Archive for June, 2007

No marketing quiche, thank you. Give me the meat.

marrAfter a succession of busy evenings, I was delighted to finally find the opportunity to watch the last episode of Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain.

Watching something as good as this really does make one feel fulfilled. It’s the viewer’s equivalent of returning from a holiday in Scotland: after a diet of fried meat and weird things in batter, that refreshing dose of freshly smoothied fruit blasts those globules of fat from your liver.

My simple mind lacks the mental energy to find something profound in the mundane, and then unravel the hidden marketing message within. I prefer concepts that are so solid that you can touch them, such as understanding how people think and why our society is as it is.

Final words from the Marrster:

“Looking ahead, we world’s islanders, as we’ve become, are more open and perhaps more vulnerable than ever before. And yet to be born British remains a fantastic stroke of luck!”


“The dark side of social media”

darkLast night, a sextet of speakers lined up to warn of the dangers lurking in the world of blogging, Facebook etc. This was a gently animated seminar held in the basement of a London pub.

Being crap at reporting back on these things (and expecting other, more conscientious bloggers to report on it) , I’m only going to recount the points that interested me.

Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads described “sock puppets” – people creating false blog IDs for the primary purpose of cyber bullying; and “astroturfing” – creating a false grass roots movement i.e. a few people pretending to be a larger group in order to push an otherwise obscure or unpopular agenda. The latter concept is a new one to me, but I’ve seen some very odd commenting behaviour on some blogs that might suggest some “sock-puppeting”.

A question from the floor about brand presence in social networks drew what I consider to be the wrong response from the panel, who were no doubt influenced by the blogging / MySpace / Google AdSense advertising models of banners, intrusive links, and brand characters with profile pages. I think it’s too easy for advertisers to think “let’s do banners and websites”, because most marketing directors aren’t going to be au fait with the culture of social networks.

Social networks should not be used as an advertising medium, but as a means of conversation. For example, find a way to get people on the networks to spread a message by word-of-mouth. My 30-seconds-because-I’m-in-a-hurry-idea (that’s certainly been thought of already) would be to emulate the model used by advertisers at music festivals by promoting free beer / food / showers etc. for people who join an advertiser-created Facebook group which will have a pay-off at Glastonbury.

Hell, there must be better ideas than that out there (I’m sure I could find some in Contagious Magazine), but brands that try the same, tired old routines in social media really will get lost in the dark.

Nicely plastered

mailing label

I love this, but I am easily pleased. This is part of my mailing label for the Marketing Direct magazine. Note my made-up job title.
Now take a look at the front page of the latest issue:

The font by the toes may be a little hard to read. It says “Victor Houghton best grand fromage de savoir ever”, which had me laughing out loud.

It was the winning entry for a competition to demonstrate the power of digital personalisation run by the magazine.

This old fart is still banging on about Facebook


Hooray! In a roundabout way, yours truly made it into the Ooh Am I In It? Weekly news.

It’s gratifying that Campaign‘s diary monkey was amused by the brand new Facebook group for us oldies in the industry. But, come on guys, 19 members isn’t bad for a group that’s only just started, is it? We are older and wiser and don’t like to rush things.

The funny thing about Facebook is trying to explain it to other people (of course I mean the more, ahem, “senior” ones in a carpet-slippers sense). Friends Reunited (RIP) makes a good subject for comparison when trying to describe Facebook to seniors. Its concept is based upon catching up with chums from decades ago. The layout didn’t encourage the user to update their details.

Facebook on the other hand is all about the past, present and immediate future, with bells and whistles. Its population is a lot younger, with little feeling for nostalgia.

I am finding it difficult to persuade my own 40-something friends to join. As one of them put it, “apart from my niece, my secretary and my mistress, how many other twentysomethings do I know?”


Browsing content with a dragon

tedI wish Brand Republic (register for free) would get their bloody website fixed. You never know when the thing’s going to slam a door in your face. A shame, because some of the new content’s pretty good, especially the blogs.
Charlie Hoult’s “Brand Karate” blog posted a link to this fascinating product demo. If, like me, you read a lot of printed documents and despair of the hassle of reading them as pdfs or scans, then you’ll appreciate the swankiness of this technology (based on something called Seadragon – no, I’ve not heard of it either).
Check out the advertiser-friendly zoom.
The site, “TED – Ideas worth spreading” hosting this demo has a truly intriguing collection of videos, and I’m going to spend some Big Brother time checking these out (especially the Richard Dawkins vids – he’s my pet subject at the mo).

Blurb from TED:

“TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds… The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).”

Creaking along this new fangled interweb thingy

old60.jpgFollowing my earlier post about old farts (i.e. over 30s) using Facebook, I’ve bitten the bullet and opened a group to entice some vintage quality out into the open. The group’s called “Ad Farts: old gits in ad agencies“.

Thanks Jon and Amelia. I’m expecting you…

Selling the biggest pup in history

creationOddly, considering it is a book about atheism, I found Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion to be the most life-affirming and spiritually uplifting thing I have ever read. Starting out as a confused child baptised in Anglican and Greek Orthodox churches, I’ve lurched from belief to agnosticism, to uneasy scepticism and now to atheism.

And I now have a justification for keeping a copy in our marketing-themed library. If you’ve bought religion, then there’s people out there who will try and sell you anything. Especially old men who dress like Gandalf (with occasional headwear variations).

Image courtesy of b3ta

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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