communication is essential to business making and it involves more than the ability to name your product, write a tag line or a press release. It's an intricate, rational and scalable effort and, let's face it, not anyone can do it.


Writing professionally - for others

Publishing online is a constant, if not hefty, source of revenue from advertising. The plan is simple: you start a website, you generate loads of pages and then sell ads on those pages. The bigger the inventory - number of pages - the more ads you can sell (in theory, of course. In practice, recent events have shown that most publishers are facing dire problems because they can only sell their front pages and are mostly unable to market any of the secondary ones, unless for dumping prices like the famed 0,05 cents :)).

But let us not talk about that but rather about something that revolves around content creation. There's a couple of ways for you to get content for pages:
- you make it yourself
- you steal it (Zoso has plenty on this one)
- you flatter it out of suckers
The first option is the path least taken because making it yourself requires time invested, paying people, etc etc. When you have expenses, well, your revenue goes down.
The second option is the easiest one, but eventually you get caught, and people call you names on their blogs and you feel like shit (in theory).
The third option is the funnest one and it works like this: you start a webpage and then you start calling the most important people in the industry related to that webpage. You tell them you want their expertise spread on the newest and hottest publishing site around. Can they write a couple of articles for your readers? Can they become honarary editors of your site? It would be much exposure to them and much help to the readers who are just dying to read their precious advice. At no point do you offer money because that would be demeaning. Obviously these people are just longing to spend their time writing for you for free in exchange for the love and glory this will bring.

Let me make it clear to everyone wanting to do this: IF YOU WANT GOOD CONTENT FROM GOOD PEOPLE YOU SHOULD PAY FOR IT. NOTHING GOOD IS FREE EXCEPT LOVE (and that not all the time)

People who write articles do it for two things: fame or an innate desire to educate the industry they're in. The former ones usually write bland, generic type articles, with lots of personal opinion, no insight and no research. The latter ones do research, do think out what they write, do make a difference. These ones contribute to a growing corpus of knowledge which is useful and meaningul. They work hard, they spend time doing it, they care. Using these people to make your inventory and not even trying to comenpsate them is callous. I don't think NYT editors write for free for that thing. Neither do GSP blogger for that matter. So, please people, stop pitching free writing opprtunities when you're trying to make content. The only thing you'll get is bad content.

Better Twitter experience

I am interested in content ( and yes, I would definitely fail the famous test of "can you sustain a conversation without saying I for the first 15 minutes" :-)). But seriously, I find that what makes Internet essential to everyday life is not its ability to connect people with people: heck, if I want that I have a phone, a pizza joint around the corner and, soon, a cute dog who will act (my not-so-secret hope) as a casual conversation magnet in parks. So I use Internet to get content (direct consequences: I don't get too depressed over nor having gazillions of comments, don't mind that followers on Twitter rank me as minus twithoritarian - mix twitter with authoritarian and get that - and persist in my pigheadedness to write just English).
I have recently started an experiment with my Twitter account called Bogdana's 12 (yeah, yeah, I'm arrogant, so sue me or unfollow me). Basically I used to follow very few people but now I only follow 12. The criteria are simple:
- not excessively many tweets a day (Scoble was driving me insane with his 20tweets and second)
- only useful info
- only relevant info
- only useful and relevant retweets
I have been doing this for the past couple of weeks and have ended up with a 12 consisting of BBC, the Guardian tech, BBH Labs, Stefan Liute, Bobby Voicu, Johnny Vulkan, Noah Brier, Cristi Manafu, Johan Ronnestam, Christophe Cauvy, Iain Tait, Faris Jakob. Pretty much the dream line-up, you would think: I mean you get tech and digital info live from the first two, culturally revlevant tech info from the third, design and comms design from the last four, Romanian community info from the three Romanians, a branding perspective, and group information from the boss, Mr. Cauvy.

The thing is that a while back I was writing that Twitter was for community, expression and social network. Obviously, I had forgotten information, and this is where it all started to break down. With my optiumm 12 following, I find that Twitter has in fact become an RSS reader and I use it alternately as a source of info to Google Reader. I interact less because I read mostly about interesting facts which lead me away from Twitter on other pages and not deeper into the conversation. I write less because what I read about I feel I should not react to since it was already tweeted by someone else, and also, faced with such decent and informational tweets, I find that my personal frustrations seem petty and so I censor them.

So, I have a dilemma? Has my desire to contain trivial social interaction on Twitter actually defeated the whole point of it?
I think I will continue with the current Bogdana's 12 for another week or so and then try to ad more local netwroking Twitterers to the mix. Somehow all work and no play makes B an overwhelmed digital inhabitant.


Google search supremacy

LOL image of the day in very good article on The Guardian Tech here


Making presentations work

Presentations are an important part of selling any project. There's a number of presentation styles but in advertising the most frequent ones are Big PPT onto screen and small people in front of screen talking.
As such the pressure to make the words sound louder than the writing on the screen is huge. firstly because when people are shown something they have a tendency to read rather than pay attention and since you are showing them something, they assume you expect them to read.
But more than that the rhetoric of an advertising presentation is often at risk from a number of things:
- many types of material: strategy, data, creative, explanations
- too much information: not seldom presentations run over 150 slides
- different presenters: in most agencies, teamwork requires that several people pitch in when the presentation is delivered.
Talking about one such large presentation it has occurred to me that what is essential is that the presentation should take the listener on a journey to a predictable point. Rhetoric is essential to set the stage, arouse expectations and then deliver. The process should focus on
- deducing a clear objective/destination from client brief
- presenting the road to that destination
- detailing the main landmarks on this road
- reaching the expected destination
Essentially one presentation could be summarized in a sentence like this "From the data you provided and our own research we have deduced that this is what needs to be done and the best course of action is this and trough the following actions we have reached exactly that which we said needs to be done."
OBviously how you say it is equally important. So, if you want to prove creativity you would say "We had a look at your info and WOW, we had this enormous epiphany! Once we had realized that a bunch of ideas just kept flowing in and when we put them together we found that WOW! this all gave a brilliant solution!"
Some other things which are important for a presentation flow should also be mentioned like:
- no speaker should be forced to read other people's ideas
- if at all possible no more than 2 speakers per category of information and
- if the presentation does not convince you or if you feel you're faking, then redo it. nothing is worse than an unconvincing presenter. not even lousy creative.

pic via here. and BTW, these are Sharpies and one great creative director told me that no self-respecting creative should go without Sharpies.


Digital agencies in London

Their histories and life journey in this wonderfully designed and smashingly flash-nice project by Poke

Design Museum - Super Contemporary from Poke on Vimeo.


Trust and Internet

There a bunch of statistics going around about people trusting Internet the most among all media. This naturally leads people who read statistics like they are the lifestyle pages to assume that they need to be online to become trustworthy.

Brief newsflash because I am tired and need chocolate badly: PEOPLE DO NOT TRUST INTERNET, THEY TRUST OTHER PEOPLE.

The whole idea behind the "trust internet" conundrum is that Internet has become a means of expression of individuals as opposed to offline media which is the means of of expression of corporations, brands, syndicates, what have you. People, as opposed to the other mentioned, tend to speak for themselves and express personal opinions which often come from experience as opposed to a corporate agenda. If the dishwasher sucked, they will say so because there is not back story to it. There is no allegiance to something that is not right. So people trust other people. That is why forums and online communities is where most loyalty and most engagement happens. That is why blogs are slowly creeping up on online newspapers in journalistic interest. Because people do not trust brands above people but the other way round.

So, some practical advice when you want to take advantage of the "trust internet" phrase
- do not communicate as "the brand" "the company" "the HR department"
- use language like you would to a person
- if possible attach a picture and not your company logo
- if possible try not to censor
and most importantly if you yourself do not believe in what you say, don't say it. And then people will trust you, on Internet.


Weekend at the seaside

driving to

driving about

driving back


Tissue session

One thing that stuck with me after the W+K seminar last week is that. Tissue sessions. I think I may have blogged about this in a previous life because it seems like such a common-sensical thing, yet something that seldom happens here.
They call them "tissue sessions" and I deduced (no confirmation from google) that it comes from the fact that, when you have an idea, you sometimes doodle it on whatever comes handier, and usually tissues are handiest. What it is is an intermediary session with the client when you have some ideas but want to run them by the client before developping them further.
Now, please take a moment to think about what this means: a relationship with the client which is so good that you can drag him aside, like you would your mother, and say "look, we have something, it may be crap, we don't know, but it may be genius also, so we thought we'd run it by you just before it gets out of hand". And the client agrees to listen to ongoing work and give you his two cents.
This is very much in contrast to what happens with lots of clients, where presentations are always handled as if they were the big "taddddaaaaa". Even if we develop a tagline to the TVC we feel the need to drag a planner onboard, make a huge ppt, rob flickr clean of all the inspirational images it has, and arrange a meeting with all the marketing staff of the client. I think it may have something to do with the following:
a) advertising is always a narrow balance between knowing-what-you're-doing and not-having-a-clue, so everytime you do something you feel like you have to prove you know what you're doing
b) the dog-eat-dog mentality is sooooo entranched, that you always feel the need to give the client more than his money's worth just in case you get evaluated and they decide you're not trying hard enough
c) advertising is always to be blamed or commended for EVERYTHING so we make sure nothing we do seems unimportant.
Weirdly enough, this always positions the ad agency as the circus freak trying to make a show and the client as the snorty audience. It's a serious and painful divide perpetuated by god-knows-who but which definitely takes its toll on the work.
Tissue sessions are nice because they build consensus, they build team and trust and most importantly they help with brainstorming, with safeguarding brief objectives early on.
So, how about instituting Tissue Sessions for everything? :)

Internet changes business models

I have a mind that goes in all directions and it's always nice to have a chat with a smarter friend to set me thinking - focused like - on something. and last night I had the privilege to be set straight by Mr. Ursache who got me thinking about business models and how they have been affected by Internet and the new frame of mind it puts us in.
Actually I got to thinking about this after reading about W+K's Platform and Anomaly and also thinking about the crazy dudes who wrote Funky Business.
It used to be that making money and being successful was all about assets and project management and strategy. But with the advent of Internet, new millionaires proved that all you needed to have was an idea. Just like Funky Business says, these days the real asset is a good brain that can generate unique and interesting ideas which later create wealth. And internet has exacerbated this by making it possible for geeks in garages to have brainstorms and then get filthy rich.
So, I'm thinking that this has literally turned into a business model, so much so that companies gather together people to have ideas which can then make money for them in a long term.
This has everything to do with the way internet affects our perception of the world. You don't want to buy stuff because you know someone on the internet has it for free, you don't want to go out because you can chat online, you don't send cards because there's a faster way to get in touch with video logs and stuff like that. Internet has taught us the power of hugeness - because when you make it big here it's really big, but also the speed with which success comes and goes. pretty much like an idea. it comes fast, it goes away fast.
with internet, we live a life of peaks and precipices. there is not more smooth line of growth.
it's pretty exciting if you think about it.


Agency I don't know blasting "London creativity"

This is excellent stuff. I love W+K (actually found this on their blog so props to them for being so open) but this simply is funny funny funny and really creative


Singing the joy of online

This is brilliant. the problem seems to be
a) TV still works here
b) not even online people know algorithms that well
c) I am not sure who plays the original of this :P

User Generated Advertising

Is not a myth anymore. Current TV, which is Al Gore's online TV channel, has a system called VCAM - Viewer Created Ad Messages - which enables users to create ads for their favourite brands and have them played on the television station if the advertisers approve them. You also make 2500 USD if they choose it and up to 60000 USD if the ad is played on another TV station.
I have watched some ads and they are interesting, well produced, if not mind blowing funny or smart. So, with a bit of practice users might put advertisiong agencies out of business also, after print is starting to give out :).
[PS: maybe this is a good time to restart that debate about users being unable to create useful or good content :)]

Search behaviour

I have been meaning to write something about this for a long time. The idea came to me a while back when I was watching Veronica Mars and in one episode the kids at school were tested in the IT lab for search competencies. The challenge was who could find the information pitched by the teacher the fastest. The information was the name of a local basketball player who has surprisingly saved the day in a match by scoring a final 4 pointer.
Eventually, Veronica Mars wins simply by looking up the names of the players and then cross referencing the lower scoring ones with the word 'surprising'.

This to me is a perfect example of how search actually works. I have previously said that the fastest way to find something on google is to simply "ask" like you were asking a normal person. The reason behind this is that most people do not take a scientific approach to searching. They behave naturally towards online and have no search strategies, like inputing keywords and tags or using punctuation. For them conversations online are much like conversations offline, they rely on simple speech patterns and simple thinking patterns and when they write they write like they were talking about it. So, the largest number of indexed information sounds like that. In the case above people would not mostly be interested in the scores of a game but rather in the human story of an underdog who suprises everyone.
So, search is always about the simplest and most human context. Find what is the key, common story around a term and search it just like that, like you were talking about it. Generally, it gives the best results.

Three things not involving money

Ever since the crisis has been upon us I have sensed a change in the speech of the online community. If one year ago it was all about getting smart, showing the world what we can, making great things happen, today it's about one thing: MONEY.

There is more than one explanation for this: investment money is running out and people who used to live on that money, thus having plenty of time on their hands to generate ideas and projects, now need to make a living, advertisers are less inclined to spend money on long term commitments since they need short term results. The term branded utility, which I fell in love with at that time, has almost disappeared. Nobody thinks about making meaning anymore because we are down to the bottom of Maslow's pyramid - we need to fulfill basic needs.
However, this is depressing.

Online was the brave new world and now it's turned into the world-which-hates-itself (banners :)-and-makes-little-money and is frustrated. That's why I need to put on the table three things:

1. Optimism 2009 - made by Manafu, this conference is very much like Russell's Interesting (read this instead) only focusing on how to keep up spirits and remain creative in a time when all energies are focused on raw production. While I think that some of the initial thinking behind Optimism has been lost, with a bunch of speakers being the "inspirational" type, which I don't particularly like, I think it's a good thing to be in a conference where we don't speak about how to make money but how to make optimism.
2. A challenge: I run a digital agency and we do not spend a lot of time making anything that makes a difference but a lot of time making money. That's because we have shareholders who have expectations. I know a lot of people who are in the same position. I promise I will talk to each and every one of them and invite them to a challenge: each agency needs to make a project that is not for money but makes a case for innovation, good thinking, meaningful additions to the Internet. My deadline is end 2009 when all projects should be written up and completed.
3. Knowledge: the digital community here does not share too much and obviously with internet not monitored it's hard to keep up and learn and understand more in point of advertising online. There are no publications involved in analysing the online advertising evolution in Romania very much because, as said, it's hard to monitor. So, the thing that needs to happen is an online collectuion point for all the good projects from all players online (Much like bannerblog). This I plan to start and would like to enlist the support of as many people doing online advertising as possible. This will only be possible if everyone shares what they do and is great.

... so there, maybe this will help get over the money-making blues.

This morning 3/2


Saturday is breakfast day

Does anyone else feel the same?
These guys do.
Sometimes I think they make advertising just for me :)

Wieden+Kennedy launch Platform

This is what makes W+K great (although this time I think it's Anomaly who've made the first move
when they launched)
all details here
"To handle these types of projects, Brookes and Collier have launched a recruitment site they're hoping will attract programmers, fashion designers, engineers, anthropologists, artists—basically all creative types outside of advertising. Brookes says that they're not looking for people who specifically want to get into advertising; they'll only consider applicants with ad backgrounds if they also have the right kind of ideas. Platform has been accepting applications online--and will be until July 10--in the form of social media projects. Applicants need to identify a problem or something that irks them, fix it, document the process through photography and upload the album to Flickr. And, to introduce themselves and answer a list of introductory questions, applicants must create a YouTube video."

Forums, communities or "you know what's funny about Internet?"

Yesterday I spent about 15 minutes listening to someone talking at RoTweetMeet (yes, only 15 minutes, because I am trying to get a life so I spend more time with friends and less with colleagues :) about forums. He had a good point, namely that, when we talk about social media, we hardly ever mention forums, although it seems that they tend to be a bit more active than the rest, and also handsomely improve the demographic pool. That is, they are not exclusively made of horny 15-y-olds or alternately 60-y-olds or cool, urban wannabes {please humor me and guess which SM I am talking about :)}.

The fact is that he was right. Forums are swarming with people who are devoted to the the topics, who really want to discuss what is being discussed, who go through the trouble of logging in etc etc. So fact is: forums give you that elusive and magical thing we all look for, engagement.
Now the problem is, and this is where the "you know what's funny about Internet?" part comes in, just like maaaany other successful stuff online, forums are hard to brand and use if you want to do advertising per se.
what can you do? well,
- forum branded takeovers - recolor the page
- banners - and we know how everyone feels about those
-sticky posts - basically you trick them people there into reading your message by pretending to be one of them
- floating banners - banners, only smarter
- logo interaction - veeery costly
...hmmmm, just your regular, run of the mill stuff.
The bad part about all of these is that they basically lack what forums have, engagement (unless made properly but this is another story). The solution is, again, part of the "funny about Internet" area: it is committment and relationship development. Forums should be treated very much like your group of friends should. You need to call them constantly, invite them over, get them presents for their bdays, talk to them and listen to what they have to say, etc.
Interestingly this is exactly what we have been telling clients Internet is NOT, namely fast, easy, cheap. This is slow, costly, takes committment, involvement... :-)
Also interestingly, the only things that are fast, easy, cheap online are the ones which are said not to work like, say, banners. Or something that a fat guy makes in his basement with a camera and a Darth Vader sword. The rest take work.
Funny, huh?