Digital Media Monkey

Digital planning tails from the ecom jungle

There are billboards in faraway places…

A picture tells a thousand words. A billboard should make you buy something.

there are wooden houses on land in faraway countries billboard poetry

But these billboards – stolen from advertisers by a Robin Hood of moral guidance – tell words worth many thousands more without the aid of any pictures.

They are the work of Robert Montgomery, an artist whose ambition in life is merely to provide shelter for himself and speak his mind via his guerilla medium.

His billboard poetry is profound and often beautiful.

Aptly, his works would be much more tricky to pull off in an online environment. But they certainly inspire me to pull the shutters down on the displays ads for a while and turn my computer off.

there are wooden houses on land in faraway countries billboard poetrybecause you had to give names to everything you foundit turned out this way robert montgomery street art billboards

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Tiger bread? You’re having a giraffe!

Chris King deserves a pay rise. And owes the Sainsbury’s PR department a big apology.

This example of five star customer service speaks for itself (click images to enlarge!)

And Lily Robinson aged 3½ is right. Why is tiger bread called tiger bread?!

Giraffe bread makes much more sense.

Lily's letter to Sainsburys re tiger bread

Lily's letter to Sainsburys re tiger bread

Sainsbury's tiger bread customer service letter

Silly baker indeed!

Bigger Trees Near Warter

Ou Peinture Sur Le Motif Pour Le Nouvel Age Post-Photographique

In the digital age we tend to spend our lives looking at big things on little screens. Perhaps we sometimes lose our sense of perspective?

But it’s digital technology (on small screens) that’s allowed David Hockney to challenge that perspective, by putting a relatively small snapshot of the world on a relatively massive painting.

Bigger Tress Near Warter David Hockney

Bigger Tress Near Warter David Hockney

Bigger Trees Near Warter isn’t quite a 1:1 scale but where paintings come it’s not a million miles off. And given it’s of sycamore trees probably 40 – 60 feet tall, it’s not a bad reclamation of scale (the painting is 15 feet tall). The sense of scale and place is challenged further by the 50 panels – each 36×48 inches – which make up the woodland copse scene found near the East Yorkshire village of Warter.

Hockney achieved this giant painting by photographing the scene and painting the individual panels. By manipulating on a computer images of the panels the overall scene could be visualised. Layer by layer the painting built up as the daffodils and boughs appeared from the jigsaw pieces.

There are echoes of Hockney’ past photographic work – I couldn’t help thinking of the photo montage of the Grand Canyon that can be found at Salts Mill, Saltaire. A similar scene, built from smaller images, and with an emphasis on achieving the scale and wonder of the scene. And even more similar, A Bigger Grand Canyon, which celebrates/challenges a sense of space in similar vibrancy.

Hockney’s still life landscapes remind me simultaneously of our relatively diminutive size in the universe, but also the great leaps and bounds technology has allowed us to make in taming and capturing memories of our immediate landscapes. And he not only finds beauty in the vast and popular, but also in the local and forgotten snapshots of our environment.

Social media: the new wall of shame

Once upon a time people used to write obscenities on walls. A marker pen in a toilet cubicle, a spray can of paint round the back of the bike sheds, a blunt knife and a sycamore tree. These were the tools of the cowardly bullies or giggling cohorts of schoolgirls bunking class.

Schools desks might still be littered with compass etched expletives about Carly Butterfield or Daniel Drinkwater, but nowadays they’re more likely to be transcribed onto a new wall, a digital one. Nowadays it’s more likely that school yard slander will manifest itself as status updates on Facebook than engravings eked out whilst teacher is scribbling unintelligible physics equations on the blackboard.

social media wall

The Wall, these days found on Facebook rather than an alleyway


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The future is in us but may not be us

Mystic Meg tried to predict it. Arthur C. Clarke and HG Wells were intrgued by it. George Orwell nailed it more than he could imagine.

The future.

How do you pre-empt the next big thing? How do you calculate how people will behave beyond iPads? How do you know where humanity will go in ten years, in twenty years, in a hundred years?

An agency called PHD Worldwide this week tried to predict the future of digital marketing. Suffice to say they’re not likely to influence reality TV shows in half a century like George did. Not with their effort, a promotional video entitled “We are the future“.

The video has received almost unanimous criticism from the marketing industry on a number of levels. It’s fair to say the criticism has bordered on the vitriolic and that in some ways I feel sorry for PHD and quite ashamed of elements of the reaction (surely neither the video and the comments have had a positive effect on the digital marketing industry?).

I think PHD dropped a bollock, but I’m not prepared to run them into the ground because of it. (Make your own mind up by watching for yourself).

Countless broadcasters and publishers have had a pop at pre-empting the technological breakthroughs of the future with limited success, whilst literary works have sometimes been capable of warning whole societies of the dangers awaiting them, with a varied amount of success.

Perhaps PHD’s problem was that they focused on what people are doing now and not what they will be doing. The video is nothing more than a buzzword filled brain dump of things that on the verge of becoming mainstream. And quite frankly the comments on brand blocking stinks of a lack of real thought behind what drives human beings in their online behaviour.

It seems to me that the best predictions of the future focus less on what technology we might be able to make use of, but how people might continue to treat each other (and themselves) in the advent of technological advances. Orwell not only identified the cyclical nature of politics in Animal Farm but also recognised the role that technology might play in freedom in the future (see 1984).

And there are the works that didn’t intend to predict the future but, whether inadvertently or not, detailed the inner workings of the hunman psyche.

Books like The Picture of Dorian Gray should make us reflect on the consequences of today’s image led society; songs like Lives in the Balance by Jackson Browne might be firmly rooted in the Reagan policies towards Central America in the 80s but the words (“When a government lies to a people/And a country is drifting to war”) resonate deeply with conflicts in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan; whilst the stories of Gabriel Chevalier might reflect on rural French life in the 1950s, but they may as well mimic the celebrity and sex fuelled culture that we see all around us on a daily basis.

And that’s not to mention the two-steps-back evolution of humanity in H.G. Wells The Time Machine or Kubrick’s surreal vision for 2001: A Space Odyssey where the relationship between man and machine is blurred.

I wonder if PHD had focused a little more on how humans might interact with each other, rather than overlaying buzz words on a bunch of under-age actors, maybe the digital world would be discussing what the future holds rather than why some agency fucked up a viral campaign in the past.

But despite the weird and patronising execution - come on, using kids to say words they don’t understand is not insightful nor clever – fair play to PHD for having a go. It’s a real shame that agency folk from around the world have been so quick and eager to condemn their competitor and kick them, repeatedly, whilst they’re down. Is it any wonder they delete comments that spouted politically charged abuse from a blog that they are liable for the content on, free speech or not?

The future is an enigma and it always will be. Very few people can predict if with any accuracy.

But evidence suggests that the best way to predict the future is not to jump on the next bandwagon but to get under the skin of what makes human beings tick, what makes our humanity that bit different to the rest of live on earth.

The internet might give us the tools to do amazing things, but it’s our underlying nature that drives what we do with any technology.

I’d be delighted to know what you think on the situation. On first view I wondered what the fuss was about; on second view I told myself this was a bit shit; on third view I realised I’d witnessed an epic #fail by a company who claims to understand their sector and had managed to offend their peers rather than call them to arms. But I take with me some words from Larner Caleb, a wiser man than many. People make mistakes, ok? Less vitriol, more debate methinks. To paraphrase another wise man who I work with, “No-one died, get over it”.

The price is right at Waitrose

If Pizza Express’ price strategy has left me a bit confused recently the new brand price match advertised by Waitrose has me positively discombobulated.

Waitrose is a supermarket with such a good reputation that house prices soar when one opens in a new area (or so the urban myth goes). So, why do Waitrose feel that they need to compete on price? Continue reading

This no ordinary PPC, this is M&S PPC

M&S seem to have given up on the string of relevance when it comes to paid search (PPC). Why bother directing people to the products they need when you can claim to sell something and then quite obviously not sell it!

Cupcakes anyone?

Cupcakes anyone?

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Vote for policies

As the UK prepares for what could be one of its most interestingly general elections for some years, there’s been a lot of talk about tactical voting.  The UK’s electoral constituencies and ‘first past the post‘ voting system lends itself to such voting, particularly because the political scene is dominated by two parties: Labour and the Conservatives (although the Liberal Democrats arguably make the UK a 3-party house these days and are powerful enough to effect votes in the House of Commons, they are still some way short of challenging the leadership).

Left vs right: do Labour and Tories still represent their traditional sides of the political spectra?

Left vs right: do Labour and Tories still represent their traditional sides of the political spectra? Click to view large; image from InformationisBeautiful.net

Some people feel that organised action is required to redress the balance of power towards constituents and not politicians, advocating the use of tactical voting. In 2001 and 2005 Billy Bragg publicly asked the people of Dorset to vote tactically to avoid the Tories finding power in the counties South and West constituencies. Going further still are those who ‘swap’ votes with someone in a different constituency, often because there is a great chance of their vote making a difference in an area with a different balance of political power (and there are a number of website swapping of one’s vote with someone from a different constituency). Continue reading

Pay at the smartphone, please

When I was at university there was a small corner shop selling vegetables, fruit and a few kitchen essentials – bread, butter, cans of pop. A sale was always facilitated via cash. Card payments were frowned upon due to the expense of equipment and bank charges.

The proprietor developed a sneaky way around the system though, by offering unofficial “cashback”. Hungry students could grab a half a pint of milk and a box of eggs and pay £20 more than the sub-total.

Our sneaky shop keeper could then take our card payments and balanced the till by squashing a crumbled Adam Smith (or was it Elgar back then?) into our hands with our receipt

In hindsight, the shopkeeper probably still lost out, assuming his charge was static or percentage based – he still had to pay the bill and his sun-faded Casio till didn’t receive any incremental funds to cover it. Perhaps his charges were waived over a certain transaction amount?

His problems might have been solved by a new mobile app payment system. mPOWA allows businesses to accept payment via smartphone.

A small card reader attaches to a phone to swipe customers cards, and a free mobile app facilitates the payment.

Hey presto, a mini cash register on the go. Perfect for small shops, mobile coffee vans, street vendors, festival food outlets.

Annoyingly mPOWA reduces the chances of emergency cashback when the cash machines are too far for a weary student to walk to. Despite this fundamental flaw (just needs a bank note printing app extension, eh?) this m-payment system might just take off though.

Credit and debit card payments with your smartphone, iPhone, iPad, Android – mPowa from mPowa on Vimeo.

Ling Valentine keynote

ling valentine lings cars ling vader

Ling Valentine isn’t as crazy as she looks. She is a madcap ecommerce genuis. Plus she’s mega friendly (I’ve LINGO’d with her).

The owner of Lings Cars, super successful and a little bit scary car leasing website, Ling doesn’t do ‘beast practice’. She does ‘people practice’.

If you haven’t heard of her, visit Lings Cars. And then enjoy her keynote presentation at Future of Digital Marketing.

The year 3991

What does the future look like?

civilisation ii future
Will humans still be around?
What countries will exist?
What technology will humans be using?

Will we be using iPhone’s to shop online or will our brains be plugged directly into the mainframe?

According to the only man to have seen a realistic vision of what human society will be like in a few thousand years, we’ll be worrying too much about getting tanks to the front line of a 1,700 year long war than downloading new apps for our mobile devices.

Reddit user Lycerius has reached the year 3991 on the computer game Civilisation II. After playing the game, first released in 1998, for ten years on and off, he has developed a distinctly Orwellian scenario where three super empires are locked in incessant struggle for power of the resource-crippled earth.

His version of the future is a war-torn globe recovering from myriad nuclear attacks and ice cap meltdowns where the majority of the population are unable even to farm the savaged land let alone shop online from the comfort of their leather sofas.

No need to worry about which version of Internet Explorer we’ll be using then!

Internet Explorer 999.1

Time travellers visited me this week. Not in a winged DeLorean or a cranky old machine, but via the internet.

In their distant land, perhaps on another planet, years removed from the dot.com bust and boom, it turns out they still rely on the internet for shopping.

And what browser do they use?

Internet Explorer!

Internet Explorer IE 999.1

Yes, in the future, at a point unimaginable to most web developers, Microsoft have maintained a slither of market share.

It’s taken a long time though. Internet Explorer has gone through almost one thousand iterations. Seemingly, perfection still eludes them though, and the internet explorers of the future eagerly await the next update, from IE 999.1 to IE 999.2

I’m led to believe the latest version will close a few loops in the space-time continuum.

Phew!

IE 999.1 Google Analytics browser

Facebook Reach

“How many people has that last status update reached so far?”

“One sec – I’ll just check… would you like that broken by organic and viral reach?”

Hover for organic and viral Facebook status reach

Should blogs prepare for the cookie and privacy law?

On 26th May 2012 UK law requires compliance with the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011, which were amended in May 2011 to align with the EU

In a nutshell this law requires website owners to:

1. Tell users that they use cookies and why
2. Explain what cookies and use and what they do, and
3. Gain consent from users to store data in cookies

In fact the law isn’t just a law on cookies, it’s a law covering the collection, storage and use of data on websites, whether thought cookies, tracking code, scripts and other similar means.

Cookies law changes at the ICO

A big question is do bloggers need to worry about the new law?

My advise – not being a lawyer – is not to lose sleep. The law is designed to improve privacy knowledge and data usage across the EU, and the Information Commissioner (ICO) in the UK is unlikely to come down on anyone like a ton of bricks so long as they acknowledge the legislation and take proportionate action.

Bloggers (and by this I mean people running relatively small scale personal websites) can not be expected to invest in technology to modify their websites based on cookie consent. Firstly their sites make limited use of cookies and secondly their motives are largely unrelated to the analysis of data, let alone the misuse of it.

My advice – it wouldn’t hurt bloggers to write a short and friendly privacy note without your ‘About’ page or write a blog post that is linked to from your homepage.

I think this will suffice to stop any untoward repercussions for bloggers in light of the amended law. However, it’s a grey area. The Huffington Post was until quite recently described as a blog? What is your personal blog makes money from advertising – you’ll no doubt be using (anonymous) user data to remunerate your blogging efforts?

The key thing is to respond proportionally to your circumstances.

For some, apathy will suffice; for others, fawning ignorance may not justify inactivity.

As Seen On ASOS

Here’s a game. Open up URL number 1 in a browser, then URL 2 in a separate tab.

URL 1

URL 2

Then use CTRL+Tab to scroll between the tabs.

Slowly, at first. Then faster, preferably until the two websites blur into a swirling mass of oneness, like a fairground carousel under the influence of eyesight depleting substances.

As ASOS_James put it, “How do these people sleep at night?”

I’m not saying they copied, just that it’s the sort of inspiration that begs the question of authenticity. Enjoy the free PR James ;-)

Item #1 : ASOS? As Seen On Screen subject to the old adage ‘imitation is the best form of flattery’ .With so many high street retailers following the path ASOS carve, B2W have perhaps been a little less subtle in their copying of ASOS design template.

ASOS vs B2W spot the difference

Item #2: B2W? Born2Wear seem to have adopted even ASOS copy.”Hello, is this AS-OS, you’re lo-ok-ing fo-or?”

ASOS vs B2W basket

For larger versions click the thumbnails below…

ASOS HelloBorn 2 Wear hello

Just another IE Monday

An interesting article in Figaro Digital this week, highlighting the cat and mouse game of Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.

Google’s browser is expected to permanently steal the top spot from Internet Explorer at the end of April, though it’s been flirting with the crown for some time now.

And interesting Chrome seems to pip IE at weekends as people use Chrome at home, before returning to work where browser choice is enforced from on high.

As Andrew Ball puts it, “the weekend figures seem to indicate that Google Chrome has already won the people’s choice award.”

The obvious question is how?

The reasons are manifold. The simple answer is, it’s simply more in tune with the needs (some we didn’t previously know about) that Google fulfils.

Synced bookmarks and history, add ons that don’t crash it and easier control of personal data. (It’s not perfect mind, but it’s user friendly at least). Oh and a whopping advertising budget probably helped too.

Perhaps Microsoft assumed they could protect their share by lassoing IT departments into their servers, software and browser. Perhaps, if the people win out, those days are numbered…

Google Chrome App Store

Samantha Brick: fool or genius?

Is Samantha Brick a fool or a genuis?

There’s little doubt her article bemoaning her own beauty was misguided, whether because you disagree with her high regard for her looks, or detest her abysmal view of the female of the species. Or perhaps just her self-centred living-in-a-dream-world attitude to life.

Is Samantha a fool for writing such codswash, or a genuis for raising her national (and international) profile quicker than a coked up Charlie Sheen on a rocket launcher? (What’s next? I’m A Celebrity call up? A book deal? Piers Morgan Life Stories?)

The Daily Mail are the real winners – 1.5 million web hits and counting, leaving most retailers luminous green with envy at the robustness of the newspapers server capacity (you would expect they are used to this type of thing after their huge growth, and thanks to Jan Moir). Not to mention their ability to serve banner ad trash to another seven figure audience.

Ultimately though, the Samantha Brick story tells us more about our society today than most blogs or wikis or encyclopaedias could ever hope to.

“I don’t get angry”, Michael Grade mumbled yesterday on Radio 4′s Front Row, talking about talent shows on TV, “I don’t like exploitation, and I do feel occasionally the shows verge on exploitation”. Though he added “I think most people that appear on those shows by now, it’s informed consent”, he was being diplomatic.

The Daily Mail, by allowing pixel inches to be used for Samatha Brick’s drivel, have used the author in the same way reality TV shows use their contestants. No doubt the editor jumped with joy upon receiving the copy, fists aloft declaring another Max Gogarty or Mike Read moment, perhaps on their largest scale yet. Hurrah!

I hate the Daily Mail. I hate them partly because they are a mirror into the soul of society today, and I don’t always like what I see. It’s a society where poor, beautiful and foolish/genius [delete as appropriate] Samantha Brick can be as equally enlightening on how we operate as she is manipulated and exploited by the Daily Mail.

And by us, though our implicit consent to this behaviour. Perhaps she should know better as should the drove turning up at TV talent auditions.

Samantha Brick does not deserve vitriol, just as 19 year old  Max didn’t (Jan Moir however, made her bed). But perhaps the authors and their editors need to understand that in the long term, their appropriation of X-Factor values and lazy journalism might not be worth the banner ad revenue it generates them.

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