Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Just had the most non-judgemental time at the Mecca Engen

Everyone is in there getting on with their shit,
Cape Town is vibing,
I can't really explain it,
It's exceedingly pleasant.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Creativity versus Physical Fitness

I have a question that's been on my mind for some time, and one for which I've found little in the way of considered answers.

Are creativity and physical fitness mutually exclusive?

Recently I asked the question on Quora...

Quora se fokken moer - tough to attract answers different from the likes of: "Obviously they are not exclusive, I'm a photographer and I run every day." So maybe I can describe what I'm seeing (or not seeing) slightly better here, because I still believe that they really are pretty much exclusive and we might just have to deal with this fact "going forward", and that I think there are practical implications that arise from this. From my own experience, which I believe counts, the two almost never occur simultaneously.

Here goes:

Despite plentiful evidence that physical fitness and wellbeing promote general mental health and productivity, it seems that, generally, there are not many very fit and simultaneously very creative people around. In fact I can't think of any, anywhere.

What I am not talking about are said people who "go for runs" or people who work in "broader creative fields". Also what I am not getting at is "My uncle is a champion boxer and paints." Painting itself is creative but I'm sure there are (selling) painters out there who paint what they see and haven't had a creative thought in years. Meditative maybe, but their work was probably not the start of a new movement.

I hope I'm making sense here - I'm talking about creativity that can create new shit. Ergo, needs to be kind of groundbreaking... and even slightly groundbreaking shit tends to come from a state of mind, mental habits, specific motivations and work prioritisation. Genuine creativity and extreme fitness are both extreme enough to warrant different ways of being in the world. Just ask Iron Mike or Oscar Wilde.

Some people have pointed to certain big name badasses: Richard Branson (presumably the famous photo of him waterskiing with a naked model on his back led them to believe that once a man of that age can do that he can simply do anything - and perhaps they're right), Mikhail Baryshnikov (probably the closest so far, still we need more examples like this I think) and even LeBron James.

Whilst all sport is, in a sense, fundamentally creative, for most professionals or top athletes it's about practicing the same thing millions of times for their entire life until they are "a master". This is clearly not the same cerebral creativity demanded by the arts, whose forms of creativity rely on creative differentiation and also seem to depend much more on someone identifying themselves as a creative person.

I'm more interested in everyday people and how they might strive for both creativity and fitness in their daily lives, assuming some rather dedicated focus.

I work in a creative field too, but this does not mean that I am creative by default or that I am having genuinely creative thoughts all day. I also know that I am reasonably fit right now, but I am certainly not very fit, and if I got substantially fitter, my motivation to be creative would dwindle.

For me this extends even to the length that I get my hair cut. Sure as shit, when I get a short haircut I feel like running or lifting weights - I feel aerodynamic (hydrodynamic in summer). And then as it grows longer I feel my creative juices begin to flow once more, the craziness returns, and the right brain becomes the bully in the equation.

When I feel that great physically, and I have at one or two points in my life, I just couldn't give a shit about being creative. "Who needs creativity when you feel like this?" I don't see some ridiculously tanned and hyper-fit Brazilian Jui-Juitsu expert just busting to go and write more of his critically acclaimed poetry. [As an aside these hyperfit specimens are typically far more at home with alcohol, if anything, when it comes to indulging, and it's very seldom that they look forward to acid trips on the weekend.]

Just think about even trying to strive super hard for both these things. One might think that adopting an American Psycho, type A vibe might do the trick. But have you ever seen it? And it's not because there are not enough hours in the day, but simply because doing both ceases to be a priority.

When you are very creative, the world is responding to it and your shit is peaking out, why on earth would you want to go and do an Ironman?

Lets assume that Baryshnikov has indeed achieved this sort of feat. Where the hell is everyone else? Are these not things that pretty much most people strive for day in and day out? Becoming more of both?

To me these seem (and quite logically in terms of evolution) to be polar opposites, and that the human brain would be stretched in quite opposing directions if one were to really strive for both. Help me here, not by thinking whether this idea is right or wrong yet, but by going out and just noticing people.

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Magic Hour

I like the word Industrious better than the word Creative

Industrious implies:

a sense of the whole

a sense of purpose/goal oriented innovation

efficiency (an interesting aspect of creativity)

perhaps some relative advantage

business acumen (and how business is a fundamentally creative field)

it implies good intention (even if all you have done is create a new market for your product...to an extent)

and it necessarily implies creativity too

in the age of too much internet, attention deficit, bla bla, maybe people should slow down on the whole all-creativity-is-awesome idea, just a little, enough to get some perspective, I think we need it maybe.

Creativity is awesome, obviously ok guys...just saying why not lets mix it up a bit?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

This Apple hating has to stop

I just came off this appalling diatribe by Dan Lyons.

Almost nobody, it seems, can manage a basic logical thought flow for all the rush of blood to the head around iPhone announcement time. Before making any kind of judgement, people really need to get over the idea that Apple owes them something.

What's that? They didn't innovate fast enough for your liking? They set such high standards in innovation and delightful design that you're feeling disappointed now? And that this is somehow newsworthy?

It's simply pointless looking at the Apple vs Samsung debate as a metric for judging comparative innovation. Patent laws are a joke, everybody knows that. Yes it's ridiculous that Apple can patent the round corners on their iOS icons. But Samsung are not without legal help. The laws are out there for any company to take advantage of. The battle you see is quite normal and very common in tech these days. You only have to look at Kodak, Motorola, etc.

Which brings me to my next point - just because you now know what the word innovation or interface means, does not mean you're allowed to use those words to generate clicks. And it does not mean that your idea of innovation (the bigger screened Samsung) is the correct idea of innovation.

Mr Lyons has no idea about the fundamentals of design. "Apple got where it was by taking bold risks. Now it has become a company that copies others and plays it safe." Well Mr Lyons they certainly took the risk of disappointing you.

When the iPhone 5 came out with more incremental but nonetheless noticeable improvements, personally, it tells me that they are EVEN MORE serious about making a good phone.

And more: "Today it's a Toyota Camry. Safe, reliable, boring. The car your mom drives. The car that's so popular that its maker doesn't dare mess with the formula." This is called unobtrusive design, among other good things. This is design. And is precisely what Steve would have wanted.

The iOS interface hasn't changed since 2007 because it's awesome. Just know this.

...Omega watches are great and all but you know those little hands on the face still just mostly go around in a circle. I'm wanting something a little more ENGAGING and INTUITIVE maybe, perhaps with a better INTERFACE. You know like maybe a fourth or fifth hand, or maybe just more diamond encrusting...?!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Gold Medal Winning Point

Yana Shemyakina, women's individual Épée, London 2012

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Blackberry and Lenovo are both doing... stuff

One of the first and best stabs at Apple's followers (and general image, for that matter) was probably the recent-ish Samsung TV commercial with its close to the bone "I'm creative/Dude, you're a barista" exchange.

But this general angle has become attractive to more than just one of Apple's competitors.

This ad for Blackberry is fresh enough and interesting enough, and actually communicates a good positioning as well. I like it, and I think it's competitive. However this is also the same essential ad idea as that of Lenovo, and their "For those who do" campaign - both staunch Apple competitors.

On both counts, this a good positioning, bringing to mind the type of worker who uses probably a Blackberry phone and Lenovo computer - many many people doing many important and innovative things (not indulgent creative things). But I'm curious to see where this leads to if either one, or both, get decent mileage out of essentially the exact same positioning in two remarkably close categories. I suspect people will begin to notice rather soon. In that case, both Lenovo and Blackberry will lose credibility in positioning, as the reactionary nature of competing with Apple on either phones or computers becomes clear even to the casual observer, thus really just somewhat strengthening Apple's position. But it could work quite strongly if they just decide who gets to keep "Do" position.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

And now, this

Andy Warhol once said

I dig it.

Probably the most important AdAge piece in years - I hope it actually gets read

If you care about advertising, or social media, or business, or modern life in general, may I suggest immersing yourself briefly in one of the most relevant articles published in adland in quite a while. To be blunt, advertisers have been letting it slip a little. The Cabury's Gorilla, Old Spice Videos - good entertainment, but thin as a pancake and doing exactly NOT the job they came here to do: build brands and build loyalty to brands, assuming instead that any time spent with their content is a win. Why this was ever the case one has to wonder, but nevertheless it's pretty much the way things are done now.

This article here pretty much sums up my position. I find it rare that adfolk actually have positions these days (one would imagine, a tenet of strategy generally) but that's a matter for another day. Pretty much every point is spot on.

"The point is we need both -- the brand-building skills we learned in the past, combined with the brand-extension tools technology offers today."

It's hard to believe ideas like these have not been voiced more in adland or ad media of late. Everyone is still very much, too much, on the social/digital train. My job as a strategist, or someone with eyes, is to look how much track the train really has left.

Digital is expanding into infinity. This is a bad thing.

Thursday, 17 May 2012


For me, looking at the photos that I've liked on Instagram is like watching Baraka. Only it's better cos they're my mates and doing stuff I can relate to, not a sea of Asian-ish people flailing their arms in a particular direction.

To see the creativity and adventures of my friends around the world, in real time, puts me in a really good mood.

As an app it's perfect for now.

I love it because it kind of an anti-social media, anti-rushing, anti-firsties, less is more approach to what is fundamentally another gamified experience. The content has intrinsic quality and scarcity. It allows people to consciously appreciate and share the very smallest events in their day. The one social platform that makes you slow down instead of speed up.

A picture is worth a thousand words? It sure beats twitter for information depth, if not written wit.

It also makes quite a lot of people get genuinely better at, and more interested in, taking photos. I've seen some peoples' skills increase rather dramatically over a short period of time.

Instagram provides a lot of creative practice in trying to communicate ideas visually. There is a richness and abstractness of communication that not many platforms can compete with. It's not always about pure photography, it's about making a commentary of sorts.

And really, the only thing you do is think in pictures and like in likes. It's very spaced out. Perfect, really.

What I would love to see is an export function for the photos I have liked. I want to be able to show others these photos and possibly even integrate it (in some kind on non-kitsch way) with the photography in my house. Not an LCD frame that rotates photos every few minutes but maybe some kind of electronic wallpaper that links to the feed. Come now nerds, do it.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Social Media Metrics

Want to know what is a complete crock of shit?

This is: Check it out. This evening I tweeted about the dinner I made at home, made a rough comparison to one of my favourite restaurants in New York and left it.

A few minutes later some scanning software picked up on the name Bar Pitti (I didn't hashtag it), retweeted my tweet on their restaurant guide account, and that tweet in turn was published on the restaurant guide actual website under the guise of some kind of "top tweet" relating to the restaurant. Mine's the middle one.

Now this is quite retarded. I didn't give permission for my tweet to appear on a foodie website, and I'm quite sure the restaurant doesn't want to know that I think I make better linguine (and I don't - it's literary license).

Besides my personal issues with unauthorised use, bla bla, I shudder to think what other problems like this are happening every second, wasting readers' time, creating neutral to negative publicity for the businesses or people concerned - but also, happening across industries or on far more important matters or in more sensitive situations.

I know this happens because someone sold a gullible, marketing someone a product that involves keyword scanning and retweeting and all the metrics they could possibly hope for. But guess what? I don't care. This social media measurement idea has really reached quite a low. And until the people paying for rubbish metrics wake up (most companies) we will forever be a second-rate, "it's not rocket science" industry.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

H.G. Wells once said:

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race."

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Fast food shitshow

My new thing at South African chain-type and quick service restaurants is to first see if there are more staff than customers at any given time. If there are, I leave immediately and make another plan.

There's something about having a manager, three sub-managers and ten waiters standing around looking as pathetic as ever - three to poke the credit card machine to get it to work, another three to welcome people into the place - you know the vibe.

Look inside a Nandos, it's a shitshow. Three customers wanting something fairly basic, and twelve staff completley spinning in the kitchen - with those operating the cash register always very upset with the sods deep-frying stuff in the back. Every single time... How are they not coping? Go somewhere with one or two staff and 15 customers and presto, shit gets done.

Sunday, 18 March 2012


Mercedes-Benz has BlueTec and BlueEfficiency, and VW has BlueMotion.

I don't really care what any of these names mean, but it's sort of interesting nonetheless. Interesting as to why we need to own colours that are in no way otherwise aligned with these brands. But there you have it - it's happening.

If you have to pick a colour though, I guess blue is the best option. Blue feels maybe like a gas flame or electricity or clean energy one way or another - without fighting over green.

Get in early to own colours nearest to green on the spectrum? Is that what's happening here? Interesting to see where things go from here. Like, in general...

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Human Resources!

Why does no-one understand these people? Are they in fact a species unto themselves? Why are they slow to communicate, why do they leave work early to "miss the traffic", or generally create some kind of progress blockage when you least need it?

I say this out of deep concern for people and business. The value-add tends to be tenuous and erratic, and I have have long been unable to get my head around how any one role could with such blinding consistency be the sore thumb of so many organisations and industries.

For me the problem comes in when, on one random day, you meet an HR person that really knows what they're doing. And I mean in every way knows why they are there and what value they are going to add that day to their company.

I'm writing this because I met one such HR person recently. (I'm not going to say where this happened to me because I just feel that would be unfair). And now, all of a sudden, I feel justified in my past judgements about every time I've met a rotten one. It really was quite an eye-opener. This one event seems to me all the confirmation I need that, while there are gems out there - and all kudos to them - the rest are largely not qualified to leave the house, much less hold down a job of their own or attempt to co-ordinate other people's work-lives for them.

How ironic that it's one of the very few pukka people jobs out there. I'm now even more bewildered than before.

It's me, it's you...

I will bet my life that this kind of thing is where 70% of real social media spending goes. That and measuring the stats on this activity, of course.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Monday, 9 January 2012

A man after my own heart

Rob Campbell just said some amazing shit that I'm pretty sure I coincidentally said too this morning at a meeting with Anomaly.

Primarily this:

"Maybe if we just got on with what brands and society actually wanted and needed from us, we’d end producing more great commercially creative ideas than proprietary bullshit."

and this:

"Too many companies care more about the process than what the process delivers."

and this:

"I’m not talking about creative awards or effectiveness papers that have made a ‘degree of change’ sound like the second coming of Jesus … I’m talking about doing stuff that fundamentally – and undeniably – shifts the needle."

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Digital pace

The pace of business is working up to a phenomenal pace - faster and more "digital". But where are the results? I see only anxiety.

In an attention economy, tracking and targeting people faster than ever before and generating more clicks than ever before, it's almost certainly only making it harder to keep up - and with what exactly? The type of value typically created today is more incremental and less noticeable as the digital space expands seemingly into infinity. I see little space for genuine competitive advantage.

More pace, more precision, more frenetic promises to engage customers is not going to make the world a better place, I am certain of it.

The time to fix the roof is while the sun is shining. And so, as a strategist, I am therefore relentlessly focused on the message, the meaning of the brand and the product, and equally meaningful innovation. That's my deal.

Oh wait, Seth said that too