7 Questions With … Me

If you are reading this blog, then chances are that you have come across the work of ethos3. They are known for building compelling, story-based presentations for folks like Guy Kawasaki and AMP. You can see, and vote for, some of their latest presentations in the Slideshare “World’s Best Presentation” competition (see below).

Earlier this week I was interviewed by Lori Williams from Ethos3. We looked deeply into the world of storytelling, presentations and the connection between the P-L-A-Y framework for brand engagement and its applicability in presentation storytelling. Hope you like it!

YouTube and the Context of “Being Social”

When it comes to understanding the impact of digital media on the way we live our lives, there are few who dig as deeply as Michael Wesch. This is a recording of his speech at the US Library of Congress in June. And while the presentation starts off with some impressive statistics about the number of videos uploaded to YouTube (9,232 hours per day — 88% of which is original), the fascinating aspect of this presentation is the focus on story. In his own words:

… that is the story of the numbers and this is really a story about new forms of expression and new forms of community and new forms of identity emerging.

For the following 45 minutes or so, Michael Wesch leads us through a discussion on the way in which digital media is celebrating and connecting people in entirely new forms of shared experience. He starts with Numa Numa and his famous The Machine is Us/ing Us. Interestingly, the latter was initially launched the Wednesday before Superbowl Sunday — and as he had quickly reached an audience of over 200 people he sent a screen shot to the head of school for his permanent record. By Saturday the audience had grown to over 1100 viewings and the video had been posted on Digg. As you probably know, this video has at current count, around 5 million views.

As an anthropologist, Michael Wesch is providing a fascinating analysis of the shifts in society and culture that are already underway. In this video he shows how user generated content + user generated filtering + user generated distribution is reinventing the way in which we create, find and share branded and unbranded material via the web. This potent mix is ignited with a final piece, which Michael calls "user generated commentary" — ie blogs — however, I feel this is better represented as user generated CONTEXT. When blog authors share content with their readers, they create a context into which the content becomes more accessible and digestible for their particular audience. It is this final piece which is an essential part of any digital strategy. I fully recommend setting aside an hour to watch this presentation through, however, if you have limited time, I have written my thoughts below.

About 12 minutes into the presentation, Michael turns his attention to the media. Here he talks about the media not as technology but as a system through which human relations are mediated. This is given more context by showcasing the way that remixing and remastering videos allows others to participate in a video meme (eg Charlie Bit My Finger and its 100+ responses). Clearly this is not just about claiming 15 seconds of fame. This type of participation goes to the very heart of the P-L-A-Y (P-ower, L-earning, A-dventure, Y-elp of surprise), delivering an experience that crosses the chasm that is imposed upon us by culture, geography, suburbia and even the isolating experience of TV viewing.

But the experience of this is dislocating. At 23 minutes, Michael explains "context collapse" which is what happens when we first begin to "participate". For example, think back to the first time that you wrote a blog post, think about your first comment on another’s blog. By participating in this way, you release your thoughts into an environment in which you have no context. You don’t know how it will be read or understood, nor where or when. You don’t even necessarily "know" your reader. Now, apply this same thinking to video. You are "speaking" or "presenting" to a small webcam, not a person. Well, not yet anyway. The human interaction is delayed, mediated, spread across time and space. It takes time for "participants" to become used to this new mode of delayed being. It is, perhaps, why the easiest way to understand blogging is to participate.

At around the thirty minute point, Michael walks us through the topic of cultural inversion. This describes the tension that we (in a cultural sense) experience as participants. On the one hand we express individualism, independence and a keen commercialism while desiring community and relationships within an authentic context. YouTube, and to a certain extent, other social media, allow us to experience this tension as a deep connection with others without the responsibility that comes with close, personal relations. It strikes me that by adding a third party into this equation, for example, a "good cause" like a charity, you are able to move quickly from this state of mediated connection to "community actualisation" (thinkng a community version of maslow’s hierarchy of needs).

But what happens when this is "gamed"? Michael explores YouTube’s authenticity crisis about 36 minutes in, using EmoKid21Ohio and LonelyGirl15 as examples. Ten minutes later the topic of copyright is broached (any remixing is basically illegal). Using a clip from Lawrence Lessig’s TED talk, the challenge is contextualised — the culture has moved on and the law is struggling to recontextualise its own relevance:

You can’t kill the instant the technology produces, we can only criminalize it. We can’t stop our kids from using it, we can only drive it underground. We can’t make our kids passive again, we can only make them "pirates" … and is that good?

We live in … an age of prohibitions where many areas of our life, we live life constantly against the law, ordinary people live life against the law … and that realization is extraordinarily corrosive, extraordinarily corrupting, and in a democracy we ought to be able to do better.

The presentation is wrapped up by video quoting bnessel1973:

Some people say that the videos we create on YouTube should be created in hopes to change the world. I have made mine to help me live in it.

Just Because I Read Your Blog Doesn’t Mean I’m Under Your Influence

The idea of "influence" fascinates me. I have written about Granovetter’s strength of weak ties, the importance of curiosity over influence and the democracy of action — and each time I wonder how influence does, or should relate to social media. As I explained previously:

The findings of Mark Granovetter’s research into social networks demonstrated that it is the WEAK ties that lead to action. If this is the case, then influence may only play an important role in the very early stages of branding efforts — to facilitate AWARENESS. But as consumers begin to engage with the brand messaging and various forms of communication, it appears that the power of the social network lies not in the level of influence of any select group but in the susceptibility of the audience to contagion.

I think this is where social media, and blogging in particular are interesting. While we spend quite some time and effort talking about the way in which social media is "changing the game", we also tend to rely on the measurements on which "traditional" advertising has been built. And the influencer as a new media "celebrity" is a case in point. Where the actual change in game has occurred is in the balance of power — marketing is no longer about B2C or B2B but about Brands-to-Community.

As Leigh Himel says (in this comment):

… we cannot solely BUY people’s attention anymore. We have to earn it. That’s the shift. And the problem is we keep applying a linear thought process that is based in mass advertising instead of looking at a networked marketing model that is both embracive of mass as well as interactive media (and pays homage to those differences rather than attempting to utilize the same strategies and tools for each).

To survive and prosper in this new environment, brands have to begin to employ their ENTIRE ecosystems — the networks of supply, demand (consumers), partnership and collaborators — in such a way as they fulfil the need of a single person. This still can be done on a mass scale, but the nuance is different. The marketing is transformative. The delivery is personal. And the experience is unique. And while this may take brands some time to rethink the business processes which deliver this experience, it is not impossible nor unattainable. Review, for example, this great explanation from RichardatDell on the way in which Dell are seriously rethinking and re-engaging with their communities.

Another way to consider this, is in terms of blogging. Think about the blogs that you read, comment on or subscribe to. Think about whether you would personally consider them to be influential. I may be wrong, but my sense of "influence" is that it belongs "out there" — where there is no relationship; where the connection is faceless, impersonal, removed.

As our personal and professional networks become increasingly more visible the concept of influence will fade. And in our socially networked world, reputation rather than influence will become a far more important measure of value.

Nokia N96: Look Into My Eyes Grasshopper

Nokian96 There are only days left for the lovers of all things gadgety to enter the Limited Edition Nokia N96 competition. In a novel pre-launch twist, Nokia are giving us all (ie a worldwide audience) the opportunity to get our hands on their latest mobile device ahead of the in-country launches. By following the effective launch strategy that has been employed by many Web 2.0 brands, the N96 has a limited edition (ie like a beta program) that ships ahead of the launch. However, there are only two ways of receiving one of the number N96s — and both are funnelled online.

The website, Face the Task, has some neat full screen (Flash) video, and guides you through various features before you have the opportunity to enter the competition. And while the underlying story is a little obtuse, it serves well enough to put forward the various features. But the real story, for me, is the link with good deeds.

In case you intend to buy one of the limited edition N95 multimedia computers (notice they are no longer being called mobile phones?), you can help the WWF by making a 750 EURO donation — and receive an N96 for free. BUT, you still need to do a complete review of the features, answer a question and then, be lucky enough to randomly view the "donation" page when it is timed/programmed to offer up one of the limited edition beauties.

However, if you are like me, you have to enter the competition and keep your fingers crossed.

What’s Your Best Holiday?

Freshair2 Take a moment and think about the best family holiday of your childhood. Try to recapture the sounds. Picture in your memory the faces of your family and friends. Remember how you felt — how your arms and legs tingled, how your heart raced with each new day.

Unfortunately, not all kids have such opportunities. Each year in August the Fresh Air Fund strives to change this situation by giving New York City kids the opportunity to spend part of the summer with host families outside of the city. It is a chance for a break. An experience that could change the course of their young lives.

And while many children have already been placed this year, and many new host families have signed up for next year, there are still some kids waiting with their fingers crossed. Can you help? Do you know someone who can? If so:

One last thing that is actually very important. The Fresh Air Fund are looking for families who want to extend an invitation to a 9-12 year old. They really need more families who want older children and boys. Your actions may make one child’s Summer 2008 unforgettable for all the right reasons.

David Ogilvy’s Case for a New Advertising

In this seven minute video of advertising guru, David Ogilvy, a case is made for a new form of advertising. It is a clear call for a fundamental change in the way that advertising functions. He talks about new, direct response advertising and the way in which it out performs, out sells and out functions "general" advertising. Efrain Mendicuti suggests, that with a few chosen word substitutions, that Ogilvy could in fact, become Marketing 2.0’s leading evangelist:

… substitute the words Direct Marketing for On-line Marketing and Direct
Response for Interactive Marketing, and tell me if you wouldn’t want to
have him as THE ambassador for Digital / on-line Marketing today.



Is another new advertising revolution already underway? Do Ogilvy’s words sound eerily presentient?

A Jurassic Experience

There is something about dinosaurs that captures our imaginations. Perhaps it is their scale, or their seeming impossibility. Perhaps there are remnant echoes buried deep in the human unconscious that reminds us that these great monsters once ruled the world we stamp so carelessly upon.

But what would happen if you came face-to-face with a dinosaur? Would your heart skip? Would your instincts overrule your rational responses? What is the story that you would tell? Luc Debaisieux describes such a situation:

Imagine you are visiting the Natural History Museum of LA with your kids. You take a gentle turn into a hallway and come face-to-face… this dinosaur, looking almost as alive as you and me. I love the reaction of the adult coming from another way who seems to really freak out because of the realism of little-big-dino-boy. That… is definitely some kind of an experience.

These days we talk about "traditional" agencies being dinosaurs. But perhaps they have only been sleeping and will awaken to remind us all of their power to tell stories, to surprise and delight and create truly unique, human responses.


Extinct, my ASS! from The Original Joe Fisher on Vimeo.

Kiss and the Cognitive Surplus

Sometimes "user generated content" astounds me — not only in its quantity but in its quality. In those instances, it is a pleasure to see Clay Shirky‘s "cognitive surplus" in action. Clearly, a great deal of effort, focus and skill has gone into this video clip. One viewing and you will be as amazed as I was.


Badly Branded Beamer

fridayfolly-bmw_2ndhand I normally reserve posts like this for my Friday Folly … but after an email from Andrea Learned asking for my take on this piece from BMW, it became clear that bad branding can happen to anyone on any day. It is just surprising to see this happening to a widely respected brand like BMW, who after all, should know better.

It is well known that any failure (creative or otherwise) is not normally the result of a single person. Along the way, errors and bad decisions are made, then reinforced until the pattern of poor decision making cannot be distinguished from the efforts made to rectify the errors. But surely, this print ad for "used cars" for would have been ringing bells at the agency and in the halls of the BMW marketing department (click the image to see the copy).

The girl modelling in this shoot is clearly young (old?) enough to be the daughter of your average BMW purchaser. To cast this girl in this ad not only shows questionable taste, it needlessly brings a "luxury" brand into the same sphere as Axe/Lynx. Obviously someone, somewhere has reviewed and approved this. As the folks over at Muse Communications said, "Is there anyone home at BMW Marketing?".

Yvonne DiVita is also unimpressed and wondering why there has not been a chorus of voices raised in protest.

To put this down to "lazy" advertising is too easy. While there is no strategic thinking behind this, and a surprisingly limited understanding of the BMW brand, poorly conceived work like this damages not just the brand in question but the entire advertising industry. Isn’t it time we started treating our audiences with a little respect?

And just in … another lazy piece of degrading advertising. This time, however, Wade Millican has taken action — speaking to the company approving the work and referring it to the Advertising Standards Bureau.