Influence Influenza

Influence Influenza

 

Last week, the Sunday Times launched a new app called The Social List. Set to compete with Klout and Peer index, the app is being positioned as "The definitive measure of the most influential people in the social space."

With social media now such an integral part of most brands' marketing mix, we have seen a rise in these kinds of tools in an attempt to quantify reach and influence. Although most of the tools available so far seem like a poor attempt to apply old forms of measurement to a new medium.

Influence is not something that can easily be measured through various algorithms or keywords, as RAAK Social Media proved when they put Klout to the test with four Twitter bots that automatically tweet.

The four bots tweet once every minute, once every five minutes, once every fifteen minutes and once every thirty minutes, respectively. They were completely anonymous, with no avatars or custom user profiles set, and did not follow anyone. After 80 days, RAAK found that the bot that tweeted every minute had a Klout score of 51 out of 100. This research not only highlights the underlying flaws of social influence measurement tools like Klout, but also forces us to really think about the problems with measuring influence in general.

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Camille Baker: The modality coda

Camille Baker: The modality coda

 

Artistic applications of digital technology fundamentally require an understanding of technological capabilities. As documented in many online publications, including Imperica, the world is full of successful examples.

These examples are successful because, in most cases, the artist has understood how to apply chosen technologies to their aims of production. Silicon hardware and digital media become part of the answer to an artistic conundrum. However, that is clearly not always the case, and digital artworks – and art to which technology has played a part – have the danger of becoming less about the theories and thinking which create the work, and more about the technology that has helped with the production of the work. That isn't necessarily the isolated fault of the artist, but symptomatic of a society based on capital and commercial construct: the lure of the new and shiny.

Camille Baker vehemently opposes what, for many, is a default human reaction: to concentrate on the tools for their own means, rather than use them to reinforce and build on one's artistic credentials. Her clarion call is to ask what a question of what's more important to an artist: what's more important, tools or trying to explore the same problem in different ways? She sees artists that understand how and where technology can play a role, as all too rare. A new modality is required, with new modes of practice. They may produce new solutions, or they may not... but they will certainly offer a lot of new questions.

Baker's own work has explored these challenges. She explores artistic conundrums within a more telematic means of performance; mobile phones have become a recent focus. Her mobile workshop at the recent Digital Stages Festival is indicative of an interest in mobile as a multi-purpose tool in performance – across visual, gestural, and non-verbal means of communication.

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Quiet realities

Quiet realities

Systems have linked data with physical objects for decades. We are all used to the bar code, and the occasional attempt to halt the tide of automating retail systems through them. To some, they represent more than just a series of black and white lines.

QR codes, a recent innovation in this area, provides more opportunities than bar codes. They are free, in that it is possible for anyone to generate a QR code based on information such as a URL, email address, or contact details. They can also be customised in their display – to a point. There will always be a certain blockiness to them, but can contain limited features such as colour.

Terence Eden is an energetic, infectious advocate of QR codes. Eden is expecting a flourishing scene to be built up around them – their use, their proliferation and propagation, and an understanding of their potential in the eye of the consumer. Essentially, to Eden, QR codes are the lever that is so needed by both publishers and consumers, unlocking information at an environmental point of access which is comfortable with the consumer. They will no longer need to memorise or write down URLs, or type them into mobile devices with small keyboards. Further, and importantly from the perspective of access, QR does not require an aggregator, as is required with a competing technology like Microsoft Tag.

However, this is not to say that QR codes are easily understood by publishers and agencies. Eden's work in QR technology has given him a level of knowledge and opinion in the matter that is both passionate and logical. It seems easy to consider how and where QR codes should be used, but we are still in the early days of their use, so experiments will take place and mistakes will be made.

One of the problems of the QR experience to date is, for Eden, actually one of the easiest to overcome. Many QR codes, designed to be scanned by consumer mobiles, point people towards a full website without considering that someone is on a mobile phone, without plugins such as Flash. He gives the example of an ad in the Evening Standard for a tour operator, whose QR code initially took the reader to a mobile-formatted webpage, only for it to start to download a 10mb PDF. This is less of a technological issue, than one of assuming a single audience: if more consumers are adopting QR code reader technologies in their phone (either with new devices or retrospectively), then there will be a wider variety of situations. Not everyone will have an iOS or Android smartphone, and not everyone will be on wi-fi. The offered code has to be flexible to operate within a wide variety of mobile environments. This sounds pretty obvious and logical, but is still missed when campaigns are in development.

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Big decisions

Big decisions

 

If you think that the growth of IP traffic has been been exponential in the past decade, then this decade is going to be something else. We're only starting to see what the Internet is capable of. If the past decade has placed HTTP port 80 traffic – the web – at the centre, then expect this decade to be much more decentralised in terms of the types of devices sending out data, and the types of devices receiving data.

Telemetry has been revolutionised by the common protocol. Where data used to be hard to retrieve and share, it's now possible to obtain from practically anywhere, to throw it somewhere, and to make it meaningful. And, making it meaningful is the hardest bit. By far.

Giving both clarity and context to data is gaining in interest, as access to data is becoming easier. Data visualisation – dataviz – is now starting to become interesting to a wider group of people, as the ability to process lots of data and to make it look visually elegant becomes easier to achieve. Giving context to data is essentially the practice of statistical analysis; the word statistics is of central European origin, meaning "political state". The study and discipline of statistics allowed Governments to understand the effectiveness of its functions, and to see where interventions had to be made. As ITO's Chris Osborne observes, the availability of rich data within our environments has transformed statistics into urban arithmetic.

Previously, statisticians and planners were required to model outcomes, based on predictions and assumptions. It was Edward Tufte that transformed these decisions into high-level iconography, making data visualisation accessible to all. Now, with the accessibility of visuals comes the accessibility of data.

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The magic of the roundabout

The magic of the roundabout

 

It's not too far from Canary Wharf to Shoreditch, but they feel like different worlds. The slick, futuristic architecture of Canary Wharf, with its skyscrapers tickling the undercarriage of City Airport's aeroplanes, contrasts rather starkly with the shabby Victoriana of Shoreditch. What both areas have in common is their change in the past 30 years; where Shoreditch has become a funky, creative area for artists and small businesses, Canary Wharf was built entirely from scratch after acres of land on the Isle of Dogs were cleared by the LDDC.

These environments were brought together last week, when a team of Canary Wharf-based employees of OgilvyOne, the direct business of Ogilvy, embarked on a tour of digital creative businesses in Shoreditch – or, specifically, what is now known as Silicon Roundabout. The area is clearly going to continue its evolutionary journey, with the possibility of more digital businesses locating to the area, on the back of Tech City.

The tour is a mix of fun and serious business for the agency. Visiting and talking with successful businesses such as Last.fm, Moo and It's Nice That enabled the team to have a greater understanding of each business, and the success that has enabled them to operate in European, and sometimes global, markets. There's a camaraderie to the visit, with the team wearing "My mum & dad went to Silicon Roundabout" T-shirts making the atmosphere feel something like a postmodern coach tour.

Fundamentally, there are serious motives to the visit. OgilvyOne want to understand these businesses in some detail. They want to know what the focal point is of each business; and how their approaches (for example, of rapid development) could be adapted to processes and working practices within the agency. The team are also there to consider how each business on the tour could partner with OgilvyOne with future client work.

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Marcos Lutyens: a sensory story

Marcos Lutyens: a sensory story

The world loves stories of space exploration. The infinity of space is a challenge for humanity, in how we explore, map and experience it. However, it's nothing compared to the challenges of mind exploration. The rolling expanses of the mind – a perceptual entity based on the physical organ of the brain – is a place that we all like to explore: in dreams, in memories, and in alternate realities.

The mind sometimes plays tricks on us. With some, it can play tricks at every move. The study of synesthesia, neurological responses to environmental stimuli, is not without its difficulties. Both personal and deep, synesthesia is the mechanism by which something in our physical environment occurs, but we understand it to be something else.

As an artist, Marcos Lutyens' work with synesthesia and related "trickery" such as hypnosis, is based on years of work with neuroscientists. His interest is to use the mind as a forum for exploring art, with the culmination of this research and work being the FlavourCollider, a work with Absolut Vodka.

FlavourCollider involves the wearing of a special headset, which transposes the taste of a flavoured vodka into dizzying visuals. While the headset undertakes the computational work in terms of the visualisation, it's fundamentally the mind that is the enabler here. As Lutyens himself observes, in recent years "...I have investigated a number of approaches as to what's going on with the mind, and have come to the realisation that there are so many different, fragmented things going on in our lives: phones, the Internet... all of these other ways of perceiving our reality. They all so fragmented that the only convergence point is in the mind."

Lutyens' research has involved deep and close working with synesthesia – people that have a pre-disposition to associate different sensory modalities (in basic terms, interpreting things differently). synesthetes do not have control over how they interpret the world around them. "It's rather poetic, metaphorical creativity. It happens to them, whether they want it or not." The research featured work with a group of synesthetes in San Francsico, where Lutyens sent them to a McDonalds, and asked them to describe it. One participant understood words as having different colours, so their view was that the golden arches were wrong, because they should have been "red". Another interpreted all of the sounds within McDonalds as sensational body movement. A third, who had been working with pioneering neuroscientist Richard Cytowic, interpreted the numerical factors such as prices and dates in terms of physical factors around her. Although these interpretations and processes are different, Lutyens has yet to meet a synesthesia that turns taste into visuals, the purpose of the FlavourCollider.

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The free design

The free design

The disruptive force of digital media within markets has not gone underreported. As technology companies become some of the world's largest, they have played a fundamental role in creating new markets, and completely transforming existing ones.

The compliment to these commercial successes is the extraordinary culture of 'free' that has worked in an unwritten partnership with commerce, to give us the democratised online world that we see today. The pervasiveness of the free culture, spirit and approach means that not one commercial force can control the Internet, although many have tried (and many more than once).

While many column inches have been written about the rise of global players in tech, less has been written about how 'free' has made such a tremendous contribution to the development of culture, technology, working practices, and the perception of value. Ranging from the major contributors to free software – such as Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds – to those that spend an hour or two a week making a contribution, it's a story that appears to warrant greater telling, and it's one that is still being created. Without the culture of 'free', you simply will not be reading this article in its current form.

Bill Thompson's appreciation of free software and culture is shared by many. He agrees that the story is a remarkably successful one, even if it is told at less volume than the stories generated by commercial success. "We've done remarkably well; it's just not very apparent. Some don't appreciate how much the hacker ethos, the sense that the community works together to solve problems, that many people are willing to give their intellectual effort to solve problems and then make the solution available to the community without looking for financial reward... actually underpins what's going on."

The principles which underpin 'free' are entirely compatible with Thompson's own leftist beliefs. It is easy to consider global markets in 2011, with their austerity measures, bailouts and socially-driven volatilities, as being driven by doom. Believing this does the success of our mixed economy a great injustice. It's this mix – between the production and supply of products for free, those in a commercial model – that has never prevailed, anywhere, at this level. Societies have often had capitalist or communist markets forced upon them; the rich mix of choice and availability across free and commercial products within one framework is unique to where we are, right now. One wonders as to whether locking Smith, Keynes, Marx and Engels in a room (a complete hypothesis, of course) would have enabled such a subtle, blended economic framework. "I believe in a mixed economy. In that sense, things are far from ideal, but I don't despair all the time and for people on the left in politics, not to despair all the time is a win, frankly."

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Ruth Catlow: Internet interventions

Ruth Catlow: Internet interventions

Networks are disrupting our society. They offer new opportunities, while bringing age-old issues into sharper focus. If networks offer us a chance to engage and connect with others in order to crystallise thinking, the devices that provide a connection to them can be ecologically unpleasant. According to Ruth Catlow, we are nowhere near a harmonious resolution to these problems – even though we can almost feel them within our grasp.

Catlow is the co-founder and co-director of Furtherfield, a digital community of co-creators that are interested in the intersection between art and technology, complimented by the Furtherfield Gallery in north London, a space dedicated to the exhibition and performance of work. Underpinning the organisation is a creative approach which is inspired by the metaphors and material media of networks within art.

The discursive culture within Furtherfield is substantial and important. Many artists from an online community of around 15,000 collaborate with the organisation each year. The behaviours within it, and within Furtherfield, are largely non-hierarchical: its motto is DIWO, Do It With Others. It requires Catlow and her team to be constantly considering new systems of co-operation, which in themselves may require new models of operation and sustainability.

Furtherfield came from the development of critical approaches to digital and media art in the mid-1990s. These thinkers and artists saw networks as a space: one that opened up new ways for them to produce work, and to intervene in existing processes, particularly given the democratic nature of the Internet. As Catlow says, "... it is the old Brechtian idea that art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it. If you put art and technology together, then that really makes sense. Art and technology can shape society, shape people's thinking, and can form a 'group imaginary'."

In recent years, the organisation has been running an informal programme around issues of digital culture, including its relationship with, and impact on, the environment. It was decided by Catlow and her team that this programme, including exhibitions and artistic work featuring imaginary engagements with issues of technology and the environment, should also take the form of an event.

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Mark Coniglio: Repetition and invention

Mark Coniglio: Repetition and invention

Before you read this article, make a small movement, then repeat it.

Repetition. Looping. Over and over again. It's something that we assume that we can do. The performers of Loop Diver will give you a rather different view.

Loop Diver is a work from New York-based group Troika Ranch, led by Mark Coniglio and Dawn Stoppiello. Coniglio's seemingly unrelenting flow of creativity has resulted in work across media, performance, and software – with no jarring between these supposedly individual, different disciplines. Indeed, one might consider Coniglio to be one of the forerunners of much of the contemporary thinking around transmedia.

Electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick played a vital role in shaping Coniglio's career, enabled him to mentally conjoin composition with technology. Making software with Subotnick, as well as learning composition from him, enabled a practical understanding of the role that new media and technology could play in composing, and performing, artistic work. Subsequent innovations have included, for example, the first MIDI-powered system for dance, measuring joint inflection on the dancer and allowing them to create music by bending their limbs. Meeting choreographer Stoppiello at CalArts set off a partnership that has flourished over two decades. Through Troika Ranch, they have made pieces which carefully integrate performance with media, spanning film, performance, and installation.

Loop Diver is the latest piece in this partnership, recently performed in the UK as part of London's Digital Stages Festival.

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Magic manufacturing

Magic manufacturing

Since the 1970s, the transformation of advertising businesses into multinational forces has been rampant. Two particular, inter-related, forces have been at play in recent years: the growth of BRIC and their commercial possibilities; and the permeation of interconnected digital media. These have helped advertising and marketing groups to grow their revenues from millions to billions, and to create networks that can be overlaid onto the territories of multinational clients, while being cognisant of local, cultural nuances.

Japanese communications giant Dentsu is no stranger to the opportunities and challenges of scale. With offices across the world, it has a rich heritage of interesting, creative work that has made the business one of the world's largest in the sector.

With growth comes new opportunities, and while it is easy to create adaptation offices, or cut-and-paste offices - using either the HQ or local agencies as the master - the creation of a new London office suggested a different approach.

The UK is not short of creative talent, and Dentsu has come the market at a later time than others. As agencies should have a reasonably good grasp on the principles of differentiation – as it's what they do every day with their clients – the team at Dentsu was given the possibility to conduct such a strategy with its new London office. The resulting business, Dentsu London, is a very different business to its parent.

Dentsu London has been given the freedom to be as creative in its execution as in its business model: offering original, quirky, independent executions in response to local ideas, developments, and briefs. Head of Strategy Beeker Northam explains the thinking. “We have been given freedom as to what we do, what we say, how we make money, and the kind of work that we make. When I came on board, it was a blank slate: an opportunity to consider what might be a different way. We wanted to create a philosophy that would fuel everything, and to encourage ourselves to deliver the most ambitious work that we could.”

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On curation

On curation

 

The late-nineties analogy of "surfing the Internet" no longer works. The explosion in digital content makes the experience less of a breezy ride on a wave of crafted material, and more of an attempt to cut through a leafy jungle with a blunt scythe. And blindfolded.

As a result, filtering has become more and more important as a way to establish quality and relevance to a personal experience of consuming digital content. The concept that underpins this, is curation – a hand-picked selection of material.

Why is curation now so important? Why has it become so interesting, so quickly, and what can be done to ensure that with curation comes quality? We asked three digital content leaders for their thoughts.

Philip John

Why has curation become such a hotly-talked-about concept?

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A question of taste

A question of taste

What a banana looks like should be a fairly easy question to answer.

What does the taste of a banana look like? Does it look different to the taste of a strawberry, and if so, how?

These and many similar questions have been at the forefront of the minds of teams at OgilvyOne and Greyworld in recent months, charged with bringing a requirement – to visualise taste – to life for consumers, based around a small ice cream brand with only one store in the UK.

That brand is Freggo. A sister brand of Argentinian steakhouse Gaucho, the brand is known across its native country as Freddo. When a UK store was opened two years ago, just off Regent Street in London and next door to Gaucho, its premium products were unknown to consumers, who had little experience of very-high-quality ice cream. The store quickly gained a loyal customer base through its quality offering, and its long opening times (until 3am), which gave it visibility to West End clubbers.

Having just one outlet in a market dominated by FMCG and chain retail immediately suggests something of a struggle. The brand must punch above its weight and offer something different and participatory, without necessarily resorting to cliché. Responding to the brief at Ogilvy were the creative partnership of Rae Stones and Fiona Sanday. Over 15 months, the duo, working with Andrew Shoben of Greyworld, conceived a campaign which led to the development of an interactive installation at the Menier Chocolate Factory gallery. Here, visitors could try a sample of an ice cream, and "visualise" their taste by describing it through using slider controls in a purpose-built Java application. The resulting, personalised, visual is projected in the gallery, as well as emailed to the recipient. The end result offers a personal relationship with data visualisation.

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Transmedia expressions

Transmedia expressions

The increase in interconnected devices, exponentially increases the potential to tell great stories. With new ways to tell stories, become new opportunities for many.

Push-button publishing has transformed the way in which we consume content, as well as give new, and newly-democratised ways to make and distribute it. Many of these innovations, as we know, are converging around one term: transmedia.

Because transmedia opens up a wealth of new possibilities, the interest in the concept and its models is gaining massive focus. With technology offering new possibilities within narrative, desires to tell stories in new ways are starting to become addressed by transmedia. It comes at a time when multiple industries are questioning themselves, and where they go from here.

Lance Weiler's interest is in telling stories that are relevant to this century, and to now. His work, including Pandemic, The Last Broadcast, and Head Trauma, involves creating stories which are designed to create social connections between people.

 

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A literate journey

A literate journey

"He's much nicer in real life than he is online".

This comment, made during IPA 4 to Richard Huntington, encapsulates the difference between the supposedly controversial, poky, conflictive author of Adliterate; and the real, warm, friendly – and opinionated – guy that, by day, is in charge of strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi.

Where this mismatch between perception and reality comes from, is in Adliterate: Huntington's passionate, and discursive blog that celebrates its sixth birthday this year. From that particular grain of blogs that sprouted up mid way through the last decade, Adliterate has a distinctive, personal voice - and then some. If blogging is about bringing a distinctive voice to life, then it has clearly succeeded. And, while the blog may be a more amplified, extreme version of Huntington in real life, he doesn't shy away from making sharp, opinionated points in real life either. It's almost as if both the "real" and the "Adliterate" selves are, in a sense, validating each other.

But, for Huntington, blogging has provided a way to give focus and a sense of purpose to a nascent community, as well as provide a platform to encapsulate current thinking.

"All of a sudden, in the early part of the last decade, all those thoughts you had on your way to the tube that were slightly random and weird: suddenly, there was a place to write them down and put them out. It was a gift to planners, because blogging was all about the random shit that you were thinking.

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Art and science: bonded by creativity

Art and science: bonded by creativity

If you were asked to define creativity, what would you say? The chances are that your definition will vary with others – many others. There is no instruction manual. While the creation of certain products may follow a ruleset, this process isn't creativity per se.

So, creativity is perhaps more concerned with a realisation of something intangible: turning loosely-formed but clearly-visualised ideas into something that is truly groundbreaking. By this broader definition, creativity not just informs artists to produce spectacular results, but also scientists, given that the common quest for artists and scientists is to effectively visualise the invisible.

Arthur Miller's work focuses on the cognitive processes and powers of visualisation that enable the boldest and most powerful creators to see a world which exists beyond sense perception, where there resides objective truth.

His talk, taking place tonight at UCL, uses examples of artists and scientists making bold, world-changing discoveries borne out of one's own sense of creativity to stunning effect.

Miller's views on creativity start with the similarities between artists and scientists in that nascent, magical moment of discovery. Both artists and scientists initially think along highly conceptual lines; Einstein and Picasso discovered new aesthetics to produce their best work. An aesthetic which was new to Einstein produced the Theory of Relativity, and Picasso developed a new aesthetic of reducing forms to geometry, something which would become the hallmark of cubism.

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Finding Facebook

Finding Facebook

"This morning my yoghurt told me to find it on Facebook. It didn't tell me why, it just told me to find it. Why on Earth would I want to find a yoghurt on Facebook? It's a yoghurt!"

This brief rant from my boss inspired me to do a little experiment. I called it Find us on Facebook, for it is this generic, uninspiring and uninformative 'call to action' that is slowly starting to get plastered on every piece of communication the world over: from TV adverts, to email newsletters, websites, posters and - yes - even yoghurt pots.

I proudly announced that I will live a week as a "social consumer", without entirely realising what I was letting myself in for. Every time a brand said "Find us on Facebook", I will Like their page and capture the experience. It sounded simple and innocuous enough, but I had naïvely expected that this yoghurt and its lack of effort - or inspiration - may have been a one-off.

It wasn't.

Over the course of a week, 46 brands (that I had noticed) asked me to find them on Facebook with a variety of different messages and calls to action: find us, like us, search for, follow, visit. What shocked me was that out of those 46 brands, only 10 of them had actually provided me with a reason to like them on Facebook. 21 of those brands told me to do it and that was it. The other 15 didn't really say anything at all; they just slapped a URL or a logo across their communications to inform me that they were on Facebook. Well, thanks for telling me.

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Re-inventing reality

Re-inventing reality

Augmented Reality is no longer just a concept; it itself is real. Once – like many innovations – a mainstay of semi-realist science fiction novels and films, the smartphone revolution has propelled it into the big league. While AR has become commonplace in mobile B2C campaigns, it is clear that such subject matter scratches the surface of possibility.

While AR has been seen for some time as being potentially useful to museums and galleries, it has largely been seen from an experiential angle – adding value to a public visit, for example. A more powerful, and socially valuable, application is what Tessa Morrison and Ning Gu are examining at Australia's University of Newcastle.

The partnership was formed through a shared curiosity of improving the ways that people look at the history of buildings. As an architectural historian, Morrison's fascination was based on considering how the time-based visualisation of a building or area could be improved. On meeting Gu, an architect with a strong technological understanding, an idea was devised which led to their new project, combining AR with architectural history.

Morrison's ideas formed while working on a project which looked at Sydney Cove. The project utilised 2D and Archicad to produce 3D visualisations. However, she felt that putting these visualisations into a real environment, had genuine transformational and experiential power. When Gu told her about AR, a shared vision came to live, in terms of the architecture of buildings is visualised.

2D graphic design and 3D modelling have their benefits and limitations in exploring ideas. Even with 3D, although the idea is explored in a deeper way, the virtual world remains in total isolation: it is never connected with the physical environment. Where the duo see AR's potential, is to enable both the designer and architectural historians to insert digital information into a physical environment.

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New ad ventures

New ad ventures

Following our recent article on agency labs, it is becoming clear that agencies are becoming increasingly active in supporting and developing startups. What's in it for the agency, and what's in it for the startup?

We asked two people whose remit is to develop startups from within their existing businesses: Ian Priest of Chime Ventures, and Neil Munn of the Black Sheep Fund, a joint venture between BBH's innovation arm Zag and Spark Ventures.

 

 

Tell us about the background to the creation of your agency's venture.

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Milking it

Milking it

Fictional characters can build brands. Whether it's BT's Buzby in the Seventies or, more recently Aleksandr Orlov, they can touch an emotional "soft spot" and go on to achieve long-lasting recognition, way after the end of their campaign.

Such appreciation is both a blessing and a curse for agencies. While appreciation and recognition of the character is indicative of the campaign's impact, the character can also become bigger than the brand: enjoying success in terms of awareness, but with very little impact at the point of sale. These issues are brought into even sharper focus when digital comes into play, where characters can exist on YouTube and have their own Twitter account.

A recognition of these and other factors were important in the development of Bertrum, the lead character in the new campaign by Wieden + Kennedy for Arla's Cravendale milk brand. As consumer dairy products are of low interest to most people, W+K had quickly decided to develop an quirky initial campaign featuring three lead characters: a cow, pirate, and cyclist. Here, the objective was to metaphorically slap consumers around the face, and ignite interest into a brand and product. Any hope of the consumer absorbing any point of differentiation about the product – in this case, a triple filtration, preserving freshness for longer – required an execution which was quirky, different, and to an extent, provocative. Consumers had to notice it.

It was felt last year that the inherent creativity within that campaign had run its course, and that something new was needed. Its creartive quirkiness had something of a lasting effect on sales and on the audience, with the agency being mindful of the effect of turning the campaign off before its replacement could be turned on. As a result, a "farewell film" was made, with highlights of the campaign, in order to manage disruption amongst consumers sympathetic to the campaign: it was obviously important that this group could be migrated to a new campaign and thus remain customers of Cravendale.

 

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Review: Dangerous Ideas

Review: Dangerous Ideas

We recently ran an interview with Alf Rehn, the author of Dangerous Ideas. Here, Leila Johnston reviews the book.

"We might start by asking the question: do we need creativity at all? Such a question will, without any doubt, be seen as heretical, even dangerous," says Alf Rehn, presumably in a menacing whisper. So dangerous is the message of this book going to be that almost the entire first third is given over to preparing the reader. There's a 'warning' message, a superfluous introduction and many, many more pages supplying a protracted, "Are you sitting down? What I am about to say may disturb you".

It's a long time coming, but once you get past the excitable first section, there are actually some good ideas in there. The notion that we should be bolder in our thinking about creativity is intriguing, but Rehn's eye drifts off the ball sometimes as he gets palpably carried away in a game of semantics and logic. His thought process amounts to something like this: all companies want to be more creative, but true creativity is by definition the dangerous thing that no one wants to touch. So either one should never want to be creative (because it's bland), or creativity is going to get a shiny new meaning. Either way, it falls somewhat short of the brain-blast we've been promised. "Think about it: if everyone tries to be creative and think of new ideas, doesn't it follow logically that the most creative thing to do in such a context is to consciously try to be less creative and instead utilize old ideas?"

But, wait: is that a new idea - to use old ones? Why are we trying to be the 'most creative' anyway. At times Rehn wants us to do considerably less, and follow the pared-down business models of simple popular electronics, deciding this is 'punk'. In other places he asks us to consider looking to torture methods for inspiration to help us think outside the box. It's an electric-shock-therapy sort of theory - and admirable, in a way, for its efforts to push us out of our 'comfort zones'. But, ultimately, it feels rather rough and brutal. It's the philosophical equivalent of banging the television to try to get a better signal.

Creativity, Rehn insists again and again and again, is not a cute fuzzy concept but a devastating, confrontational one. It need not be about making anything good or even 'blue sky thinking'. Rather, it's the art of freeing ourselves from the 'boxes' of preconception that we don't even know we've created. Now this, I suspect, is an extremely important thing to say, but the message is fatally diluted through repetition and poor editing. The pictures of children screaming and hands giving me the finger scattered throughout the book push the point too far, and somehow look oddly corporate and obvious in a book so adamantly dedicated to the spirit of punk.

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