Monthly Archives: October 2011

New event: Engagement – the battle for your time

Ooh, I am very excited because we just put booking live for the next She Says event: ‘Engagement, the battle for your time.‘  It’s on Thursday 17th November.  Go and book your ticket now!

We chose this topic because engagement is a word we all use, but do we all use it properly.  Do we know how to measure it?  It’s so useful and at the same time useless…

So we have speakers from all kinds of disciplines lined up and about to be lined up, all of whom will have a very different view on what ‘engagement’ entails in online marketing and digital design.

It’s also going to be at the swanky SocietyM, and there will be time to have drinks, chats, and enjoy the surroundings.

A quarter of the tickets have been taken already – don’t miss out, make sure you book soon!

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There is no illusion of strategy, you just have to be prepared to iterate

I’ve just read Graham Oakes’ article ‘The Illusion of Strategy’ with interest.

There is a lot of stuff out there right now about what the role of strategy in digital is, with new terms such as ‘agile planning’ (which I wrote about here) and ‘lean planning‘ coming to the fore.

Oakes argues that there are 2 types of projects out there: one where you know what you’re doing and one where you don’t.  He says most digital initiatives fall into the second category, because you have to iterate.

But if you look at the thinking behind agile and lean, iteration and experimentation doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have a strategy.

A well defined objective and a basic idea (or set of ideas) about how you will achieve that objective can be described as a strategy, can’t it?

Reporting back, you might miss out all the experiments or wrong turns you took, to make it sound more clear-cut.  But you still knew where you wanted to go and had a rough idea of how to get there.

There is no illusion of strategy.  It’s either there or it’s not.


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Why I am tired of the big idea debate

You’ve heard it before.  ‘The big idea is dead.’  ‘It’s all about lots of little ideas now.’

I just read yet another article about it and felt that it was time to say something again.

I am of the impression that we work from ‘brand platforms’ – sets of values and messages which they use to connect with their audiences, and that we can use these platforms as means of creating work based around ideas of all different sizes.  (Whatever ‘size’ means.  I think it means that a big idea can do lots of things, whereas a smaller one doesn’t go as far.)

However, the debate about the big idea still goes on.  I believe that this is because there is a wee backlash going on.  This is based on traditional planning vs the new planning.  People like me who have made the transition from making above the line campaigns in agencies where TV was the pinnacle, to digitally led agencies where we can do whatever is best for our clients because we have every channel at our disposal.

Because planning in digital seems so different, we feel the need to redefine what we do.  However, after doing this myself for a while, I now feel it is a complete waste of time.  What I do now is essentially the same as it has always been:

  • understand the audience
  • identify insights
  • agree what we want people to understand about the brand
  • agree what we want people to do with the brand
  • come up with good ideas about how we can make that happen

I’ve been criticised on the blog for this in the past.  And that criticism was fair, so I had a go at trying to explain why I wasn’t totally old school about it.

Big ideas are sexy.  They take ages to come up with.  Wouldn’t we all like to come up with one now and again?  On the other hand, lots of little ideas can be greater than the sum of its parts.  Horses for courses.  It’s up to us to work with our clients to do what is best for their brand.

I’d really like if the big idea debate could just die, rather than the big idea.

Rather than go on about it any more I’d suggest reading the following articles and making up your own mind.  (And then let me know what you think. Or don’t bother.  If you don’t reply I will assume you are getting on with having good ideas.)


The big idea is dead:

Think small

Why small matters

The big idea is dead

Rethinking the big idea

The elusive big idea

Simple ideas, well executed

Why it’s time to move away from the big idea


The big idea isn’t dead:

The big idea isn’t dead, it’s just smashed up into millions of pieces

Why size matters, big ideas aren’t dead, and ‘think small’ is dangerous advice

The big idea is alive and well

The big idea ain’t dead

Are big ideas dead?  Here’s one to watch out for


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What is a weavr?

Yesterday I got retweeted by a weavr.

(I’m actually quite amused by this sentence.  Four years or so ago that would have been nonsense.)

‘My’ weavr, SpectatorLDN, seems human at first, but a bit weird. She’s ‘anxious’ and blogs about things she ‘sees’ in London. But weavrs aren’t human, they’re robots with ‘human personalities’.

Weavrs explore the web and document what they find. As they interact, they become more and more like real personas, becoming difficult to distinguish from a human.  Using the vast amount of public data available, they blog about ‘themselves’: how they feel, where they go and what they experience, sharing ‘slippy’ content from around social media.

According to Canvas8, by 2015, 10% of our online ‘friends’ will be non-human.  We will follow entities like weavrs because they will offer us a targeted, personal seeming stream of relevant information.  They will provide us with useful stuff, without going on about their pets or their kids or what they’re having for lunch.

The implications for online marketing are quite large.  Remember Ananova?  This is the real deal.  If people like dealing with online robots like weavrs because they become useful informers – and even regular companions, they they will be an enormous success.

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Chemical Brothers mix for the 50/50 project

The Chemical Brothers and director Flat Nose George have made a new mix to raise money for East Africa.

It has been donated to Good for Nothing’s 50/50 Make or Break campaign, which aims to raise £1m for East Africa Crisis by running 50 projects in 50 days.

Check it out.

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Before you use the word ‘engagement’ again, read this

‘Engagement’ is a totally mis-used, over-used, generally abused word in our business.

Thankfully Martin Weigel has written a lengthy, comprehensive, and at times funny article about it.  Everyone who works in digital or communications or advertising should read it.

I’m as guilty as anyone else for falling into some of the bad habits he describes, whilst at the same time flinching when others commit the crimes…

I don’t really have anything to add just now, except – read it!

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Speculation about location based status

I saw the infographic below earlier today on Griffin Farley’s blog and it’s been stuck in my head ever since.

It’s new stats about how Twitter and other social media is being used.

The thing that really stands out is the high proportion of location based Facebook statuses and tweets coming from airports.  I think there is an insight here that could be built upon.

Why do people want to tell people they’re at the airport so much?

Is it because they want to show people how important they are, they have to travel for work?

Is it because they are a wee bit (or a big bit) scared of flying and they want to ‘mark’ their tracks in the sand so to speak?

Or is it just that they are bored and want everyone to know they are bored, is it just something to do before they get to where they are going?

I wonder if people are more likely to write their status or tweet about airports when they’re coming home, or when they’re going away?

I wonder what use airlines – or other brands – could do with the answers to these questions.

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