Happy Easter!

The EMO Social Committee put on a lovely Easter spread this morning at our Highworth and Bristol offices! Here are the remains.

The Easter Egg Hunt also kicked off pre-dawn, and while everyone got their own personally labelled egg, the special Golden Egg was found by this smiley chap.


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Fonts and fact sheets

I’ve been creating fact sheets for the EMO teams (in my spare time) over the last couple of months. The reason for doing this is to help spread some of the knowledge that Studio, Creative and Production teams have to other teams, with the overall aim of getting us all talking the same language.

A particular interest for me and most creatives alike is fonts.

My latest creation is a quick introduction into the anatomy of fonts. The world of fonts is a marvel. For instance we have the long standing hatred of Comic Sans and the obsession with Helvetica. For me fonts have a purpose and situation they can best be used in – and yes that does include Comic Sans! To convey a message with words in the right font can be very effective and the wrong choice can render even the most useful information useless. So a little understanding of the language of typography should help to see the consideration that goes into fonts. Have a look at the fact sheet to see what I mean: EMO_Font of knowledge



Emperor’s new clothes or not…

I have just read an interesting article about the use of social media for professional firms.  The author, who advises accountancy firms on marketing and business development, makes some very valid points – pretty much all of which I agree with.  However there seems to be an underlying distrust of marketing agencies and what they can do for his target audience.  A part of the article suggests that accountancy firms have invested in social media because they have been told it is the panacea for their declining business by underhand marketing agencies, there are undoubtedly some agencies that pedal this misapprehension to the unsuspecting.  However there are many more reputable agencies who would advocate the use of social as a part of the marketing mix and suggest that it helps in brand building but would never suggest that used alone it is a business development solution.  If partners at professional firms are naive enough to believe that investing in social media is the silver bullet for business development issues then frankly there is little hope for their businesses in the 21st century.

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Frank Rose: The Art of Immersion 12/04/11

Frank Rose is the author of soon-to-be-released bookThe Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories‘. He attended the Festival of Ideas at the Bristol Watershed to introduce the concepts in the book.

Frank led with a throw-away comment ‘Stories are to humans like algorithms are to machines‘. We use stories to make sense of our world and share that understanding with others. Our human instinct to find the story means that we’ll find the story even when there isn’t one – he showed us an experiment performed by Fritz Heifer and Marianne Simmel in 1944 where subjects were shown a video involving triangles and a circle, and asked to interpret them. Inevitably, the subjects humanised the shapes and created a narrative for them.

He took us through various examples of immersion – when the original media used isn’t the only place that people can interact with the story. He says that ‘digital’ gives everyone the opportunity to tell stories in many different ways, because the internet can be all types of media – video, text, audio, or all.  For example, Lost fans created Lostpedia to help them understand the story, Star Wars merchandising gave fans ways to create new sub-stories including comic books, Nintendo games and even fan movies.

He touched on co-creation too, and gave the example of Apple/Nike’s chipped running shoe where the brands don’t create the story – they give the users the tools to create and share their own.

When asked how immersion is affecting marketing and advertising, he said that the 30 second TV spot is dying and cited ‘rising costs, falling viewership, ever-proliferating ad clutter, and viewers’ TiVo-fueled power to zip through commercials‘ as reasons. But he also said that history shows us that cultures take 20 – 30 years to figure out how to use technology, and that we’re only part-way there. Examples like the Old Spice commercials, where co-creation was embraced to great viral success, and failures such as the Harry Potter Wars (where the studios failed to recognise and utilise/facilitate or allow co-creation attempts on a massive scale) show that we’re still learning, but also that the opportunities are endless.

Frank believes that advertising is another kind of story, and to be effective it should be non-linear, participatory and above all, immersive.

Personally, I found the talk quite hard going but definitely thought-provoking – Frank Rose is clearly a brilliant thinker and writer but the ideas presented were bigger than a 40 minute slot. I’ll be getting the book and adding it to the library once done!


Digital Local Community boards – US vs UK

I’m sure I’m not the only one who hasn’t looked at a local community noticeboard for years, but I do remember a time when the notice board at my local Spar was the best place to find second hand furniture, recommendations for cleaners, and local events. And community noticeboards are the next thing to fall under an entrepreneur’s gaze and go digital.

EveryBlock caught our eye last year as an innovative way to chat to people in your neighbourhood digitally, and now StickyBoard has popped up UK side, much to our interest.

EveryBlock – @everyblock

In his blog post about the relaunch, founder Adrian Holovaty says ‘The current crop of Web social media tools is focused on people you already know‘. Instead of focusing on existing relationships, EveryBlock connects people with a common interest – a location.

You can look up a postcode down to extreme granularity, or look for suburbs or cities, and ‘follow’ them almost like you’d follow a person on Twitter.

Users in the neighbourhoods can message each other and hold conversations almost like a discussion board or forum. EveryBlock also takes ‘stuff’ from the net and aggregates that ‘stuff’ by location. Yelp reviews, new local photos on Flickr, lost-and-found ads on Craigslist,  real estate listings, local Meetups – all based on a location you’ve defined.

In short, EveryBlock amplifies the stuff already out there, just by making it hyper-local and hyper-relevant.

Mashable covered the relaunch as a community site and LostRemote also did a piece on them. It’s not available in the UK yet, and no doubt still has a lot of traction to gain in the US before it hops over to us, but you might as well head over to the homepage and vote via Twitter for London to be their next city.

StickyBoard – @stickyboard

StickyBoard ‘is based on the belief that strong communities make for a better, more fulfilling quality of life’. Users can read news, find local services, check out a calendar of events and post business reviews. Local businesses can advertise in one of several verticals, with Community groups advertising for free.

StickyBoard’s community beliefs are strong, but the website needs to get critical mass from advertisers in order to give the users a reason to be there. Given that it’s launched only a few months ago it’s hardly surprising to see empty news feeds and available advertising spaces. The first burrough was Ealing and you can see a lot more activity in that suburb than let’s say Camden.

StickyBoard has been mentioned in the Guardian, and you can get more insight into their business on their teamsticky blog.

So while EveryBlock connects local people and let’s them share community news while aggregating existing local content, StickyBoard connects local people to local businesses and events and is a platform for advertising.  Both interesting, both local, both innovative.

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Daring to Differ

As great believers in the power of experiential, we’ve long championed the cause of real-time brand interaction.  We all know that people engaging directly with brands is a sure way to big impact.  But what if we step sideways for a moment and watch someone else not just engaging but becoming the brand?

St John Ambulance are built on making a difference, and anyone who can administer first aid, is that difference.  The other day I came across this film, created for St John Ambulance by BBH.   It’s from back in November and there was some buzz around it at the time, so chances are you might have seen it.  But in the event that you haven’t… watch it here:

The first time I saw it, I had a little cry.  Not full-blown sobbing, but definite glassy eyed, dry of throat territory.  Admittedly I’m an easy easy crowd, but since then I’ve been thinking on its power.

For me – it’s because what happens is so darn unexpected.  When the woman stands up and heads towards the screen, I genuinely had no idea what would happen next.  I practically joined in with the spontaneous applause that erupts, when she reappears.  Because I knew I’d witnessed something really quite original.  And originality will always elicit an emotional response.

Answer this – how often do we have a brand experience where we not only wonder what will happen next, but have no idea where the medium will take us?  We’re used to unexpected things happening in the cinema – but they’re usually limited to the screen.  Any interaction with fellow cinema go-ers is usually of the sharing laughter, or swapping scowls at too loud m&m munching or pop slurping variety.  To watch the action unfold here, not even amongst the handful of people that were there for the event, but much later through YouTube, is to be launched into new territory.

What does this leave me thinking?  Not just that the agency that created it are jolly clever, but that no medium can ever be considered ‘done,’ something that’s worth remembering as we ever look to better engage people at a local level.  Having the wit and wisdom to inject new energy into received formats is an exciting challenge for those who choose to accept it.  And it doesn’t necessarily take big budget either.  It takes bravery.  Not quite the kind of bravery that saves lives, but the kind that makes life more interesting for all of us.

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A music video, the LOCAL way

An oldie (gosh, was this really only 9 months ago?) but a goodie. The Wilderness Downtown is a collaboration between Google Chrome and Arcade Fire that personalises (read: localises) the music video to the place you grew up.

Here’s TechCrunch’s explanation for the technical bits. What I love most is the connection – online to offline. The Wilderness Machine was created to physically reproduce the postcards users wrote to themselves online in The Wilderness Experience. If you plant the postcard, it will compost and liberate birch tree seeds from which a tree could grow.

You were encouraged to install Google Chrome for it to work. 24.1% of users now use Chrome, as opposed to 15.9% at launch of this experiment. There doesn’t appear to have been a significant spike in browser usage though!

I’d love to know if Google have mapped the addresses entered and gotten a heat map of fans’ hometowns. Not altogether useful as it’s inevitably at least 20 year old data with a lot of non-fans playing with it due to the viral effect, but come on Google, let’s review!

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Think BR: Are big agencies failing to engage in local?

The Local Social Summit, hosted for the second year last week by co-founders Dylan Fuller (Ebay’s UK head of adcommerce) and Simon Baptist (group head of syndication and social media at European Directories), was billed as “an independent platform for knowledge sharing and networking for global thought leaders driving local social innovation and success”.

Local Social SummitAn international audience from local search, local social, vouchering, business directories, tech start-ups, trend analysts and entrepreneurs gathered to discuss the intersection between local, social and mobile.

Or to put it another way, to understand how local sales outlets can make use of the increasingly available location-aware, social and mobile platforms to enhance their sales and deepen their relationships with customers.

That the event is happening, the content insightful, speakers passionate and tweet count high (#lss10) is no surprise – the mounting movement behind the convergence of the elements explained above is clear and unavoidable.

I read around this subject daily but still learnt a great deal. What did surprise me, though, was the lack of mainstream representation at a conference discussing an increasingly important and effective space.

No big marcomms agencies, no big media agencies, no big brand advertisers. Come to think of it, no small or medium sized ones either.

I’m troubled by this. It feels like a ’head in the sand’ approach to a complex yet effective route to building closer ties and real relationships with customers, as well as more effective sales in the channel.

Due to their absence, there was little opportunity for counter points or arguments from the brands and their trusted advisors as to the application and intricacies of the technologies and techniques discussed and their real world applications. Which is a shame, but in no way the fault of the organisers.

What do I take from this? In part, I think there is some inevitability about it. This is an area of hard graft and, although transformational results are possible, it currently requires big companies and their sales networks to think and act like small, agile, passionate SMEs (we heard from three such case studies during the day).

Scaling local is hard, measurements come in micro-integrations and small incremental engagements, and empowerment of local staff is often required.

These are all challenging things for large organisations, whose natural tendency is to centralise not devolve, and to those whose metrics are share of voice and volume of page impressions.

What was clear from the Summit was that success in the local space (where big brands’ customers actually live) will be driven by the passionate, driven and authentic actions of empowered employees working in the sales channels, acting like owners of their own businesses.

Sales networks that currently shun empowerment will need to embrace it. Staff that currently might not even have a marketing budget may soon need to have a voice and some control over their own promotional, tactical destiny.

They need training, guidance, help and content support, but they are the ones that will create a personality for otherwise faceless, voiceless corporations. And they will make a difference, locally.

The pace of change in this area is such that predictions are almost impossible, and brands need trusted advisors to be investing time to help them understand and execute within their sales channels.

One prediction I can be certain of however is that, as these devices, tools and techniques become more recognised and understood, the mainstream will be well represented at Local Social Summit ’11.

Originally published in Brand Republic – bit.ly/aLQIav

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Get your Places Page right, or miss a trick.

How important is it to get your Google Places page searching well?



See this heat map, how this eye tracking study shows the focus of the viewers view and length of view on the local listings held next to the map. What I’d like to see, if anyone can find it is some research to show how long people look at the search results page, and what percentage of users ‘just click’ the first link irrespective of what else is being served. For those of you involved in advising dealers/branches/services make sure that not only they have claimed their Google Places page but that they have optimised it by putting it in the right categories (they can be in more than one) and that their titling and support content help drive the right sort of traffic.


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