[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]It’s been a crazy week. No sooner did Steve Jobs pass away and the very people who care most moved on to drown their sorrows with a new iPhone 4S or for the (less fortunate, contractually bound of us) installing of iOS 5. Such is the pace of society 2.0. You’ll forgive me therefore if I choose to pay my 2 minutes of homage to Mr Jobs by reflecting on Apple’s latest releases.

There has been much praise for Apple’s latest incarnation of the iOS operating system, which even the vast disappointment of no iPhone 5 announcement has been brushed aside for. But having spent hours now with the new iOS 5, my feeling is that Apple has lost its way.

Whilst I was a late adopter to the iPhone (or Apple products for that matter), I do remember thinking how simple everything was when I did finally join the iPhone bandwagon a couple of years ago.

For years in my 20’s, I spent countless hours mod’ing my consoles, flashing my phones, ripping my DVD’s and configuring my P2P’s. For most of my 30’s I juggled my time between my IT career, my (way to overcomplicated) home network and those pesky things called ‘my kids’. So, as I approached my 40’s, being greeted by Apples gracious technology, which simply worked, was a breath of fresh air. No more tinkering, no more configuring, no more struggling – just simplicity.

However, now days into my iOS 5 experience, I feel like Apple has drawn me back into a world which I so enjoyed not being in.

Do I want to push my data to the cloud? If I so, which parts of my data should I push there? And should I Photostream to my other Apple devices? I don’t know! Do I want everybody who picks up my iPad at home to share my life? And since when did my Apple ID become my life? And should every life in my life have an Apple ID or should we share one? What impact will that have on my data in the cloud? The list goes on.

The thing that drove me to write this post actually, was the realisation that Siri (the much vaunted feature of iOS 5) is not available to iOS 5 on an iPhone 4. “What a bummer” – I thought. And it’s about at that point, when I realised – why the hell do I care! I had, it seemed, been thrown back into a world of caring about things that I don’t want to care about.

In fact, you only need to look through the ‘Notifications settings’ to see what I mean. Or perhaps, the ‘Buy more storage’ button (under the Cloud settings) is a truer reflection of what the game is all about (after all, maybe being richer than America is not enough!).

The Apple board room must be an interesting place. I can only imagine the (perfectly logical) arguments for needing to ‘up the ante’ and not fall behind the competition. Whether it’s the notification simplicity of Android, the Cloud based solutions or voice recognition capability on offer by the competition – Apple must have been feeling the heat.

But as I browse through the settings, or use the other 200+ new features which Apple is so proud of, I feel that Apple hasn’t quite so much overtaken the crowd, but that it’s decided to join them. And in doing so, has perhaps forgotten the one key principle that made their previous products so successful – that for anybody picking them up for the first time … they ‘just worked’. Now excuse me please while I push this to the cloud…

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Posted: October 15, 2011 in Mobile

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]It seems that my first posting from down under will not be about my sunny new life, despite there being much to tell. No, unfortunately I find myself starting my new life here almost embarrassed to say I come from England in light of the recent riots, which for now seems to be top of everybodys mind.

It’s fascinating to sit by from this distance and watch everybody from the politicians to the humble (and perplexed) law abiding citizens give their assessments on what has caused the apparent breakdown in society. From political parties to austerity measure, lack of good parenting to simple yobbery. It’s even more fascinating to watch some (Hello Mr Livingstone!!) defend the position of those involved – as if everybody else is missing an obvious point trying to be made by the rioters. So I’ve decided to sit back in my new home down under and let the distance have its sobering effect.

Whilst the dime a dozen home made psychiatrists grace us with their assessments, I find my eyes drawn to those in power and the worrying stance they seem to be being taking regarding social networking. It seems to me, that those in power, Mr Cameron most recently are refraining from singling blame on any individual body, be it the police, policies or whatever. A smart move really, as this would inevitably result in a bed of their own making.

So instead it seems we’re being subjected to meaningless dribble … “we’re clamping down…”, “we’re getting tough on…”. And in an all too obvious (grasping at straws) sense, Social Networking has become an obvious victim too. It’s an easy (almost) faceless target. But given the vast amount of past discussion over human rights, privacy laws and social networking over the past decade it is clear that the government will get little out of putting social networking in the limelight – probably exactly what they want.

What it does clearly give them (and the reason they’ve probably decided to take this cheap shot) is that they themselves do not need to join the ranks of the many home made psychiatrists whilst also (and more importantly) avoiding the necessity to deal with the obvious deeper underlying issues behind the riots, whatever they might be (don’t get me started!!).

I apologise for my first blog posting from down under not being about the fantastic experiences I’m going through here, but it does sadden me when something as valuable as social networking which has added a new dimension to human interaction gets used by government as a cheap and easy way to avoid dealing with far far deeper rooted issues than the humble Like button!

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dream

Time to blitz Ebay!!

Well, it is with many mixed emotions that I say goodbye to so much. Many ask what prompts such a move, after all emigrating to Australia with wife and 3 kids on tow is no mean feat. And whilst it didn’t seem quite so drastic just a few weeks ago, the scale of our next chapter is starting to dawn on me, as plans turn into reality. After all, nothing smacks of reality more than packing up your life (and seeing how much crap you’ve accumulated along the way). Yup, it’s been a roller coaster ride with the past few months in particular mixed with hectic handovers, sad goodbyes, planning, planning and yet more planning.

Reflecting back, I’ve enjoyed and even cherished my time at View. There have been highs. Adding BA, Schroders and Beazley to the client list during my last month there has been a great high to end on … and a testament to the degree in which View has changed during my time there – the credit being far from all mine of course. I’ve had the benefit of working with some truly dedicated, professional and above all passionate people at View and have learnt shed loads from them. The clients deserve a mention too as they’re the ones who constantly challenged (you know who you are!) and pushed the agency to the heights that View is comfortable soaring at today.

And if you’re looking for some heartfelt honesty, there have been lows too of course. Managing the business in this recession has been tough. Looking back, I can still find myself bemused at the countless haggling over rate cards, often with procurement departments who don’t know the difference between an Agency and a supplier of loo paper! Or the difficulties of delivering great creative solutions on shoestring (noose!?) budgets. And even the heated, at times irrational, internal discussions (putting it mildly) regarding the agency’s strategy for managing in these times of ‘austerity’.

But in all, if I look back and see that we got through the past 2 years with some of the great wins we have to our name and without making a single redundancy, I think that those who are in the industry will understand the extent of our unsung success.

Reputationally, View is on the map today more than it’s ever been. And in an environment where revenues are harder to secure, I’ve learnt that the value of your reputation, staff and clients alike, should not be underestimated or taken for granted (and certainly shouldn’t be victim to lack of strategic thinking).

So, as I take this hiatus, I bid you goodbye but not farewell. For any of you who wish to stay in touch, I would be only too happy to hear from you. Needless to say, this blog will continue, albeit with a slightly altered twang. Slightly more Australian. Slightly more consumer marketing focussed. And above all, hopefully from the hands of a slightly more tanned MD!

I’ll resume normal updates when I’ve resurfaced down under – take care for now.

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Dad, what are those 2 little doors?

Dad, what are those 2 little doors?

I remember waving goodbye to my parents through teary eyes when I was 13, as they drove off leaving me standing there, in my new and completely unfamiliar home to be – boarding school (no sympathy though please, it was more Eaton than Oliver Twist!).

As I walked through the long dormitory corridors for the first time (making sure to swallow that lump in my throat), it became clear to me that there were a few fundamentals to getting along in my new environment 1) new comers stood very little chance and 2) a ghetto blaster counts – the bigger the better (to wow the crowds and drowning out the competition). Yup, it was a strange world I had been left to fend for myself in.

So no surprise then when 20+ years later, I came across a pristine fully functioning ghetto blaster at my mothers house which she had been using as a radio (not to win friends I’m pleased to report), that I became somewhat nostalgic. Wanting to share the moment, I found myself struggling to conjure up a suitable comment to associate with the photo to share on my wall, that the poignancy of Paul Adams research ‘The Real Life Social Network’ on social networking (and how it clearly needs to adapt) hit home.

The premise of Pauls presentation (which I urge anybody in the industry to read) was that we’re just at the very beginning of a very long road in the evolution of social networking. His main point being that the single bucket ‘Friends’ solution is simply inadequate to truly reflect the way we interact and socialise in the real world.

Did I want all my contacts, which includes friends, colleagues, clients and yes, my mother to know about how I felt? The answer is no – if at the very least because I didn’t want to make my age sensitive even more sensitive thinking I was poking fun at her choice of radio publicly! But more so because it was only a small handful of friends that would have appreciated it’s relevance.

Looking back, I realise that the association between ghetto blasters and popularity is as deluded as the association between number of friends and social networking success (whether personally or for business).

All this alludes to the problems that have yet to be solved. Extended to the world of business, what good is a following of 10,000 users on Facebook if as a business you fail to understand the nature of the relationship you have/are forming with them? I think it’s a great question and without answers being offered (yet) from smart people like Paul Adams, it leaves the road ahead wide open and if anything, Google+’s plans for business (as stated by Christian Oestlien from the Google+ team) or Facebook 2.0 interesting things to lookout for.

In the meantime though, have a read of Paul’s thought provoking work…

The Google+ experience

Posted: July 7, 2011 in Usability
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[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Whilst the inevitable “Google+ fade away like a Wave or troop on like an Android?” debate gets under way and countless blogs start attempting to predict Google+’s fate, my attention gravitates to a slightly different area of the Google+ experience.

Take a look at the Google+ tutorial here www.google.com/+/demo. Without getting too technical it’s a pure and simple showcase for how far non Flash based interfaces can be taken (in this case it’s a custom hack of the Google Maps API). Not that we needed a better showcase for what can be achieved without Flash following the fantastic http://chrome.angrybirds.com but the Google+ team have pulled off some even greater things (as far as web based UI is concerned) within the Google+ interface itself.

With everything from seamless drag and drop features, animations and other nifty tricks (see video below) it’s not too difficult to see how the Google Chrome OS might evolve by looking at what has been achieved with the Google+ UI.

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Wave on the iPhone

Wave on the iPhone

The interface enhancements extend to mobile too (curious that currently Google seems to have invested more in making the iPhone experience better than it’s own Android experience). Using the Google ‘suite’ on mobile is becoming ever more enjoyable. So on that front, it will be interesting to see uptake of Google+ on mobile.

As to whether Google+ will succeed or not!? Well a) that’s not for this blog post and b) who cares… one thing’s for sure, there will be benefits to be had by understanding it; and love it or loath it – we have to understand it if only for the sheer amount of Gmail users that will soon have immediate access to it’s features.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]There is nothing more disheartening when a client relationship takes a turn for the worse. It happens. Being the person who ends up taking ultimate responsibility for things, I do take it personally when these instances arise. Whether due to poor communications, over commitments, under delivery – mishaps are a reality that comes with agency life.

But, when things go right the feeling is ever so much the opposite! When you can look back and “WOW” yourself at what’s been achieved in partnership with a client,  you’re reminded why you work ‘agency side’. And that’s what this overdue blog post is all about (I’ll save the disaster stories for another time!!).

Our relationship with Thames Water started over 3 years ago, when we helped them launch their new corporate website. We won the competitive tender  off the back of our solid corporate experience; and since that launch the website has stood alone as Thames Water’ main digital asset.

Fast forward to today however and both our understanding and that of Thames Water’ for  how  digital strategy can serve to dramatically improve  their customer engagement, has without doubt developed greatly.

Thames Water - the new customer website

Thames Water - the new customer website delivers a far greater user centred experience

But the new customer website is just the start of it. Whilst  the new site delivers a far more user centric IA and task focussed design, the site now sits at the heart of what is far more widespread digital strategy, aimed at increasing direct engagement with their customers and winning advocacy as well increasing transparency and creating brand affinity. Take a look at just some of the results which the broader digital strategy has achieved and I’m sure you’ll agree – utility companies don’t need to be boring!

tw_live

Interactive roadwork

Thames Water - Twitter page

Over 2,000 followers

Thames Water - mobile site and app

Soon to launch mob' site

Thames Water - Waterwisely

Waterwisely

Thames Water - water saving calculator

Water saving calculator

Thames Water - facebook virals

Facebook viral

Thames Water - one safety hub

One safety hub

Thames Water - interactive maps

Interactive maps

Thames Water - digital guidelines

Digital guidelines

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Life has a funny way of letting you know you’ve been around the block. Part of the joys of growing up is defining and deciding where you stand in life, going through the process of self discovery. Deciding where you stand on key worldly issues, whether global politics, the envioronment or whatever, through debate, argument and heated emotions – that’s growing up.

But part of the fun of being grown up, is recognising that life has a funny way of repeating itself…

Having worked ‘agency-side’ for over a decade now, the cycles of repetition are starting to emerge here too. Whether it’s seeing clients swing from using outsourced to in-house models (and back again!) or agencies rushing to figure out how to turn the latest buzz-word into a service offering. I’m just saying that there are some key themes which tend to repeat and cause the same questions to be asked time and time again.

Will or should the agency model change, is one such question I am often asked, or forced to consider. As channels and consumer demands evolve and diversify will the agency of tomorrow be a different beast to the agency of today? It’s a question we’ve faced increasingly in these economic times too. Should we do it all in-house, or retain only key strategic roles in-house (consultancy) and outsource the design and development work? After all, design and development is now so commoditised. Just take a look at 99designs.com (the EBay of design work) to see what I mean.

For me though, the more I hear this question being asked, the more I am assured it boils down to the type of work you want to produce if you’re an agency or have produced if you’re a client. And, if the answer you aspire to create the best work in the world that engages, communicates and convinces audiences, there is no doubt in my mind that a full service agency is the only way to go. Why…?

Well, it’s not far different to the supermarket’s vs local high street shops debate! In theory clinging on to the fine local shops might make sense (aka niche agencies offering the latest buzz-word as a service), but in practice? Well, let’s just say I know where I end up doing my shopping – irrespective of my ideals (it’s down at Tesco’s in case you’re wondering!).

To the outsourcing advocates I say, you might have an agency business model but how long will it be before you come back to recognise that the only way to produce industry leading work is by creating a rich, thriving environment, where the creative and technical passion oozes from every corner and innovation is part of the fabric. This, I maintain, can only be achieved by cramming as much expertise and talent as you can (find demand for and sell!) under one roof.

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]I recently came across the interesting theory of Prediction Markets, which could have a profound effect on how we apply social networking initiatives in a business context.

Before I go on I’d like to state … that whilst I’d love to stake claim to the concept of Prediction Markets or suggestions for how to apply it, the best I’d be able to do is take claim for bringing this to your attention today! Prediction Market theory is long standing and the idea of applying it come from people far smarter than my humble self. The premise is simple however…

Prediction Markets are speculative markets created for the purpose of making predictions – where people who buy low and sell high are rewarded for improving the market prediction.

It’s when the theory of prediction markets is combined with Web 2.0 mechanisms of today, that  powerful outcomes for business could be unlocked. Indeed, many social initiatives today have allowed large groups to work to a common goal. In the public domain things like the Pepsi Refresh challenge have allowed the public to (together) decide what social initiatives Pepsi will sponsor. This is now nothing new with My Starbucks Idea, Dell Idea Storm, M&S ‘Plan A’ and many other similar initiatives already around for a while.

The quest is on for how these initiatives can evolve and produce better results yet. Introducing Prediction Markets to the above scenarios could create a whole new level of engagement and perhaps more importantly, enable the successful ideas to be predicated with far greater accuracy.

Practical applications are not too difficult to imagine. Consider then for example in a corporate context, if staff could ‘bet’ on the next years R&D spend. And if those ideas were to get selected and subsequently launched into products, that staff who backed the ideas would reap rewards of some sort. Imagine the interest this would evoke in that companies R&D strategy.

The key for this to work would be establishing a reward mechanism, so the people who back successful ideas get rewarded too. The more successful the idea becomes, the greater the reward. Likewise, backing the wrong ideas would result in perceived losses too. In this model, it is not only the original contributor of the idea that get’s rewarded (by having their ideas selected), but all those that ‘invested’ in the idea too.

Needless to say, the concept of introducing Prediction Markets into today’s social initiatives has it’s risks, ranging from accuracy, the ability for some to manipulate the system and perhaps even just the addictiveness of it and time consumed by it (especially in a corporate environment).

But, if the boffins are correct in their assertions that Prediction Markets result in greater accuracy of trend prediction, then businesses may have a good way to evolve their social networking initiatives into something of greater value than the ‘Like’ buttons of today.

Relationship matters

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Agency life
Tags:

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Yesterday was Valentines Day and I did nothing. In fact, I felt somewhat liberated for ignoring it! I even played football instead and sympathised for some poor shmuck I saw standing at the bus stop with flowers and chocolates in hand (especially because I saw the price at the special ‘valentines day’ stall he got them from just minutes ago).

Anyhow (!) and contrary to what you must be thinking, this post is not about my personal relationship (I wouldn’t suggest you follow my advice on that anyway), it’s about a far more professional one – the client / agency relationship.

So, whether you’re a client side bigwig or funky agency stereotype, how familiar is this scenario…


1. Project scope is defined, cost is formulated.

2. Idea gets approved, cost needs to be reduced, ‘s(h)avings’ begin (see corners!).

3. Shavings are applied, project delivered (perhaps unsurprisingly) with a gaping hole in it.

Notice: the size of the hole is generally proportionate to a) the hit the client / agency relationship takes and b) the overspend required to manage the hole!

I’m sure that some part, if not all of the above, sounds familiar.

The solution? Simple!

4. Instead of focussing on shaving off corners, focus on changing the project approach.

5. So, in fact it’s not about delivering the same for less, it’s about finding a suitable project approach (yes, even if totally different to the original) that works within the budget.

It’s not easy, because it often means abandoning perfectly good ideas, which whilst seemed so good, were only really achievable at the originally proposed cost. Whether it means going back to the drawing board for the agency; or a client having to tell their boss “we had to scrap that idea”, it’s not always easy to do the right thing, but in the interest of the relationship, the only thing to do is rethink the approach.

After all, it’s easy (perhaps easier?) for a client to say “I want the same for the lower cost” or for an account director to say “we’ve got to deliver the original idea at the lower cost“, but, in my humble experience, over a long enough timeline these will both result in problematic relationships.

It seems simple, but it requires foresight, a (shared) understanding that you cannot deliver the same for less; and most importantly, it requires a desire from both sides for the (longer term) relationship to be preserved. And in this climate, with good (stable) agencies on one hand and good clients on the other, becoming harder to find, it is something that everybody should be bearing in mind – because this one can’t be fixed with bunch of flowers!

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Could there soon be a time when an individuals buying power will be influenced by ones social networking activity? Can social network value actually be calculated to then used by businesses to create brand ambassadors or a new level of customer segmentation?

What sparked this for me recently is a random act of generosity by Apple. For no apparent reason after telling us it would cost over £200 to fix, Apple decided to fix the smashed screen on my iPad for free (I dropped canned tomatoes on it). They made clear it’s a once off ‘gesture of good will’ and whilst I made clear I don’t plan on dropping any more cans of tomatoes on it – the question still remains – why would they do this? Especially seeing as I was never more willing to hand over £200!

The importance of securing business today cannot be underestimated and businesses are rapidly understanding the power of social networking in achieving this. Obviously it wasn’t long after I left the Apple store that I Facebook’ed about Apples generosity, immediately letting my whole social network know of the incident. So, was I subject to a random act of kindness or had Apple assumed my social network value (at greater than £200)?

It sounds a little big brother, maybe a bit Hollywood. I’ve not seen the movie The Joneses but I hear it isn’t too far off what I’m talking about.

Today I learnt that Starbucks, Mazda and Argos have recently signed up for Facebook deals, offering Facebook users who “check in” using the Facebook Places feature on their mobile app, access to special offers and other deals. Will it be long before this idea extends, so that only those with a social network value above a certain value, or of a certain type, will be able to trigger the reward?

There is a risk to all this of course. Something outlined by Seth Godin recently, “Networking is always important when it’s real, and it’s always a useless distraction when it’s fake. What the Internet has allowed is an enormous amount of fake networking to take place, and it’s so easy to be seduced by it… and it’s nonsense.”

Where things get scary is where social network value could become a factor not only of the number of contacts one has, but what the combined value of ones network is. Introduce into this credit ratings, demographic data and anything else which is being collected about us today and you have a pretty frightening scenario to contemplate.