Saturday, December 20, 2008

don't bet against the Internet

Recently, I participated in a debate on how GOOGLE services the SA market. GOOGLE South Africa’s model differs from its offices in other parts of the world. They will service a number of key accounts in South Africa by working mostly with clients and a few specified agencies directly. The business mechanism  operates on a transparent commission and discount free model and this is changing the way marketers do business and challenging the quality and focus agencies are giving to local Search campaigns.  This model could be construed as dis-intermediary by agencies, although GOOGLE is clear that it does not preclude them. The system places the onus on marketers to really get to grips with this area of business.

In the past local agencies buying GOOGLE Adwords worked through GOOGLE UK/Ireland and even Indian offices would receive discounts/commissions directly. These would vary depending on the country and deal. South Africa is one of the first countries to be adopting this approach It means the whole buying practice will be more transparent and because GOOGLE works on an auction model, you bid for your words, the better you are at Search campaign management the more effective your results. Specialised online agencies would have to agree fees upfront to clients and be held more accountable for search optimisation against the budget set.

As part of tackling this challenge in SA, GOOGLE suggested it would look at establishing an accreditation system for agencies to ensure that GOOGLE best practice is followed and thereby ensuring marketers who don’t work directly with GOOGLE will get the best possible GOOGLE service and bang for their buck.

These comments were published online and a raging debate ensued. GOOGLE was accused of wanting to cut off agency livelihoods and displaying big brother behaviour. However, there was also some support for the transparent approach and a need for some formal accreditation to ensure standards in the industry, although the process needed to be fair and inclusive.   

I thought the debate was very productive because it squarely put the devil on the table and if anything highlighted the need for a better understanding of the planning and buying mechanisms for the Web.   It also revealed a lot of activity and established interest in this space and there’s no doubt its going to challenge traditional agency thinking on how to integrate digital into traditional advertising.

Now if we can achieve transparency in buying web media, why not in traditional media?  Why shouldn't media houses that sell television, print, outdoor and radio be as aggressive and bullish about getting close to marketers and being completely open about media charges? I think that just as the Web is changing consumer's behaviour, it has to change business too.

The world’s changing rapidly, where consumers are increasingly on the web and in control of the conversation. The statistical evidence is there and in SA the market is wide open with just 5% Internet penetration and the fastest growth rate in usage globally, albeit off a small base. It’s a world in which marketers must in turn be empowered with more knowledge and insight, so that they too can be part of the dialogue and act quickly and appropriately to opportunities. Their agencies also have to take a good look at what kind of services they are offering and should see the growth in web as a major business opportunity.

The Web whether delivered via PC or mobile device offers far too much potential to be entirely relegated to third parties without due consideration and oversight.  And hopefully more debates like the GOOGLE Search debate will encourage marketers to start putting it more firmly on their agendas.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You advertise you get revenue

"Advertising is one of the first things that get cut, and its almost always a mistake, because you advertise to get revenue." This is what Eric Smidt CEO of Google said recently when asked about the current economic meltdown and its impact on Google and its advertising streams. We all know when tough times come the first thing companies look for are the soft lines on their budget sheets, marketing and HR (training etc) where they slash and burn. However they should think again before they get their choppers out. There’s a good deal of empirical evidence that recessionary times are one of the best times to be advertising. I was just looking at the latest Adex figures. While not 100% accurate they provide the best benchmark on spend in SA and there's some revealing trends. For one there has been no real growth in advertising and if you consider most media increase rates year on year then we are now in negative territory in terms of volume based advertising growth. For the past quarter advertising has remained static. Digital advertising is hopelessly under-read because Search is excluded and even with this, the category grew by 51% This is completely counter trend. I have little doubt that this area of media is growing at a much more aggressive rate than being reflected and its an ideal medium for recessionary times as it is measurable and flexible and generates leads – the lifeblood of sales.. What struck me in looking at SA’s top spenders is that the likes of Unilever and Vodacom who are market leaders have not headed for the hills or cut back on advertising. They remain steady and focused and no doubt this is paying off for them. Just like Warren Buffet’s view that now is the best time to be investing in the market, you could say now is the best time to be advertising and growing share of voice!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is the Internet making us stupid?

It seems a lot of people are asking this question lately. A recent edition of Popular Mechanics suggested that humans are possibly becoming more stupid because of Google. Because Google makes everything so much easier - researching data, collating it and delivering it almost instantaneously, it's taking away our ability to really think and use our problem solving processes in our brains. Its kind of like exercise, if we don’t exercise enough our bodies turn to fat and are less agile and healthy – same for the brain. I think the older generation of digital immigrants are better able to cope with this, because their brains were brought up reading and having to think more, lesser so the younger generation of today. It's a hot topic because a real neuroscientist has just written a book called IBrain: Surviving the Technological alteration of the Modern Mind. Gary Small contends that all the Internet searching and text messaging has made millennial brains particularly adept at filtering information and making snap decisions, however the tech savvy, or digital natives as we know them, seem to be less capable of reading faces or picking up on subtle gestures, so traditional communications skills are being adversely impacted. Of course there are solutions to this, but nonetheless it does make one wonder what the generation of kids today who generally don’t read books, prefer to have conversations in cyberspace than face to face, expert at playing computer games, posting on FaceBook and fiddling with Mixit are going to contribute to the world as adults. Are we producing a future generation of digital innovators or will they all be dummed down having lost the human touch and instinct that makes for great business people and creators? It’s a big question and one we still wont know the real answer for in a while. Yes, the Internet it seems is the cause for some woes this week. The Internet is now being implicated as a major contributor to the global financial meltdown. According to Paul Kedrosky in the latest edition of Newsweek - who by the way has a great blog called Infectious Greed, the Internet has broadly delivered on its promise to bring information to the masses, however in so doing has opened up financial markets and sophisticated instruments to Joe Soap and allowed many credit innovations to be launched at hyper speed, connecting millions of speculators and wannabe investors in a dangerous and unregulated manner. He suggests that instead of causing a financial crisis, next time around the Internet needs to be part of the solution. Well I hope there isn’t a next time around, cause we haven’t even begin to feel the real impact of this time around. It made me think that the Google guys may have had to hire extra bodyguards. If Anna Wintour Editor in Chief of Vogue has to have some to protect her against he anti-fir activists, then its not inconceivable they will need to be protected against desperately indebted novice (and even skilled) ex-traders, hedge fund managers, bankers, speculators, pensioners, et al who have lost bilions. Ah.. just imagine if it was that simple to pin the world's greed and stupidity on virtual reality?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

the strongest steel is forged in the hottest Furness

The bad blogger is back. I’m beginning to think I should change the name of my blog from toocleverbyfar to thebadblogger. But then life is pretty hectic right now. The financial world is in crisis, the meltdown predicted for years by economists that the US financial system would collapse, has come to fruition. In the past weeks terror has reigned on stock exchanges around the world. The US Treasury has made a move to step in to guarantee American’s savings and funds. In Europe governments have followed suite. There's no escaping it! A stockbroker friend said to me recently, these times are unlike anything experienced before. We just have to hold our nerve as we go along for the ride. And what a ride it’s going to be, we just don't realise how bad it actually is!

I've been noting significant decreases in media spend around the world and SA is no exception. Taking at look at advertising figures for June/July 2008 vs 2007 in South Africa you can already see a significant decrease in our adspend. There's no question these figures are going to drop even further. What’s particularly interesting about these figures is that the country’s second largest cellphone operator MTN decreased its marketing spend by 38% compared to the same period last year and most of this was in television.

South Africa has another interesting dynamic to contend with and that is our shifting political scenario. We have a new President and even some re-shuffling of ministerial posts. They face challenging times indeed. However, as our Group CEO Paul Harris says; "the strongest iron is forged in the hottest Furness." On the subject of politics and media, I was reading a recent US AdAge poll result which asked the question - Who is the better marketer. Obama or McCain? 68% went in favour of Obama and only 32% to McCain. Obama continues to use progressive digital media channels to communicate. In checking out some stats on this interesting subject I found a blogger who is tracking the the online noise of these candidates at . Now there's got to be a media lesson in this!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

how much is your reputation worth?

We all know reputations take a long time to build and can be destroyed in a very short space of time by a lack of judgement or misguided actions and I'm not talking about the young executive who throws her name away at the office party after having one two many tequilas.
Today some clever digital natives from a company called Quirk showed us how they track and measure the reputation health of companies on the www. They spoke about about how a company or brand's online reputation can spread faster through www than traditional media channels and unlike a newspaper or a radio report which is transient or thrown away, thanks to Google it will live forever. You can't delete stuff disgruntled customers may have blogged or posted comments about, although I'm sure there are many companies out there that wouldn't mind if some hack created a virus to erase the damming evidence against them? Despite SA's online penetration lag, local companies should be tracking www and formulating strategies to deal with negative online noise. I enjoyed having some robust discussion with the passionate Quirk team around the influence of a blogger out there versus a journalist in traditional media. This was an interesting debate. If a blogger has an avid following who hang on every word blogged and said blogger trashes your brand, could they do more damage than a respected columnist or editor of a major newspaper or magazine who does the same? Interesting thought. In terms of our business, I reckon traditional press will do more damage to us right now than online, mostly because the Internet has not nearly reached the scale yet of our national press in terms of eyeballs. The press in SA also enjoys very high levels of credibility among South African communities. However, what I will concede is that popular bloggers can be exceptionally powerful in their persuasion of their dedicated audiences, who in turn tend to be key influencers in society and this is a critical consideration. If a person trusts and believes everything you say, they will act on it. We have tracked some fascinating blogs rating us a great bank to do business with versus other banks. but we have also been at the butt end of some unforgiving remarks that have needed addressing. The noise out there is growing as more and more flock to the web and given brand reputation is a business imperative, we frankly don't have a choice, but to get in there and be a part of it.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

wealthy are still reading

I read in Advertising Age the results of a recent media survey in the US. These results didn’t surprise me. The survey showed the wealthier in the population still read print publications just as much now as they did five years ago, that electronic and digital media has not displaced this consumer habit. This is not to say this audience aren’t adopters of digital, it’s that they haven’t adopted it at the expense of their print consumption. The media that has lost their attention is in fact television.

“Respondents making more than $100,000 annually said their average hours online had grown to 22.1 each week from 10.7, while the time they said they spent watching TV sunk to 18.6 hours from 23.7 in the 2003 survey. And they said their time spent listening to the radio had declined slightly. But they said they're regularly reading an average of 15.3 print publications, a notch above 15.1 five years earlier. Readers making more than $250,000 said they read just as many publications, 23.8 now, as they did in 2003.”

Research at our bank among our most affluent customers shows a similar pattern. Print, in fact Weekly Newspapers being very dominant, followed by Radio, Television and then the Internet.

There is an obvious correlation between age and wealth and the wealthier segment of the market tend to be older. It makes sense, the older you get the less likely you are to change habits and we know that readers bond heavily with print. I know people who have been reading the same array of print media since their youth, so usurping this media habit is nigh impossible.

Recently the Unilever Institute released a study called PrimeTime which looked at consumers 40+, the first study of its kind in SA. While I had to question some of the insights on Internet use, the study certainly offered interesting observations about how wealthier and older consumers interact with media. In the US survey, only 40% of affluent consumers said they use their cellphones or mobile devices to access the internet. But that proportion rises with affluence, so that fully 57% of the segment earning more than $250,000 reported using mobile devices to get online.

I think this is great news for print. There’s no reason why its relevance needs to be usurped by rush of digital growth.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

value of values

Today I was reminded of the value of values. I spent time with our Chief Executive Officer discussing the challenges of allowing our staff to blog, communicate and express themselves on www and mobile and wherever else with complete freedom. He reminded me that the company's key values would provide the framework to support this freedom. Our bank encourages all it's staff to uphold values which include honesty, accountability, respect, trust, compassion, self control and helpfulness. When you have a strong value system you can allow freedom of expression to the extreme and not feel threatened by open debate, in fact it's really encouraged. I later went to an intimate gathering of key industry players hosted by Prime Media where Kgalema Motlanthe was the guest. He shared his vision for SA as deputy president of the ANC. He spoke about the importance of values, of enabling education, making health care a right for all and importantly ensuring every South African has the right to feel safe in their homes. Crime is a priority to tackle. I went to talk to him afterwards and found him to be very approachable, warm and friendly. He seemed to be genuine in his empathy for my concerns about our country. Perhaps he was humouring me, "brand of white" but I would like to believe he is genuine in his support of values. To me this is a sure sign of great leadership.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

who gives you permission to read those books?

"who gives you permission to read those books?" Sorry, its not about porn! Rather, this was the question Christopher Locke (Publisher of Entropy Gradient Reversals and contributor to The Cluetrain Manifesto) was asked by a stranger in a coffee shop in Tokyo some years back. Locke had started a new job and was falling short on his computer science knowledge, so he bought a stack of books and lugged them to the coffee shop. Locke admitted; "I thought about this deeply, and I'm thinking about it still."
I really relate to this, because I've also bought, borrowed and found stacks of books about www and its implications for marketers and media. Some days I too am flying by the seat of my pants and the more I can teach myself the less risk I reckon I have of going into a tail spin and crashing. This week was no exception. The www is challenging us to engage with our customers online, but within the confines of the National Credit Act, it's challenging stuff. Banks can't just let their staff or anyone loose on their customers through any old Facebook sites, blogs or Twitter, unless they’re properly equipped (FICA accredited) and can provide help and guidance responsibly. As much as we all believe in the freedom of expression www embodies, whether we like it or not, a bank is not a fast food outlet. We're dealing with people's hard earned cash and their difficulties in managing it. As a more seasoned banker counselled me recently, "This is not a media business Gisele. No-one likes banks!"
I'm hoping to reconcile the need for responsibility and measured interaction with the ClueTrain hit-one-outta-the-park Twelve Step programe for Internet Business Success, which says 1) have a sense of humour (some days I wonder...), 2) relax, 3) find your voice and use it? (More difficult), 4) tell the truth (we are actually very good at this), 5) don’t panic (good advice that, will remember next time), 6) enjoy yourself (doesn't everyone try), 7) be brave, 8) be curious, 9) play more (who would want to argue with that?), 10) dream always (of course), 11) listen up and 12) rap on (right on…there's no shortage of verbage).
Ok, so millions of South African's are drowning in debt - scary fact is our nation spends 70% of their income servicing debt. Our challenge is to harness our collective creative energies and engage in customer conversations online responsibly, which could result in positive closure, empowerment and ultimately financial redemption. If I sound like a zealot then fogive me. However, I'm pretty optimistic we'll get this right in the long run. However, there's no question we're going to get into a couple of tail spins trying.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

everyone's talking about it, but few are doing it properly

It was a week filled with mobile mania. There's a discernible pick up in the amount of discussion and deliberation around using mobile media as a new channel to market. After all there are more people in SA with mobile phones in their hands than there are PC’s, television sets and taxi’s combined. Admittedly I'm a bit of a mobile believer myself. Well its hard to ignore the sheer scale of the channel to market. We've just had great results from a recent MixIt campaign for our cellphone banking division and we've started testing Eyeballs Media a new mobile advertising channel. The app allows companies to advertise directly to customers through their mobile handsets. It's a very visual application and strictly opt-in for the customer, providing them the freedom of choice to consume advertising or not. It does have one particular drawback for me, and that is you have to have a symbian operating system on your phone to be able to download the app. If you're like me and have a Blackberry, then you're excluded. I'm assured by the Eyeballs team that discussions are underway with Blackberry to get around this. Despite this, I believe its worth giving it a crack as we will be able to directly measure its success or dare I say failure to deliver.
I also sat through a mobile marketing conference where the virtues of mobile were expounded. We were bombarded by lots of facts and figures. My experience at Cannes has spoilt me. The depth of knowledge and innovative delivery of mobile at the Cannes Advertising festival was of a far more superior quality than SA practitioners were able to deliver. However, there's no doubt the likes of of Joanne Scholtz from Group M, Gustav Praekel, Praekelt Consulting and Ian James from Ericcson had a lot of local insight to share. I have to say though my great disappointment was the presentation by Vodacom’s mobile head Rick Joubert. He hardsold his medium without shame, nor any creative use of mobile itself. Death by PowerPoint is hardly becoming from the country’s leading innovator in the mobile space.
At the end of day, I was assured my belief in the fourth screen is well founded and I also learned a cute new line from Paul Berney managing director of EMEA for the Mobile Marketing Association who said: “Mobile is like teenage sex, everyone is talking about it, but few are doing it properly.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Dark Knight vs Halo 3?

I guess I’ve have been a really bad blogger for a while. I remember being told that if you want to be a good blogger you have to be consistent above all else. Well I did pretty well to start, but you know even bloggers have to have breaks. It’s not that I have faulted in my quest to improve my digital knowledge, in fact if anything I have learnt more than ever before. We’ve been experimenting with a lot of new digital interactive campaigns at the Bank. Soon we’ll go live with our very own avatars in a rich media campaign for Cellphone Banking for Business. Our Webworx team has established three different Facebook sites now, two branded YouTube sites and a marketing intranet. So it has been a really busy time with lot’s more stuff to come.
Today I learnt something really interesting about trends in digital interactive media. Games are one of the fastest growing media channels in this sphere. We don’t have much local information to go by, but if we look to North America where there is massive growth, the insights are indeed fascinating. Contrary to what everyone believes statistics in Northern America show that typical game players are not 22 male year old students, but are increasingly female stay at home moms. Wow, that floored me. There's also a huge boom in mobile games which appeal to a broad range of audiences. Companies are using mobile games to market their brands to customers. Taco Bell has enjoyed great success with this, giving their customers games which involve defending their food. Games are the new entertainment powerhouse. Case in point, is comparing the launch of Halo 3 with the launch of The Dark Night. This blockbuster delivered $ 158.4 million last weekend, an an industry record, but pales against the launch of Halo 3 which grossed US$300 million in its first week. (Wikipedia). More than one million people played Halo 3 on Xbox Live in the first twenty hours. As of January 3, 2008, Halo 3 has sold 8.1 million copies and was the best-selling video game of 2007 in the U.S. Games are becoming movies, like the Prince of Persia and now fans can download high definition dvd's onto their Xbox consol.
This is the digital world and it continues to amaze!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Lessons from Cannes... and SA too!

Back from Cannes and running hard. So what’s new? I found a little time this weekend to reflect on what I had learnt and also to catch up on some really interesting digital stuff happening in SA

Go to class in Cannes - Well this is easier said than done, considering the temperature was consistently warm the whole week, the skies were blue and the sea calm as a fishpond, only it was azure blue in colour and well you could understand that a lot of people couldn’t resist being on the beach, rather than being learning mode. I was disappointed to see that not enough local marketers and media specialists go to Cannes.. They should, because it is the one event where the entire global community of advertising agencies gather, talk about and show off their work. There’s a lot of useless pontification, but there’s some invaluable new insights and inspiration to gain by sitting in the classroom at Cannes. Marketers entrust their precious brands to their advertising and communications agencies so why do so few think it’s important to find out what’s pushing the world’s communication buttons?
Old Screens Merge with the New - I noted in my previous blog my disappointment at some of the half empty digital sessions and the overflowing television/film sessions. Well in the end it seems, digital got its just reward. In a controversial decision for the first time in the 54 year history of Cannes, the film category awards were split between two campaigns, but with a common link – Digital. The Grand Prix Television/Film was shared by Cadbury’s Gorilla Ad, was also an extremely successful viral campaign online and XBox’s Halo 3 Viral campaign.
The Gorilla ad features a gorilla playing the drums to the soundtrack of Phil Collins 1981 hit “In the air tonight,” It got everyone talking, some liked it, others hated it, some wondered whether in fact it was a real gorilla or a man in a gorilla suit – and there were even those who suggested it was Phil Collins himself. Comments posted on the website purported that the word Cadbury had been mentioned more times since the campaign went viral than in its 150 year history. This ad was voted the most popular in the UK in 2007 and the most successful viral video. It was also the most debated ad of the year. Cadbury’s reported a 5% increase in sales over the period (in a mature/static market, this is seen as good lift).
Cannes organizers also introduced a new award, the Titanium Award to reward innovation in advertising and marketing concepts. This went to a Japanese agency for a digital campaign Uniqlock for clothing brand Uniqlo. Rather bizarre stuff, but worth taking a look.
We are all human after all - Importantly, technological advancements don’t replace human feeling. Digital won’t replace our fundamental human fears, hopes and desires. If anything it heightens them – look at how social media like My Space, FaceBook thrive. What technology is doing is forcing marketers to pay particular attention to their customers needs more than ever before. As Plato said There’s no learning without emotion”. Digital takes no prisoners and if you are not relevant, salient, and consistent and you don’t establish a human connection of trust with your audience, they will click to somewhere else instantaneously and DELETE you from their lives. People like stories that they can relate to, that touch them in a unique and meaningful way. What really counts is that you are enriching the consumer’s communication experience. And that’s what the world’s top marketers are really good at doing. Cadbury’s Gorilla stood the test of ‘social proof” It touched consumers. The same can be said for the inspiring work for Burger King, the groundbreaking HBO TV Voyeur, for which its agency BBDO New York was awarded the Ad Agency of the Year Award for this work at Cannes. Incidentally, it had been hotly tipped to win the film Grand Prix too. And then there are amongst many others the likes of Nike, Budweiser and of course lest we forget Coca Cola’s Happiness Factory – to name a few. They all seek to engage, enrich and entertain and give back to their audiences.

Marketers who focus on really understanding who their audience is, what their needs are, how best to serve these needs and where to communicate to them will thrive in the digital age. And let’s be honest, this sure isn’t anything new!

Back in South Africa, the mobile revolution is becoming ever pervasive given there are more cellphones in the world than all televisions and PCs combined. Vodacom, the
cellular giant with some 56% of the local market launched a mobi-soap with another market leader, Nokia. SolikeLife's available free to all Vodacom subscribers from Vodafone Live. Mobile consumers who do not subscribe to Vodacom can also access the content free of charge. However, they must pay a service charge to their own provider. Heads up on the innovation Vodacom, but boy am I amazed the journalists out there didn’t pick up on the ultimate cost of downloading the soaps – with our cellphone operators, nothing is for nothing. Someone will pay after all and I have no doubt it will be the end user. Which reminds me, I had better tell my son I won’t be picking up the tab for any additional airtime that is sucked up by this stuff? As it is SA consumers are getting ripped blind by cellphone operators when compared to rates charged around the world!
The other real piece of digital innovation I read about today was the launch of a site called This is a really neat idea developed at the innovation hub in Pretoria, an incubator center for technical innovation. This site which links online and mobile applications allows the mourner to post a digital tribute to a loved one. Now your dearly departed can live on forever in cyberspace. With the escalating death rate in SA and the inevitability of it for all of us, this has to be a winner!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

yesterday today and tomorrow

One of the highlights of Cannes for me has to the presentation by Crispin Porter + Bogusky on "all that really matters is the power of the story. " If you are focussed on anything else - you are wasting your time and resources". Today, this agency is considered the hottest agency to work for in the US. Known for their ground breaking work on Burger King (creators of the subservient chicken), the agency's Chief Strategist Chuck Porter took the stage at Cannes and invited Ajaz Ahmed founder and chairman of AKQA and the legendary Joe Pytka to share the platform. And what a great idea combining the talents of the today – Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the leaders of tomorrow - upcoming digital award winning agency AKQA and a creative doyen of yesterday Joe Pytka.

Chuck Porter set the scene:
So you have heard all week how the world is changing because of technology and how you are all so screwed! The fact is media has been fragmenting for years and all that technology is doing is giving the audience more tools to ignore you. Interrupting them is not going to work anymore, but the good news is that technology is enabling your audience to fall in love with you more rapidly and deeper than ever before. Today’s environment favours story tellers and the power of a story is more important than before. This is not new. Plato said “There’s no learning without emotion”. Today in any new technology environment a great story is the killer application.

He spelt out his agency's holy grail for creating great communications and showed examples which exemplified this thinking:

Surprise endings make for great stories! Ikea's Lamp commercial and Burger King’s sweet and sour burger subservient chicken commercial series

Involve people in a great story - Molson beer press advertising campaign. This was a controversial campaign to show, because the agency lost the account shortly after to Draft FCB US

Where ordinary people become heroes - Burger king's Texas double whopper

Shock value makes a good story - advertising Jetta's safety features. The commercial had to be flighted after 20h30 in the evening due to its shock value.

Practical jokes make good stories - Coke Zero's commercials ( and Burger King's Whopper (

AKQA's Ajaz Ahmed affirmed these statements staying digital is all about the idea not technology. It’s about content and saliency. He shared the latest digital communication from Mcdonalds; Mcdonalds Adventure where fans are asked to help solve the mystery of

Finally, the man with the long white hair, the larger than life Joe Pytka reminded us that No focus group has ever told a good story. He recounted the Madonna Pepsi ad which costs ten million dollars and only flighted once in the US. It was withdrawn because of an uproar from churches – confused with Madonna’s video playing at the same time where crosses were burned. However went on to play in Italy (the heart of the Vatican) and other countries unhinded. It was the first time a celebrity touched the bottle. The publicity around the banning of the ad in the US more than made up for the original production costs. Today that campaign would have become viral, because it was a great storyboard and of course it had Madonna in it too! We remembered Nike's Michael Jordan air commercial with Bugs Bunny which was so popular, a movie was launched off the back of it. Space Jam which generated seven billion dollars in revenue. Budweiser's horse + dog commercial which told the tale of the power to achieve anything; the NFL superhero ads where players got to tell their stories and the classic Barber and James. Story telling is a gift. not learned. These blockbusters were all pre Internet, but as Joe Pytka said, today they would in all likelihood make great campaigns and thrive in the digital world because fundamentally it's the art of story telling that wins the hearts and minds of the audience.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The fourth screen, utilitainment and Murdoch on mobile

Today I got some great insights into mobile marketing opportunities by some leading experts. This is the new frontier in media, the Fourth Screen. Its mind boggling to consider over 3 billion people are mobile enabled, double the penetration of most other media devices in home. Research shows that most people keep their mobile phone within 1 meter of themselves over a 24 hour period (sleep time included) which is more pervasive than any other media and amazingly 17% of people actually answer their phones while having sex! Mobile is all about utilitainment – Utility + entertainment. Despite the scale of what is out there for marketers to consider, there were very few of them in the room. In fact, there are few marketers in Cannes period, especially from SA – you can count them on your hands. Most of the people at Cannes are advertising people. Now imagine that this media channel has massive penetration in the market, yet the lecture hall was only 50% full. Earlier on I went to watch the New Directors Show real (TV) and I queued for 30 minutes to get in and then there were people squatting on the floor because there wasn’t enough space. It shows you where the priorities are and it also is a message to marketers that they need to get to grips with the Fourth Screen, because their conventional agencies sure don’t seem to think it’s that important. And you wont get away with just plonking your above the line stuff onto mobile media either! Well the mobile and digital theme was echoed later this afternoon by a media legend Rupert Murdoch. Complete with bodyguards he sat in the lecture theater in his casual French Riviera inspired attire and reminded us of the opportunities out there for everyone in a technology driven world. Despite a possible looming world recession NewsCorp is upbeat about the amazing opportunities technology is activating, His view was supported by NewsCorp’s CEO Peter Chernin who was the push button behind the Titanic movie. He joked about running $ 100 million over budget, because they had to make the best movie possible – let alone the fact no one had ever made a movie for $ 100 million. And it paid off in becoming the highest grossing movie ever. So the older Rupert and younger Peter told us that in buying the ailing Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones Company), they have not just bought a company with huge financial pedigree in journalism and information BUT over 50% of its revenue comes from digital. Murdoch has often referred to himself as a digital immigrant, but there is no question that despite this status, he understands its relevance to his group’s growth. With millions of people moving out of poverty into the economy particularly in countries like India and China, the future is a great place for consumerism and media. He reckons mobile is really where there will be a major play and they are already moving in this space (excuse the pun). Of course they waxed lyrical about MySpace and how much bigger it is than FaceBook and also that Microsoft will throw whatever money they can to get into the digital race now that their attempt to buy Yahoo has failed. Yahoo has the largest uniques in the world they just have to get their monetisation sorted. Who will tip Google off its search perch? Well it will be someone who invents a new digital technology and probably from his/her garage. And what’s his advice on new technology and change. It actually really simple “Be paranoiac about your competitors and don’t stop pushing your brand.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Viva HBO Voyeur

After three less than eventful days here in Cannes, I have now have found new inspiration in the runaway success of the HBO Voyeur multi-media initiative, produced by BBDO in North America. This campaign is on a Cannes Lions roll, sweeping awards across a variety of platforms. HBO "Voyeur," has taken home a gold Lion in Design for its outdoor projection to go with its Grand Prix in Promo, Outdoor, gold in Cyber and bronze in Media. What its really showing us all here is that breakthrough advertising is no longer about the 30 second ad. HBO Voyeur is a new advertising form. It’s a completely cross over campaign working on multi-media platforms. It was launched as a five-minute film which was projected on the side of a building in lower Manhattan (a kind of building size peep show) depicting the lives of people in eight apartments. It was as if the side of the building had been peeled away to show each apartment. Because HBO is all about storytelling, the company wanted to create an HBO story people could watch outside their living rooms. Showing the film on the wall was just the beginning. HBO and BBDO went onto expand it to include various platforms. Viewers could go online and get deeper story lines on the apartments' inhabitants. Other plots were available for viewers accessing the promo via HBO On Demand or mobile phones. What started as an unconventional online advertising campaign is now a cultural icon and I reckon the most spoken about campaign at Cannes this year so far.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

yes Cannes do

I'm in Cannes at the 55th International Advertising Festival and for the past two days have been sitting in one session after the next listening to advertising experts pontificate about the digitisation of our world. I say pontificate, because there has been little else. Lots of hot air and regurgitation of statistics and statements that we all know about. Very worrying actually. The Internet has been around for fourteen years and cannot be considered or talked about as a new media. You see what we all want to learn about are the successes of this mass media. Granted it's tricky harnessing the channel to market for brand marketing purposes and we need dialogue to understand the pitfalls. However, what any sensible marketer or media person wants to know about is the results of campaigns that have used Digital channels successfully.
Admitedly, despite my irritation, not all has been lost in the past two days. I sat in a presentation by Mindshare Interactive yesterday who shared a case study on their US client Unilever and Sprint. The media agency created a communications campaign which harnesses social networking in a meaningful manner, proving that it can deliver results. In the Motherhood is a social networking site which has been extended into a real time television programme. Marketing head of Suave (the Unilever brand) admitted, the campaign took over a year to get through the system due to sceptism and concern digital wouldn't deliver. However the concept of getting moms to share humourous but challenging parenting experiences on a social networking site has proven a real hit and worth every single cent of marketing investment. Next year this web launched initiative will become a fully fledged television programme. Now that's interesting!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

banking on YouTube

I had a very rewarding week at FNB. Mostly because something I learnt became a reality - again. When I set up my blog and got twittering, I also learnt to set up a YouTube site for the company I work for - First National Bank (FNB). So I took this basic knowledge and asked Jan at WebWorx, a digital unit in FNB to advance it into a more sophisticated reality. Now we have a YouTube site for our bank. Pretty simple, but better still, we leveraged this site to do some good this week, which was even more rewarding. I work for a company which contributes purposefully to South African society. Apart from spending millions on social investment projects, they also have a will to ensure that South Africa is a great place for people to live in. When the Xenophobic violence broke out in South Africa three weeks ago FNB took the initiative to donate R 2 million to victims of the violence. However it did not end there. The bank created a television advertisement, radio and press ads to communicate the importance (at this difficult time) of values and humanity. It implored South Africans to remember what a great nation we are. We used this advertisement Afrika Phambili as a key driver of traffic to our YouTube website, bought some Google adwords, and now we have close on 7000 channel views in less than a week. We also loaded video footage of our brand director Derek Carstens who visited refugee camps on behalf of FNB. Watching those channel views rise daily has been a really rewarding experience and again validates to the importance of www as an uber powerful communications tool. Our site is just in its infancy, but we have plans. We've set up a relief fund at FNB for our bank account holders who wish to donate to the victims of Xenophobia and are making it simple for FNB customers to donate if they would like to. So it's great not just to be able to experience the speed and ease of digital media, but also to see the benefit it brings when you need to get out a message of hope. And here's to

Sunday, May 25, 2008

being Blunt

Last night I went to the James Blunt concert in Johannesburg. Yes, that soulful crooner whose not short of admirers and often makes headlines for his penchant for two timing and then dumping his model girlfriends. Despite being a slightly built man, he has the stamina of an Olympic athlete and the voice of an angel and possesses phenomenal stage presence. I am not ashamed to admit, that I enjoyed being part of a 10 000 strong audience of die hard Blunt fanatics. It seemed to me that suburban South Africa, from the very young to the very old, male, female and across the race spectrum had ventured out en mass to get a brief respite from what has been a shocking week in Gauteng filled with the relentlessness of xenophobic violence. My own frayed nerves were smoothed over by Mr Blunt and I was pleased he hadn't allowed international press coverage of the current Xenophobic crisis to stop him from coming to South Africa and particularly to Johannesburg. However, when I got up this morning, the fond memory of my evening dissipated abruptly as I opened the newspaper and read through the headlines. I have been trying for some time now to avoid being drawn into the feelings of negativity and powerlessness others in my social group feel about the state of South Africa. I bear witness to friends and colleagues all discussing plans to leave Johannesburg, either to live in Cape Town (it is perceived to be much safer) or the country. Unfortunately these outweigh the number of homecomers I meet. The crime crisis, the electricity crisis, the political crisis, the Zimbabwe crisis, the economic crisis and now the latest xenophobic crisis is one blow too many. I cannot help today to feel a chink in my own armour. I am so sad that my country which has so much potential, with so many good people living in it seems to be in a free fall into a dark deep abyss. As much as I want to be positive, part of being positive solution, also means being in denial. As a white affluent woman, my life here, is something of a sham. It's a sham by the very nature of its duality. The one life is filled with great work prospects (being skilled and experienced helps), nice homes, good schooling, holidays and other luxuries and then there is the other life. A life embedded in a harsh African existence, where many people are just without basic access to employment, food, water and roof over their heads. Roaming among us all are many desperate people without an inch of humanity in them who have been damaged over the years growing up deprived of basic love, food, education and shelter. Our current government refuses to acknowledge we are a society whose psyche is in need of serious help. Mondli Makhanya, the editor of the Sunday Times has really summed it up for me today in his column. We are human and we need help. So many innocent people are being murdered daily for a variety of mindless reasons from petty crime, to xenophobia. I face a personal challenge along with many others. How do we continue to live this dual life, which in itself fuels part of the problem, but also how we stay in it manage our fears and contribute positively to helping sort it out?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

face off Facebook

Today I revisited my Facebook dilemma. Should I? Should we...? Yes I am back at that again. It happens regularly that I have to challenge my thinking about FaceBook. You see I am one of the few resistors of Facebook and have been from the start. Not that I don't acknowledge its enormous influence as a social media, but I have quietly declined many invitations to join and neither am I convinced its a place marketers should be exposing their brands to unless it has very specific social and market relevance. I prefer to eavesdrop on my son's FaceBook activities to make sure I am "in touch with the medium" and watch from the sidelines as marketers dive into this arena. I'm probably a lone voice here, because there's a rush currently by South African marketers to set up Facebook profiles for their products and services. I'm finding it hard to understand why people would willingly spend precious time interacting with sites that are there to promote goods and services (even if it isn't obvious at first) and not fulfill the function of a social network in its purist intent. I really believe in the savvy Internet user who deplores any commercial intervention in these specific social online activities, unless of course it really has a very specific relevance to the interaction ( can be sure I'm searching for case studies here). FaceBook is a fascinating global phenomenon with around 60 million members and is one of the fastest-growing and best-known sites on the Internet today. Of course the real big news this week is Facebook's decision to block Google. and here I turn to Steve O'Hear on ZNet an expert on Social Media, who summarises it all very intelligently; "When Google announced its ‘Friend Connect’ product to deliver social networking features to the ‘long tail’ of the Web, the option “to see, invite, and interact with… existing friends” from competing social networks was bound to raise a few eyebrows. Not least from Facebook, whose inclusion was made possible via the site’s public API not through a formal partnership.The response: Facebook blocks Google access claiming privacy concerns, while the search giant says it’s done nothing wrong as users have to explicitly opt-in by being re-directed to Facebook’s own log-in screen, and can unlink their Google Friend Connect and Facebook accounts at any time." He adds, "the data portability land grab of course many suspect that this has very little do to with privacy, and instead what we’re seeing is an attempted data portability land grab by Facebook, MySpace and Google, in which users will be given the ability to share their social graphs elsewhere on the Web from where the data originates, so long as the primary source can remain the sole controller of that data — a kind of social control panel for the Web OS. In this scenario, data can never really leave the originating site - not in the strictest sense as that would imply it doesn't have to remain on the original host’s servers - but, a limited subset of that data can be synced with other sites."
Land grab, corporate battle, whatever you want to call it, its all part of the the quest of the monoliths for digital domination. So while the virtual powerhouses battle it out, I mere mortal digital immigrant will sit on the sidelines and figure out whether to join those 60 million odd users and marketers or face off?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

a hard drive

I try not to blog too much on the weekend. This is the time to lay down tools, to be outdoors riding horses, paddling or cycling taking in the beautiful South African weather and countryside. I spend all my time outside the city on weekends with my family, so I can regain my sanity before we set back to work on a Monday morning in the urban jungle called Johannesburg. My mother-in-law is a dairy farmer and is heading for 80 years of age. She's an extraordinary personality, running an organic dairy farm single-handed, waking up at the crack of dawn each day, while other grannies an grandpa's are sitting in old age homes waiting for nature to put them out of their misery. My mother-in-law makes most able bodied younger farmers look lazy. Anyway, today, she showed me her new mobile phone, but she doesn't know how to work it. So I sat and tried to guide her through all its features. I told her she could take pictures of her cows, sms or email them to friends or potential buyers or even save them to her hard drive (she has a dilapidated computer) so she could archive their details when needed. Frustrated by my talk she yapped back at me. "Listen darling, just give me the basics. All I want to know is how to put it on and off, make a call, read a message and then delete it. I don't care for technology and all these fancy phrases. I mean, do you know what a hard drive is to me? Exactly that! A hard drive after a long day driving back to the farm after my milk round!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Is Google the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

Yesterday I sat in a presentation by a “consultant”, who was selling us his services by trashing Google. Well perhaps trashing is a strong word, let’s say, he was trying to persuade us that we were the little lambs that would be eaten by the “wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing” aka Google. This follows the launch of Google in South Africa and yes they clearly do want as much advertising Rands as they can possibly lay their hands on? After all why else did they come here? Our new “friend” threw us the question “do we honestly think they do the best for us, or the best for their own wallets and profiteer unfairly out of us naïve South Africans who are not used to dealing with the wily likes of Google?” Of course, we all knew what the answer was to that question and we could avoid the unfortunate experience by procuring his services to ensure that Google doesn’t rip us off. I was somewhat offended by his patronising approach. He is one of those know-it-all IT guy – they always think they can baffle the less technical, especially if they are young and female (one of my work colleagues in the meeting - who is extremely bright and is set to lead a major new innovative technology driven initiative in our company) or blonde (that’s me). This approach irritates me. Where I work, there are scores of clever web and mobile developers. IT specialists, engineers and even actuaries, because we lead in technological innovation in our sector, so actually I reckon there are enough of us to work out when we were getting ripped and when we aren’t. However, I must be honest here, I quite enjoyed coming across an adversary of Google. You see, to date I have only come across Googly eyed people who think they are just great and good spirited, so in a way, despite the arrogance, I enjoyed listening to someone who could put a different face to Google. The irony of all of this of course is, that Google evangelizes about all the small businesses it spawns and entrepreneurs it makes rich - our consultant being a case in point! After the meeting, I couldn’t help myself but go to Google and search on the topic of “Is Google the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?” Well there are a lot of blogs and webpages dedicated to this subject, lists of the lawsuits they are facing etc etc. It all makes to fascinating reading. Google is a monopoly, after-all they control about 70% of the world's search and as one commentator remarked, even if you ditch Google you always go back, because they have got it right! Before I knew it, I ended up on a web trail of many opinions and new insights. From this little foray I have found a new site to add to my favourites at so thanks to our consultant friend, I did indeed learn something new that hopefully will make me a little more cleverer than I really am.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

learning from 10 Downing street...

I'm a great fan of Sky Television these days for two reasons. Firstly, watching Sky TV puts the world into perspective and also makes me think that despite our troubles in South Africa, it’s still a great country to live. We think that only SA has problems, but the world is full of bad news, not least the UK . I was interested to watch the Prime Minister of the UK Gordon Brown’s press conference on Sky this evening where he tabled a whole lot of proposed reforms to deal with the UK’s ailing economy and social framework. What really caught my attention was on the podium from which he addressed the press briefing there was a large white signboard which advertised It certainly wasn't subtle! The UK has a very high penetration of Internet users, in fact it is estimated that in this coming year, advertising investment online will outperform television. So clearly Gordon Brown and his government recognise the need to direct people to the official government website at any opportunity. They got me interested and I went to take a look. It has all the stuff you would expect from government, with a strong emphasis on interaction with consumer polls and opportunities to vent back or even email the PM. What I thought was really cool was a whole section aimed at kids. Now I don’t know how many parents and or their children are visiting the site, but what impressed me was the initiative taken to drive home key social issues to UK’s youth. The site highlights the plight of Africa and the impact of HIV, it talks to Climate Change issues. It asks; “What does the Prime Minister mean when he talks about "respect", and what are the Government doing to make our communities better places to live?” There's even a section on healthy eating featuring well known UK chef Jamie Oliver. Not forgetting how popular stories on celebrities are to the youth, they have included celebrity section on which celebrities have visited 10 Downing street recently.
The second reason I enjoy Sky is that every evening between 20h30 and 21h00 SA time they talk about the hot Internet news stories of the day, most popular video downloads and most clicked stories. This evening, the stabbing to death on Oxford Street in London of a man convicted of gang raping a young girl was most popular, followed by the earthquake in China with riveting video material supplied by a citizen reporter and third, Duchess Ferguson defending the weight of her daughter Beatrix. Sky is an Award winning broadcaster and is living proof of a media harnessing the growing influence of the Internet through its own programming. They are not alone of course, CNN are going to great lengths to encourage citizen journalism and actively interact their audiences. Locally I have noticed that Radio 702 is actively encouraging citizen journalism and is placing their editorial contributions increasingly in the hands of Joe Public out there. They consistently encourage listeners to visit their website and interact with them via mobile or other devices and report the news. They are also doing a brilliant job with their community efforts with the 702 crime line. As a talk station this transition into the digital space is quite seamless and painless it seems. Of course The Times, South Africa’s first interactive newspaper which was launched just under a year ago has lead the way with this and is growing from strength to strength. Now what I would really like to see them (and/or others do) do, is take a leaf out of Downing street's book when it comes to children. After all, they are the digital natives of today and the world's hope for the future.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Cure for a Crackberry addict?

I’m a Crackberry addict, otherwise known as a Blackberry user. Probably something I shouldn’t be admitting too, but hey, isn't the challenge of getting over an addiction to something is admitting you have an addiction in the first place? I also have to admit that I’m currently a very distraught Blackberry user. Not due to any fault of the phone, but because I have not been getting my FULL daily dose. When I changed jobs recently I had to make a great sacrifice – the corporate I now work for, won’t support my Blackberry (can you imagine that? Unthinkable!). I refuse to give up my Blackberry, so now carry two phones, switching between the mandatory Nokia (which I HATE) and my Blackberry (which I LOVE). This is really causing me huge frustration, and has really put a dampener on my otherwise great job! As an addict, even one who recognises I have a problem, I still cannot make the final cut. I’m holding out that my powers of persuasion will get me my way with those bureaucratic IT people despite the company policy! I have an added incentive, because today I read on that Blackberry has just announced the launch of the BlackBerry Bold. They rave about its impressive features, it’s ability to load several graphic-heavy sites quickly with its fast 3G data access, unrestricted Wi-Fi access, a gorgeous bright and colourful screen which offers great viewing of movies among an array of other features. The geeks at explain (quote) that the GPS paired with location-based services plus BlackBerry Maps, means you can use it while making a phone call – “ Try that while driving and see if you can avoid crashing your car.” The external speaker is loud, clear and excellent for handsfree use – they add “comparatively, it's about as powerful as the speakers on an average laptop.” Brilliant I say, because I keep losing my hands free plug ins! ”The keys have also been reconfigured slightly from previous BlackBerry iterations. They now have metal dividers resembling the shape and feel of guitar frets, making touch-typing easier. Interesting, considering most CrackBerry heads I know can already touch-type without a second thought.
Yes that me - just one of the many millions of Crackberry heads out there with an overworked thumb! There are numerous other features to mention, but I am already sold. I’m salivating despite not being technologically minded, because I know what I like and what makes my work life easier and it’s a Blackberry. With the Bold on its way, I am destined to carry on switching my sim card, until I either get another job, figured a way to cut through the IT bureaucracy or perhaps perhaps, you never know, but it has been suggested to me - I try out the new Apple iPhone (which will be in SA in June) and miraculously get cured. Now there’s a thought!

Friday, May 9, 2008

beauty is nothing without brains

Well it’s the end of a long week, so I have decided to stop tapping on my laptop and take a break from blogging for one night. Of course, I can’t escape my duties entirely, so have something small to share. Today, I sat through a really informative economic overview session held by the First Rand Group for its executives. Now as you can well imagine, given the current global and local economic pressures on financial markets, the day’s proceedings were filled with data which was rather daunting. However, the great thing about First Rand management is that they never lose their positive attitude or sense of humor despite the challenges. After a series of particularly intense sessions, the Group Investor Relations Manager, a sophisticated female executive ended off her serious presentation with this video. Even the blondes in the audience had to giggle and I'm thankful because she’s given me a new site to reference.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

the Queen got it, but not the ANC

So I thought Obama was with it because he is twittering, well I have learnt that one of the most popular new sites on You Tube is the Royal Channel. Now I'm not a dedicated follower of the Royal Family, and so haven't been looking for their stuff on the web, but when I heard that they launched their own You Tube offering in December and the channel has been growing ever since I had to go and take a look. Who would have guessed that a British Institution like the Royal family would have considered a YouTube offering? What this demonstrates is that even such a traditional institution can't ignore the power of www. It's of course very sugar coated and full to the brim with cushy royal footage and pictures, but hey its doing a great job at promoting the Royal family. The Royal Channel was launched with a Christmas message from the Queen and some 400 000 people watched the royal channel in its first two days of launch. So does Britney Spears now have some serious competition from the Queen? Well, I'm not convinced unless there is a massive conversion in the Internet skills of the elderly in the UK. It struck me, that if politicians and royalty are using You Tube, then perhaps our own ruling party the ANC had considered the benefits of having a YouTube presence? I went to take a look and this is where it got interesting, because indeed they do have a YouTube presence, but probably not in the way they would have intended. What ANC Exposed demonstrates is again the power of the www. If you don't actively become a part of it, don't harness it, then you could find yourself disintermediated by it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

getting googly eyed over Google

So Google has hit South Africa! There's great excitement in the media industry around the development of a local Google office over the past six months. Stafford Masie who has been appointed Country Manager is what we at FNB call a homecomer. He's part of the homecoming revolution (this is a big FNB initiative) of South Africans who have lived and worked abroad and are now returning home. He's also got another homecomer working with him on key projects Peter Brooke-Sumner, who has just finished a stint with Google in London. Now these guys are devilishly internet savy and really reflect what you would expect from the Google brand. They're young, dynamic and fascinating to listen to. They bring with them a digital sophistication and comfortability that comes from having operated in global markets. I've heard Stafford present just some of Google's opportunities and plans for SA on two different occasions and on both accounts I was left wondering whether there was indeed life BG - "life before Google". These guys have no shortage of interest in their business. In fact they must be doubling up on their vitamins to keep pace with the meeting requests. There a lot of googly eyed people running around! What will be really interesting to see, is which companies show real and deep advertising commitment first. In SA there is a lot of dabbling going on, but so far advertising commitment to online in general, is still tiny compared to the advertising share of market of television and print in this country. At just under R 280 million out of a total of R 34 billion spent in mainstream media over the course of 2007, it's so way off global benchmarks which will top 10% of global adspend this year. Of course, we don't know how much Google has been getting because they don't and won't ever account formally for in any official figures, but given the low "official" base of spend, there's huge potential. With their plans to launch Google maps and also extend into the lucrative mobile market it's easy to believe that they will be able to create a real value proposition in the market and their success will also contribute to an overall growth and acceptance of online and mobile offerings in this country. When a global powerhouse like Google thinks SA is worth playing in, it can only be great for the industry. It's happening! Along with Admob's December ratings which revealed that SA users served over 144 million page impressions on Admob's network, placing SA third behind only India and the States on the list of countries with the most active users - you know there's something to get googly eyed about.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

plentyoffish out there?

So thanks to an insightful conversation yesterday with Ronnie Apteker, founder of Internet Solutions who has lots of interesting information to share, not least of which is internet related, I learnt today about a site called It’s a simple astoundingly successful business model which made its founder Markus Frind, a billionaire. And the man hasn’t even left his apartment! Now I reckon that has to be one of the coolest jobs in the world, the one where you can be truly "virtual" and never have to get out of your pajama’s before lunchtime - if you don’t want to. He has the added benefit of dealing with really interesting content, not boring widgets or anything, but real live human stuff. I mean if you’re vaguely voyeuristic then what could be more amusing than looking at the desire of a wide range of people from all over the world looking to find a date, true love or even a husband and wife and not necessarily in any order or altogether either. And of course if you’re one of them then better still, because he gets 1.1 billion pageviews every month and 45 million visitors so your chances of success are pretty high. According to www, up until recently Markus Frind ran his business single handedly, with only the help of his girlfriend and other voluntary moderators. The success of plentyoffish proves again the power of the Internet not just as an advertising channel to market, but as an accelerator of small business globally. In this case a simple idea, tapped into a flush market - one in eight couples in the US who married last year, dated online. Ah well, I got to get out of my pajama’s now and get to my corporate job.

Monday, May 5, 2008

thanks to Karl Fisch we're all shifting..

Thanks to Karl Fisch, I seem far more intelligent and knowledgeable about the impact of technology on our daily lives, than I really am. And without fail, each time I share his presentation Shift Happens, like I did today, with colleagues and other important people I notice the lights go on around the room, the nodding heads and then when it's it's all over, the predictable scramble to my laptop to get copies of his salient words. For those brief moments Mr Fisch makes me feel really important, that somehow I knew his words existed and could share them. Of course I didn't find them on my own, they were shared with me so I could share them with others. So I'm a big fan, not because what he says is earth shatteringly new, but because the information is crafted together so succinctly, powerfully and simply. And while the presentation is very much from a US perspective, the same issues are confronting our country too, perhaps only differing in scale. The overall message is the same and while Mr Fisch directs a lot of his challenges at the education system in the US and to empowering students and education policy decision makers, I reckon a whole lot of local business people would shift their view after a run through.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

stuck in paradise with O Koek!

Well I'm stuck in paradise. Not intentionally. Actually I have to get back to the city to work tomorrow, but the weather's fouling up and as our mode of transport is a light aircraft, a single engine Cessna. We don't fly in dodgy weather! You see I'm married to an intrepid adventurer, a man who likes to fly everywhere all the time, when we aren't working. If it's not paragliding off some mountain, then its flying in the little plane somewhere. Generally the weather fits in with our busy schedule - another good thing about living in South Africa. Talking about South Africa, we've created our very own Internet sensation - Vernon Koerkemoer. This unusual looking fellow with a mallet for a hairdo is said to South Africa's answer to Chuck Norris. Over a two month period, he's gone from anonymity to world wide fame through www and is now featuring in advertising campaigns. You name the channel and he's been featured on it. He has thousands of registered fans and more than 250 000 hits to his website (in SA this is considered BIG). Under the headline O Koek! I'm reading in the Sunday Times (South Africa's most influential newspaper) that the joke is all on us and how this bodybuilder from Benoni (same place movie star Charlize Theron hails from) called Cassie Booyse's " life imitates art with uncanny precision." I agree with Rowan Philp's assessment of this simple man's rise to instant fame. For me it just confirms again the growing influence of the Internet on the daily lives of South Africans. Amidst political, economic and criminal turmoil (and of course load shedding) in our country, South Africans are taking shelter in the virtual world and in this case the Koek is the one whose laughing all the way to the bank. You can read the full story on or check out him in video: . Now I need to get back to the business of finding a way home.

Friday, May 2, 2008

even barack obama twitters

You may have noticed I'm a new entrant to blogging and I'm behaving like a kid with a new toy. It's not just the blogging thing that interests me. I'm fascinated by the www and mobile, as new channels to market, so I'm learning as much as possible as quickly as I can. Yesterday I got a bit more familiar with twitter. Thanks to Colin Daniels again (the cheque is in the post Colin), who is great at sharing information, I learnt that Barack Obama uses twitter. Now I'm a big fan of Barack Obama. I want him to win the US presidential race and using new media tools like twitter should help him along. It's great to know that a presidential hopeful embraces new media like this, because particularly in more developed parts of the world, traditional media is being wiped by www and mobile media applications. I have no doubt Obama is penetrating new audiences better using twitter than if he had stuck to mainstream media tools. Of course, someone is going to argue that is not him, its his advisors who are responsible for his clued up state. Reality is leadership is key. If the leader is prepared to embrace new stuff then it happens. When the leader (wannabe or not) of any organisation or country for that fact doesn't get it, then it wont happen. Fullstop.

I cut and pasted some of Obama's twitterings below in case you're interested..

Name Barack Obama
Location Chicago, IL
Web http://www.barack...
Following 27,966
Followers 27,590
Favorites 0
Updates 111
View All…
Campaigning today in South Bend, IN and will be on Letterman tonight at 11pm ET/PT on CBS.
from web
With Others
Having lunch with Michelle & talking with working families in Indianapolis, then heading to Bloomington for a rally at Indiana University. from web
In Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem & Hickory, NC today. Also, on the Rachael Ray Show today. For show times visit: from web
At a One-Stop Early Vote Rally at The University of North Carolina, Dean E. Smith Center. More info: from web
In New Albany, IN at a town hall meeting at Indiana University Southeast. from web
Traveling through PA today & asking folks to vote for change! If you are in PA & need polling location info visit from web
Going to be on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart tonight. 11:00pm ET on Comedy Central. Hope you watch & reply with your thoughts after. from web
In McKeesport & Pittsburgh, PA today finishing the "On Track for Change" tour and reminding everyone in PA to vote tomorrow! from web
In Reading & Scranton, PA today. Honored to be campaigning with Senator Bob Casey and Caroline Kennedy. Visit from web
On the "On Track for Change" tour through Pennsylvania. Heading to Harrisburg for a rally tonight on the State Capitol's South Steps. from web
At Independence National Historical Park (Philly, PA) kicking off the "On Track for Change" tour. For more info: from web
In Philadelphia, PA. Debating tonight on ABC. Watch the debate at 8pm ET/PT and 7pm CT/MT. Text your thoughts to 62262 after. from web
At the Building Trades National Legislative Conference, stating that we need to strengthen the long-term competitiveness of our economy. from web
In PA at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, stating that any trade agreement must contain real, enforceable standards for workers. from web
Campaigning in Indiana today. Going from Indianapolis to Columbus and on to Terre Haute. For more info visit from web
Talked with Communications Workers of America about getting America back to work. Watch my full speech at: from web
In Indiana on the 40th anniv. of Dr. King's assassination. Asking everyone to continue his lifelong pursuit of social & economic justice. from web
Troubled by today's unemployment figures, the latest indicator of how badly America needs fundamental change from Bush-McCain policies. from web
At West Chester University of Pennsylvania, will be appearing live on MSNBC at 5PM ET today for the Chris Matthews Hardball College Tour. from web
Reminding everyone to donate by midnight tonight and you could be chosen to dine with me and a few supporters. from web