The book @MarcusJHBrown told me to buy.

Posted in media, culture and society,planning by thomas on the Juli 1st, 2011


Posted in Brands and Business,media, culture and society,planning by thomas on the Juni 27th, 2011

So right now I’m sitting at the airport in Vienna, waiting for my delayed flight to Hamburg. What I’m going to do there? Listen to smart people talking about selection in all kinds of different areas. From ideas, to news, to beauty, to nature, innovation, recruiting, investment, sports and taste.

First of all, I think APG Germany came up with a brilliant selection of speakers and industries, and I particularly like that they haven’t invited loads of people from the advertising industry – except of course Russell Davies, but then again he’s got this history of not talking about advertising but rather about ‚interesting‘ stuff. (Nice that this is most of the time a contradiction, isn’t it?).

But second of all, I think the topic itself is highly interesting. Recently, there is a lot of talk in adland about design thinking (see Neil Perkin’s brilliant FireStarter events with Google) and the divergent thinking process within individuals and systems – something I covered also in my bachelor thesis and I think is really important (but not really new). But then again, I don’t think that agencies or organisations of all sorts have that much trouble coming up with ideas per se. What they often do have trouble with, however, is to come up with relevant ideas. They also don’t seem to lack data. What they sometimes lack, though, seems to be relevant data. Often times in my little time in the industry, I’ve seen organisations overwhelmed with loads of information and struggling to filter it to generate knowledge and wisdom out of all the data they are generating.

These times of complexity, chaos and speed necessarily make selection and reflexivity both about the ways of working and the environment critical, and there are obviously different ways to go about that. The discussions about weak signals monitoring, a big board and Chief Culture Officer as sketched by Grant McCracken, pattern based strategy, real time data analysis, experiments data based prediction (see Google FireStarters #1, Google Correlate, Google Prediction API) show how important this whole issue of sense-making has become. In this process of making sense about the environment, both divergent thinking – coming up with possible realities, hypothesis and relevant options – and convergent thinking – selection of the most appropriate, but still contingent options, are important.

To be honest, I’m still struggling a tiny bit (= a lot) with the selection bit. More often than not, I find myself with various options that I think are worthwhile and possibly effective, both in the part about inspiring with context and in selecting solutions. Let’s see if these guys can help me:

Selection of Ideas:
Russell Davies, Ogilvy & Mather

Selection of News:
Thomas Osterkorn, Chefredakteur des stern

Selection of Beauty:
Armin Morbach, Herausgeber TUSH-Magazin

Selection of Nature:
Dr. Björn Brembs, Neurobiologe FU Berlin

Selection of Innovation:
Ulf Pillkahn, Siemens AG

Selection of Talent:
Prof. Dr. Björn Bloching, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants

Selection of Investments:
Lars Stein, Gründer & Präsident von

Selection of Football Talents:
Ernst Tanner, Sportlicher Leiter TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Selection of Taste:
Sylvia Kopp, Biersommelière – mit Verkostung –

Documentaries and the ‚Real‘

Posted in media, culture and society,planning by thomas on the Juni 21st, 2011

My last post was already somehow related to documentaries – Bananas* in this case. For some reasons, I’m thinking a lot about documentaries at the moment (this also has personal reasons but they don’t matter for what I’m thinking about). I came to find documentaries interesting for a lot of different reasons.

First of all, they may not all want to be overtly persuasive or activistic, but they sure want to present ‚reality‘ and so they have to persuade you of a certain perspective, a certain framing of an issue. For the time you’re watching a documentary and ideally after that, you’re supposed to accept a certain type of portrayal of the world as real. Which essentially is also what advertising is trying to do, although on a mostly more dull level, with a tiny bit less involvement of everybody involved. (Yes, that’s kind of what I wanted to say.)

Another thing I find interesting about documentaries is that that lots of them have a purpose. Sure, there are loads of artistic documentaries or animal or nature documentaries, but from what I’m now being exposed to, there are loads and loads of activist docs out there. These are films that are supposed to document stuff, but they often have an underlying message, a POV, a call to arms or something similar. Bananas* is an example for such a documentary. It might now want to tell you straight in your face, but after watching it you’re supposed to feel like an arse when you buy Dole Bananas. Same is true for Pipe and Shell. For most food documentaries. And for many more. I think this is interesting from the culture creation POV.

And when you think about it, most feature length docs are produced with production budgets that aren’t that far away from your 45 second TV commercial. 90 minutes of passionate framing of an issue for the price of a TV commercial? Hmm …

Then of course there’s the aesthetic view on docs. I think most of them are really, really beautiful. They have this authentic look and feel while looking absolutely great. Schwarzkopf for example looks totally sharp.

Goodnight Nobody is poetic and beautiful.

Oh, and documentaries have this knock for delivering a triangulation of perspectives. They often cover an issue from an individual view, giving insights into the subjective meaning of whatever issue, but then they also show social interactions around the topic (usually there’s some sort of social object around) as well as presenting an analysis or opinion on it’s cultural implications. And even if they don’t do it, they provide you with lots of cues and inspiration.

That said, I still have to go and watch Abendland:

(Would anybody in the plannersphere join me for SXSW film instead of interactive?)

About Bananas, Ethics and Consumption

Posted in Brands and Business,media, culture and society by thomas on the Juni 7th, 2011

Some of you may know that I spent a month in Nicaragua during my civil cervice for the twinning between my old highschool and a technical school in León, Nicaragua. Our school sends a group of pupils there every second year for them to learn about how different people on different spots of the earth live and runs a couple of projects there around energy usage and sustainability – all under an educational umbrella. There are Austrian civil servants in León and over the course of many years, some great things happened around the school and twinning in León. While this might only change the bigger picture a little bit, it does have its effects. Having said that, I might be a bit biased about what is going to follow later. But there’s a second disclaimer: I’m also not that big of a fan of the fair trade concept. I’m not sure whether it provides the right long-term incentive (it may not be sustainable to stay a farmer in the first place) and I’ve learned a bit about the bureaucratic and very expensive certification process. And last but not least, I still do have my troubles calling trades that all partners agree on ‚unfair‘.

That said, I’d like to ask you to watch the trailer for Bananas*, a documentary:

My first reaction when I saw Juan Dominguez, the lawyer in the documentary, was apparently the same as the director’s, who, in an interview described him as „the type of person most people wouldn’t buy a used car from.“
In fact, I find both the speeches he gives in Nicaragua and the way he conducts himself appalling. While the case that they present in the documentary seems to be very, very strong and while Dole’s representatives look like they don’t give and gave a shit about the Nicaraguan people, something about Dominguez made me feel a bit uncomfortable about that case. Now in the end, 6 of the 12 plaintiffs are awarded about $2 million and Dominguez wants to bring group after group after group of plaintiffs to court to bring justice to hundreds of workers and Dole (and millions to his law firm).

After I the documentary, I turned to Google to find out more about the lawsuit and what happened later on and found that the suit was overturned, the lawyers were reported for fraud and for coming up with a sophisticated scheme for extorting money out of Dole and that, because of that, no further lawsuits of Nicaraguan farmers are going to be accepted in court. How did Dole do that? They found some anonymous plaintiffs.

In 2007, Dole was found liable for causing six Nicaraguan banana workers to have been sterilized by Dole’s use of the pesticide DBCP and the jury found that Dole acted with malice, fraud and/or oppression. One year later, anonymous Dole witnesses stated that several workers in two upcoming cases had never worked on banana farms and that this alleged fraud had infected all Nicaraguan banana suits. Dole successfully spread their version of the story to international media, which was possible due to a court order protecting the identity of the witnesses, making their stories impossible to double check. Several media articles stated that Dominguez not only risked losing his license, but also “possible prison time”. See LA Times from May, 2009 »

After the court had thrown out the case,

Steve Condie, a solo practitioner in Oakland, Calif. who represents Nicaraguans who worked on Dole’s banana plantations in the 1970s and 1980s, filed a bar complaint in October 2010 against three of Dole’s lawyers, arguing that a newly translated recording indicated that the company bribed witnesses in the form of thousands of dollars in cash and luxury hotel accommodations. The witnesses later testified in secret about alleged fraud between the workers and the plaintiffs‘ lawyers.

Fredrik interviews Steve Condie from WG Film on Vimeo.

This was unsuccessfully, however, as

„The State Bar has completed the investigation of the allegations of professional misconduct and determined that this matter does not warrant further action,“ the letter reads. „Therefore, the matter is closed.“ The letter was signed by Chief Trial Counsel James Towery and Deputy Trial Counsel Melanie Lawrence.

On Feb. 28, Condie said the bar’s decision „reveals a dangerous sinkhole in our legal system when the State Bar can’t fully investigate a complaint against California lawyers because of court-imposed secrecy. The state bar did not exonerate Dole’s attorneys, they simply have dropped the case because they could not investigate the bribery report because of the thick veil of secrecy that Justice Chaney imposed on everything connected with this case. I would have preferred to have had the matter fully and publicly investigated so that the truth could come out. It appears that that will never happen.“

In March 2011, the appellate court threw out the case again, this time for good.

So much for justice.

Phony plaintiffs and helpers on both sides and many poor men that have definitely been hurt in one way or another, now unable to sue Dole ever again. And still, after watching the documentary, seeing the historic documents and letters showing that Dole didn’t and still doesn’t give a shit, you have a company that is – at least morally – guilty.

A few weeks ago, I was in the supermarket shopping for groceries. I apparently put bananas in my basket and went on to the cashier. Only then I found out that the banans I just bought were Dole bananas. I returned them and saw that these were the only bananas the supermarket had. So I left, without bananas and even more convinced that we live in a low-attention, low-involvement world, in which people in general don’t care much. If I, heavily invested in the topic and the country, almost bought the Dole bananas, why would anybody else care? Or even know in the first place.

Fragen und Antworten zum Studium

Posted in academia by thomas on the Juni 6th, 2011

Hauptgebäude der Universität Wien
In den vergangenen zwei Jahren hat mich der Bildungsberater meiner ehemaligen Schule gefragt, ob ich bei der Studieninformationsbörse der HTL den Schülerinnen und Schülern zur WU und dem Studium im Allgemeinen Rede und Antwort stehen könnte.  Ich habe das immer gerne gemacht, halte Information und Orientierung – Mentoring allgemein – für eine ziemlich wichtige und praktische Sache. Nach der diesjährigen Studieninformationsbörse hat mir einer der interessierteren Schülern geschrieben ob ich ihm mit ein paar Fragen behilflich sein könnte. Dabei dachte ich, dass die Fragen und Antworten vielleicht für mehrere Schülerinnen und Schüler interessant sein könnten.  Ich bin sicher nicht der richtige Ansprechpartner für alle Fragen, trotzdem hoffe ich, dass manche von mit den Antworten etwas anfangen können. Wenn ihr das hier liest und selbst bessere Antworten habt, bitte einfach kommentieren.

85.000 Leute an der Uni Wien. 26.000 an der TU. Das ist schon extrem viel. Wie war eigentlich die Umstellung zwischen HTL und Uni? Ich mein‘ ich bin nicht so der Streber und komme mit meiner „einen Tag vorm Test lernen“-Strategie mit 0 bis 2 4er pro Jahr durch. Wie war das für dich?

Nun, die 85.000 oder 26.000 Leute sind natürlich auf die ganze Unis gemeinsam gerechnet. Das ist an der Uni Wien alles vom Juridicum, über die Afrikanistik zur Chemie und Wirtschaft. Viele der 85.000 wirst du nie zu Gesicht bekommen. Das gleiche gilt für die TU. Das heißt, es kommt schlussendlich viel auf die Studienrichtung an die du vor hast zu wählen. Informatik und Architektur an der TU ist ziemlich gut belegt und auch auf der Uni Wien gibt es viele Studienrichtungen die überlastet sind (Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaft etc.). Was die Umstellung betrifft gibt es schon Prüfungen, die natürlich schwierig sind und gründliche Vorbereitung, also 1-2 Wochen täglich lernen, brauchen. Alles in allem gab es von den Prüfungen aber nicht so viele. Die größte Umstellung war ein bisschen mit all den Dingen die man in Wien anstatt zu lernen machen kann zurecht zu kommen. Manche schaffen eben diese Umstellung nicht. Oder müssen so viel arbeiten um sich zu finanzieren dass sie dem Studium zu wenig Zeit widmen können. Das hängt aber auch von deinem Studium ab. Eine Technische Physik wird mehr Aufmerksamkeit von dir verlangen als die Publizistik. Das klingt vielleicht hart, ist aber so.

Wie vermutlich alle sagst du auch das Bachelor umsonst ist und wenn man schon studiert gleich den Master auch noch machen soll. Seh‘ ich das richtig?

Das kommt ein bisschen darauf an was du studierst, wie dein eigener Drang nach Wissen und Forschung ist und wie sehr du deine Zukunft in Österreich siehst. Wenn du mal in England, den USA oder sonst wo arbeiten willst in einem Bereich der nicht sehr forschungsgetrieben ist, dann reicht der Bachelor in vielen Fällen sicher aus. Auch in wirtschaftlichen Berufen gibt es sogar in Österreich viele große Unternehmen die Bachelors einstellen (auch Google z.B.). Wenn du dich in Zukunft in Österreich siehst, in einem eher forschungslastigen Bereich und dich sehr für dein Thema interessierst, dann ist der Master natürlich schon auch naheliegend. Einerseits weil in Österreich Titel immer noch viel zählen, andererseits weil dir Master noch 2 Jahre geben dich wirklich ausführlich mit einem Thema zu beschäftigen.

Ich habe in Publizistik zum Beispiel den Master belegt weil ich dachte dadurch wirklich noch Tiefer in die Materie zu kommen. Das hat so zwar nicht gestimmt – der Master ist nicht sehr gut – aber ich hatte dennoch 2 Jahre Zeit um mich mit dem Thema noch mehr zu beschäftigen. Und das war im Nachhinein gut.

Ich kann mir nicht vorstellen mit 25 jahren noch keine Arbeitserfahrung zu haben. Ich meine du, hattest ja auch Praktika oder? Ist arbeiten neben dem Studieren eigentlich „möglich“, so dass man noch Freizeit hat?

Ja, ich habe Praktika gemacht und auch nebenbei gearbeitet. Ob arbeiten neben dem Studieren „möglich“ ist, ist eine schwierige Frage. Das hängt einerseits davon ab wie „gut“ du bist, nicht nur fachlich, sondern auch in Selbstdisziplin und Zeitmanagement und andererseits ob es dein Studium erlaubt. Bei manchen Fächern ist es sicher leichter möglich als bei anderen. Es arbeiten allerdings ca. 2/3 der Studierenden nebenbei, wenn ich mich richtig erinnere. Vor allem nach 2 Jahren haben viele in meinem Bekanntenkreis die erst nach Wien gekommen sind mit Jobs angefangen. Manche arbeiten aber weiterhin nur im Sommer, das hängt auch ein bisschen von der Unterstützung der Eltern ab. Fachspezifische Arbeit zu finden ist zu Beginn immer ein bisschen schwierig, wobei da die HTL schon ein riesen Startvorteil für mich war. Freizeit? Ja, sicher. Ich habe immer mehrere Sport-Kurse belegt, im Sommer für die Mannschaft von Braunau Tennis gespielt, bin normal fortgegangen etc.

Du warst ja in Kanada oder? Sind diese Auslandssemester eher die Ausnahme oder die Regel oder hängt das auch vom Studium ab?

Ja, ich war in Vancouver. In meinem Studium (Internationale Betriebswirtschaftslehre) an der WU ist Auslandserfahrung Pflicht. Diese kann man entweder durch zwei Sommerunis, durch eine Sommeruni und ein Praktikum oder durch ein Auslandssemester decken. In anderen Studien sind Auslandssemester nicht Pflicht, werden aber immer häufiger. Viele meiner Kolleginnen und Kollegen waren im Ausland – Korea, Schweden, Finnland, Niederlande, Australien, Thailand, …

Wie kann man sich am Besten informieren? Gibt es da „Schnuppertage“ oder kann man Vorlesungen besuchen? Wie bist du auf deine Studienzweige gekommen?

Einerseits natürlich über Menschen die das studieren was sich möglicherweise interessiert, andererseits über Veranstaltungen wie die BEST und in Internetforen der Studienrichtungsvertretungen und der Unis. Vorlesungen sind öffentlich, das heißt du kannst einfach nach Wien fahren und dich dort hineinsetzen. Manche Unis haben auch Tag der offenen Türe und ähnliche Veranstaltungen. Das müsstest du googlen. – Wie ich auf meine Studienzweige gekommen? Ich habe mich immer diffus für Wirtschaft, Menschen, Medien und Technik interessiert und habe mir dann eine Liste an Studienzweigen aufgestellt die sich mit den Themen beschäftigen. Auf dieser Liste sind dann PuKW, Psychologie, Theater-, Film- und Medienwissenschaften, Wirtschaftsinformatik, Medieninformatik und Geschichte gestanden. PuKW hat mich vom Studienplan her (der war online) und von den Namen der Lehrveranstaltungen am meisten interessiert. Medieninformatik war auf zwei. Nachdem Medieninformatik nach einem Semester mangels Begeisterung für Informatik/Mathematik wieder gestrichen wurde, hab‘ ich dann Wirtschaftsinformatik begonnen. Und nachdem ich dort nicht die WU-Spezialisierungen belegen konnte die ich wollte und mich Sprachen immer mehr interessiert haben, habe ich schlussendlich Internationale BWL gemacht.

Ist es normal das man zwei Studienzweige studiert bzw. auf zwei verscheiden Unis? Wieso Wirtschaft und Publizistik- und Kommunikationswissenschaft?

Normal, nein. Es ist sicher insgesamt eher die Minderheit. Auf der Sozial-, Kultur- und Wirtschaftswissenschaft ist es aber schon üblicher als auf der TU zum Beispiel. Wenn man ein möglichst umfangreiches Wissen z.B. über Gesellschaftstheorien oder Medien erlangen will, bietet es sich an z.B. zwei Bachelor-Studien zu belegen. In den USA zum Beispiel ist es ja so, dass man im Bachelor einfach nur einen Bachelor of Arts (BA) studiert und dafür Kurse aus Soziologie, Psychologie, Philosophie, Geschichte, Medien, Wirtschaft, etc. belegt – bei uns sind das alles eigene Bachelor-Studien. Bei uns gibt es das nicht, darum gibt es oft Kombinationen. Warum Wirtschaft- und Kommunikationswissenschaft? Weil ich denke, dass sich die beiden Fächer sehr gut kombinieren lassen, weil mich beides interessiert und zu einem gewissen grad natürlich auch, weil die Internationale BWL eine gewisse „Ausbildung“ ist, die ich als Basis gut finde (Sprachen, BWL-Grundlagen, VWL-Grundlagen …).

Was ist dein Traumjob bzw. was bringt dir dein Studium? Könntest du den Job auch ohne Studieren ausüben?

Mein Traumjob ist im Prinzip der, den ich momentan habe. Bei Planning oder Strategie geht es darum, mit Intuition und Logik (Kreativität und Analyse) dafür zu sorgen, dass Unternehmen und Marken Dinge schaffen, die sowohl für die Menschen als auch für das Unternehmen relevant sind. Das heißt, z.B. dafür zu sorgen, dass Werbekampagnen funktionieren, oder herauszufinden wie man eine Marke besser oder bekannter machen kann, oder dafür zu sorgen dass man ein Produkt teurer verkaufen kann oder neue Produkte oder Marken zu schaffen, die Bedürfnisse von Menschen besser befriedigen als andere. Und das ganze so, dass das was dabei herauskommt nicht etwas ist für das man sich schämen muss. Idealerweise soll es etwas sein, dass die Gesellschaft insgesamt ein wenig besser macht. Aber das ist natürlich schwierig. Der große Traumjob ist ein bisschen genau das bei W+K oder IDEO zu tun.

Könnte ich diesen Job auch ohne Studium ausführen. Theoretisch: ja. Praktisch: nope. Wie Rob Campbell immer anmerkt sind die Qualitäten die man für den Job braucht auch ohne Studium zu erlangen. Das Problem ist nur, dass die meisten Unternehmen niemanden dafür ohne Studium einstellen. Das heißt, entweder man arbeitet ohne Studium verschiedenste Dinge und wechselt dann ins Planning – was geht, aber irgendwie auch nicht einfach ist, oder man studiert, sammelt vielfältige Erfahrungen und hofft dann dadurch besser in dem Job zu werden. Zweiteres war meine Strategie.

Was bringt mir mein Studium? Insgesamt hat es mir einen breiten Überblick über viele unterschiedliche Dinge gegeben. Von Psychologie, über Soziologie, über Pädagogik, Geschichte, Sprachen, Buchhaltung, Logistik, Management, Marketing und so weiter. In der Kommunikationswissenschaft im Speziellen hatte ich Gelegenheit mir meine Gedanken darüber zu machen was die Gesellschaft antreibt, wie sie ihre Themen selektiert und vor allem wie sie sich verändert. Ein bisschen darüber nachzudenken, wie das Leben da draußen, die Medien, die Menschen eigentlich funktionieren. In der Internationalen BWL hatte ich Gelegenheit eine tolle Sommeruni in Vietnam zu machen, ein unvergessliches Auslandssemester in Vancouver, dadurch auch viele Menschen kennen zu lernen – und natürlich auch – ein Fundament an wirtschaftlichem Verständnis das mir so niemand mehr wegnehmen wird können. Wäre das unbedingt notwendig gewesen? Nein, natürlich nicht. Ich hätte auch arbeiten gehen können. Aber es war eine schöne Zeit, in der ich Gelegenheit hatte vieles zu lernen und mir ein besseres Bild von der Welt machen zu können. (Dass ich dabei viele liebe Menschen kennengelernt habe die ich sonst eben nie kennengelernt hätte, das ist natürlich ein weiterer, nicht zu unterschätzender Punkt.)

Why Coming Up With A Concept Isn’t The Problem

Posted in Brands and Business,communications,experience,planning by thomas on the Mai 23rd, 2011

When I started with all this stuff (comms, marketing, design, …), I designed and built websites, flyers and other things – amateurish in hindsight, but I learned a lot doing it. Then after school, I went into a more abstract role in an online marketing agency – somewhere in the middle of planning, account management and creative. After that, I thought I should work at a classic agency and did an internship in planning. And now, I’m working in a supposedly even more ‚detached‘ role at a brand and innovation consultancy. (No, I’m not working full-time yet, I’m finishing my degree). In a way, I sort of covered the whole spectrum from execution to strategy, from concrete to more abstract thinking and doing. Common sense would say I worked my way ‚up‘. I’d say this is utterly, utterly wrong.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past years, it is that the magic isn’t in concepts or PowerPoints or Keynotes. It is very easy to come up with some stuff and post-rationalise it, to make it look fancy or even convincing. You can learn pretty fast how easy it is to bullshit your way to the dark side of planning. With slideshare and twitter soundbites, and a lot of marketing people potentially (and often rightfully) not knowing what you’re talking about, I assume you can go far this way. („Some people are so good at learning the tricks of the trade that they never get to learn the trade.“ – Sam Levenson)

But from what I learned so far, the magic often isn’t in an idea or a concept itself. Advertising ideas or concept headlines these days often come cheap. Just look at what all the croudsourcing platforms out there do, or the theory of random creativity or Grant McCracken’s Culturematic. Coming up with a concept isn’t that big of a deal if you come up with many of them in the first place. (Coming up with a unique one is harder, but even that would be more a matter of quantity …)

So if the magic isn’t in the idea, where does it lie? I really believe it is in what happened before a concept and what happens with it afterwards.  What happens before is the strategic thinking that reframes the situation, identify an opportunity or a problem and construct the context in an interesting and inspiring way. Classic and still invaluable strategy stuff. This is answering the question of what it is the new thing we’re supposed to come up should lead to?

Then, and usually built on a concept, happens the execution and this is where all the process and thinking and phrasing before suddenly hits reality. But it’s not the plot-line, or the concept headline that is pushed out there in the real world – it’s deeper and more complex than that. Just look at Hollywood’s black list as an example.

“Centers on Edwin A. Salt, a CIA officer who is fingered as a Russian  sleeper spy. He eludes capture by superiors who are convinced he is out  to assassinate the president. While trying to reunite with his family,  he struggles to prove someone else is the traitor.”

“An illiterate kid looks to become a contestant on the Hindi version of  Who Wants to be A Millionaire in order to re-establish contact with the girl he loves, who is an ardent fan of the show.”

“After a zombie plague ravages America, a pair of ‘odd couple’  survivors team up to find purpose and combat the living dead in the post-apocalyptic Southwest.”

They all don’t sound overly exciting, or do they? Sure, those are summaries of plot lines, nicely written and to a certain extent triggering your imagination – but then again, they’re only words. And they can be transformed into a very dull or a brilliant movie. They aren’t Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg, they aren’t Angelina Jolie (guess there’s been some focus group testing there), they aren’t the OST, the art direction, the … well you get the picture: It needs imagination, craftsmanship and taste to make something exciting based on them. It needs the how.

Or to let Mr. Feldwick and Mr. Heath, who have been preaching and proofing that for a long time, speak:

Most advertising practitioners intuitively believe that advertising influences behaviour not simply through the conscious processing of verbal or factual messages, but by influencing emotions and mediating ‘relationships’ between the consumer and the brand. This leads to a benign conspiracy between client and agency in which creativity and communication are able to coexist (Heath 2004). To support this conspiracy, huge resources of corporate ingenuity are squandered in retrofitting successful campaigns to ‘information processing’ strategies. So we are led to believe that Heineken’s famous ‘Refreshes the parts …’ campaign worked mainly because it communicated the ‘benefit’ of refreshment, that the Guinness ‘Surfer’ ad is merely a dramatisation of the ‘benefit’ that Guinness takes a long time to pour, and that the Andrex ‘Puppy’ is no more than a branding device that improves recall that its toilet paper is ‘soft, strong, and very long’. It is a bit like saying that King Lear is a great play because it is about families. (Heath & Feldwick 2008)

However, while it’s the strategy ‚before‘, and the execution ‚after‘ a concept that make for great outcomes, I’d argue there often isn’t really a before and an after in the first place, which renders ’set in stone‘ concept themselves somewhat irrelevant. While surely the goal – the what – should be fixed at a certain point (if it’s agreed upon in the first place), I think in general one can’t separate concept from execution. There’s a nice deck about what this could mean for ‚digital‘ solutions by Stuart Eccles of Made By Many accompanying the talk he held at the Google FireStarters. And you should definitely read Martin Weigel’s post, which was finished before this post made it out of the drafts and is saying what I wanted to say way better anyways.


The Black List 2007:

Heath, R. & Feldwick, P., 2008. Fifty years using the wrong model of advertising. International Journal of Market Research, 50(1), p.29.

The theory of random creativity is explained in:
Rossiter, J.R. & Bellman, S., 2005. Marketing communications: theory and applications, Prentice Hall.

Nivea, confronted with being ‚denounced‘ as a’jewish‘ brand, adapting to National Socialist content and style in the thirties.

Posted in Brands and Business,media, culture and society by thomas on the März 29th, 2011

Stockholm Observations/Impressions

Posted in media, culture and society,Off Topic by thomas on the März 24th, 2011

So as some might know I spent a long weekend in Stockholm for my first time on Scandinavian soil. The city, with its abundance of water, cleanliness and progressive vibe reminded me a lot of Vancouver, which, as some people might know, I liked a lot.

So here’s a list of impressions and observations, without any inherent order.

1) For someone who knows Ikea and H&M longer than Sweden or Stockholm, the whole city looks like an Ikea and H&M showroom where a lot of independent shops copy the big guys. Of course, it’s the other way round and Ikea and H&M took Swedish design, probably rounded some (symbolic) edges and therefore made it accessible for bigger flocks.

2) Everything seems to be a tad more in order and stricter in Stockholm than in Vienna.

3) Showing yellow to the king. A guide on a ship tour (yes, I did that) told us a story about a king, who a few centuries ago spent some time in Italy and France to get exposed to the world. The result: he thought Stockholm was ugly and forced people to paint their houses. Which people did, but – because it was expensive – apparently only on the sides facing the palace. Reminds me a lot of social media and brand management: CEO sees this thing out there that apparently everybody now has to have. Reaction: Ok, let’s put up some Facebook page and a boring corporate twitter account so it seems like there’s something going on. Check.

4) There are more hairdressers (‚Frisör‘) in Stockholm than in every other city I’ve been to – they exist in all sizes and forms and all of them were well-visited while we were there.

5) Related to 1). Apparently people in Stockholm re-do their apartments every few weeks or so. How can all those furniture/interior design shops survive?

6) I was (pleasantly) surprised by the Swedish ‚Konditori‚ and ‚fika‚ culture. I was pretty ignorant before going there, not really reading a lot about it before, but this stuff is pretty amazing. Wondering if it has a substitute function for alcohol.

7) Which brings me to the next – slightly more serious point: I’m seriously wondering how and if alcoholics are living in Sweden. Even with higher wages, this has to be a bigger nightmare than in other countries.

8) „We’re waiting for the government to solve that problem“ – same ship tour guide told us about the ridiculously high rents, flat prices and a supposedly 300.000 people long waiting list for (public?) apartments. He totally casually dropped that line, which tells you loads about the value system.

9) Södermalm is another example of the hipster gentrification that is also visible in other European cities. Chic student, arty, relatively inexpensive, alternative flair, but in all of that still a tiny bit posh, maybe slightly celebrating alternative chic for the sake of it.

10)  There are a lot of men with strollers in Stockholm. As in „more than 2/3 of all strollers“ a lot. Not sure if the laws are different with men and paternity leave (i.e. if they ‚have‘ to), if public aids are that much higher in Stockholm, or if it’s simply in the culture but there are loads of men happily playing and strolling with their kids. It’s a great thing to watch to be honest.

11) Apparently this was the toughest winter since they measure temperature in Stockholm, so it was no surprise that people came out in their sunglasses and enjoyed their ice-cream outside when the sun came out on Saturday and Sunday. The ship guide mentioned the pagan tradition of worshipping the sun and I was wondering if it is always a scarce thing that we worship …

12) Stadsmission Stockholm – Now I have no idea how well this actually works but I think the concept and execution of it is just lovely. Stockholmers donating stuff for other Stockholmers to buy with the proceeds going to Stockholmers in need is pretty simple, but the shops are really well-designed. Nothing looks like this is some shabby second-hand shop or an unloved charity. This is proper boutique style shopping. Compare this to a similar Austrian concept like Humana and you know what I mean.

13) Overall, there seem to be a lot more concept stores in Stockholm than in Vienna, with brands such as Indiska, taking a (symbolic) concept and stretching it to its commercial boundaries – or at least further than they would here. Other notable commercial encounters: the Urban Outfitters flagship store, Beyond Retro, Granit (kind of a Swedish Muji), the record shop/bar/club combination of Pet Sounds and Pet Sounds bar and a bunch of small shops.

14) Moderna Museet has a very interesting, albeit a little chaotic photo exhibition.

15) We might see a lot of those
around here next winter.

Werner Herzog: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Posted in media, culture and society by thomas on the März 24th, 2011

I really hope they play this in Vienna.

About the Social Uses of Advertising

Posted in academia,Brands and Business,communications,media, culture and society by thomas on the Februar 22nd, 2011

Stumbled upon a research paper I didn’t know before on the social uses of advertising taglines among young men from 2007:

Most of the social uses or tagline recitals stemmed from television advertising campaigns. Respondents said that they would not normally use any copy from print ads, poster ads, radio or internet ads because ‘it’s just not done, everyone our age knows what you’re talking about with TV’. (Mitchell et. al., 2007: 209)

One of the quotes from the research:

Was on the phone in the evening when a new Nike ‘Freestyle’ ad came on TV so I couldn’t really concentrate on the advert. When I was finished on the phone I asked my housemate what the advert was like and he said it was really cool and my other housemate said it was the best one yet and I felt a bit left out and my housemate seemed to think they were better than me cos they had seen it and I hadn’t, like they had something over me, some sort of power and they said I would have to watch TV all week to see it and wouldn’t tell me what happens in the advert. I then watched TV all night and secretly hoped it would actually come on but it never did. (Mitchell et. al., 2007: 212)

Advertising was always ’social‘ media. It’s just that business theory didn’t get it: 

Thus the audience that current theories of advertising describe is not an audience at all but rather an “aggregate of individual consumers” (Sheth 1979), p. 415) who respond to advertising stimuli while remaining “islands of cognitive and affective responses, unconnected to a social world, detached from culture” ((Buttle 1991), p. 97). At the center of the great majority of theories in advertising research stands a lonely individual, cut off from the social contexts in which he or she, you and I, actually reside. (Ritson & Elliott 1999, S. 1)

Taken from:

Mitchell, V., Macklin, J.E. & Paxman, J., 2007. Social uses of advertising: an example of young male adults. International Journal of Advertising, 26(2), S. 199.

Related research:

Lannon, J. & Cooper, P., 1983. Humanistic advertising: a holistic cultural perspective.

Buttle, F., 1991. What do people do with advertising. International Journal of Advertising, 10(2), S. 95–110.

O’Donohoe, S., 1994. Advertising uses and gratifications. European Journal of Marketing, 28(8/9), S. 52–75.

Ritson, M. & Elliott, R., 1999. The social uses of advertising: an ethnographic study of adolescent advertising audiences. Journal of Consumer Research, 26(3), S. 260–277.

Heath, R. & Feldwick, P., 2008. Fifty years using the wrong model of advertising. International journal of market research, 50(1), S. 29.