I don’t understand

There’s a million things I don’t understand. Like why single bachelors of the male variety (aren’t all bachelors male otherwise they’d be called bachelorettes? I think they are, but just to clarify I’ve put the ‘male’ bit in) always have black leather sofas and giant flatscreen TVs in their homes. Or why people like pineapple. Or why we just can’t all get along. And more in that vain.

But lately what I’ve not been understanding at all is why there is such a thing as digital advertising agencies. In particular why there is a need for a specific agency that does digital stuff. Surely, digital isn’t just another channel on the block, it’s a new way of thinking, of figuring out how to interact with the audience or customers or whatever they’re called nowadays. Of communicating. I don’t understand the need for the separation of the different channels in different agencies. I’m also looking at it from a business and outsider’s perspective. Why would I, if I were a brand manager, have different agencies for different channels? Wouldn’t I just want to talk to a bunch of people who understand my painstakingly hard work on crafting and living a brand, and help me communicate that message in effective and clever ways? I’m pretty sure people on the receiving end (aka consumers/customers/audience) don’t give a hoot which channel the message comes through, they most likely are not waiting for your message anway (subject for a whole new post). Whether that’s through a viral on Youtube, a print ad in the free London Paper or by organising a festival in a park on a sunny day with lots of music and ice-cream. Hell, it could be through a song, or a book, or a iPhone application, or by word of mouth. Or Twitter, reverse grafitti or by sponsoring an art show. As long as it’s done in the way that’s most appropriate for the brand, by people who know what they’re doing from a strategic, creative and technical point of view*, why would I want to have specific agencies? That feels like you’re deciding what channel the message is going to go out on, before knowing how you’re going to say it and whether that’s the most appropriate.

So I’m not getting it, this whole integrated versus specialist agencies thing. From an outsider’s perspective, it strikes me as being decidedly odd, and very old-fashioned. Time for the agency of the future, a new model. Anyone want to start one with me?

* so that’s the reason I can see for the original existence of specific digital agencies: you definitely need technical know-how to do this kind of stuff. But surely that’s a historical thing, not a reason for the continued existence of different agencies.

[blogpost sparked by a combination of Tom Fishburne’s excellent drawing on silos and Russell Davies column in Campaign of July 25th which I can’t seem to be able to track down on the Brandrepublic website.]

Watch out, incoming sheep!

30122007538Much has been said, by much more insightful and brighter minds than mine, about Facebook. Its explosion onto the web-scene this year; it came, saw and conquered. It’s become a verb, I heard someone say the other day ‘oh, don’t worry, I’ll facebook you’. News of small changes (they lost the mandatory ‘is’ in the status updates a few weeks ago) make big waves. And it’s added whole new words and new meanings to existing words to our vocabulary. Poking and even superpoking have fast become common parlance, albeit caught in a semiotic minefield (is poking a sign of sexual advances (as the 348,755 members of the ‘Enough with the poking already let’s just have sex’ Facebook group no doubt think)? Or is it an innocent way of attracting someone’s attention?).

A few days ago, in a conversation with my housemate, I got thinking about Facebook-etiquette. When is it appropriate to throw sheep at people, or use the force on? Or poke them? What do you write on their walls (I’ve read stuff other people have written on friends’ walls which I felt might not have been quite appropriate for other’s eyes)? And is it ever ok to break up on Facebook (for me, that would be a firm no)? Do I really want to know if someone else breaks up? How much information is too much information? And is there any place left to hide? Will Facebook (and its local equivalents, Hyves is the Dutch one) become as much part of our daily lives as email?

Facebook makes some interesting mental connections for me too. I logged in today to find two of my friends, who in real life don’t know each other, have never met, and probably never will, have both added the same application, which my homepage delights in telling me: ‘A.M and H.S. have added the Funwall application’. How odd. For these two people, who have no idea the other exists, to end up in the same sentence. And then got connected in my head.

[photo: what a beautiful sight… Penguins all over at Schiphol airport]


2101757880_0a0fe44b47Yay, my Moo postcards arrived!! I’ve had my eye on Moo for a while now, but so far never had enough photos I loved on Flickr, or could justify the expense to myself (though not really expensive, these 20 postcards cost me £12.50 including P&P), but last week I decided to take the leap and order a set. And I *love* them! Now all I need are stamps and I’m all set (and yes, the Fonz had to make an appearance, aaaaaay!) to start spamming family and friends. There is something wonderful about getting real life paper through the real life letterbox, something that rarely happens through email I find. Being able to stick a postcard on a wall, or that wonderful feeling of physically opening an envelope and feeling the paper between your fingers when you read a letter. Weirdly enough I don’t seem to exchange my real life address with that many people anymore. We connect through businesscards which make cursory mention of email and phone details, or through Facebook, but rarely do I know what even my closest friends’ physical addresses are. Mental note to self: must make more concerted effort to get friends’ addresses and send more cards and letters.

One more favourite which I feel compelled to share (it is after all the season for sharing): the TED talks site. Beautiful navigation and inspiring talks, some of my recent favourites: Stefan Sagmeister, Matthieu Ricard, James Nachtwey, Joshua Prince-Ramus, Dan Gilbert, Jan Chipchase, David Kelley and John Maeda.

The mixtape isn’t dead

2073470823_6df300ada3A little while ago, I was pondering the loss of the mixtape (I didn’t know the correct technical English term for it, if you have no idea what a mixtape is, check out this wikipedia entry), for ages one of the ways boys wooed girls, and everyone made their own fave compilation tapes by copying a friends cassette or ripping music off the radio. I have fond memories of songs ripped from the weekly Top 40 show, or the annual Top 2000 show at the end of the year.  Just the thought alone is enough to send me on a long ramble down memory lane. No, don’t worry, not right now. Not in this post anyway.

Today, doing a quick scan of my RSS feeds, my heart warmed. The mixtape, which I thought was a thing of the past, is apparently not quite dead yet. Mixaloo has dragged the mixtape away from the gates of purgatory and revived it. And although it’s not quite the same as those cassettes filled with home-taped radio snippets, I was glad to see the spirit of the mixtape lives. And that set me on a quick search, only to find the mixtape is much more alive than I knew. Check out this NY Times article, this Guardian article, or this book or this one on Amazon. I don’t know why, but this makes me very happy. There really is nothing like a carefully crafted mixtape (be it on cassette or CD) to say… well, anything really.

That sparked a whole different train of thought. I know Amazon varies its prices, but I hadn’t realised how much until I was lazy and instead of putting stuff on my Amazon wishlist, I started dumping it in my shopping cart. Every time you check out the shopping cart, some product will have changed price. Sometimes just 1p, sometimes up to twice the price! I’m fascinated. If I had more patience and even more geeky inclination I’d be tempted to track the prices in an Excel spreadsheet to see if I can make sense of them. Hmmm. Maybe not. I need some dignity.

One last digital-analog-related thought I had today was about how much more history is catching up with me. During life as I knew it, you made friends (e.g. at uni) and then drifted apart. You worked somewhere, got to know colleagues, left the job and (sometimes accidentally, sometimes not) lost touch. You heard songs growing up which you would then occasionally hear years later on the radio, instantly transporting you back to when you first heard them, but you didn’t like them enough to actually buy the LP/CD/cassette. Now however, history seems to be catching up with me. People I hadn’t thought about in years want to be my friend on various social networking sites (how many social networking sites can I really be actively involved in? That’s a topic for another post). I can listen to any single song I want using Youtube, even watch TV programs that haven’t aired in years, buy books that have been out of print for ages, all at the click of a mouse. If my history is getting bigger, how will I be able to keep up with it? Do I have the mental capacity? Are we not supposed to forget some things and move on? Is my head big enough for all these extra bits of information I now need to process? Will we lose serendipity, in which finding a book you’ve been looking for for ages becomes obsolete because any book you could possibly want is only a click away? A song you haven’t heard in a gazillion years only a few keystrokes away?