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.


If I could make myself

I would be a traveler like him, I'd have the talented hands and sensitivity to the good things in like of a wonderful woman like her, I'd give myself a great curious mind like him, and add in touch of brilliance like his, and I would want to also be a seeker like her.
And obviously, I'd have a Mac. :P


Is advertising killing the concept of happiness?

Lately I have been talking to a lot of my friends about what being happy means. Somehow I feel that we are in the middle of a crisis of understanding what happiness really is and I have been, on occasion, wondering if advertising has something to do with this.
Think about it: advertising is built on the logical assumption that you need to create a need for something and instill the idea that satisfying that need is going to make you happy. Most ads actually work like that: you are having an issue and the product comes in a solves it and then you are happy.
But truth be told most of these problems are not real and by consequence the solution provides only temporary satisfaction because the next ad will only create a new desire to be satisfied. And also, truth be told, this is what keeps the market economy going so it's not all bad.
What I am concerned with is with the fact that we seem more and more unable to specifically define what happiness is because we have developed priorities which sometimes do not relate to who we really are. We are cultural beings and thus respond to cultural stimuli. Advertising is becoming a huge part of culture so it is generating a lot of the stimuli we respond to (as opposed to a while back when the only stimuli were basic human needs and stuff you read in books) and which mess up our radar of what we are really looking for.

Think about it: when was the one time you were you really happy? and why?


How to confuse someone

make them watch this first

and then take them to watch this



Interestingness in marketing is dead

well, no, not really. Just thought making the title more interesting would get more people reading :D.
But seriously, remember the good old times when internet was just beginning and the marketing of things online was all about new things and we had just realized that we were no longer competing with stupid TV content but with stupid youtube content?
Those were the days. Because while competing with TV content has proven somewhat of a smaller challenge - okay, ads are only 30 seconds so it's kindof hard to fight motion pictures but some ads out there really kick some motion pictures' butt.
It turns out that being interesting these days is becoming more and more of an impossible task. Basically because of "stupid" internet things. And it's not just that people who post things online are sooo much better at making more interestingness than brands. Actually, they are not, mostly. Mostly it's just silly antics and sexy stuff. And in a one to one contest brands would definitely kick these people's butt in quality and idea and all. So it's not about interestingness per se, but rather about the amount of time one is able and willing to devote to any kind of interesting thing.
Think about it: however cool and amazing one website might be you go back how many times? If you are in any way a real net surfer, it takes less than 10 minutes to stumble onto something equally interesting. I mean look at people who tweet about stuff as opposed to themselves: you can have up to 100 tweets daily about interesting things from all over.
Interestingness is no longer the issue. Lasting power is.
So, what can brands do?
Well, for one they can be consistently interesting, like all the time. But that's hard and if you think about it, almost impossible because people make brands interesting and people change. Your start copywriter gets a baby and no sleep and down goes the quality of your copy. Or your marcom manager decides he wants to become an entrepreneur and you're left with the stupid executive manager. So consistency in interestingness is almost untouchable (and consider global brands...)
They could also focus less on achieving interestingness at any cost and more on making sure that they provide users with more reasons to create interestingness themselves. I truly believe that crowd sourcing for interestingness is the next frontier for brands. And by that I don't mean give them TV ad cuts to make their own video but create environments for them to do things with your brand universe. Not sure where to go with this thought but seemed like a good idea at the time...

I am 30 and they make no advertising for me

I am 30. Jesus, this is even more distressing than I thought, saying it on the blog!! But I am, and somehow I feel that in this country I have been pushed into a demographic deadend. I am 30 and unmarried and have not definite plans to start a family - with kids and all that - soon and I also do not plan to stay in the same job forever and also do not think changing my furniture every year is trivial and lacking in financial common sense. I travel and like doing it and do not like to relate to my mom or my potential mother in law when i choose my detergent. I took out a loan to fund my one year abroad not to buy a flat.
My problem is that, although I am financially sound and interesting as a purchaser of things, nobody seems to give a damn about me. There is no advertising that targets me... in order to feel connected to the ads on TV, I should be married by this age, with a kid and a husband that likes sandwiches with either cheese or pate. I should do a bunch of laundry everyday and get love from my family because I use the right kind of softener.
OR, if I refute my age and assume I am still in the 20yo demographic, then I should want to download silly ringtones, pick up people on FB and eat loads and loads of chocolate or skateboard.
I do not exist as a target although I am probably the most likely to spend, uncontrollably and a lot. But I do not exist for two reasons: 1, because I am not statistically relevant as research only focuses on the golden mean, and 2, because I am not predictable, and, as we all know, advertising works with the mass and with the predictable. And it's not really even advertising's fault, because businesses need to have 5 year projections and someone whose career outlook is not predictable cannot function as a projectable source of income.
So, although I make more money than my mom and dad, more than my married friends and spend it all on me and my house, I do not count for the very industry I work in. Most websites are not for me but for 20 yos. Because they are future income. But I am not, because in the future when they will be able to spend I will be too old, or so I assume the thinking goes. So I am invisible.
Being 30 sucks... from a demographic point of view that is :D


Strategic planning in Romania - where to?

I have become very separated from planning in the past year because it seems managing a company is not a part time job :D But a recent meeting with some colleagues who are still doing planning as a first job reminded me of the good times and how we felt that planning could save the world.
Interestingly enough these days there is little talk about planning in Romania for obvious reasons:
- the crisis forbids development of the community of planners, it's hard to hire someone still considered a nice-to-have
- there is not enough know-how pouring in because people are stuck on day to day issues
- the former strong planning group is now focused on other things
This is not okay since planning is meant to help especially at times like these when the industry is at a loss. So, the opinion piece Stefan Stroe writes makes a lot of sense. While I do not empathize with all his points, I respect the insight behind: this is a time when planning should show what it's made of. And it is not. What are we going to do about this?

His full presentation below

How will we handle it when HI5 becomes mainstream?

There is an interesting "snobbery" being perpetuated in the marketing industry in Romania. We have two channels of communication which are being programatically ignored by most advertisers and most agencies: HI5 and OTV (local tabloid channel with huge audience). HI5 is, by all accounts, the largest online community in the country. Yet because people choose to feature silly images of themselves, which do no resemble the hygienic families in our ads, HI5 is deemed off-limits for any self respecting brand.
Now, HI5 is finally being monitored by the official meter in Romania - SATI - and the first reactions (on Twitter) are telltale: people are scared. We feel invaded by a world we feel alien and we resent the attempt by this "outsider" to fall within the limits of our prejudices. From now on there will be no rational reason to reject HI5. When monitored reach is huge brand compatibility is hard to invoke. So HI5 has made a clear step towards credibility.
Yet the questions remains: how will brands navigate this world they have nothing in common with? We make advertising for perfect human beings, for picture-perfect families and sometimes for funny people. But we have never made communication for people who do not relate to Grey's Anatomy, who prefer cheap novellas and listen to manele (local oriental-like music) on a daily basis. We do not know how to communicate with people who do not like Discovery. The edgiest we have ever gone is a tele-novella featuring gypsies on a national channel. But when edgy for us is premium for them, what will we do?

1. My first guess is that some extensive research should be done. On more than the "protected" demographic of Bucharest, where even the back of the neighborhood boyz are mainstream material. We need to understand what we are dealing with in point of cultural references and align our own with the ones of our target.

2. Second we need to understand that communicating for this target is not beneath us, that it does not make us worse people BUT rather it makes us better professionals.

3. And finally, we must internalize the idea that communication can reflect OR inspire and we can either give them what they know or show them something else they might like and we can live with.

I have a feeling of unease writing this, since I use "them" as a term of alterity, as if this target is somehow alien to what is mainstream and common. In the statistics of things though, and SATI will prove it, it seems that we are "them" and they are the norm.


Geek cool

Technology changes a lot and it is mostly expected to change the way we perform some strenuous or undesired tasks. Initially, computers were developed to do things human were too slow or to annoyed at doing because computers were able to do repetitive work without breaking down and screwing up. With the rise of computers a special community of people was born, those who could "talk" computer-talk, coders and tech specialists, who, because of their propensity towards long-nights in front of the computer, some lack of social life and the habit of speaking in highly specialized lingo became to be known as nerds or geeks. Interestingly enough, the term is a pejorative one as shown by the most common definitions that google provides.
BUT, the immersion of easy to use, shareable web 2.0 type of technologies into mass culture has managed to create a shift in perceptions and give rise to something resembling geek coolness. The power of being able to control the very essence of something that has come to be more a part of our everyday lives than TV - Internet, makes all this formerly-ignored community highly attractive from a number of points of view:
1. They can interact and work with the Internet
2. They may become very rich if they come up with something truly ingenious (witness the Google guys, Facebook creators etc)
3. They have developed a type of fashion that seems to catch on (message Tshirts, baggy trousers with loads of pockets) witness the google search
4. There is a big chance that infusing some geekiness will generate higher performance - as discussed in this Wired article
What makes this community so attractive is also its unwillingness to change and to become more like everyone else, thus displaying a form of rebellion which in itself is commendable. A questions remains though: this may be beneficial for the technology, but is it helping the rest? I work with "geeks" on a daily basis and so does anyone who has an IT department, and it seems that there is still a divide between the expectations of the two sides. Somehow both sides need to come to terms with the special needs of the other. And, however cool geek may be, I fear this process still needs to happen two ways, not just one :D


On a completely different note

In a world far far away people running a city think about using new technologies to improve the lives of their dwellers. Wonderful project from San Francisco authorities, a website gathering a variety of apps to help users with life in the city [details here]

Some of the apps include:

Crimespotting – San Francisco Crimespotting is an interactive map of crimes in San Francisco and a tool for understanding crime in cities.

EveryBlock – EveryBlock publishes a news feed for every city block in San Francisco. Enter your street address, neighborhood or ZIP code, and the site shows you recent nearby mainstream/blog news coverage, police calls, building permits, restaurant inspections and much more — updated throughout the day, every day.

CleanScores – CleanScores is bringing you the health inspection scores of restaurants around San Francisco.
EcoFinder – EcoFinder for iPhone and iPod Touch helps you find out where to recycle and properly dispose of just about everything. You select the material you need to recycle or dispose of, and the EcoFinder will show you the relevant businesses and services closest to you.

Routesy San Francisco – Routesy will help you find your way around the Bay Area’s top transit systems — San Francisco Muni and BART — in real time. Simply choose the line you want to ride, and Routesy will show you the closest stop or station, along with real-time prediction data to make sure you make it on time.


One should not look for excuses for one's country

I don't usually write about social and political stuff because I try to keep this as much a reflection of what I am doing professionally as possible. However, these days I cannot help noticing how deranged this country of ours is. It may be that I have developed a form of oversensitivity to real circumstances what with spending most of my waking hours surfing the Net to read about cool stuff, but somehow thing are amiss with Romania and I don' understand why.

If I was a comedian I would take solace in realizing that stupidity has an in-built comic element if you are not personally touched. Witness these...

1. Sector 1 City Hall is trying to be inclusive and allowing flat dwellers to vote for the color of the paint that is to be used on their building. Large billboards show pics of what the building will look like with the two coats of paint and you are invited to vote. The problem is the paint is the same color. Brown. Light brown or dark brown. Virtually undifferentiated. And furthermore, eventually the building gets painted
I am hoping this is a result of democracy and of people choosing neither light nor dark brown. And I am looking at the comic part of it.

2. The city reeks because of the uncollected garbage. And this morning I found what they came up with to fix this. No, it's not collecting the garbage: it's spraying the sidewalks with fragrance water. So now everything smells like dishwater..... and uncollected garbage.

3. Street cleaners: their job description includes the necessity of keeping things CLEAN. But they are picked from among the most unclean people possible (of course because no clean person would do the job) and they are not trained so if you watch them sweep, it's painful to see how much dirt they actually leave behind.

4. We are in deep deep financial crisis. So deep, jobbing websites only search for top management because all other positions are being made redundant. And yet the only thing the government worries about is elections and how to rig them. They do so publicly. They do so with such disregard to what we care about that it makes me sick.

I am tired of the stupidity and lack of decency in this country of ours. I am tired and disappointed and I would leave tomorrow given the chance, with one purpose only: to drag my parents out of here too.