goinghomeWeakly Thunk has migrated to Blogger, the platform I first experimented with.

I have become fed up with WordPress’s embedding restrictions, the loopy incoherence of the category and tags management, and sheer unfriendliness of the picture uploading process.

It’ll take a while to add a blogroll but I’ll get to it eventually.

Your business card is crap

Consider yourself told. What a twonk.

How to use Twitter for marketing and PR

twitterIn the absence of any great social networking or Web 3.0 developments since Facebook, Twitter has appeared and become the Next Big Thing even though (go on, admit it), you Don’t Really Get It. I don’t blame you for thinking this, because in the virtual world, something has to be the daddy, even if it doesn’t deserve it.
If, like me, you read blogs by advertising mavens, marketing gurus and the gods of PR, you will know that Twitter is a much-discussed topic. After much argument, the opinions of the hundreds of conversation igniters have been dissected, examined and finally distilled into what can be safely considered the consensus view. So here it is, the definitive answer to the question: “How do I use Twitter for marketing and PR?

Memo to old farts: stop trying to be trendy

That headline advice comes from Yours Truly, a 40-something Dad who likes to embarrass his kids by speaking gangster and flicking the signs innit (in my humble opinion, the most effective means of parental discipline for kids whose #1 fear is embarrassment). It’s aimed at those companies that think it’s clever to jump on the social media bandwagon without a real idea of its benefits or pitfalls.

It was clear at the recent Social Media Influence conference that there are no big new ideas this year. Twitter is heralded as a Big Thing purely on the merit of absence. I do mine Twitter occasionally – it’s a mildly interesting tool for gauging the current mood only if you take the trouble of understanding the context first (i.e. doing your research).

The above screen snap from a b3ta user demonstrates how a brand can fall flat on its arse by a poorly considered use of social media. In this case, reporting on the Budget, some twit at the Daily Telegraph (traditional demographic: retired colonels and silver haired ladies who garden in green wellies) had the bright idea of embedding unmoderated Tweets about the subject.


We made you

This video by one of b3ta‘s denizens is a good example of what makes YouTube so valuable. The video channel has sold much of its soul and is shackled by copyright worries, which is difficult when individuals want to use music and stock footage creatively. Sometimes, something new and interesting emerges, like this.
Referencing recent news events that dominate UK news and liberally peppered with (some admittedly less recent) web memes, it’s a wonderfully ephemeral parody of, er, everything.
Plus, it takes a welcome pop at the boringly rebellious Eminem.

The daftest Facebook spam I’ve received so far…

Further proof of the decline of the #1 social network, but it did make me laugh.
Opening this email reveals the message “Barack Obama (Washington, DC) has confirmed you as his fourth cousin once removed on We’re Related“, followed by a supposed Facebook link that’s oh-so-tempting.
Hobnobbing with Gordon Brown et al is obviously so boring for Obama that he has to surf social networks during G20 meetings.

Politics? Viral? Europe? Are you mad?

This clip from Channel Four News describes a verbal attack on Gordon Brown by a Conservative MEP as the most viewed political speech in the fastest time in internet history. Two factors make this particularly interesting.
Firstly, the role that media such as Twitter and YouTube played in spreading an event which would otherwise have gone unreported (and is still curiously underplayed or ignored by the BBC) underlines a power shift away from traditional media.
Secondly, the political machinery in the UK, and possibly across Europe, has yet to seriously grasp either the threat or the opportunity offered by this new media.
There are some lessons that we can take from this episode if we look at the political environment. It’s arguable whether the dissatisfaction that helped fuel the speech’s popularity is felt mainly by people with a certain political view, or whether that feeling is more mainstream.
If there is a perception that a need is being ignored, does that make it easier for a maverick voice to be heard?
The speech has already received over 1 million hits since it was posted on YouTube. Watch it here.

Life imitates art

We’ve created a lift blog: about as analog as you can get. These are a series of posters made to promote my department as well as provide some unexpected inspiration. They’re very ephemeral – staying up for one day only in each of the main lifts – but the feedback is phenomenal. Content is varied, but is linked to the market intelligence, consumer and social trends that we analyse and provide to our agencies. Sometimes the content is quirky and can be as unusual as today’s or this week’s big web meme, even if it’s just a picture.

I’m particularly pleased with today’s offering: a quick mock-up of the real BBC story about the ex-RBS chairman’s home being vandalised by a shadowy group angry at what is perceived as bankers’ greed juxtaposed by an apt quote from Fight Club.

Statistics are the bread of life

mickeymThe old adage about the drunkard and the lamp post is the truest thing that can be said about statistics. I say this as a regular user of the TGI survey, which is really a hat full of fairy dust when in the hands of a classy magician.
I was once asked to provide evidence that would support two conflicting views about a consumer group, which is possible if you add more weight to, say, an index rather than an actual percentage.
Yes, statistics can be bullshit, as any Daily Mail reader will tell you.
Here are some good ones, which have the twin benefit of being made up and totally plausible:

Did you know:

  • More than 98 percent of convicted criminals are bread eaters!
  • Exactly half of all children who grow up in bread – eating households score in the bottom 50% on standardized IQ tests!
  • In the 19th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 55 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, scarlet fever, smallpox and influenza ravaged entire nations!
  • Statistics show that more than 75 % of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread!
  • Bread is made from a substance called “dough.” Researchers have proven that as little as one pound of dough can choke a large animal like a horse. The average person eats more bread than that in one month!
  • Bread is known to be extremely addictive. Subjects deprived of bread and given only water, actually begged for bread after just two days!
  • Bread is a “gateway” food item, which usually leads to such items as butter, jam, peanut butter and even … bacon!
  • Bread has been proven to kill. Scientists have now uncovered alarming evidence that 100% of the people who eat bread will eventually die!
  • Unattended newborn babies can choke on bread!
  • Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 425 degrees Fahrenheit ! Don’t laugh…that kind of heat can kill a full grown adult in less than five minutes.
  • 96% of cancer victims eventually admit that they’ve eaten bread!
  • Sadly, 9 out of 10 bread eaters are unable to distinguish between significant scientific fact and meaningless statistical babbling.

These wonderful numbers are provided by a commenter on this irate blog post.

Hard to believe that evidence is not enough


Over the last few years I have been seduced by scepticism. I don’t want to bore you with the details of how I got here, but what it has left me with is a very strong love for science. I was crap at all things science at school, which is unsurprising considering my boredom with logic and a preference for imagination (I did see both concepts as opposites, wrongly).
At the heart of scepticism is scientific thinking is proving very useful at work. Looking at consumer trends, the clarity of understanding the divide between behaviour that is guided by emotion and instinct, and behaviour that is guided by reason and evidence, often proves a good platform for predicting where some trends might be heading.
For example, the media is doing a fine job of frightening us into thinking we’re all doomed. We have the twin demons of environmental disaster and a financial depression (the media’s view, not mine), two ideas which together encourage a very powerful and irrational mindset.
Several surveys over recent months from the likes of MORI, Mintel and, today, CCB fastMAP, show how our immediate financial needs are eroding the once-sacred environmental ethical urge. On the other hand, there are claims that superstition and religion are on the rise.
These two trends are compatible if keeping up an ethical lifestyle, or consuming products with dubious benefits (like homeopathic medicines), cost us money, whereas going to church or avoiding black cats cost us nothing.
Apart from the everyday mundane things that give me comfort (like teasing the kids, beer and watching 24), I find spiritual inspiration from scientific journalism. There are the brilliant Guardian Science Weekly and SGU podcasts, amongst others. And in my RSS reader are ScienceBlogs and the famous Dr Ben.
So it’s no surprise then that I elected to watch David Attenborough’s ode to Charles Darwin last week. This programme included one of the most inspired descriptions of nature I have ever seen: the computer-generated Tree Of Life. Considering the weight of evidence that has accumulated over the last century to support the theory of evolution, I find it sad that dogmatic stubborness still separates millions of people from appreciating the awesome beauty of natural selection.

(WordPress is playing silly buggers with embeddable video. If it doesn’t appear at this point in the blog post, then watch the clip here.)

Footnote: one of the saddest things of all is happening in children’s education.

Self-important bit

I’m Victor Houghton, a, er... something or other in one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies. My job title has a comma in it, which is embarrassing. I’m the chief finder-things-outer with a splash of trends who is lucky to work with all the major functions of the agency, even though I am most closely associated with strategic planning. Everything in this blog has most probably been stolen from other, infinitely more talented people, although the opinions are most definitely my own and not those of the agency.

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