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…

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.

Youth Trend Watch: Hardstyle, Hardjump & Jumpstyle

This started out being a silly moment in techno post. But it’s grown into something far more important. Something that trend watchers and marketeers around the world have to pay heed to.

It started with this clip from Malaysia:

A few things things I noted:

1.These Malaysian guys seem to have a fresh new dance style that’s evolved purely from playing Dance Dance Revolution
2. It sounds like the music they’re playing is a hard level of Dance Dance Revolution
3. There is no Dance Dance Revolution machine in sight
4. The clip has had nearly a million views!

But the I noticed that I’d opened up some odd portal to a new dimension of music, dance and culture! And I found a bunch of videos that seemed to talk about Hardstyle, Hardjump and Jumpstyle. 3 slightly different parts of seemingly the same subculture. I’m not going to try to explain what the bits are because I’ll get it wrong and one day a Jumpstyle fan might find this page and make me look like a tit ;-)

And the more I looked and watched. The more I realised that I’ve discovered the Parkour of the noughties. All that free running is so over. And you need loads of fancy buildings to jump off. And its dangerous. And it doesn’t have a music scene attached to it.

And you don’t have to be out and about to do it. Look Jumpstyle at home:

But you can also do it with a friend and it becomes Duojump. Now they really do look like 2 skilled DDR players… Or is it like a Gabba Riverdance…

And you can do it with 3 people!

Or if you’ve got a few mates you can all do it together!

And it appears they’re teaching it in schools – to groups of kids!

It’s become so big it’s spawned it’s own remixes and stuff – check Jumpstyle Borat:

So now you’re tuned into the latest global youth craze you’ll be wanting a how-to guide right? Of course, YouTube can provide (thanks to Patrick Jumpen, one of the stars of Jumpstyle):

And for those of you who are more into studying from the sidelines don’t forget to check Wikipedia – the page on Jumpstyle is the most informative. It has a list of different sub-styles as well as some useful links to some of the top dudes in the scene.

But of course, like any great trend, there are the nay-sayers, those who want to kill a beautiful thing before big brands have sponsored it and generated reveue out of it. Boo to them. Sites like are demanding the end of jumpstyle. How could they. Well they say:

We all know it. Jumpstyle sucks. At the beginning it was fun, but now it’s just too commercial. I know it, you know it.

Jumpstyle begun in Belgium. The dance is now known in almost whole Europe. Now, it’s trying to take over whole America. Do you want to stop jumpstyle to take over America? Do you want jumpstyle to die? Do you think jumpstyle is too commercial? Do you think: FUCK JUMPSTYLE!?

God damn. It’s sold out before I even started!

I’d love to do a documentary on the whole scene. If I could make films. Of course some of my comments above are a bit tongue in cheek. But if you hunt around YouTube you’ll see stacks of clips with millions and millions of views. It’s a very real scene, which lots of kids (in parts of Europe and Asia mainly by the looks of it) seem to be totally into. So who am I to say it’s a silly moment in techno?

Or does everyone in the world know about Jumpstyle and I’m the last one to hear? Damn I hope not…

I’ve seen the future of Marketing 2.0 and it’s rubbish (but don’t worry, it’s in Beta)

[Please note: none of the brands mentioned here have ever done anything like this (as far as I know), it’s a purely fictional story of an imagined future from my slightly fuddled brain]

Imagine if last night everyone who worked in the wider world of marketing all drank from the 2.0 Kool-Aid. We’d all be fucked and the world would be more rubbish…

What we used to call ‘ad breaks’ would become a bunch of signposts driving us to somewhere where we can ‘get involved’, ‘have our say’, ‘tell someone what new chocco-weety-bix should be shaped like’, ‘find out how to get to NappyStock this Saturday’ or ‘create a new ad’ (or being as ads don’t exist any more the call to action would have to be something like: ‘create our next participatory engagement experience’).

Then after the ‘call to participation break’ we’d get to watch lots of (interactively enabled) branded content. Perhaps an episode of NotLost (TomTom’s never ending drama about a bunch of people who are going somewhere).

Tom Tom Not Lost

Or ‘My House Is Cleaner Than Yours’ a new self-help/gameshow hybrid where people compete to make their house the most sanitary, this week the Cillit Bangers from Dagenham vs the Mr Sheenies from Wakefield.

Alternatively ditch the TV as literally hundreds of other people have done over the last year or two.

TV off, what now? Xbox game? Tomb Raider VI – Lara in search of cheaper car insurance (well the game was only £4.99, what do you expect!). It’s a quest that’s jam packed with ‘real world stuff’. Billboards full of user generated content (Tomb Raider V had advertising billboards, but that’s just not ‘realistic’ anymore). And products are neatly integrated into the gameplay (use Pantene’s 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner to get Lara in-and-out of the shower and back to her mission in double quick time). But unfortunately you get stuck at the first doorway, Sheilas’ Wheels have trapped Lara in a conversation about some new no-claims bonus for adventurous chicks. You’ve got no time to get into this now it’s bedtime, and besides you’re a man playing a woman in the game, so unless you want in-game car insurance for your female character… Oh hell, it’s all a bit confusing.

Sheilas Wheels Raider

You shut down the Xbox, vowing not to visit the gate of Sheila ever again.

It’s not the first time today that you’ve been tricked into a ‘dialogue’, in the good old days you used to have to deal with thousands of marketing messages a day. But that was fine. You’d learned how to filter those out: iPod + staring into the middle distance seemed to do the job. But now everyone wants to have a bloody conversation. You haven’t even got time to talk to your friends let alone your toothpaste (which you didn’t really choose anyway, you only bought it because it was on 3-for-2 at Boots).

You manage to brush your teeth without getting into a discussion with aforementioned toothpaste and climb into bed. But not before setting your ‘Alpen wakey-wakey-yodel alarm’ on your mobile.

alpen alarm

Sorry I got a bit carried away with my little 2.0 world, and I could go on (for far too long). I just wanted to hint at a vision of a Marketing 2.0 future that’s more depressing and more worrying than what we’re living right now. I often think about it when I see brands out there doing wholly inappropriate things like trying to engage in conversations that no-one wants to be part of, creating nuggets of branded utility that solve fictional non-problems, and so on…

The problem is that all of this can be justified using one of the most compelling of 2.0isms – the ‘always in beta’ mantra. Not only is it massively compelling (and commendable) as a principle it’s also incredibly dangerous when put in the hands of evil.

Used in the wrong way:

  • It basically means that you can never really be wrong.
  • It means that you can get away with nothing ever being properly finished. In the olden days people would just ‘fess up and admit that they’d not had time to do the work, deadlines would get pushed and the work would get done and go out a bit later.
  • It means that you can trick clients into doing bad stuff. “Oh go on… We’ll just do it as a test, if it works we can build on it. If not we can always sweep it under the carpet…”. I’ve alredy sat in some meetings where it feels like people are practically calling each other ‘chicken’ for not doing something preposterous in the name of beta.

I can just imagine smart kids all around the world telling their teachers: “No miss, I really have done my homework, it’s in beta…”

Of course I really love most of the principles of Marketing 2.0, I just wanted to make the point that with much power comes much responsibility. Oh, and it might not be the solution for everything.

Brands, Bands, Fans

Frukt Image

Music strategy and comms agency Frukt send me a lovely email every month called Brands | Bands | Fans which is a top snapshot of the way that brands are ruining music. Or in some rare occasions doing something that’s actually quite good.

The newsletter has a blog (or is it the other way around?) which can be read here:

But I quite like getting the newsletter, as it makes me laugh sometimes, from today’s mail:

XM, Virgin Megastores, Myspace, Smirnoff and MTV all win kicks in the head for launching a further stack of battle-of-the-bands competitions this week. Someone do something interesting will you? Dare I suggest that non-expert marketing agencies who suggest this well trodden path as somehow ‘cutting edge’ would do well to pick up the phone and call FRUKT. We do this for a living… we can help you. We can make you a better person and give you confidence and make you really different and exciting. We can.

A tough bit of salesmanship. But they make a valid point.

Making Do

The most excellent Giles who is the creator of the most excellent Edward Monkton posted a link in the comments section of the Bonfire of the Brands post. But it’s such an excellent link that I thought I had to float it to the top.

Robert Llewellyn (Scrapheap Challenge and Red Dwarf star) is documenting his year of ‘Making Do’ (not buying new stuff) on YouTube. It’s really really excellent. Honest, funny and thoughtfully done. He’s up to episode 16 and still going strong (this episode deals with his struggle with Mac-fan-boy-ism and cheating in his mission).

Here’s episode 16:

And if you want to see the clip that starts it all, it’s here:

A quote that really resonated with me:

I have actually walked out of an electronics store with a plastic bag with a very long firewire in it and I felt really good. I felt like I could really achieve something with that. How tragic is that.

The clips haven’t had as many views as they should have done IMHO. Thanks again Giles for the tip.

All his clips are here:

Bonfire of the Brands – Book Soon

Bonfire of the Brands - Book Soon

I was chatting to someone the other day about whatever had happened to Neil Boorman’s book – Bonfire of the Brands. As I understand it, it’s the process and results of his self-inflicted experiment to give up all branded stuff.

Out-of-the-blue-ish I got a mail today and it appears that his book is coming out very soon. As someone who has a totally 2-faced view of my own consumption of brands I’m looking forward to reading it.

On a similar not I just finished ‘I’m not buying it‘ by Judith Levine, which is about one couple’s quest to give up shopping for a year. An interesting read that made me question just what would happen to me if I gave up buying things. I don’t think I could do it though.

A scaled down, brand-free, version like Neil’s is probably more in line with what I could manage. I’m still too much of an objectophile to give up everything – although when you start questioning everything you soon realise that almost everything we buy carries some brand or another (even the ‘branded shirts‘ that clubs are objecting to these days). I’m interested to see how someone else has managed to get through the minefield, or not.

Dress Codes Gone Mad

Egg Dress Code

I love the phrase ‘Dress to Impress’ it makes me immediately understand that this is not a club for me. But the addition of no ‘branded shirts’ is great.

I’m sure that Naomi Klein would be overjoyed that her whole No Logo philosophy has migrated into London Nightlife. But I’m guessing that they’re not checking the labels inside the shirt? And I’m assuming that St Michael and Uniqlo aren’t classed as brands in this case?

Firefox eBay Edition

Firefox Ebay Edition

This could have been around for ages, but I just saw a banner for it today for the first time…

It’s basically a version of Firefox for people who do a lot of eBaying – it’s basically just a load of extensions for Firefox that have been pre-installed. But it is pretty nicely done. This I thought was clever:

Intelligent Refresh
Your eBay information is updated at regular intervals. The refresh rate is increased intelligently as watching, bidding and selling items near their end time.

Check it out here:

I don’t think there’s that many brands who can meaningfully do this and expect people to take it up – apart from maybe creating customised browsers for internal company stuff, which could be really cool…