Saturday, March 28, 2009

it's china fashion week in beijing

As proclaimed by giant red banners in many hotels. It's not a show that garners much press in the West because names like Chanel and Gucci don't take part, but plenty of indie designers are displaying their wares on runways here, hoping to break into the international market. The theme this year is “Simple is Best”—belied, of course, by the outfits. And speaking of couture...what is it about ordering custom-made clothes that always makes me imagine a tailor will somehow provide not only beautifully sewn garments, but a model's figure to wear them? Sigh.

Photos courtesy of The Beijinger and The Daily Beast. Unfortunately for me, none of the 40 shows are open to hoi polloi without tickets.

car culture in china

When I first visited Beijing in 1982, cars were a rare sight on streets clogged with bicycles. Now, bike traffic has dwindled so that it’s sidelined to narrow lanes. Seems every middle class family owns a car now. Or two. In fact, more cars are now sold in China than in the US. According to recent estimates, 3500 new cars hit Chinese roads every day. Sometimes, it feels as if all of them clog the same street, as it did yesterday when our cab was hit from behind on a two lane road jammed by four lanes of traffic. (Just a fender-bender, no one was hurt. Except for the prosperous looking businessman who had the bad luck to hit us and was being taken for as much damage as possible by vociferous driver.)

Cars, not people, have right of way on the streets. Tourists from pedestrian-friendly places like California may have an especially hard time adjusting to the fact that traffic lights here mean nothing. Red lights allow traffic to turn right without stopping. And, apparently, if the make and model of your car is impressive enough, you’re even allowed to park on the sidewalk.

Car culture started in China as far back as 1902. A wily warlord imported this turn of the century Benz from Germany to curry favor with Qing Dynasty Empress Dowager Cixi. She couldn’t drive it herself, of course. But was miffed by the sight of a driver sitting in front of her. She thought it showed disrespect on his part. So, she requested he kneel. Which made the ride so precarious, she eschewed the whole driving business after just one spin and went back to being ferried about in her sedan chair.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

chinese potty talk

One amenity Beijing has in impressive abundance is public restrooms. (Unlike New York where pedestrians in need must seek out empathetic staff in shops and restaurants where “For Customers Only” signs are prominently displayed.)

And public restrooms have come a long way since 1982 when I first visited China and was appalled to discover they were no more than troughs in the ground, over which you were expected to squat, conducting conversation congenially along with your business. No toilet paper, of course. BYO newspaper.

Now most restaurants and hotels catering to tourists feature upright (Western) johns along with porcelain squatters like this. In neither are you supposed to put TP, which is generally provided. You’re to direct paper instead to a little wastebasket set out for the purpose. Something everybody knows. Except barbaric Americans. Which is why signs in stalls are only in English.

For those too young to make use of toilets, the Chinese favor an ingenious centuries-old option. Split pants. (Still popular despite P&G spending millions to popularize diapers.) So the child can take care of business by simply squatting. No fuss, no mess. Unless he gets the urge in a subway car as happened to me once when riders starting shouting and pointing to my bag on the floor. I didn’t know what they were saying, but instinctively picked up the bag. Just in time to keep it from being ruined by a puddle lengthening from the other end of the car.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

mao's still a rock star in china

Dateline Beijing where I'm spending a week with my husband who (lucky for me) has business here. Mao merch is everywhere, his placid countenance gazing from watches, clocks, tote bags, plastic wallets hawked on the street. His actual body is preserved in a Grand Villa mausoleum open to prurient tourists twice a day. The guy looks damn good for 116. Chinese seem to have a love/hate relationship with him. I've never seen his face bastardized here, as occurred in Greece where Lowe used him to sell a rock radio station.
via Coming Anarchy via sadly defunct Creative Criminal

Monday, March 23, 2009

tweetdeck for newbies

After a year of twittering the old-fashioned way, I've recently discovered the joys of TweetDeck, thanks to @TheGirlPie who not only suggested I use it, but kindly sent me an email telling me how. With her permission, I've reprinted the email which I suspect will be helpful to other newbies. My favorite bit is her coinage of "Twitter-proper." As if it's a country. Which I suppose it is. 
There are many tutorials and lists and posts out there, but this advice seems to help people quickly:

Use all 8 columns (groups.)

TD assigns one column each to:
ALL TWEETS (meaning everyone you follow)
REPLIES -- every tweet that begins with @AdBroad
DIRECT MESSAGES -- any message that starts "D AdBroad" (note the space)
Then you can add columns/groups to do your bidding.

Here's how I've set it up:

NOW (those I never want to miss)
[about 5% of those I follow]
BIZ (any tweeters related to my specific industry, and to my city)
[about 15% of those I follow]
BROWSE (random fun people)
[about 30% of those I follow]
BLOG/NEWS/TECH/MRKTNG (for that stuff)
[about 30% of those I follow]
GOOD OTHERS (a bad name, but people I like to chat with)
[about 10% of those I follow]

And about 10% of those I follow -- or maybe more -- don't get sorted because I can dip into their profile and catch their latest when I want to, don't need it fed to me.
Then, and this is important, I have two SEARCH columns/groups.

One is for the two or three tweeters I've got to watch for any mention of their names (since otherwise, they'll only show up in my columns when they are tweeting out.) So if @AdBroad is in my BROWSE group, I'll only see your tweets out, and all mixed in with 60 other people's tweets.

BUT -- if I run a Search in TD for a few favorites: say the search reads: "@AdBroad OR @Ittybiz" then anytime those names are mentioned anywhere in any tweet, they show up in that column. I can meet tweeters who mention you, who tweet to you, and even who talk about you without the "@" in your name.

The second SEARCH column is the same thing, but it's run from the search for my own name (names) so that I have a whole column (and I use them in the order I've listed them) just for my own tweets OUT (so I know what the hells I've said), and can see any mention of my names anywhere in the twitter stream, no matter if I follow that person or not. Once I see them mention me, I check 'em out!

Your SEARCH button is the 4th from the left, up top on the left. The one before it is the GROUPS button. Just make a group, name it, then beside everyone's name in their own tweets, you'll see a [+] -- click that and it'll open a little window of your groups. Just click the name of the group you want to add them to, and voila, instantly less chatter.

First, though, you might want to use Twitter-proper to click on the list of people you're following, click back to the beginning, and start unfollowing those you don't get anything from. Life's too short.

Friday, March 20, 2009

what we learned being mad men on twitter


Part of the fun of sxsw was getting to meet people whose work I’ve admired only from afar. Steve Hall. Guy Kawasaki. Frank Rose. Henry Jenkins. And Roger Sterling aka Michael Bissell. Here we are, with Peggy Olson aka Carri Bugbee after the panel we had the pleasure of giving. During Behind the Scenes with Mad Men on Twitter , Carri summed up learning for all of us, which constitutes great advice for entertainment brands seeking to create what I call brand fiction:

1. Reserve twitter addresses for the names of all characters for projects in development. If a character’s name isn’t available, you might want to go so far as to change it before you launch the show. Because if the name isn’t available, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to retrieve it.

2. Monitor (constantly!) what’s being said about your brand in digital space. If you’re not following what people are saying about you on Twitter, you’re missing out on a treasure trove of critical data.

3. If you find yourself in the middle of a maelstrom as AMC did upon Twitter accounts shutdown, don’t bury your head. Use the dustup to your advantage. Turn the tide, as AMC did when they made sure accounts were up and running again within 24 hours.

4. For most companies, the hardest part of venturing into social media is relinquishing control they’ve taken for granted was theirs. But real-time conversations can’t be submitted for approvals. Content creators stand to gain enormously when they allow “hijacked” efforts that blur the line between brand infringement and brand extension, encouraging passionate support of advocates who will drive engagement deeper within their communities.

5. The new marketing model's component of twittertainment is surprisingly time consuming, given that posts are just 140 characters. But doing a good job takes not only adroit postings, it takes research and reading and active monitoring across a variety of platforms. Don’t expect it’s a job that current staff can simply add on. And when you choose a community manager for the role, be sure it’s someone who’s energetic and outgoing and loves to perform—look for someone who’s a bit of a ham.

6. Assign one writer to several characters. Only by controlling multiple characters, can you stage spontaneous scenes and mini-dramas which won’t work as well if characters are controlled by people who need to be coordinated, over timezones and schedules. If one writer can handle more than one character in a book or screenplay, she will prove to be equally dexterous in this medium.

If you’d like to read more, Texas State grad student Chris Troutman just posted an interesting review of the Mad Men on Twitter panel, complete with footage. Daniel Terdiman did a thoughtful writeup about what our work means for the future of marketing. And check out Supporting Characters, a consultancy that Carri and Michael and I are forming, with others. (And now back to our regularly scheduled program.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

postcards from sxswi

I just got back from Austin where I attended my first South by Southwest Interactive Conference (sxswi, to geeks) It's a convocation of 10,000 digerati from all over the world, a gathering so huge and overwhelming I can't possibly do it justice in a single post. So, like the blind man describing the elephant by the part of it he is touching, I'll tell you about a few things that struck me.


A giant pile of Legos kept kids of all ages happy in the adult playpen. Also, the Austin Convention Center is so cavernous (everything is bigger in Texas) that the giant visual was useful in directing people to where you were trying to meet them. “I’m in the lounge closest to the Legos.”


World’s highest concentration of iphones per square foot. Which were contantly dropping calls or losing connections. Wired reported that AT&T was hauling in COWS (cell-sites on wheels) to shore up capacity. (Ironically, after resisting the lure of buying one for 2 years, I’d finally succumbed to Apple last week. Probably would have been better off with my Centro.) Still, no one seemed desperate enough to stand in line for the one working old-fashioned pay phone still on premise.


Because of SXSW, I think of Austin as the Silicon Valley of Texas. So I was startled to discover arrangements for nearby parking decidedly low-tech: you fold up dollar bills as small as you can and poke them into the slot labeled with your parking space number. If the bills don’t fit, you push them in with the handy “pusher” hanging on a wire. (No not that kind of wire.)

How to get friended by people around you

All it takes is a multiple outlet power cord. Every session filled fastest near the wall outlets. Power social-networking requires lots of powering up and people were exceedingly grateful to those who shared a connection.


are everywhere.


Now I know. The saucey stuff I always thought was BBQ isn’t. Lots of great BBQ served at the parties but the best by far was the real Texas BBQ was served at Sam’s in East Austin, a hole in the wall so venerated that when it burned down in 1992, the community raised funds to have it rebuilt. Sam's isn't fancy, but it is serious: slabs of many kinds of meats piled high on a paper plate, served with plastic forks and white sandwich bread: mutton, brisket, sausage and ribs so good that when Stevie Ray Vaughan played Carnegie Hall, he had them shipped to his dressing room.


Every night. This was taken at the Mohawk, a honky-tonk where The Onion (satirical newspaper) and Barbarian (satirical ad agency) hosted over 1000 to free indie rock and beer.


Man (and woman) can't live online alone. My friend/hotelier and art director Pat took me to see a natural phenomenon that has become quite the tourist attraction in Austin. The largest urban bat colony in North America lives under Congress Bridge, which has been recently renovated to accommodate them. Every night from mid-March to November, bats emerge at dusk to forage for food. It's quite a sight. They fly, forming clouds as they flit through the air like giant black butterflies. I took a few shots, but mine pale next to this one taken by another of Pat’s houseguests, photographer James Salzano.

James Salzano

Friday, March 13, 2009

and one more reason to stay in new york

Street art. Dashing through Grand Central, I was stopped by the sight of this elegant mime striking enchanting poses on a black silk pedestal. Pearl the Mime, said a card by her hat. Naturally, she's got a myspace page. Where she's listed as being 101 years old and skilled in roving improvisation, silent story telling, and living statue. In case you have an opening in any of those areas.

another reason to move to australia

Aussie tv. My daughter came home from college this week and (aside from dirty laundry) brought We Can Be Heroes, the funniest content I've seen in a long time. It's a faux-reality series running based on a search for “Australian of the Year.” What makes it hilarious, aside from droll reportage, is that one comic actor plays all five contestants:

--a 16 year old prep school girl who sponsors 85 Sudanese children, raising money by fasting two days a week

--a boy who donated his eardrum to his hearing-impaired twin

--a menopausal housewife who holds world championship for the dubious sport of “distance-rolling”, coached by her retired couch potato husband

--40 year old man who saved 9 children from a jumping castle that blew into power lines on a windy day

--23 year old Chinese physics student who, over his parents’ objections, is pursuing a career as an actor.

Extending the show's brand (and its entertainment value) is an in-character website featuring photos, videos, letters and personal revelations from each of the contestants, like the 16 year old's "global vision statement." Which means that ABC Australia not only knows a good thing, they know how to market it. Right down to prominently noting that This show is rated M. It is not recommended for persons under 15 years. It contains coarse language. What could a 12 year old find more persuasive?

translation: dux (not ducks) is award given to student with highest academic achievement

Thursday, March 12, 2009

best explanation of convergence culture i've ever heard

comes from Lean Mean Fighting Machine. No wonder Cannes named them Interactive Agency of the Year. Next time your client asks for a viral video, hit play.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

saatchi gets london commuters to break into dance

Am I the only one who hasn't seen this? On January 15,  Saatchi sent 350 dancers in street dress into Liverpool Street Station where they appeared to suddenly break into dance, entertaining and engaging flabbergasted commuters. Hidden cameras captured the stunt and the crowd's reactions to it and, even more impressive was that Saatchi sliced, diced and aired footage only 48 hours later. It's a spot for T-Mobile's "Life's for Sharing" campaign meant to demonstrate "there are often unexpected, wonderful things you want to share with friends and family," according to brand manager Lysa Hardy.

Commented one participant: I was there waiting for a train! It was absolutely hilarious!! The music started up from no where then one guy started dancing in the middle of the room..then all of sudden I was in the middle of it! Some how I managed to start dancing with one of the pros shouting the moves to me.. I know it's a publicity thing... but it certainly made my day!

Flashmob scenes are one thing in exhibitionist New York. Or even in sassy Sarasota. But in stiff-upper-lipped London? Talk about brand engagement. 

standing ovation for GardenBroad

recession? what recession?

Found parked in no parking zone on West 14th in front of church steps decorated with wedding balloons, driver asleep at the wheel. Why is this stretch Hummer limo in a blog about advertising? Because why else would one rent it except to advertise?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

mother of all media buys

You think media placement for your client is complicated? Don't go whining to Katherine Kinsella. With a budget of less than $8 million, she had to reach the entire literate world.

Her client? Google. On October 28, Google settled a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of authors whose works it scanned for its ambitious Book Project, an ongoing attempt to digitize every book on earth, creating the universe's most comprehensive (and searchable) virtual public library.

According to today's New York Times, Google agreed to pay $125 million to create a system by which customers will pay to read a copyrighted book, with Google and the writer both taking percentages. But before writers can be paid, they need to be found.

How to reach writers in every country of the world?

"We recommended print ads to reach writers. Because writers are readers," explained Kinsella, president of Kinsella Media, an ad agency specializing in notices for class action lawsuits. She advised the company at the forefront of digital space to concentrate its spending in analog media: newspapers, magazines, even poetry journals.

That meant negotiating space sales all over the world, except in countries where buys are prohibited due to US trade embargoes: Cuba, North Korea and Burma⎯oops, Myanmar.

"Some publications wouldn't let us buy space at first," laughed Katherine, when I spoke with her today. "Because they were afraid of pissing off Google. They didn't want to be on the wrong side of a company that big."

"Newspapers in Costa Rica, Brazil and Russia flat out refused our money," recalled Belinda Bulger, an attorney who worked with Kinsella on the project, "until they figured out the buy was legit because they saw the ads running elsewhere, in other countries or in competitive journals."

As challenging as the buy, was translating the ad into 70 languages."We had to figure out how to communicate words and phrases that don't exist in other countries and cultures," Katherine said, adding,"There's nothing we'll be afraid to take on, after this."

Print ads drive target to a website (also in your choice of 70 languages) that describes the settlement in excruciating detail, even down to defining the word "Book": a written or printed work…on sheets of paper bound together. (Hail from a bleak and paperless future.)

But if you're an author (I'm talking to you, Bob, Steffan, George) don’t get your hopes up for payouts to offset depleted 401Ks. Payment for each book is $60 and made only once, no separate payments for hardback and paperback. If you're the author of, say, an essay in an anthology, you've got (woohoo) five bucks from Google coming your way.

Sorry, ad copy isn't part of the settlement. Copyright is protected, not copywrite.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

need to spiff up your wardrobe for job interviews?

Head to Palm Beach where Bernie Madoff's clients are forced to sell their designer duds on consignment. According to wowowow,  business at the region’s upscale consignment stores is booming like never before. Check out photos of fire-sale items here.  With the savings, you can afford to make an offer on that Starbucks month-old Gulfstream to tote your stash home.