Crisps and Conversations

I’ve been a bit of a sceptic about interactivity and FMCGs. Most of the time they just create digital litter.

Maybe it’s just because I’m a big fan of crisps. But Walkers seem to be doing some peculiarly interesting things around conversations and their brands.

Firstly the brilliant ‘Do Us a Flavour’ campaign. (If you’ve not seen it, they’re getting people to submit new flavors of potato chips. If you submit the winning flavour you get £50k and a 1% share of the profits from the new flavour).

The site’s got a lot of shortcomings. It doesn’t handle duplicates at all well, and the searching isn’t up to scratch. But it obviously doesn’t matter that much to people: 130,000 pages of entries – 6 to a page – gives almost 800,000 flavours submitted. That’s bloody incredible.

But they deserve it. They’ve built the campaign around a great question. A superb conversation starter. I’ve ended up two or three times now in conversations where people have got really excited about coming up with interesting new and bizarre flavours of crisps. And debating what would actually sell. What’s likely to win. Etc. etc. etc.

It’s a brilliant user generated content idea becuase anyone can do it. You don’t have to have any technical skills whatsoever. It’s just about imagining something. And something that almost all of us will have an opinion on whether we’ve thought about it before or not.

Once the submissions round is over. They’re going to manufacture the judges favourite top 6 flavours and let the public choose which of them wins. Generating trial / sales and driving even more conversations. As a genuinely integrated campaign I think it’s quite brilliant.

And now they’ve re-launched Monster Munch crisps. But they’ve not made a new version. Instead they’ve reverted to the old one.


What’s so clever about this is that they’ve tapped into a conversation that’s been going on for decades amongst crisp fanciers. Everyone knows that the old Monster Munch were bigger. They were ‘the biggest snack pennies can buy’. And they had really cool big monsters advertising them. It’s the kind of thing that pops up in those terrible ’50 reasons why things aren’t as good as they used to be’ nostalgiawank TV shows.

Anyway they’ve made them like they used to be again. And I love the ‘old’ flash on the top corner of the pack.

And if you’re wondering how big they are now. This is how big…


Apparently there’s a new website coming soon too. I’m not holding out a lot of hope for it being the next brilliant thing online. If they follow the normal FMCG template it’ll be all about the monsters. Maybe some flims? Perhaps embeddable / sendable monsters? Monster games? I hope they do something really nice though. Building on what they’ve done so far.

And just in case you don’t remember the original Monster Munch monsters from the TV ads…

I Have A Podcast – Plus A New Mix


My (ir)regular mixes are now available as a podcast through iTunes. Hooray.

And as an incentive to go and visit there’s a brand new mix up there today.


  1. Hide and Seek – Imogen Heap
  2. Roter Platz (Original Mix) – Burger, Voigt
  3. (This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan (Superpitcher Kompakt Remix) – Dntel
  4. Cruise Control – Martin Buttrich
  5. Headphone Silence (Henrik Schwarz Remix / DF Noizy Edit) – Ane Brun
  6. Rock Saga – The Rice Twins
  7. Come Into My Life – Jurgen Paape Feat Alison Degbe
  8. The Feeling – Toby Tobias
  9. New Day – Kate Havnevik
  10. On My Own – Ulrich Schnauss
  11. The Sky Was Pink (Holden Mix) – Nathan Fake
  12. Man With The Red Face – Mark Knight, Funkagenda
  13. Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up (Ewan Pearson Remix) – Cortney Tidwell
  14. Killing for Love (Beatfanatic Remix) – José Gonzalez


What Advertising Can Learn From Radiohead

I wasn’t going to blog about the House of Cards video and it’s brilliant integration with Google and the geekosphere. I wasn’t going to blog it because everyone else has. It is bloody brilliant though. Yet another example of how Radiohead really understand the importance of context.

So I wasn’t going to post it, then I realised it’s a golden opportunity for me to share a presentation I did at the Online Marketing and Media Show last month. I got invited by NMA to talk on a Creative Directors Showcase thingy. Me, Flo from Dare, Sam from Lean Mean Fighting Machine and Dom from Glue all got to chat about things we’ve seen recently that we like. The other guys all did a great job and showed us lots of cool online / mobile advertising things.

Instead of doing it on something that I liked, I chose to do 5 minutes on Radiohead ;-)

Basically it’s all about how I don’t like Radiohead, but how, through being interesting and innovative, they’ve made me like the ‘idea’ of Radiohead. Imagine if normal brands could do that. Make you care about products you don’t even like that much. I reckon there’s stuff we can learn from the ‘head.

I tried to format it for online video as best as I could (I added some extra words so it can be followed without me speaking, and I put some music in it to stop it feeling too silent) – but I’m not good enough at that kind of thing to make all the timings quite right, so please forgive any bits that feel too slow or too fast.

I hope no-one minds that I used their footage in there. I specifically use the examples of:

I’ve just noticed that Radiohead are a bit shit at search engine optimisiation though. With page titles like this:


How is anyone supposed to find them. Like anyone will look for all those spaces and underscores ;-)

Admission: I really posted this because I had an odd experience in the pub on Tuesday night, a bloke approached me and asked if I’d done a presentation on Radiohead. He’d seem me do it. Live. I felt almost famous. For a second.

Morris Dancing – Just Do It?


Yesterday my life was changed. I saw street Morris Dancing. Well it was just ordinary Morris Dancing. But in the street. I’m sure there’s room for updating this old fashioned art – perhaps mashing it up with some rude drum and bass styles. Or something like that.

Actually it was just really good fun as it was. For about half an hour a small pocket of our local community had a bit of a laugh together with no pretensions of cool or age or anything. People just laughed and jumped around a bit.

Because of the role of Morris Dancing as a really important social glue. I think there’s a huge opportunity for the big global sportswear brands to get in on the act. I noticed that the Black Reebok Classic (or variants thereof) appears to be the shoe of choice of today’s Morris Man:


However there was a clear competitive advantage shown by the guy wearing Nikes:


That guy could be the Jordan of Morris Dancing – I kid you not!

If you want to see more pictures of men and sticks and small St George flags I’ve got a Flickr set here:

Sophie and I even had a go. But thankfully there are no pictures. I hope. – A New Boomkat Offering

I’ve whanged on about Boomkat before. They’re a great example of a niche e-commerce player – although I’m guessing they’re a pretty big niche player now. They sell music online – mainly electronic stuff – they started selling CDs and Vinyl and now their download site is getting pretty awesome too.

Their real strength has always been in their reviews and descriptions of the tracks – if I’d trust anyone in the world to get something right about a bit of electronic music it’d be these guys. It’s not easy writing fresh content around minimal-dub records that are all 12 minutes long and basically sound the same ;-)

They’ve just launched a new site which I really like. It’s called and each week they editorially pick 14 tracks on a theme and batch them all up together and send out an email and update the site. You can then go and buy the playlist (or bits of it).

Why I like it:

What I don’t like:

  • It’s too expensive and there’s no discounts for buying lots.
  • There’s a couple of tricksy interfacey bits that are a bit yukky.

But what I really like is that it’s like going into a record shop full of really cool muso-DJ types and having them not treat you like a leper. Imagine that!

This time on 14 tracks: “14 tracks of narcotic House”
We just love the kind of slow and sultry House Music that’s been oozing out of the Berlin club scene in recent months. With its origin in the paralysed shuffle of Detroit’s Theo Parrish and Moodymann, this is the kind of music that’s in no rush to draw you in, often making use of deep basslines and crushed percussion to play tricks on the senses. There are direct parallels between these tracks and the more robust patterns that typify Dubstep, and with a woozy aesthetic that makes much of this music sound like it’s about to fall apart there are also direct links with the Wonky hip hop that’s making waves in 2008. Even if you’ve never been into club music, we reckon this is just about as evocative and heady as it gets…

The interesting bit

What’s interesting to me is that they’ve effectively created their own affiliate store. One that feels and behaves totally different from their main store.

I like the fact they’ve taken a bit of a punt on it. But it seems like a pretty logical thing to do. If you’ve got a bunch of people who understand their stock better than anyone else, why not let them repackage it and reformat it in a way that’s right for them and their friends/audience?

  • Why shouldn’t Amazon encourage their Rock buyers set up a site that sells tracks on a black background with lots of fire and frizzy hair on it.
  • Why shouldn’t TopShop encourage their Style Advisors to go and set up their own ‘rival’ sites that editorialise stuff in their own way?

What’s the worst that could happen? I suppose the sites could be shit and make the brand look stupid.

Interestingly 14 Tracks is getting a very mixed response in the comments. But people who like it will use it, and those who don’t won’t. It’d have to be really bloody awful to ever be damaging enough to put people off the Boomkat master brand.

Red Bull Music Academy – Brilliant

I’ve not really looked into the Red Bull Music Academy stuff before.


There’s some brilliant video lectures and an awesome podcast. It’s like TED for cool music.

The lectures are full of heroic musical dudes from bunch of different genres. Tony Allen, Ron Trent, Arthur Baker, Prins Thomas, Dereck May, Superpitcher, Jazzanova, Radioslave, Recloose, Greg Wilson, Daniel Wang, Maurice Fulton, Alex Smoke, Kode 9, Mu-ziq, Mathew Jonson, Peter Hook, Dixon, Danny Krivit, Ewan Pearson and more.

Red Bull seem to be a brand that nails this kind of thing again and again. Nice one.

My Talk at Under The Influence

Here’s the talk I did at Iris’ excellent Under the Influence day. It’s basically about digital experiences and magic and how the two are interconnected.

Hope it’s OK – from my perspective I think it wanders a bit at the end (I sort of ran out of preparation time). As usual I can’t bear to watch it in order to tell if it’s rubbish or not. I need to get over my fear of seeing and hearing myself, it makes it impossible to do anything on YouTube or the like.

I wish I’d got to see more of the day’s other talks but I was busy writing my presentation and doing other work. But now thanks to the magical internet and the generosity of Iris I can see them all online. Hooray.

Judging Viral – Viral in 5 Words

I’ve been doing some bits and pieces of awards judging for various folk this year. It’s all been interesting so far.

The one I’m most worried about is the D&AD Viral Category. I’m the chairman of the jury and I’m guessing that there’s going to be loads of debate around ‘what is viral?’. There always is at this kind of thing. There’s also going to be loads of fighting about whether specific things are or aren’t viral. Is a TV ad that went viral ‘a viral’? Is something that got passed round because it was really beautiful a viral? Does a viral have to have a farting squirrel in it?

I used to be of the opinion that you couldn’t really judge something as being viral or not unless you actually know whether it did or didn’t become viral. In which case you’d need to know the results. And how they’d managed to achieve the results. For example if a video has been seen 3,123,826 times, but they’d achieved that purely through paid media I’d have said ‘not viral’. Conversely if a clip was great, but had only been seen by 5 people I’d also have said ‘not viral’.

Basically the old me would have said something is viral only if it has been seen by a disproportionately high percentage of its target audience purely as a result of peer distribution (email, blogs, forums, mobile pass on, IM, etc.).

But now I’ve chilled out a bit ;-)

Having looked at 100s of supposedly viral things (I say supposedly only because they’ve been submitted into viral categories in awards) I think one has to be a bit more relaxed about the definition of viral. I’m not sure I can exactly describe what I mean here. But I’m going to give it a go.

I guess I’ve started judging stuff based on:

Has this thing been conceived and created with a set of qualities that might make it ‘viral’ to its target audience. And is it actually any good.

Quite often when discussing work in a creative forum you’ll find that people don’t want to talk about things like target audiences or results. But when you’re talking about something peer distributed those two things absolutely have to be considered. Don’t they? There’s still far too much viral stuff that relies on bad knob-gags and nudity even though it’s totally inappropriate for the brand and the audience (and don’t get me wrong I love a good knob-gag, in the right setting).

Anyway as you can see the whole debate gets very wordy and waffly and ultimately tied up in its own entrails.

So as I was trundling off to sleep last night I set myself a challenge. Could I come up with 5 words to describe whether or not something is viral. The three I can remember are:

conceived with talkability in mind

designed to make right noise

peer-to-peer distribution optimised

I’m sure most of you can do better. Please do…

The Rise of The Ad Man 2.0

[I’ve written this post once already. I got to the end of it just as someone phoned me up. I picked up the phone. Fumbled it. And dropped it on my laptop which duly crashed in a spectacular fashion. The second revision is slightly shorter and hopefully more to the point…]

I watched a great documentary on BBC4 on Sunday called The Rise and Fall of the Ad Man. Presented by Peter York it featured a lot of the great ‘ad men’ of the past, and some of the present. There were loads of interesting points worth noting. But I’ve forgotten most of them now (for the next few days you can still catch the whole thing on BBC iPlayer).

The thing that stuck with me mainly was its celebration of the glory days of advertising and specifically the rise of the hot creative shops of the 60s. CDP (Collett Dickenson Pearce) was the poster child of the show and it’s success seemed to be attributed to a few things:

  1. The time was right. The swinging 60s. Post-war gloom moving into a period of rapid cultural innovation.
  2. The existence of a bunch of TV natives. People who had grown up with TV, who knew how to write for it, and to make it work for them.
  3. A media environment where you could create a phenomenon overnight by putting something on the only commercial TV channel and hitting 20m people in one go.
  4. Clients needed help.
  5. The creation of a place where cool creative people just wanted to hang out.

[Forgive me if any of this is woefully incorrect I wasn’t alive at the time and I’m basing all of this on something I saw on the Telly, which is never a good place to start]

Is ‘now’ the time right for something new?

It feels a bit like the time is right for some kind of big shift again. And judging by the fact that there’s about 5 new agencies starting every week it would appear that others do too. Most of these new shops are claiming to be some kind of new new thing.

But if you’re coming out of an agency, trying to hire people who work in other agencies (media, digital, design, whatever), the danger is that you’re going to end up with just another variant of an agency. Sure, it might have better laptops, the structure may have mutated and the working culture might be tweaked slightly. But most of these new agencies seem to be built on well understood principles with well understood types of people working for them. This might give you a temporary moment of interestingness and competitive advantage. But it’ll only take a minor manoeuvre for someone else to catch up.

So assuming that the time is right (and it might not be), what would you do to create a brand new agency, like what they did in the 60s?

Hire Digital Natives?

I’m making the assumption here that digital natives are to today what TV natives were to the 60s.

So hire some digital natives. People like me who think that digital is ‘a thing’ are old-school. We might be able to help get you through the next few years, but unless we become less in awe of a bunch of computery things we could end up making ourselves obsolete.

But right here, right now, I think we’ve got our Hovis opportunity (Hovis make bread, they also got a seminal Ridley Scott ad during the 70s). There’s still a moment when we can do the big huge magical thing before all this digital stuff just becomes ordinary, everyday and expected.

I’ll get back to the hiring thing in a bit.

The Media Environment

Once you’ve got people you’ll need to create a guiding principle that celebrated the media environment that we’re dealing with. Embrace fragmentation and change. Realise that big lumpy unpredictable niches are about as good as its going to get. Or that narrow:deep audiences can become wide:deep audiences very quickly and with tiny media costs.

I’m not sure exactly what that principle is, but it’s the equivalent of knowing that a break in Coronation Street is your playground – then making the right stuff. (Hell if I knew the answer to this I’d be a very valuable and important man).

I loved this from the programme:

I doubt that this would be said by many people nowadays (especially not in the online space).

Clients Needing Help

The show documented the huge improvements that have been made to the marketing function within client organisations. Leading to a suggestion that in lots of places the marketing function is so sophisticated that they’re constantly butting heads with the agency – I can’t believe this could be true ;-).

In the ‘glory days’ it seemed like the agencies who were producing great work were almost unquestionable.

If you’re trying to launch a killer agency right now. Where do you think clients need most help? Where can you command a position of unquestioned god-like genius? On my list marketing and advertising wouldn’t be at the top.

Creating the Place

And now for the big one: creating the place where the cool guys come to hang out and do whatever it is they do.

I don’t think this is about environment it’s about a culture of possibilities and the other people they’re going to have as company/inspiration. And paying people properly – if you want to attract the best people you’re going to have to shell out. As someone in the BBC4 show quoted, CDP knew that if they paid peanuts they’d get monkeys.

In the 60s it was the best artists, writers, film-makers and suchlike who were the people you wanted in your gang. But who are the people you’d want nowadays? Here’s my list:

Entrepreneurs: You’ll be wanting the new Sergey and Larry. Of course. We all would. It’s about finding the people who just want to get stuff done quickly. People that make things happen. And who have a passion for things that they’re making / selling. There’s a big difference between business people and entrepreneurs. At least in my humble experience.

Geeks / Inventors / Designers: I’ll probably get shot for bunching these people together. But for these purposes I am putting them together. It’s the people who conceive of brilliant things. The ones who invent the widget. Or the new way of making something more usable, or more beautiful, or work faster or better. But specifically it’s about finding the ones who don’t have self-imposed limits. The ones who believe that anything is possible.

Super producers: Oh yeah. The people who know how to get things done. The people with the address book you’d kill for. Give them a thing to make or a bridge to build and they’ll know the people to make it happen. And have them on team in a couple of days. I think there’s about 26 of these people in the world (at last count).

Online content creators: People who make things. People who can’t help making things. The ones who are just be out there making videos, or music, or poems, or doodles. People who understand how to create a moment. A piece of online cultural history.

Cyber anthropologists: I didn’t really know what to call these people. They’re the people who have an ungodly fascination with what’s going on ‘out there’ the ones who are living real online lives, and watching and interrogating other people too. So they wouldn’t just be commenting on online dating, they’d be out there getting hooked up. And I’d be particularly looking for the ones who are trying to understand what it all means from a psychological and sociological point of view.

Uber bloggers: Of course I’m just sucking up to bloggers here so that they all link to this post and say nice things ;-) But seriously if you’re a certain type of blogger you know certain types of things that not many other people do. You understand how content and conversation work together. You understand how things get transmitted around the blogosphere. In short you understand some very important things about today’s media landscape.

As I went through this list I sort of sense checked it by seeing if I could put names next to all of these roles. And I could. So they’re not fantasy people. They really do exist.

Then once you’ve got a great place to work and assembled that rag-tag bunch of mistfits you’ll need some hardcore project managers and business people to be able to sell the shit out of the nonsense they’ll come up with.

I forgot. It might be expensive. And it might not work. But if it wasn’t it wouldn’t be worth bothering.

Anything or anyone else you’d chuck in for good measure?

The Art of Sneaker Cleaning and Sneaker Cleaning Products

Sneaker Freaker

I’ve veered into silliness with trainers a few times, going out of my way to find them, spending too much money on them and hoarding them badly. I’ve always known that I wasn’t a real sneakerhead though. And I had that confirmed to me when I checked this article oncleaning your kicks @ Sneaker Freaker. If you’ve got dirty old shoes that you’d like to bring back to life there’s some good tips in there.

But what really made me realise what an amateur I am in the sneaker world was the Jason Markk site. Jason apparently makes the ultimate sneaker cleaning fluid – well someone has to. And I like the fact that it’s being done by someone that’s so single minded.

From their about us page:

We make premium goods and accessories for the sneaker boutique market. Our goal is to fulfill the needs and wants of today’s sneaker consumer by offering innovative, high-quality products and accessories. Our mission is to become the most widely recognized and trusted sneaker product and accessory brand in the world.

I’d hazard a guess that anyone who loves their sneakers will love someone who has made it their mission to create the ultimate sneaker products. Would you rather buy a product from someone who really seems to get how important your shoes are? Or Unilever?

Obviously post-sale the product has to be totally excellent too. The product is being put on shoes that are worth way more than money to their owners – just one story of a pair of 1 of 20 AF1s heading south could ruin the reputation of the brand in such a small niche market.

At first I scoffed about their limited edition cleaning sets. They look great and they’re definitely embedded in trainer culture. But then I thought about the kind of people they’re aiming at – and perhaps more importantly where the product is going to get sold. It’s not going to be in a local hardware store is it? If you’re paying $20 for a plain bottle, or much more for a fancy limited edition set you’re only going to see it in boutiques and high-end trainer stores. Where the packaging and legend around the product become super important.

This kit is limited to 1 of 600.

Now all I need to do is find a UK outlet ;-)