The tech that time forgot

This article makes the rather spiky point that ‘remembering your first computer is for old people’. i.e. that for the generation growing up now, there’s nothing revolutionary about how thin the MacBook Air is, or how amazing wireless syncing is. Digital photos aren’t better (or not) than film, they just are. It’s just weird that not to have had a mobile growing up.

Seen this way, relative improvement doesn’t matter for brands and businesses. The task is to be relevant now, not merely better than you used to be.

It reminded me of one of my favourite jokes from the ever-prescient, sorely-missed Douglas Adams:

I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

 – The Salmon of Doubt (p.95)

Waking up your street

The story behind Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner is one of the most popular posts I’ve written here, so I was pleased to discover this ‘making of’ trade video we made for the follow-up ad for Capital FM in 2005.

I’m pretty proud of it. Looking back, the effort, thinking and professionalism shines through. It’s also quite clear how expensive the ad was and I wonder if radio will ever see its like again – not that this execution or media approach would necessarily be right today. 2005 was before anyone had heard of YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

Many thanks to the excellent Alex Boyesen of Digital Mixes who made this video

Brilliant talk on creativity by John Cleese

A quite wonderful lecture from John Cleese on creativity that really ought to be seen and shared.

It validates and articulates pretty much everything that I have stumbled on after 20 years of working and I wish I’d seen it earlier.

The greatest benefit to me is that it endorses being playful and shoots down pressure and solemnity as a means to being more productive. It’s not just OK, it’s a good thing to laugh, ponder and be silly.

My notes whilst watching it:

  • Creatives are people who can get into a playful, child-like mode more easily
  • Creativity is not possible in the closed mode (anxious, got to get stuff done, purposeful)
  • Open, creative mode is more relaxed, but less purposeful, more inclined to humour. This is playful. Curiosity for its own sake can happen. That allows our lateral creativity to happen.
  • Hitchcock would say when faced with a block, he would tell an unrelated story. “We’re pressing, we’re pressing. We’re working too hard. Relax and it will come.”
  • Once you’ve had the idea, you need to switch to closed mode to implement.
  • Space is important for getting into play. Where you won’t be disturbed. For Steve Jobs this was a walk.
  • A •fixed• period of time is useful too. Maybe in 90 min chunks.
  • Creatives play with the problem for longer before trying to solve it. They’re happier to tolerate the uncomfortableness of uncertainty. More pondering is better.
  • Decisiveness and confidence strangles creativity at birth.
  • Maximise your pondering and leave the decision late. It is too easy and suboptimal to chicken out and decide early.
  •  Next importance thing is to not be fearful about what is possible. Embrace the silly and the what if. “You can’t be spontaneous within reason”
  • Humour gets us from closed mode to open mode more quickly
  • Po-facedness around humour being inappropriate comes from a misunderstanding of the difference between serious and solemn.
  • Solemnity is self-important and serves nothing.
  • Rewards come out of the blue later. It might be in the shower.
  • It’s easier to be creative with other people unless there is anyone involved that stops you feeling playful or defensive.
  • The funniest part of a joke is connecting two things that are seemingly unrelated to generate •new meaning•
  • “Intermediate impossibles” can be stepping stones to  breakthrough ideas
  • Very funny section at the end about how to stamp out creativity. Stamp out all humour otherwise people might start having new ideas and scaring the people at the top. Praise makes people uppity! Don’t let anyone ponder!! Demand urgency and create anxiety to keep everyone closed.

Dickens on demand

Next day the posters appeared in due course, and the public were informed, in all the colours of the rainbow, and in letters afflicted with every possible variation of spinal deformity, how that Mr Johnson would have the honour of making his last appearance that evening, and how that an early application for places was requested, in consequence of the extraordinary overflow attendant on his performances,—it being a remarkable fact in theatrical history, but one long since established beyond dispute, that it is a hopeless endeavour to attract people to a theatre unless they can be first brought to believe that they will never get into it.

Nicholas Nickleby, p.378

Most-read posts of 2010

The most popular posts on talkablelikeable in 2010, in exciting reverse order

10. The social web just got go-faster stripes
The introduction of easily-added ‘Like’ buttons to the web

9. A glimpse into the future of the web
Google and Arcade Fire’s fantastic demonstration of html5

8. Internet marketing – 1995 style
Superhighways and not so super haircuts

7. Rutger Hauer – The Man with the Guinness
Memories of that Guinness tv campaign

6. The birth of social TV
Real-time watercooler moments. Interesting, but hasn’t hurt Twitter at all

5. Mo’vellous
Terrific ad campaign for Movember

4. Should you buy an iPad? My experience so far…
Early thoughts on Apple’s new device. Reading it back seven months on, I pretty much still feel that way

3. If Carlsberg did action replays
Brilliant ad/spoof (and I still don’t know which)

2. If you type “Google” into Google, you break the internet
Originally posted in 2009, but still popular and still funny

1. Everything you ever needed to know about branding in 67 seconds
Almost annoyingly brilliant summation of branding from Steve Jobs.

The Guardian TV ads 1980s/1990s

I’ve just uploaded these two collections of The Guardian‘s TV ads that cover the 80s and 90s. The first set pre-dated my time as Brand Manager, but I was responsible for the second reel.

The ‘points of view’ (skinhead) ad from the mid 1980s remains the most famous ad from any newspaper and often appears in those lists of top 100 ads. However, viewed as a collection, I think they show the evolution of the brand, becoming notably more sophisticated, entertaining and inventive.

It was a critical task to modernise the paper, shake off the beardy, worthy image and fight the price-cutting Times and the newly-launched Independent. Good marketing, editorial vision, investigative journalism and investment in the product itself combined to strengthen a much-loved media brand and give it a strong platform to compete in the digital era.