Archive for the 'Web 2.0' Category

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.



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.

The interweb thingy. Good, innit?

I’m muchly amused by another of those visual representations of the web (see last year’s photogenic Dungeons & Dragons map.

Enjoy it here.

Spotted on b3ta

Nailing creativity

davinciTrying to make sense of a career in advertising outside of the three main disciplines (creative, strategic planning and account management) has been rather like navigating a boat while sailing solo in a storm, but without a chart, a compass or a strong stomach. Or a boat.

Like Vanessa Feltz during her manic writing-on-the-table episode on the first Celebrity Big Brother, advertising is the most paranoid of sectors. Never before have I seen so much navel-gazing and worrying about its relevance. And yet, so long as people continue to shag and buy stuff, the future of advertising is assured (if you want historical proof, then check out the story of the ancient prostitute in George Parker’s book “MadScam“, advertised on his blog). You just need to follow the smart money.
It doesn’t take a genius to see the goldfields are no longer found in old media, which is why any advertising inmate worth their salt needs to pay attention to new media and the opportunities offered by technology. This is why I vaulted over to two consecutive IPA events last week. The first was a 44 Club seminar “The Creative Product of The Future”, and the second was Google’s view of the “Changing face of the internet”.
The 44 Club talk was delivered by Amelia Torode and Steve Vranakis of VCCP, and I have been pondering it all week. The supporting blog provides some examples of very creative thinking from the early 20th century, a time before technology and mass consumerism threatened to turn us into sloths.
Leapfrogging advertising’s easy years – when a tiny number of TV channels reached nearly everyone – we have, in one respect, come full circle, in that advertisers have a greater need to exercise imagination to engage consumers by crossing media borders. Blanket TV advertising is so late 20th-century.
In fact, TV itself is decreasing in relevance if Google’s Dan Cobley is correct. The takeaway fact from his talk to the IPA was that everything ever stored digitally – music, video, the whole lot – everything you have ever watched – will fit on an iPod by 2020. Never mind that 20Gb iPod – in 13 years time you’ll be carrying around zillions of Terabytes in your pocket.
That was probably the only solid prediction to come from Google, which is rather chilling when you consider that the onetime golden child of the internet is now looking more and more like a big corporation gobbling up the real online entrepreneurs.
In fact, the sort of targets that Google is gobbling seem to fit VCCP’s observation about media fragmentation causing a focus on creativity. We do tend to lump all that internetty stuff together as one media, when really each fancy Web 2.0 widget and geegaw, if it works well, is capable of working on its own.
Ok, there are different ways of embedding YouTube into online content, but there are tons of people who browse YouTube raw, as will users of, Flickr and digg.
Today’s plasma and LCD TVs are glorified PC monitors; so merge TV watching, gaming, social networking et al, as well as the fancy things you’ll be sharing with your mobile and iPod…. is that one medium, or many?
Many of the clever young things are building things online and connecting to us in a plethora of ways. These online entrepreneurs give the rest of us a chance to create. I would venture that there are more people exploiting the opportunities to be creative now than a decade ago, although that’ll mean there’s an awful lot of rubbish out there (the equivalent of most of the channels between 110-300 and 700-900 on Sky, except that for each crap channel there must be 10,000 dreadful blogs and photo sets).
This means that the creators of advertising that work must be good, really good, to get the message through. I’ve noticed Experian ads popping into my Facebook newsfeed and I can honestly say that it totally pisses me off, because I didn’t expect it and I am not inclined to check my credit rating. I expect it on old media and even on blogs, but Facebook is almost like a new medium. We don’t like our new media time interrupted, so your advertising had better be more subtle, personalised and relevant. That takes creativity.

“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.

Beware: old fart in jeans

old fartAfter much nagging, I have finally opened a profile on Facebook, an experience that succeeded in making me feel thoroughly depressed.
The problem is that, at 41 years old, I feel that I am almost twice the age of the average ad agency executive. The nagging was a response to my epiphany about social networks. Bla bla the future bla bla a place where consumers rule bla bla brands trying to get a look-in.
It was my own fault, really.
The problem lies not in the functionality of Facebook. This isn’t a case of finding a seven year old child to programme the video – it’s a problem with content. After one hour’s study, I conclude that Facebook is childishly simple. Compared to working out the quirks of opening a blog on WordPress, creating a profile on Facebook is easier than sliding on a pair of carpet slippers.
The thing is (and I knew this beforehand), everyone else on the network is so bloody young. Being nagged by a load of twentysomethings to “go on Facebook” rapidly made me feel like being the honorary grandad at a student disco. Having faffed around on it for a short while, I did find a few dozen acquaintances (obviously, there are quite a few people I know on my company Facebook group), but the need to “poke” (the language of Facebook) them in order to get them to acknowledge you as a “friend” feels, like asking that teenager for a dance, so wrong.

A geek map of online communities

This terrific map nicked from the boingboing blog would make a fun addition to anyone trying to describe Web 2.0 in a presentation (especially if you’re brave enough to give the ecosystem diagram a spin in front of an audience).
Web2 map
The complete map is a cheeky Dungeons & Dragons-style rendering of the current state of online communities by a popular Internet comic. The size of the “lands” corresponds to the current traffic or membership of the various online brands, and it appears that their location on the map bears some resemblance to the level of interactivity or connections between them.
Needless to say, this being Web 2.0, it won’t take long for the map to be out of date.

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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