Sweetie: the 10 year old pedophile hunter

Alright. There’s not much I will say about this, you just have to watch the video. In short, the organisation Terre Des Hommes that fights child exploitation, created a robot that looks like a 10 year old child. This robot, called Sweetie, is operated from Amsterdam and once online engages in chats with pedophiles. Apparently when you go online on popular chat services with the profile of a 10 year old Philippine you attract these sex offenders within seconds so that’s what Sweetie’s for. And since they all ask to put on the webcam, Sweetie activates that webcam without any hesitation… and while the conversation lasts, the specialists in Amsterdam get photo & video evidence of the offenders and they try to find all information that helps identify these men. And it works: 1.000 pedophiles identified in merely 2 months. I don’t say this often but this is just amazing! Watch. And don’t forget to sign the petition.

TED2013: A trip worth remembering!

The last week was pretty amazing. Thanks to TED’s 10 Ads Worth Spreading initiative I spent a few days at TED2013 in Long Beach combined with a day at TEDActive2013 in Palm Springs together with 9 other selected agency folks as well as a few people from TED and Google who are partners in the program. The reason that I got there to begin with was the fact that our agency’s ad ‘Push to add drama’ for TNT was selected as one of those 10 ads. Which is already pretty amazing on it’s own.

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The one thing (to begin with) you have to do after reading this post is to go check out all 10 ads. Some you’ve probably all seen and shared already such as BBH’s ‘3 Little pigs’ for The Guardian, ‘Dumb ways to die’ from McCann or Y&R’s ‘Security Cams’ for Coca-Cola but others will probably new to you as they were to me. ‘Follow the frog’ for instance, from Max Joseph or  Make sure you check them all out, great stuff in there. Pretty cool bunch too.

So there we were. Invited by TED, ready to be inspired and with a packed agenda for 2 days at TED in Long Beach and 1 day at TEDActive in Palm Springs. Both these conferences run simultaneously and show the same content (via simulcast from Long Beach to Palm Springs). In Long Beach where the ‘real’ TED is you will find yourself amongst business leaders, CEO’s, former TED speakers, movie stars, … who are all looking forward to some great talks but also great encounters during the breaks. People will all just walk up to each other, introduce themselves to each other and start talking about what they’ve seen. And how we all know TED as a very exclusive event, the vibe at the event is pretty down to earth which was counter to what I expected it to be.

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At TEDActive the crowd is much younger, I was under the impression that it was also much more international and it felt a lot more creative as well. And what struck me was that even though all talks were via simulcast on TV screens everybody would go inside and watch every single minute of it. During the sessions you would find pretty much no-one outside just chilling in the sun. Imagine that at Cannes Lions for instance – the idea alone sounds to crazy to be serious about it. Very interested crowd, very disciplined and very inspiring.

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It’s too difficult to say which encounter was the best (although the close encounter with Cameron Diaz is worth bragging about ;-)) or which talk was the most interesting to watch. You have to imagine yourself sitting in between the co-founder of Groupon on the one hand side and Blaise Aguera y Arcas (2 time awesome TED speaker himself) listening to Taylor Wilson, an 18 year old that built his own nuclear fusion reactor at 14! How awesome is that?! Not to forget all the conversations with my fellow ad men about their advertising, how they got to sell it to their clients and what they think made it unique. I’m sure other sites will give a wrap up of the most powerful talks, I will probably highlight a few of them later on this blog as well.

I want to repeat myself and applaud all the awesome boys and girls at Duval Guillaume Modem for making such great work. It makes me want to go back to the office and try to make even better work so we can get back in that list from TED so one of my colleagues can experience this for him or herself. Thanks for that. This week was awesome!

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And special thanks to Shanna from TED for the awesome organization!

A condescending blogpost

Social media. The ‘new’ marketing trick with which brands, marketers & agencies have been struggling since about 2005 I wish to believe. It allows for better and more engaging connections between people but also between brands and people. At least that is the whole idea.

As a result, we have brands begging us to like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, all so you can be informed even better of what they have to say. The friends/followers race is on, social media consultants all over the world are making good money to help brands to stay on top of their game.

You should take a look at the Condescending Corporate Brand Page on Facebook. It will help you understand why most of us are doing it wrong. Very wrong. The social media race is all about tactics, nothing about strategy. And it’s definitely not about consumers. Every social media consultant will tell you to post 3-4 times a week (or is it 5-6 times now?), not to forget about Saturdays and Sundays, use images since they tend to work well and make sure there’s enough variance in the updates between news, polls, jokes, … all to delight you and me at the other end of the internet. And it annoys the hell out of me. I actually feel less insulted by 30” commercials than by the average brand Facebook status update these days.

Simply putting a Powerpoint on Slideshare doesn’t make it a social object. All the share buttons in the world aren’t going to make your content spread. It’s not more interesting because it uses Facebook Connect. Using top topicals about the Superbowl or Oscars don’t make your social presence more interesting. And last but not least, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, if you want to get people to talk about your brand or product make sure it’s damn interesting.

Storytelling is the marketing buzzword of today, while it’s actually nothing new. Think about the great TV commercials of all time, that was some really great storytelling. And an average Facebook update definitely isn’t great storytelling. At Duval Guillaume Modem we believe it isn’t just about storytelling, it’s about giving people a story to tell (to each other). Think about what it is you want people to talk about when they think about your brand, and make great content (even if not that often) that stands out and that make people want to like you, want to talk about you.

Why you should be using short-form video in your online communication

I’ve been a close witness to some of the impact short-form video has had on campaigns I was involved in. Small campaigns like the launch of IKKI.be (which most of you will be unfamiliar with) where the video was responsible for creating so much buzz within the target audience that we had reached the platform sign-up target within days instead of months. Or campaigns where the video travelled the world such as we experienced with “Bikers” for Carlsberg or “Push to add drama” for TNT.

All of these (and other) cases made me get a firm believe in short-form video used within online communication strategies. Fast Company believes the same – read “Why Short-Form Video is the Future of Marketing” – where they highlight some key reasons why that is the case:

  1. More and more users are consuming their video entertainment online
  2. Marketers are using video to engage with social media audiences
  3. Barriers to entry are low
  4. Quality is expanding quickly
  5. There are plenty of avenues for dissemination

All true, but apart from the 3rd point, all of these are mostly observations of what is happening and not really reasons of why it is happening. So I agree, but I think they are missing the point a bit.

Video is a very rich audiovisual experience but it allows brands as well to keep control of the story in a time there’s no more control. You can craft a message in such a way (editing, music, …) that you get the maximum effect and when people share it they share it generally for the full 100%. So basically if you’re doing a good job, people will share your video content adding comments etc so taking over control – but not over the message, because when it is consumed again, it will be again exactly how you as a producer crafted it in the first place. That is what makes it very powerful for online communication, the combination of this fact with the knowledge that more and more people consume online video entertainment.

This doesn’t mean video should always be the center piece of your communication online, but try to get video in that communication in some form as much as you can. It’s pretty powerful.

My 2 cents

The #ASS of Kris Hoet

Okay, I’ll admit, Tom De Bruyne made me do it. About a week ago Tom and Astrid – founding partners of Sue Amsterdam – organized The Awesome Slideshow in Boom Chicago (Amsterdam):

“10 inspiring speakers from the creative industry share their favorite stuff they
found on Twitter. Get inspired in one afternoon with a top-selection of awesome
ideas, thoughts, actions and campaigns.”

Hashtag for the event: #TheASS. Here’s my presentation and underneath you will find a little bit of background with the video’s, why I chose them for this presentation. (Video’s are all in the presentation)

Do mess with perfection. It’s the campaign line of the new Ford Mustang (check out their app btw) and I chose it because it’s more in tune with the idea I have around experimenting than the often used “fail harder” line. Why? Because “fail harder” all to often seems to result in a mediocre output and I don’t think that’s right. Do mess with perfection does a better job at making sure you experiment but with the end goal to make something awesome. Not mediocre. What do you think “fail harder” would look like in Jeb Corliss’ stunt? Therefore the ‘Grinding the crack’ video.

Big data. I love data. Not like an analyst or a statistics guy but because of what you can learn from data… if you’re looking at the right thing. Data visualizations are very welcome in helping you understand data – and then I don’t mean all these 15.000 pixel long infographics that show up on a daily base. I used some examples in my presentation, once including a tool you can download here: IOgraphica.

Gamification. Not games. Not contest. But fun game inspired elements to deploy on real life. Like what they did in Chromorama with the London Subway.

Known + Unknown. What happens when you combine knowledge from offline shopping behavior with online analytics methods. Awesome this Shopperception video – again see presentation.

Hackable. Kinect showed us once more, almost all year long, that you’re better off making things so that people can explore beyond the initial purpose of what it was made for to begin with. It might inspire everyone.

Laughter from nowhere. Kevin Slavin learned us to look at second screen in a totally different way, too bad his presentation from last year’s Think Digital congress isn’t online where he talked about that. I used the example from Clik just to show that most of our second screen thinking is really too basic.

The world is our canvas. Although the example in the presentation is a quite literal example, the point I wanted to make was that there are no more limitations to what we can do, that ‘out of the box thinking’ has never been so valid as today. There is no frame, the world is our canvas.

DIY 2.0 3D printers, open source code, Arduino, … it’s incredible what people like you can me can make today. We already have more democratic ways of promoting ourselves – thank you web 2.0 – but today we also see the same principles being used to fund as well as fabricate ideas. And that’s awesome.

The last video – of Casey Neistat, yes the same guy that made that Nike video – because it’s fun and it reminds us that everyone with a good idea can get noticed.

Key take away – It always seems impossible until it is done. Something we remind ourselves of at the agency as well every time someone presents us with an idea that looks impossible :-)

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Is technology slowing us down?

Seriously, is it? This might sound like a strange question from a technology early adopter and yet I believe this is a valid question. I realize that technology is actually fueling growth, opening up new opportunities and markets, giving access to consumers that were previously out of reach. It’s at the base of many new products and helps us connect with the world. But it also seems to be a burden, a barrier for many businesses in that same quest for growth. Every week I see decisions being taken – with clients, partners or friends – that are based upon technology and that should have been taken weeks, months or even years ago. Or even worse – decisions which we all know are wrong from the start, but where technology forces to do things in a certain way. This is just an observation but one I encounter too regularly to ignore. And I think these are the main reasons:

People can’t keep up. Being an early adopter for technology is one thing. It opens up opportunities if you are one, but it’s not really an issue for business when you’re not. The real problem with the rapid technology development is that this rhythm is very different than the business/marketing rhythm of many businesses. Even if they know which technology offers real opportunities, they haven’t got the means nor the organization to cope with that. On top of that the early adopters don’t care about that problem, they’re too busy being first with something new that it’s not their problem that the rest of the world can’t keep up. That is not the biggest issue though, the biggest issue is that business are seeing that the gap between the expected level of change and the ability to manage is is getting bigger by the year. And that that is largely related to technology. I didn’t  make that up, it was one of the key findings of the IBM CEO study.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

How to judge the expert’s expertise? At the introduction of new technology, experts are born. These experts range from people that have been researching about this new tech for the last x years to others who have read a lot about all this over the last few days/weeks/months. That makes them pretty different even though both will claim their expertise in similar ways and in both cases they will sound pretty knowledgeable to all people that are new to the topic. I’ve always found this a serious problem because everyone knows the importance of a good introduction to something new, and how hard it is to change people’s minds when that introduction wasn’t meeting expectations. You never get a second change to make a first impression.

Wrong decisions from the (recent) past. Maybe the worst reason of all. Companies often know that the technology decision they’re taking today is not the ideal one, but that earlier decisions and investments define the window in which they can decide. That’s really unfortunate of course, it’s like the perfect way to maneuver yourself out of competition. It’s also a very challenging one, because at the one hand you would suggest to make sure everything is researched properly before making a decision (to avoid things to turn out badly later) and yet we’re already being too slow to begin with. A big part of these decisions are platform decisions and I don’t think businesses need to take more time to decide, I do believe they need to approach platforms different compared to what they do now. More on that in a separate post.

Organizational hierarchy. There’s no better way to put this than with Putt’s Law below – this may be from 2006 but it’s still very much true today. Make sure you have the right people take the right part of the decision when it comes down to technology.

“Technology is dominated by 2 types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand.” Archibald Putt

Creativity World Forum 2011: Making ideas happen

The Creativity World Forum 2011 had to live up against high expectations. When the event was organized for the first time in 2008 (in Antwerp) Flanders DC showed all other conference & congress organizers in Belgium what the new benchmark would be. I really enjoyed the 2008 edition and thus was really looking forward to the event. This years program was a good start. With people like Jimmy Wales, Keith Sawyer, Malcolm Gladwell, Scott Belsky, Oliver Stone, … it’s clear that the €300 investment for a packed 2 days would be money well spent.

I think that this years event had an even clearer focus on creativity than the one 3 years ago. With in my opinion 2 big topics related to that: the first one being about ‘how to be creative’ and the second one (maybe biggest one) about ‘making ideas happen’. Often speakers would refer to the fact that coming up with ideas isn’t that difficult but choosing between ideas and making them happen is.

The first day started with failure. Jimmy Wales said “don’t tie your ego to a particular business” referring to the fact that he himself had failed several times before starting with Wikipedia. It’s also the main reason why he likes Silicon Valley so much, in his eyes it has the culture that supports failure – in Silicon Valley one who fails is still better than one that never tried. Peter Hinssen in his talk made similar references to failure, definitely a popular topic. Peter focused even more on speed however, that’s where his famous ‘good enough is great’ reference is coming from. In the context of speed and the examples he gave that makes sense to me, in all other context I find it rubbish (as you could read right here).

“If you freeze an idea too quickly, you fall in love with it. If you refine it too quickly, you become attached to it and it becomes very hard to keep exploring, to keep looking for better. The crudeness of the early models in particular is very deliberate.” (Jim Glymph of Gehry Partners)

It was Alexander Osterwalder – known for his book on Business Model Generation – that used this quote during his talk. I liked the idea of putting even more effort into prototyping, which he sees as having a conversation with an idea. I like that. Another element that helps being better at creativity is collaboration. That’s the main topic Keith Sawyer talked about, debunking again the myth of the Eureka moment from the lone genius. Creativity is a group effort, ideally a cross-group type collaboration effort. See also my presentation on Agile Planning where I talked about this as well. Last speaker of the first day Malcolm Gladwell. In a sense he talked about the opposite of Jimmy & Peter earlier that day. Why is it that we tend to reward creativity/innovation so much on being the first to do something? History has proven that it almost never is the first to come up with an idea to be the one to market it. In his opinion the innovation strikes hardest when the tweakers come in. Really interesting but although being the first is definitely not enough, this talk almost sounded like a plea to be the third in all that you do… I don’t think that’s supposed to be the truth. I did remind me of a quote Tom Kelley from IDEO used during the first Creativity World Forum:

“The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes” (Marcel Proust)

Presentations linked to a book always tend to be hyper structured. I like that. Scott Belsky’s presentation was one of those clear and structured talks. Probably no coincidence that he sees structure as a key element in making ideas happen, next to collaboration and leadership. Interesting thought on that last topic by the way – silence the visionary. Anyway, I’m a fan, make sure you check out the man’s work. Good start of the day as well, later on there was Jamie Anderson who kinda confirmed what we had heard before and then Garr Reynolds came to talk about Presentation Zen. Good presentation as to be expected, but maybe just a bit too many quotes and also it was great to see him stick to the timing, but still weird for a presentation guru to have to skip like so many slides to make that happen.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” (Shunryu Suzuki)

Probably the quote I liked most from all the ones Garr used in his talk. It is indeed of great importance to try and “unlearn what you have learned” as Yoda would say, to be really creative. How can you look at things in a really new way when your expertise makes it so that you automatically scope out what in your mind is not possible? You can’t.

Last but not least, final speaker of the 2 days, was Oliver Stone. He did a panel conversation with some Belgian movie director who’s name I’d happily forget, and I think we all just listened. Just think about all the movies this man has created, you can only respect that. One of the things he said that resonated most with me, something that I’ve been thinking about actively since then was the following question: “what’s the narrative of your life”? Something we should all ask ourselves from time to time. On being creative, Stone urged us all to think about the time we create for ourselves to be creative, because we’re not making enough time for it in general mostly because of the loads of distractions we have these days.

Key take aways from these 2 days:

How to be creative:

  • Create time – there’s no flash of insight, eureka moment but it’s more like an emergence of time. So create that time needed.
  • Prototype – have that conversation with an idea
  • Collaborate – get people together, cross-group preferably and share ideas liberally

Making ideas happen:

  • Choose between ideas – it’s more important to realize a few ideas, than to have created many
  • Organize yourself – creativity x organization = impact (dixit Scott Belsky)
  • Progress begets progress – show progress, surround yourself with it as it’s important to keep going that you see the results during the process
  • Share ownership of ideas

Make change happen:

  • The flip, the shift, … – it doesn’t really matter what you call it, when change really happens, it happens big time. This means that is impossible to stick with the things you know if you want real change to happen.

Thanks again Flanders DC and everyone involved for making this event happen. See you again in 3 years.

Stepping out of the App economy

Sometime late 2010 we started working on 2 rather big mobile projects and they made me think a lot more about apps and how our thinking for mobile is all about apps. Today mobile equals apps, and we are being dictated by the likes of Apple how we have to deal with that. So how big of an improvement the introduction of apps on mobile has been, I believe we limit our thinking by that same evolution, while it shouldn’t end there.

There’s no better way to experience the hassles one has to overcome when developing apps, then to develop your own (especially when the app is for the iPhone). And it was an article on TC about Disney that acquired an HTML5 game engine that got me thinking about this whole app approach. Smart move from Disney by the way. Bye bye appstores, let’s develop game experiences the way we like and let people pay what we think is right. And for multiple OS’s at the same time, all in one take. With Android gaining market share and also WM7 that will take it’s part of the cake at some point, HTML5 mobile web apps make it a lot easier to build experiences across OS’s and devices compared to today, and without all the appstore hassle. And if you go further, when you think about developing for mobile first instead of web and then mobile, I believe there’s a whole lot of untapped potential.

But the Disney acquisition isn’t having any live results yet. I think the FT was the first really big one to have made a move to go for HTML5 and the last few days or weeks a few others seem to have followed. LinkedIn just released a pretty nice HTML5 experience for mobile and earlier this week Amazon launched a similar experience for their Kindle:

“It can do everything that a normal Kindle app can do, such as synchronize your library, your last page read and bookmarks. Yet, the Kindle Cloud Reader is more of a reaction to the draconian app store rules instituted by the Cupertino giant than it is a dynamic new version of Kindle.”

It’s probably just a matter of time before those brand start pulling their apps from the appstore, or at least stop actively updating those in favor of native mobile web apps. I’m with Gigaom on this one when they say that Amazon might as well be showing media companies the future of the web with this one. Also sites as Twitter offer a rich and very nice mobile web experience, nothing like it used to be anymore.

I can only applaud brands moving in this direction and I believe that although the idea of apps on your mobile were a great innovation, they´re only a step towards a very rich mobile web experience. What´s your take?

Bonus link: HTML5 apps that are scaring the pants off Apple

Watch out Instagram?

I must admit, I’m a fan of Instagram since day 1. I love the simplicity, how it deals with cross-posting but most importantly I love the way it makes me feel I’m actually not half as bad as a photographer.

So when I read that Mobli one-upped Instragram (and Color) I’m all ears (and yes I know those headlines are kind of a trap). Downloaded Mobli right away. Created a profile, took a picture, posted it… and will never do it again.

The point that Business Insider seems to miss is that it’s not about community channels based around tags or location. Nor is it about improving search for content or richer interaction. What makes Instagram so cool is that it creates ‘an illusion of creativity’ as Edward Boches so rightfully wrote:

“It strikes me that the real reason Instagram has taken off is that it provides us with the illusion of creativity. The brilliance of Instagram is that it lets us snap a most ordinary photograph and instantly “art it up” with one of 15 filters. It gives us the sense that we are better photographers than we actually are. We don’t have to do anything other than point our iPhone at the most mundane of subjects. Early Bird, Hefe, Sutor, Toaster and their fellow filters do the rest. We think that we are creating, expressing, being clever. But as Douglas Rushkoff might remind us, we’re simply being programmed. Told by this app what constitutes an image.  Just as we’ve been told by Facebook what defines an online profile, a digital friend, or an endorsement. Just as we’ve been told by Tumblr the new format for a blog post.”

The fact that it’s easy to share cross-channel and that it’s doing all of this in the simplest way, focusing well on it’s core make it superb at what it does. But what made people love it in the first place was that it made you feel good about your photography, made you feel like your photography is also worth looking at, worth sharing. It makes me feel better about myself basically.  And that’s a whole different ballgame.

Why hyperlocal is not yet hyper relevant

Hyperlocal is a hot topic these days. Especially for news media it seems to be where the future lies. You can either try to play a global role like The Guardian or Al Jazeera are doing with success, or find a way to be more locally relevant. And I believe the future of news for most publishers will be more local than it will be global. Because let’s face it, only when you publish in one of the world’s most spoken languages you can make a difference on a global scale. 

The problem with hyperlocal is that most people interpret it wrong. Currently the most common practice is to use geolocation, you either enter your postal code or the application/website defines your location based on GPS or IP settings. So you get news, offers, information related to where you are. Very efficient but when thinking about hyperlocal the opportunities are beyond that. 

The reason why is the following:

  1. I got many localities that are relevant for me.  I think about the place where I live, where I work, where I lived when I was young, … I have a bond with all these locations in a certain way so I’m interested in news from all these places and even other types of information. Today no-one is offering me a way to organize news gathering with this in mind. At best, like I mentioned before, you get that output for one of the chose locations, never for a mix of. Prove me otherwise.
  2. The range of interest centered around me can differ in size depending on the topic and the moment. What I mean with that is that when I’m looking to buy new furniture I’m probably okay with driving a bit further than when I want to get a pack of cigarettes, just to name something. Or when I want to buy a car versus when I’m looking for an accountant. This means for me the range you take into account when talking about hyperlocal needs to be quite a bit more subtle than it is today.
  3. Last but not least, hyperlocal doesn’t mean faits divers by default. The local version of my online newspaper tells me about a selection of the tiniest events I don’t care about in my city, but fails to mention when the Tour de France is passing by. Zooming in on hyperlocal seems to mean the same as zooming in on stuff that nobody cares about happening 2 blocks away. Why is that?

With more and more information, media being geotagged and with technologies that allow geofencing I hope that we’ll see an evolution in the way we deal with hyperlocal that takes the reasoning I wrote down into account.