• Physical stuff. It matters. In Matter.

    On: September 10, 2010
    In: rivetings
    Views: 860

    A quick ‘un…

    We love all the digital malarkey.  It’s ace, and new, and exciting, and so on and so forth.

    As a result, we spend less time thinking about the physical stuff.  And as Ed points out here, physical connections for brands & companies can be phenomenally powerful.

    It’s what Matter was started to do, over two years ago now. 

    Here’s a photo of the first box I opened back then.  There’s a whole pictorial review on flickr here


    Anyway, Matter is coming back this November, when we put the Pocketgames in it.  Woo!

    Someone’s dropped out though, so Tim asked if there was anyone else that might want to put something wonderful in Matter to send to people. 

    I thought I’d post it here, in case anyone who reads it might have something.

    But what to put in?

    Charlie wrote a good critique of the first matterbox pointing out that…

    “Most of the other bits were a bit weak… not really getting me that excited or stimulated.”

    I think (and may be wrong) that the trick to getting something that works brilliantly in Matter is to create something physical inside the box that will make people want to do something social outside the box.

    It’s not (I repeat, NOT) a sampling exercise. 

    It’s a box of actual social objects.

    Email Tim, he’ll tell you more – tim@artomatic.co.uk

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  • Instant Google Instant Ad… and the time it takes to get things right

    On: September 10, 2010
    In: rivetings
    Views: 648

    This is wonderful… the guys at Whirled Creative have taken Google Instant and used it to create a video for the wonderful Tom Lehrer’s Elements song…

    (Via Farisarium)

    It was only launched, what, twenty four hours ago?  It’s amazing how quickly you can turn things around nowadays. 

    And, in fact, how quickly you should.

    When we we started on the Pocketgame project for Cadbury’s Spots V Stripes, we realised we could either spend ages getting something exactly spot on…

    …or just do something to the best of our ability as quickly as we could.

    We summed it up like this…





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  • The stupidity of the IPA Excellence Diploma

    On: September 3, 2010
    In: rivetings
    Views: 2513

    Why would you want to come up with anything new? 

    It just gets in the way of doing the same things that your boss did before you, and his before that. 

    Nothing’s changing, not really, it’s all the same game… write a powerpoint presentation, make a telly ad, put it on telly, repeat every year ad infinitum.

    Everyone gets paid, media folk go to lunches at The Ivy, advertising folk go to shoots in Argentina, digital folk go and get their microscooter pimped in Hoxton.

    Why rock the boat?  We’re onto a good thing here, people…

    If you go learning things, reading things, forming opinions on stuff, then go around writing and sharing these thoughts… well, how’s that going to make your agency better?

    So, I guess, the IPA Excellence Diploma isn’t helping anyone at all.

    I blame the tutors.  For a bunch of so-called industry greats, they really should know better.  Let’s name names; Nick Kendall, Chris Forrest, Jim Taylor, Peter Field, Gerry Moira, Mark Lund… all guilty, to a man.  Especially Kendall, he’s the ringleader.

    You’d have thought they’d have just covered the ‘how to get ads made and shown as quickly as possible’ bit, and done everyone a favour.  But no.

    Six modules, on just about every conceivable topic… brands, people, channels, measurement, creativity and leadership. 

    They they give you a two months to read endless amounts of brilliant discourse on each area, after which you’ve then got to write a 2,000 word essay on ‘what you believe…’.

    And if that weren’t bad enough, at the end of it all you’ve got to craft a 7,000 word thesis on what it all means… where the future of our industry lies.

    Frankly, it’s asking for trouble.  So unsurprisingly, over the four years of the course it’s produced endless amounts of trouble makers… Faris, Sam, Graeme, Matt, Alex, Chris, Chris, Bethan… the list goes on. 

    In fact, I was at the graduation last night of the class of 2010 (I mentored Ben Harrison at Rocket this year), and it turns our there are 66 of us who’ve gone through the course so far…

    Which is enough, surely, yes?  How can the industry expect to stay firmly stuck in the nineties if we keep teaching our best people to think better, more revolutionary thoughts?

    So, this is where you come in.

    I want you to email Chloe at the IPA (chloe@ipa.co.uk), and rule yourself out now

    I dunno, say something like “Chloe, if you were to send out any information about the next intake of the IPA Excellence Diploma in 2011, I would be in no way interested AT ALL.  I am happy sitting here in blissful ignorance, because life is easier that way”.

    Or, if you’re the boss of a someone who’s looking like they might unfortunately turn out to be brilliant, maybe say “Dear Chloe, I would request that you refrain from sending my charge any information on this course, because they’re enough trouble as it is with all their ‘great ideas’, and I don’t’t want them having any more”.

    So please, please, for the sake of the comfortable, easy, unchallenging world we all seek to protect, email Chloe right now.

    Of course, you may take a different view. 

    You may think the the only thing that’s stupid about the Excellence Diploma is that there isn’t a five year waiting list to be on it. 

    But, you know, maybe that’s just you.  And me.  And a fair few other people.

    Either way, drop Chloe an email (chloe@ipa.co.uk).  Ask her about the Excellence Diploma.  And make up your own mind…



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  • Inception, MacGuffins, and ideas that spread

    On: August 27, 2010
    In: rivetings
    Views: 1327

    “What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea.

    A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules…”



    (This is a follow up to the previous post on MacGuffins and so on.  It’s worth reading that first.)

    Now, I’m very certain I won’t have been the first to seize on this quote from Inception and bend it to fit some hinky marketing theory about social sharing.

    I thought the quote had a beautiful simplicity of expression about it.  We all know that, at the end of the day, powerful ideas spread.  As we navigate the layer upon layer of modern communications though, it’s the how and why we’re increasing trying to unpick.

    One of the contributors to the last post, John Dodds, said…

    “Think Social Idea”

    …and followed up with an explanation…

    “Focus on the idea, the belief behind the company – why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you’re hoping to change the world for the better – and focus your efforts on making it social ie spreadable discussable, supportable…”

    Beautifully expressed.  Of course, the thing is, it all amounts to same thing; Object-Idea, Social Idea, MacGuffin.  It doesn’t really matter what you call it.


    Let’s go back to the movies.

    I found a post by Douglas J. Eboch, who’s a screenwriter (and a fine fellow I reckon, given he uses his middle initial… that’s always a mark of good character…).  It was on MacGuffins.

    Douglas writes…

    “I define the MacGuffin as the object or goal that the characters’ mission is focused on. For example, in Inception (written by Christopher Nolan) it is the idea that Cobb and his team are trying to implant in Fischer’s dreams. In Casablanca it is the letters of transit. In Sweet Home Alabama, the divorce papers. In Avatar (written by James Cameron) it’s the goofily named Unobtanium.”

    The thing that gets people moving, doing things, makes you care about finding out what happens.

    Douglas continues…

    “Alfred Hitchcock defined the MacGuffin this way: “It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers.” Hitchcock believed the more generic the MacGuffin was the better since the audience didn’t really care about it.”

    “Inception tells us what the idea that Cobb must implant is, but do we really care? It could be just about anything and the movie would still work as well. It’s simply a device to get Cobb and Arthur and Ariadne and the others into a dangerous dream world that will test their skills and force their characters to undergo internal change.”

    It doesn’t matter what it is, or what it’s called.  It’s what it does to people.

    Back to our MacGuffin.  Well, what I called a MacGuffin.  John called it a Social Idea.  Hugh called it an Object-Idea. You’re maybe thinking of calling it something different, putting your own spin on it, something that works for you to help explain to others.

    It is all of these, and it is none of these.

    The Macguffin here is a MacGuffin.

    It doesn’t matter what it is called, or what diagrams you use to draw it.  What matters is what happens to the people who’re talking about it, debating it, remodelling it, chasing the perfect version.

    It changes us. It plants an idea, a seed inside our head, which starts to grow.  And when we talk about it to others, it starts to change them too.  We can express it however we like, and it will take many forms, but that idea will continue to spread.

    And that idea is that we’ve got to change the way we do things.

    The idea that the future of marketing, branding, advertising, media and so on is very different from the past, and indeed from the present.

    The idea that companies whose purpose isn’t an social, spreadable idea actually might not have that much of a future.

    It’s an idea that can transform the world and rewrite all the rules…


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  • Thinking about the MacLeod-Earls MacGuffin

    On: August 19, 2010
    In: rivetings
    Views: 3098

    For the past couple of days, I’ve been trying to iron out some wrinkly thoughts that were started off by Hugh MacLeod’s post on ‘Object-Ideas’.

    I’m working on various diverse client things that will benefit if I get to an answer, but for now it’s just some thoughts aired in the open to see where it takes me, and what you clever folk think too…

    Anyone, this is what I’m netting out at presently…

    The MacLeod-Earls MacGuffin.

    There’s three things encapsualted in this term; one from Mark Earls, one from Hugh, and one from Alfred Hitchcock.  I’ll explain…


    Firstly, there’s Mark’s Purpose Idea:

    “The Purpose-Idea is the “What For?” of a business, or any kind of community.  What exists to change (or protect) in the world, why employees get out of bed in the morning, what difference the business seeks to make on behalf of customers and employees and everyone else?”

    When I looked back at the little smileys diagrams I made for the Communis Manifesto, I realised I’d drawn it in; it’s this bit; at the heart of the company


    Brilliant companies and communities of course thrive of a communal, shared purpose. So even with no connection to the outside world (the guys around the outside of the diagram), a great company retains its Purpose-Idea

    Then, secondly, there’s Hugh’s Social Object:

    “The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that “node” in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.”

    Again, back to Communis… I’d drawn those in too, but this time more purposefully (I referenced Hugh’s ‘social objects’ in the thesis).


    In the diagram, the ‘contexts’ referred too are the social objects where you connect internal to external… encouraging the company to participate in the social world.  Make & do things that are of interest to people, form relationships, collaborate and so on and so forth…

    So far, so 2008.  What’s changed?

    Well, Hugh’s point is that the two things, Social Objects & Purpose-Ideas, can be (and most often are) quite distinct from each other.

    If you do something amazing in the social space (Whassup, Meerkat, Old Spice etc), then people will like you more for it.

    But it’s not really what you’re about.  Your Social Objects aren’t really that linked to your Purpose-Idea…


    It’s just the things you made to make people talk about you more.

    So that, somewhere down the line, they’ll think ‘oh yeah, they’re the guys that did X, maybe I’ll buy their stuff that they also do…’

    But as Hugh puts it:

    A social object on steroids i.e. an Object-Idea, is far more powerful. Because it’s actually talking about stuff that actually matters to people. 

    It’s not enough for people to like your product. For them to really LOVE it, somehow they’ve got to connect and empathize with the basic, primal human drives that compelled you create your product in the first place. The Purpose. The Idea.

    Which got me thinking about what Hitchcock called the MacGuffin


    “We have a name in the studio, and we call it the ‘MacGuffin’.  It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers”


    It’s the thing in movies that gets everything, well, moving.  That which all the protagonists will do anything for.

    So if we take it that back into the world of Social Objects and Purpose-Ideas, we can define our  MacGuffin here as:

    The element that gets people talking about the thing that’s most important to your business

    Which, I reckon, has lot of appeal for any company wrestling with modern communications…

    For instance, you stop creating limited shelf-life social objects.  Things created to simply get attention, and then become leaden relics you don’t know what to do with, but feel you should persevere with because so much time, effort & money has been spent on them.  With a great MacGuffin, everything you do socially feeds back into your central Purpose-Idea.

    Which also means that what you do socially starts to inform your Purpose-Idea; it leads a company more rapidly and quickly into areas in which they can flourish, because it’s created with people who’re interested in what it is you do, not just what you say.

    So, to conclude for now, at the core of the MacGuffin, I’d propose there are two principles:

    i) All Social Objects must build to and from the Purpose-Idea

    ii) The Purpose-Idea must be compelling enough to breed Social Objects

    …which means it’s not just a company’s marketing that changes, it needs to be the company itself.

    It’s not about making more interesting and social marketing.  It’s about becoming a more interesting and social company.

    Otherwise, amongst the rare runaway successes, we’ll keep on seeing lots of sausage companies asking you to make videos.

    Now, clearly, I need to think a lot more about the implications & actionable stuff out the back of this. But hey, it’s a first stab.  Thoughts?


    (as an aside, inspiration for the term comes from an economic device called the Edgeworth-Bowley Box – not a something messrs. Edgeworth & Bowley worked on together concurrently, but thinking that was developed over time, which reflects the continuum of this idea I think)


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