Saturday, 28 November 2009

Twitter is the new TV [but a lot smaller]

To some extent, I think this little scenario may be familiar for most of us: I opened my email this morning and had another 5 emails from my dad.
  1. A funny image attached (Here, of course it's kinda NSFW)
  2. A video of a funny ad for Bud Light attached (This one).
  3. A Powerpoint slideshow attached with misspelled notes from parents to teachers
  4. Another Powerpoint attachment with an illustrated joke in about 12 slides
  5. A written joke in the body of the email
I generally receive one of those a day. No written text in the body of the email most of the time, my dad might just modify the sender / receiver list. Depending on whether the jokes are in French or in English I can gather a guess to which of his networks it's coming from: the US/UK old work crew, or the French/Swiss massive. And that's not counting his Dutch or German family and mates - I can't speak those languages that well so he doesn't send me those.

This reminded me that when it comes to using digital stuff I live in a bubble with a very small number of people. Nothing dramatically new here in terms of idea, but when you hang out with the same people all the time, you tend to start behaving like that's how everyone is.

Even though I know intellectually that Twitter has a tiny user base in proportion to Facebook, I don't really think very often about the fact that it's also tiny compared to MySpace. Yes, just because I don't use it anymore doesn't mean no one is using it. And the real shocker is that Twitter is microscopic compared to email.

Apparently there are about 27.3M tweets sent every day. Considering 30% of the approximately 11M registered Twitter users make up 97.4% of the total activity, that's like having 3.3M people out there that like chatting together. A lot. Nothing wrong with that, but now if we compare it with the 63 billion emails being sent everyday (Excluding the 70% of spam - in total it's about 210 billion), Twitter is just ridiculously small. About 7,692 times smaller.

On the other hand, the talk about Twitter is huge. Just to give a little impression I searched for a few terms on Google News and Google Blogs:
A hefty 362,000 news articles in English and a whopping 225M blog posts about it in just a few years. As a side note, it's interesting to note that the level of news mentioning Twitter has halved and I just read a couple of posts about Twitter traffic stagnating in the US.

I compared that with a few other search terms, here Myspace:

Twitter had almost the same amount of news mentions in about half the time, and apparently bloggers have never been as fascinated with the social network as they are with Twitter.

Definitely more news mentions than Twitter, but nowhere near proportional to how bigger Facebook is. I'm not saying that it should be; I have no idea, but it still seems interesting.

Not sure this one tells us that much given email is a commonly used word now, but in terms of sheer numbers, the amount of blog posts mentioning email isn't that much more than Twitter.

So here are a few points:
  • If you're a business or someone who advises businesses on these matters, please take a serious look at how clean your email database is and how your business is communicating via email (everywhere: internally, marketing, customer service, suppliers, etc) before getting all excited about Twitter.
  • If you're some kind of writer in media (news, journalist, reporter, bloggers) and want to distinguish yourself from the competition, you might want to write about something else than Twitter. I obviously don't follow my own advice.
  • If you work in PR, apparently the writer types like hearing about Twitter stuff, so keep going I guess - the trick there is probably going to be about segmenting the twitter information depending on associations (eg. Twitter + celebrity endorsement, Twitter + new product launch; etc)
  • If you're a celebrity I doubt you're reading this, but thanks anyway. It's mainly your fault if these people in the points above can't stop talking about Twitter [And assume it's important. And also assume everyone is interested in hearing about it].
  • If you're about to get on your high horse and start huffing and puffing about the good differences businesses or crowds have made with Twitter (Like raising cash for Twestival, awareness of news and events like the Iran Election, Dell selling more computers, etc), I already know about them but I'm not talking about that here. There are plenty of articles and posts about that elsewhere.

Twitter is making so much noise because its nature lends itself to it. Facebook, Myspace, and even email aren't originally built as broadcasting tools. But Twitter is made for broadcast. Just like TV or radio. It wasn't built for people to interact as they do on it now (Check Evan Williams' talk at TED). People just find ways to communicate and interact with one another because that's what we do.

I think that's why the media, PR, marketing, advertising industries like Twitter so much. It's easy to understand and you have simple visible numbers of people who receive the message you broadcast. Using it at that simple level doesn't really demand any behavior change from businesses or marketing departments. They're still talking at people as they used to, not with them.

I'll finish by certainly preaching to the converted but I don't think businesses should bother talking with people that much anyway. They should concentrate on making shit worth buying and they'll sell more of it. Or they should concentrate on making shit people are interested in, worth talking about, and they'll sell more of it. Or they should hire a good advertising partner if they have nothing new to talk about.

What do you think about all this?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

My Dungeons & Dragons CV

I saw a post from Gavin today about Sean McNally who designed a Dungeons & Dragons CV which definitely looks pretty cool. Given I did the same with a different design of AD&D character sheet years ago, back when I used to be a designer, I thought it might be a cool idea to bring it back and share it along with the similar themed business cards.

I have all the files so if someone fancies making this into an editable PDF or something like that, just tell me and I can send it over. It's all in French but what's written isn't that fascinating anyway. And I think I look stupid on that picture but hey - and yes, in France it's normal to have a photo on your CV, or at least it used to be.

Back in the day, geek wasn't so fashionably mainstream and everyone said my CV was insane and I would never get a job with something like that. I got concerned, didn't hear anything back from the places I'd sent it at and changed it - sadly.

Also I was on Caramail back in the day, that was one of the first email addresses I'd opened and was completely addicted to their chat rooms. It was the most popular webmail / community sites in France. Obviously there is no Wikipedia entry in English, but there is one in French. My fellow compatriots will probably remember.

And the business card:

The quote reads:
"The imagination paints,
The mind compares,
The taste chooses,
The talent executes."
I just uploaded the images to Flickr as well. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

AR in a banner with BK

It doesn't happen very often but yesterday I came across a pretty cool MPU while browsing the Internet (So not from a link or a blog about advertising ;). It's an ad I spotted on College Humor, (While showing this video to someone; it's really good check it out) so it's probably still playing on some pages if you want to try it out - refresh to cycle through the ads served.

I haven't checked yet but I imagine most certainly this is CP+B at work here for Burker King who as far as I know about created the first augmented reality feature in an online ad. And while you could argue how useful it is; what's most interesting is that the symbol used for the AR to display is something most people [in the USA] would have in their pocket: a $1 bill.

Now whether anyone outside of complete geekiness and/or who works in advertising would wait and play with the AR and go shuffle in his pockets to find a $1 bill is also arguable, but you don't need many people to start showing others how neat this little feature is (I'm also guessing you need a good bandwidth)

Thursday, 15 October 2009

RockArt Brewery vs. Corporate BS

Matt Nadeau of RockArt Brewery is facing the bullying of a much larger corporation. Seriously check out the video and hopefully choose to boycott Monster Energy drinks after that - there are plenty of other energy drinks to choose from aren't bullying a 7 man company making specialty great craft beers.

Even better, write a complaint to Monster on their:
Website contact form
Twitter account (no response from them so far there or there; not trending yet but spreading fast)
Facebook page (A big one, there will be some work there)
Youtube channel

You can use #BoycottMonster as a hashtag, seems to be the most popular at the moment.

For a bit of background, I've been appreciating small craft beers and ales more and more recently; I'm also against corporate bullying in general and that seems to be exactly what they're victims of. To finish, if ever this works and Monster gives up, I would have been a playing part in a worthwhile experiment and I quite like the idea of that too.

Update (26/10/2009): I just received an email from the Hansen Beverage Company who manufactures Monster Energy Drink, apparently they have settled for a happy agreement with RockArt Brewery, so I'm also happy. Also glad the beverage company followed up my email and responded to it, congrats to them for that.

Hansen Beverage Company and Rock Art Brewery
Reach Trademark Agreement
October 26, 2009

Hansen Beverage Company and Rock Art Brewery today issued the following statement in connection with a recent trademark issue:
Hansen Beverage Company and Rock Art Brewery have reached an amicable agreement under which both companies' respective products will be protected - Hansen's Monster Energy® line of energy drinks and Rock Art's Vermonster beer products.
> Rodney Sacks, Hansen's chief executive officer, said: "We are pleased that we were able to resolve this matter expeditiously and put the concerns that had arisen behind us so that both parties can concentrate on their day-to-day businesses, selling their respective high-quality products. Our intent in this matter was simply to protect Hansen's trademarks and prevent any likelihood of confusion arising in the future through potential product extensions and was not to prevent Rock Art Brewery from selling their Vermonster beer."
> Matt Nadeau, owner of Rock Art Brewery, said: "Once Rodney and I were able to talk to each other we quickly appreciated each other's points of view and he acted reasonably, which allowed us to rapidly come to an agreement we are both happy with and allows both of us to move forward positively."

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Do little breaks make a big difference..?

You may have seen the Eurostar's advertising campaign called 'Little breaks make a big difference'. Beyond the posters I've seen in the tube, activities are being run across experiential, social and digital media (Created by Fallon, Vizeum and We Are Social). I was lucky enough to be invited for one of these little breaks mentioned in the tag line and went off to Paris on Saturday, along with about 43 other men and women in total for a romantic singles day out in the City of Lights.

Before we go any further, I'd like to point out I'm completely biased here given I love Paris and I love the Eurostar already and have been an advocate of both for a long time.

I lived most of my life in and around Paris, and am really Parisian more than anything - which is where my charming arrogance comes from; in case you ever wondered. It was quite funny going back for a day and with a group doing touristy stuff.

The Eurostar is simply awesome for a variety of reasons:
  1. It's a train. Traveling by train is much more sophisticated and relaxed than the plane - unless you have your own private jet (Of course your own private train would be even better).
  2. It goes from city centre to city centre, without going through the airport outside of town and several hours of humiliating security checks
  3. This is an important one that tends to be taken for granted: It travels by way of a tunnel under the sea. Sure, managing to have a few tons of metal carcass crammed with people flying is a feat human beings can be proud of, but building an underwater tunnel is definitely badass [technical term].
  4. it's fast and comfortable - now just about 2h20min from London to Paris
  5. Great food served with champagne in first class
  6. Did I mention it crossed a tunnel going under the sea?
I've been thinking about experiences a lot lately, it's interesting to note that advertising in the traditional sense cannot generate an experience, but that an experience can cause advertising.

At best, traditional advertising can generate an emotional response [Oh that's cute / clever / funny / etc], a thought [Sounds like a good idea], which might lead to an intention [Maybe I should try that out], and in an ideal world end in an action [buy something]. Nothing wrong with that and it does a great job for awareness and such like, but no experience there.

Now I think taking a similar scenario and adding your money where your mouth is by providing people with an experience demonstrating what the brand is claiming on the adverts can enhance all those marketing efforts.

The tagline for the Eurostar campaign is Little breaks, big difference. I saw the posters of laughing couples on a Parisian café terrace in the tube over the summer with that line and thought it seemed nice. The line would make sense to anyone, though not necessarily Eurostar specific (A little break flying to Barcelona or driving to the Cotwolds can also make a big difference). It doesn't matter that much because as far as I know in terms of positioning nobody had used the line before so they have a good chance owning that idea.

Now I think what really anchors that position is the experience.

So the cycle becomes something like:
See the advert > These people look happy > Think it's a good idea > Get a real life experience consistent with that idea. Now if I share that with other people, it's not conceptual, it's real. And people relate to real experiences more than they do with lines we all know were written up to sell more stuff.

I had a brilliant day out in Paris so I talked about it. With the cab driver on the way to St Pancras in the morning who told me he was going to check out prices because he was just thinking of going on a weekend away. To the cab driver on the way back home, to five different friends yesterday, to about 10 colleagues already this morning, and now I'm writing about it in my blog. Sure, I'm not a TV channel and I don't have an audience in the millions but I provided Eurostar with personalised brand interactions of at least a couple of minutes with each of those people.

Unless you go all #6weeks over it, difficult to say what it's all worth specifically; but I would say it's worth going through the effort of proving that your brand can deliver on the advert tagline or slogan in reality.

It was a brilliant day out and got to meet with a great bunch of people, though I have to say one disappointment was that we stayed indoors doing speed dating for almost the whole afternoon.

We had good fun but when I realised at least a couple of people had never been to Paris in their life I thought it was a missed opportunity. Speed dating is something you can do in London and we were already spending the whole day together and getting to know each other so it wasn't really needed; we could have gone walking somewhere, visit a museum, whatever something more Parisian - and speed dating is kind of the opposite of romantic. But then the tourist bus ride (courtesy of myself talking complete nonsense at the mic in front of the bus as we drove through town) and the boat ride were really cool and relaxed.

And on the romance front I hear you ask? Well there seemed to be at least one couple getting together, several dates scheduled and definitely some phone numbers exchanged so that sounds pretty successful too.

All in all probably the longest post I've written to answer yes to a question. Little breaks do make a big difference and good on Eurostar for being a brand demonstrating what they stand for rather than just telling us.

Update: The video edit is now on Youtube

Friday, 9 October 2009

FourSquare in London - the new thing I might annoy you with

I got really excited this morning. I arrived in the office a little early and the first thing I saw in my inbox was a message from FourSquare announcing that London was open to the service!

I had been waiting for a while to be able to experience it on this side of the Pond. It first started from the few people I follow on Twitter in the US. A few random tweets announcing they were in this bar / club / pub / venue with a link back to FourSquare. It seemed pretty intriguing and of course given I try to be all over anything catching online to make sure I stay one of the cool people in the know [read as something like, so hopelessly beyond geekness that it comes out as utterly cool on the other side of the spectrum].

In short, I'd say FourSquare is part Qype / Yelp / Tipped like reviews, part social network (and/or integrated in other social networks), part location based service and all wrapped up in a gaming / playful context. Of course, give it that last note along with some booze given the whole concept is about showing off where the party's at; and I'm all over it.

In the space of 45 minutes I had a bunch of friends signing up and over a few hours over 30. I don't know how many people are already signed up for London in total but it must be quite a few as they need a certain critical mass before starting the service in a given city.

Check it out, it's fun and you get points for going out and being at places out and about in town. All for bragging rights at the moment but as the number of users grows they intend to create other value out of those points.

Maybe think of a Top Table and the way they are now operating a stranglehold over the restaurant business - get points for booking through Top Table and more points if you post reviews afterwards. After a certain number of points, you can receive gifts. Sounds like a brilliant idea altogether though Björn, my chef brother, hates them because every restaurant has to pay to be registered on the site and moreover the site regularly almost forces restaurants to provide special deals for the site's users.

Anyhoo, I'm getting off the point. It's fun, there's no advertising, it's spreading like wildfire (in my world anyway) and I'm loving it. And now you can know everything I'm doing online with Eyebrowse, so can you know everything out there offline with FourSquare.

We'll worry about business models later; que sera, sera.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


I recently started participating in an interesting experiment called Eyebrowse created by students at MIT.

In their words:
eyebrowse is an add-on for firefox that lets you easily record, visualize, and share your trails through the web in real-time.
I'm always interested in data visualisation and research tools so I installed it and have been adding a lot of sites to it over the past couple of weeks or so. It's all a bit weird but kind of exciting too. I'll admit I don't actually understand everything and I'm not sure it's always correct or what it measures or not, but given there are lots of nice colours to look at and a variety of cryptic graphs to ponder upon I'm happy with it so far.

This video offers a quick 45 seconds overview:

eyebrowse | share and compare your web trails from Brennan Moore on Vimeo.

Here are my Top 20 urls for each day of the week:

Apparently I visit more sites [recorded by Eyebrowse] on Saturday. Thursday is kind of low, but I think I had lots of meetings at work during the day for the past two Thursdays. Apparently my top three sites are Facebook, Wikiedia and Twitter. I'm not sure what the size of the boxes exactly means (time dwell or number of visits to the site?).

This one displays my top urls by time of day:

That's where it's strange because there's nothing for 10pm, 11pm, 12am, 1am. I'm pretty sure I've surfed the web at these times in the past few days. Otherwise it seems my peaks times for visiting lots of sites are 8am and 2pm.

I don't know if it keeps recording visits to the same urls when I leave the same tabs open, close my laptop and come back later... Apparently there's only four hours in the day that don't have online activity yet. It's at night so it might be all those porn sites I haven't included in Eyebrowse so far :D

This one looks pretty cool, it's my recorded online activity for the past 20 days:

Another strange one here, the note says on Sunday 27th September I spent over 16 hours on one user's Facebook profile, but I know I was out all day and not online at all. Before you go thinking I'm some kind of crazy stalker, I assure you I was out. I even have friends who can testify. I've paid them well and they have a whole cover story, including a visit of Tent London with Ume and a random lunch encounter with Darika.

I could go on, but it's pretty fascinating and I recommend joining in the fun. And it will also save time when Big Brother comes knocking, I'll just give him the url.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

My first Prezi

Prezi has been on my radar to try out properly for months, I'd seen the videos and read about it but hadn't yet done a whole presentation. As for a lot of other people, Umair, Twitter's Jack Dorsey being a couple of them, I think the concept is definitely awesome.

I finally got round to spending a little bit of time playing with the free version today and created my very first Prezi, check it out here. Mine is still pretty linear here, but I'm telling a really (very) simple story here as it's a first test.

I feel it's a bit disconcerting to not have tools to place objects in certain places and have very limited fonts, colours and styles but that might just be the free version.

I'm interested in trying out the pro version, I think there are more features and functions; and I need to practice. Although really simple, the interface doesn't come naturally for some reason - could be I'm too used to a complicated system to create presentations.

I'm pretty inspired right now and thinking not only about presentations but perhaps some other stuff it could be used for, one of the logical ones could be storytelling in some way. I'm thinking of a project in particular I just had the idea for, I need to get moving on it...

I would be great to be able to embed Prezis in Slideshare, I don't know if that's possible yet..?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Banner feedback on Amazon

I might be slow for never having noticed, or perhaps it just proves the extent to which I generally ignore the usual online display advertising, but Amazon offers users the possibility to give feedback about the ads served on the site:

I was browsing for a few books, notably Leila Johnston's Enemy of Chaos (Leila talked about the book and read a passage of it at Interesting last week and it sounds excellent and hilarious) which is where I saw this HSBC ad.

A really simple and pretty boring flash animation in a rectangle MPU, just like countless other online ads.

Too many people still don't get that:

1. Taking a poster and turning it into an animated online display simply doesn't work. When the advertising industry started making ads on TV, they started shooting video for them. I doubt anybody thought broadcasting radio ads on TV would be a good idea. Same difference.

2. Online display advertising can be great if thought through, it really depends of the objectives of the activity. It can be as seemingly simple such as this Pringles ad that won several awards, or pretty extravagant like this Burger King ad (And it rarely happens but I saw this one and played through the game while browsing on The Onion, as opposed to seeing it on Bannerblog for example). They are rare occurrences, but these two examples are brilliant, fun, quirky, entertaining and memorable - all advertising should have at least some of those qualities.

So what does this mean? I like Amazon, have shopped with Amazon for years and will continue to do so. I'm really glad they care enough about their customers to ask their opinion about the ads served on their site when I'm visiting. They probably won't be able to do that much to improve the quality of the banner ads appearing there, but being able to send my feedback about the ad really made a difference to my shopping experience.

Result: I like Amazon even more and I'm even writing a whole post here about it. All of that because of a little 'Ad feedback' link.

But wait, who was advertising again? Oh yeah, HSBC. Could have been anyone. I didn't even get if the ad was specifically promoting something, but I assumed they would like me to open an account with them.

Well, as for a lot other banner ads out there, I would say this one was money wasted. And I'm not sure I want to entrust my money to a bank that's wasting theirs...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Advertising Panasonic TVs

As I posted a few days ago, I'm judging on a panel for the Panasonic Next Generation Talent and sent back my judging form back today.

In short, here are a few opinions I have included in there:

As I pointed out in my previous post, I don't understand why all the four contestants have concentrated on displaying a range of Panasonic products rather than the TV but then again if those were selected finalists, I guess that's what was wanted.

'A Panasonic advert by Romaine Reid' was the entry I thought was closest to a finished advert telling a nice story and showing pretty clearly what is being talked about. Though it also feels like it may lack originality at the same time, I like the idea of showing the HD qualities and relationship between the different products and they work all together.

I thought 'Electronic devices coming to lights via their on lights by Daniel Childs-Clarke' was the most interesting from a creative and visual point of view, there's something original and special about the way it looks and I like that. On the other hand, I feel it doesn't say much about the TV itself, or Panasonic and might be a strange way to show HD but there might be potential there.

These are the two finalists I selected for the next round of the competition, but I just wanted to add one more note about an idea and I what I thought was a good proposition that I liked from Steffan Harrison: Little things make the big picture happen. I feel it could be a rich creative territory to explore.

Congrats again to everyone participating and I'll be curious to see who wins over the next few days.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

I f*cking love One & Other

Such a shame, I had heard about the Antony Gormley's One & Other project a few times before it started and then once again in July, but somehow managed to pretty much avoid it over the past two months.

I got into it today watching the live stream and reading the blog and Twitter comments; and absolutely love it. It's freaking brilliant. Moving and awesome. It's late right now so I'll write some more about it within the next couple of days. In the meantime, I leave you with Clive_L who is on the Fourth Plinth right this minute, reading some Shakespeare out loud. Clive_L also plays the spoons pretty well.

Check it out! Such a shame I missed out on the draws to get on the plinth myself...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Next Generation Talent: 09 Edition first impressions

I wrote about Next Generation Talent at the end of last year, a competition organised by Panasonic where students are given a brief to create an advert for one of their products. It was set during an event as a social media panel then, and I'm participating again this year though there's no event.

The task this year was to create an advert for the G10 Viera TV and with the 'Everything Matters' strapline. Four people have been preselected as finalists with TV ads that are available to view on a dedicated Youtube channel.

I have been asked to judge those four preselected finalists and send some feedback, it would be great to have your opinions about them as well.

I'm going to embed the videos here and write my first impressions about them. For anyone reading this who doesn't know me, I'm fairly direct and straightforward so I'll be writing in a similar fashion. Doesn't mean I'll be mean but it's just so you know it's not personal if ever you're offended by anything (Which could perhaps apply to the contestants). If ever you are, apologies in advance and please tell me in the comments.

To start with, congratulations to all the students participating and well done on the finalists for getting there. I'm guessing this is all extra-curricular stuff (Or maybe not..?), so kudos for getting involved.

One general impression telling me I need to check the complete brief the students had on is that I was told in the document sent to me that the advert is for the TV, but most of the finalists created an advert for a range of Panasonic products so I feel like I'm missing something.

One more thing I'm adding. My comments could be seen as harsh but they're really just my fairly raw first impressions. Also, I realise it's pretty tough to realise a full blown video / TV ad with what likely was limited time and resources - another congrats for that.

Entry from Paul Bryant, Loughborough University

I just watched it twice and read the snippet alongside the video. I don't get the flashing / stroboscoping blackness. It hurt my eyes. I think it might be some kind of first person blinking eye, or is it a cinema reel..? The author explains this is meant to be like an opticians examination with a phoropter. I understand the thought behind the explanation once I read it rather than when I saw the ad. From my perspective, I was lost after two seconds and ultimately this isn't an artwork and the business purpose of the ad seems lost too. I feel the flashing takes away from the stop motion animation behind which I think is unfortunate because it looks really nice otherwise.

I get the idea there's an evolution, today's equipment is better than yesterday's but what does that tell me about the product itself? Or about Panasonic? It feels like any TV could be in this spot and it would be the same thing.

Entry from Romaine Reid, Ravensbourne College

Nice. Really nice animation. There's a flow and a story told visually linking all the range of HD Panasonic products (But that's also where if it is supposed to advertise the TV in particular, then I don't get it).
On the other hand, it feels sort of done before and time again. It's concentrating on the products themselves, images and colours. Every competitor in the market has been saying that at some or another.

To most people, if they look the same, are about the same size and have a similar looking image quality, one TV is the same as another TV. Sure all the ads will tell us they have nice colours and images. What's different about this one?

Entry from David Childs-Clarke, Ravensbourne College

There's definitely a very particular and artistic visual style here that I personally like, so I'd say as an interpretation that's what differentiates this ad and by association, this product. That said and again, I'm not sure that's what is intended to be conveyed here and I don't even get it's an ad for a TV at all. Or any specific product, just generally about Panasonic perhaps.

Entry from Steffan Harrison, Ravensbourne College

Now wondering even more if students were asked specifically to focus on the products. The idea of focusing on the four colours of the Freesat logo is interesting but the task seems like it was about HD and Panasonic rather than Freesat. Wasn't it..? Actually what I like most is the intent written of showing the TV as a bigger whole than the elements associated with it (the other satellite products, camera, etc)

I'll write another post with a more thought through opinion in a couple of days.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Trying to figure out...


I've decided to move my blog and self host it on a platform. I've been thinking about it for a couple of weeks and thought why not.

So now I'm experimenting and figuring it out with my new travel blog:
Ice Cream for Everywhere.

I always randomly write when I go off travelling and it has been collecting dust for a while so I thought I might as well put everything online. I spent several hours yesterday looking at WP themes and the site is far from finished yet. I want to understand it a bit better, finish copying a bunch of posts from various trips and then I'll take care of moving this blog here to a different site.

This way, I'll be writing about my South American travels directly on that other blog in December. That's right, I'm going to Peru and Bolivia and really looking forward to it! My little brother's little baby daughter should also be born by then so I'll have the privilege of meeting my new niece. ;)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

I f*cking hate Pizza Express

I f*cking hate Pizza Express. You may have already figured that out from the title. Most of my friends or people I tell don't get it and I think they're insane. It's insipid, their food is bland, really expensive, the portions are tiny, and they're overtaking everything at a Starbucks speed (Which I don't like that much but as much as I hate Pizza Express).

It's not that surprising given their size they can keep throwing 241 vouchers at all the affiliate sites possible and imaginable so people keep coming. Incentives and e-marketing 101. But then again, nothing wrong with that I guess.

Apart from the fact that I've been in a bit of an angry mood lately, I've just learned Pizza Express launched a ridiculous new product lately and it's as good an opportunity as any to share my distaste for the brand. I'm sure the 241 afficionados will be soon be all over it like a rash: The leggera pizza (it means light in Italian, call it a diet pizza). A pizza with a hole in the middle and salad in the hole. So like half a pizza.

Eat a salad if you're worrying about your diet. The worst thing is this kind of minute segmentation will probably work; specially created for the diet conscious who want to look good in front of their friends, feel good about themselves and can't make up their minds on whether to have a pizza or a salad. Now they can have both. I'm so relieved.

Curious, I checked the menu found out a classic Margherita costs £5.90. A light Margherita costs £7.95. I guess the fresh tomatoes in the latter are perhaps more expensive..? Still outrageous. Otherwise, the rest of their pizzas cost a fortune, ridiculousy overpriced.

Their ice cream isn't very good either. I don't understand how so many people love it. Apparently they have over 13,000 fans on their Facebook page. But I'm not one for random hate and I'm glad a good reason for you to boycott Pizza Express if you're up for it. Check out this Facebook group about Pizza Express employees.

Now there are problems with managing tips for the whole restaurant industry but still: Pizza Express takes 8% from whatever the service charge is for admin fees. Service charge in the UK is not obligatory, customers don't have to pay it, but usually do with the understanding that this money is tips for the staff. That's rarely the case and here a good example of Pizza Express taking money from their low paid employees.

Pizza Express employees protested against this in 2007 and a restaurant manager who supported the employees claims got sacked.

I'm also glad I found a few other people who don't like it, such as Pete Cashmore from 'Une Annee sans Pizza', the blog of a pizza lover who didn't eat any for a whole year.

And it's not just Pizza Express, it's every single standardised eatery and baverage chains. All the same lame decorations, overpriced offering, same bland flavours, paint by numbers school of cooking, etc. It's all killing the small restaurants and originality.

To finish on a positive note, because I'm not all hatred, I absolutely love good pizza. For some really good pizza and Italian food check out these places in London:

  • Bar Italia in Soho, a London institution open since 1949. If you haven't tried their pizzas yet, have one. They're not the best in the world but very good and beat a Pizza Express any time.
  • Ripe Tomato, close to Portobello Road.
  • Centonove, on Westbourne Park Road.
What are your favourite pizza places? I'd love to know.

Rant done. One day I may talk about Fire & Stone, possibly the only pizza place I hate more than Pizza Express ;) Have a great weekend.

PS: You probably noticed, but no link love for Pizza Express.

May 2015 update: For some reason this post seems to be garnering some comments in recent months so I'll reiterate a comment I wrote below. Feedback from a few employees are saying the service charge is split up fairly, if it's the case I'm glad for the employees. Otherwise it's a pretty old post, I don't hold passionate opinions about Pizza Express one way or another aside from appreciating the success from a business perspective perhaps. I don't eat there, nor do I particularly think about it unless someone comments here.

Avatar Day

I was invited last minute to go see the 15 minutes of clips from Avatar at the IMAX in London for Avatar Day. It's the new James Cameron movie that will be released in December this year and has been talked about for months already - if not a year or two.

For a movie building up so much expectations I think it's a pretty good idea to offer to see 15 minutes of clips months before the release date to get fans buy-in and build even more anticipation. Of course it's also gambling on the fact that most people will like those 15 minutes, but so far it seems to be paying off according to Avatar mentions on Twitter, although District 9 and Inglorious Basterds are both in the top 10 trends right now and Avatar isn't.

Apparently Cameron spent over $300M on this production, so I'm glad to say at the very least it looks good. Even stunning, in fact. A giant full fledged 3D animated fest of special effects for sure, but a visually beautiful universe. So it has that going, and it's pretty certain I'll go see it - I would advise an IMAX cinema for something at this scale.

Now the scenario may have some kind of twist but it seems unlikely and the storyline looks extremely basic. I had only read one article about Avatar and I think having created a whole brand new science-fiction universe, they are hoping to rival with something like Star Wars for a new generation of movie goers. So far as I said it looks beautiful and maybe even memorable - but only for so long.

Interestingly, Titanic was another giant super-production from Cameron and people haven't forgotten it but I don't think it has a cult status or following either (Does it?). Avatar might end up in the same category, but we'll see.

The other thing I'm not convinced about is the 3D glasses. I don't get the renewed 3D trend at the moment. I think it's still sort of blurry (Or not blurry, at least has a strange quality), the glasses are annoying and I don't find the little bit of depth perception adds much to the movie experience...

But I'll say one last time that it looks amazingly beautiful and that should definitely be worth it.

Trailer here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009


Remember SMEBS..? The Social Media Burnout Syndrome? Sure you must remember, back in February Marcus Brown came over to London and did a brilliant Garden of Tweetdom evening, including a piece about people suffering from terrible social media addictions.

SMEBS Watch - Meet Andrew from Marcus Brown on Vimeo.

More information on SMEBS watch.

So the new news is that Sony VAIO launched a campaign, apparently created by Nascom in Belgium and basically ripped the concept off completely. That makes the Kaiser angry. And the Hippo too (Why not, and people should know not to fuck with hippos, they kill more people in Africa than any other animal apparently).

As Marcus says in this post, just ask for god's sake. We all know there's stealing, sopying and plagiarism in the advertising industry, but when it's so blatant have the decency of asking.

What I actually find even weirder is that I don't like the campaign at all. I don't understand what the hell it has to do with Sony VAIO and doesn't seem to portray VAIO owners in a good light. Sure, one easy way to view it is that VAIOs are so good that you can't your hands off them.

Another interpretation is that Twitter / Facebook / etc are so addictive it has nothing to do with the computer.

Yet another one, and what I thought immediately was that VAIO users were obviously a bunch of worthless, sad weak willed junkies - so the computer can't be worth that much either.

I wonder how much Sony really wants to be directly associated with addictive behaviours, actually drugs and support Anonymous type groups..?

I would be interested in having more of other people's opinions about this, both about the plagiarism and thoughts about the campaign.

And actually, one more thing to finish. It just occured to me that I usually say that for any communications to be successful and generate conversations, they need to be polarising. And this one is. I don't like it and am campaigning about it.

That actually sounds like a pretty good job in my book.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


You've probably heard of the new Roland Emmerich cataclysmic fest of a movie coming out soon, 2012. The movie is based on the Mayan calendar stopping in 2012 and predicting the Earth will be destroyed (I haven't checked up on the legend and history so I won't elaborate) If you haven't seen the trailer, check it out but Bud pointed us out (via Twitter) to this excellent trailer remake inspired by 70's disaster movies with an awesome groovy tune:

Last weekend I was working on a few personal projects (Notably thinking of moving this blog to self hosted WordPress and registered another domain name for all the travel writing I have taking up dust in a folder, so look out for Ice Cream for Everywhere coming out soon).

Anyhoo, given I was looking at a few WP sites I ended up visiting Big Spaceship again and browsing around I saw they created a website for The IHC, The Institute for Human Continuity. An organisation dedicated to the noble cause of saving a few select humans by blasting them out in outer space while the planet will be destroyed in 2012 (Which by the way looks like a WP as well, isn't it?).

Nice way to promote the movie. But then also realised this was part of a larger ARG type experience and so I registered to the Lottery to be saved before the apocalypse, you should check it out if you want to have a chance to get of here in, ironically, a big spaceship. So now I have an optimistic Dr. Soren Ulfert PhD, Communications Director of the IHC emailing me with news and next actions in the preparation for our species survival.

But not everyone believes in the righteous actions of the IHC: I found out Charlie Frost, broadcasting live from his Winnebago out in the middle of nowhere, USA, does not believe anyone will survive 2012 and makes it his mission to tell whoever will listen in his website - This is the End.

He also has is own Youtube channel and answers audience questions about the apocalypse:
(You may notice he strangely resembles Woody Harrelson ;)

Charlie Frost is also on Twitter, as is The IHC. They are also on a bunch of other sites, links are on peppered on the main sites.

I don't really know where this is going but I'm finding it quite entertaining for now and expect it to perhaps be better than the movie so I wanted to share it with you.

On this note I will leave you and go submit my application to become the Post-2012 Glorious Leader of Humanity. Vote Willem!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Nom Nom Nom winners!

To our complete surprise, Kai and I won the Nom Nom Nom competition last Sunday!! We are not the proud owners of the NomNomNom09 trophies, Kitchen Aid blenders, and a few more goodies. All the nice photos of the day are here.

Now the online vote just started and we're going to ask for your support! Please vote for The French Connection, the name of our team

This was the three course meal we prepared:

A salmon tartare to start with. We were originally going to make it with tuna but one of the criteria of the competition was sustainability so we thought salmon was a bit better. The fresh salmon is marinated in lemon for an hours or two and then incorporated to a mix of finely chopped tomatoes, onions, chives and a bit of fromage blanc on a bed of thinly sliced cucumber. Thank you very much to for the recipe and Kai completely mastered the preparation of it.

For the main, we cooked duck breast with spiced apple chutney and a side of salad. The duck is marinated in fresh orange juice, soy sauce and a pinch of chillli powder for a couple of hours before being seared on a frying pan. The apple chutney is slowly cooked with cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, and a few more spices. Pretty easy to do though the balance of spices can be depending on taste to get right. We were told it was a bit overpowering (the judges should have tried the one I made the day before on our practice run, that was intensely flavourful!).

Now surprisingly our star dish seemed to have been the dessert. I'm not a big fan of cooking desserts and even less baking. The recipe was suggested by Hazel, my flatmates girlfriend and thank you again for that! I had never cooked it the day before and hadn't made a meringue in about ten years (and had failed) so we were close to changing the dessert but kept to it and it seems it paid off! A meringue base cooked with chopped pecans, topped with mascarpone, double cream, raspberries and dark chocolate shavings - delicately roll the whol thing up, et Voila! It's not actually that difficult, give me a shout if you want the recipe!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Nom Nom Nom 09

I'm going to be cooking for the Nom Nom Nom competition tomorrow with Kai. We're going to be documenting the day and there will be an online vote based on photos and videos of the day so there will be a more complete post coming up and I'll be asking everyone I know to please vote for our team ;)

We didn't practice together yet and still thinking about changing the dishes we planned on cooking but in any case I have taken a bit of time to practice during this past week. Here's a picture of the main course practice run: Duck breast with apple chutney. It was delicious, though the dish is not dressed properly at all on this photo - the plan is for this to look a lot more attractive on the day (Though I must say it was already delicious ;)

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Lots of random stuff

Dusting off the cobwebs around here so here's a bunch of stuff from the past month:

Today's Venn diagram:

is a video game that has been mucho hyped months ago and is now coming out on Xbox 360, the site is pretty cool because as far as I know they are the first to integrate Facebook Connect in a really smart way so that in just one click from the user half your life is mixed in te game's trailer, really good stuff.

My brother Bjorn's new restaurant opened a few weeks ago, called Eastside Inn. It's absolutely awesome (Sure, I'd say that - but it really is ;) and deserves a post of its own, but in the meantime here are some reviews: Evening Standard. London Paper. Come and join us on the Facebook page, if you make it to the restaurant you can write a note or a review about it directly there.

I also liked the Lacoste Colour DNA website, I'm sure you'll be glad to know I'm a Firelight. Nice idea, colour / personality intepretations have been around for a while but it's the first time I see a brand take advantage of it online. They also have a Twitter account for the campaign.

Also in family news, my little brother Morgan who recently moved to Bolivia with his girlfriend is going to be a daddy, so I'm going to be an uncle once again. I'm planning to go visit Peru and Bolivia at the end of the year.

My best mate James started participating in an online mag called Bai Cai Mag and I'm going to write a piece in it - though I'm already late with that...

On the work side of things, pretty busy on a bunch of stuff, and among them summer activities for VW vans / campervans under the VW Escape title. We are managing some social media presence with Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Youtube. We wraped some vans with illustrations and will be at several events, first of which at the Blackheath Bike and Kite festival in a couple of weeks which looks like it's going to be pretty cool.

Sure, a lot more has been going on in the past month, but let's just finish with some randomness - it's Pet Fashion Week, which also reminded me of the My Little Pony movie characters:

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


If you remember, I mentioned before I was really looking forward to seeing Coraline - the new movie by Henry Selick and Laika studio based on a Neil Gaiman book. I was lucky enough to go to a screening last week invited by Melinda and Cristiano.

As mentioned before, the whole movie is made in stop motion animation and every single thing in it was hand crafted. On top of that, the movie is shown in 3D in certain cinemas, so it gives it an additional strange 3D animation quality even though everything is in stop motion.

The result is a stunningly beautiful animated movie and I highly recommend it - particularly if you like strange and dreamy universes - and Neil Gaiman. The storyline itself is not extremely original, but thinking of it as a children's fairytale it doesn't matter that much. The characters are really original, weird and quirky. The whole movie is visually beautiful. I don't really have much more to say right now, just go see it (Melinda also wrote a pretty comprehensive review here).

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Absolut Kindness

I don't talk about work we do at iris Digital that often here, but here's a little piece we are running at the moment that I'd like to mention so I'm doing some blatant self-promotion.

Asbolut Vodka are running a campaign in London this week within the idea 'In an Absolut World, kindness would be currency'. We created this website (You'll notice it's in WordPress, all the rage at the moment ;) and a Twitter account to engage with people with questions such as 'If kindness were currency, who do you think the millionaires would be?' informing of the events taking place in London throughout the week organised by the team over at iris Experience. For example, it started Sunday at the Clapham Picture House and at Screen on the Green in Angel. Kai made it to the cinema in Angel and took some pictures.

It all happened extremely fast so unfortunately we didn't have time to engage that much with people before the events started, but starting work on the Twitter account over the weekend was a great experience already. I find it quite exhilarating to represent 'the face of a brand' and getting to practice what I talk about on a regular basis. (Luis has been leading on the project, I was mostly just helping over the weekend)

"Can I haz Kindness?' We are also working alongside We are Social, spreading the #kindness all over the Internets and telling people about the campaign and the events happening in london.

There are more events taking place tomorrow, Thursday and Friday - check the Twitter stream if you're going to be around Soho or Shoreditch!

PS: Luis just got back from lunch as I finished this, just have to add it in. #Kindness everywhere, he found a purse by the Tate Modern and called the owner's to return it - Without stealing anything! You just can't make that stuff up ;o)

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

We're all Slideshare RockStars!!

There are a bunch of April Fool's day pranks going round today (I liked this Guardian article), obviously but so far respect for Slideshare for theirs!

I received this email - as did a lot of other people:

Hi Willemvdh,

We've noticed that your slideshow on SlideShare has been getting a LOT of views in the last 24 hours. Great job ... you must be doing something right. ;-)

Why don't you tweet or blog this? Use the hashtag #bestofslideshare so we can track the conversation.

-SlideShare Team

I checked my Slideshare and the only presentation I have on there suddenly has over 30,000 views! I think they added an extra 00 or something to everyone's numbers and sent that Slideshare RockStar email! RickStars, more like ;)

It's already trending on Twitter as the number 4 topic. Really simple and elegant idea, lots of buzz and conversation created from it. Brilliant. And it plays with people's egos, so all the more reason to talk about it, they probably also saw a big surge in visits to their site. They must be LTAO ;o)

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Earth Hour

It's that time of the year again! WWF are calling to everyone on the planet to turn their lights off for an hour on Saturday 28th March at 8:30pm GMT.

All you have to do to participate is turn your lights off. Get some candles. I participated last year (Reminded last minute by Google that changed their homepage for the occasion ;). You can also sign up here to show your support, it'll only take you a couple of minutes and it's for a good cause.

There are a bunch of resources here for your blog, banners, etc - but what's pretty cool is they also created a highly fashionable augmented reality 'Earth in your hands' thing - if you never saw 3D augmented reality, the concept is that you print out a specific design handed out and then show that to your webcam on the site, and voila! A 3D design appears in your hands. Pretty nifty, heh?

Even the pandas are doing, so why not you? Crazy pandas...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

McDonalds Ad..? Or am I being cynical?

I received this email chain from a friend. I hadn't received any in so long, I'm just thinking it's a McDonald's marketing campaign ;) Touching story I guess, though a bit too much God in it.

Do you think God eats at McDonald's?

Don't get me wrong I'd gladly sacrifice 10 friends on Facebook to give a Whopper to a hungry/homeless person, I just don't think God, McDonald's and this email will help them that much.

My friend Adam said I wasn't being too cynical, just too French. I don't know what he means..?

PS: On this note, I'm making a donation to Crisis and I encourage you to do the same, it will make more of a difference than forwarding this email around!

A Return is Requested....You'll see why.

Breakfast at McDonald's

This is a good story and is true, please read it all the way through until the end! (After the story, there are some very interesting facts!):

I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree.

The last class I had to take was Sociology.

The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with.

Her last project of the term was called, 'Smile.'

The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions.

I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway. So, I thought this would be a piece of cake,

Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald's one crisp March morning.

It was just our way of sharing special playtime with our son.

We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then
even my husband did.

I did not move an inch... an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved.

As I turned around I smelled a horrible 'dirty body' smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men.

As I looked down at the short gentleman, close to me, he was 'smiling'

His beautiful sky blue eyes were full of God's Light as he searched for acceptance.

He said, 'Good day' as he counted the few coins he had been clutching.

The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. I realized the second man was mentally challenged and the blue-eyed gentleman was his salvation.

I held my tears as I stood there with them.

The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted.

He said, 'Coffee is all Miss' because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. He just wanted to be warm).

Then I really felt it - the compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes.

That is when I noticed all eyes in the
restaurant were set on me, judging
my every action.

I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray.

I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue-eyed gentleman's cold hand.

He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, 'Thank you.'

I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, 'I did not do this for you. God is here working through me to give you hope.'

I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, 'That is why God gave you to me, Honey, to give me hope..'

We held hands for a moment and at that time, we knew that only because of the Grace that we had been given were we able to give.

We are not church goers, but we are believers.

That day showed me the pure Light of God's sweet love.

I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand.

I turned in 'my project' and the instructor read it.

Then she looked up at me and said, 'Can I share this?'

I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class.

She began to read and that is when I knew that we as human beings and being part of God share this need to heal people and to be healed.

In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald's, my son,the instructor, and every soul that shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student.

I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn:


Much love and compassion is sent to each and every person who may read this and learn how to


There is an Angel sent to watch over you.

In order for her to work, you must pass this on to the people you want watched over.

An Angel wrote:

Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart

To handle yourself, use your head..

To handle others, use your heart.

God Gives every bird it's food, but He does not throw it into its nest.

Send it back, you'll see why !

A box of gold


With a secret inside
that has never been told


This box is priceless
but as I see


The treasure inside is
precious to me


Today I share this
treasure with thee


It's the treasure of
friendship you've given me.


If this comes back to you
then you'll have a friend for life

but, if this becomes deleted, you are not a friend.

Send this to everyone you
consider a friend!

It will grant you one wish and only one wish,

that is, if you decide to send this to others. You can wish for anything.

Repeat your wish until you have stopped scrolling. Make it count!







22 People-Your Wish Will
Come True In 1 Day!

****** **********REMEMBER**************