Ideas Forum in Bucharest


I’ve been in Romania for the last few days. Which has been really interesting. I’ve been getting to hang out with Russell and Faris, which is always a nice thing. We’ve been talking at a thing called the ‘ideas forum’: in Bucharest.

I don’t know if people really liked what we were saying that much (or specifically what I was saying). There seemed to be a few people in the various rooms who were a bit excited and engaged. But I think for a lot of people the whole digital thing just seems like theory. Or maybe they’re just quite quiet and shy (which I think is part of the case).

Someone I was talking to at lunchtime today said: “You three are like men from our future”. I love the idea of being a man from the future, but I don’t really agree. They are going through a lot of the same things we did 2 or 3 years ago. But I’m hoping that they’ll catch up a whole lot quicker than that. What with Internet time being really fast and compressed and everything. And I’m sure they’ll find newer, better ways of solving the issues. It’d be nice to think that other people can benefit from looking elsewhere and not having to make the same mistakes other people have already done.

I might share my presentation on here. Basically it was about how to ‘Do More with Digital’ – it’s kind of a progression from the 10 Reasons stuff to actually talk about the good things we should, and hopefully are, doing. But I’m trying to decide how to best do it as it doesn’t make that much sense without commentary. I’ll figure it out…

We were shown around and generally looked after by a couple of lovely people who were very generous in their time and just general niceness. Thanks Bogdana who is a planner with low expectations and Christian who was one of the organisers.

You probably won’t believe this but in Romania they treat people who know about the Internet like popstars. Here’s what happened when Faris and I arrived at the hotel:

Spot the Bull

Spot the bull

This is one of my favourite projects of recent times. It ticks all of the boxes that get me excited about the work Poke do.

It’s a simple idea, that hasn’t been done before (as far as I can tell). We were basically tasked by Orange to come up with an interesting way to give away a bunch of tickets for Glastonbury. So we came up with the idea of:

  • Putting a GPS enabled cow in a field (it turned out to be a bull later so we could turn the name into a tabloid-friendly pun)
  • Showing it’s position live on the internet, along with webcams
  • Whoever guesses where the bull is going to be at a certain time of day will win tickets

You can play online now for the next 4 weeks:

I really hope that it gets picked up by the online community. It just feels like the kind of idea that people could get excited about. It’s one of those things that creates an interesting interface between the real world and the web world, and it’s a bit silly too (which often helps).

(In case you’re worried, we were very careful that the activity doesn’t in any way interfere with the Bull’s normal life. The whole thing has been devised in consultation with the farmer and the RSPCA)


It’s silly season.

I don’t know where to start with this. I don’t think I can describe it. Basically there’s a new trend for putting ‘baddly spelld capshunz’ over odd photos. If they’re photos of cats (or katz) they’re called LOLcats, if they’re whales, they’re called LOLwhales, even LOLgays has a big scene.

Like I said, I can’t explain it. So you’re going to have to see it for yourself:


I’ll say no more.

Explore the phenomenon for yourself at Buzzfeed:
and Gawker has something to say on it too.

Looks like is the daddy. But I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment.

10 Reasons Why Digital is Better Than Advertising – Number 10

Of course there are brilliant people in advertising who ‘get it’ too. And blatantly you don’t have to be a web-obsessed geek to come up with interesting interactive ideas. But naturally it becomes easier to consider this world if you spend some time in it. So, at the very least, you understand a few of its basic rules.

It helps to appreciate what makes a great game. Or be able to feel the difference between a good application and a lousy one. To understand how important online relationships are to people. To have lived a day in Second Life before recommending it as the solution to a problem. To be a user who generates content and not a marketeer who just hypothesises about it. The list goes on…

I read an interesting quote recently, I forget where. But the point was that almost anyone could have a go at coming up with TV advertising ideas – we’ve all sat through so many commercials in our lives the techniques and language of TV ads are part of mainstream culture (I’ve got no doubt at all that they’d be second rate rubbish, but there’s something in the thought).

On the flipside, your average teenager with MySpace/Bebo/Facebook pages is way more qualified to come up with ideas around social networks than most boardrooms full of marketeers.

I think you get the point.

From what I can see, lots of the people who really live and love this stuff have taken refuge in small digital agencies. They wouldn’t survive in a place where their Internet access was subject to WPP Group firewalls (although they’d probably hack a way around it). They need to be allowed to run instant messenger and install applications on their own machines. They’re also more comfortable knowing that they can survive being just a little bit nerdy and their obscure cybercultural references will be understood by most people, not just the IT work experience guy.

Of course this will change, and I’ve got no idea where the talented young creatives who’ve lived their whole lives with this stuff will gravitate towards over the next few years. I’m guessing they’ll head for the places where they feel understood and the places with the best opportunities. Who knows whether these will be the same places?

If you’re excited by the possibilities of digital, there’s nothing like having a team around you who are all connected, online people. People who share an enjoyment of constant change and upheaval instead of fearing it.

Digital is fun.

The Daddy of All Secret Clubs…

Following the post about secret clubs, posters like this have just started going up for Secret Sundaze (one of the original new wave of oudoor / warehouse parties).

It doesn’t get much more secret than that. If you’re smart you might be able to figure out the date. But you’ll need to know where to look (or how to search the internet) to get more…

But you know what, they don’t need to do any more. They’ve created a really really strong brand. From a very simple yellow and black identity with just an unfussy typeface they’ve manage to build something that has massive cutthrough in the congested flyposter space. When you see a confident yellow poster that doesn’t say much their followers know exactly what it’s for. They’ve build a brand thats understood enough by its audience that information on posters is merely clutter and distraction. They use their ads simply as beacons or reminders, letting other channels do the ‘heavy lifting’ of information: who the djs are, where it is, etc. Almost like the way the iPod ads work.

Online Drama – Prom Queen

prom queen

I didn’t really know where to start with this one.

Prom Queen is a new 80 episode Internet-only drama. Here’s the facts:

  • Each episode is just over 2 minutes long and features pre and post-roll ads – a couple of seconds pre and about 10 seconds post.
  • It’s being produced by a production company called Vuguru who are the new media studio for Michael Eisner’s Tornante Company.
  • It’s been broadcast first on
  • Then it gets shown on – which interestingly uses streaming from Veoh not MySpace (perhaps not surprising as Veoh is another Eisner backed company).
  • Each character has their own MySpace page e.g. and they’re nicely done, each has been styled, written, and lived-in as if owned by the character.
  • The activity in the official forum would suggest that no-one’s watching. But the show has 115,000 friends to date on MySpace which is a lot more encouraging. On Veoh the most popular episode has had 20,000 views which isn’t very good (and the rest are a lot lower) but I’m guessing most of the views come from MySpace at the moment.

So is it any good and does it work?

I have to say I’ve got almost no idea. The episodes themselves are OK as far as I can tell. They look like a kind of OC-lite, the acting is a bit hammy and because the episodes are so short it feels like they’re having to over dramatise some bits. But it’s perfectly watchable. And I think the 2 minute long episdoe format might just work. Even the pre and post-roll ads aren’t too annoying – they’re more like typical show sponsorship than ads. It doesn’t look like it’s got as many viewers as it probably needs though.

I’ve read a couple of criticisms of the show that suggest that episdoe 1 would be the biggest (because of the hype around it) then it’ll tail off. I think the opposite might be true. I saw no hype at all and if it works OK the old long-tail principle ought to kick in.

Where I think they’ve done a nice job is integrating it with the fabric of MySpace – I just hope that they use this integration in an interesting way. I’m not sure if the whole series is ‘in the can’ already but it would be great to see them responding to the community in some way or another.

It’ll be interesting to see how it does…

Some other links on the story:

Widgets, Dials, Switches and More

Yesterday I was looking for some pictures of ‘counters’ to use in a presentation, Nik sent me this blog: No Ideas But In Things

It’s a blog of photos about real-world interface elements. Incredibly single-minded and focused. But for me, yesterday, an incredible resource. And I”m hoping that today it’ll be an incredible resource for someone else. Absolutely great.

Isn’t the Internet great!

10 Reasons Why Digital is Better Than Advertising – Number 2

Number 2 - You can just do stuff

OK, you have to know some stuff to put things on the Internet, but not that much. Just look at the people in 80% of YouTube videos, do they look like they know how to do complicated computer stuff? Or use a VCR? Or open a tin? In spite of this the girl on the left and her friends have had over 12m views of their video clip.

Basically if you have an idea, good or bad, you can make it happen online. There’s not that many people who can stop you. You really can just do ‘interesting’ things – and are 2 projects that we’ve done just for the hell of it (with a degree, however small, of social conscience).

Of course you can still do those things and not work in a digital agency, you could work anywhere. But imagine how much fun it would be to have that kind of creative freedom, every day, in your job.

I’ve never seen this before…

I was searching for “Sothern Trains” and I got this error from Google. Quite a surprise. Google is one of those services you expect never to give you an error. And when something odd happens it doesn’t feel like a brand letting you down. It feels like the internet’s broken!

Venice Project Becomes Joost

The project formerly known as The Venice Project has now turned into Joost. It’s the latest venture from the guys behind Skype and in a nutshell it hopes to do to television what Skype did to telephones. As they put it: ‘taking the best of TV and mixing it with the best of the Internet’. It’s all based on peer-to-peer technologies (don’t forget these are also the same guys who developed Kazaa – one of the best early p2p applications). I don’t have any idea how they’re hoping to deal with copyright issues, but I’m sure they do…

It’s in ‘invite only’ beta phase. I’m in the beta testing program, but it’s PC only at the moment. So I’ve not really had a chance to play with it.

Wikipedia describes it thusly.

Here’s a couple of useful videos:

This is how it looks when it’s working (pretty slick):

Here’s an (audio only) interview with Janus Friis one of the founders:

I really don’t like the design of their website though. It looks like they’ve tried to progress the 2.0 aesthetic but I don’t think it quite hits the mark…