Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Brief for Agencies

Will.i.am, musician at Black Eyed Peas, and Director of Creative Innovation at Intel, speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Advertising Creativity (to be noted), said, “Ad agencies are yesterday. But ad agencies that can turn consumers into agents that add value to community and life, that’s what it’s about right now.” (via)

A couple of weeks back, I had remarked on the role of agencies in future in the context of brands and curation. I found this post titled ' Why Ad Agencies Should Act More Like Tech Startups' very interesting. The contention was that in these dynamic times, with new services appearing/disappearing faster than ever, the definition of the 'idea' needs to go beyond the traditional creative domains and start looking at technology as a major player, 'leveraging it in creative ways'. Mashable had a post couple of days back on how the advertising industry is preparing for a digital future.

Despite the slice-and-dice that marketing functions have gone through, I still have quite some affection for full service agencies especially if they adapt to changing scenarios and pick up specialised skills and knowledge that would help them tell brand stories better. But I'd agree that understanding not just specific technology, but the landscape itself is indeed something agencies should look at as a priority.

And then I happened to read another post on a blog that I have recently discovered, but is one of my favourites now. The post, titled 50 Secrets Of Blissful Relationships.

.digitaltonto.com/2011/3-blind-marketers” target=”_blank”>3 Blind Marketers, (based on the blind men-elephant tale) is on the subject of marketing shifting from the earlier dichotomies of ATL/BTL and analog/digital to the paid, owned and earned media model, and is essentially about how specialists corresponding to each 'silo' have few perspectives outside of it. Later in the article, he makes a case for the full service agency, as succinctly as “When you’re trying to make sense of an elephant in the dark, it helps to have extra hands around.”

I think that the biggest advantage that incumbent agencies can have with a client is trust, and the reason why many clients seem to bring aboard new specialist agencies is because they are losing the trust in their agencies to deliver on those fronts. But what that also means is that if agencies can build and leverage their understanding of the client's brand figure out a platform/domain agnostic process to generate ideas, and find the best ways to execute them from the diverse options that this dynamic era provides, they can still be of much value to the client.

until next time, a case for briefs, but that's a different post :)

Bonus Reads: David Ogilvy on Creating The Ideal Agency Culture

and The future of Advertising Technology (via) (click on image to enlarge)

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Integral Calculations

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. ~ George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) “Maxims for Revolutionists”

Now, I guess if i stretched that to Charlie Sheen, especially the last sentence you’ll think I have been swiggingTiger Blood” too. :D But I did have this notion after I read Scott Adams’ post on him.

Imagine if you stopped filtering everything you said and did. ….just try to imagine yourself living without self-censorship. Wouldn’t you sound crazy?…. Imagine you are so unafraid of consequences and the opinions of other people that you start sentences before you have a plan for how they will end……I think Charlie is fascinating because he’s living without fear. That translates into a disturbing degree of honesty……But I also think that a total lack of fear would look like insanity to the casual observer. And perhaps it is. But it’s a strangely great kind of crazy.

When I read up about moral absolutism, I wondered what/who would decide the absolutes one would stand by, and were they really absolutes? After reading all of that, I guess moral integrity towards the self better explains what I had in mind.

So, if Mr. Sheen has decided that no-self-censorship and no-fear are the integral parts of his self from now on, and lives the rest of his life by it, we might consider it bizarre by civil society standards, but he just might be in a better space than we are in terms of moral integrity. (not hinting at a goddesses irony :) ) The alternate consensus that this is just the drugs talking is not as comforting as it should be, when I think of it from this perspective.

Does our general dissatisfaction stem from our willingness to conform to society’s norms of moral integrity, and the lack of courage to show society the middle finger whenever warranted? The individual consciousness against the urge to belong? I’m still thinking.

until next time, integration and differentiation :)

P.S This is not sheenfluence

Veekes & Thomas, Koramangala

So there I was, walking up from Apollo Clinic in Koramangala, towards Forum, and what do I see? A standee with a Veekes and Thomas menu! Having heard so many good things about the JP Nagar outlet, and having been guilty of sheer laziness, I decided to redeem myself by dropping in there the very next weekend. To be noted that I ignored even the rain gods. Veekes and Thomas is on the same road as Oyster Bay, Sultans of Spice etc – the JNC Road, and is opposite Mani’s Biriyani on the first floor. Here’s the map. Two wheelers will find space near Lazeez Express and the more well wheeled ones can try the parking lot near Empire.

A single flight of stairs and you’re transported to one of the coziest places you can find in Koramangala, spread across two floors and three rooms. It’s quite obviously a house converted into a restaurant, and a job well done. Music has a huge presence, not just frames adorning the wall, but Floyd, Dire Straits etc playing in the background.

And now that you have leaned back in your chair and are relaxing to the music, we can finally get to the food. In addition to the regular menu, you might also find a couple of specials on the whiteboard. We decided to start with a couple of soups – French Onion and a Sauteed (?) Mushroom soup. They are served in chai glasses and that means we don’t need to do the by-two routine and can actually try out two soups! I liked the Mushroom soup but that’s because of a bias towards creamy soups. D liked the French Onion soup’s flavours too. We also tried a starter – Southern Fried Chicken Strips with a BBQ dip. The dip turned out to be spicy and excellent and complemented the chicken very well.

For the main course, we had the Cilantro Chicken in White Sauce and a Lemon Butter Chicken Risotto. The former was easily the winner with the spicy chicken, chilli flakes and the creamy soya sauce coming together very well. The lemon flavour in the Risotto was quite underplayed and therefore a bit on the bland side. It also seemed to have some other flavour involved – dill? For dessert, I asked for a Chocolate Brownie and D got herself a Mango Cheese Cake. The brownie was good though I’d have liked some thicker chocolate sauce. The cheese cake was actually better.

All of the above cost us just over Rs.550. Smaller soup and dessert portions means that we can try more dishes. The main course/starter dishes portions are standard but the prices more reasonable than what I’ve found elsewhere. They have nailed the consumer understanding – “Indians loving Armani at Rs.99″ :) We got around to talking with the manager and she wondered whether getting people in during evenings would be tough. I am sure that with the location, they’ll do well so long as they deliver good food, and told her as much. For now, they have an excellent ambiance, superb food and a very friendly service staff. There is somehow a simple elegance in the entire offering. Thanks to that and their stated philosophy, I am quite a fan and will be a repeat customer for sure. :)

I later did a review for Bangalore Mirror and that can be seen here.

Veekes and Thomas, 5th Block Jyoti Nivas College Road, (opposite Cuppa) Koramangala, Ph: 80959 85000

Weekly Top 5

This week's top news include LinkedIn's growth, integration with Slideshare, Zynga's 'Empires and Allies', Cityville's mobile release, their lawsuit against Vostu, Angry Birds updates, Windows' new SDK, move to HTML5, the new

Nokia Windows Phone, Yahoo's new search tools, potential Hulu acquisition, Google's online reputation management tools, search updates, and adding communication abilities to Chrome.

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Cause and Effect

My fandom relationship with the Pepsi Refresh Project has resulted in a few interesting conversations on this blog, this CSR one being the pick. As Surekha's comment says, this is the longest disagreement we've had. :)  That being said, I do agree with Surekha's point of sustainability, but my conundrum remains on another front. Aligning social responsibility with existing strategy/processes will make it sustainable and give it context, but would it create a perception that is not fair to its (assumed) good intent?

I was reminded of this last week when the news of Snapdeal's adoption of a village hit Twitter. Snapdeal was trending for 2 days of twitter on account of it. None of the comments on my timeline were flattering. I am guilty of contributing a couple myself, one of which was gamely retweeted by Rohith Awasthi, Head – User & Communities at Snapdeal.com. (as I have said on Twitter on an earlier occasion, the intelligence and maturity he displays when dealing with 'crowds' is something I respect)

Snapdeal has also written about their intent behind this exercise on their blog, and it is heartening indeed to see that it also happens to be the village that one of their employees belong to, and that the entire idea started there. I also have to wonder why that never made it to the PR machinery. Meanwhile, as their blog says, their commitment is something that time will show. Ef

ficacy is another thing about which time will have an opinion.

I thought about this from the perspective of the earlier post – sustainability, alignment with strategy etc. Even if this were a marketing gimmick, I'm fine because the village gains. As Snapdeal says, maybe other companies will follow suit too. Now, if good intent is the only thing at work here, how is it measured with regards to their strategic objectives? As I've repeatedly said, it's the deal that drives my relationship with the brand, anything else is of little consequence, including this effort.

On the other hand, what if Snapdeal had tied up their CSR with their deals? It could have happened in many ways – a bottom up approach, polling people on what they should do as CSR and taking the story further, or perhaps a commitment based on the number/value of deals sold, or promising a certain part of the revenue towards a CSR initiative (both of which can use a wiki like meter to show transparency), or a matching grant scheme for a cause (you pay Rs.x, we put in an equal amount). All arguably aligned to strategy, helps build community, and can be counted as CSR. But as a user, I wonder if I would then have said they are doing it to increase their deal counter. Note that even for a seemingly unrelated deed like adopting the village, some of the reactions were pretty nasty.

So, dead if you do, killed if you don't, and that's my conundrum. Am I missing something here? If not, perhaps the only way is to organically grow a community that supports you, communicate clearly with them and show them through actions over time – not just in terms of CSR, but overall strategy as well,  that in  the commitment to a larger cause, you mean business. In a future era, when social business hopefully becomes more mainstream, and people see brands whose purpose ties in with the larger context of their lives, this won't be as difficult as it seems now.

until next time, cause tick or Groupgaon? ;)

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Stop. Watch.

Playing music on the mobile as you drift to sleep is probably nothing new. I’m sure many people do it. The snag of course is managing to switch it off before you sleep. You could create a list and make sure it stops after x number of songs, but there’s some joy to be found in random shuffling. There’s probably an app somewhere that will somehow manage it, but I haven’t found it yet. What I would like is something that will sense my breathing pattern and switch off, but that might be wishing for too much :)

‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ brings up an interesting point, when it discusses sleep in the context of death and the state of consciousness. It asks

How many of us are aware of the change in consciousness when we fall asleep? Or of the moment of sleep before dreams begin? How many of us are aware even when we dream that we are dreaming?

From the music example, it is easy to guess that I certainly am not. In fact, my experiment on this failed too, as I completely lost track during a conscious attempt to ‘know’ the moment I fell asleep. I then realised that I should perhaps try being ‘conscious’ while I am awake without flowing from thought to thought unconsciously, especially since D is not very encouraging about me trying to sleep more. :|

Try recollecting the last 15 minutes minute by minute, and you’ll sense the unconsciousness :)

until next time, asleep yet?

Ireland: Awakening

Edward Rutherford

The second part of Rutherford’s Ireland saga. Starting in 1597 and ending in 1922, it continues to trace the life and times of the six families first presented in Dublin, and adds a few more. It starts with the Reformation, the arrival of Oliver Cromwell and the Ascendancy.

Rutherford, as usual, combines the lives of fictitious and real characters, like Henry Grattan and Daniel O’Connell, and tackles the famine, Home Rule movement etc to present a picture that justifies what might have been the sentiment of the age, though historians might have a few minor problems with accuracy.

Towards the end of the book, we can also see the rise of Young Irelanders, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, precursors to the IRA.

The book is perhaps at a step lower than Dublin, as the author seemed more preoccupied with presenting historical incidents, as opposed to characterisation, which he usually excels at. He might have sensed this too, but what has then happened is a slightly lumpy narrative, with occasional strong characters and at most times, a predominance of history itself. But having said that, it is still a wonderful read, and I particularly liked the author’s use of character names and situations (eg. Conall – Deirdre – MacGowan) to show that the more things changed the more they remained the same.

Weekly Top 5

This week's stories include Apple's patent headaches, change in in-app subscription guidelines, Blackberry Playbook new market launches, upgrades and patent fight with Dolby, Facebook's IPO and

valuation speculation, acquisition and hires, the reported new iOS app, Google's search moves on mobile and desktop, Twitter's domain moves, hidden features and bugs.

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