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“Don’t be evil” does not equal “Be good”: Google and tracking


Google’s motto is understood to be “Don’t be evil”. It’s in the last sentence of their Code of Conduct document.

Sounds great, right? A big, ambitious, well-known business putting something so different and life-affirming right in the heart of their work?

I’ve had a problem with this ever since I learned about it. Because “evil” is a strong word. I would argue that it’s so strong that most of us will never encounter it on a personal level. We might be part of a systemic evil and not know it, but for the woman on the street it’s easy to imagine that evil doesn’t really exist.

Bad behaviour on the other hand, that’s something we encounter every day. Every time someone snipes at us, or we swear at someone who cuts in front of us. Every time we can’t be bothered to recycle something. It’s not evil as such. It’s just a bit naughty.

The problem is that naughty can become a habit, breeding a functional attitude to bad behaviour that becomes wrong doing. So while we are “not being evil” we might be “doing bad things” and overtime those bad things can become a habit that leads to problems. Perhaps even to evil.

Hannah Arendts talked about the banality of evil, the everyday efficiency and accounting practice that was used in the management of the gas chambers.

No. Of course I’m not saying that Google is evil on that scale. But I am saying that a cog in a system never thinks they are evil, but perhaps if they were asked to do something specifically good that would begin to prove difficult.

“Don’t be evil” is a negative. It’s not an active requirement to do anything differently. “Don’t be evil” does not mean “Be good”.

And so it is that we saw Google reversing its stance on tracking individuals and continuing to find ways of harvesting and selling their personal data even after individuals have explicitly said they don’t want to be tracked.

Google have been happily taking your data.

There is a good argument that they are providing us with a service and we have to pay for it somehow – nothing commercial comes for free. But to deliberately pursue and hide the ways individuals can protect their data and to chase and enable the scraping and selling of that without your consent? How would you define that? Not evil. But definitely not good.

I have never been impressed by this vague but wonderful sounding statement of Google’s. “Being good” requires deliberate choices and hard work. Not being “evil” apparently allows for lying to be perfectly fine.

You decide.

Planning for hybrid events


I’m sure we are all familiar with the idea of the hybrid experience. While we wait for vaccines to roll out fully it’s still something of a pipe dream. But few doubt that hybrid content will be a significant addition to the experiential arsenal starting from the 3rd quarter of this year (virus depending!).

What we can all agree is that one fixed camera pointed at masked presenters on stage presented by Facebook Live does not a hybrid event make.

So, how do we have a positive conversation around the need for tailored streams of content that play differently for online and offline audiences? This will be essential as we move forward, both for our own strategic and creative needs and when we come to present good hybrd ideas to clients.

I have developed a simple tool called the Hybrid Helix. It’s a way to map out for project participants that there are two, clear, intersecting streams of experience and engagement, which require different content/engagement strategies.

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I have found that it helps to demonstrate which parts of an experience are common to both online and offline parties and which parts need to be considered as separate engagements. This then allows us to have deeper conversations about expectations and investment.

Have you found any other mapping or planning tools that can help your teams or clients ideate/strategise experiences in a new hybrid context?

Inclusive experiences


This is a lovely piece about a Down’s Syndrome Model for JoJo Maman Bebe. Eleanor’s first steps went viral during lockdown and the brand picked her out for their autumn catalogue.

When brands are inclusive everyone benefits. The customers are represented now feel included. Customers who are not directly impacted both have their experience of life extended and feel part of a brand that acts in the right way – developing brand affliation. The retailer or brand benefits because they extend their customer set and reinforce their brand values.

This doesn’t only apply to advertising but to experiences.  And in this strange time it’s even more important that we consider everyone’s needs because much of our experiential work is online.

So, if we are launching a product via video does our platform provide transcription for the hard of hearing?

Do we have every image described so that screen readers can explain what is happening for those who can’t see?

Is the language we are using simple and easy to understand?

If we are sending out products as part of our experiences have we considered the ability of our audiences to open?

Just because most people are at home doens’t mean they change who they are. Thinking about really effective and impactful experiences means thinking about all our audiences and imagining how we can create moments that reach all of them.

What skills do strategists need for experiential campaigns?


It might seem obvious. Experiential strategists need all the same skills as other strategists: critical thinking; curiosity; a love of the data and the ability to distill insights from it; understanding of people, how they work and how they don’t; ability to communicate; ability to collaborate; creativity. So far, so good.

But to brief, and work with, experiential creatives there are other skills that flow from this list but which aren’t necessarily always found together with them. And these are the skills that make a strategist successful (or the opposite of course) in experiential campaigns.

No one is watching you

When you’re thinking about experiences you are never thinking about a short (30second), light-touch experience. Even the simplest experiential will take longer than 30 seconds, (including product sampling, which involves the first and second reads, the take and the environment, before you are able to walk off) and it won’t be only one channel you experience it through. You can’t assume focused attention in the vicinity of your message. It isn’t delivered to you by a platform.

Your creatives have to create the platform using all the channels at their disposal. Which leads us to…

Multiple-channels – One space

You have to think about multiple delivery systems working together – people, uniforms, film, print, 3d, sound, lighting, technology, content etc have to deliver your message coherently. Get one of these wrong and you fail to deliver on visitors, leads, sharability and ultimately business value. I’m not joking. Try getting leads with the best product specialist you have with an uninspiring brand film. Or an off-brand product specialist at a fabulous, on-brand one-off event. Let me know how you get on…

You have to be able to create a brief that works for all your creative stakeholders at once, deliveirng an over-arching concept – as well as being able to create briefs that apply specifically to film, interactive, architecture and environment, sound – you get it.

User experience plus

And then there’s the audience.

You have to consider visitor experience. You’ve created a public moment – how are people going to know it’s even there. You are going to have to signpost it with other media or with physical properties. Events don’t just happen – not even flash mobs!

Then you have to be sure that whichever entry point you visitors come through they see as much of your message as possible, without coralling them like cattle or chaperoning them as if they are at a private view.

And you have to consider digital CX in your specific physical space. People are rarely sitting down to engage with you via mobile – they’re walking around.

It’s more like a street than a gallery. (especially if you are in the street…). And people are much less malleable than you think.

No one wants to stop to download one time only apps.

They are going to walk in front of your beautifully positioned AR, unless you know enough to know they will do that and can work effectively with creatives to deliver spaces that effectively direct people where they engage – and where they don’t.

And this is not to mention that you can’t even guarantee that the objects you loving placed perfectly for your audience will even be there tomorrow. People steal from experiences – regularly – even fixtures and fittings, like gear sticks…

Evolving experience

As more brand and media planners are being asked to brief campaigns delivered fully through experiential, so the ability to work across platforms becomes key to creating effective experiential strategies. But how do you upskill?

You have to explore insights differently, test your propositions against behaviors not just thoughts and motivations and emotions.

Look at different things – not only ads and culture, but how you and others move through the world physically.

Ask yourself, what you would really be prepared to spend time doing? What seems like a great proposition might quickly prove infertile when you sense check outputs against that simple question.

Use verbs instead of statements and imagine you are using this idea across multiple channels to see if it works.

Flex your mental muscles. And have fun.MCS

Why you need an experiential agency


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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I”ve noticed a trend. Advertising agencies or branding agencies or digital agencies have been tasked to deliver experiential projects.

Where does the perception come from that to do an experience you just need to build some stuff?

 

I’m here to tell you – If you just build it, they won’t come.

To deliver an experience that actually works you need to be able to combine a very specific set of skills – hell to even pitch a good idea you need to be able to combine a very specific set of skills – because you need to know that your idea will be deliverable.

Let’s get physical
Did you ever think about how long it takes to get permits to project on a building? Or how many toilets you need in order to comply with city safety regulations? How about how many lights are needed inside in order to make it feel like daylight and not a dingy cabinet?

Did you ever consider that until the advent of AI there was no way to accurately measure the total number of people coming into a stand at a trade show because there.is.no.door. there’s just a porous boundary through which people come and go like molecules into a concentrated solution (look it up)

Production and strategy eeks at experiential agencies live by and love this stuff. They will get it done, because they have connections and they understand what is essential, what takes time and what you can ignore. And they submit permit applications.

Making a splash
Quite aside from the practicalities of staging an event, do you want to do something that’s been done before, 100s of times?

I thought not.

You want your brand to stand out, to be unique, dramatic. For that you need creatives who know what’s been done before experientially and for which brands. But if your agency is more interested in media buy than experiences how well do think they will know the experiential landscape?

Creative
And don’t think that the solution is to get an advertising agency to come up with the creative and an experiential agency to deliver it. Even if they do come up with a beautiful expression it may well not be deliverable, not only because of the practicalities (see above) but also because some creative ideas literally can’t be delivered experientially. They won’t work because they don’t take into account the fact that people are not sitting still for 30 seconds looking at a screen and therefore able to be immersed in a story. People are instead walking by on their phones, looking at someone else’s screens or simply shopping. 

Brand
Have you ever considered the way your brand should behave in an experiential setting? What does print look like on walls instead of in a magazine? How do your brand ambassadors behave? What do they wear?!

Possibly if you have a retail business much of this is known, but the people who work in experiences tend to be part-time, one week they are working for your teddy bear manufacturing group, the next for a FinTech start-up at CES.

They aren’t retail personnel, so they don’t live and breathe your brand.

And besides, they should behave differently in an experiential space. Your receptionist doesn’t try and sell your product to people coming in for meetings…I hope.

Digital
If you haven’t yet been burnt by a pointless VR then my congratulations. A good experiential agency knows what makes people cue, stay and what they take away from digital engagements like VR. They are not only expert at creating massive immersive environments they are also experienced at working in intimate mobile interfaces  – because that’s how we tell stories and generate leads.

And of course, a show space is completely different from a home space. Attention spans are shorter, sharing and information needs are different. There are far more distractions!

Quality
Who would you trust to do your teeth? A dentist or a doctor who wants to diversify?

If you want good experiential please look for an experiential agency.  Or encourage your advertising agencies to defer to the experience of the ones you are already using.

Your experiences will reap the benefits.

Your customers will reap the benefits.

You will reap the benefits.

What blogs should I follow?


 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have just purged the blogs I follow and I find myself looking for some new perspectives.

Do you have any recommendations? I would love to hear them! Send me your comments below or on twitter.

Looking forward to your suggestions!

On Manifestos


Manifesto

WARNING: This may turn into a bit of a rant.

What’s with ‘manifestos’? They are popping up in pitches everywhere, not unlike ‘poems’ did some years back or ‘story-telling’. Call me cynical but I see this as just another unhelpful trend that strategy is embracing to try and give ourselves more value.

manifesto (n)
Definition: a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issue

A manifesto is supposed to layout a declaration of policy and aims – but most of the ones I’ve read are statements about feelings with rousing language that makes the actual substance of what’s on the page seem more than it is. In other words, manifestos enable us to avoid presenting fact and insight and instead appeal to the emotions to sweep complicated conclusions out of sight.

But my feeling is that they confuse rather than clarify and they certainly don’t lay out policy – though they might lay out a general aim.

And the punctuation Drives. Me. Crazy. Because it’s always. Wrong.(sic)

Now, you can muck about with language and meaning as much as you like in my book. I studied English. I know that words evolve over time. However, punctuation is a code that helps you to understand clearly what is being said and where emphasis lies. All of that is thrown out as the emphatic emotional statements are brought in.

The punctuation changes are clearly being used to mimic speech patterns but if you keep putting full-stops where commas should be you are causing basic confusions.

More importantly you are on the way to corrupting meaning and in this day and age I would argue clarity is more important than ever.

Why aren’t we confident enough to present our thinking process simply? Shouldn’t we be able to boil down our key insights and concepts into something a little clearer? And why are we calling it a manifesto? Isn’t ‘concept’ or ‘theme’ or ‘creative approach’ appropriate any more?

Possibly it’s the word ‘manifesto’ that irks me. I don’t know about you but I have never seen any of them be an actual  manifestos, they’re really concepts and tone setting statements – not statements of intent that truly describe concrete actions but instead lead with emotions.

Possibly there are more important things to worry about but this is one trend I hope to avoid if at all humanly possible.

Let me know if you think otherwise, after all manifestos are usually designed to set out political opinions and what goes best with politics? Debate.

For more on manifestos why not read this brilliant article by The Atlantic and then tell me if the last manifesto you wrote bears any of the hallmarks described here…https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/06/manifestos-a-manifesto-the-10-things-all-manifestos-need/372135/

What podcasts should I listen to?


There are a lot of podcasts out there – a lot. And not enough hours in the day to listen to them all. What’s an inquisitive person to do?

Lucky for you I’ve been sifting and listening to an inordinate amount of podcasts recently and I’ve come up with a useful shortlist of 5 to start with. I haven’t gone to the usuals,  Revisionist History, Invisibilia, Freakonomics etc I assume you already know about them. (If you don’t I would obviously recommend them!)

So here it is, the podcasts I’ve found inspiring recently for strategists whether you are in experiential or not.

Genuine X – If you love to geek out on the latest tech then this is for you. This podcast comes from Jack Morton’s Genuine X unit which is their innovation practice. Conversational, low key but really interesting discussions on cutting edge tech with the people and agencies actually doing it.

Catalyst – This experiential marketing podcast from Boston agency Cramer is a short shot of trends and observation. Great observations, useful application of trends and a light-hearted and chatty tone.

Akimbo – Seth Godin is such an accessible writer, speaker and podcaster too, it turns out. Akimbo episodes are focused on entrepreneurial spirit, marketing and self-development, served with a slice of story-telling and anecdotes from Godin’s extensive experience. Want to feel empowered and challenged? This is the podcast for you.

Thinking Allowed – This one is on the list because you should never only be listening to business podcasts. Thinking Allowed is from the BBC and covers all kinds of topics from detective fiction to the politics of memorials. Feed your brain with a diversity of subjects.

Adam Buxton – And second to that, have a laugh. Adam Buxton is a great interviewer and talks to some very interesting people in a funny and insightful way. Plus he writes funny jingles that punctuate the conversation.

Any strategist needs brain food. These podcasts are a good start.