Sunday, 31 October 2010

She was a candle in the wind. Unreliable

I always thought Channel 4 was the most digital savvy of all the channels. But apparently this doesn't stop them from making a mistake so short sighted that I'm shocked it still happens after all these years.

A little example of their latest initiative involves Garth Marenghi's Dark Place. A great, original, but criminally under-watched show that I love to share with anyone who'll listen. Or at least look like they're listening.

To help share this show, and encourage people to buy the DVD, I show people two clips. One is of the intro, which brilliant sums up the faux-80s TV show appeal and the other is a user made 3 minute version of a song from the series called 'One Track Lover'.

None of these are a replacement for buying the DVD, but crucially, they are great tools for selling the DVD. So why Channel 4 has decided to remove them from Youtube I simply do not know. The content works better than any viral campaign an agency could come up with.

At this point I should make it clear that I don't think this post is making any points that haven't been made a hundred times before (I probably should have opened with that and saved everyone some time). However, it's the very obvious nature of this thinking that makes me wonder how great creative companies can take this kind of action.

Now if I want to tell people about the show, I have to link them to videos that might actually act as a replacement to buying the DVD

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Find out what this post is about by reading it

I saw a lot of adverts for that Seven Days programme on Channel 4 recently. A lot of adverts.

I saw posters that stated it was a new kind of reality show. However, it didn't tell me what it actually was. A teaser poster you could say.

I then saw a TV advert for that Seven Days programme on Channel 4. A lot of TV adverts. They said it was a new kind of reality show. However, it didn't tell me what it actually was.

When it came to the show starting, I watched an episode of Friends. A lot of episodes of Friends

What kind of freak has a default state of being interested in anything they see or read or hear in an ad? Yet I've seen quite a few examples recently of teaser style ads that have made no attempt to get me interested in what they have to say, they just assume I'm going to take time out of my busy day (of watching that episode where David Schwimmer says 'pivot' a lot) to research their campaign.

I would give examples of these other ads, but I cant remember who or what they were for... if indeed I ever knew.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Sir Sell-a-lot

The other day I bought some shoes. True story.

As I was trying them on, a shop assistant edged their way over to me, like some kind of professionally uniformed crab. Normally I don't like shop assistants coming up to me and distracting me from a good browsing, but I like it even less when they hover around, waiting for the moment I look remotely confused.

I have found this much worse since I've moved to London, with all these empty brand heavy stores. Assistants are part of the brand, so they leap at you, and there's no place to hide!

So, the ultimate brand store should look a little like this:

Yes, the Robot Wars arena.

Notice the Corner Patrol Zones (CPZs). If you enter one, the House Robots are allowed to attack.

Truly this is the ultimate shoe buying layout. Staff don't need to stare at customers to check if they look confused, and shoppers can browse freely!

Thank you Sgt. Bash, for showing us the light.

Monday, 26 July 2010


I have been waiting for the Epic Win app for many years. Pretty much since the original 'Sims' came out actually. Something that rewards the dull and fruitless things in life with pointless experience points and irrelevant rewards!

It always seemed strange to me that people would get a computer character to read a book, in the hope that they would learn enough to get a new job, yet they wouldn't read a book themselves.

Unfortunately most things in life take a lot of time and effort to achieve, so a visual way of showing how every step makes you better is actually a potentially powerful tool.

Of course, this is only likely to be the case when you set the app to reward things with a clear goal at the end, but as FarmVille and World of Warcraft have shown, some people will do anything for a virtual reward.

So I look forward to seeing how successful this becomes. I think there's a slight lack of enthusiasm for interactive experiences that reward users in advertising, but if this app manages to make people happy about doing the washing up, why can't an app make them change their brand of washing up liquid?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Super Marmite World

Here is legendary computer game designer Shigeru Miyamoto talking about how he creates worlds for players to experiment in. I often talk about how this should be the basis of interactive advertising campaigns, but unfortunately he has managed to put it into words far better than I could with my previous 72 posts...

"If they have a natural acceptance of the rules and of what's happening in this world that's been created, then that bond between creator and player becomes that much stronger and that much more important."

"And then what happens is as the player begins to understand the world that they're playing in, then they're going to begin to think about ways that they can play within that world; they use their own creativity and their own imagination to tell the story or to come up with their own parts of the story, and at the same time they come up with new ways to play in this world that has been created for them."

"As a developer then, we have to try to predict some of the ways that players will try to play in that world, and give them reactions or responses or rewards for using their own creativity for finding new ways to interact within that environment."

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Why did Mario cross the road/bridge of death?

I've just read this interesting article about new feedback loops in game design

It's funny how much it all sounds like using Google Analytics on a website, and I'd be quite interested to have a gander at data for something like Super Mario World. Did everyone else die on that damn cheese bridge level?

Anyway, with this stuff standard behaviour for websites designers, and now games going at it, I wonder how long until we start seeing widespread tweaking of TV ads based on people ranting online.

Don't think "There's method in the Magners?", well we think you'll love "How do you get to Magners? Practice!"

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


There's a funny thing in the computer game world, where a trailer for a game looks completely different before and after you play the actual product. (Yes it's a post that vaguely links computer games to advertising - I've found my niche gosh darn it)

Before you play the game, a video of it looks amazing. Characters running around, performing outrageous actions - leaping, diving, shooting - you have complete control of a relentless killing machine.

The strange thing is, when you come back to a video after playing it (which admittedly rarely happens), you suddenly see those movements differently. He's no longer leaping, but some one's pressing 'X'. He's no longer diving, but initialising pre-set diving animation 1. Suddenly you see the strings and you're snapped right out of the moment.

Sometimes this can be how it feels with campaign sites. They can be wrapped in the most creative skin, but it still looks and feels like an average website. You still navigate and move around in the same way you would on a news site, or a site about lovely socks.

I think this is why the digital campaigns that I really remember fondly are those that weren't set up in the usual way. Cloverfield for instance - spreading bits of an introduction to the story across several sites and social media. People certainly got lost and couldn't find all the story, but I bet they felt more involved than they would have reading a full and thorough 'About' section.

Of course, this can't work for 99% of campaigns and usability is quite rightly regarded very highly. But sometimes, for certain brands, helping a user navigate is good, but helping them get lost is better.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Russian Standard

When you're trying to come up with new ideas for digital campaigns, it's easy to look for the latest technology, or the latest social network and try to be the first to take advantage of their sparkly new features.

So it's nice to have recently found two interesting twists on an old idea, from an old peice of technology. The first one looks at it from a new angle, while the second just makes it evil.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The internet's broken pottery

Visiting MySpace these days is a surreal experience. I bit like walking around in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Exactly like that.

Having been right in MySpace's target market during its golden age and then the target of Facebook's early push in the UK, I always thought it was a slow shift of people to the latter, with conversations gradually moving over.

Looking at all the profiles now though, It's like a bomb went off in 2007 and killed everything dead. In social media world, a month seems like a ridiculous amount of time to go without an update, and yet there I am on MySpace, apparently in the first year of university. As are most of the friends I have on there.

The thing is, I don't want to update it now. Mostly because I probably won't venture back on there until 2013, but also because it kind of feels like a Time Team excavation, with everything preserved as it was three or four years ago.

All the conversations, the stories, the fads. What feels like an entire eco-system just stopped, while the rest of the internet kept on, and keeps on updating. So much about being a Planner seems to be investigating the hidden stories behind actions and a social network frozen in time is a gold mine of interesting tales.

And there I was, an idiot, being an idiot. It's reassuring to know that the working life hasn't changed me.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

I think I counted five, maybe six logos

Lovely short film called Logorama

Sunday, 7 March 2010

You know what was awesome? The Recession

The recession was a glorious time. Businesses loved us! They were good friends who would always tell us how much they felt our pain and cut prices to help us.

Supermarkets for instance. They cared about the environment and they cared about our difficult financial situations. They said NO to But One Get One Free offers, as they encouraged waste and over spending. In their place were simple money off offers like half price McCoys crisps - because supermarkets cared.

Then the recession (apparently) ended. Suddenly supermarkets weren't under pressure to care, so they didn't care. And so McCoys became 3 for £3. In fact, everything in Sainsbury's became 3 for £3. They thought we wouldn't notice, because all is rosy with the economy again. Well I noticed Sainsbury's. I noticed!

To me, the way the supermarkets have acted highlights the worst of brand behaviour. A good brand should have a core set of beliefs that it then applies to each situation to form a point of view. You should be able to look at a brand and be able to guess how it feels about certain subjects. That's how you create brands that people care about and that they can believe in.

What's happened here is that the supermarkets have seen an opportunity, made a big fuss about their 'beliefs' and their 'values', then abandoned them as soon as they feel it's not necessary.

To many it may be 3 loaves of bread for £3, but for me it's Jamie Oliver teaching kids how to order a Big Mac.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Actual product may not include what we're selling you

Time for one of my favourite subjects - How Mass Effect promotional material annoys me.

I loved the original Mass Effect game. It was all about space adventuring, with a character you designed yourself and whose personality you shaped with the decisions you made.

Mass Effect 2 takes the character you made in the first game and continues to play out the consequences of the decisions you made in the first game, while adding extra levels of story and personality to your character.

So, given the very personal and unique nature of each character, surely the last thing you would want to do is focus all of your marketing and packaging material on a generic version of this character that won't actually appear in anyone's game.

It just seems like a complete waste, considering all that the product has to offer. No thought has gone into what makes games and customisable experiences like this different from film advertising (which this seems to aspire to).

Customisation is becoming such a big part of all products these days, but especially computer games. I understand that from a marketing point of view we're used to working with and selling linear stories, but as more and more games innovate away from this, I can't help but feel that the advertising is holding them back, by clinging on to traditional story telling methods.

Mass Effect is about travelling the universe and changing it with the decisions you make. That's not an easy story to tell, but it's a lot more interesting than being told the story of a man you won't even see in the game.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Go away

Now the big move to London is over, it's time to kick start some blogging again. I'll start with an exciting story of my time in London.

The other day, I thought I'd purchase some tickets for the Hot Chip gig at Brixton Academy. So off I go to the website and click the "order tickets" button.

What it linked to was this:

Which is awsome.
It laughs in the face of CRM, usabilty, and many other words to do with making me, the all powerful consumer, happy.
In fact, it was such a hilariously bad way of giving bad news, that I found it hard to get angry at them.
So, I hope to continue experiments in treating consumers so badly that they decide it's too funny to get mad about. That's the dream...