Archive for August, 2008

And so begins the next frightening stage of my life

The human backside wasn’t designed for lengthy journeys in the saddle of a fold-up bike. It’s hard work!

A mile to my local station, and then four miles from Liverpool Street to my office. The worst road surfaces are where you’d least expect them: the supposedly gold-paved paths out of the City.

Still, it’s a damn fine way to lose weight: not just through the exercise but through the stress of avoiding being turned into road jam. And, it doesn’t matter how cool you think you look throughout the average day, if you ride one of these you do look like an idiot.

Time for some weird shit

I’m kind of riding on the coat tails of my last post to embed this, a genre-defying bit of genius tunology and art direction, as well as an excuse to see Natalie Portman acting weird. I defy anyone to successfully identify the influences that spawned this fellow‘s music.

Are we in a post-genre era?

The erosion of attention spans as a consequence of the digital era is not a cutting-edge theory. The oceans of information at our fingertips can’t all be read, watched or listened to, so we skim and snack and that habit is going to affect the way we think.
Maggie Jackson’s claim to this idea is doing the media rounds as she promotes her book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. She’s interviewed on the Point of Inquiry podcast.
Those of us who were raised in households where the TV was dominant and where the radio was the rebellious medium can remember how the major youth tribes were influenced by the social conditions of the time. Punk was rooted in the disconnection with a polarised and extreme political landscape (when there was a real difference between the left and the right), and the subsequent movements – New Romantics, House etc. – underlined the attitudes towards sexual identity, drugs, violence, that the young did not share with their elders.
The recent Adbusters post about Hipsters was bang on target: they call the point we’ve reached “hipsterdom”, a point where all the countercultures and tribes come together. There’s no originality and the ability to shock is very diluted.
The culture we now have is one where the more people we know, the fewer we know really well. With music, the more genres we’re exposed to (in original or mashed-up form), the smaller or shorter-lived are their associated tribes. It’s got to the point where adults are now more likely to share the musical tastes of their teenage children than at any other time.
Music genres no longer matter because new media has taken their place. It’s handsets instead of hippies, PS3s instead of punks. Have their been any big, new musical tribes this century? No – certainly nothing new. Some of the new things were Playstation 2 (2000), the iPod (2001), Myspace (2004).
In the UK, mobile phone penetration amongst 16-24 year olds leapt from around 70% in 2000 to over 95% in 2007.
In fact, technology and the digital space now moves so fast that they spread and kill off these tribes. Youth will always find places to meet away from the adults, but it’ll take an unknown catalyst to cause them to do so in society-changing numbers.

Swearing and shagging? It must be a viral

It’s almost as if a time machine has whisked us back to the heady days of, oh, 2005ish. That’s when the good old video viral ad was at its height. I used to run a secret area on our company intranet where all the latest noteworthy virals would earn a short run. Around 2006 there were fewer and fewer good ones, and I closed the secret site because of the severe lack of quality.

“Quality” is subjective. Remember that this was before social networks and YouTube took off, so the majority of video virals had to be good enough for people to be willing to email chunky attachments to each other. Controversy gave the viral its fuel and longevity.

The following three examples are current and come from the 2005 drawer. They’re not particularly artistic or outstanding, but have that cheesily slapdash quality typical of the genre. Now they live on YouTube, where they can exist for far longer while their creators promote them via social networks, blogs and (of course) email.

The Greenpeace viral is ridiculously inept, but is just about safe enough for work (with the sound down). The message is confusing, combining shagging with saving the forests. This, at a time when overpopulation threatens the ecosystem.

Guinness claim this one’s not official, and are set against it. Oh sure, like the protest isn’t going to generate more interest, eh? Anyway, the product is not one that’s normally associated with sharing, as suggested here.

And here’s a good example of an obscure brand punching above its weight by employing a little star quality.


Self-important bit

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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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