Top 5 From #SXSW

11 Mar


South by SouthWest (SXSW), the burgeoning interactive festival which takes place each year in Austin, Texas, comes to an end tomorrow. This is the creative technology festival which gave birth to Twitter and Foursquare, amongst others. Marketers, programmers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from across the globe descend on it each year to network, find the next big thing, promote their products and swap ideas.


Unlike other ‘technology festivals’ such as CES and Mobile World Congress, SXSW has long been about the business of selling ideas rather than devices – the emotional benefits of technology rather than the functional. This year it seems there has been a shift, with more and more ‘product ‘ being at the heart of the innovation. The New York Times suggests that this shift is because the likes of Kickstarter, the crowdsourced start-up investment platform, have made is easier to get funding for product proto-types. Certainly the advent of  affordable 3D printing (this indexed very hightly at SXSW this year) and low cost functional products like Berg’s Little Printer have made producing high quality media and components possible.


Each year there are multiple talking points to come out of the festival – not necessarily ground-breaking new advancements in tech, but quite often big brands/ agencies looking to use technology in a new way to drive some talkability or kudos amongst the early adopters.


Last year, controversy was caused by ad agency BBH Labs making mobile WiFi hotspots out of the local homeless people. Members of the public could identify their locations, approach them and hook up to their WiFi signal to use apps or download information – all for a small contribution to the host carrier.


This year, so far there doesn’t seem to be a stand-out moment, but here’s a round up of some of the more notable, or peculiar, things to have happenned:


CUTEST ANIMAL: Cats have been all the rage of the internet over the last couple of years, and this SXSW was no exception. Behold Grumpy Cat, who took up residence in the Mashable Tent on the first day and managed to travel across the internet (again)as people had their picture taken with him. Grumpy Cat started life as an internet meme on the meme-incubator Reddit, so his appearacne at SXSW was something of a red carpet moment


BEST USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA:  Word from ‘South by’ veterans tells that the only way to get around the festival is by bike. Hence Razorfish’s deployment of a small fleet of Tweeting Bikes seems to have been a shrewd move. The bikes were left around the campus and were free to use. Using the hashtag #UseMeLeaveMe the bikes automatically tweeted their location to festival-goers who were then allowed to use the bikes to complete their onward journey before leaving it for someone else.

MOST RANDOM VENTURE CAPITALIST: In the same vein as stars like muscling in on the tech world, ex-NBA superstar Shaq O’Neal announced he would be patrolling SXSW looking for a cool idea to plough his money into. Ambitious ideas on basketball boots that tweeted when the ball was coming, a fuelband that vibrated to remind you to take your growth hormones and an app that generated random urban hip-hop names to name your kids were allegedly all turnd down. In fairness to Shaq, he does have a good record of investments and his use of social media is exemplary: “The way I use it [Twitter] is 60 percent to make you laugh, 30 percent to inspire you, and 10 percent to sell product and promote myself.” ROLF.


BEST LONDON BOROUGH TO MAKE AN APPEARANCE: God Bless Hackney. Ever since Silicon Roundabout landed on its doorstep, it has had an ego boost. This year it took its experiential outfit, Hackney House (last seen during the Olympics), to Austin to promote its reputation as a creative hub. Hackney youths and ‘hoodies’ were decided not best representative of London so were left at customs.


ODDEST CONCEPT: This one goes to Doritos, who created the #BoldStage, a seeming attempt to cram as many zeitgesit ideas into one concept. It’s a huge vending machine, that acts as a stage showcasing cool urban musical acts, that also allows consumers to control the content, pyrotechnics and visuals via Twitter. But it doesn’t dispense massive bags of Doritos. #Fail?


Tip of the hat to the Guardian newspaper in the UK who, having identified that hipsters in London all live in Dalston, now decided that the hipsters at SXSW needed to feel the wrath of their irony. They created this Hot Phrase Generator to  coin the next big thing in phrasology. It’s actually quite good.



FInally – here is day two of SXSW in numbers  -an infographic that shows the breakdown metrics of the festival. Any surprise that most mentioned food was ‘BBQ,  Beer, Tacos’?

Welcome Back Old Jug Ears

27 Jan


Can we all just share a massive lol at Gary ‘Jug Ears’ Lineker. The latest celebrity to have ‘withdrawn’ themself from Twitter only to ‘reinstate’ themself within days – with no other explanation than citing personal reasons.

Not that it is any of our business, but the whole thing is becoming a bit predictable. It took Gary 8 days to repatriate himself to social media, about the same time it took Nicki Minaj to do the same, and Stephen Fry – twice.

Whatever the reasons, the chances are that a bit of agent/management counsel saw him on the right track. With upwards of 1 million followers following him, Gary is the darling of Saturday night football on the BBC.

With the Brazil 2014 World Cup coming up next year, and Gary hoping to spearhead its coverage for the BBC, his social media prominence is a useful tool for communicating the BBC’s coverage worldwide and in the UK. A well placed word in those sizable ears of his must have been assured.


How Brands Can Respond To Social Situations

17 Jul

Big brands – normally long-tail thinkers? Lots of strategy, no tactic? So lost in red tape that they have forgotten to innovate? Charges all levelled at the world’s conglomerates.

Interesting, then, to see a local tactic deployed by Coca-Cola in Spain for their lemonade drink Limon&Nada.

Earlier this month the company deployed 18 vending machines across water parks and various other attractions, all selling Limon&Nada. The difference with these vending machines was that they were temperature sensitive – when the temperature rose, so the price of the drinks it sold decreased.

At temperatures of up to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the cans of lemonade cost 2 euros. As the mercury rose to 77- 85 degrees, they are about 30% cheaper, at 1.40 euros. When the temperature reached 86 degrees (over 30 degrees Centigrade to us UK mud-slingers), they dropped to half price, at just 1 euro.

Pretty damn clever.

What the bods at Coca-Cola did was tackle a real social problem (the heat of the day), respond to it by offering a consumer solution (dropping the price and being convenient) and doing it in a fun, natural and playful way (vending machine with new technology).

Cue coverage that so far, has only been picked up by trend and creativity websites. This, in my honest opinion, is a really innovative brand response to consumer need – but delivered with the panache and authenticity of a brand that completely understood its local market.

Perhaps a bit worthy for Coca-Cola, but kudos do their digital marketing agency (Momentum – Spain) for having the balls.

The stage is set for a UK brand to do the same. Anyone who can deliver a consumer solution to the rain/recession/banking crisis in the UK is set to make a splash.Plenty of outside ‘UK summer’ events to capitalise on.

Video – A New Type of News?

16 Jul

Interesting research to come from The Pew Research Centre. The organisation undertook a survey of 15 months worth of Youtube’s ‘most viewed’ videos to discover what patterns lay in the sharing of social and viral video. It is no surprise that video is now an essential tool in telling a story, even if it includes user-generated content side-by-side with ‘proper’ journalist produced content (ref the Guardian’s ‘Open Journalism’ approach).

But what findings did Pew, who never undertake research lightly, come up with? Some quick points:

  • Top viewed videos were the Japanese tsunami (No.1), Russian elections (No.2) and the Arab uprising (No.3).
  • ‘News’ and ‘entertainment’ videos are happy bed-fellows.The immediacy of news events will drive a huge swell of numbers to a video whereas entertainment videos (eg. memes or virals – Kony for instance) can amass the same numbers but over a longer vperiod of time
  • The source of those videos is thus: 39% were posted by members of the public (user-gernerated), 51% news, 5% political or corporate groups and the other 5% unidentified
  • More than half of the most viewed videos (58%) are edited footage, the other 42% raw footage. This can crudely be divided between professional footage and UGC
  • Specific individuals are not drivers of the most viewed videos. The research found that 65% of most-viewed videos did not feature one specific personality (up yours Beiber). Although Barack Obama was the most prevalent person to feature.
  • The average length of the most popular videos is 2 minutes and 1 second.

So what does this all mean? It means that video, as suspected, is becoming the best way to tell a story or share an idea. Google, who own Youtube, predict that by 2014, 80% of all internet traffic will be video. That is huge. As broadband speeds increase and technology gets faster and more ocnvenient, video is no longer clunky and time-consuming to download. It is instantaneous, mobile and a powerful medium to convey a brand message or a news story. As the public ocnsumer news on the go, it has become instantly more shareable.

Traditional broadcasters shouldn’t be quaking in their boots just yet, however. There will always be a need for news analysis and special reporting, but with Google investing $200m into Premium Content Channels on its Youtube platform, more and more viewers will be drawn to these niche channels to get their dose of personalised news and if the mix of user-generated content, professional video and branded push notifications is got right – that is a potent mix for how Youtube could develop to quash television consumption as we know it.

For the full report – go here:

Image from here   

London 2012: The First ‘Social’ Olympics

9 Jul

The 2012 Olympics in London are being touted by some as the world’s “first social Games.” While some question just how social they’ll actually be, there’s no doubt that networks such as FacebookTwitter andYouTube will play an unprecedented role in how information is disseminated from London, and how the global sports conversation is driven during July and August.

Why the big shift? It’s simple: Four years is an eternity in Internet time and since the last Summer Olympics in 2008, social media has exploded.

Web use in general has grown rapidly, too. In 2008, there were about 1.5 billion Internet users globally, according to the International Telecommunications Union, making up about 23% of the world’s total population. By this summer’s games, that number will have swelled to about 2.3 billion users making up about a third of the world’s total population.

Summer Olympics feature some of the most popular international sports — including soccer, basketball, swimming, and track and field — so that’s sure to fuel the global buzz as well. For more context on just how and why social media will reshape this year’s Olympics in relation to 2008, we thought it’d be interesting to take a quick look at a few of the world’s most popular networks and how they compare then and now.


2008: A tweet in August of 2008 from then-Facebook executive and eventual Path co-founder Dave Moringleefully celebrated Facebook breaking the 100 million-user threshold. 2008 was also marked by reports around the web of Facebook — gasp! — passing MySpace in popularity. The social network debuted its now omnipresent chat feature that year as well.

Today: Facebook claims more than 900 million users, is fast becoming a portal to the web at large for many and is a publicly traded company. Its founder Mark Zuckerberg is a global celebrity.


2008: 2008 saw explosive growth for Twitter, and it still finished the year with about 6 million registered users who sent about 300,000 tweets per day. The social network and its users were still very much finding their way, as evidenced by this official blog post explaining @replies. In 2009, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Lovewould tweet that the team’s coach had been let go, breaking the story and causing some in the sports world to speculate that maybe, just maybe, the service could change how news was delivered and consumed.

Today: Twitter currently claims more than 500 million users who collectively send some 400 million tweetseach and every day. Sports news regularly breaks on the network, it’s become a prime marketing channel for athletes and much of the London 2012 conversation among media and fans is sure to take place there.


2008: By fall of 2008, YouTube users were uploading 10 hours of video to the site per minute. The site had emerged as the go-to destination for web video and had been acquired by Google two years prior. It also launched its mobile site, pre-roll ads and 720p HD option in 2008. But that success was nothing compared to what the site would look like four years later.

Today: Iconic Olympic moments are sure to go viral and become immortalized on YouTube seemingly as they happen this summer, and it’s easy to see why. The company says it receives over 800 million unique visits per month. Those visitors watch more than 3 billion hours of video per month and upload 72 hours of new video content per minute. Five hundred years’ worth of YouTube video are watched on Facebook every day and more than 700 YouTube videos get shared on Twitter each minute.

What It All Means

Just looking at the the three most ubiquitous social networks reveals a sporting scene and world at large that have been transformed by social media since the last Summer Olympics. And that doesn’t take into account services like PinterestFoursquare and Google+ — none of which even existed in 2008. This summer, expect news to break, social sharing records to fall and moments to live on as never possible before thanks to social media. And to think — this will all pale in comparison to what 2016 has in store.

This article appeared on Mashable, written by Sam Laird

Image supplied by

An Infographic of Worth: How to Respond To Criticism

27 Jun

Love this brand response to an abrasive tweet. From Smartcar USA.

Here is the Tweet: “Saw a bird had crapped on a Smart Car. Totaled it.”  -from a particularly harsh media critic in the US.

And here is the brands response: “@adtothebone. Sounds more like 4.5 million. (Seriously, we did the math.)″

Linking to this infographic:


No further explanation needed

Cannes Lions: Arianna Huffington’s Trojan Horse

19 Jun

Cannes, International Festival of Creativity, 2012. An important year for the newly renamed and repositioned festival – one in which a new mobile category has been added to acknowledge the huge consumption of media that takes place on mobile devices, and a year in which it is the end result that is truly at the heart of the festival, not the discipline that got it there.

Against this backdrop, Arianna’s Huffington’s talk on day 2 of the festival seemed a bit dated to me. She outlined three key ‘megatrends’ for the future – trends which, according to some reports of her talk, would allow any business that took notice of them to ‘be successful’ in the future.

They were:

  • A seismic shift from presentation to participation
  • The ‘paradoxical shift’ from connecting through technology to disconnecting in order to ‘connect with ourselves’
  • And lastly, connecting to technology to make the world a better place

The First Lady of Huff Po is someone who you sit up and listen to when she talks, but this one seemed a little wide of the mark.

Admittedly, Huffington conceded her first point wasn’t rocket science, so we can leave this one alone (not the best opener though).

Her second point uses the biblical analogy of the ‘snake’ to warn that hyper-connectivity can be a bad thing. She seems to make the point that not everything viral is actually worth sharing and that too much social media and technology can actually cloud what is important – the connection with ourselves and others. The latter point is a valid one – in a world where viral and share-ability is so cherished by marketeers, many content producers forget that the most important thing to remember is that there is always a human on the other end of the device. Is what you are sharing actually good content, or are you sharing/ creating for the sake of it. Don’t get caught up in the hype is the message.

And then Huffington sells to us. She promotes her new app ‘GPS for the Soul’ which aims to be a way for people to reconnect with their lives by personalising their app to show them their favourite pictures in moments of stress or by playing their favourite music. It actually sounds alright (and it’s free), but the point seems a bit flawed when there are a host of apps out there which allow us to remain connected to ourselves and each other (Facebook to name the obvious one).

Confusion is compounded by her thrid point in which she outlines that people are using technology not just to search out information, but to search for meaning and purpose in their lives. This is definitely a trend, but it is already happening and has been for more than a year, so can’t be a ‘megatrend’, surely? Technology have allowed people to do good for a long time, take the ‘Just Giving’ app or the car-pool sharing websites in San Francisco, for instance.

Vintage Arianna Huffington this was not.

Ambush Marketing – Route 101

17 Jun

As we near the sudden death stages of Euro 2012, this week saw the first ‘knock-out’ behaviour from a brand attempting to capitalise on the global media attention that surrounds the football tournament.

It has been a relatively quiet competition so far, absent of the postulating from rival brands normally associated with huge sporting events. This may, in part, be down to FIFA’s reaction to an episode in the 2010 South African World Cup when a beer brand were alleged to have used the global stage to promote their product, apparently using 36 attractive females to wear the colours of their brand. The ladies in question were quickly surrounded, ejected from the stadium and detained ‘for hours’ by police.

But what do you do when the protagonist is a professional football player? This week saw, Nicklas Bendtner, of the Denmark national team (and Arsenal), celebrate scoring a goal by holding up his jersey to display the top of his underpants emblazoned with the ‘Paddy Power’ brand slogan.

Paddy Power is not an official sponsor of Euro 2012 (Ladbrokes is the official betting partner), so there was a furore that followed in which Bendtner claimed ignorance, the FIFA promised an investigation and marketeers everywhere had a ‘wish I had thought of that moment’. 

Whatever the outcome of the investigation there are two insights to this episode:

Number 1, Paddy Power is a challenger brand. They are exactly the sort of brand FIFA feared coming into this tournament – hard to control, omnipotent and fearless. Their activity in the lead to this tournament has singled them out as a brand that knows their market, likes to campaign for what they believe in and don’t care much for the sensibilities of their competitors. Witness their two other pieces of activity – a 100ft statue of England manager Roy Hodgson, erected on the white cliffs of  Dover ahead of England’s game with France, and the deployment of the Vuvuzela truck – an enormous flat bed truck with a giant vuvuzela (a trumpet-type instrument banned by FIFA from its sporting occasions) on the back which ‘attacked’ Swedish landmarks in London ahead of the England- Sweden game (IKEA, Mamma Mia, the Swedish Embassy for reference)

Number 2, no one will be watching this activity greater than the IOC ( the International Olympic Committee), who will be monitoring the situation to try and predict how non-sponsor brands intend to profit from the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer. With big money sponsors having paid millions of pounds to be official rights-holders, the stakes are high as to who or what grabs media attention. But if it is the athletes who are doing the ‘ambush’ – how can this be policed? Truth it be told, it can’t. Look out for Ussain Bolt promoting or Michael Phelps backing Daz detergent.



Why Uncertainty is Fertile Ground for Generation Flux

29 Apr

Contagious, the communications group that is fast becoming the soothsayer of the advertising world, held its second Now/Next/Why session earlier this week – a conference which serves as a temperature check on the wider comms industry. Bursting with ideas, it sifts through examples of developing new trends from across our connected world. Lots of good stuff presented, but it was the opening talk from Contagious Editorial Director Paul Kemp-Robertson that caught the imagination.

He used his foreword to draw on a recent book he reviewed, ‘Velocity‘  – co-authored by AKQA founder Ajaz Ahmed and Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport at Nike, which champions ‘speed, agility, service and optimism’ in the modern business environment. Paul pulls out an important phrase from the preface of the book:

‘Velocity doesn’t care who you are or how good you were yesterday. It’s coming for you anyway. Don’t be a sitting duck. See the big picture. Find the pain points, see patterns taking shape and act. Evolve immediately. Entitlement kills.’

Powerful stuff, but this phrase reminded me of an article I read earlier in the year in the excellent Fast Company magazine entitled ‘This is Generation Flux’ - a look at the pioneers who are leading the charge for business method change in a time when the economy has capsized the traditional means of operating across communications, technology, finance and beyond.

The article is far to broad to go into here, but the gist is that our world is changing at such pace, that new thinking and new ways of working are required – and that those companies that cannot innovate fast enough will stagnate and die.

Now more than ever, this is true of the media environment we work in. We are dealing with a period of complete uncertainty, one in which the old models of communicating with the consumer are defunct. Complete change has prevailed across the media landscape, with events occurring that ordinarily would have been deemed impossible. Who would have thought that the News of the World, the world’s best-selling and most powerful newspaper, would have folded last year? Would anybody have been able to predict that Twitter, with its instantly shareable nature, would have been the pivotal tool used to galvanise millions and spark change during the Arab Spring? And who could have predicted that one female popstar alone could have a direct influence on 22 million people – greater than the population of Australia – who subscribe to her every word?

In a world where the old values and principles no longer apply, the role of a modern PRO has now changed beyond recognition. Communication experts must now be adept at navigating this uncertainty by being part publicist, part planner, part producer. Speed is fast becoming the new currency and many big brands are having to re-wire their communications department in order to keep up with the pace.

As Paul Kemp-Robertson says in his foreword, ‘it’s been fascinating to see big, bulky off their marketing straight-jackets and behave with genuine modesty, surprising agility and an open curiosity for crowd culture’

This change is only going to accelerate too. As consumers begin to realise the new potential that technology will bring to communications with brands and with each other, as personal information becomes increasingly monetised and shared, none of the old methods of operating will be sacred and it is within these times of uncertainty and change that Generation Flux can excel.


5 Reasons Why Nicki Minaj Leaving Twitter is Probably a PR stunt

22 Apr

Earlier this week Nicki Minaj, the Trinidad-born R&B star, deleted her Twitter account after becoming angry at her music being leaked online. Following a post by fan site ‘Nicki Daily’, which allegedly leaked tracks from her album, and some unsavoury comments from some of her other Twitter followers, the musician decided enough was enough and closed down her account. Bold statement or PR manoeuvre? Here are some reason why it feels like the latter:

She has 11 million followers. Piracy or no piracy, 11 million engaged, adoring fans is too much lose. In a world of declining CD sales, access to digital music has become all the more important, and Twitter is often the medium through which fans experience, advocate and share Minaj’s music. Executives at Minaj’s ‘Young Money’ record label would not allow her to cut off this hugely lucrative and profile raising mouth-piece for her music.

Nicki Minaj has got Klout. Nearly 50% of all tweets on Twitter now contain links – for Minaj, this equates to at least 5.5 million people sharing her music on a regular basis. This blog recently posted that Minaj’s Klout (a software that measures the influence of people on Twitter) score was 92% – only 2% less than Lady Gaga’s. This means that her fan base are actually engaged with her via Twitter, not just passive spectators. A Klout score of 92% means that those 11 million fans were opening her links, looking at her pics and responding to her Tweets. This also means they are more than likely to be buying her music through some means or other.

Getting to No.1 is hard, staying there is harder. At the time of deleting her account, Minaj’s album ‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded’ was No.1 in the Billboard charts and No.2 in the UK album charts. In the music industry, you’re only number one until something better comes along which, invariably, it always does. It is a case of how long can you keep your usurpers at bay. The best way to do this is to keep yourself in the news.

This is a well trodden path. Nicki Minaj isn’t the first celebrity to quit Twitter in the heat of the moment. Remember when Stephen Fry threw his toys out of the pram after being mis-quoted in an interview? Remember who returned triumphantly to a larger fan base? Yep.

Summer’s coming. Minaj is touring the UK’s main cities this summer aswell as playing a selection of the main festivals -including, amusingly, Wireless. Ordinarily she would be communicating with fans ahead of her gigs. Can she resist NOT doing this and missing out on building hype ahead of what should be a sell out tour?

Nicki Minaj has got 30 days to return to Twitter before her account is gone forever. Tick-Tock.




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.