Terrific observation on social media by William Gibson:
"I was never interested in Facebook or MySpace because they feel like malls to me.
Twitter actually feels like the street. You can bump into anyone on Twitter."
So my best friend back in Boston, Aaron Perrino, has got his old band, The Sheila Divine, back together after a lengthy seven year hiatus. One of those bands that should have been huge but serendipity chose to shun they built loyal fanbases in the three Bs of Boston, Buffalo and Belgium. And now they're giving a brilliant demonstration on how the web can enable bands to make music and connect with their fans in more interesting and meaningful ways. And in so doing regain control of what they do and break even more 'traditional' roles that record companies have played.
1. Use kickstarter to get the recording budget funded - $5000 target reached in 5 days
2. Go back to your base and remind them what they missed - this is some crazy Belgium singalong from the Crammerock festival
3. Get back in the studio, but don't do it behind closed doors; you can watch, participate and even shape it. Broadcast the recording sessions live on ustream
It's pretty awesome what musicians can do if they put their mind to it in the modern age.
In Sao Paulo, I ended my talk by suggesting planners, and the advertising industry, should live, and work, here. It's a fun place - all the storytelling and craft of Madison Avenue combined with the agility, entrepreneurship and doing of Silicon Valley.
This is something Richard Huntington has often talked about. And it's something we often ignore, forget, or both.
Malcolm Gladwell got to the heart of this issue when he answered a question in a GQ interview last year. The question is, in essence, the planner's dilemma:
"If you had to choose, would you rather be interesting or right?"
His reply was brilliant:
“If I were President of the United States, I would rather be right than interesting. If I were a CEO of a company, I would rather be right than interesting. But I am a journalist—what journalist would rather be right than interesting?”
Planners are journalists, yet too often we act like diet CEOs.
I firmly believe in a world of data abundance and processing power, that the curious will win. This, in many ways, is a re-dedication to our past. Bill Bernbach said this back in the the 1950s:
“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”
People still bang on about the importance of digital fluency. It's important, and it's not prevalent enough amongst planners. The next thing, however, I believe we need to get fluent in is how games work. Because at the end of the day, games are the dominant cultural narrative today, not books or films which were the narrative codes that advertising was built on. And games work differently.
I think this is a much better mindset for strategists. Think about the content you create. How you edit it. How you pace it. How it provoked conversation and how you respond. And it makes you think really hard about voice rather than messaging.
'Big' has been the historic gold standard of advertising - big ideas delivered in big way by a big name supported by a big budget. It felt a really weird premise when I entered the industry and just plain wrong now.
We live in a culture full of depth, nuance and complexity. Yet we insist on the singular idea and message and keeping it simple. We place all our bets on one idea when we live in an environment where experimentation and diversification is critical to survival.
The wonderful thing about digital is that it's helped create a culture of do then learn thanks to the cost of failure being so low. This is the antithesis of the usual marketing practice of learn then do.
So I think we need to create an environment where we do lots of little things (albeit held together with some sense of purpose). It's a more responsible approach as well as being more fun. And it can make big companies feel small.
I've banged on about this enough in the past - being bowerbirds not peacocks, the primacy of ideas that do and the importance of us designing ideas that can be advertised, not simply advertising ideas. The opportunity to make communication products, not simply communicate a product, is critical to the future of the industry as well as being one of the reasons why I believe this is the most exciting time to be in advertising for over half a century and the most exciting time to be a planner ever.
I think it's safe to say we live in a fairly data rich world. There's a whole hosepipe of data being created through the web to add to the filing cabinets of dusty debriefs in companies around the world. It gives us a great chance to better understand what people actually do. The trick will be to turn this hosepipe in to actionable understanding.
People in the social sciences are already doing this - here's a great simulation of the mood of America using twitter data.
We need to get good at this. Data visualization and statistical numeracy and storytelling will become key skills. But we can also turn them into interesting bits of communication - the Kleenex hayfever map and IBM's US Open pointstream are a couple of interesting examples.