, in addition to traditional (old) media, such as advertising, sales promotion, DM, sponsorship and exhibitions, POS and PR, agencies are now under pressure to exploit the emerging channels offered by Web 2.0, mobile marketing, downloading, social networking and video on demand. With clients clamoring for ROI, the spotlight is on, like never before, for agencies to get the media mix right. Should agencies fail in this crucial respect and the other elements of their ingenious brand strategies - the proposition, messaging and specifics of the offer will never achieve the all important cut through with the consumer.

But laying down an Integrated Digital Marketing plan is one thing - technology and behavior are moving along at such a pace that plenty of agencies - creative and media planning alike - will be learning as they go. Success stories will made or broken dependent upon a player's ability to combine learning and imagination with a dash of expertise and a good measure of creative 'borrowing'. But the ability to deliver Integrated Digital Marketing is quite another.

Building and delivering the newest of new media solutions is a job for serious specialists. Again, these technology experts are running fast to keep up or catch up with the speed of developments in software, applications and a variety of development tricks of the trade. But there can be no substitution for knowledge gained through years of hands on design and build experience. Our tecchie friends are going to be in more and more demand (read more and more expensive), as laggard agencies step into this Brave New World. And for those developers who can demonstrate real creativity, given the shiny new tools at their disposal - salaries and day rates are set to rocket me thinks.

Given the way things are heading, do agencies in-source or outsource? And should clients be naive enough to swallow the offer of a 'one stop shop' agency, for a minute (or even a nanosecond) longer? My predictions is that are we looking at integrated brand campaigns co-authored by multiple specialist agency partners. But whilst collaboration seems like the sensible route - it's something few traditional agencies have proven themselves good at. . .

Maybe it's time the egos took a back seat in favour of effective brand strategy and great creativity that pushes the envelope and delivers great results. It's do or die time for traditional agencies. You're thoughts on this (US, UK and the rest of the blogosphere greatly appreciated).

24 Jan 2007

Spirit of the Age

We're well into January now, but I don't ever remember feeling quite so overwhelmed predictions for year ahead. They've been bombarding me from all sides - TV,radio, newspapers, and from a fair proportion of the web sites I cruise on a regular basis. Such is the volume of future gazing activity that mostly everything has been covered - from what we'll be eating and wearing, to the media we'll be captivated by, the technology that will change our lives and the global phenomena that are likely to enter our already stretched consciousness as the months roll on. . .

That's not to mention the rafts of predictions regarding life, love and happiness peddled by glossy (and downright) tatty magazines.

So what's the fascination with trend prediction? And should we be taking any notice?

As life - particularly in business - continues to speed up, it's unsurprising that steeling a march on the competition has become a race more fiercely fought than ever before. Little wonder then that most clued-up companies are keenly scanning their markets for emerging trends in customer behavior - so they can move faster, innovate in the right areas and be positioned not just to respond to demand - but to play the covetted role in creating it. This drive (or paranoia) undoubtedly funds a wealth of highly credible 'Predictions' reports from the big global consultancies, media providers and their associated entourages.

Looking at this high-brow and informative stuff, you could be mistaken for thinking that predictions are the preserve of braniac analysts and statistical wizards - but on further investigation, it seems this need not be the case.

Whilst there will always be a place for well-researched, statistically valid trend analysis and prediction - the web now provides some rudimentary tools that make armchair trendspotting a reality for your average Joe (and Joanna).

Take a look at the Google Zeitgeist review of 2006 and you get an insight into the power of Google. Not only does Google deliver information to the information hungry masses with speed and simplicity that is pulling c1 billion search requests daily, but the guys at Google are also building an arsenal of consumer insight that is likely to remain unrivaled - in the near future at least. As if this wasn't enough, Google also distill the spirit of the age down into a easily quaffable monthly shots - meaning you and I can take a regular look at what's occupying the collective consciousness of countries all over the world.

Given tools like these - and the access to ideas enabled by the power of the giant search engines - anyone with half a mind, a dose of intuition and a good measure of common sense can synthesise their own predictions for the year ahead. These thoughts may score low for originality, but will be high on interest if January's media is anything to go by. And then there's the added bonus (once you've committed your predictions to hard or soft copy) of feeling entirely smug if you're proven to be a zeitgeist master, once the new year hangover has worn off NEXT year.

23 Jan 2007

Content is King

Content may well be king, in our reformed digital age. But as a newborn blogger, with today as my birthday, I find myself thrust into this brave new world, with no content to speak of. My blog is naked and my inadequacy in content generation exposed.

My experiment - to see how long it takes to clothe myself. And how long it takes to attract some passers-by to take a look at my new threads.

How does one get ones-self seen?

And how do you figure out if your new gettup is judged to be Primark or Prada?

More research required. And fast. FT.com 2006