Archive for June, 2009

AKQA – Fiat eco:Drive

Posted in Brand, Digital, Innovation, Marketing, Social Media, Technology on 26/06/2009 by nicka77

AKQA have just scooped one of the Cannes Cyber Grand Prix for 2009 with a wonderful idea for Fiat, entitled eco:Drive.

This idea demonstrates how new technologies can genuinely help each of us change our daily habits in small ways to aid the negative impact on climate change we all make.

By analysing your personal driving routine, and then plugging the data from a USB stick into the eco:Drive programme on your PC, you can get a realtime picture of the ways in which you can adapt your driving style to cut carbon emissions and save yourself some cash.

This idea illustrates perfectly that the best marketing concepts are about offering consumers tangible value through informational and engaging concepts, and then linking to a social community.

Brilliant.

Wimbledon 09 – history beckons

Posted in Inspirational People, Sport on 26/06/2009 by nicka77

With Nadal out due to his dodgy knees, and Murray cruising through the first two rounds, it looks as though we may have a historic Wimbledon final to savour.

If the QF’s & SF’s go to form, it will be Federer v Murray, the final that every Brit is hoping for.

Can Murray become the first male Briton to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936? He has the talent and, now, the maturity and physical presence to make the final an epic encounter.

But Federer is on track to become the most successful player of all time… after his historic Roland Garros victory, he now stands on the threshold of true greatness, of tennis immortality…. hoping that his 6th Wimbledon title will be his 15th Grand Slam, taking him beyond the all time record set by Pete Sampras.

The Fed is a legend in his own lifetime, conquering everyone who crossed his path with grace, style, finesse and power…. until Rafa came along, that is.

However, the problem with Rafael Nadal (as with Ronaldo, the Brazilian) is that his body is simply too powerful for his knees…. it may be that his style of play has already worn the joints beyond their peak, and that Rafa will never again reach the heights that have seen him challenge Federer’s hegemony (Nadal has won 6 Grand Slams at the age of 23, beating Federer 13 times in the 20 games they have played against each other). I certainly hope he can come back, but then I always hoped Ronaldo would be able to re-produce the magic of his days at Barcelona… depressingly, it never happened.

But back to this year’s Championship…. Murray is not in the same league as Federer or Nadal yet… he can’t be considered in their class because he has yet to win a major… but he is the first male Brit in over 60 years to have a genuine chance of reaching the final and actually winning it (Henman definitely doesn’t count).

On the day, if Murray can channel the pressure from the crowd positively, if he can play his peak game, and if Federer lets the pressure of winning No.15 get to him, it could be a famous day in the history of British tennis.

I am definitely jumping the gun here, and there are numerous others who could make the final – Leyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Davydenko are all in Murray’s half of the draw, so the route to the final will be anything but easy. Additionally, there is the always dangerous Djokovic who looks like he may be regaining some of his old form.

But I can dream…. a Federer v Murray final would be absolutely phenomenal… and whoever won, we would be witnessing history being written before our eyes.

Michael Jackson RIP

Posted in Inspirational People, Music on 26/06/2009 by nicka77

May the great man rest in peace, leaving behind the demons that have plagued him in the last years of his life.

A genius, no doubt, who created some of the most awe-inspiring music, and dance moves, of the last Century, his legacy was tarnished by his inability to deal with the fame and adoration that was bestowed upon him.

In death, let us remember MJ as he should be remembered, as The King Of Pop, a man who brought joy to millions.

Get your nacho hat here for $99.99

Posted in #worldview, Comic, Food, Innovation on 22/06/2009 by nicka77

Latest #worldview fashion accessory is the Nacho hat – great for parties, movies, or just chilling at home. Wonderful invention.

Even Homer has one – so it must be cool….

Bacardi create one of the most misguided campaigns in history

Posted in Advertising, Brand, Culture, Marketing on 22/06/2009 by nicka77

Somehow, through the various approval processes and corporate checks necessary to get a campaign off the ground, this obscene and insulting idea got through everyone at McCann’s & Bacardi.

Some bright sparks obviously thought the way to build brand affinity and increase sales of the increasingly unpopular Bacardi Breezer was to demonstrate how much hotter women would look if they found an ugly mate to hang out with… quite extraordinary.

Not entirely sure what insights these fools unearthed that led them to this creative powerhouse of an idea, or what blinding flash of inspiration led them to think it would be anything other than a total PR disaster.

In an age of social media, this local campaign from Israel has spread across the globe like wildfire, leading to a Bacardi boycott the world over. We all know that people can be cruel, and that we live in a society that places an overly large emphasis on aesthetic superficiality, but when a brand plays on those insecurities it is simply unacceptable.

Whatever the thinking, it was hugely misguided. The repercussions from this campaign will impact both the mother brand, Bacardi, and it’s ugly duckling sister, Bacardi Breezer, the world over, and it will probably take quite some time before the brand can recover.

I have no doubt that heads will roll as a result of the campaign, but the damage is done, and this just demonstrates how much power even the smallest, most insignificant agencies on a clients roster can have if not kept in check.

India’s torch continues to shine brightly

Posted in #worldview, Culture, Economics, Travel on 21/06/2009 by nicka77

Having elected Manmohan Singh, in May, as the Prime Minister of the Congress party for a second consecutive term in office, this time with a clear majority, India is on the verge of a new golden era.

For the first time since 1984, the last time Congress won a clear majority, the Government is in a position of unilateral strength. In the interim, being part of a divisive coalition has weakened successive Governments.

Manmohan Singh and his Congress party now have the ability to push through the micro and macro reforms that will spur the economy on to even greater expansion and, most importantly, redistribute wealth throughout the poorer strata of society.

It is as a result of weak and corrupt governance over the past two decades that one quarter of the world’s malnourished still live in India, despite the recent exponential economic growth. The convoluted administrative structures that have been built on corrupt and dynastic foundations need to be torn down to ensure that systems are put in place to reduce the poverty gap significantly.

And it is to Mr Singh’s credit that these are the reforms that he plans to push through as quickly as possible, now that his hands have been freed from the shackles of a coalition. It is also very much to the credit of the Indian people that they have looked beyond the politicking of potential ministers who based their candidacy on the grounds of religion, caste, and regional issues.

Mr Singh has been given the chance to rule with a free hand because the Indian people believe in the reforms he has promised, and respect the economic miracle that he and Congress have presided over.

The election of Congress is not the only reason for India’s 1 billion strong population to be positive. The economy continues to thwart recessionary pressures, having just recorded two consecutive quarters of 5.8% growth.

Indeed, in India there is only talk of a slowdown, rather than a fully blown recession. Although growth rates have steadily receded from their peak of 9% in 2007, and 7.3% in 2008, the country continues to expand rapidly.

The key to India’s continued growth is the fact that, in direct contrast to China’s export-led model, the economy is fuelled by domestic demand. And that domestic demand is actually set to grow exponentially once the antiquated models of public governance are torn down, and a more equitable distribution of wealth can be achieved.

“There will be much greater prosperity in India now than ever before,” explained R. Balakrishnan, Chairman of Lowe India, an advertising agency. “The wealth disparity had become so, so huge in India during the boom, and the slowdown is actually bridging that gap. It is correcting the imbalances within the economy, and is a hugely positive force for Indian society.”

“The boom period only affected the cream of Indian society. The top 10% of financiers and property developers got very rich,” Balakrishnan concluded. “Now, the other 90% of consumers are seeing prices drop, and for the growing middle classes in India, suddenly property and cars are becoming much more affordable.”

Colvyn Harris, CEO of JWT India, another advertising agency, said: “Certain sectors are seeing growth of 20-30% year-on-year. Ordinary Indian people are seeing their disposable incomes increase in real terms as the economy corrects. India is like a pyramid, with the size and scale at the bottom, and that is what you are seeing kicking in right now. The real India is now emerging.”

It is this thriving, burgeoning, buoyant middle class that is the driving force behind India’s continuing economic success. The boom times may have seen unparalleled growth for India, but the rewards went into the pockets of a small minority. There is a huge swathe of completely untapped demand, just waiting for the moment when it can rise to the surface. And that moment is now.

On top of the existing middle classes, who are now finding themselves in the position of having increased real disposable incomes, it is the sheer scale and depth of the lower classes in India that ensures that domestically fuelled growth will exist for many years.

The entrepreneurial spirit that courses through every sinew of Indian society, allied to the reforms of Mr Singh and his Congress Government, will bring relative wealth to many, many millions more people, who have thus far been excluded from the benefits of a decade of exponential growth.

While most of the rest of the world spirals into a spinning maelstrom of recessionary gloom, India’s golden era is just beginning.

China – thoughts

Posted in #worldview, Culture, Economics, Social Media, Travel on 17/06/2009 by nicka77

As the Western world wallows in recession, there are many commentators who are looking to China (and India) to be the growth engines that will kick-start the global economy back into life. However, the assumptions that are made about China’s ability to drag the rest of the world back into growth are, in my opinion, hopelessly optimistic. 

The reality is that, even as China experiences continued growth during the recession, the nature of their export-led economy is causing severe mass unemployment within the manufacturing sector, and is actually perpetuating the widening wealth gap between rich and poor.

Many manufacturers in China have zero channel distribution mechanisms within their own country, and were totally reliant on exports, predominantly to the USA, so their businesses have simply crumbled, even though domestic demand is on the increase. This is leading to unemployment for millions of blue-collar and migrant workers (young and old), forcing them to return to rural areas from the major urban centres.

And we’re talking about big numbers here – estimates put the number of migrant workers in China at 200m people, so this is a significant shift of labour away from the indutrialised heartlands.

The point about the decimation of China’s export economy is that there is incredible pressure on the Government to provide jobs for the people, even though the country has moved towards a laissez-faire model. There is expectation on the part of the population that the Government will invest in infrastructure,  invest in urbanisation programmes, and invest in the service economy, in order to create jobs both for University graduates and migrant workers, and to counteract the invisible hand of the global downturn.

Importantly, the key here is that the focus for the Chinese Government is to provide jobs for Chinese workers, and to develop mechanisms to increase domestic demand for domestically produced goods and services. There is no focus within China on increasing imports, or on driving up foreign investment, as part of this plan, meaning that the short-term impact on the economies of the West will be negligible.

In the medium- and long-term, of course increased domestic demand in China will benefit the rest of the world, simply due to sheer weight of numbers (almost one-quarter of the world’s population is Chinese). But China is not going to be the country that holds out a helping hand to everyone else right now, at the hour of need. The internal pressures on the Government to create jobs, stimulate demand and provide a certain standard of welfare are simply too great.

And this pressure brings me to the heart of the matter regarding China. The country is experiencing some genuinely difficult teething troubles as it moves from being a Communist state-run country to a free market. This downturn has highlighted some of the tensions that still exist between these disparate ideologies, both in terms of economic structure and social harmony.

As I’ve detailed above, there is expectation on the Government to provide from an economic perspective, and the Government have responded to that call with increased investment in infrastructure and services. However, the tensions at a social level as China reforms from a state-run model are arguably more tense, particularly in the area of freedom of speech.

China has, over the last 12-24 months, seen an exponential explosion in the area of social media. Chinese people of all ages have adopted the internet as their own, a space through which they can share news, content and information, and connect with friends, without state supervision. This lightning-fast adoption of social platforms as a main pillar of information gathering and sharing is largely as a result of the history of information-repression that has existed in China for many, many decades.

And here, more than anywhere else, is where we see the tensions between the ideologies of Communism and Capitalism come into play. In the weeks surrounding the 20th anniversary of The Tiananmen Square massacre, on June 4th 2009, there are numerous examples of the Chinese Government undertaking a concerted effort to repress any information about the events of 20 years ago.

Blogging portals were down, including this one – WordPress – which now explains why I couldn’t access it while I was in China. Flickr was down. Hotmail was down. Facebook was down, and I had to trick the computer by putting .m. in front of the Facebook URL to get to the mobile site. Twitter users found a way to circulate information around the censorship blocks but soon found that they were down too. People received copies of The Economist and The Financial Times with the pages relating to Tiananmen ripped out. Foreign journalists at the actual event were kept out by police.

These examples demonstrate a disgraceful repression of information that have absolutely no place in the modern world, where social networking sites and the internet have changed the way in which we all consume news and process/share knowledge.

But more than that, they represent the extreme tensions that exist within the country. The Government wants to be a leader in the modern world, and China undoubtedly will be a super-power, but yet they continue to try and suppress information that is perceived to be anti-Chinese in some way, or that paints their country in a bad light. These are not the actions of an enlightened leadership.

It is these tensions between Communism and Capitalism, plus the inevitability of a reformulated world order with China (and the other BRIC countries) gaining in relative importance versus the waning super-powers of America and Europe, that makes the country such a fascinating, intriguing place to be at the moment.

We may not agree with some of the actions of the Chinese Government, in terms of protectionism or social repression, but it is a unique country that is evolving and adapting to the pressures of the modern era in a very different way to any other country.

China will be at the forefront of the next phase of globalisation throughout  the 21st Century, but the nature in which they will lead is still in the balance. The global economy may not get too much help over the next 2-3 years, but the choices that the Government makes in that period, in resolving the economic and social tensions inherent within China right now, will be critical to everyone for decades to come.