Fresh Air Fund Counsellors

When I first heard of the Fresh Air Fund I was amazed. I loved the idea. I just wished that there was something similar here in Australia. In case you don't know, The Fresh Air Fund has been giving inner-city children from New York the joy of a summer vacation with volunteer host families and at Fund camps, creating unforgettable memories and fresh possibilities. Some of the stories that come out of these experiences are amazing … and obviously life changing for all involved.

Now, as we are well into 2009, the Fresh Air Fund are looking for camp counsellors for their Summer 2009 season (that's mid-year in the northern hemisphere). What's in store?

The experience you're about to apply for will be like no other, and it's going to take patience, flexibility, creativity, and a whole lot of self-motivation. But the rewards will be great… overcoming challenges, meeting new friends, playing games in the sun, jumping into the cool lake, painting face masks, hitting a home run, telling stories around a camp fire…

So, if you are aged 18 or over (as at June 20), have completed at least one year of college by the summer, and want to have a real impact on the life of a child, then think about applying. But don't take my word for it … listen to what former counsellors say about their experience …

Planning for Context over Planning for Placement

When we are looking to plan and execute a digital campaign, increasingly there is a need to look at not just WHERE we place our campaigns, but the context into which we place them. This is not just being driven by the rise of the “social web”, but by a transformation in the way that we view the relationships between agencies, clients and consumers.

In this interesting presentation by Don Epperson from Havas, he looks at the way in which their agency is transforming. In effect, they are following the model that has worked so well for Google.

By working from a single source of analytical data, Havas is able to aggregate a a whole lot of data based on actual behaviour. The trick is, rather than collecting data on a campaign level, the data warehouse captures information at a cookie level; meaning that the micro-transactions can be measured, tracked and aggregated. Then, by using an online advertising marketplace, the individual preferences of the people interacting with the system (banners/placements etc) can be auctioned to advertisers in a very granular way. This is what Don claims, is the agency of the future:

The agency of the future is going to act very much like the large ad networks today … we have to have scale in terms of reach, we have to be able to turn … data into knowledge …

All this, in turn (I am sure), feeds into their planning process – meaning that campaigns and activations become more targeted, more valuable to the consumer, and more meaningful to the client. It’s much like the potential on offer with Pure Profile.

As Matthew Mantey explains in this excellent post, Banners – Do They Work?, there is a mountain of data and insight to be found in even the simplest digital advertising campaign – so imagine what happens when you magnify this by a factor of 10, or 100, or 100,000:

Run one with even cursory tracking and analytics and you can find a mountain of insights.  Obviously click-based conversions is the unrealistic grail you'll see, but if you set a cookie window, you'll see all of the view-based actions as well.  You'll know the optimal exposure frequency level.  You'll see the search patterns, branded and unbranded.  You'll see format and message trends.  You'll see geographic detail.  And you'll probably find out that who you were targeting aren't the same demo that are interested in your stuff and coming to your site.

Is this the agency model of the future? Using technology to combine insight and targeted content within a permissible context sounds like the holy grail. The challenge would be putting the right pieces and partnerships together.

However, as I delve more into the concept of social judgement, I have a feeling that this sort of opportunity is just the tip of the iceberg. After all, taking this insight and opening it up to a social component during campaign activation could be where the REAL opportunity lies.

A Cup of Chaos #1

Last week, encouraged and inspired by Steve Woodruff along with Olivier Blanchard, Steve Smith -  and with our own sense of recklessness, Amber Naslund and I decided to embark on a twice weekly journey into the heart of Internet Weirdness.

In this, our first decent into chaos – designed specifically to kick start your Monday, I present  Dr Brown interpreting the Twitter conversations of the Conversation Agent, Valeria Maltoni. I trust you will find much to savour.

Official Tweet Reading IV: Reading Valeria Maltoni from Marcus Brown on Vimeo.

On Friday, my partner in crime, will deliver a cup of chaos to cap off your week. Enjoy!

Don’t Fall in Love with Your Campaign

Heart 6You know what it’s like.

The words leap from your mouth. Eyes widen. Smiles broaden and the room comes alive. And as the heartbeats quicken and the enthusiasm begins to mount, you know that THIS project is going to rock. A love affair is beginning, and yet you don’t even notice it.

When we turn our attention away from strategy and planning and take a deep dive into implementation, the challenge is to maintain a focus and direction – to guide and channel the creative energies of your team. After all, we all have ideas; and we all like to “contribute”.

And when it comes to digital projects – whether you are considering a web based advertising campaign, a social media activation of some kind, or even building your own community – you will never find yourself bereft of ideas. But if you want to drive success for your project (and I am sure you do), you need to focus on simplicity – and the best way to do so is to focus on your market. Think about the PEOPLE who you will invite into your campaign or project. Think about the value that they will find, be surprised by, and share. And one of the best ways of doing this, is by STOPPING a focus on functions and functionality.

Ashley Ringrose shares these 15 tips for growing a community courtesy of Ben Huh from I Can Has Cheeseburger. And while the focus of the article is on taking communities to a new level, the same applies to almost any team-based endeavour. Think particularly about your next digital creative project or any Enterprise 2.0 efforts that you are considering (or engaged in), and then read item 5:

5. Stop Engineering and Start Thinking About the Market
People who work in the technology industry tend to over engineer things. Don’t complicate your problems, simplify them. If you need to add a commenting system to your site don’t build it from scratch, download one. Whatever you do, do it quickly.

To an extent, we all fall in love with the projects we work on. Just make sure you don’t overcomplicate it. Keep it simple. Let it connect. Because in the end, true love isn’t about you, it’s about someone who loves you back.

Inferno Victoria

All weekend I have seen and heard news reports on the bushfires racing across Victoria. Twitter has been abuzz. In their wake, they have left destruction and broken hearts – entire towns have been lost and a death toll around 80 (at this point in time).

In some cases, the fires have moved at over 100 km/h, engulfing houses before the occupants even smelled the smoke. In these cases, those who escaped, escaped only with their lives and the clothes on their back. (UPDATE: read this first person account by journalist, Gary Hughes.)

A fund raising appeal has been established by the Red Cross here; and those wanting to check on the safety of loved ones can do so by calling 1800 727 077. However, the focus at present in on the wellbeing of those affected by the fires – and there are still many fires burning out of control across Victoria.

Elias Bizannes shares this live map of the Victorian fires. It has been pulled together in a mashup by Google engineer, Pamela Fox – bringing data from the Victorian CFA and combining with with Google’s mapping/geo location data. It shows the very real scale of the fires. Unfortunately, as Elias points out, not all states make their data available in such a portable format.

The largely volunteer fire fighters have performed astonishingly in dangerous and unpredictable conditions. And like many Australians, my heart is heavy with sadness at the devastation and misery that has befallen many families.

Join Us in Twitter Poetry

Way back in March 2007, I decided to run a Twitter experiment. How could we turn “conversations” into “collaboration”. So I setup an account with the aim of producing a collaborative/crowdsourced poem.

The result, almost two years later is this poem (unfortunately you need to read backwards). We have over 230 updates and 350 followers.

But I think we can do better, you and I. Why don’t you login and add to this poem. You can either:

  • Log into the TwitterPoetry account: Use the username TwitterPoetry and password twitterpoetry and contribute a line to the growing poem.
  • Follow TwitterPoetry: Become a "follower" of TwitterPoetry and see how the poem grows as and when someone else contributes to it.

Oh, and if you figure out how to flip the twitter stream around, please let me know!

A Cup of Chaos

Warm Cup of Chaos
Originally uploaded by shootingoutloud

Inspired by the Five in the Morning series so well put-together by Steve Woodruff (check out his new site, by the way), I was chatting with Amber Naslund about the ready abundance of online material that is of interest, but not necessarily relevant to our work (or even private) lives. Sometimes it is this small cup of chaos that delivers a dose of randomness into our otherwise ordered lives that changes the way we see things.

So, in an effort to share this with you all, and with the encouragement of Olivier Blanchard, Steven Smith and Steve Woodruff, Amber and I have decided to team up on a regular series of posts.

Twice a week we will present you with a Cup of Chaos. I will kick start your week with a little left-of-field joy, and Amber will wrap up, on Fridays with something to think about over the weekend.

The first post will be up next Monday. Oh … and if you have any suggestions for inclusion – let us know. There's always room for one more!

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Spot the Difference

My chapter in The Age of Conversation (#1) was called The Promiscuous Idea. As I explained:

From a single creative impulse, a legion of additions, modifications and transmutations can spread in minutes, hours, days and weeks … What this means is that our ideas are constantly in a process of reinvention.

So when it comes to creating great marketing content that will be talked about, shared and spread across the networks of our lives, the challenge is to isolate the promiscuous idea – and then to set it free. This is where insight and clever planning can help. But it must also be build into the EXECUTION of your projects.

That’s why I love this interactive YouTube game. It may not be fancy … but imagine the possibilities for marketing your products or services. Imagine how, with some tweaking, that this concept could tell the story of your brand. As Wisey explains, it is both addictive and the potential is huge. I think my friend Todd Andrlik with his penchant for video will really get a kick out of it.

Knock yourselves out!

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