RIP Firebrand closes down

In one of the quicker demises, Firebrand TV has had to close down (March 5 2008). Launched with quite a lot of hype back in October 2007, the site now writes the following:

Firebrand TV Closes Down

The investors (including Ion, the cable operator on which Firebrand broadcast) apparently refused a refinancing. See the story in Adweek.

“We still love commercials… but it’s never easy when art meets commerce…” And, with retrospect that is quite obvious, especially when the art isn’t officially owned by the site commercializing it (as opposed to a museum, for example). And is the consumer community ready for ads as a cultural exhibit?

As I mentioned in my first post on Firebrand prior to its opening, the content was going to have to be super rich in order to succeed. While they made commendable efforts in terms of presentation style, I tended to think of Firebrand as a resource, rather than as a newsworthy site, meaning that I only visited on occasion when the need arose. I don’t feel I truly ever understood Firebrand’s point of view on ads — and I couldn’t help feeling that the ads they selected were supplied, nay supported by the brands themselves. A little cynical perhaps.

And, what of the business model? An agglomeration of ads (or commercials) that are considered content enough to attract people to watch them voluntarily (on cable and on line) and, in so doing, start to be subjugated to other advertising (“winning, shopping and sharing…”)… On the cable station, viewers were staying tuned for 15 minutes on average which, to me, suggests that it was more like a long surf on line, but not a true engagement. Apparently, there were only 50,000 visitors online in its last month of service…

Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Roman Vinoly said “I still believe that people have a relationship to brands that contribute to their identity as people, the same way someone is a Yankees or Mets fan, they’re an Adidas of Nike fan…” Surely, brands are a great way to help people relate to their daily lives and realities, helping to craft their identities. However, to refer to Joe Jaffe’s book, “Join the Conversation,” the relationship has to go far beyond the one-way communication of an ad to be truly engaging these days. It is about the conversation.

Battle for the Soul of Paris…

Paris Battle for the SoulHow can a beautiful Paris keep its soul? This is basically the question posed in this great article in The Guardian: “Battle for the Soul of a City” by Andrew Hussey. Turned onto this article by Notes from Paris (thanks F), I was delighted by the open and in-depth analysis of Paris, complete with a timeline of great events in Paris. Despite living in Paris and thinking I know the city well, there are always many more places to visit. The beauty of Paris continues to entrance me even after off and on 25 years of having lived in Paris. The dusk lights over the Concorde, the pristine sparkling Paris Beautiful PantheonEiffel Tower, the grandeur of the Pantheon…all still impress me as on the first time I saw them.

Mr Hussey clearly is in the know as he enters in the deeper parts of Paris and is able to feel that Parisian conversation (with its well honed art of la Contestation) has moved inexorably to “worldly” topics including property prices such as one might hear in soulless Kensington in London.

And, I was amused to think that Bertrand Delanoë met up with Mayor Bloomberg (of NYC) to discuss the similar challenges between New York and Paris. Where there are lessons (and causes) to be shared are on the greening of the city: more recycling, more bicycling and, why not, more greenery…

SNCR – Spending on conversational marketing looking up

Spending on Conversational MarketingA new research study from SNCR says that spending on conversational marketing will outstrip traditional marketing by 2012. Commissioned by New Communications Review (SNCR, run by Jen McClure), and Joe Jaffe, the study shows some interesting figures and projections from 260 respondents (and I quote):

* 70% are currently spending 2.5% or less of their communications budgets on conversational marketing

* Two-thirds plan to increase their investment in conversation within the next twelve months

* 81% of marketers believe that in 5 years (ie. 2012) they’ll be spending as much or more on conversational marketing vs. traditional marketing

And, as one could expect, there will be challenges. The study cites the following foreseeable obstacles for investing in conversational marketing:

“Manpower restraints” – 51.1%

“Fear of loss of control” – 46.9%

“Inadequate metrics” – 45.4%

“Culture of their organizations” – 43.5%

“Difficulty with internal sell-through” – 35.8%

SNCR New Media NetworksNaturally, the challenge will also be about getting the message right, into the right hands via the right tools. Presumably material that Joe will be covering in his about-to-be-released Join the Conversation!

At the same time, I believe that technology will be taking us to new unforeseen spaces namely in the mobile arena. Clearly, the short attention span and the limited text/visual zone offered by mobile technology are well suited to one another. And, the role of permission marketing will evolve dramatically as well such that the cost per subscriber or cost per consumer reached will ultimately even out. That is to say, there will be window of opportunity for the early movers. Then there will be a tipping point. And finally the cost of production and necessary resources to get the message out through the media noise will inevitably require greater investments to overcome the crowded media field and personalized filters.

Of course, the pace of conversion of traditional marketing dollars into conversational marketing will depend very much on the countries too — despite the global (if still monolingual) nature of the consumer on line. I have new term that I’d like to trademark: the MONLINEGUAL©. Definition: a mashup (or portmanteau) of monolingual & online.

Word consumption & the power of silence

Word Consumption & Power of SilenceWe consume words with our most precious resource: time. As such, we should be extremely watchful in its expenditure. Are you not tired of the deluge of words that gush out of some people’s mouths? Between formalities, small talk and thoughtlessness, a day can be spent in the total absence of substance. And on the Internet, content is far too often missing (or interactive) as well. There is email spam, hybrid spam in the form of forwarded messages/jokes, or just plain mails, empty of content (hi dude!). Twitter is mostly spam on dope.

Next are vapid blogs. Limited original content or personal diaries that don’t interest people beyond intimate friends and family (and even then…). You can search “went to see my shrink today” and score many 11 hits on blogs. Then comes Facebook. What or who is a “real” friend? The one that sends you vampire hugs and pokes or the one that doesn’t (and sends meaningful messages in lieu). I love parts of Facebook for getting me in touch with some old friends. But the proliferation of meaningless applications feels, but a worthwhile read on Facebook), scarily like spam. And I will only mention in passing the dry, uninteractive brand sites that are eye sores, crammed with one-way unauthentic information.

Given the chatter without content, sometimes silence is most welcome. Silence can say so much (like a post without comments?). The pregnant pause. The masterful stare. The whir of the wind. The density of thought. When will ESP hit the web?

Search engines and community based bookmarking and tagging services (such as del.ic.ious, digg it, etc.) are getting there, helping to refine the choice. But there is still a long way to go. Too little time and too much crud.

On another ‘note’, there is the regular, if not annoying, buzz and interruption of cell phones. Aside from the revealing or funny ring tone, the ring of the cell phone haunts our daily lives. The silence is invaded by cell phones ringing throughout presentations or killing the tension at a dramatic play…. I have come to appreciate the mute button on the cell phone. The silencing of a cell phone is sort of like a cell phone’s emasculation. Speaking of incoming calls, I am not a big fan of calls marked “private number.” While there are a few understandable instances, I tend not to reply to “private” numbers. Another way to keep me (and my cell phone) silent.

As I reflect further, without silence, one cannot listen. Without listening, there can be no peace (and if you listen to Nerd CEO, you will see the strength of silence in negotiation). And perhaps one could argue that there is no content without listening? If there is so little content, then maybe we should re-program ourselves to listen to silence. Everyday, I will dedicate ten minutes to being eyes shut, listening to the silence. My adaptation of yoga, I suppose. What about you?

Haven’t read Joseph Jaffe’s soon-to-be-released “Join the Conversation.” Here is how Joe’s book began… JTC Wiki… Due out Oct 21st you can pre-order on Amazon.com. But, clearly, IT is all about the Conversation, that which is meaningful. And for good measure, I add a blog entitled Join the Conversation that adds to the same conversation.

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This post was inspired after a little world-spanning chat with my true friend Alex. Thank you.

Content by day… Looking for meaningfulness

Being content is synonymous with getting content. In other words, my happiness is relatively linked to the amount I learn in a day (as well as living the love of my family). At the very least, I seek meaning and meaningful conversation. A couple of days ago, over lunch with a bright, entrepreneurial Icelander, Johann, I was filled with enjoyment as we pushed and prodded, anticipated and surprised one another in a very full conversation. Certain encounters have that spark. And, to the extent you can extend that level of intensity and reality among the people you meet, you becomes your circle of friends. You become defined by the people surrounding you.

Not very innovative as far as thoughts go, but defining as far as my life goes.Just as on line it is about the content and the Conversation, one’s relationships off line are also about the same search.

The quest, or perhaps the question, is how to optimize each day and reduce the clutter. Sometimes I get confused or frustrated by the innumerable hours spent in irrelevant moments & conversations. What is the appropriate objective for each day? Of course, the valhalla becomes linked with the quality (and not the quantity) of “content” that fills each conversation and each day. And, in my eyes, content absolutely can include laughter and frivolity–that said, I will typically privilege original humour and frivolity. As long as the content is meaningful…

It all points to a wonderful dictum: be open to learning, be a student of life. As Robin Sharma said in a wonderful podcast, be the Renaissance Man (or Woman). Look to learn. Learn about anything and everything. Seek content, but know that contributing content is the best way to getting access to content.

A little collection of blogs & reading about Renaissance Men/Women:


Keep up the search!


How To Club Meditate

The Dial ’07 Summer Holidays, Club Meditation — Part 1 of 3.

After 5 times at a Club Med, I think we are now officially veteran ‘Gentils Membres’ (guests). Yes, admitting that we (2 adults, 2 kids) enjoy Club Med comes with all sorts of stigmas, but that suits us fine. Here is the yin & yang recipe we have found that works for us: Take 2 weeks off (minimum). Go to exotic (read: ‘new’) location. Spend first week at Club Med for sports, rest and resourcing. Then spend the following week visiting the real country in a rental car.

Following on the success of our ’06 Spring holidays in Brazil using that very formula (Club Med Las Pedras then a visit to Rio*), these last two weeks, we went to Turkey. The first week was spent at the 4-trident Club Med Palmiye, near Antalya, on the southern coast. The second week we visited the magical Cappadocia region in central Turkey.

In Part 1 of the Dial Summer Holidays journal, there are four things I feel like addressing regarding our experience at Club Med Palmiye.

(1) Club Med** is, in general, a great way to change your horizons and meet different personalities, families and cultures. But, for the timid, the good news is that your openness to meeting people is basically the limit to the opportunities; although having alternative languages is a big plus. Also, you need to choose carefully which Club Med and at what part of the year you go. If not, you can find yourself in one or other ghetto, more or less diversified, more or less foreign.

(2) The daily rhythm of a Club Med is yours to manage. From ‘fa niente’ to ‘burn out.’ Of course, if you don’t take advantage of the facilities and activities, you can feel that you didn’t maximize your “all inclusive” package. We are, for example, unfailing fans of the after-dinner spectacle (entertaining and diverse, usually GO-only shows). Observing other families and interfacing with other people stimulates and provokes comparisons. Lounging around and meditating on your own state of affairs (life, family, work…) is a primary pastime. On this trip, out of the blocks [almost before, in fact, it was on the plane to Anatalya], we met a family from Angers with a matching set of kids. What we revel in is new encounters and textural, meaty conversations. This is what I like to call Club Meditating. This visit to Palmiye we had our most stimulating chats with two GOs. Francois, the barman, is also a Biologist doing his dissertation on the effects of the climate on corals. And, discussing with Younes, the young cost controller, we branched out solving some of the world’s problems.

3) Notwithstanding the generally great service (and the valiant, omnipresent Chef de Village, Vincenzo) at Palmiye, I was taken for a ride not once, but twice. First, at the tennis courts, by Ali, a Russo/English speaking Turk, and then at the reception, by, Bertrand, a young man from southern France. The common denominator was straight out lying. Not just once, but repetitively. The fascinating thing was that, to be doubly sure I had understood correctly their statement, I would make them repeat their lie, either in another language (Russian with Ali) or simply in French.*** It is curious to consider how a company (or at least “CM Village”) culture can breed this style of treating a customer. [Note to reader: please comment!].

Secondly, it is fascinating to observe how the human being (regardless of culture) reacts when backed into a corner. Both individuals just dumbly repeated, word for word, my re-statement of the “facts” as they had been presented to me. Fortunately, in both cases, we avoided a diplomatic incident. It left me thinking, however, that either I have an imprint on my forehead asking me to be taken for a ride or that Club Med favors the “système D” (aka devious manoeuvrings). I am left hoping it is the latter. But, that’s not a compelling conclusion for Club Medon’tlikesuchbehavior.

4) Finally, I must confess that the upgrading of the Club Med bedroom facilities (and of the standard of a 4 trident in general) was a big plus (compared to our prior experiences). Nicer and bigger beds, bigger rooms, and [small] flat screen TV were notable features. The air conditioning, which may also be part of the upgrade generally speaking, was a lifesaver considering the 40-50C degree weather we experienced for 6 out of the 7 days at Palmiye. It softened what could have been a wicked experience.

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*Thanks go to An for her wonderful hospitality along with the charming Leonardo.

**Other than a couple of Turkish copies (a 3* Hotel Olbios near Mersin and 5* Utopia World in Alanya about which I will discuss in part 2), we have never tried a comparably priced competitive product to Club Med, so we could say broadly all similar types of ‘all inclusive’ destination packages. But I suspect CM develops a superior personnel.

***Despite an entirely blank reservation sheet for the tennis courts, Ali (speaking in Russian) refused to give me the shaded, centre court on the pretext it was reserved for kids’ Mini Club. I switched to English to confirm what he said. As he was re-explaining this to me, in English, he turned to two other approaching [French] customers. Speaking no French, Ali stumbled, so I offered to translate from French into Russian. They merely asked for the same court I had been looking to reserve. Then, to my surprise, he gave it to them. I was offered another court, which I accepted but not without letting off a little steam.
In the case of Bertrand, regarding our departure from the resort, he explained to me that we would not be able to take a bus (to the airport) as all the [four] buses leaving in the late afternoon were totally full. After confirming this statement to me and later to my wife, en noir et blanc, several times with a careless and nasty attitude, we took another approach in the name of a charming GO Adriaan and got us four places on a half empty bus.

The more you know…

You have all heard the notion “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” First, I agree entirely and have been fortunate to not let this impede my curiosity. This leads me to the dinner* conversation we had last night when I suggested, with an air of devil’s advocate, that the vocabulary we use today is less rich than it was twenty years ago. This caused a lot of ruffled, if not indignant++, feathers. After a couple of “blows”, a few came to agree that, either via our work environment (emails, etc.), the interaction with our younger kids or–worse yet–television, we are bullied into using a simplistic vocabulary. Truth be told, the inspiration for this thought came when, in a pre-spring cleaning mode, I picked up a pile of my old university papers and read with stupefaction the kind of words that were sprinkled throughout. Yes, I felt there was probably a level of pretension (and possibly some misuse…), but today I feel that the more I know I knew, the more I know I want to know more.

*Dinner was in Paris with complete set of 4 bi-cultural couples.
++Use of “indignant” shows an attempt of expanded vocab word, albeit inappropriately exercised as an adjective of feathers.

Politics politics… give me a solution, not a criticism

At home or in business, we are always told to avoid politics (not sex and rock’n’roll fortunately). The notion of providing a solution to the problem is rarely addressed in those dangerous “political” conversations that risk getting heated. Most of the time, we are basing our point of view on what he hear about in/from the press (or perhaps, worse, repeating what we heard at a dinner party). Considering the press only gets a portion of the truth and really only wants to sell its “truth” (it’s a business), it seems that we are not being very responsible (if we took business decisions with as little information, we could be in trouble).

Instead of just talking about the issues, talk about what needs to be done, talk about solutions, talk about action. Put your words into motion.

It also strikes me that people, who spend their time criticizing politicians (and worthily in many cases) cannot fathom coming up with what a politician (that they support-ed) did well or actually achieved during his/her tenure. Curious, no?

We need to get real.