Sunday, 31 May 2009

Celebrate Thievery (A Digital Resurgence)

Stumbling Superman

‘I can do anything’
he says as he slips and stumbles
along the concrete pirate’s plank
like a vintage drunk long extinct
His red cape frayed and dusty
hair sparse, an emaciated forest
‘Leap from tall buildings’
Now he is getting himself confused
unconsciously hoping to be another hero
One that had not collided with fate
Broken and shaken
ice shavings float at the top of the martini glass
A coating of armour
Protection against the first sip
cosmic slip from grace
An overweight Elvis
popping out of his tight white leather pants
Pills dimmed once bright eyes
‘faster than a speeding bullet’
his words tumble on top of one another
slurred and jaded, they match his slow movements
the way he raises his bottle to toast an invisible crowd
his signature curl pasted and stuck on a creased forehead
bound together with dust and dirt
‘Stronger than…’
Fatigue engulfs him
the weight of the world presses against his temples
He falls asleep forgotten
A washed out faded red lump
crumpled like old notes
against the wall of an alien city

What lurks on the inside

A confession: I often look into people's medicine cabinets when using the bathroom (less so now then when I was younger and more invasive or daring perhaps). I was curious about the things that can't be seen or the things that are not shown. What kind of cream do they use? Are they conscious about aging? What secret formulas or marketing ploys found there way into these usually white Ikea fortresses? What does what you hide reveal about who you are? Or are you more inclined to 'be yourself' when that self is hidden? Would your bookshelf look any different if it was behind closed panels? So this train of thought led me to look into the content of fridges, handbags and medicine cabinets (although I couldn't find photos or projects on the latter - I suppose that is a very private/personal space).

GOOD Magazine
presented Mark Menjivar’s inventive exploration of hunger, “You Are What You Eat,” for which he photographed the contents of strangers’ refrigerators. Funny how the contents of refrigerators can tell a story.

The inside of bags (photos from Flickr: What's in your bag? thread):

This post wouldn't be complete without some of my personal show and tell...

I don't have a medicine cabinet, so this will have to do...

I'd love to see your insides - it would be great to publish and share contents of closed personal physical spaces (not sure if I have enough readers however!).

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Ideas Work

Love this 'campaign' created by Bob Ferraz and Marcelo Melo from Brazil (they won silver in the Cannes Young Lions) working for Fisher (in Portugal) and for a Mr. Felix. Found here.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The magic inside...

I like the idea behind JWT's Ad for Visine's Natural Tears Formula: Don't Ask How series. The art direction and strapline create a magical aura around the product. (Could they have not included a couple of men as well? Where are the metrosexuals?).

Paper isn't dead

Publishing is becoming ubiquitous. Anyone with an opinion and internet connection can write and publish information. It's the ultimate time-snatcher, as I peruse and read through so much diverse information (I no longer even have to search for info, and if I do, I'm looking through real-time conversations. I can't wait for better search filters and functionalities to emerge on Twitter).

Without dwelling on the short-term downside this development may galvanize, I find adaptations that use tools to promote collaboration and customization really exciting. Chris Brogan's description of the 'next media company manifesto' here touches on this. Also see Seth Godin's take on the writer as publisher here.

Obama's new book is a case in point: The Obama Time Capsule, which goes on sale exclusively at Amazon (AMZN) Wednesday, represents another novel approach to custom, print-on-demand publishing. Every single copy sold can be personalized (pictures and dedications can be added to customize the book). This 200-page wide hardcover coffee-table book, selling for $35, chronicles a two-year span during President Obama's election campaign and his first 100 days in office.

There are environmental factors to consider as well, given that half of books printed are never sold; and print-on-demand guarantees the purchase while allowing consumers to add their unique signature to books.

Have you seen any other examples of this new publishing?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Discoveries for the Tricurious

Birthdays are like national holidays. Our existence on this strange planet and the fact that we've made it this far a cause for celebration. So this long weekend was spent doing things that I haven't done that I've been wanting to do:

1. Dress-up and go to a costume party
2. Try new flavors and cuisine
3. Explore a new park in London

So dressed-up as Marie-Antoinette in knickers (actually wearing the full kit would be way too cumbersome, especially for a club!) accompanied by a 1920s traveler to journey to the center of the earth. Before heading to this time-bender, we ate dinner at the Double Club, a the Congo meets the West restaurant in Angel (apparently it's closing July 11th and the installation is moving to Milan for starters). The bar was beautiful, like an art installation I saw at the Biennale in Venice. I had the Fumbwa, yam leaves cooked in peanut paste and smoked salted fish with Chikwange, manioc paste cooked in Marantacee leaves, which was great. I truly never tasted anything like it.

We kicked-off the day with a bike ride along the canal to Victoria Park and ate an organic brunch facing a pond at the Pavilion Cafe.

Strongly recommend all of the above.

Lions & Tigers & Beers

The soiree begins,
characters enter the scene.
Burlesque dancers flap red feathers,
black lace masks seeking eyes,
Explorers from the 1920s,
bobbing beige helmets carry strange weapons,
multi-barrelled guns and leather mechanisms tied to forearms,
sparkling with lights and buttons.
Marie-Antoinette prances in her underwear
breasts rise beneath tight constraints
while black layers of crisp mesh crinoline
make quiet music, brushing against time-warped bodies.
Platinum blonde hair stacked high into the air,
everyone's obscured by layers.
Top hat crews walk together along modern floors,
releasing the smell of beer with each step.
Silver bugs with wings fly around the room's edges,
observing improvised Charlestons
catching phrases, such as Anything Goes,
with long green bumpy tongues.
A different type of Wonderland,
Alice walks lost with a bronze turn-key in her back.
Painted mustaches melt in the heat, waltzing across faces.
A woman in a leopard catsuit
with a patent leather waist belt and candy apple lips,
shuffles sepia photographs of profitable side-show deformities.
American World War II music wafts through velvet halls,
drawing the cast closer inside dark chambers,
where a woman dangles from a hanging hoop
swimming in the air, held by her neck, then foot, then waist
while another girl twirls inside one.
A band plays center stage
punk meets the Tudors.
A white ruffled fan jumps and cheers
with an orthodontic metal device
keeping her mouth open in a voiceless scream.
French maids, time travelers and fluorescent beasts
prowl the building
walking up flights and through tunnels
touching big plastic pink, green and yellow bugs
hanging from the ceiling accompanied by black umbrellas.
The place heaves and contracts
and just as suddenly as it all began
the crowd disperses
like ants on their way back home
from a divine picnic.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

What frightens you?

I love how a seemingly ordinary and benign environment is slowly transformed into a really creepy and eerie scene in these two videos produced by Berlin agency Jung von Matt/Spree and production company Radical Media to promote 13th Street, The Crime and Thriller Channel.

Sickly Sweet

Connecting pleasure to food is nothing new and often an apt metaphor. Some culinary experiences, such as eating oysters or periwinkles or even pineapples and red wine (sounds strange, but a delicious combo) are truly sensuous experiences. But Mars' new candy bar for women (the first new chocolate bar Mars has introduced in more than 20 years), FLING, is dripping with cliches and over the top innuendos that arguably would turn most women off (pleasure yourself with chocolate fingers? This is right out of a SNL skit!). See/listen to interesting NPR piece here. What do you think? Will this catch-on? (Maybe I'm simply far from the target, but it still feels too contrived and caricatured. Another example of how this may be lacking in subtly (and research).

Monday, 18 May 2009

Anxious Designs

Pomp machismo, gaudy, shiny, sparkling and conspicuous fashion is exiting the stage (and not just in the world of fashion). Enter more demure, classic, understated pieces that possess a quiet but beautiful simplicity. From self-assured and cocky arrogance to humble, anxious, questioning and self-effacing, but highly talented designers (of all sorts).

It's time for the Alvy Singers' of the world to rise and shine. A case in point: Alber Elbaz, designer of the Paris fashion house Lanvin, overweight, inspired and riddled with self-doubt, has been whipping up light, airy, colorful and dream-like collections. Sincere, real and flawed - these inspirational phoenix-like figures may continue their ascent after a polished, overindulgent and artificial period. Great story.

And Elbaz, when designing a collection, starts with a story: for example a recent collection featured ribbons and was, for him, "like the story of the ties between people, between generations" is important to him that everything he makes has this kind of imaginary history, a Genesis myth.

Stories amidst uphill battles, doused in talent and relentless searches in a changed world (got my attention).

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Escape Pods

My husband now officially calls me a Sci-Fi geek, which is in some ways an honor and in other ways a surprise. It got me thinking about when I started to get into Sci-Fi - was it in the PS 321, Park Slope, Brooklyn playground, where I pretended to be trapped in the jungle gym as Princess Layla, waiting to be rescued by Luke Skywalker?

Surely as kids, we're all kind of Sci-Fi aficionados in our own way. ET, A Wrinkle in Time (one of my favorite books in elementary school, along with Judy Blume of course), Star Wars and other fairy tales and fantasies get wrapped-up in reality. Parents, separation, moving, coming to terms with monsters and odd fears. Sometimes I remember childhood as a confusing time. Anyway I'm going off tangent. Back to escapism.

My interest in Sci-Fi, particularly Battlestar Galactica, really kicked-off while I was studying my Masters in Global Affairs (and writing a thesis on post-conflict peace-building, a comparative study of Sierra Leone and Cambodia and papers on the use of media in Rwanda, both as a vehicle of war and terror and reconstruction and other harrowing, but interesting topics). During whatever free time I had, I wanted to escape to a different planet altogether.

During uncertain times, when the world financial system is being turned upside down and inside out and the Internet/usable technologies are transforming industries, people's habits are in flux and changing. Escapist entertainment is on the rise (video games and home entertainment purchases) and a retreat into times past, the future or different places altogether, is reinforced by communications that underscore the practical and trustworthy; using straight-forward and down-to-earth language or going the other route and creating new exciting worlds (Call of Duty).

On this lazy Sunday (the weather has been totally schizophrenic - rain, to sun, to clouds, I'm still waiting for snow), I came across an interesting article in the Observer about how fancy dress (costumes) sales are up by 35%.

Apparently people are finding it incredibly exciting to be someone else and pretend to be somewhere else during times of economic turbulence and uncertainty. Whether at festivals, gigs, parties or clubs, people are dressing up in elaborate costumes that range from bananas to Tube Stations.

I suppose it's no wonder that we will be heading to the White Mischief party this Saturday for my birthday. I'm still trying to decide between a circus act or burlesque costume? There's nothing like throwing your hands towards the sky and relinquishing yourself to ambiguity while wearing a rockabilly dress.

Where are you going? And what will you be dressed-up as?

Plates full, glasses empty

This poem was inspired by an internal meeting about the future of the company given by none other than the CFO (a sign of the times perhaps that this announcement didn't come from the CEO). Many thoughts swarmed like strange locusts in my mind after the meeting, mostly around an imagined future carved and planned by the bean-counters (no disrespect intended - just that this vision may be a short-sighted one, or rather one based on a single view-point, where, I would argue it is right now, in endangered times for agencies that new, bold and brave paths need to be forged (Obama-esque rhetoric perhaps, but sincere).

Plates full, glasses empty
Intoxicated accountants make slurred speeches
in front of anxious dinner crowds
beans pile up on white china plates
bull roam and snort, smoky rings tumble out of nostrils
and no one is allowed to eat.
A free case of sparkling wine masquerading as champagne
sits ominously in the corner.
Faces nervously look at one another
stomachs growl in syncopated harmonies,
wine splashes on blue and cream paisley napkins
leaving a dark amber stain
that winks at the apprehensive crowd.
'Dishes used to be richer', mumbled the CEO
Duck a l'orange, foie gras and filet mignon
scents of memories float in front
of salivating quivering mouths
as the dinner guests look down
at grilled chicken legs surrounded by a few cheering peas.
No one dares to eat a morsel, or a mouthful,
as everyone is judged on side dishes and sacrifice
subtraction is not a tolerated equation
so guests sit (much fewer in number now)
getting drunk on mediocre spirits
thinking of the future of menus
with a short-sighted master of ceremonies
who used to be a stock boy
making all the purchasing decisions.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Low on fuel

Energy levels close to depleted - I can almost hear an internal beeping sound. We just moved offices; I'll be moving out of this office soon, and the prospect of LA is coming into focus (although objects may appear closer than they are). Change. Uncertainty. Doubt. I feel like I'm preparing for a sales pitch.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Change Agents (unfortunately not 007)

I wonder if our perspective of the world gets in the way of reality.

A huge socio-psycho-economic (society/individual/industry) shift is occurring, affecting many layers of our cultural narrative. I often view things from an industry-specific point of view, but the major financial and systemic upheaval that is occurring will have a profound impact on all levels, from the way we perceive unfolding scenarios and the world around us; and interact and behave within a new environment.

Will the reformation or reinvention of certain orders be slow and pervasive or quick and ineffectual?

To makes matters even more convoluted, this reshuffling couples with digital reverberations that ripple and touch almost every aspect of our lives - with people, companies, brands, entertainment, to make for interesting times indeed.

On the digital tip, it seems as though we are entering a new phase of contextual relevancy (digital communications tailored to fit), where once we were overwhelmed and fascinated by an abundance of information, now it's about organizing what this information/content means to us as individuals and tribes and what value it brings/serves.

This of course reverberates through communications/marketing/Adland. We definitely ain't in Kansas anymore.

(Side note: A few hours after I tweeted about how I wanted to join Starfleet academy, I received a message from @UFStarfleet inviting me to join Starfleet in Second Life).

Now the world as we know it is not going to crumble and resurrect anew tomorrow - when and exactly how this change will manifest itself has yet to be seen. Better to prepare and start slowly dancing to new tunes, or simply learn several different steps, from the waltz to the bunny hop.

Snippets of interesting industry approaches to new dynamics:

1. You talking to me? Creative excellence: Curt Doolittle's opinion piece here and intriguing blog posts here:
On the web, spend your money on creative excellence, not on distribution costs. (You won't save money.) If you do a good job producing interesting content that is highly specific and relative to the channel you're inserting it into, the content will spread on its own. And you'll develop loyalty because you show that you are sincere in your understanding of your customers.
2. Product as Marketeer (or turds don't wear dresses). See Adcontrarian post here presenting Hulu's product-led approach.
3. Inside-out: Starting with design: CPB's perspective here.
4. Operations as marketing? Zeus Jones explores here.
5. New Agency Order? Armano's great video presentation here.

When will worlds collide?

This post is a bit of a scattered brain dump, but here goes. I've been thinking a lot about agency structures, especially since I am on the prowl for the right fit/next move.

There has been a lot of talk about new structures or ways of doing business when it comes to Adland and beyond (should there even be ATL planners, or just integrated planners, should planning teams have new players?) should there be such a wide ocean separating creative and strategy?

From my perspective (especially since I work in a brand-centric comms agency, the small arm of a large European outfit, which necessitates the donning of many hats), the walls between creative and strategy should start to crumble, and new folks (user-experience, interactive/engagement specialists) should also come on the scene when it comes to the development of creative concepts and ideas. Hybrid roles would suit the changes that the industry is undergoing (I won't reiterate here as much as been written about these shifts: see here and here).

I find something immensely appealing about smaller, independent creative shops that forge a different path, approach or develop seemingly loose team structures. I'm not calling for anarchy, people need to have specialisms and fields of expertise, but it seems that we are entering a slash/slash period - where new skill-sets and approaches are required.

Do we need more jacks in this trade? More people to be the half-backs or the glue? Do we need to replace departmental walls with small hurdles that are easy to jump over? Is this economic climate the ideal time to restructure or rethink? I'm seeing some companies and agencies making redundancies, but then making strategic hires/placements...

What kind of structure or type of skill (people) do you need for this redefinition/growth/change?

How is your agency adapting to industry shifts in a financially challenging market?

Friday, 8 May 2009

All aboard

I've been thinking about all the things I do to escape (sordid distractions and entertainment (hilarious). So many enablers - main culprits: Twitter, writing, surfing, watching, reading, snapping, just to name a few.

Ads that engage and transport are perfect sighs in the midst of Swine Flu, recession and well, general uncertainty and confusion (or is it always like this?), which is one of the reasons this Coke spot works so well. A magical and weird world that makes you smile...

Fighting for the core (a process of writing)

It's a struggle sometimes to get to the heart of meaning, or what you mean to say, who you are; the process of identifying and honing your voice, your way of seeing and writing about the world. At times I find layer cake instead - sponge white moist layer upon layer, camouflaging meaning, which is further complicated by the voice of inner critics (harsh, immature and heckling interruptions). This poem attempts to capture this process...

The unraveling
I want to rip off the clothes
on all my words until they stand there
stark Bic blue pen naked
revealing the bare and unabridged truth
(letters stand shivering)
I want to rip out flowers
tangled in muddy patches, roots digging into dampness
and pluck each petal one by one
there is no room for dressing, ornament
I want to break down each construct
So carefully built, layer pressed upon layer
bricks laid for years, slowly to rise to a lopsided castle
that envelopes and protects all in its walls
I want to unwrap and marvel
at the surprise of unexpected tempos
unleashed like hunting dogs
intoxicated by the scent of wild rabbits
I will strip slowly, gloves landing first
on laminated wood floors
undress, undo, uncover
until peach flashes
like headlights on a cold, tortuous highway
words like Russian dolls cover each other
a tight embrace
painted meaning lost in shells
chambers that camouflage and season
being and intention
words my fair weather friends,
play games on the rain with polka-dot umbrellas
covering me from piercing stares
bare all or fade away
comfortably into the background
authenticity is the grain that exists
lodged inside wondrous fruit
Fuck me, I'm taking a bite
I'm tearing it apart
shaking letters down
finding the expression locked inward
flushing out inner critics
losing stage costumes, rhinestones and pearls
until I stand
wet, dripping, naked
in the middle of an empty stage
without a part to play
on display
in the midnight circus

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

A suitable metaphor...

Although I haven't started my proper full-fledged job hunt, I have been sniffing around and the playing field sure has changed (wonder where it will lead me, or rather where I'll land?). I go through phases - sometimes I am really excited about the possibilities and adventures that lay ahead [no matter what, it will be a hell of a ride - looking for the right fit, talking to people, figuring out what I want and where I am going; and maybe even finding time to take classes, finish my book (writing and design!)] and sometimes I have moments of outright, pure unadulterated panic (despite the fact that this is my (perhaps) crazy choosing). Depends on the day. Normally I tilt towards the excited side. I am off to NYC right after my last day at work, which helps immensely, as I can look forward to time with family and friends. So the career climb, search, evolution, whatever, is on the front burner, so when I came across a fellow creative's approach to landing a great gig, I had to smile. Well done Lawson Clarke. I'd hire you in a heartbeat, but then again aren't we all suckers for a reference to Burt Reynolds in his prime?

Monday, 4 May 2009

Breakfast rocks

I love breakfast. I could eat breakfast three times a day.

Yogurt, fresh berries and granola, organic hard boiled eggs with spelt soldiers (an American veggie's take on a British classic), scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, or bagels, vegetable cream cheese, smoked salmon, tomatoes and red onions, buckwheat blueberry pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, crusty, multigrain toast with almond butter and bananas...I could go on but I think you get the picture.

I've seen some great breakfast ads, see here and below. Perhaps I'm predisposed to liking these adverts, but I think the copy and imagery combine like butter to hot crusts - perfectly.

What do you think?

Signs for the times

Stirring it up

I came across an interesting project from Publicis Mojo, Sydney, in this month's Creative Review. The poster project, entitled Words To Work By, is the first of a series of self-initiated projects that will see the agency link up and work with various different artists and designers…

It's great to see an agency encourage collaborative projects that are independent of budget and advertising parameters. Like Google's 20% innovation time-off, setting aside more time for projects (a la Green Thing), whether for social good or self-promotional marketing, can serve as a creative outlet that animates people internally and projects the right image of the agency to potential and prospective clients.

It's been said that creativity will help the industry recover from financial turmoil, which of course means different things to different people (at a recent meeting, my ears perked up when our CFO said that creative solutions would be key, only to discover he meant 'innovative' cost-savings).

But ultimately, creativity is about finding a new or different way to do or see things to solve problems/overcome challenges. Wikipedia defines creativity as a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts.

Sounds like just want will get us out of the ditch. And we might as well have fun while we get dirt under our nails.

Are you working on any independent projects in the office?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Sweet hour sucker

Last week went by like a whirlwind (this weekend did too, as hours escaped and tangled with hair around a steel drain while working on my online portfolio. So profusely happy that we have one more day. rocking).

And I realize why. I was deeply in the mix. Heavily involved in a 4 day quadathlon that involved idea hiccups, sketches (in and out of bins), crits and storms and Woody Allen banter between Maurice Citron (Conceptual Designer) and I (no, he's not French, an Irish Jew actually, who also happens to be an amazing artist).

And out of it we pulled concepts dripping with after-birth and stained with coffee. Whether or not we win or lose the pitch, I'm satisfied with the crack of the bat (swinnngggg). I had a blast working with Citron and attacking a tough brief. A taste below.