The British Premier League kicked off yesterday and for Arsenal fans many of our worst nightmares materialized. A 1-3 home loss
Aston Villa 3 – 1 Arsenal.
to Aston Villa left many of those at the Emirates in open revolt against Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Many of the problems that Arsenal have been fighting for the last several years reared up again in this game. Let’s take a look:
1. Inability to hold a lead / no killer instinct? Yep.
Just over five minutes into the game and Arsenal are up 1-0 thanks to some really nice play from Walcott and Giroud. That should have been a cue to put the pressure on and make a statement. When Man U took a 1-0 lead today against Swansea, the put in another two minutes later and eventually went up 3-0 before winning 4-1. Arsenal however went into half tied 1-1. This seems to be a recurring issue with Arsenal – when does a lead ever feel safe? Not only do we seem unable to get that second quick goal, you always feel like we’ll leak the equalizer at the other end.
2. Lack of focus/desire on defense? Yep.
Too many times it just looks like Arsenal treat defense as something not to be too bothered about. On the first goal, Gaby Agbonlahor bobbed and weaved his way through several Arsenal defenders. Once he did so, several other players decided to become spectators rather than pursue the play. On the second goal, Arsenal gave the ball away easily in midfield. Bad call on the penalty? Yeah, probably, but don’t turn it over like that and the penalty/non-penalty never becomes an issue. Yes, on the third goal Arsenal were pressing hard to get an equalizer, but where was the left back? Did no one have defensive responsibilities on that play?
3. Lots of possession, not much to show for it? Yep.
Arsenal have an abundance of skilled players and as a result often have the bulk of possession. Yesterday was no exception as the Gunners enjoyed 64% of time on the ball. But that possession resulted in only four shots on goal (as compared to Villa’s 6 shots). Would we have taken more shots if Podolski had come on before the 93rd(?!) minute, or if Cazorla had played more than 45 minutes? Probably, but they didn’t, and Arsenal only managed one goal. Either the players on the pitch must simply have a go more often, or the manager needs to come up with a new game plan. Either way, four shots on goal, at home, against mid-table opposition is going to result in a poor result, greater possession or no.
Arsenal player injured? Shocker.
4. Brittle players? Yep.
I don’t watch many games from the other BPL teams, so maybe this is common across the league, but Arsenal players seem to be injured, nicked and bruised an awful lot. Putting aside the players who were unavailable before the game started, during the game Gibbs, Sagna and Oxlade-Chamberlain all seemed to pick up injuries of some degree. Even if none of them miss time, their losses within this game shows the brittleness of our players. It just doesn’t seem to take much to bang our guys around.
5. Lack of squad depth an issue? Yep.
For the last several weeks Arsenal fans have been waiting for the transfers we all thought were coming. Sure, the transfer window is still open, but the games count now. Arteta is out for 4-5 weeks, Vermaelen is also out till mid-September. Monreal missed the first game… I appreciate that Wenger doesn’t want to go out and just pick up any player, especially at an inflated price, but if bringing in players earns the team points on days like today, well then they aren’t over-priced. 16 BPL teams found players worth purchasing this summer, why couldn’t Arsenal?
It’s just one game, but let’s see if this result spurs Wenger to make moves now.
So, here’s a little insight to how my mind works. I suppose it’s always worked liked this, but I’m not sure if my mind has just aligned with contemporary culture, or if it is being shaped by it. Here’s what I mean by that: Right now I’m sitting at my desk at work and I have access to information via three screens – a desktop monitor, my laptop and my iPhone. Throughout the day I receive information from all three – and I push information and content out from all three.
As a result, I’m constantly sifting through signal and noise, exercising my powers of pattern recognition. Often various bits of data and info hit me and bounce off, at other times the right combination clicks into place in unexpected and surprising ways. Last week I experienced something known as Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, also called ‘Frequency Illusion” (hat tip to Gitamba Saila-Ngita for cluing me in on the term). B-M is the feeling that something or someone you had previously never heard of before suddenly pops up two or three times in rapid succession in completely unrelated circumstances. This time it was Marina Abomovic, who popped up in Jay Z’s Picasso Baby performance art piece among other places.
Sometimes the pieces hang around, as if in a HUD like the one in Minority Report. Eventually I start to pull them all together and it forms an idea or, as in this case, a blog post. Perhaps in this case it might be interesting to deconstruct the post, strip it down to its elements first. Here are the various concepts on my internal HUD:
Concepts of narrative and storytelling via advertising are of great interest to me
What would the iconic Apple 1984 ad look like if stripped of its narrative and repurposed using a content format popular now, the GIF?
How has popular culture mirrored (or driven?) the narrative collapse Rushkoff speaks of vis a vis Orwell’s 1984?
From Apple to Aeon Flux to Big Brother
Last year Google teamed up with several brands to recreate famous ads from the past.
Rushkoff’s book (read Faris Yakob’s review), begins with an insightful breakdown of narrative collapse in our modern culture.
Storytelling became an acknowledged cultural value in itself. In front of millions of rapt television viewers, mythologist Joseph Campbell taught PBS’s Bill Moyers how stories provide the fundamental architecture for human civilization. These broadcasts on The Power of Myth inspired filmmakers, admen, and management theorists alike to incorporate the tenets of good storytelling into the most basic frameworks.
It’s not difficult to read that and nod in agreement as you think about the 1984 spot.
Rushkoff speaks of the main elements of a narrative story arc, first identified by Aristotle and you can see them at work in this spot. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Orwell novel, it’s pretty clear what is happening. A citizenry enslaved, hypnotized by some sort of evil despot. A lone hero is our only hope. She must escape her pursuers and liberate us from the tyranny of conformity. Just as all hope seems lost, the hero prevails. That the hero of the spot is a physical representation of a computer company is beside the point.
But ironically it is the advent of the personal computer that has certainly sped up the destruction of the traditional narrative. Hyperlinked text, multiple tabs in browsers and social media have all contributed to the shift away from the narrative as we new it towards a more in the moment, real-time engagement culture.
The impact of the novel 1984 is usually seen through the lens of politics or issues concerning personal privacy. But it’s a fascinating proxy for culture at large and this narrative transformation Rushkoff speaks of. It’s interesting to look at Aeon Flux, originally an animated short series that aired during a program called Liquid Television on MTV in the early 1990s. In Aeon Flux, the eponymous heroine fights for liberty and independence against a totalitarian government in a science-fiction future world. But Aeon Flux also had an unusual narrative kink, as noted in the show’s wikipedia entry:
One peculiarity of the early shorts is the violent death of Æon Flux, which occurs in each installment. According to the commentary by Peter Chung in the 2005 DVD release, she dies in every short episode after the initial six part pilot because he never intended to make more episodes, the best solution was to have her keep dying…
It’s possible to dismiss this, arguing that in animated series characters often meet violent ends only to appear again in future episodes (see Coyote, Wile E.), but Aeon Flux is different I believe. It followed many of the other hallmarks of traditional storytelling while still being an incredibly innovative show. But by the 90s young audiences were no longer thrown by stories in which the hero died. They’d been playing video games in arcades for more than a decade (the cut scenes from Dragon’s Lair come to mind) and home video game console titles would soon see “respawning” enter the lexicon.
As we entered a new millenium, 1984 again entered the cultural mainstream via the reality television show Big Brother- a term derived from the novel which has become a sort of meme itself. With reality television we’ve now dispensed with most of the traditional narrative structure – backstory, world-building, closure, even the notion of heroes and villains in a traditional sense is gone. We’re simply watching people interacting without any real sense of beginning, middle or end. As a person who doesn’t watch the show, the sense of ‘never-endingness” is heightened by the fact that the show is currently in season 15. At some point, it’s not even about the actual individuals on the show, you’re simply watch a house full of personas (the bad girl, the jerk, the nice guy…) with occasionally changing visual representations. Rushkoff again:
It’s as if the linear narrative structure had been so misused and abused by television’s incompetent or manipulative storytellers that it simply stopped working, particularly on younger people who were raised in the more interactive media environment and equipped with defensive technologies.
As I thought of all this in the context of the industry I work in, advertising, it reminded me of Project Re:Brief by Google in which classic old ad campaigns are reimagined for current technologies and sensibilities. We’ve entered a new phase of storytelling, if that is even the right term. Perhaps un-storytelling is more accurate. GIFS and Vine videos have reduced content to a mere seven seconds, or an endlessly looping three or four seconds. In this environment, what would Apple’s 1984 ad have looked like? Not surprisingly GIFs have been created of the ad: GIFSoup GIFSoup
Yes, that’s a bit unfair, but you get the point. Without your knowledge of the original commercial, and the Orwell novel, these GIFs would be all but unintelligible. Is it possible to make a GIF or a Vine video that would be an effective communication message for a personal computer? I would imagine so, but when we lose the narrative structure of traditional storytelling we lose something important. We lose myth-making, we often lose context and possibly the power to connect on a human, emotional level.
Ultimately here’s what I’m left with: As a marketer, should I be “leaning in” to the post-narrative world in which we currently live, encouraging clients to create smaller, non-linear pieces of content, or should I suggest they go against the grain, and look to create deeper, denser and longer story-driven communications? It’s a tough question, and one worth debating.
As a fan of Jay Z, and an HBO subscriber, I’m certainly planning on tuning in. As a marketer, and Content Advisory Board member to the 2nd Screen Society, I’m intrigued by the possibilities. HBO and Jay Z are both rightly lauded as innovators in their respective fields. This seems like a perfect opportunity for going beyond the traditional and extending the experience to a mobile device or tablet.
Marketing strategist Rob Fields thinks it’s a missed opportunity: “Since it’s only 11 minutes, HBO should make it available on HBO GO for, say, $1.99. Whatever the price is, it would open up the viewing legally to a whole new audience. They’d get the revenue and the consumer data, which is probably more important. It’d be a huge prospect list.”
This sort of content, from an innovative thinker like Jay Z is ripe for something like a 2nd screen experience. I spoke with several 2nd screen industry innovators to get their take on what they’d like to see, or what they would have recommended:
Jeremy toeman, CEO Dijit media: “In this era with such rich apps and a huge, excited, engaged, and obviously mobile, fan base, seems like there’s a lot more to offer an audience. From alternate camera angles to making of/extra footage to interactive social experiences, it seems like a great second screen opportunity!”
Aaron Williams, Founder/CEO of SocialSamba: “The most exciting part of the whole concept for me was seeing the fans,
Jay Z at Pace Gallery. Photo via Pace Gallery
participating in and recording their experience with the performance. Think about it this way – it would only take 14 different fans hitting record to rack up a thousand different takes, angles and perspectives for every second of that song. That’s a pile of content that begs to be mashed up by amateur fans and pro remixers alike. There’s a kick-ass startup called Switchcam that does exactly this kind of syncing across multiple fan cams to allow everyone to mashup their favorite take on a shared experience (like concerts and weddings). Jay should give them a call and put all that content to great use.”
Gitamba Saila-Ngita, Chief Innovation Strategist at Deft Collective had a different take: “If you’d seen the process of creating the video you’d know that Jay Z spent almost 8 hours performing the song as “performance art” to random strangers and celebrities, with some joining in. Somewhere in that process a second screen experience should have been born that would enhance the experience when viewing the content on mobile or tablets. I think adding second screen to this [the HBO presentation] would be purely novel and nothing quite innovative or ground breaking. That said, it could explain why this is being pushed as something you have to watch on our downtime Sunday night.”
Rob Fields counters, “The second screen experience could be interesting. Remember that Jay filmed 6 hours, so there’s a lot of footage that could be teed up. Point at which audiences on laptops, tablets and phones could go deeper. They should definitely offer bios and video perspectives on the other artists that Jay included. For example, I’m only broadly familiar with Marina Abramovic, and the broader population may be less so. Also, do they have footage of Jay talking about why he chose the other artists? It’d be great to hear his own words on this. A win for HBO would be to have the 2nd screen experience be incredibly immersive so that you’d stay on the HBO site long after those 9 minutes were up.”
Rather than from purely the content aspect, I look at it from a brand opportunity point of view. Jay Z’s deal with Samsung, the one that allowed Samsung mobile owners to download the new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, a few days early – the one that got Jay Z a million sales before the album proper even dropped – was criticized for certain privacy related issues. Could providing those consumers with exclusive 2nd screen content to the HBO program have been a nice apology or surprise and delight bonus? Perhaps. What about Pace Gallery, where Jay Z did his 6-hour performance art piece? Surely a 2nd screen experience highlighting the gallery or the history of performance art would have made sense.
As many above noted, there is a lot of material to work with and perhaps we’ll see it come to life at a future date. In the meantime, we’ll watch tonight and wonder what might have been.
*Apologies to Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, who wrote this tweet.
Ok, so I really don’t have a listicle regarding the mega-merger of advertising holding company titans and the similarity to said merger with the Syfy original movie / insta-meme Sharknado. But I think there is an interesting, larger cultural observation here. We seem to be living in a time where we’re seeking answers. Where so much information and data is coming at us, so rapidly, that we yearn for ways of deciphering, translating and understanding and we’re grasping for ways to do that. Grouping is one such mechanism. It’s just sometimes easier to combine things and deal with the newly created one, rather than the distinct two.
Two massive holding companies, each with its own stable of agencies? Let’s just mash them all up together. Hostile and violent attacks from nature and weather? It’s too much, can’t we just make them one thing to worry about? But even that’s not enough, I can’t possibly deal with thinking about Omniblicis andSharknado separately, won’t someone please write a blog posts that compares the two?
We’re constantly looking for ways to simplify and explain the world we live in, and sometimes even the world we don’t live in. Take for example the Pixar Theory. Blogger Jon Negroni has painstakingly broken down 13 Pixar films and put together an argument for how they are all connected. That just feels better, doesn’t it? We love to do things like this, it’s a coping mechanism I believe. We need coping mechanisms right now, desperately. Not only do we have many very real problems, but we’ve elevated some pretty esoteric ones to our collective consciousness as well. Will the Large Hadron Collider create a black hole that will swallow the world? That was a serious question asked by serious people a few years ago. Find the answer here. Are we just all AI simulations in a super advanced computer game taking place in the future? When you have to give thought to questions like that, it helps to free up psychic space by lumping other stuff together.
“[f]inds that life at home has become incredibly dynamic and interactive thanks to a host of interconnected technologies and systems, versatile and space-saving designs, and platforms that connect to nearly anyone or anything at the click of button. Imagine a home that controls the environment to ensure your personal equilibrium, a suite of services that accommodate an on-demand lifestyle, and furnishings that can adapt throughout the day to meet virtually any need from sleep and work to socializing and play.”
PSFK has broken down their findings into three uber-trends: Adaptive, On-Demand and Equilibrium. These three concepts focus on customization, speed and balance respectively, and often intriguingly cross-pollinate. These trends bring to life several underlying behaviors that have been developing over the last several years – mobility, DIY and of course connectivity among them.
Above it all other trends, chiefly the Quantified Self and the Internet of Things, can be seen as real technology drivers that are pushing the development of new products that will see not only in homes, but in retail spaces and certainly places like hotel properties.
Piers Fawkes, PSFK founder, adds:
“The home of the future will look less like some robotic, sci-fi vision replete with hovercrafts and much more similar to what we
PSFK’s Future of Home Living exhibit.
see now with a few key exceptions. New dwellings will no longer have rooms that act as static zones where only one activity can take place and single items of furniture, appliances and technology will no longer serve a only one purpose. Everything in the home of the future has multiple functions, many configurations and offers a variety of options to the user.”
From my perspective the key take-away for brands is the need to creative products and services that are multi-functional, connected, customizable and mobile. It sounds obvious, but it’s not always easy for brands to align what they do with emerging consumer behavior.
If you want to attend the Future of Home Living exhibit, it will be in NYC now through August 16. Register (for free) here.
For an a quick rundown of PSFK’s efforts, check out this post. For a little more, check out this slideshare deck. If you want the full report, you can get that as well.
I wrote this piece originally for Fast.Co.Create back in November of 2012.
It’s an ever-increasing refrain–agencies need to make things. In order to compete and be relevant in today’s fragmented, disrupted, disintermediated marketing/media world, agencies need to rethink their models and produce something more than just Big Ideas. Allison Kent-Smith, founder of Smith & Beta, put it thusly in a recent Co.Create article:“It’s no longer just about great ideas. It’s about great ideas that get made.”
Now, one can argue that this is just another business management fad that will pass and that ad agencies should stick to doing what they do best–coming up with compelling communication ideas. But let’s for a moment go with this line of thinking and agree that agencies need to fundamentally change. If you take the time to think about it rather than just accept the idea you’ll hit a brick wall of reality: Forget actually making something; most agencies probably aren’t fully equipped to think of things that can get made.
By that I mean, one doesn’t simply start thinking like a designer or engineer after spending years thinking like an artist or author. All of those professions have built formal modes of thinking that best suit the output they create. Thinking in the same way to create a different solution is unlikely to produce the desired results. Rather, you must first mentally step back, then shift laterally, then dive into the new style of thinking. In other words, before agencies can create “makeable things” they need to create “makeable ideas.”
This is a significant shift for an agency, not just something that can be communicated in an email or PowerPoint presentation. It’s a fundamental change and requires a new way of thinking not just for creative but for senior management, HR, accounts, and planning.
Creating things in our digital world requires experts in UI/UX and design, creative technologists and others who may not be part of the existing agency structure. It requires a commitment to the concept of “platforms, not campaigns.” It probably necessitates a new fee structure as well. These are all long-term changes for an agency.
Once all that is in place an agency is still not ready to start making things. First they must train themselves to conceive of “makeable ideas.” What do I mean by that? If in an internal creative meeting the idea ends with someone saying, “And then the monkey grabs the dad’s cell phone!” you’re not concepting “makeable ideas.” This is where planners really need to play an essential role. Not to stifle creativity, but to unleash it in a focused direction. Planners should guide the creative towards ideas that can be downloaded, worn, played, customized, broken into constituent parts, crowdfunded, gamified, or otherwise hacked. When you start thinking that way you are starting to create a “makeable idea.”
“Makeable ideas” don’t spring solely from a creative team. They come from a multi-disciplinary collaborative effort. Much of what is in Kent-Smith’s article rings true because she understands this fundamental truth. She states, “An agency must have user experience, interaction design, and information architecture front and center. UX experts are not easy to find, but heavy hitters in this area will transform ideas that are impossible to ideas that are reality.”
Here are five steps agencies need to take to start creating “makeable ideas” that will lead to “makeable things”:
1. MAKE THE CREATIVE PROCESS OPEN-SOURCE
From traditional creatives to coders, UX designers to fashion designers, bring in people with different skills sets. You’re ideating for a different solution, you need different inputs.
2. THINK PLATFORMS, NOT CAMPAIGNS
It’s not about a 30-second spot or banner ad. It’s about ideas that can evolve and support a multitude of additional ideas.
3. UNDERSTAND APIS
Can your idea connect to the Internet? If not, it’s probably not a viable platform for the 21st century.
4. ADOPT AN ITERATIVE PROCESS
“Makeable Ideas” are tweaked, nuanced, and massaged and gather strength as they face testing. Conceive, test, improve.
5. CREATE A PHYSICAL/DIGITAL TENSION
Many of the best platforms understand how to balance consumer behaviors that transcend between physical and digital. Think about how your idea engages people in a physical space, or physically, as well as in a digital or mobile space.
Hi, I'm Rick Liebling, the Creative Culturalist at Y&R New York. I use this blog to share my thoughts on branding, marketing, advertising, PR, social media and how they all create, react to and reflect our culture.
Click on over to the "Speaking / Events / Writing" page to see a listing of content I've contributed to other sites and events where I've spoken.
This is normally where you might find one of those disclaimers that says the content of this blog is solely my own, and does not represent the thoughts or opinions of my employer or client. But aren't my thoughts the very reason my current employer chose to hire me? Don't they in fact want me to express my thoughts? And does any reasonable person believe that when I'm discussing ABC's Fall lineup or the cultural relevance of Bioshock that I am, in fact, speaking on behalf of one of my clients?
So yeah, I'll go ahead and own this.