Thursday, December 31, 2009

This inspires me.

Social media: Chatroulette - Dating 2.0.

Came across this site from one of the Twitter I'm following:

Chatroulette is like the new dating 2.0 via a webcam-enabled chatroom. When connected, the system will automatically link you to a stranger whom you can chat with through the chatbox or microphone. Can't seem to make anything out of this yet, but it's probably a beta to something bigger and more established kind of chatroom. We have had the mIRC, the ICQ, the Yahoo Messenger and MSN, and what not. So let see where this brings us ;)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Publishing: Future of magazines.

The online version of a magazine with the 'flip' function - why it doesn't work? It will work for awhile because it's 'different'. Different from the way content is consumed in traditional portal formats which are deemed 'tired'. However, I have some reservation utilizing this format for online magazines. If the magazine is 80% visually driven then perhaps it'll become more user friendly. But if it was as per traditional magazines, then the pull and click to drag function, zooming in and out will simply prove to be more of a chore than being functional eventually.

Simply because it's not optimized by the current hardware that we have. For travellers who are always mobile, they may not even have a mouse. How would this fare if our screen was small and we're dependant on the mouse pad? How would this fare if you zoom in to read the text but have to keep scrolling from side to side to read the entire paragraph? How does these 'movements' compromise readability and disrupt the entire visual experience? These 'barriers' accumulate and soon after, we just lose the audience.

But compare to this:

The tables turn when we utilize touch screen tablets which allow swift movements like how we would with a real magazine, as featured here by Mag+. Now, here's a different discussion. Till we're supported by efficient hardware such as these, let's just stick to the easy-to-read, easy-to-navigate portals yea? I didn't say anything about needing to look boring, did I?

Automotive: Drifting with a 7-series.

This video is strange. The people in some faraway land certainly have some pretty interesting 'sport'. Drifting!? With a 7-series!? If it isn't because you're in a land where money is overflowing from pipes, you wouldn't do that. My friend was wondering if this is the rich man's equivalent of 'long jump' or some sort in the Middle East. I think he may be right.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Book: Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin.

Dry sarcasm with a larger-than-life attitude, Kenny Shopsin's entire life and character in between two hard covers. It doesn't just sell you the shop (no matter how hard he tries not to) and the dishes sold in the shop, it sells you his philosophy - of staying small and accountable to his passion and dreams, not fame and fortune.

I'm amazed with the neverending list of weird sounding yummies generated from the book, which is really a reflection of the menu. I'm quite doubtful with some food combination stated but then again, I don't think Shopsin would care for anyone's doubt.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed reading this book and the first thing in the menu that I'm gonna try making? Corn Chowder. Hmm... What better way to start the New Year than experimenting with some food stuff and friends ;)

Shopsin is a small and personal restaurant on Essex Street, New York. You can find a similar set up in Malaysia at Checkers (Damansara Heights). Great place for deep porcine affection - ribs and all - minus the overwhelming food list and attitude.

You can borrow it here at Sparks' Open Library Project.

Thought: Watch me.

One photo, two sentences. Powerpacked with a spirit of challenge. Awesome.

Photo by: Ivan Amezcua Photography

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas y'all and may peace be forever on Earth.

The Christmas spirit lives on. It's been a swinging year. Merry Christmas all! We cannot have enough ;) So let's karaoke!

Advertising: MILK turned sour.

It's Christmas, I don't want to be mean. But I think this is what happens when you get any Tom, Dick and Harry to design your 'marketing' campaign and website. It's 'strategy-less'.

I was browsing through this month's TimeOut and came across a teaser ad announcing the soon-opening new club called MILK. On the ad, it says: Sign-up now to become the first batch of MILK's exclusive V.I.P members and get invited to the glorious grand opening in Feb 2010. Limited spaces available! (no extra points for spotting spelling errors). That's quite a common call to action - I get it, you want database, you want my name. No problem. But what really irked me was this:

Fine print says: MILK is due to mesmerize in Jan 2010. Please check back soon.

Sign up? Where? Notice both the ad and the website are saying essentially saying the same thing? There's a cool club coming, so sit tight. Then why do you need both? It is a common tactic to have a supporting website for teasers, but they should be communicating different things no? Otherwise, you leave people like me, pissed. Cause I did as you told, I went online and all I got was a splash of milk that left a bad sour taste. Hmm.

Having said that, cool logo though. But substance yo, substance. Show me the calcium.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dentsu: Video syiok sendiri.

Got an email with this video from a colleague. These are the people you work with in DU. Not the best actors but damn funny. Ha ha. Not sure what has speed got to do with Christmas, I thought 'drink' will be more apt. Cause speed doesn't kill, recklessness does ;) But oh well, and a very merry Christmas to you all.

Social media: Two opposing school of thoughts.

Imagine, brand wants to get into social media to get to consumers. Consumers get content and get the brand.

For the brand, it's called strategy - how do you use trade tricks to get your viral video out?

For consumers, it's called manipulation - viral video's popularity is supposed to be organic and reflects true public sentiment and acceptance but is it still, if it's been strategically placed and stimulated by brands?

That's the current debate. How much do brands need to strategize in social media so that it achieves results but at the same time respects and appreciates the trust built in such communities?

From my point of view, I think it's about balance. Yes, brands need a strategy to get through this labyrinth of whole lot of junk, noise and conversations to get to consumers. And that means, we need to know when to do what in order to stimulate conversations, capture eyeballs, etc. But. Having said that, I don't believe in paying people to comment and/or simulate a dramatic conversation just to drive traffic to the site. That I think remains an internal debate for us too.

Paying bloggers/social media owners to post something, is just another option to utilize these channels as media. It's the same as listening to your favourite radio station but your tunes get punctured by ads. At the end of the day, it's up to the blogger to think for him or herself and their readers. Sparks have been approached for ad placement and paid post, while I don't know if it'll be all right for that in the future but not now. While this blog which could be a potential media space, but I feel that my current loyal readers trust me to a certain extent that these posts are original thoughts from Sparks. Not one that is commissioned. And at this moment, I put priority on my readers' trust and comfort over making money. While, this isn't set in stone, who knows in the future, I might?

Paying people to infiltrate forums and blogs to comment and bring favor to the brand, now that's iffy. If these 'people' are recognizable, as in readers know who they are (e.g media with a social site) then fine. But if they are anonymous then it's a little deceiving. And deception is just an untold lie. Yes, this argument can go on forever. But my strong little personal belief is such that, 'if in doubt, DON'T DO IT'. If your gut feeling tells you, doing something like that is wrong, then don't. I know it's a little iffy too for clients to know that social media marketers are depending on 'gut feeling'. But it's time for all of us to understand that this IS the dynamic of this industry. And it's made up of human and emotional thoughts, so it ain't gonna be as clear cut as traditional marketing.

Uh... did I just refer social media as 'industry'?

Automotive: Schumacher x Mercedez x Petronas.

Before: Schumacher x Ferrari x Shell

The more I think about it, the more I feel Petronas made the right choice by going into partnership with Mercedez. Traditionally, we're all expected to 'stick' to one another because of ingrained cultural implication - this 'unity' is seriously misunderstood.

Malaysian brands should stand up and fight against each other on a global arena. Like Air Asia and MAS. And it forced them to relook at their strategies and uphold their emphasis on superior product offering because they too understand the cliched theory of survival of the fittest. While I do think there are a few daring ones who are taking the job on to themselves to take on the world, I think GLCs (government linked corporations) should really wake up.

Advertising: Why social media business is our business?

PR agencies are more likely to be recommended by their clients than advertising and media agencies, according to a new survey - Mumbrella.

While there is no definitive classification to what social media is but a large part of it its brand/corporate communication. Looks like the competition is getting stiffer.

Automotive: Chief Audi designer talks to Detroit News about inspiration.

I don't like to cut and paste someone else's content. But sometimes, these great interviews are something which I'd really love to share here together with Sparks' point-of-view. Audi has really revolutionized the automotive industry with its recent drastic change in design strategy. For the first time in a long while perhaps, they've overtaken archrivals in dictating the new LED look of the decade. And that's only one detail of the entire canvas of design revolution. The reason why I feel Kia's design is getting a bit better is because an ex-Audi-ian is heading the design team (the guru's name is Peter Schreyer).

So here's a really interesting conversation between Audi's Stefan Sielaff and Christine Tierney of Detroit News, recorded in May 2009.

*** start of conversation ***

Audi vehicle interiors are widely considered to be among the best, if not the best, but chief Audi designer Stefan Sielaff isn't entirely satisfied. Tapping his fingernails hard on a curved strip on the dashboard of an R8 coupe, he says, "This I don't like. It's too plasticky. We'll change this and cover it with leather material."

He lays his hand on the car's textured aluminum transmission shifter knob. "This detail," he says, "I really love."

Sielaff, 47, has spent most of his career at Audi, one of the premium brands of Volkswagen AG, Germany's biggest automaker.

During a visit to Detroit to address the Ward's Auto Interiors Conference, Sielaff spoke with The Detroit News about his work and which rivals he watches.

Detroit News: Where do you look for ideas and inspiration?
Audi: I believe designers should go out of the studio, travel, go to other countries. There are traditional hot spots like Italy. We always visit the Milan furniture shows. We even go to Singapore for the fashion shows. When we look at the art markets, the Chinese and Indians are making strong statements now. For clear and clean product design, Scandinavia is still a place to go, where we draw a lot of inspiration. From an architectural point of view, we look to the U.S., at architects like Frank Lloyd Wright. I'm a big fan of Frank Gehry.

Sparks: It's true, the inspiration within the industry (any industry!) is exhausted. We should try looking outside.

Detroit News: Most car designers benchmark Audi. Whom do you benchmark?
Audi: We look at what the other high-end manufacturers are doing: Aston Martin, Bentley. Within the VW group, I love Bentley and Lamborghini. Outside the VW group, I have to say Aston Martin. They are doing very emotional products, with good design quality. Land Rover is also a brand I like. I like the authenticity and clean design language. If you look at BMW and Mercedes, they're doing baroque cars and baroque interiors, very heavy and overdecorated. I don't want a heavy or bulky interior.

Sparks: Hmm. I didn't think of that for BMW. But the new 5-series is looking leaner and cleaner, no?

Detroit News: What do you think of Asia's aspiring premium carmakers? Hyundai, for instance?
Audi: To ignore these companies would be a mistake. We shouldn't be arrogant. But if they want to do a premium brand, it'll take them a few years, if not a few decades. We will see.

Sparks: They may not be a premium brand. But if they do it right, they will be a mass premium brand. And that will affect the Japanese heavily.

Detroit News: When you design a car, how much emphasis do you put on comfort?
Audi: When you have a sporty brand like Audi, you cannot do everything. We focus on sportiness, so our suspensions are a bit harder than they might be in cars that focus more on comfort. We definitely will not do couch-potato soft cars. That's for sure. Comfort is also good ergonomics, and ergonomics is something we do very well. It's also having good screens and displays.

Sparks: Haven't gotten our hands on an Audi wheel before, but soon...

Detroit News: If Porsche and Volkswagen get together, how will that affect the positioning of the Audi brand within the group?
Audi: If Porsche is integrated into the Volkswagen group, it will not affect our work at Audi. Today Volkswagen has strictly separated brands. Porsche will have a very clear profile, and Audi, too. Porsche is even more of a sport scar manufacturer than Audi. Audi is also sporty but it's more understated, more elegant. Porsches are beautiful cars, fantastic cars, but they're not elegant. They're a bit rough. I don't think there will be a problem of the brands coming too close together or overlapping.

Sparks: Definitely not! It's a totally different ball game!

Detroit News: How hard is it these days to get the money you need to design good interiors with good materials?
Audi: I fight a lot to get what we want and what my team needs. I understand the management side. We have to earn money with our product. On the other hand, I want a nice product.
The customer is very intelligent and able to see if the company or the brand has spent a certain amount of money on the product or if it is just playing a game with the customer. Our president, (Rupert) Stadler, has a finance background but understands that if we save money on design, it hurts the company.

Sparks: Show us more of these revolutionary stuff. Please.

*** end of conversation ***

Original post from The Detroit News.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dentsu: Celebration with Slipknot, Tom, Dick and Harry.

T'was a very merry night,
Not sure if everyone reached that height,
When Hoegaarden flushes through the blood stream,
All we hear is silver laughter and happy scream,

Jonn got rowdy and had to be contained,
Nick played cool with an image to maintain,
Lawrence found an alcohol-tainted nerve,
Francis sang about trees and trying hard not to be a perve,

Don was pissed about slippery matter,
Tanabe looked high, oh boy, I hope his glass doesn't shatter!
Brian will be leaving and we're all so sad,
But 'tis the season to be jolly and the smiles came back,

Who's not mentioned here must have escaped,
If I catch them, they will be punished and taped,
*Clink!* oh the music, pleasing and heavenly,
Certainly befitting this occasion, oh sweet victory!

Advertising: Mother says Giving is Glorious.

Mother has done it again. Challenged the norm, go the other way. What was thought a spam mail soliciting bank details so that the sender can give away USD10,000 was in fact for real. And the very people who wrote that mail is applauded agency, Mother London. Watch the video and watch your heart grow warm.

But one question though. While challenging the perceived norm does its job in gaining attention, but what if people no longer have qualms about giving away their details because of this incident? While we may like to think of the smarter side of human beings, sometimes there are those who respond. In this case, one.

Nevertheless, it's a really great way for Mother to come back and strum the chords of disruption against W+K's advent calendar ;) Yes, giving is glorious.

Marketing: Co-creation means increasing perspectives, covering more overlooked spots.

Le Meridien launched its LM100 program with a vision to sign up 100 art and design experts as consultants to further differentiate the hotel chain from rest of the world. In this saturated space, hoteliers need to look for blue ocean to stay profitable and competitive. I thought it was kind of cool to see such an innovative marketing program (launched in 2007) and would really love to see what kind of hybrid ideas come out of it. I've not (yet) stayed in Le Meridien KL before but some quick visits brought back vague artsy impression. Time to check in perhaps?

On a separate note. This co-creating thing. I'm thinking how to redefine researches - turning cold, unfriendly focus groups to consumer think tanks. I know creative will hate this. Because they feel that no one should ever dictate creative boundaries. But I thought sometimes, having outsiders to share view points gives us a different perspective to things. And yes, I am pretty adamant about that whether creative likes it or not. We shall see.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Automotive: Petronas to sponsor Mercedez GP.

Today's breaking news:

*** start of article ***

Mercedes GP has signed a long-term agreement with Malaysia's national oil company Petronas to become the title sponsor of the Formula One team.

Financial details or the length of the deal were not disclosed in the announcement Monday.

The new Silver Arrows and Petronas branding will appear on the Mercedes car when it makes its track debut at Valencia on Feb. 1 for the first of the preseason tests.

Petronas also sponsors the Malaysian Grand Prix, which is schedule for April 4 at the Sepang International Circuit.

Mercedes-Benz has returned to F1 racing under its own name for the first time in 55 years by buying Brawn GP, which won the drivers' and constructors' championship last season.

*** end of article ***

Original post in The Star.

From Alex Yoong's Twitter: Petronas signs with Mercedez GP. Words fail me. Mercedez a good team, no doubt but what Lotus is doing is completely ground breaking+brave and Petronas not seeing that fills me with shame.

Hmm. While I'm sure what Lotus intends to do is groundbreaking and there are probably some strong and frustrated local sentiment simmering right now brewed by Alex's declaration of 'shame'. But personally, I think it's better for Petronas to go with Mercedez. From a brand and business point of view, this may be a lucrative partnership and I feel that it could do Petronas a lot more brand mileage than Lotus. I do understand that Lotus is fully a Malaysian backed team and all this hoo-hah about 1Malaysia. But think of it this way, who says all local brands have to 'stick' to one another in these kind of international activities? Maybe it's better for each individual brand as well as Malaysia for us to disperse and pursue our own challenges competing with one another. Sticking together sometimes brew contentment. And I say no to that.

Social media: I wrote this for you too.

Once upon a time, there was this blogger who in the midst of searching for something that's missing, found himself in this person called... You. Every day, he wrote the most moving and poignant proses to You. And in time, these meaningful words travelled all over the internet, landing on thousands of screens, touching people's lives without himself knowing it. And people responded to him because deep inside each and everyone of us, there's a lonely being longing to reach out to someone else. To be appreciated, felt and spoken to in such loving words that even for just a few minutes a day was enough.

That was the revolution of I wrote this for you. The blog found its niche, the deep quiet truth about the fundamental need of one human to be connected to another emotionally that it didn't matter who the writer is and who is... You. Because every single post was directed to You. You, the reader.

Of late, this blogger is feeling exhausted from the overwhelming response that had been snowballing since day one and is contemplating to stop the project. In response to his words, I'm inspired to share mine:

Maybe the entire universe is conspiring to bring me all the wrong people so that I can make all the mistakes I need to make.

So that I learn and be a better person.

So that when I finally meet You, I am the right person.

Because You are too perfect for me to be making anymore mistakes.

To the blogger behind 'I wrote this for you'. I hope you feel better and continue to inspire rest of the world to be a more loving, more passionate person as well as a more poetic writer.

Social media: Toyota and Saatchis' recipe for disaster.

No this is not a sabotage post. Sorry, I don't do that sort of things. It's just really interesting to see what Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi Australia had cooked up for their recent Yaris campaign. And oh boy, did it land them in hot soup! (no pun intended!)

And to further understand why it didn't work. Honestly, what Mumbrella's writer said was true. It was such a tired idea. And then I realised that, most of the stuff we're producing from this side of the tired world is a tired idea too! Hmm. But RULE above all rules - never lie to an online social community. EVER.

Watch this then read on:

(crickets chirping as everyone in Toyota's boardroom looked uncomfortably at everyone else. uh oh, someone's head is gonna roll...)

*** start of article ***

Toyota’s now disastrous foray into social media offers a demonstration of what skills an agency needs to play in that space.

It’s now obvious that PR expertise is not an optional extra that ad agencies having a bit of a dabble in social media can do without. Although advertising has always had the potential to be controversial, for social media that possibility grows exponentially and that risk needs to be controlled.

And as Saatchi & Saatchi has demonstrated, it now goes without saying that you actually need to understand social media before you start. You can’t start learning on the client’s time.
For Toyota, I still think that running a live social media pitch with the five competing campaigns was a good thing. Even without this week’s events, it will have learned a lot. And by doing it in the public arena, the entire marketing industry got to learn too.

Read more here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My new year resolution.

(Try) not to recycle tired ideas.

Social media: When overwhelmed bloggers decide to pull the plug.

Before there weren't many blogs. Then everyone was a blogger. Somehow, somewhere, overnight and over time, they garnered hundreds and thousands and sometimes even millions of eyeballs. They have fans and followers who 'bought' into their blog. And suddenly, these bloggers are launched into celebhood. They get invited to speak and share in mainstream social media sites - their success, failure, visions, dreams, ideals and fear. Then suddenly it bombed.

Suddenly, your favourite blogger is calling it quits. Whether in the form of a sabbatical or just needing to 'unplug' for a week or two to 'think about things'. To sort out their life, to figure what they really want from this and where they are heading to next. Suddenly, all this fame got a little too heady and became overly overwhelming. Because we forget. These bloggers are flesh and blood like us. They are NOT your A-star celebrities who trot red carpets and have a personal life guru to coach them on managing celebrity stress. They have day jobs, they have passion, they have problems, they have relationships and they have repercussions when fame and glory finally catch up with them. And they feel exposed, naked, unsure of whether they have asked for all these 'coverage' because what started out to be a passion and exposure of their inner thoughts that gave them 15 minutes glory is becoming a nightmare of public scrutiny.

So what happens next? How would or should they deal with this mental stress? Any anonymous group? (Is there anonymity anyway?) But what about the fans? That their celebrity blogger has decided to pull the plug, get away from them because it's just getting too much? How is society affected? What does this teach us? What kind of pressure is building up in this web 2.0 frenzy that's causing stress 2.0? And most important of all, what is the repercussion to our real life?

I believe there will be a second burst. This time, the bubble ain't 'economics'. This time it will be a social explosion. I don't know when, and I don't know how. But the pressure cooker is on. Someone gather the psychiatrists and sociologists and doctors and legislators and researchers. Let's be ready for it.

I want to be obsessed with what I do.

Because that differentiates great from good.

Film: An interesting research on babies.

This seems super interesting. I'd be really interested to know what are the cultural and natural differences between growing up in one corner and another of the Earth. These differences which we all think we know, let's see if this film affirms or challenges those norms.

Automotive: You are your car.

I read this Psychology Today which is really funny. Entertainment aside, I find there's a lot of truth behind the analysis of these car badges. I don't have that much experience in automotive business but I can really vouch for this.

*** start of article ***

We're all familiar with conspicuous consumption as a display of wealth and status—spending Benjamins to keep up with the Joneses. But in his book, Spent, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller asserts that purchases are also strategic displays of personality traits, intelligence, creativity, and more—particularly in the service of attracting mates. The strategies are not always conscious, and the displays not always truthful; people are as capable as corporations of false advertising. Below we compile some of Miller's freewheeling impressions of motorists: what they drive, and what drives them. —Matthew Hutson

Oh boy, besides showing off fantastic spending might, this high-horsepower carriage yells, "I'm an extrovert!" Top: down. Plates: vain. The driver wants you to know he's the life of the party, even if the ride fits only a party of two.
Bumper Sticker:
"If it weren't for physics and law enforcement, I'd be unstoppable"

If you drive a Buick and you're not old, you probably still have a W sticker on the back. Nothing advertises low openness (traditionalism, conservatism) quite as well—except maybe a Lincoln or Rolls Royce. The school decal is Princeton or West Point.
Bumper Sticker:
"Gun control means using both hands"

The Mini driver hopes to convince you she's open to new experiences. If the school decal (Hampshire) doesn't convince you of her liberal eccentricity, the copy of Harper's on the dashboard will. Second car: Lotus, Scion, or Subaru (great for the weather in Vancouver).
Bumper Sticker:
"Question reality," or "I like It sloppy and weird"

The Volvo is a symbol of high conscientiousness (predictability, organization). Befriend (or date) a Volvo driver and you're purportedly getting someone who's responsible and cautious. The car will probably be sparkling clean, as regular washes demonstrate reliability and attention to detail.
Bumper Sticker:
"The police never think it's as
funny as you do"

*** end ***

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Social media: Self validation and ego boost.

Do you feel validated when a person or corporation you admire follows you on Twitter? Be your friend in Facebook? Reads your blog?

And you tell yourself, okay I must worth something if they are following my thoughts and antics?

You don't? Aww come on. Stop kidding yourself.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Observation: Two kinds of failures.

I remember sharing my thoughts to someone important in a recent email: Doers who don’t think are workers. Thinkers who don’t do are dictators. And there are a lot of these people in the ad industry. (Sadly).

And then I came across this line today:

There are two kinds of failures: Those who think and never do, and those who do and never think.

Darn. I wished I wrote that line instead. Sounds so much smarter.

Know your GTi: Fuel consumption.

Obviously Ron 95 is out of the question.

So that leaves us with VPower and Ron 97.

A full 55l tank of VPower gives me about 560km on very careful driving (no hard acceleration, most of the time nothing over 100km/h). Funny thing is, VPower seemed to give a lot more boost when used in the City or Vios or even MyVi compared to the GTi. Somehow, it felt a little sluggish during pick up and the so-called extra power which I felt before seemed insignificant in the GTi. A friend of mine told me that VPower acts as a booster to vehicles with less than 1.6 or 1.8cc but makes no difference to a 2.0 (more over a turbocharged one). Hmm. I don't know how true this is, can anyone clarify? But the lag in power pick up is quite apparent until you hit a certain rpm of course then the GTi's natural instinct just takes over ;)

Ron 97 was surprisingly efficient with a more equal distribution of power during the entire acceleration process. More over, what was really neat is I could milk a cool 600km on a full tank! Again, that is if I am extra careful with my pedal force at all times. 600km is equivalent to me traveling from home to work and back for approximately 2 weeks (minus a day or two).

After the first week of good behavior, I still have about half a tank (300km) to go. But here's my real confession. I never did reach the 600 mark because I simply couldn't stay 'good' for two whole weeks. I couldn't resist the temptation of an open road at 2am getting to know some 'friendly' fellow drivers. But if I did, I'm pretty sure 600 can be achieved. Well, until I can truly stay off the metal for fourteen days, I'm pretty happy with a 560km mark.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advertising: The GTi Project.

Let's get rolling!

The VW GTi Project was nominated for by the Favourite Website Awards (FWA) for May's best website. Best of the twelve best will be voted by the public.

The test drive simulation is an extraordinary way of presenting Mk 6's sports handling USPs. Technical without an overkill of information.

Advertising: Planners becoming account servicing.

In most agencies and recent times, and no one can deny this fact, more and more account servicing people are migrating into planning. One is because of the better pay. Two is because of the sterling image that comes with the title 'Strat Planner' compared to 'AE/M/D/etc'. Third because it's dubbed 'The Brain' in the agency. Bullsh*t.

There are very steady account management people whom I've met who don't need the title 'Planner' to be a planner. And they are usually heads of the accounts and teams and make up a minority of the advertising population. Due to this huge deficit of planners in the industry, headhunters scout for researchers and AEs and AMs and install them as planners in prospective agencies.

Some made it, some never did.

Since I'm not yet very good at planning myself and management recognized that I'd need a lot of help, we've been hiring planners since... day one. I've been surprised, irritated but mostly amused by a stream of account servicing people who came to 'suss' us out and compare us with the other wonderful offers the other wonderful agencies are offering, since planners are a rare species. They claim to have 'passion' in planning therefore they are out of the 'servicing' box and should be given the position. Basically what they are telling us is they didn't want to do what account servicing does - namely budgeting, client management and executing projects. Instead they want to be the 'brain'. Bullsh*t.

Strategic planning is something you grow into, not a title which you hold.

Since our hiring strategy didn't work very well, we made both our planners and account servicing do budgeting, client management and execution on top of researching, planning and tracking. We make them plan big brand stuff, we make them plan executable campaign stuff. We make them give out leaflets in roadshows, we make them present in front of client management. We make them scam creative ads, we make them design proposals. We make them interview consumers, we make them create sense out of analytics. We make them drink with the client, we make them challenge them. We make them think brand strategies, we make them create an activation plan. We make them work independently, we make them dependent on the team. We make them planners, we make them creators. We make them doers, we make them thinkers.

So what happened after this short little experiment? Turnover rate of the team dropped tremendously, more business from the client, more synergy in all of our campaigns, more respect from and for creative and vendors and last but not least more ownership on the projects.
So instead of hiring account servicing people to be planners. We are hiring planners to be in account servicing. We can all put something on paper and if there's no one who could sell it to the client, then there will be no you. No me.

You think it, you sell it, you make it happen. Period.

Four types of planners in Sparks' world.

*'Syiok sendiri' is Malay, direct translation = 'self pleasure'.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dentsu: The pitch result.

It's been a very tough and challenging fight going up against some of the industry's renown players. Which really, in all honesty, spooked me in ways you'd probably never believe.

But thank you Honda, thank you team, thank you God, for once again, believing in us and entrusting us with this challenge.


Celebration at Tom, Dick and Harry next Tuesday.

Social media: Why sustainability is important.

“Buzz doesn’t create evangelists,” John Moore said at Gaspedal’s Word of Mouth Supergenius conference in Chicago today. “Evangelists create buzz.”

Enough said.

Advertising: New Honda Civic ad by W+K London.

You can never miss the VO, which I think is the same person who did all other Honda UK ads. Because I can still remember him saying something to the like of, "Isn't it nice, when things just... work?" in the Honda Cog commercial. He's got a certain tone of 'stability' that's missing in others, which I can't really explain but I do hope you feel it too.

Really like that line: Everything we do goes into everything we do. I bet many from the client side and the industry (even within the agency) will use this to challenge local norms of advertising. I don't have to wait, I can already imagine 'frustrated' agency/client person asking me, "Why can't we do something like that in Malaysia?"

Well, I think the answer is simple. Brand standards, cultural norms and message take-out behavior. What a car represents in a certain market will determine what we should do best. While I won't say which creative works but by identifying what value a car badge holds will determine how the vehicle should be portrayed. Focus on the thinking, less on the car? Or focus on the car, less on the thinking? Combination of both?

Or just plain... slapstick entertainment?

Malaysia is a special place which is why campaigns like 'Drive every drop' didn't work although I thought it was cool, smart and would have died to be part of the conception (even as a hairline fraction of the production team). But it just didn't work here for many cultural differences which I shall not mention here (sorry, the research was not commissioned by me) and vehicles here cost at least 3 times more than what they are worth elsewhere. So there. I think I have a pretty valid answer (till challenged, obviously) but I totally get where these agency/client people are coming from. Because fact is, I was once one of them.

And maybe sometimes I still am.

So this is it. But it's not Christmas.

Today's the BIG day. No, yesterday was the BIG day. Well, today is another BIG day then.

After weeks of preparation, investment on studies, happy days, not-so-happy days, we've finally come to the finale of the year. The Pitch.

I feel positive but I cannot deny the butterflies that are circulating around my blood stream. I just wanna get over this and have my Haagen Dazs. For better or worse. For good result or otherwise. I trust the client to make the best judgement.

Keep fingers cross and pray hard for my team. I must admit, initially we're a little sceptical too because the brief was a pretty tough one. The brand sells by itself, but this one... we've had reservations. But somehow, through the weeks of understanding and transformation, it just kinda grew on us and we became optimistic (and hopeful) that the product will be well-received.

Oh well. Stay with us. Pray with us ;)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advertising: BBH's interactive poster.

The poster site features a film, shot by Frank Budgen, of a distressed-looking girl sitting alone in the corner of a room. At the bottom of the image is a traditional-looking collection tin that passers-by can place money into. When a coin is placed in the tin, the girl looks directly out of the frame at the person contributing and gives them a half-smile (as shown in the image below). - Original post in Creative Review.

Imagine if the poster featured a sad little child who's disheveled and visibly uncared for. And as donors donate more, the film shows the transformation of the child to becoming happier as her wellbeing and surrounding gets better. And commuters who go to the particular stop can see the transformation every single day because of their donation. That would be cool.

I think a lot of times, the barrier of donation comes from not knowing what happens to the money. And the distressed thinking of feeling small doubting if a few loose change can really make a difference. The above will challenge that. Because we can see that it can and that's really impactful.

Social media: Facebook and Google indexing issues.

Facebookers' concern: If you don't know, effective today, Facebook will automatically index all your info on Google, which allows everyone to view it. To change this option, go to Settings --> Privacy Settings --> Search --> then UN-CHECK the box that says 'Allow indexing'. Facebook kept this one quiet. Copy paste onto your status for all your friends ASAP.

Facebook's response: There have been misleading rumors recently about Facebook indexing all your information on Google. This is not true. Facebook created public search listings in 2007 to enable people to search for your name and see a link to your Facebook profile.

How did the rumor start? Who started it? Why would it be a threat to that person? Why would this person think that it will be a threat to others? More importantly, what's being threatened anyway - privacy or image? Who's the guilty one, top of mind and why? What is the social media effect here?

Dentsu: Hiring writers.

We're not hiring copywriters. But a real writer writer. Or a copywriter who can really write. Not a copywriter who can only (or just willing to) write copy.

If you have experience in Public Relation, publishing, feature writing, blogging, social media-ing, magazine editing, you're most welcome to enquire within.

But if you have none of the above but possess the world's most powerful weapon called 'determination', then enquire within too.

Automotive: BMW Z4 sDrive35is

All I can say is...

Change the voice over.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Automotive: Audi A3 TDI.

"Do your part" commercial is Audi's response to global issues. Audi and VW share the same technological platform, therefore we can expect really efficient engines from the former following the accolade-sweeping turbo super-charged Vdub engine. Nice.

The A3 has a very clean, understated look. Very executive with a gentleman badge to boost. Nice one to bring home without scaring in-laws away compared to the bad boy GTi, although there are some similarities in overall design silhouette. Just an option for you ;) I heard that they've discontinued the 3.2 V6 (darn!), A3 is available in the 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder and now the diesel injection version.

"Some just have more fun doing it" YES! Love that last shot.

Automotive: The soundtrack of Lexus LFA.

Bad ass race car by Lexus. Awesome engine tuned to kick out low and pleasing growls in response to short rev taps. Although it didn't hold as much confidence nor was it as orgasmic as the electrifying M3, nevertheless music to our ears. More poise, less 'rumble', sounds like a very determined north wind rising to the occasion.

What killed me was the spoiler that comes out automatically when you need it (awesome!) during track days or just to casually kick some dust on highways, otherwise the car is kept handsome and elegant every other day.

You listen, and wish the yearning pitch will continue to burst through the high revs for a 'blip' to just happen. Darn, it did not. But good enough.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Talent: One kid wonder.

This shows what YouTube can do to our future generations. Or rather, what can become of our future generations :)

Automotive: Merry Xmas by the BMW team.

Gone are the days of soapy Christmas carols.

Welcome to Christmas in the world of BMW. So much joy, it's blinding ;) Now if only I can make my way there...

Travel: Christmas in Paris.

If Paris looks like this during Christmas, then maybe 2010 should be Christmas too...

Photo from MCM Greetings.

Malaysia: Lack of apprenticeship?

Over conversations the other day, we agreed that there's something lacking in the new working society. And with that, we're not only referring to the two-second attention Gen Y but the 30-something Gen X. We learned to manoeuvre our way in the corporate world to the best we know how, without someone to really look up to for guidance, example and inspiration. Sometimes our ways are heroic, sometimes in less than moral worthy tactics.

With the advent of Web 2.0 and the wide accessibility of imported media, it's really difficult to say we've not be given a chance. Opportunities to learn have been and will always be there, but I have to admit. Without flesh and blood, sometimes it's really hard to judge what's right and what's best when trapped in tight situations. Which I guess explains, why so many young people (all who are below 40), averse from responsibilities simply because they're like deers caught in headlights when the heat is turned up. Ironically, they just froze. Without an important figure for them to look up to and in some way, even mimic, how can we expect any improvement on the generations thereafter?

Personally, I'm appalled by the lack of management skills and even self-leadership in today's working class. Different layers of the corporate hierarchy they may be, but the end result does not change. I've been blessed to know a handful of senior managing executives who have imparted much wisdom on me - sometimes spoken softly and other times, whipped till I came around. There are colourful and creative ways on how I learned from them of which I'm indebted eternally, thankful today and always will be.

This topic came to mind again today when I was browsing through a magazine which talked about apprenticeship and why it is so important in these modern times. Mastering perfection on a certain skill takes years and even decades (in a couple of years time, I can safely say I have a decade of planning under my belt too, yay) which directly contradicts with today's notion of 'fast food syndrome'. Everything needs to be learned, done, eaten, completed, played, spoken in two seconds. Teaching and learning, to me, is like tango. It's not so much the cliche of taking two to make it work, more like it takes a lot of rhythm for two people to be in sync. A lot of compromise, a lot of hard work, a lot of investment - material and emotional to make it work. While we may find promising students, unfortunately there are only a handful of worthy teachers who almost always are taken for granted anyway.

I am and will always be willing to learn. As I mentioned before, I've been blessed greatly for having met those handful of wise souls I spoke about. They are worthy mentors to the very last atom in them.

And now, for me to impart these experiences and knowledge to others, at times seem like a great detest. I've worked hard for my apprenticeship and I beg of you to let me feel that it's only natural I hold on to my bestowed wisdom so selfishly. But two years of imparting language skills to non-English speakers in Japan, have finally knocked some sense into my hard little selfish head. It's the job of the teacher to inspire learning. My mentors have done me that favour unbeknownst to me. And here I was, picking my apprentices as if I was God sent. At least I thank Him for giving me that chance to have learned how to teach. I'm not good at it yet, but if you'd dance with me, I'd be glad to take your hand too.

If you are in a position to manage and lead, you'd suddenly realize that your everyday job seems more like a social responsibility than just an income generator. The old masters of Michelangelo's time probably didn't care if their apprentice stayed or left and they had extraordinary reasons to do so. Their students were out on a limb most of the time to make things happen anyway - out of fear, out of responsibility, out of survival - I don't know. Obviously, today's execs and interns are otherwise. I guess, when you sign up for something and especially if it means leading your team to somewhere, anywhere, yes it's partially a social commitment.

On a separate but related note, I read this line in Monocle today:

If you have a few million, then you can say you have money. If you have a hundred million, then you can say you have capital. But when you have several hundred million or even several billion, then that money is no longer your money. Rather, it's a resource that belongs to society. You have the power but even more importantly, you have the responsibility to put that resource to good use on behalf of society - Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba Group, China.

Same principles yo, same principles.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Automotive: You can trust the Germans.

For something like this. Functional design. Delivers more than it normally would. That's German.

This 'hook' is called 'Snakey' for obvious reasons and allows you to place it in between the poles of your headrest, which looks pretty neat, tidy and unobtrusive compared to the 'S' hooks that you normally find in a lot of Malaysian cars.

Original post from Paul Tan.

Travel: 2010 Paris.

It's so difficult to look for the right place remotely. But when you 'click' on the right one, you. just. know. it. And you look no further.

Shall this be my temp home next year? Or do you have a better recommendation?

Rue Pierre Fontaine - Can't even pronounce the name and 6 floors with NO elevator. Well, you get some, you give some.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advertising: Gold for Dentsu Global Eco Challenge.

It's been a marathon week and it will be another marathon next week but it's a nice surprise to receive an email this morning:

"As a result of the vote, in A category, Dentsu Utama was chosen to be awarded Gold Prize and Dentsu Smart, Media Palette Taiwan and Taiwan Dentsu were chosen to be awarded Excellence Prizes. Similarly, in B category, Dentsu McGarry Bowen was chosen to be awarded a Gold Prize and Dentsu Malaysia, Dentsu Communications and Media Palette Taiwan were chosen to be awarded Excellence Prizes. The score list is appended.

The two companies winning Gold Prizes, Dentsu Utama and Dentsu McGarry Bowen, become candidates for the Eco-Grand Prize chosen at the Dentsu Group Environmental Strategy Conference held on December 17."


Thanks to the great team behind The Green Buddies.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Banking: Social media x banking.

This is an awesome awesome social business model. Caja Navarra (CAN) in Spain, is possibly the world's first bank to allow customers to choose how their savings are invested and what the bank does with its profit. This is essentially putting the customer truly above everything else because its socialist theory shares transparency that up until now, can only sound Utopian - "Only Caja Navarra tells you how much it makes from your money. And only here can you decide what social project 30% of that profit should go towards."

Sceptics find it hard to believe that such ideal fluff of 'civic banking' can really work in this selfish and capitalistic society. But looks like we do have some figures to back up our ideals - CAN started business in 2005 and made a net profit of USD190m last year.

For a moment, take some time to think about the company you're currently banking with.

When you think about all those money politics and possibly unrecorded transactions and fine prints that you don't even know you've paying for and pyramidal profit systems that allow company directors to fly their own private planes, what would you choose if you had a choice?

Honestly, I'd rather have Joe next to me to earn a bit more than giving it to an expensive suit who gets chauffeur driven everywhere because he's already so well taken care of.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Art and Design: Deconstruction of great art.

10 Perceptual Principles of Great Art

PEAK SHIFT: We find deliberate distortions of a stimulus even more exciting than the stimulus itself—which is why cartoon caricatures grab our attention.

GROUPING: It feels nice when the distinct parts of a picture can be grouped into a pattern or form. The brain likes to find the signal amid the noise.

BALANCE: Successful art makes use of its entire representational space, and spreads its information across the entire canvas.

CONTRAST: Because of how the visual cortex works, it's particularly pleasing for the brain to gaze at images rich in contrast, like thick black outlines or sharp angles—or, as in the geometric art of Mondrian, both at once.

ISOLATION: Sometimes less is more. By reducing reality to its most essential features—think a Matisse that's all bright color and sharp silhouettes—artists amplify the sensory signals we normally have to search for.

PERCEPTUAL PROBLEM SOLVING: Just as we love solving crossword puzzles, we love to "solve" abstract paintings such as cubist still lifes or Cézanne landscapes.

SYMMETRY: Symmetrical things, from human faces to Roman arches, are more attractive than asymmetrical ones.

REPETITION, RHYTHM, ORDERLINESS: Beauty is inseparable from the appearance of order. Consider the garden paintings of Monet. Pictures filled with patterns, be it subtle color repetitions or formal rhythms, appear more elegant and composed.

GENERIC PERSPECTIVE: We prefer things that can be observed from multiple viewpoints, such as still lifes and pastoral landscapes, to the fragmentary perspective of a single person. They contain more information, making it easier for the brain to deduce what's going on.

METAPHOR: Metaphor encourages us to see the world in a new way: Two unrelated objects are directly compared, giving birth to a new idea. Picasso did this all the time—he portrayed the bombing of Guernica, for example, with the imagery of a bull, a horse, and a lightbulb

I think this is applicable to how we craft ads too, no? We should pay more attention to details...

Original post here.

Advertising: IQ fonts.

You can download this yo!

iQ font - When driving becomes writing / Full making of from wireless on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I love this!

Music: Cirque du Soleil x Beatles

I've caught Cirque du Soleil twice, both times in Japan. Once in Nagoya during the World Expo in 2006 and the latest one last year in CdS' newest home, a permanent theatre next to Tokyo Disneyland. But this is something I seriously seriously do not want to miss because twice I was absolutely blown away by the scale of production and creativity that surpasses the highest expectation possible for musical shows. A lot of my friends enquired with scepticism, 'Circus?'. And everytime, I reply with conviction, 'CIRCUS'. Awesome.

It's now showing in Mirage Vegas and just a couple of dates more till end of December, looks like we'll just have to make do with YouTube. Or the DVD.

Let's go Vegas!

Friday, December 4, 2009

I just realized it's Christmas.

This is the best part of the year yet I only realized it yesterday that Christmas is coming. It's so easy to be buried and realized that the year has come and gone and still be wondering, where have I been all these while. Been so busy lately with all these non-stop pitches and travelling. They aren't exactly the greatest combination but I like them, both. Only when they don't happen together. It's hard to stay focused while feeling disoriented but I guess it's a pretty neat way to train your mind to switch on and off efficiently because every minute counts. But yea, in an uncontrolled environment, it pretty much screws your mind too.

Anyway, after so many rounds of disagreements and fights, we finally kissed and made up. The direction is finally agreed upon for this upcoming pitch. Phew. Now we're finally seeing everything coming together. I really feel good this time for some strange reason. But maybe I shouldn't say that in case I jinx it ;) But I guess when in doubt, just focus on what matters. People. Create things which will make them laugh, make them cry, make them think, make them share. Then all shall fall into its due place.

I hate to say this, especially when I'm on the brink of falling sick due to all those late nights and I almost forgot what weekends are like. But I do think I've got a pretty darn cool job.

Advertising: Eurobest 2009.

Actually it does bug me. The irony of this industry - while we are trying to build a brand and/or image for our clients, we fail at our own housekeeping. The creatives shortlisted and showcased in Eurobest 2009 are world's best. Yet, their own website doesn't reflect that. Nope, no comment on design (though I can't say that it's nice to what's considered an untrained eye of mine) but ease of visibility surely can be improved, no?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advertising: Automated briefs.

C.A.I (Creative Artificial Intelligence) is a machine that can create readymade poster advertising. By entering a simple brief online (template below) – including the category of your product and what you would like to achieve with the advertising – C.A.I would spit out an ad in seconds - Creative Review (1st Dec 09).

So... there's no more need for us. Yeap, us. Me, you in creative, you in servicing. The client will rule the Earth.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advertising: 50s promotional video on oil.

This video was produced in 1956 by John Sutherland sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute which 'celebrates' petroleum usage and economic competition.

Questions to ponder. Did they foresee the detrimental effects on Earth 50 years later due to the over reliance on petroleum? Should we be projecting effects 50 years ahead from now before we say yes to nuclear energy? Did the usage of cartoon in this film make it more palatable for the audience to swallow? Will the usage of cartoon now depict our disregard for seriousness on such a serious topic? Or does cartoon work in any decade because it injects a sense of humour and/or fun into complicated topics?

And note the choice of words. "Petroleum provides a better lifestyle to Americans" and referring 'competition with strong inference of democratic capitalism' by rephrasing it to "...but also the freedom to make it work for everybody... and if you have both of these things (oil and competition), any goal is possible!"- now that's another form of propaganda which uses virtue words to 'corner' the audience because who, in the right mind, would disagree to a 'better lifestyle' or 'the freedom to make it work for everyone'? No one. Is that ethical in today's age? To include these kind of subliminal tactics in advertising messages? Or will even the audience respond to it? Is it believable? According to all of America's Presidents - it does! Whenever they say "In defence of democracy..." - hah! There it is. Tsk tsk tsk.

Observation: Parenting in Malaysia.

I was in the immigration line just the other day, coming back from a sun kissed holiday when a rambunctious little kid was throwing a tantrum. The parents (both Malaysians) were trying to pacify and calm him down. So they exhausted their ways by:

1) Ignoring him
2) Control him physically by grabbing his hand and pulling him closer to them (so that he won’t ‘disturb’ other people in the line and/or create more havoc than he needs to)
3) Soothing him by assuring him that he doesn’t need to wait thaaat long (there were at least a dozen people in front of them)
4) Carrying him because at this point, the kid was almost uncontrollable
5) Diverting his thoughts to the candies that mom promises to buy once they ‘get out’
6) Threatening to leave him at the airport if he continues behaving as such

And when all of the above failed, the mom spanked him.

It’s interesting to note the underlying cultural tones to may have caused the above situation. During the days when his parents were kids, they probably got it a lot harder from their parents because in a typical Malaysian Chinese family, tantrums will just earn you two tight slaps. So perhaps, they grew up with that kind of notion ingrained in them. Trying not to mirror their parents, they must have tried mellowing their disciplinary methods by ignoring the tantrum before cajoling the child with rewards (candies). If that doesn’t work, then they threaten him (not taking you home). And if that doesn’t work too, the spanking begins. Notice how the renounce of rewards changes into threats that get harsher when each method fails before ultimately sentencing the ‘punishment’.

It’s even more interesting to note that during the whole process of ignoring, cajoling, threatening and spanking – the sentencing of the punishment, never once the parents decide to find out what was wrong with the child. What was bothering him so much that he has decided to vie for his parents’ attention in such behavior? Why didn’t they consider looking for the root of the problem which may have saved their steps from 1 to 6 before sentencing the child to a physical punishment (that could have been easily avoided)? How do child disciplinary methods in the East differ from the West? How true or effective is the concept of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’? Hmm.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Media: The fickled Malaysian women ('s weekly).

In my usual scour for news on what ticks Malaysians and what tickles them, I picked up this month's Women's Weekly. Though not a magazine of my usual choice and definitely not my cup of reading tea, I discovered something strange in this issue which is quite... amusing.

On the cover of the magazine, the blurb runs "How to stop the other woman stealing your man!", brings you to the full article on page 129 about Tess Stimson who published a book called 'Beat the bitch' based on a true story from personal experience. Obviously Tess had been the bitch and upon tasting her own medicine, she decided to save womenkind from self destruction by publishing a book.

So, I get it. The fairer sex, being all girl and womenhood power obviously see the need to raise the red flag to protect one another from future heart breaks, caused... not by her man (okay, maybe partially), but (mostly) by the bitch.

Flip couple of pages later on 142, you will discover a 10-page spread on 10 married men with a headline that ran across the page saying "Who's the hunkiest hubby of all?" - The search is back for The Weekly's hunkiest hubby. Vote for your favourite finalist now and win! (emphasis and raised eyebrow mine). Hmm. Do you see the obvious irony? Or is it just... me?

So, I get a different message now. Girls just want to have fun, so voting for someone else's husband is just plain innocent, good clean fun which of course will never lead to you or anyone as a matter of fact being the bitch (refer to Tess' advocation). Oh, of course not! Don't be silly...

It wasn't a specific article that caught me by surprise. It's the entire magazine and how the content was planned and structured that caught my undivided attention. It is quite contradicting, no?

No wonder women are said to be from Venus. Actually, wherever she's from, she definitely isn't from the same planet of testosterones. First she said yes which means no which means yes which means no... These mixed messages, you see, are difficult for a Martian to decipher.