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.


New things happening

Some new things happening or about to happen:

1. I have succumbed to the general feeling and will be moving this blog to Wordpress although the first interaction with WP was a but scary - stay tuned for that

2. I have been on the hunt for new blogs of interest and... well, remember the times when I was complaining about no niche blogs ever showing up that were interesting. Well, I don't think they are new but I really like:
a. Shopping stories - fun filled stories about how it feels to be a shopper in Romania. Always wanted to write one of those and think that maybe the guys at this one should accept collaborations from all over the country.
b. Gentlemen. Dosar de stil masculin - which is a guide to male style covering the much needed basic of being a well dressed man in this country. I particularly like the URL - domni de Romania - you can't really find a lot of those around these days
c. Daily Cotcodac - which we all know and which got lots of awards and stuff and whose only fault I can find is that sometimes it shamelessly links to stories in blogs of friends which are not all that interesting :D

3. I have come accross at least two awesome ways in which the idea of newspaper is made to live on online.
- one is where I adeptly made this: Bogdana's own daily
- the other one is the more intricate and beautifully built NewspaperClub here, where you can make your very one newspaper - British style and even print it. And there is an endearing story behind the name of the engine which makes the paper: ARTHR :D

more to come...


True about social media

"And that Nike World Cup video (here) is not going to help.
With its millions of viral views, brand managers and creative directors worldwide are going to be viewing it as the gold standard.
Which is a huge mistake.
You see Nike is a Prom King brand. A brand people like because Nike’s discovered the secret sauce that makes people view them as “cool.” So they’ll want to pass around a Nike video because they get some sort of cool points for doing so.
Add the World Cup to that equation. Another Prom King brand, and, for anyone who remotely likes soccer, another source of cool. Factor in too the fact that the young male demo likes to share video, particularly video from brands that have a strong cool factor and you’ve got the perfect storm.
Which is not to take anything away from the actual video, which was exceedingly well done, but reality check: even a really bad Nike World Cup video would have gotten millions of hits. Having a really well done one probably doubled or even tripled what was destined to be a very large number.
The bigger problem, as I stated earlier, is that brands are going to start wanting “something like that Nike World Cup video... you know, the one with Homer Simpson in it.... it got 90 million viral hits.”
It’s the same speech an earlier generation of marketing and ad people got about the Apple 1984 spot.
But if you’re advertising corn chips or diapers or a cellphone service, you’re never going to get a Nike World Cup video. You’re just not cool enough. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing."

from here


The hardest year of my life

I turn 31 today and this past year has been, by far, the most difficult one I have ever had. I am a workaholic, so most of my joys and disappointments are generally related to my work. This past year has been a landmark for me professionally and as a human being.

A while back I said yes to a position I thought was the ultimate challenge in my career. I had never done management before and when I took it on - running a small agency I mean - I thought that it would be a piece of cake, especially since I seemed to be surrounded by a lot of people trying to help, and had a well of enthusiasm boiling inside of me, mainly generated by the novelty of the situation.

All this was happening in 2008, October, just as the financial crash came tumbling over Eastern Europe and made everything different. I was 30, I had never been in charge of anything other than my strategy presentations and my power point slides and my own flat and car. All of which I seemed to manage satisfactorily.

Being a manager has changed everything I though I knew and everything I though I knew about myself. I used to think that I was able to muster up endless resources of energy to finish up everything. I used to think that if something was not being done I could do it myself. I used to think that I could be very good at almost anything. Having to manage a team of people, revenue, salaries, clients, strategies sometimes gets pretty overwhelming and it took me a while to realize that some of the things I knew didn't really apply. The one constant realization is that dealing with failure is the most important skill one can develop in order to progress. Strangely enough though, I don't feel like writing I have learned a lot about teamwork and people skills and client management. I think all I knew about that before I became this new person largely still applies.

But I turn 31 today and if there is anything I have learned is that nothing works unless you keep it simple and have fun with it; and that the hardest thing to do is always, but always, remember that it will not work unless you stick by the two things said before.

So what I wish for myself this day is to always remember to not complicate things and have fun with whatever I am doing. Because only then, it all seems to work out fine.


Speaking about the Ro Internet user

I'll try to do a bit of that as part of Orange Online Meet-up. This coming Monday. As said here, with Orlando Nicoara and Ionut Oprea.

I want to watch


Digital changes gears

In my previous post I wrote about an editorial I had published today in which I was pondering on whether brand managers, and the fact that they largely seem ignorant of online has something to do with things other than stupidity, lack of interest etc etc. I said there may be some redemption in the thought that they actually have to deal with something they are not being actively trained for and that may take more of their time than they can afford to devote to a new medium.

I actually got to thinking about this while reading an interesting article about the take-over and integration of Businessweek into Bloomberg. What struck me was this particular paragraph:

"The rigid culture [Bloomberg's] extends to the work environment. News meetings are held at 7:30 a.m. Every writer has a “dashboard” where the metrics determining his compensation — any scoops, hits an article attracts — are tracked."

This feels very much like something we have to deal with now since online has become a priority. No longer are weekends safe or even workdays quiet after the TV beta tapes have been handed in. You need to track and monitor 24/7. Changes can be made in real time, everything is beta. No wonder then that everyone is under pressure, unable to catch up.

The article goes on:
"Employees swipe ID cards to enter and leave the building, and when an employee sends an internal e-mail message, the last time he clocked in or out appears next to his name. If he forgets his ID, “Forgotten Badge” appears next to every e-mail message he sends to co-workers that day — a tough fit for magazine journalists lucky to remember their wallets, let alone their building IDs."

So maybe we should all have a bit of understanding for this immense change we are going through :D
full article here

Al doilea editorial pe Digital IQads

este aici. l-am scris dupa ce m-am gandit mult si bine la frustrarea pe care o simtim fata de oamenii din marketing care "nu inteleg" online. Am incercat sa imi dau seama cum se vede povestea de pe partea cealalta a baricadei si daca nu cumva aceasta lipsa de "intelegere" tine de chestiuni mult mai practice gen lipsa de timp, lipsa de motivare la locul de munca etc etc.
mi-e greu sa cred ca ignoranta unor oameni este generata exclusiv de rea vointa. si in plus, lucrand cu clienti cum este L'Oreal sau Coca-Cola, am avut ocazia sa vad cat de benefica este prezenta unui brand manager dedicat activitatilor online.
Cred ca inceperea discutiei referitoare la nevoia de oameni specializati in cadrul departamentelor de marketing nu este una prematura acum si oricum, la cat de greu misca lucrurile la noi in tara, probabil ca o discutie acum se va materializa in ceva peste 5 ani. :D


Interesting read

Reviewed as "The main body of the book draws out all of the most cherished literary devices in writing and reexamines them for use in the short form. Dom urges writers to spend more time distilling the essence of meaning and emotion from their thoughts. Select tweets are used as examples, showing wonderful invocations of irony, sarcasm, suspense, awe, and humor. The mechanics of poetry are even explored in detail, with suggestions on how they can be applied to the short form." here

Facebook credits - the social network is trying for an economy of its own

If you're a non-gamer like me you will probably not have heard about FB credits, a form of in-network payment which lets you purchase virtual goods for the FB games and apps you like to interact with.
It seems that this system has been on for a while but it is so slim in spreading out that FB have recently had to consider a whole "promotional" program to get the ball rolling.

As I understand, in a nutshell, the way the credits worked was were much similar to what you would get if you signed up for Second Life about 4 years ago. At that time any new account used to get free land and some Linden Dollars to stimulate purchase of virtual goods. In very much the same fashion, if you're a FB user with a lot of games to play you could purchase FB credits with your credit card and then use them to get game add-ons or perks like cheats or extra energy or stuff like that. So, actually, FB was a financial intermediary between the app/game developers and yourself. [more on what you can use credits for here]

However, it seems that the credit craze has not caught on because recently FB announced some promotional stuff coming users' way in the line of credits. They will be giving out credits to get people used to using them and also allowing people to gain credits by simple on-network actions so without actually using credit card money to pay for the credits [read more here].

It seems to me like the next logical step: FB might have imagined that users will jump at the opportunity to buy gaming goods but in reality they may have overestimated the traction FB games have had so far. Compared to SL or WOW, FB games are still baby games and, at least until Mafia Wars and Farmville showed up, had little potential of getting people wild and digging deep in their pockets for money. The FB profile also, in Romania at least, is not hard core gamers but rather socializing freaks.
so, I personally cannot wait to see how this new credit initiative is going to work. I would have added credits for making profile crazier looking and boosting your social status on the network. somehow it feels that's that FB is about in Romania.

Digital industry - chilly days

Last Friday a couple of the people running digital agencies met with a UK planner to discuss the options of putting together a sort of knowledge camp for digital. It was like back in the old days with planners' meetings only this time it was supposed to be focused on digital.

It was funny to watch how, being the young pups that we are, we looked at this as both a threat and and opportunity. An opportunity because it would give us a chance to go after new business maybe in the portfolios of other agencies present, and a threat because it would mean sharing knowledge which we think is proprietary and makes us hold on to our clients. Overall the meeting was sad and inconsequential because we were all heads of agencies and all we cared about were procedural issues and "industry" problems as opposed to being really concerned with the systemic lack of know-how that the industry suffers from.

I cannot blame us however. In times of affluence, everyone is focusing on expanding knowledge, on finding out better and smarter ways to create and innovate. In dire straights, we focus on survival, and, being the bureaucratic people that we are, for us survival comes from making rules. Other people, in times of need, become inventive and get smart. With Romanians it seems that in times of need we start imposing regulations [just look at what the government is doing].
i'm not saying this is a bad thing. I personally do not have a solution at this time, but that meeting just felt sad. Because nobody was there to talk about how we can become smarter as an industry. everyone was out to protect his slice of the pie....
I hate this effing financial crisis :(


Romania's publishers decide to set display standards

I am not entirely sure what this means, but some of the top publishing conglomerates online in Romania have put out a three points standard system for display on their websites. This means that they will start "evaluating" the display they accept on their websites. It will serve to increase the quality of display they get, and thus, enhance results for clients and agencies alike.

From what I understand the consesnus is that publishers will refuse CPC payment when the campaign is clearly brand awareness or brand building driven. CPT payment will be enforced in this case. I also understand that the publishers will evaluate display submitted and decide whether it qualifies for CPC, CPA, CPL or CPT. Plus, ads will get run of network or run of category treatment exclusively in order to ensure targeting more clearly and better results for the client.

Well, to me, it seems like a great initiative for an industry which has managed to bury display almost completely through the very work of some of its agency heads who, avowedly, despise display and consider it a menial form or promotion BUT... :D some questions do remain:

- it's pretty hard to evaluate display creative anyway, banners are small, they move fast etc. Who will be the ultimate decision maker in what gets CPC or CPT treatment? Can we get some basic guidelines, you guys :D (like simple one liners "always say click here, never use flashing arrows or always use flashing arrows)

- does this mean that publishers will become involved in telling agencies what works or not? will this be done transparently? or, like agencies sometimes get with ad serving companies, where the creative is simply rejected without explanations.
If this is not the case, I expect to see an incremental ballooning in revenue for in-house publisher agencies - which caught some wings last year but eventually almost died out.

- if run of category is mandatory what prevents publishers from spawning a host of "category-friendly" mini websites which then will attract top dollar without the actual traffic numbers solely on the basis of affinity?

I think this idea by the publishers gives agencies a great opportunity to go to the clients and make some points about the use and misuse of display. I also think that we will finally see campaigns that will HAVE to be made with at least some guidelines covered (like, for Pete's sake, have a landing page that requires some form of response and then track it!) and that maybe we will stop trying to bury what has so far been the largest source of revenue for publishers. In the meantime however it would be nice if I could get some answers to the above.


Am scris un editorial pe Digital IQ Ads [this post will only appear in Romanian but I will continue to post in English too]

pe care il gasiti aici si la care cativa oameni au pus comentarii. editorialul relua o idee, pe care o mai discutasem cu colegii de agentie, despre impresia eronata a unor clienti - sau chiar a unor colegi din industrie - referitor la cat de usor sau nu este sa faci Internet. I-am spus "complexul Facebook" pentru ca mi se pare ca Facebook a facut cel mai mare serviciu si in acelasi timp si cel mai mare deserviciu marketingului online in Romania. Serviciu, ptr ca nimeni nu poate sa ignore avantul acestei platforme si toata lumea a fost nevoita sa isi faca un cont, asa ca, vrand nevrand toata lumea a inceput sa foloseasca apps, sa invete sa scrie niste statusuri, sa inteleaga cum si cat de repede merge o stire pe net, ce este interesant etc. Deserviciu, pentru ca nivelul de "user friendliness" pe care il vad ei la FB este transferat automat si proiectelor pe care vor sa le dezvolte pe net fara niciun moment pierdut sa se gandeasca la cat timp le-a luat celor de la FB sa dezvolte platforma, cate erori si buguri au fost rezvoltate, cate probleme de scalabilitate surmontate etc.

oricum, problema e mare si eu am scris putin si mai degraba histrionic despre asta pe Digital IQ Ads. Insa, ce mi-ar placea - si am spus-o si in comentariile de la editorial - ar fi ca oamenii sa sugereze solutii. Si ar fi si mai misto daca nu am arde-o cu fraze sforaitoare si absurde ca "e nevoie de educatie in piata" "ne lipsesc profesionistii". Evident ca astea sunt cauzele problemei, lipsa de educatie si de profesionisti, dar nu poti raspunde unei intrebari despre solutii cu cauze. Asta se cam numeste "a bate inutil din gura" si, din pacate, televiziunile romanesti sunt populate numai cu oameni care stiu sa faca asta si numai asta.

deci, daca cineva are vreo idee practica de propus, ar fi misto sa o scrie undeva. eu ma gandisem la un videocast unde sa explicam the basics intr-un limbaj simplu. cred ca s-ar distribui usor si repede.

alte idei?

Si, da, m-am hotarat ca o sa scriu alternativ in romana si engleza. Practic sunt subiecte despre care cred ca trebuie sa stie si oameni din afara dar sunt unele legate exclusiv de Romania.


Why it's good to be in digital this year

three reasons:
1. any creative that gets done this year will have a digital component if only for two simple reasons: a) www recorded the fastest growth and marketing managers will want to get on that boat b) www remains cheaper
2. most international brands will try to cut regional expenses by making creative hubs and sharing creative work which means that some regions will only get access to dubbing other people's creative, but so far the movement of localizing websites has not caught on completely, simply because sometimes it's cheaper to make one locally
3. every agency is trying to become digital either by integrating digital in all its operations or by working more closely with its digital siblings. digital work results from that more than ATL work

so, if you're in digital, you're the lucky ones.
the same works for direct, or e-direct and mobile :D



precisely my experience with it

via zoso


Why procurement has no business handling pitches

Of course this is a post written under the influence of some major "pissed-off"ness because we lost a major pitch for which we worked really hard and naturally you cannot but be a sore loser. But more than that this is a realization of almost 8 months of in-crisis pitching - not just for us but for our ATL sister agency and also some half dozen other agencies we are friendly with, where we have seen the following repeat itself enough to become a pattern.
1. most in-crisis pitches are run by procurement teams [secretly meaning 'we're only interested in the money']
2. most in-crisis pitches have EXACTLY the same format: request for credentials, request for offer made of CVs and creative plus money. lots of useless paperwork, because participating agencies project the ideal team onto all RFOs and have a standard credential they send to everyone.]
3. no face-to-face unless you get picked to be among the few going to stage final
4. no debrief unless you really ask for it and then whatever gets discussed then gets emailed to everyone for fairness reasons
5. one hour for presentation
6. humongous brief with 70% of the qualification criteria going to.... financial :D. Basically testing to see if you're willing to do shitloads of work for no money.

But what gets to me most, aside from the heartlessness of this process is that final letter, where they tell you that you did not qualify. Thanks for playing but you suck, and we will not even take the time to tell you why. You may have prepared a 300 page presentation for us, which you printed in 4 copies because the RFO asked you to - yeah, we print layouts of online banners ... figure that!, but you do not deserve more than the standard letter of 'thanks but no thanks' because we were too busy to really understand why we picked someone else.

And while I understand the power-position in which everyone in procurement is these days, what with the crisis and everyone willing to do almost anything to get a budget, I think that somewhere in the brand management team someone should realize that this is not the way to handle what is, by all accounts, the relationship with your most important partner: the ad agency. Even when you DO NOT pick them, the point is not to treat them like they're nobody. Because sometimes the winning one happens to be crap, and maybe you want to drop them and move on to the runner-up. And if the runner up think you're basically heartless bastards, you're down to another RFO process. And this is not "not nice", but, in terms procurement can understand, it's NOT EFFICIENT.

LATER UPDATE: I did call the company asking for more info. I got an email asking for my phone number. So at least they were decent, and tried but I still do not know why we lost.
In general, however, I notice from the comments that, what with the crisis and all, the majority view - 2 out of 3 comments :P - is that the factor called 'serendipity' no longer plays a part in agency-client relationships. Weirdly enough, I used to think the same until I realized that the clients where we did find the same wavelength tend to be the ones for which we work most efficiently, most enthusiastically and where we get the best results. I think agencies like W+K and, locally, Headvertising have made this kind of "human" treatment of partners a landmark of their business style and it's worked (don't you just envy posts like these? :D)
BUT, having been bludgeoned over my stupid head by the true business people of this real world, with words like "standards, professionalism, process, transparency, streamlining, capitalism, money" I assume I am just a silly silly girl to think that writing to extra lines in the 10 reject letters is not a big deal and will take my silly silly ideas and put them to sleep for tonight :D

LATER LATER EDIT: Got a call from marketing person - not procurement, who was nice enough to explain why we lost but said they would never put in on record. Feels good to know we are good enough but not good enough at politics :D

LATER LATER LATER EDIT: funnily enough got an official email from the procurement person saying basically that "our creative approach" sucked salty balls of chocolate although we were cheap enough :D. So, there you have it: marketing says we are creative enough, procurement says we are cheap enough, yet we lost :D. it must be we're ugly or something


Social media strategy

Interesting fact: during a recent digital gathering in London, most heads of main UK brands said that they had "no digital strategy for social media yet". It seems that everyone is just going with the flow for the time being :D

Interesting fact no. 2: local brand manager for nice and exciting brand confessed that the only apps she truly sees the worth of are branded utility apps like USPS's gimmick which lets you calculate the type of box you need for your to-be-shipped item (virtual box)

Pretend brand love

Romanians are a lot about pretending they buy into things. we have lots of political parties but no political ideologies. we have lots of churches and people crossing themselves but not a lot of true believers. we have a lot of people who are 'fans of jogging' on Facebook but do not own sneakers.
Recently the pretend trend has hit a new low with people becoming interested in fasting. it's right before Easter and everyone who is in any way trendy needs to discuss how hard and intensely he or she is fasting. it's talked about on tv, in ad agencies and on the street. there are levels to fasting, and you are fast warlock if you refrain from sex and swearing which seem to be two things God really hates.
interestingly, someone smarter than me explained that fasting is about humble, humility and not really making a fuss about all that but hey... we are 'pretend nation'
the same works with brands here: we really love them until they screw up minimally, or until some friend comes up and says that the brand sucks. if you market a brand your commitment to its success is limited to its budget. you care about it as much as your money will let you. if something is good for your brand but it requires an extra phone call to your manager, well, heck, it's not worth it. you like the ritual, but not the commitment.
pretend brand love is a symptom of people who are afraid of having an opinion, are unable to defend it and unwilling to stand up for themselves. so it's easier to go with the flow and not commit. it's easier to cross yourself when you pass a church than to NOT cheat your colleague out of his bonus.
pretend. it works. it keeps people afloat and seemingly happy. :(

NYT business best sellers (paperback. it's a damned crisis, people)

Somehow I feel only people working in marketing are buying books in the States these days :D
[yeah, and BTW is still NOT letting me pay with my NON-Physically located in the US credit card so anyone holding the magical key to getting some of their ebooks, please do help. and, yes I have tried to come up with a valid US address but I gather they check the credit card address or something]

Palimpsestic advertising

This kind of title makes you almost invisible for search engines :D
Naturally writing 'poster hacks' would be a lot easier but then I would not be able to comment on this trend of "commenting" on already made artifacts. And since advertising seems to be one of the most accessible forms of expression, commenting on advertising is happening all over.
This one is my favorite - the original poster turns into that when the light turns on at night, but there's a whole list here


Earth Hour Yeiii

[as an aside, I understand some people are putting on a music show, a grand one, to celebrate the turning off of lights...makes COMPLETE sense to try to save energy by plugging in hundreds of watts of speakers and so on ...but hey, complete darkness for the rest :D]

Burberry goes 3D

Light grafitti - whoa!

from here

Be stupid

I like this campaign by diesel. In Romanian we would say "nu fi absurd, nu fi tampit, nu fi penibil" :)


Start over

There comes a time in every blog's life where you have to write a post about a new beginning. it generally happens once every two years when you've gone through all the stages of enthusiasm, commitment, lackluster routine, blah boredom and lack of objective and finally complete and utter disinterest to the writing.
Being a woman, I tend to be more prone to these cycles and since I am currently on a 5 day sabbatical I have had some time to think about this AGAIN.
Two years ago I became a manager and stopped being anything else. I never thought the process of managing a company could be so intense and so time consuming. I have all but lost myself in the attempt to make everyone happy and make the agency a success. Things are going well right now and I am more than ever aware that apart from being the person in charge there I am nothing else anymore.
So, as it befits a blog, I am again making a commitment to come back to writing about what used to be me: strategy, planning, communications, digital.
Romania is not a pretty picture right now: everyone who had anything remotely interesting to say is too busy staying alive and so we seldom hear about anything other than survival techniques. So I should stop reading Romanian blogs simply because survival is not living.
I have grown friendlier with my bed. Now it's time to reconnect with the blog.
Hi :D


I want a relationship

I have completely forsaken this blog.
Because I need to develop a serious relationship. A relationship which involves a lot of quality time spent together, lots of cuddling, lots of R&R. I want to be able to spend enough time in this relationship that I know every crease and every nook and every crinkle. I need to get to know and enjoy every minute spent. I cannot keep having this casual, good night, good morning and bye thingie where I come in, fall asleep immediately, wake up in the morning and jump out and rush to the shower.
I need a relationship with my bed.
I want to spend time with my mattress and get to feel its every corners. I want to turn the duvet every angle and sleep diagonally, straight, sideways and in every corner of my bed. use all three pillows to their outmost, stack them, spread them, hug them.
I want a relationship with my bed.
I am sick and tired of running into it and out of it. I want to linger and let my shoulders develop a shape into the mattress.
I plan a relationship with my bed.
so, I am keeping it casual with my blog.


Our Onion is chopped

Romania has ... used to have one weekly which behaved much like The Onion in the US: witty, independent, for people who were smarter than the average. Their slogan was "our readers are smarter than theirs". A while back some of the owners realized they were turning 40 and were still broke and decided to cash in and bring in an "angel investor" - one of Romania's most controversial business men. Today, two thirds of the editorial team of the weekly has quit amid accusations of editorial interference, fraud and other such disgusting things. The remaining team - some of the founding members, have issued their own press release accusing the deserters of fickleness and greed. Everybody is trying to figure out who fucked whom and the "brouhaha" is on about whose fault and whose interests (political) are at stake.

Nobody cares that one good contemporary brand, a decent editorial product and one of the few print products with a future has been trashed and will probably disappear due to people being greedy (for money or for power). All we care about is the scandal behind. Nobody stops to think about how dire, how disturbingly empty the media landscape is getting: journals are morphing into tabloids, newspapers are becoming political tools, magazines are localizing irrelevant second hand western European content. People break everything for the sake of some extra cash today. We all think short term. It's dog eat dog.
How I feel? Like saying "Good night and ... good luck" :D


Frivolous thoughts about politics

Sometimes when I get bored I think about whether I should pay more attention to politics and get more involved in what happens in this country. Luckily I don't get bored that often what with the agency and all that.
But if I had the time to get bored and seriously take up a civic interest I'd end up in the most dismal place in the world. Because just like they do not make ads for a 30 yo, unmarried woman with a decent income - that's me, they don''t have a political choice for me either. I like smart, I like open minded, visionary, smart dressing, big smiling, enthusiastic, honest and common sensical. I like the Obamas because of this picture

and I like the silly and sometimes ridiculous Sarkozys because they are not afraid to pose like this (all goofy and laughing)

But what is there for me in Romania? The fashionista images of Elena Udrea in Tabu? The Kennedy inspired poses of the Iacob-Ridzis? The ludicrous every other pic and TV appearance of our younger generations politicians, all suited up, gelled up, spitting when they speak types?
Image is everything in politics but the image of our politicians is constructed by consultants whose understanding of the nuances of target audiences is small and biased. We have Dero politicians. And I am the y generation: i like brands that talk my talk. So, here's to hoping I never get bored in the coming years.

Rescuing print

Somehow I am getting a wiff of an underground lobby movement to revive the dying trade of print advertising :D
Can it be a coincidence that one our best and most respected bloggers is quoting one of our best and most respected creative directors - known for his love of [and exceptional talent in] the printed ad word - and posting a full article about why print is a great medium for advertising and only days later there's a second post about the same thing? :DDD

When I first read this I got sucked into the pathos of the writing and posted an enthusiastic tweet about it. Later on, I kept going back to it in my head and realized there was something amiss with the reasoning. It's an interesting train of thought to start discussing the virtues of print ADVERTISING when the very existence of PRINT is questioned. Mainly because advertising is not something that should be a reason to save print for. Somehow a move by, say, the IAA to preserve the existence print just for the sake of putting print ads sounds ludicrous. I mean we all loathe advertising right? Would it not be seriously silly to try to save print because we need to place print ads in it - especially since only 5-6 years ago everyone was complaining about the rape of print by advertisers when full pages of red or green ads covered the first pages of newspapers?
I fully agree with the need to have print but on the other hand I am finding it hard to understand why print needs to remain the ad volume driver that it used to be. Just to save jobs? Interesting train of though for a country where budget deficit is driven by the government's continued subsidization of industries that contribute with nothing. If ad people need print to continue to get a job maybe we should also continue paying miners to dig on in empty mines.

Okay, we need newspapers and magazines and we need them mainly because of two things: 1] the kind of reading experience they provide - more personal, more applied, quieter, more analytic and 2] the kind of editorial art they require - more diligent, more analytic, more in depth, more opinionated. But this kind of experience requires pairing with a certain kind of advertising, and the aforementioned article bemoans exactly the death of that kind of ads: comprehensive, introspective, smart, brand driven vs sales driven. And now, to be completely frank: we had stopped doing these a long time ago. Because Romania is a country of growing needs and growing bellies and these need to be fed fast and cheap and mindlessly. And that kind of advertising in those kind of newspapers and magazines would not do the trick.
So we really don't need print for print ads. What we really need is a customer base interested in both print AND that kind of print ads. Which we do not have. Yet. Or ever?
PS: and the art of copywriting is real because that letter made me jump for joy with enthusiasm although later on I questioned almost every line :D


The art of ageless advertising

There's hardly ever a time when I feel the urge to praise people in advertising, mainly because I also do advertising and I seldom feel I do worthwhile things. But today something I witnessed got me thinking about one essential quality that good advertising people should possess and which makes them truly remarkable: AGELESSNESS.

Think about this: as you grow older, your most inherent tendency is to derive insights from what is most familiar to yourself, not necessarily things like gender, but most likely things like age, marital status, kids or no kids, your circle of friends, your interests. It stands to reason that not having had a kid will make it difficult for you to relate to mother with kids and it also stands to reason that as you move around in an environment more than in another you will more often draw inspiration from the more familiar one.

And now, imagine a 40 yo creative faced with the challenge of talking to 15 yo and having access to true and original insights. And when I mean original, i mean NOT something that he himself has gone through as a 15yo but rather something which is contextually and temporally relevant to this 15yo. They will both have liked candy given out by a nice smelling mother, but can the 40yo relate to the lifestyle brought about by incessant texting? continuous contact via YM? In Romania more than anywhere, some generations have different lifestyles both socially and historically.

So, I tip my hat off to ageless advertising people. I think it takes an excessively flexible mind, like that of an excellent actor who can not only play himself in all the parts but rather play every part like it was a different person, to be able to stay tuned to the all generations we have to deliver adverts to.


The world tomorrow?

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.


I have spent the better part of my Sunday F9-ing people on Chatroulette. This is a service which randomly pairs you up with people all over the world for a one to one chat via web cam. I must admit that the experience is super thrilling, leaving aside the countless dicks (and that is not a name i use to call nasty guys) I have seen AND the horrendous fat guy f***ing a stuffed beaver toy.
BUT, I did get to chat with Max from Paris and Pepe from London and they both turned out to be super nice and told me loads of fun stuff about them and what they do.
Chatroulette is the brain child of a 17yo Russian who gets his server money from friends and family and whose sole intention was for a fun time with this 17yo friends. And while there's numerous drawbacks to the service, stemming mainly from the dumpload of freaks out there, I can see the potential of this becoming incorporated in so many things we do now online. Think about if you could make it part of Twitter or FB. Plus there's a dozen things I can think of that this could do for online dating (okay, apart from, again, the weirdos in lonely rooms).


Facebook sucks

No it does not, but I am reading this book and someone got famous for writing Dell sucks and I thought it may work for me too :D (the book is WWGD? and the person is Jeff Jarvis)

Truth is, Facebook does not suck YET and but it is dangerously close to that, what with the sense of intimacy and closeness between complete strangers getting to the point of the horrific. To me the online world is for collaboration (some great thoughts on that here) and I do not mind some occasional bonding with long lost friends. But it gets to the point where baby pictures show up and as they get wilder and wilder and more intimate in angle and comments, you begin to wonder "what the hell am I really getting out of this?". I am having a serious issue with the obviousness of progress of relationships among Facebookers. Okay, I got over the stage where hearing about every broken relationship from the status was a pain, I got over the zoophiliac tendencies of some application's users, I even understand why some people like to "like" their own statuses and also like every single status you post, but now seriously, why do we have to handle seeing pictures of your baby's freshly wiped buttocks or, worse yet, your wife's nipples being chewed on by the same baby. Come OOOOOOON people! I get the liberating power of networks but again, going back to my ill-fated presentation a while back, think about what this is doing to all but a small bunch of single women who sob at the sight of something they secretly wish for. I get parental pride, I do. But please if you've added me (and may I remind everyone that I have NOT asked for anyone to add me but simply courteously agreed to being added) and I am not your intimate friend, think of my motives as well for being on FB. They are NOT to see explicit pics of your family, but rather to stay in touch, get updates on people I think interesting, see what they think about.

I feel a sequel to that presentation coming on!


Social search - my two cents

The latest hype is all about social search and as always a competent overview comes from the NYT (read all here) which reviews yet another project with social search potential.

I have thought long and hard about this and somehow feel it falls in the same category of "can we make something that gives us irrefutable monitoring of how people feel about a brand online?". You know, the never-ending plight of PR people who have to monitor online and complain that existing tools work mechanically to interpret statistical recurrences of strings of words and combination phrases.

Truth of the matter is that, just like with robots who make cars, at some point you will need one decent human being with enough brains to put it all together. So while the monitoring systems may give you statistical inferences, it does take a smart guy to put the data together and get you an interpretation of what is really going on.
The same, I think, applies for social media and yet another good indicator of why this is are user reviews for travel destinations. Would you pick a hotel based exclusively on the number rating given as the average of all user ratings? Or, plus, would you pick it based on the first reviewer? I think not. I think that, if you work like me and need clear information, you will read ALL reviews and then make up your own mind. Or talk to a friend who was there :D.

Now with social search what can be the clues which direct you to the best person to answer your question? The NYT article counts " the expertise a potential answerer has about a subject, how closely connected the two people are, and how quickly the answerer is available" among the attributes. Yes, but these will have to be measured with what technology has: making approximations based on "code facts" like how many answers on that topic the person has, the number of times the answer has been "liked" maybe. And still this does not prevent the person from being a total ass with no clue or with a silly answer. Or simply with a bad taste in music or food. Just like it's easy to create webpages with clusters of links to make them seem more relevant in searches it's easy to add a lot of people as a friends list and spam them with crap messages about restaurants. Does this make you more likely to be able to give me a relevant answer on where to eat? Probably not? Does it increase your chances of being picked out as a possible respondent? Most likely yes.
So, the argument that a response is more likely to be relevant if it comes from someone I trust is a bit of a stretch for anyone with some intimation on how the pairing happens. "And our key finding is that whereas in the Library paradigm, users trust information depending upon the authority of its author, in the Village paradigm, trust comes from our sense of intimacy and connection with the person we are getting an answer from" say the social search people. True, but I don't get intimate with people social search make pop-up on my radar, but with people I follow for a while, whose style and accuracy of notes I appreciate. This means that every potential answerer for me would have to be pre-tested. By me :D
In the end, it will be a compromise between the amount of thinking that is put behind the search algorithm and the amount of common sense one has to weed out the trolls.

image courtesy of


The intimacy of new technologies

When I was in my junior year at university I got a scholarship to go to the US for a year and study comparative politics. For a year, I lived and studied on what at the time seemed like the most beautiful place on earth, the campus at RMWC in Lynchburg Virginia. Since the stipend did not cover any traveling I could not fly back for xmas so for a whole year my only contact with my family was the weekly [always on Snday at 10am] phone call from my parents and some emails I exchanged with my more computer literate friends. And one spring afternoon I also got an 11 page hand written letter from my mom. I remember sitting at one of the many lounge tables spread out across the campus and reading my mom's letter and crying my eyes out, not because she had news of any kind but because it was the closest I had ever felt to her and my people back at home. I still have that letter and every time my friends and I get into an argument about technology and how it estranges people, I think back to that letter and refuse to engage :D.

and yet... for about two months now my mom has a gmail account and has learned the ropes enough to be able to log in every now and then and drop me an email. She writes erratically, sometimes asking me questions to which I reply instantly and which she completely ignores, sometimes telling me stories she has already told me on the phone. And yet the thrill of seeing my mother's name in the Inbox is always the same. Because I know she writes those emails when she is quietly thinking about me. It's not like phone calls when she tells me about hers and dad's day but mostly about a more serene and more mature type of communication. I treasure these emails. I keep them in a folder alongside one special message I got while in the States from a very special person there. I call the folder "post" - like in Post Office, because they feel like real letters, close and intimate.

So, as far as the argument goes, technology may seem remote and intimidating but it's really how you what you use it for. I love getting an early SMS that says "morning :)" and I love my mom's emails. Because, irrespective of the medium, the sentiment behind the message is the real thing.


Technology: smart to stupid?

Talking to the girls last night about relationships (predictable, huh?) we came naturally to a weird theory, namely that human nature seems to be preset to self-preserve and aim for the lowest common denominator. We generally tend to look for calm, peace of mind, lack of complication, routines. These make us feel good: chemically and in any other way. You get married not because you think it's going to be a rollercoaster of emotions but because you think you can lead a quiet content lifetime with one person. You stay in the less paid job because it's less stress. You are friends with people like yourself and soon you are friends only with those who live closest :D

There's few people looking for aggravation and stress in their lives but weirdly enough it seems that precisely this strife for not-ordinary is the root of progress and innovation.

Now, technology is here to support our natural tendencies, right? I mean we have made all things technological to help us lead better lives and, by the logic above, to help us lead more peaceful, less aggravated lives. Which means what? We will invent moving chairs like in WalleE, machines which make any food we want, phones that pay for us, TV sets that move around the home, social networks to help us communicate, etc etc.

Sometimes I get concerned that, while it may seem like a brave new world, technology will only serve to turn us into turnips. I need to buy a pair of sneakers and start jogging :D


The Facebook complex

The cross-over from analogue to digital is a challenge for everyone. Mostly so for people whose interaction with Internet is profuse but whose understanding of the mechanisms behind is small. Think about this: they say in 2015 coding will be the new literacy. You will HAVE to be able to become code literate if only to manage your blog the way you want it.
Until then though people interact with internet via dashboards and interfaces without any knowledge of what goes on behind. And this creates something I called the facebook complex - meaning the belief that smooth interfaces and easy navigation are instant and accessible to everyone and every online project developed. The way this works is that people become immersed in a fully functional interface like that of a social network when the latter is at its peak: the more effective and perfected the interface is, the more likely it is to attract users. so the largest number of people will have seen a site at its best, but at its beta beta 16.0 version. which results in one thing: everyone believes that everything else should work as smoothly and as perfectly as their social networking site.
But nobody seems to think of how long it takes before you get to that beta beta 16.0 version and the expectation is for anything new to work from the beginning like THAT.
with what I do now, this is omnipresent. projects need to be delivered fast but they need to have all the community functionalities of a long-established content site. How hard can it be to connect a site to Facebook without retyping in your password? How hard can it be to save a sequence of films in a preset order over and over again and show them in a gallery? Surely this must take minutes to do :D
The sad part is that the coding side cannot win this one: people will always expect more faster and better. Asking for more time will not work online where millions of people may be doing exactly what you do at the same time and have it ready earlier.
to beat the FB complex, it's not the sufferers who need to change. it's the people doing the stuff behind the interface


End 2009 - personal

because they asked me to...


Social media REALLY breaks into mainstream

I wonder if there is anyone out there who still argues that social networks are not mainstream. If there is, tonight's news report on national broadcaster TVR 1 should make up their minds that they are.
Tonight, the Romanian PBS, the local equivalent of BBC, has, for the first time to my knowledge, showed actual images/screen captures of Facebook. This was not in some niche, middle of the night teenie show, but in the main news show at 8 pm, as part of an ongoing investigation in the dealings of some local crook.
So, if TVR 1 thinks that research on FB is something that is relevant to be shown to 22 million people and also make assertions using the photos and status updates of a FB account, do we still think that social networks are not relevant? Do we also still think that what we post there is of no consequence?
Serious food for thought...


The joke that good food becomes in times of crisis

I live next to a McD restaurant and sometimes at night when I cannot sleep, I drop by to grab some fries which are my overt food sin. Lately I have been unable to get my fries in less than 15 minutes because the queues at the drive in are humongous. In the restaurant too. That's because after hitting the neighborhood with 2 for 10 lei offer (that's approx 2.5 euros for 2 burgers) McD has literally stolen the market with full Menus for just 10 lei.

As you know, Romania is in deep financial crisis. So deep the government is scrambling to raise taxes from anywhere they can to keep up the country. This affects McD in two ways, firstly because you'd expect people to not go to McD's which, a while back was a neat place to take your family for a celebratory Sunday. And second, because the government also decided to tax fast foods under the hypocritical excuse that Romanians are getting fat. Yeah, it's a crisis dumbasses: we're definitely NOT getting fat.

At any rate, McD's has once more proven its marketing acumen by turning the situation around with the two hit offers. They are positioned as "a full meal for only 10 lei" so basically what they are doing is saying that you can replace one of your daily meals with a McD Menu for a meanial price. And it worked. First, people assumed that they will beat the crisis if they eat this cheap cheap fast food. Second, people will get offended if the government taxes this cheap cheap means and makes it less available. Good job McD!

What is exceptionally striking about this also is how fast McD dropped the Health card which they played on all through 2008 before September. Gone are the huge OOH posters with fresh salad. McDs does TV now with "eat all you need for 10 lei" messages. Nobody's asking nutritionists anymore: because if we did they would tell us to eat healthy fresh food, which costs more than 10 lei to make. The age of the probiotic is dead. When the choice is something to eat versus nothing to eat, you go for something. It really does not matter if it's actual ...well, food.

image from here. Thank you.

Are we all trolls?

Two striking comments in one day and maybe I see a pattern: first a client of mine admits that most of the newsletters he sends get opened and read ONLY because the recipients want to see if they can find something wrong to bitch about. Second, Tolo says in a post "it's a miracle to get praised online". And finally, the nagging feeling that most of my clients refuse blog exposure not because blogger are not controllable but because bloggers seldom bother to say anything remotely nice even when the case is for niceness.
Truth of the matter is in Romania bashing everything equals ratings. And you see it with reviews people post: we must be a singular nation because when we review something, anything, we never ever have something good to say. It's always crap and bad and under expectations.
The most celebrated commentators in Romania have made their fame on being bastards to one and all. Even when there is nothing bad to be said, we spin it so that something bad comes out of it. We are always out to get someone, the government, the MAN, the competition.
Online it works mostly the same: you trash everyone and everyone comments and trashes you back and you're famous. The louder and dirtier your mouth is the more likely you are to get noticed. Tweets saying something nasty are 80% more likely to get responded to. We like to get into arguments. Compare this to the fact that most tweets that get retweeted are positive facts. We are unable to sustain a positive POV, we simply post it on and forget about it. It's the trash we like to interact with.
There are TV stations in this country which have built a show grid on trashing everything. And we all watch and we all interact. Trolling as a national denominator. Ironic in a country which was said to be full of welcoming people.


Why print should/will be niche...but also decent digital content

There is this huge debate about the death of print and how the reasons are a combo of financial crisis and Internet, which is faster and cheaper and more accessible to everyone and more eco-friendly. Most of these arguments are true: newspapers are dying because there is a financial crisis and reading news is not a commodity, it's a luxury. Plus most newspapers are crap anyway, so in a time of crisis you refuse to buy crap luxury (please note that in times of affluence you will spend a bucketload of money on expensive shit, and by shit I mean actual bad products not "stuff"). In addition to this Internet is cheaper, meaning free and more readily accessible now that a lot of people are connecting. Of course there is the eco-crap, where print destroys the rain forest and therefore Internet is better because it only eats up electricity :D.

What we fail to realize is that there is a glitch in human nature which newspapers have not caught on, or are ignoring because it does not say flattering things about who we are as beings. And this may be their salvation or final blow.

First, let us agree that if newspapers are shit so is most of the stuff you read on the Internet. Frankly, I find no qualitative incentive to search info online, other than it's faster and more. But these have nothing to do with quality of content.
And now the knock-out realization: people enjoy reading shit. Most people, when given the choice will go for crap content, easily palatable and requiring next to no involvement other than monkey laugh. Think about it: what is the number one viral this month? - probably a cute kitty falling out of bed or some baby gurgling. Which newspapers are doing the best: tabloids. We do not search for quality content. Online or offline.
And this is where things get interesting: there is only a handful of people interested in decent content. They are the only ones willing to pay for what they get, good content. They are the ones who will continue to buy newspapers IF newspapers provide EXCEPTIONAL content [which cannot be found online]. I don't think the print edition of The Economist will die. Nor should the NYT. I think that print tabloids will eventually die, not because they are shit but because they are less shit than what can be found online and they cost money.
So, truth of the matter is print needs to buck up and get exceptional if it plans to survive. But it will NEVER preserve the volume it had 2 years ago. And yet, print should not worry. Exceptional content online will also be niche. So there's a sort of divine retribution in that :D

[specific to Romania, Cotidianul - one of the, say, progressive quality dailies succumbed for two simple reasons: it invested like it was going to be mass when it should have stayed niche and also, by the final months, it had gotten so downright bad and self sufficient that no one bother to buy anymore. Meanwhile, The Economist and Forbes are not doing so bad here :D]

Thanks here for this wonderful image


Abusing CRMs

A while back I was excitedly posting about how easy it was to order ebooks from and how I was looking forward to the nook. I also ordered one. True, I had misled the company because I am not physically located in the US, and gave a random US address for ...well, some purpose I am unaware of, because I am only getting ebooks and e-invoices. But, naturally, I thought procedures are dumb, and they are implemented because some asshole from accounting wants them so, and, of course, if they see I can pay, they will not bother to ask questions.
And sure enough, did not. For the first 6 books I ordered, payment and download went smoothly, so much so that I was eagerly awaiting the delivery of my nook.
Now, this post is not about how for some stupid reason, after allowing me to purchase more than 6 e-books, they now have stopped all purchases from my account but rather about the stupidity on which's CRM system works. Because, lo and behold, although I am forbidden from buying from them, I keep getting, with insane regularity, the advertising newsletters informing me of the latest discounts on e-books and, now, the nook.
Why? Seriously, why bother to make up a system that keeps in touch with your customers and NOT connect it with the system that keeps track of who you choose to oust from your lists. My account has been discontinued, and yet I keep getting prodded to buy. I am at the same time enticed to and shunned from the things I want. They want to advertise to me but they will not sell to me. In the words of the immortal someone "WTF?!"
I understand that e-CRM is a brave new world. That it's easier to make up some stupid newsletter that goes out automatically and fills itself up from rss or product updates. But if you pretend you care, then you should have the decency to make sure that the people who you've slapped across the wrist, do not get your sugared-up advertising messages later on. It's like the bank clerk being rude and then asking you if you'd like to add some product to your portfolio.
CRM is a holistic process. It connects all parts of your operation together. ALL OF THEM.
So, on a personal note: you are officially spam for me, since you refuse my business but want to feed me your ad messages nonetheless.
[very annoyed me]


reading, e-readers and books

I like books. I like owning them, buying them, signing them with my initials, smelling them when they are brand new, arranging them by size, straightening their pages. On the other hand I HATE having to borrow my books, not getting them back in time when I do, seeing them messed up by other people, seeing them misunderstood by other people. I love the idea of books and the objects as such.
So, I am writing this as a way to rationalize my unexplained desire to get an e-reader and the ever larger number of books I read in digital format. While thinking about it, some of the reasons that come to mind are intrinsically related to the digital space:
1. Speed of procurement: ebooks you can get at the wink of an eye and this means that necessary information is made available immediately
2. Convenient format: ebooks can be read an any computer or handheld device and if you place them somewhere handy online you can access them from anywhere plus if you have limited storage space (physical I mean) like I do, this makes it easier to store.
3. Easy to share: by no means trying to suggest infringement on copyrights, I think that ebooks are an easier form of disseminating content you like even if it is simply by print screening some passages
4. The fun reading utensil which is the e-reader: this I have found to be exceptionally girlie for a reason but I find the object - the e-reader as such - particularly fun to carry and hold and also somewhat of a status marker, like saying I am a child of the digital age
5. Immediacy of gratification: this is connected with my post a while back on feeling deprived of access to things that interest me NOW. With ebooks, the wait between the moment book comes out and the moment you get it is smaller. Plus I think that in the near future ebooks will come out simultaneously to paperbacks.
6. Convergence of media: whether we like it or not, the digital space and technology have changed the way we physically interact with our environment. I have all but lost the habit of writing by hand (just as a while back I realized that using a fountain pen seemed tedious because I had been using a ball pen all my life) since I type most everything and similarly I am finding reading on non-electronic media somewhat awkward. I cannot explain this and I understand it makes little sense physiologically speaking but it is not far from the truth.

Now, as for e-readers: The Economist has a brilliant piece on what technology they use - (unfortunately I could not find this online, it was part of a technology supplement published in December 2009; I did find a small opinion on this here ) and to make matters even more exciting it seems Apple's tablet has been sped up to design due to the particular rise in ebook consumption as it is, aside from other uses, best suited to function as an ereader also. To me the key issue is not, as discussed previously here, how to include non-content related stuff within the text, but rather how to make a reader that requires little energy to operate, is compatible with other devices such as phones or laptops and MOST IMPORTANTLY where to draw the line at what an e-reader should do. Because if it plays videos, searches the web and displays content, it's a laptop :D

This is, most assuredly, to be continued.
image via