Monday, 29 July 2013

I've moved

I've had a lovely time updated this blog for the past few years.

But the time has come to say goodbye.

Everything new will be posted on

See you on the other side.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Telling brand stories with Nike

I've been thinking a lot about stories recently.

Johan Berger's 'Contagious' features an excellent chapter on brands using stories to push out their message. He says that the most successful ads create a narrative which resonates with the target audience.

The section investigates how we communicate with each other in and how we recall information when we recall an event in conversation; what details we include and what details we throw away. He writes:

'People don't think in terms of information. They think in narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.

'Make sure the information you want people to remember and transmit is crucial to the narrative.'

The Nike slogan, 'Just Do It', turned 25 years old this week; three words which have set the tone for the company's marketing for the past quarter century.

Football. Running. Cycling. You can achieve anything you put your mind to.

Nike are great story tellers. Below are two adverts from the Olympics. Both tell fantastic tales with the brand at the core. Find your greatness.

 But Nike is clever. It doesn't just want us to share these stores online; it wants us to create our own.*

The Nike+ app records everything about a jog.

The weather, the friends we went running with, how good it felt, what shoes we were wearing. The little kernels of information we use to create a a story.

The app makes it easy to share these stories on Twitter and Facebook. It allows us to be our own narrator.

These user-generated stories communicate the ethos of the Nike brand better than any advertising campaign ever could. Imagine the conversations after each run:

'Let me show you how my training for the marathon is going.'
'Even though the temperature was ridiculous, I did a 10km run.'
'I ran my quickest mile yesterday.'**

The brand is an integral part of the stories we share.


*See also the Coca-Cola 'share a bottle' campaign.

**The app also awards medals for completing certain tasks (running twice in a week, for instance), giving users another incentive to talk about their achievements.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

It's Just Burgers - Thoughts on the Marketing for Almost Famous

Almost Famous is a burger restaurant in Manchester*. I've never been.

It is, however, one of the most popular restaurants in the city. There's a queue outside the door on most nights and, from an outsider's perspective, it looks like a successful business (with rumours of a Liverpool outfit suggesting forthcoming expansion).

From a marketing perspective, Almost Famous is equally successful. It counts 22,500 followers on Twitter and clocks up 1,500 @ mentions per month. Tweets from strangers speak of the queues outside the venue, while melted cheese drips from the hundreds of Instagram photographs taken from inside its walls. The restaurant has a cult following which, given its niche menu, is exceptionally impressive

Indeed, as renowned Manchester commentator Simon Binns points out, 'anyone can make a burger. It's easy. Really, really easy.'

Which begs the question, how has Almost Famous become so popular?**

Very famous

Almost Famous launched in 2012. There was no address on the website, no sign on the door. It was a secret restaurant. As one blogger wrote, 'you had to be on Twitter to know where it was.' It is a 'discovery brand'***, exclusive; you had to be in the club to know it even existed.

Here's the first clue to its popularity. We all want to be in the club.

'We don't take reservations...turn up and wait it out if necessary'

My first awareness of Almost Famous was not on Twitter. I discovered the brand after walking past the queue of people outside the restaurant's front door (There's always a queue outside Almost Famous). I imagine that many other individuals had the same introduction to the brand.****

As consumers, we all get curious about a queue. We assume that what awaits us at the end of the queue must be relevant to our interests. The latest iPhone, Wimbledon tickets, free muffins.

People guess that whatever is at the end of the line must be worth the effort. Otherwise, why would there be a queue?  A line of waiting people is an example of a concept called 'social proof'; tangible evidence that something is popular enough to warrant interest.

My first introduction to Almost Famous was that there was a queue. And if there was a queue, I figured that the food must be worth waiting in line for.

Social social proof

I'd never seen a queue for a restaurant in the Northern Quarter before. It was a remarkable thing and I tweeted a photograph saying as much. Now, my 2000 followers and I were all thinking the same thing.

I've never seen people queue for a burger restaurant. 
The food must be amazing. 
Where is this place?
Why haven't I heard about it? 
When can I go?

I have not been the only person to tweet about the queue outside Almost Famous; dozens of tweets highlighting a queue outside of a burger restaurant. Hundreds of followers wondering what they are missing out on.

But a queue also makes us anxious. A queue means that something is popular. And if it's popular, that special something might run out.

What if the burgers run out before I get there? 

If something is scarce, we're even more anxious to get it. We want to join the queue, just in case we get left out. 'Food is generally till midnight but don't be upset if it stops at 10,' states the Almost Famous website. It's this perception of scarcity that contributes to the desirability of the restaurant.

Exclusivity and social media 

But there's another factor in play here.

All your social media content (tweets, pictures, Facebook updates) is part of your social currency. We share stuff that makes us look good to others. Stuff that shapes how people perceive us online.

We want to be seen as insiders. People with exclusive access.

Almost Famous doesn't have any windows. There are no photographs on the website. Unless you've been, you have no idea what it's like.

We want people to know we've eaten there. That we're in the know. In the club.

I'm in this exclusive restaurant and here's a photo of a burger to prove it.

The marketing is done through its customers.
It's just a burger

But, anyone can make a burger. It's two pieces of bread and a bit of meat.

Earlier in the year, Simon Binns, commented on the increasing fervour around burger restaurants in Manchester. His thoughts (from the link above):

"And so it is with Manchester's current obsession with burgers. Apparently, they're a new invention, or so some people trying to charge you a tenner each for them would have you believe."

He's right, of course. Five years ago, if I'd have wanted a burger, I'd have gone to any pub. It's two pieces of bread and a piece of meat. Nothing special.

But, Almost Famous has carved out its name (through word of mouth) as the place to go for burgers in Manchester. It's their USP. They're a specialist.

The Almost Famous Twitter account is a jumble; conversations with customers, product promotion and retweets (mainly of photographs of the food taken by customers). It's confident, bordering on arrogance, describing the food as 'killer' and 'boss'. This is called advertising.

But, as it's backed up by buzz from other users, the messages from Almost Famous have weight.

As a consumer, I'll go to Almost Famous because I know that, when I want a burger, they will serve me a remarkable product. They've told me so. The people I follow on Twitter have told me so. The queue outside has told me so.

As a consumer, everything I see about Almost Famous convinces me that they're the best at what they do. There are dozens of nice restaurants in Manchester that might do me an OK burger.

But, it won't be an Almost Famous burger.

Burger the strategy

So, how much of this is strategy and how much is a happy accident? Whatever your view of the venue, Almost Famous has wrapped its offering up in a compelling (and genuine) narrative. You might not like its style or food, but the approach has delivered online fans and offline customers.

Last week, research from marketing agency Online Ventures named the restaurant as one of the most successful Twitter accounts in Manchester.

I have no idea how true this is. I'd love to buy them a burger and find out.


*As a disclaimer, the majority of this post was written before the fire at Almost Famous in July. I was genuinely upset to see the news (as I'm all for independent businesses doing well) and I'd like to wish them all the luck in the world when they're back up and running.

**I'm not a food critic. This analysis is from a marketing perspective, rather than from a 'is this food good to eat' point of view.

***Take a look at the New York bar, Please Don't Tell for another example of this.

****The Almost Famous website is very clear to state that it doesn't manufacture the queue outside the venue. I believe them. I think the venue is just *that* popular.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Nostalgia in Advertising: Lock S-Foils in Attack Position.

As a teenager, my first computer console was a Nintendo 64. It was 1998 and one of my first games for the system was a title called Rogue Squadron. It was based on the Star Wars series; you were Luke Skywalker, whizzing around the galaxy in an X-Wing and shouting, 'Lock S-Foils in attack position' at the television. I was all for it.

I caught the last few minutes of Star Wars: A New Hope on the TV yesterday (the first film in the original series). The rebel base was gearing up for an attack on the Death Star and extras were running around, pumping fuel into the fleet before it embarked on the suicide mission. A panning shot over the base show four, maybe five, ships about to fly off into combat; the rebels were ridiculously outmatched. The scene reminded me of the beginning of each mission on Rogue Squadron; the option to choose a ship from a virtual hanger bay.


My brain sank its teeth into the image and suddenly I'm sixteen again; sitting in front of a small television (one with a built-in VCR), playing Rogue Squadron in the bedroom I grew up in. I could picture the posters on the walls, the colour of the carpet, see the signed West Bromwich Albion football sitting on the shelf. I thought about people that I used to know and I wondered if the corner shop at the bottom of the street was still there. 

Back in 2013, the X-Wing fighters took off. Han Solo saved the day. Chewbacca still didn't get his medal.

As individuals, we romanticise the past. We look back and see a better time. And to quote the sage wisdom of Mary Schmich, 'You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.'

Using nostalgia in advertising isn't anything new; brands have been exploiting memories and feelings about the past to generate sales for decades. More recently, Microsoft did it for Internet Explorer (albeit for an American audience) last year and VW Polo did a decent job in the ad below. P&G brands are also repeat offenders for this sort of tactic.

Our penchant for nostalgia gives brands the opportunity to link their products to our rose-tinted view of history. We remember playing old video games until 2am because there wasn't school the next day. We remember the first road trip after passing our driving test and we remember the make of the car that look us there. In the words of Don, taken from the best scene to be filmed in Mad Men, 'nostalgia takes us to a place where we ache to go again.'

All this is a very convoluted way of saying that I spent £10 on a fifteen-year old video game on Amazon yesterday and I'm ok with it. Lock S-foils in attack position.


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Quickly shooting video on the iPhone

Recently, I've been looking into doing more first reponder filming; capturing footage that doesn't need huge amounts of prep time or kit; video that can be quickly uploaded onto YouTube after being shot, distributed an hour or so after being filmed.

As it's connected to my hip anyway, my iPhone5 seemed a good a place as any to start.

But, while it's got a fairly decent camera Yodaing it up on the back, filming on the iPhone has always produced awful footage; more shaky wedding video where the wedding has a free bar and you've had a couple of beers and you sort of need the toilet but don't want to miss the first dance than slick corporate video.

 With this in mind, and kindly sponsored by my lovely employers Delineo, I've been trying out a few bits of kit to see if I can capture video without too much dicking around (industry term), both on-site and back in the office.

Firstly, there's the shaky-cam issue. Obviously, handheld video is always going to get a bit wobbly; arms get tired, legs fidget, you get distracted by a bumblebee.

In the end, I settled on a fairly nice solution in the shape of a smartphone grip for my mini tripod; a pincer that holds the phone in place during filming. It does the job well. Your smartphone isn't going to plummet to the ground and your footage stays strictly on the horizon.*

 Secondly, there's the issue of sound. In my experience, the iPhone does fine and dandy with recording audio if it's fairly close to the source of the noise. It's alright for talking heads and the like, but not so much with anything else.

I picked up this microphone for a tenner. It's nothing special, but it's lightweight and produces much better audio than the iPhone can manage on its own. There are also two settings - wide and narrow - depending on how close you are to the source. I've not really played around with it as much as I should have, and I suspect it might fall over at any great distance, but it does the job so far.

Editing and uploading is fairly easy via the iMovie app. I put together the video below for an event I was helping to run for Didsbury Arts Festival, compiling multiple videos, in a couple of hours. Uploading it to YouTube took about fifteen minutes over WiFi, which wasn't too shabby for a two minute, high-res video. I probably wouldn't want to do it over 3G though.


 Keep in mind a couple of things though:

 Storage. My phone is a 16GB iPhone5. It's full of apps and I only managed to capture about an hour of footage before it started getting fat with files.

Battery. You'll need an external battery. As a starter, this one has worked out well for me, so I'd probably begin the search here.

Quality. At the end of the day, you're shooting on a smartphone. Light, sound and picture quality are always going to be a little on the rough side. Just bear it in mind before promising the world.

 Happy shooting.

 *As an aside, ALWAYS film horizontally, unless you like attractive black borders around your video on YouTube.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Human Swarms and Nineteen Eighty-Four's Amazon Sales sales of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four have jumped 6,108 per cent over the past few days. The dystopian fiction, which was ranked in the bottom 7,000 in the bestseller's list last week, is now the 124th most popular book in America.

Coincidentally, it was also an excellent numbers week for 'Light Plane Maintenance' (up 741% in Magazines) and the quantity of people worried about the government reading private emails.

In the case of Nineteen Eighty-Four, There's been no Christmas Number One campaign, no Facebook event championing the cause, no rise in Google searches for the book or its author (See below). This was just one of those things. A natural swarm towards Orwell's chilling vision of the future; an organic response to recent developments.

Last week's Channel 4 documentary The Human Swarm is nice background viewing on this topic; how purchases are dictated by external factors like the weather or the news cycle. It's genuinely interesting stuff and well worth your time if you're interested in this sort of thing.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Closure threat to Manchester Science Museum (Twitter reactions)

Yesterday, the Manchester Evening News ran a story claiming that the ace Museum of Science and Industry was potentially under threat of closure.

I've plucked some charts from a few analytics tools to show the scale of conversation on Twitter about the museum's closure. Each chart demonstrates the popularity of a particular keyword (as some people might just use the handle of the museum, while others might just share the link).

Most popular tweeted links

Tweets mentioning the museum's Twitter handle '@voiceofmosi' (583 in total)

Tweets mentioning 'Museum of Science and Industry' (2,417 in total)

Tweets mentioning 'MOSI' (1685 in total)

Tweets mentioning the hashtag '#SaveMosi' (1586 in total)

The location and reach of the references to MOSI

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The New Digital Age and why Google+ makes absolute sense

I’m currently ploughing through The New Digital Age, a roadmap for the future of the internet, from Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. To be honest, I’d not heard anything about the book, putting my hand in my wallet due to the strength of the names on the jacket.*

As you’d expect of a book from such a pair, there’s lots of stuff to chew over; the chapters about the emergence of a two-tier internet or the increasing role of the state in governing the online space are excellent. And while I initially struggled through the first chapter, which read a bit like a wet dream wishlist from a Tomorrow’s World episode, the book eventually finds its footing, offering a nice insight into the future as seen by the leading minds at Google.

If you read between the lines, it also gives a bit of a glimpse into Google's plan for the future; how the company might expand its product portfolio to accommodate new digital trends.

Based on these thoughts, Google+ makes absolute sense.

At the moment, Google+ is a bit like the Milton Keynes of the internet. On paper, it’s a perfect social network. It’s usable, intuitive and looks smashing (the updated iPhone app is a treat). But it’s a bit of a joke. No one really uses it to the extent they use Twitter or Facebook and the platform is frequently ridiculed as another attempt by Google to get on the social media bandwagon. But, having read Schmidt’s and Cohen’s predictions for the evolution of the internet, I’m not so sure. I don’t think Google+ is a social network for right now. It’s a platform designed to accommodate how we'll use the internet in two, five, or ten years (at least in two regards). Let me explain:

Schmidt and Cohen spend a lot of time writing about the future of online user behaviour. The increasing desire for individuals to have more control over the content they consume is a Big Thing for them.

The pair see more personalisation in their crystal ball; a desire for users to create an in-tray of news and opinions, addressing specific interests, without having to filter through irrelevant noise.

And Google+ does this very well. Within its circles format, users can syphon individuals into specific groups. If I want technology news, I’ll go to that circle. If I want local news, I’ll go to the section labelled ‘Manchester’. Facebook and Twitter are a constant stream of content; television mixed with breaking news, mixed with pictures of cake. It’s noisy. And unless I choose to spend a six hours of my life filtering everyone into lists, I can’t influence what content gets priority. Google+ addresses this problem of information overload (an issue I see becoming more and more prevalent as the online world gets bigger and noisier).

The book also comments on the developing demand for authenticity; for individuals to be transparent about their identity and motivations. There’s an interesting point on page 33 about search engines (and governments) turning to online identity verification in order to reduce the number of anonymous, ‘unseen’ commentators. Being unseen in the future, Schmidt and Cohen argue, will be bad for your career prospects, your educational choices and your credit rating.

To pull a quote from the book:

‘The true cost of remaining anonymous ,then, might be irrelevance; even the most fascinating content, if tied to an anonymous profile, simply won’t be seen because of its excessively low ranking...Identity will be the most valuable commodity for citizens in the future and it will exist primarily online.’**

The integration between Google+ and other services from the company offers a glimpse into the small steps Google is already taking in order to verify your identity, tying up profiles with a host of other services such as YouTube or Blogger, as well as using the platform to influence search ranking placement. The fact that Google+ is so publicly linked to your email address (which accepts a mobile number for verification during set up), is a glimpse at how the company is pushing us towards a more transparent way of existing online.

Food for thought.

No mention of hoverboards, though.
*There’s also a quote from Richard Branson on the back cover, if that’s the kind of thing that influences your purchasing behaviour.

**It’s worth noting there’s currently a setting on Google Dashboard that allows you to show the search results for your own name.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Reclaim workshop

In my spare time, I run 330Words, a not-for-profit writing community for authors and people who would like to be authors but don’t particularly know where to start. The thing's been ticking along for three years now and I'm quietly pleased about the community that's grown up around the site.

Next month, as part of 330Words, I’m going to be running a workshop with Reclaim, a great Manchester-based charity that works with young people to develop skills and confidence.

I’ll be teaching a session about creative writing based on my experiences with 330Words and hopefully imparting some thoughts on how to write a short story. If all goes to plan, the group will be writing some of their own work on the day and I’ll be putting the best ones live on the site.

I’ve lectured before on social media, but definitely looking forward to branching out. Exciting stuff.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Redesigning the save symbol

There’s an interesting discussion currently taking place on Branch about the relevance of the ‘Save’ icon; the 3.5 inch floppy disk that sits in the left-hand corner of most word-processing systems.

I haven’t used a floppy disk since the demise of my Acorn Archimedes in the early 90s and the discussion about replacing the symbol in the interests of relevance is an interesting one. Aside from suggesting a number of alternatives to the humble floppy disk, there’s also a fascinating argument relating to the semantic implications of choosing a new symbol.

Dane Petersen provides my favourite comment:

“The interesting thing about the floppy disk icon is that it isn't an abstract representation of the data object itself, but an anachronistic representation of the act of saving itself.

It sidesteps the issues of, say, a document icon being too specific (and not an appropriate symbol for, say, saving an edited video), or a circle icon being too generic (and not recognizable as representing a data object), by not attempting to represent the object at all. The floppy disk icon is brilliant in its idiocy.”

There’s also an argument about whether the save icon needs replacing at all. On his blog, Conner Tomas O’ Brien makes a strong case for keeping the status quo.

“Once a symbol enters a culture's visual language, it can convey meaning on its own, even after the physical object it ostensibly represents is obsoleted.”

Monday, 8 April 2013

The cautionary tale of Paris Brown

Over the weekend, The Mail on Sunday reported on the tale of Paris Brown, the newly appointed youth police and crime commissioner with a tendency to tweet her mind. The piece focused on the nature of the Tweets from the 17-year-old's personal Twitter account; comments which were described by her boss, Ann Barnes, as rude, offensive, unpleasant and unacceptable. You can read the full report from the BBC here.

"A lot of young people use them and say the most horrible things. They don't even think about what they are saying and I think this is what's happened with Paris," reflected Barnes.

"Won't it be good if, from her own experience, she can try to get over to young people that [some things] they say on Twitter or Facebook are unacceptable?” she added.

The eminent Steve Kuncewicz wrote an interesting comment on the situation. While you should all pop across to his site to read his take on the whole affair, I’ve pulled out a paragraph below:

"What you say online has real consequences in the real world. More and more cases in the employment tribunal revolve around social media comments and, despite the data protection and human rights issues involved in online vetting, I’d bet that most employers take a look at candidates before employing them.”

Wise words for a Monday morning.

Occasionally, I lecture to university students, advising them on how best to use social media to job hunt. My favourite stats come from a survey done by in 2010 (I bet this figure has gone up).

  • 53 per cent of employers look at the social media profiles of applicants to a position.
  • 43 per cent of these employers chose not to hire a candidate based on content they found.

Smash cut to Monday afternoon. The newspaper print on yesterday’s Mail on Sunday wasn’t even dry.

Surprising no one, the passing of Margaret Thatcher was extensively covered on everyone’s favourite 140-character social network of choice. Thatcher was a divisive figure and the commentary on Twitter reflected as much. Some people liked her, some did not.

And that’s absolutely fine.

Opinions are good. Twitter is a messy senate for the masses and I love that I get to eavesdrop arguments which dart between politics and television shows in a heartbeat. Opinions make social media an interesting place. And I can choose to agree or disagree with you at my leisure. But this isn’t my point.

Never write on Twitter what you wouldn’t want to be quoted on by your mum, boss or the BBC.

Some of today's tweets about Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t have looked out of place on the front cover of a national newspaper.

Social media isn’t new anymore and we’re not lawless pioneers in the wild west of the internet. What we say can be recorded, documented and played back to us. Time and time again, we have seen the repercussions of an ill-judged tweet; firings, legal action and convictions. Our words don’t just float away into cyberspace.

We need to be aware that, even on social media, our words have real ramifications.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Pitch Party Update - Running with Nike

This weekend, I had the chance to pick the brains of Tuheen Huda, winner of last year's Pitch Party competition. He's a sterling chap and it was great to get his thoughts on what I need to put together between now and next January for my own play.*

I've spent the best part of the weekend putting together some ideas about what I want to say during my play; what themes I want to explore and what, ultimately, I want the audience to get out of the experience.

The piece I performed during Pitch Party looked at the divide between our real lives and our digital personas; how we pick and choose what to post online in order to present a distilled, idealised version of ourselves on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

I run a fair bit, but I'm fairly selective about what I let the Nike app autopost to Twitter after a jog. If it's a decent run, I'll probably want to share it. If not then, well, I won't.


Friday, 29 March 2013

On public speaking and going a bit off track

I enjoy public speaking.

Yesterday, I gave a presentation to students on the Search and Social Media Marketing course at Salford University, discussing advertising through social media. They were a great class and Media City is a lovely place to spend some time. A good start to the Easter weekend.

On the way home, I was replaying bits of the presentation in my head; the parts that went well and the sections that could have been better. On more than one occasion, I left my slides to expand on a point or answer a question during the presentation. I couldn’t decide if this was a good or bad thing.

I’ve sat through hundreds of presentations, but I can remember just a handful of them. The most interesting ones, the ones that added the most value, all had something in common. At some point during the speech, the speaker went off the PowerPoint rails and just started talking.

I’ve occasionally spoken at Tales of Whatever and my decision to practise my stories beforehand raises a few eyebrows. But, I don’t learn it all word for word; I remember the key points and flesh out the rest of the story on stage. Sometimes this means I talk about interesting things I didn’t really plan on discussing. I think the same can be said for presentations.

Presentations should add value; they should be structured, informative and answer questions. But I think you might get the most out of them when they go a little bit off track.

Additionally, I said I’d include an example of Storify for the students on the course. Various tweets from the talk are below:

Monday, 18 March 2013

Finding a home for podcasts

I've never been able to find a home for podcasts.

I think the medium is the issue. At home, I listen to the radio or Spotify; noise to fill up the flat as I work or read. Trouble is, I want podcasts to add value, rather than just serve as background noise. I want to be an active listener, as opposed to keeping half an ear out while my attention roams elsewhere.

Recently (yesterday), I've been giving some thought into how I can start getting the most out of podcasts without it eating into the desk time I'd reserve for writing or Minecraft. I think there's a space for them somewhere,a civil partnership to be made with some other routine, although I've yet to find it.

Some ideas I discounted fairly quickly:
  • Running - Unless the presenter has a 150bmp speaking style, I don't imagine it being very conducive to a good lap time.
  • Morning commute - Potentially, although my commute is ten minutes on foot and if my caffeine intake is a bit logy, I think it'll be a waste of an exercise. 
  • In the kitchen - If anyone could do a podcast that comfortably fills the six minutes before the microwave pings, I'd been all ears.
  • Asleep - Knowledge via 100 per cent cotton osmosis.
To be workshopped (verb, probably).

Monday, 21 January 2013

Acting face - Pitch Party and digital personas


Somewhat remarkably, my pitch won last night. I've now got a year to do something interesting with it, with the view to create a full-blown play for the stage. So, that's pretty neat. 

A huge congratulations to the team at Re:Play for putting together a fantastic event, The Lowry staff for accommodating my diva-esque tech requests, and well done to all of the acts who performed on the night. It was a tip-top evening . 


Last month, I was shortlisted to appear at Pitch Party, an event for Manchester's re:play festival which will see me write and act out a section of an original piece of work for the stage. Three other talented folks have also been selected and one of us will be crowned winner, going on to have the respective play produced for next year's festival. Which is all very exciting.

So, what am I doing?

For a while now, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of digital personals. How we, as social media users, portray ourselves through sites like Twitter and Facebook. How we spin scenarios and exaggerate events in order to create our perfect digital lives.

The play I’m performing on Friday is called ‘Me, But Better’. It explores how online profiles can become almost fictional versions of our daily life; how what we choose to say, or not say, creates an almost perfect image of how we want to be perceived by friends and followers.

Over the next week, I’ll be posting on the *fictional* Twitter feed @tombutbetter as a prologue to the event on Friday. I’ll use the account to explore some of these concepts and the feed will conclude with the live performance on Friday. If you’re free, do pop by. If only because I need someone to tweet me on the night.

As ever, I'll still be tweeting on my original (and genuine) account @totmac if you want to chip in with your two cents.  

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Creative Mischief by Dave Trott

I caught up with some reading over Christmas. Aside from ploughing through a couple of novels, I finally read ‘Creative Mischief’ by Dave Trott, executive creative director for CSTTG.

The book doesn't have a narrative of sorts, but rather offers a collection of anecdotes and fables from Dave's time in advertising. It’s an excellent read and offers plenty of creative food for thought.

One of the things that struck me while reading the book was just how many of Dave’s tales started with someone giving voice to a risky idea; a ‘that will never work’ concept from a creative director or copywriter which many would have considered too unsafe to run with.
It's a book full of stories about these risky ideas and how, eventually, these concepts evolved into some of the most celebrated and successful advertising campaigns. 

Dave's point is that many risky ideas don't see the light of day because, ultimately, there's a chance they might fail. He argues that, as creatives, we'd rather place our bets on a safe idea with a precedent of success, rather than face the risk of failure with something that's never been tired before. As I said: food for thought.

As an aside, after reading Dave's book, I read an apt quote from ShellSuitZombie the other week about social media: 'If you're not bricking it, you're not doing it right.'

If you feel so inclined, you can download a copy of Dave's book here.