Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Seoul is the new Tokyo.

As the Land of Rising Sun troubles itself with recession, their neighbour soars through the skies to set a new benchmark in innovation and design.

Seoul is experiencing a dynamic growth in experimenting new architectural design throughout the city. And this new sense of Korean power is spreading rapidly via its manufacturing industries as well as pop culture. Really. Faster than you can say 'POP' :) Watch the new Prada building in Seoul which transforms its structural design for different usage :)

Book: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

I never got to watch the film because it was never shown in Malaysia. What a pity because I was really anticipating another great children story on screen. The first time I read the book was in one of those really cosy bookstores in the backlanes of Auckland. I don't know why I didn't get it. Nevertheless, fate brought us back together and this time, I bought and took it home.

Trust me, it only takes 5 minutes for you to finish the book. But another 55 to relish on the intricate techniques done on the sketches. We all want adventures, to venture into the unknown and live in an exciting surroundings. But when all that's done, we think of home and just want to be with people we love. And of course, who can resist the warm supper that comfort our tummies :)

Sparks Open Library Project

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One of the most heart wrenching TVC... then.

In 2006, Saatchi & Saatchi created this tear-jerker ad for Buenos Aires Zoo. Watch them get separated... and back together again, at where else but the zoo? :)

Volkswagen Amarok TVC for Brazil.

I really like this ad. Emotional, functional, everything's in there ;)

He ain't heavy cause he's my brudder...

(film by Almap BBDO)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Whispy Laura Marling and her tormented lover.

Love the effects, especially the animation. Future vintage, all goes so well together.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Google's Superbowl TVC: Search on...

How can you make a search engine emotional? You weave a true story into it :)

Why Singapore is light years ahead of Malaysia?

Apologies. I'm a self-proclaimed researcher (totally not a professional!). Therefore, I am biased and put a lot of emphasis in research and measurement because I'm one of those who firmly believe that we cannot improve on what we cannot measure.

Compare the researches and publications that are consistently conducted by the Singapore Ministry:

1. Marriage Preparation Programmes (MPP) 2010 English
2. Marriage Preparation Programmes (MPP) 2010 Mandarin
3. Marriage Preparation Programmes (MPP) 2010 Mandarin for Transnational couples
4. Dads for Life Media Release
5. Dads for Life Key Survey Findings
6. Family As a Leadership Value Survey
7. Marriage Builders
8. Just Married - Live It. Love It!
9. Family First - State of the Family Report 2009
10.Marriage of A Lifetime 2009
11. Rising in Resilience
12. NFC Annual Report 2007/08 - Family First
13. NFC Annual Report 2006/07 - ThinkFamily
14. State of the Family in Singapore
15. Building Resilient Families - The Road Ahead.
16. The Council's Workplan for 2006-08
17. 活出姿彩
18. Beautiful Baby, Wonderful Baby
19. Becoming Parents
20. Bliss - When baby makes three
21. Dear Mum and Dad, Don't Make Me Feel Bad
22. Live iT!

Compare ours (1/4 pages):

(source: Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development)

We should stop skipping around the surface and get our hands dirty and dig into real insights. Our numbers are not updated and we do not have enough social insights. Sometimes I wonder, what on earth do they base their policies and actions on. It's the simple theory of rubbish in, rubbish out. What on earth do they benchmark against? Until we have strong knowledge on what issues we are facing, why are we facing them and what is changing within, we will never be able to strategize an efficient plan.

If researches have been dutifuly conducted, then be consistent. Stop awarding fly-by-night research agencies who have no credentials or whatsoever, just because it's someone's nephew's son's mother's daughter's friend's father. Open the playing field and stop protecting local companies. They should know that if they want to be in the battle field, they've got to be prepared to bleed to compete. Stop taking the people's funds for granted and make silly decisions using their hard earned money.

And if you're one of those engaged research agencies, stop being a bogus. Stop taking advantage of the government and just wanting to cash out.

There are too many people sitting in ministries, shaking legs. And not enough genuine heroes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Singapore MCYS launched 'Filial Piety' TVC.

While it's cliched, but play of emotions always work. How do you draw KPIs for these kind of campaigns? Not all 'actions' can be measured, just like not all ROI is immediate.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Yehudi Menuhin Music Course for Malaysian Music Proteges.

Last night, our favourite client invited us to an evening of classical repertoire by the extremely talented pianist Bobby Chen who serenaded us with compositions by Beethoven, Prokofiev, Chopin and Schubert.

I've always loved Classical music because I've always loved all cultural products from the classical and Renaissance period - the music, the architecture, the art, the thinkers. Although I'm a fan, admittedly I should be more hardworking when it comes to studying music and composers from this period. I sometimes fall asleep :)
But anyway, my point is. Bobby Chen is one of the most un-famous famous Malaysian pianist in the world. Why so? Because he is famous. But not so in Malaysia. To be honest, I've never heard of his name before last night. Well, you can't blame me because he's been living abroad since 11. At 8, I don't know him yet.

I thought to myself: Another great Malaysian, got away from this country. What pity. But little did I know that Bobby Chen was working on a project called the Yehudi Menuhin Music course for Malaysian Music Proteges. This course aims to create an environment whereby talented local piano students can benefit from world class musical teaching, lectures and concerts so that they can come home and inspire their peer to pursue their music inclination and fight tooth and nail for their passion. Yea, I agree with Bobby. It's sad that so many of us 'let go' once we reached a certain age. We stop our Karate classes, we stop our ballet lessons, we stop our piano practices because we've stopped going to lower secondary school. Or high school. Or primary school. Because we've stopped school. Sigh. Imagine all the talents we lost just because learning a new skill was a parent's wish and less of a personal desire. Then why bother?

So what I absolutely love about this project of Mr. Chen is even though he is so faraway, he is doing something he can for the future generation of our nation. I think that is highly commendable and hopefully it will inspire many other overseas Malaysians to do the same. I've stopped asking people to come back because I am seriously feeling the crap of our government right now. I don't know which is worse - we're becoming more intelligent or the government is deteriorating with age. But it's just an awesome effort to do what one can to help our little ones. People ask me whether I get tired talking about this like a broken record. Well, I tell them back, do you get tired of eating? Or sleeping? Or breathing? Do you get tired of doing something you know it's absolutely necessary for growth? So the answer is, no I'm not tired and I will continue to lobby until the government topples! Okay, or change :)

Now, if only this course wasn't meant only for the highly fortunate few. Music can turn misery into joy if only everyone and I mean everyone is given an equal chance...

Book: High Adventure: The Story of the National Geographic Society.

Arguably, one of the most inspiring read of all times! I used to think NatGeo was for boring scientists and couch potatoes who have nothing better to watch on TV. I was so wrong.
National Geographic Society was started by a group of kindred souls who wanted to explore the world and bring these stories back to their fellow countrymen, to expand knowledge and expound popular beliefs. And every year, every decade as they trudged on to the highest point beyond earth to the lowest depth of it, the society has evolved into becoming one of the world's most authoritative journalism in geographic and scientific exploration.

This is my favourite quote from the society's first President, Gardiner Greene Hubbard: "The members of our Society will not be confined to professional geographers, but will include that large number who, like myself, desire to promote special researches by others, and to diffuse the knowledge... so that we may all know more of the world upon which we live." Yes, such was his invitation to explore. And I (like millions of other ardent followers of NatGeo) readily accepts it :)

Sparks Open Library Project

Video: Let's 'pop up' the energy!

What we're lacking: Craft.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How fruit trees can save girls' lives.

This article was shared by Russell (thanks so much! Every piece of knowledge is important for us!) from TNS Global from BBC News, which really speaks a lot about reaping what you sow. Sometimes the 'seeds and fruits' aren't just about monetary capital and gains.

When you seed optimism, you get joy. Naturally.


Original article on BBC News.

In India, where traditionally boys have been preferred over girls, a village in backward Bihar state has been setting an example by planting trees to celebrate the birth of a girl child.
In Dharhara village, Bhagalpur district, families plant a minimum of 10 trees whenever a girl child is born.

And this practice is paying off.

Nikah Kumari, 19, is all set to get married in early June. The would-be groom is a state school teacher chosen by her father, Subhas Singh. Mr Singh is a small-scale farmer with a meagre income, but he is not worried about the high expenses needed for the marriage ceremony.

For, in keeping with the village tradition, he had planted 10 mango trees the day Nikah was born. The girl - and the trees - were nurtured over the years and today both are grown up.

Dowry deaths
"Today that day has come for which we had planted the trees. We've sold off the fruits of the trees for three years in advance and got the money to pay for my daughter's wedding," Mr Singh told the BBC.

"The trees are our fixed deposits," he said. The village looks like a forest or a dense green patch
In Bihar, payment of dowry by the bride's family is a common practice. The price tag of the bridegroom often depends on his caste, social status and job profile.

The state is also infamous for the maximum number of dowry deaths in the country.

But the mango trees have freed Nikah's parents of undue worries. And their story is not unique in Dharhara village. With a population of a little over 7,000, the village has more than 100,000 fully grown trees, mostly of mango and lychee. From a distance, the village looks like a forest or a dense green patch amidst the parched and arid cluster of villages in the area.

'Great value'
And most residents can be spotted sitting in the cool orchards outside their homes. "Now, we've stopped doing traditional farming of wheat and paddy. We plant as many trees as we can since they are more profitable and dependable," said villager Shyam Sunder Singh. The villagers have been planting trees for generations. Mr Singh paid for the weddings of his three daughters after selling fruits of trees he had planted at the time of their birth. "One medium-size mango orchard is valued at around 200,000 rupees ($4,245; £2,900) every season. These trees have great commercial value and they are a big support for us at the time of our daughter's marriage," he says. The villagers say they save a part of the money earned through the sale of fruits every year in a bank account opened in their daughter's name.

The tree-planting has been going on in the village for generations now. "We heard about it from our fathers and they from their fathers. It has been in the family and the village from ages," says Subhendu Kumar Singh, a school teacher. "This is our way of meeting the challenges of dowry, global warming and female foeticide. There has not been a single incident yet of female foeticide or dowry death in our village," he says. His cousin, Shankar Singh, planted 30 trees at the time of his daughter Sneha Surabhi's birth. Sneha, four, is aware that her father has planted trees in her name; the child says she regularly waters the saplings. As yet she doesn't know what dowry is, and says the trees will bear fruits for her "to eat".

The village's oldest resident, Shatrughan Prasad Singh, 86, has planted around 500 mango and litchi trees in his 25 acres of land. His grand-daughters, Nishi and Ruchi, are confident the trees mean their family will have no problem paying for their weddings. "The whole world should emulate us and plant more trees," says their father Prabhu Dayal Singh.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What do babies imagine when they are in mom's womb?

I'm not sure what the voice over is saying but this campaign was done for, as you can read it in English, 'born free from HIV'.

I thought the animation was just unbelievably imaginative (whatever the voice over was) :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The origin of the BMW logo.

Did you know there is a job in BMW called 'Automobile Historian'? These brands are cults in their own right. Which is why like Honda and many other cultish brands, BMW has got their own museum in homeland Bavaria. So you see, if you want a legacy. You've got to build one.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dentsu: We're looking to fill these positions.

Social Media Executive - To add on to our growing team, assisting Managers in execution work. If you're good, we may let you tinkle with some strategies :) (kidding) But seriously, we're looking for someone meticulous. Digital and PR-related experience is a plus point. Someone with a whole lot of IDEAS and good writing skills.

Account Executive - We're interested in business-minded young people who know about numbers, know how to close sales, know how to romance the client, creatives and planners sincerely. Runners and messengers need not apply. If you don't have the experience, you can still apply but be prepared to challenge hardships (not kidding).

Strategic Planning Senior Executive/Manager - Looking for an inquisitive great explorer! Preferably with some substantial years in planning already. Strong research background with an understanding on media monitoring and effectiveness.

If you're interested in any of the above positions, please mail me here.

See you soon.

Open for interview: Account Executive.

Are you up for a challenging position in training to be a true blue sales person for campaigns which you believe in?

All we can offer is opportunity. What you do with it, and what happens to it, is up to you :)

Death to Death Penalty - Amnesty campaign by TBWA Paris. Poignant.

I think this is a really tough call. Although the death sentence scenes depicted are mainly execution type during the communist era (you can tell from their evil uniforms), but sometimes I think it is both a mind and moral battle.

Malaysia has got a stiff sentence on drug traffickers. Death penalty. Which I sometimes feel, looking at our culture, the death penalty acts more like deterant than punishment. While I feel only God has the right to take away someone's life, but imagine the hundreds and thousands of others that will be robbed of from menacing drug problems? This is really one grey area :/

Nevertheless, watch this beautiful and poignant video directed by TBWA Paris.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Prefer sexual ecstasy over 'accidents'? Great, get a Durex baby and we'll see about that!

Quite an amusing usage of the iPhone, I must say! Funny, engaging and brings the message home. Minus the baby :) Try this! (Uh, I mean the app guys...)

Durex Baby from Peter Ammentorp on Vimeo.

Book: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories by Tim Burton.

It's simple. Makes sense when it's not expected to and doesn't make sense to keep you wondering. This is the second time I read it, the first when I flicked someone else's. Well, now I have my own :)

True to Tim Burton's fashion, Oyster Boy and other stories is indeed... melancholic. It explores the dark side of childhood, only adults will hang their head in shame... because the truth portrayed in Burton's short stories, strikes a chord. At least once in their life, they must have mistreated someone just because he or she doesn't conform to what they think 'normal' is. And it breaks hearts.

Read it, borrow it.

A sign of things to come?

Ooo! We're famous! Ha ha :P How apt, 'next Malaysia'. A sign of things to come?


Monday, June 14, 2010

Dulux Paint Bank - a great green marketing idea!

Dulux recently launched a campaign called the Dulux Paint Bank where they rally the public to 'donate' leftover paint back to the brand. The paint (if usable) will be used to cheer up the dull walls of charity homes. If it's unusable, it will be treated and disposed of correctly and most importantly, safely, with great considerations to the care of the environment.

When I first saw the video posted on FB done by Dulux which says a shocking 96% Malaysians disposed paint in the sink or drain (WTH!?!), I found that utterly unbelievable. Then after checking with the people behind the campaign, which they claimed true (well... I still have reservations) then I really think there is no better time for all manufacturers to really reconsider having 'disposal' as part of the consumer purchase loop. Seriously.

Anyway, I think this campaign is a really fantastic idea. A lot of people are very willing to help out, we just have to provide an access. And when there is one, the scale will tip. Looking forward to more of such great ideas!

What are you waiting for? If you have leftover paint, get rid of them and get rid of them SUSTAINABLY now! Join Dulux's fan page to find out more.

Malaysia: To Sungai Wang, to Sungai Wang.

This is arguably one of the must-see places if you're ever in Kuala Lumpur.

Spent a couple of hours just exploring the entire mall (once again). I cannot remember when was the last time I've been there. It was too long.

My family used to make much anticipated shopping trips there when I was a kid because there was only one Metrojaya in BB Plaza. It's amazing how things have not change! My perspective certainly has. I remember the place was really big. Huge. But today I realized that if I was a foot taller, I could touch the ceiling. The shops didn't change much. A hodge podge of Asia, yeah, truly truly Asia. Cultural packages masqueraded as goods borrowed from Taiwan, China, India, Middle East, Japan, Thailand sold in Ringgit by other non-Malaysian Asians from Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, I'm telling you, this place is amazing!

You can find anything and everything in Sungai Wang, they're cheap and come with equal value of quality but they're fun. You'll find the most bizarre fashion inspiration here that you really can't identify its trend origin. But you know what they say, one man's meat is another man's poison, distasteful to some but these could be canvases for really original and daring self-designers. Nevertheless, they're cheap and I'm sure if you dig deep and well, you'd find a piece or two of something something which you really like - everything that you can adorn on yourself, including mobile phones.

The bundle shops in the adjacent BB Plaza are amazing! Heavily influenced by the 60s and 70s culture - The Beatles, Vespas, Rolling Stones, Woodstock - it's a haven for vintage-lovers and wearers. Well, if you feel bit icky putting on someone else's clothing, rest assured that some shops sell new stuff from three decades ago. Not too long ago, I was searching for Eric Cantona's jersey almost via everyone I know till I finally gave up. And the wisdom of 'when you stop searching for something, it will come to you' rings true. There's a shop called 'Cantona 7', although it was closed but I presume they sell everything Cantona. Dang. Well, now I know.

And for braveheart, go get your hair done in Sg. Wang's many salons. Some shops are wholesalers for salon equipments and beauty products which are simply a wonder to explore. But be warned, many of my friends have told me that whilst the hair cuts are cheap but can be pretty inconsistent. So... cut at your own risk. But hey, you only live once? And fortunately for you, hair grows...

There were some restaurants that looked like they never evolved at all! I remember them, yet I have to admit, while they don't seem very appetizing they still command their own crowd of loyal customers. And then there's the video arcade on the top most floor - think Daytona, Street Fighter (woohoo! 90s!). The entire set-up was surreal bordering dodgy actually - dark, smoky (albeit this huge no smoking sign), arcade addicts, underaged kids, loud music blasting from video games console. As ardent students, we use to skip school for a game of pool or snooker, race with each other on an AE86, Integra or WRX STi, or battling it out with superpowers in the form of Chun Li, Ryu or Ken. And then there were the cybercafes that brought about early gender equality via a game of Quake or CS and of course the eerie wonder-why-we-did-that meetings with strangers from the cyberworld and exciting bad romance. Reminds me of what grassroot youth culture was like in the curious 90s.

So well, if you're in KL for a couple of days. Don't forget to drop by Sungai Wang Plaza on Jalan Sultan Ismail. It's a gem. Maybe as a foreigner, you will not feel the nostalgic sense of endearment I hold towards this place. Nevertheless, it will be an eye-opener for you. And if you're a non-KLite Malaysian, you'll be able to experience the KL counterpart of raw youth culture. And if you're a Klang Valley-ite, well... welcome home ;)

Seriously? I'm glad some things don't change :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My great Empire State of Mind today.

Before I begin. Thank You for opening doors.

It was a good (but according to boss, it was unexpectedly way beyond 'good') presentation yesterday to the boss' boss. And we're really happy with the result and the feedback. I guess that is what happens in every pitch. More than you wanna hear "Ok, great, let's proceed", is "Ok, I'll give you the budget, you make it happen in quarter 2". Ahh, music to my ears - money and deadline equals to a definitive green light. So that's what 'way beyond good' means :)

So, we've got a preliminary plan in place to roll out The Green Chronicles for Asia, a little too concrete at the moment since we haven't really got an accurate scope on what's happening in other subsidiaries. TGC was more like a research-based project but I think we could use this stone to kill many birds if we could strategically plan it right. Even the term 'for sustainable marketing' seems limiting. The process itself could be used to change people's mindset. And I think that's probably the most important part. So I've been up all night, drilling down level 1 and leaving the rest... less concrete :) It's my first time to work on a project that's of this scale and though it's pretty daunting at first thought, I'm really really extremely excited about the possibilities. For everyone. We definitely want to be strong in this region and be known as the 'catalyst of change for sustainability'. And more importantly, we want results. Long-term accountable and sustainable results. Let see where this journey takes us.

Well it's Saturday. Lighten up a bit :) Love this video. Love this song. Love the reality and the gritty streets of the big apple. Love the love New Yorkers have for New York.

Friday, June 11, 2010

New commercial for CR-Z by W+K. And it strikes again!

Before I go 'huh'? Then I get it.

That's what I enjoy about ads like this. The execution detail is brilliant (no pun intended). No matter how much the envelope is pushed, it's always Honda.

KL Railway Station will be sold to a private company? Well done again, Mr. Government!

You know what? While you're at that, why don't you sell off the Sultan Abdul Samad building too? And throw in the Dataran Merdeka and see if our father of independence would come back from the dead to help see it through? And since we're in this careless shopping spree, let's sell off the palace too. I heard they are moving. How about our Tugu Negara? Since some people complained they looked too Caucasian to be Malaysians anyway.

STOP THIS INSANITY! Really, it's crazy!

When I finally cooled down and really thought about it. I only have one person (or company) in mind that I thought could perhaps take better care of these precious monumental landmarks of our dear country. Could it be YTL? Although they do have other skeletons in the closet but they also have experience in restoring and preserving heritage sites albeit using it for luxurious commercial purposes. The only request I have is for them to turn the building into something which is a non-hotel. Something that is opened to anyone and everyone. Something that is classless yet precious. Something that doesn't discriminate. Something that doesn't only embrace those with platinum plastic cards. Something that can be appreciated and remembered by Malaysians and tourists alike. Something which can be used to promote arts and performances. Something which can be used to house other precious finds that cannot seem to find an appropriate home in this country. Something educational for everyone one of us, every generation.

Sigh. Give me the petition, I will sign it! BIG!

I really hope this won't be another case of Bok House. No wonder we have no heritage. Our government sold it off.

Present day Kuala Lumpur Railway Station.

And the majesty in 1945.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Meeting the pop of iPhone, Bob Borchers :)

Great great great inspiring presentation by Bob Borchers on 'Innovation' yesterday at the MMC 10 organised by ADOI.

His advice from conception to delivery: Just remember to etch this four very important rules onto your everyday work habit (but Italic mine):

1) First is overated (first, so what? It's about who scores with the hottie after that!)
2) Change the rules (if you identify the wrong rules, you change the wrong stuff. Still can't get myself to do it right...)
3) Show the obvious benefit (if there are many benefits, then show them all in a single breath!)
4) On going innovation (yea, once isn't enough, keep it going and going and going till it becomes your entire existence is to innovate)

There was a short Q&A session after the presentation which had to be cut short because believe me, it could go on and on and on. I mean Bob was so popular! Like Rihanna! I had a burning question in me but wasn't lucky (or tall) enough to get noticed. So he ended the talk, the crowd poured out of the hall, some went to get his superstar signature and eBay-type photos ;) and I went back in because it was still burning. I had to put it off. So here's my question to Bob.


Sparks: Hi Bob, I have a burning question back there but you didn't see my hand.

Bob: Hi, I'm sorry about that. You should have just jumped up! So what was it?

Sparks: Well, my question is purely from a consumer point of view so... am not gonna ask you for any marketing tricks ;) You talked about innovation at the very source which is the conceptualisation of a product and finally creating it. You also mentioned about innovation in communication, to ensure the message gets right through to the consumer before they finally open their little 'Christmas in Spring' shopping bag to reveal their new iPhone.

And if I understand your marketing strategy correctly, since the first iPhone launch, every 1 and a half years or so, there's a new version. Understandable because that's innovation. But as you launch newer and newer versions, your customers are continuously upgrading. And considering our 'over consumed' state of the world, which lead to an inevitable crisis on sustainability issue, what is Apple's stance of innovation in this? So there's innovation in creation and delivery. What about disposal? What happens to all the hardware that we have purchased but are no longer in use? What is Apple's innovation in the last mile of the consumer cycle?

Bob: Well, that's a very good question which I forgot to mention during the presentation. We acknowledge our strong and loyal fan base and that's why our software upgrade is every 3 months. Which means, in order to enjoy the latest features, all they have to do is upgrade their existing softwares. We never tell them they have to purchase the latest version. But we too want them to enjoy the latest from Apple.

Sparks: Yea but what about the hardware? The ones that are no longer in use because there are now spanking newer versions?

Bob: Well, that's a really tricky one because hardwares are important to our business. But we're just saying that, the option of upgrading to the latest version is available to our customers.

Stranger: Hi Bob! Great presentation (squeezed in)

Sparks: Uh, oh, okay, thanks! Yea GREAT presentation :)


Well, I think he answered my question: SOFTWARES can play a huge role in sustainable consumption in electronics. But he didn't answer my other question. What innovation is Apple putting in place as part of its responsibility as a global citizen and important economic figure?

Hmm, something to really think about, isn't it?

And to leave you with something entertaining, a hip hop remix of Bob's original presentation of the iPhone :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New iPhone 4 - bigger better thinner.

Those who recently bought an iPhone will probably get cheesed off. But I guess, we should have expected that 'improvisation' is Apple's innate culture. Nothing stays the way it is for long. Well, now you know. When you buy the iPhone 4, you should be prepared that 5 is underway ;)

Monday, June 7, 2010

SOTA Conference 2010: Is it really the holy grail of tourism?

Attended the SOTA Conference 2010 two weeks ago and it certainly got me into relooking at our tourism industry from a different perspective. By the way, SOTA which stands for Standard Online Tourism Architecture is essentially a web 2.0 platform which enables connection and collaboration through multiple tourism services parties within themselves as well as to the customer.

It allows everyone (tourism resellers, retailers, hoteliers, etc) to be online (a subscription away) because of its web platform. This immediate connectivity to a claimed market worth USD 200 billion also brings competivity to a whole new level. Those who adopt the system now and make a strong presence for themselves will strive strong in the future, but it's hard to say the same for late adopters and laggards, although SOTA claims that this platform will ensure everyone is on a level playing field. Well... I think it's a catch 22. You cannot afford to not be on the platform but at the same time, being in it seems to me, is as good as being in the sea of sameness, possibly undifferentiated from many of your competitors because access of information is given to anyone and everyone. Also, being both a traveller and a marketer myself, I feel a little torn. In this conference, consumers are represented in dollar signs. Honestly, I wiggled uncomfortably in my seat as I have a hugeeee discontentment with that concept.

Question is: If I'm a travel retailer, will I still be able to make it 'big' without relying on SOTA? Yes, if you have big dreams and intend to secure a dominant market with equal investment to dispose (think Trip Advisor scale, AirAsia, etc). And no, if you are a small player and are contented with your current share of the pie. Well, of course, you can always get onto the platform and wean yourself out of it later. Reason for my thoughts is, any web 2.0 platform essentially builds on customer relationship management. The more purchases a user makes on your site, the more trust you are essentially building with the person. Therefore, this could be a tool very beneficial to those who have an existing database which they want to continue building a strong relationship with as every transaction increases the trust value and secures almost a guaranteed return purchase. The newcomer will have a lot to catch up against the established players.

To retain competivity, it really means that SOTA subscribers need to invest in advertising dollars to command more presence. The attractiveness of these packages put together, again is up to the creativity of the retailer. Sad to say, a lot of the packages in the SEA market are almost a Xerox version of another. The last thing you want to do is to start something which may cause everyone to start scraping margin walls. The creativity of the retailer is then dependent on their ability to analyse strategic segments and forecast certain trends which may allow them to create 'specialised' package (think Lonely Planet concept).
Just imagine SOTA as a brick and mortar mall providing self-contained, ready-to-move-in units for each vendor as a shop. Your edge will come in three forms: Design, Customer Service and Value-added Service. While we are dependant on the publishers and partners to provide 'content', there is a huge opportunity in constantly revamping the packages to keep up with (forget about the 1 million customers) your customers. If they're happy, they will lead others to you without your advertising dollars. This is the ultimate beauty of 2.0. If you're an 'owner' wanting to grow your business, my advice is to purchase multiple 'shoplots' on SOTA. Each with different travel packages targeting to different strategic segments. Each with a different shop front, window display and customer service approach. Targeting to 18 year olds is hugely different from 80 year olds, you get my drift. I just feel that it's a shame, we do not put much emphasis on design 2.0 when all else is upgraded!
Just remember SOTA is just a 'tool'. It's not the holy grail to tourism, but it can certainly propel the state of our regional tourism economy to the next level (before the West gobbles up that part too). But what really gives you the edge in 2.0 business is still... going back to customer value because innovative and creative marketing that is consumer-centric still tops the decision-making chain. The problem to SOTA adoption is not so much of the 'fear of technology'. I reckon it's the mindset.

Don't use technology just for the sake of technology. Use it wisely and strategically, and the rewards are great.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dentsu iButterfly launched in Adtech 2010, Singapore.

The iButterfly dubbed as 'digital coupons' or 'location focused information' by its creators, is an innovative iPhone application which mashes media, entertainment via AR, GPS technology and consumer incentives into a single platform. It allows users to 'catch' butterflies in the Augmented Reality world anywhere which this application is available. All the user need to do is raise the phone, wait for the virtual butterfly to fly into the square, then swing to catch it. Once caught, users will then able to retrieve the coupon or information linked to the butterfly. It's also a fun and entertaining application which sometimes these butterflies are simply caught for collection or to be shared with friends.

This location based services can limit coverage to areas (e.g within X range) or by time (e.g within Y month).

The video shows the initial presentation of iButterfly - the first series after its prototype developed by the Communication Design Centre (CDC) team in Dentsu Japan. This is a strategic platform which demonstrates how innovative usage of existing technology can transform mobile phones into personal media space in an engaging and permissive way. Of course if you are wondering, there are many ways to redesign the 'butterfly' to suit other creative ideas.

The iButterfly is a proprietary (IP) mobile application owned by Dentsu and is launched today in Singapore. It will soon be available in the rest of Asia, outside of Japan. The idea was conceived from Dentsu Group's philosophy of 'Good Innovation' fueled by the three guiding elements of Ideas, Technology and Entrepreneurship.

If your interested to know more :) we'll be happy to share.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We are the 'new' world - 25 for Haiti.

Timeless. Still touches the heart. Still makes us think. Still inspires us to do more.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Striking balance between environmental and economic profitability.

Working on a pre-project. Pre because it isn't exactly a project project yet. But something that I've been advocating and really keen on pushing. And push I will.

Next week (fingers crossed) is probably the defining week of what could possibly be my dream project, inspired by the likes of Future Perfect. The kind of job that brings you so close to grassroot reality but at the same time provides you enough commercial leverage to spark substantial change. It's kinda nerve-wrecking for me because... for some strange reasons, it feels like I've just signed up for a very 'informal' interview cum self-credentials presentation. Or maybe, nothing of that sort and all these nerves are just making me a little more mental each day. Yeah, maybe it's all in my head, it could be a very clear cut straightforward no nonsense project which feasibility really depends entirely on the budget. It's probably no big deal.

But then again, it could be. From what I feel, it could be a defining moment for both employer and employee to change the way we've been orbiting in the industry for the past decades. If we don't change our course now, we will be headed right into an environmental and economic catastrophy (you know this is no exaggeration).

What started as an initial school-type project is maturing and after much incubation where improvisation was constantly made, now has the potential to evolve into becoming something even bigger which could inspire a cluster of others to consider different methods in doing things to bring about win-win-win situations for every stakeholders of Planet Earth. Yeah, I'm really digging this belief of 'innovating ourselves out of this mess which we've innovated ourselves into'. Yes Mr. President, we can!

But. With the bureaucracy, it could take another decade for something to happen. Or will it? It all depends on next week. Or week after next. Or as I've mentioned, the next decade. Sigh. We shall see. Maybe I'm nervous, because like any other pitches... I know I only have one shot?

Like Jan, I don't need to know everything. I just need to understand what I know.

God-sent budget guide: The Lonely Planet MAGAZINE ;)

What? Another travel magazine? Yeah, that's just what we need - photos and stories done up by professionals who get paid twice the amount for covering an article that spans a few pages, enticing commoners like us to quit our jobs and vie for theirs instead. Uh, somehow.

I love love love flipping through these pages of faraway lands, common and uncommon, bearing exciting prospects to what my next trip could possibly be. Mind the auxiliary verb, could. Because I'm not them, I don't get paid twice the amount to do what they do. Sigh.

And then I found, hidden in the most unjustifiable manner on the display table... Lonely Planet Magazine Asia in MPH. Lonely Planet must be the household word for 'budget travel' and undeniably most well-suited for the Malaysian market, fitting our ingrained cultural concept of C&G which basically means anything and everything that is 'Cheap & Good' must be good.

Unfortunately, the guidebooks were getting more and more expensive each time, although I do understand the amount of research that's been put into it is as tremendous as a feat up Mount Everest. Not to mention, the books are getting thicker and thicker, and definitely no friends with frail shoulders like mine which are already withstanding the torturous minimum 20kg as best they could. So you must understand why this magazine seems like a divine gift to travellers like me.

My favourite bits:

1) User-generated content, offline style. Reminds me that collaboration is a trend, digital only makes it easier but no one carved anything on stone and commanded that it has to remain on a digital platform. Better-than-Flickr photo gems of everyday travellers are printed as 'postcards' accompanied by their side of the story which only reinforces the belief that beauty is anywhere and everywhere, captured only by those who are keen in her.

2) Great short trip guides that you can cut out, fold and pocket in less than 2 minutes! Every 2 months, they will feature different guides, again based on readers' recommendation ;)

3) A new perspective of inspiring stories produced by great pairs of writer and photographer about hidden and over-toured places alike. Additional to these stories, very practical 'actions' can be taken by readers who at the spur of the moment decide to do the unimaginable (until that particular moment that is) to hop on the next flight out and start living the fiction (triple stars!)

4) Upcoming events at least two months in advance, so that you can plan ahead. Remember all those 'same-month events' recommended by yesterday's magazines? I bet they were meant to target at the jet-setting rich who have a disgusting amount of excessive dough. Forgetting only one thing. That the rich is probably rich for a reason - busy business schedule and stringent time management. Which means those calendars serve nothing more than the editorial team's arrogant display of know-where.

5) 'Lucky draw' of the month to win an awesome dream trip to somewhere. Anywhere!

6) And the best part is? All these at only RM15 :) To be more precise, RM7.50 a month. RM3.75 if shared with a friend.

So now they've got their website, their guidebooks, language books, travelogues, application (OVI for Nokia) and now magazines. Content duplication? Cannibalization? I think not. The Lonely Planet brand is one of my most admired brands when it comes to matching content to the specific target. It's really about providing the right content in the right format in the right amount for the right person at the right price. I believe this has everything got to do with the people behind the business because they aren't only avid travellers themselves, but lovers of sights, sounds and cultures. All in a shoestring budget with a treat or two thrown in sometimes as motivation to conquer the next monsterous peak or another obscure great plane. They are doing this for themselves and in turn, benefit others who are inspired to follow their foot path.

My only question is... what took them so long :) Well, better late than never.