Category Archives: rants

Lego Bricks It

NYT's Andrew Newman reported today that Lego prohibited the makers of the Spinal Tap "Unwigged and Unplugged" tour DVD from using a two-year-old stop-motion animation video of "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You" (below) created by Coleman Hickey that they had been using on their tour.

And why was this piece of content disallowed?

"We love that our fans are so passionate and so creative with our
products,” said Julie Stern, a spokeswoman for Lego Systems, the United
States division of the Lego Group, a Danish company founded in the
1930s. “But it had some inappropriate language, and the tone wasn’t
appropriate for our target audience of kids 6 to 12."

Cluephone, Julie – 6 to 12 year olds aren't the only ones who love Lego products.  Nor are they the ones, typically who BUY it.  Their parents do.  The same parents, probably dads, who love Spinal Tap.  And loved Lego.  And would have loved to see this little mashup – maybe as much as the Spinal Tap guys themselves, who worked it into their stage show for their recent tour.

Lego is making a classic error.  They don't own their brand anymore.  More than anyone, they should know that – they've been giving their brand to their fans to play with for years, in the shapes of those little bricks and every other shape they make.  And we have played with them – making things Lego never dreamed up, including an entire genre on YouTube of stop motion animation.

Which is of course where my five-year old got his first intro to animation.  through legos.  on YouTube.  Unfortunately it was watching this classic:

When other brands would KILL to get the kind of mashup Lego was just handed (Lego + stop motion + YouTube + SpinalTap Tour + DVD) rolled into a compilation DVD as a free ad for their product to adoring fans, why did Lego kill the fun?

“YouTube is a less commercial use,” Ms. Stern said. “But when you get
into a more commercial use, that’s when we have to look into the fact
that we are a trademarked brand, and we really have to control the use
of our brand, and our brand values.”

Darn, Julie. 

You can't control your brand anymore. 

You can choose who to spotlight though – and Coleman Hickey LOVED you. 

Loved you enough to take the time to build a movie using your product.  So what did the now sixteen-year-old Mr. Hickey have to say about the silliness?

“In a way I’m disappointed that it won’t be forever memorialized in a
DVD.  It’s not like I was going to get
any money for it, but it’s too bad. Lego has the right to do that, but
it’s unfortunate that they don’t have a little more of a sense of

You nailed it, Coleman.

Twitter::blogging as USA Today::Monocle

For the long silence. 

For anyone still reading here (Hi, Mom!), I've been having a bit of an internal debate on the value of blogging.  It's resulted in my near complete migration to twitter for sharing insights and info. 

And questioning why one would post thoughts to a blog, or provide links to cool stuff via one, when it's so damn much easier to '' great stuff, punch it out in 140 characters or less and move on, and get the 'social credit' for having done so via the twitter community.

Twitter has become a great medium for the zingy barb aimed at a Retweet.  Many of my friends play Twitter like a game, with RT's and @replies as their scorecard.  And I'll admit – it's pretty satisfying to get a reply or RT.  Human beings want to interact. And a comment-less blog post isn't a conversation.  An RT or an @reply feels more like one.  And so the draw.

HBS tells us less the median for tweets is 1.  Yep, one and done.  Back in 2008, Technorati told us 95% of blogs hadn't been updated in 4 months.  Remember Second Life?  I still think 90% of their registrations were from ad agency jackasses trying to figure it out to sell tot heir clients.  But people want feedback.  They need feedback.  We are hardwired to seek it out.

A draft White Paper entitled "Tweet Tweet Retweet" (Download TweetTweetRetweet) by Danah Boyd, Scott Golder and Gilad Lotanon even names the phenomenon of "Ego Retweeting".  Some of the data cited (and yes, the paper leads with a 'do not cite' header):

"Based on 720,000 tweets captured at 5-minute intervals from 437,708 unique users, they found that: 

• 22% of tweets include a URL (‘http:’)
• 36% of tweets mention a user in the form ‘@user’; 86% of tweets with @user begin with @user and are presumably a directed @reply
• 5% of tweets contain a hashtag (#) with 41% of these also containing a URL
• 3% of tweets are likely to be retweets in that they contain ‘RT’, ‘retweet’ or ‘via’ (88% include ‘RT’, 11% include ‘via’ and 5% include ‘retweet’

Based on 203,371 retweets captured from 107,116 unique users, they found that:

• 52% of retweets contain a URL
• 18% of retweets contain a hashtag
• 11% of retweets contain an encapsulated retweet (RT @user1 RT @user2 …message..)
• 9% of retweets contain an @reply that refers to the person retweeting the post

It doesn't take much thought to zing off 140 characters of self-indulgent crap (exactly the reason many dismissed Twitter in the first place), but it does take time to compose something meaningful. 

We need more ways not just to connect, but to connect with each other.

And we'll migrate to the tools that do it best.


Oh thank god there's an ironic T that summarizes this whole damn post.


Jeff Goldblum, Harrison Ford and the web nearly die.

"Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We've never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth."

"It could go down as the biggest mobile event in history…people wanted to keep tabs on this story, but if you're an
accountant you're supposed to be working on your spreadsheet. So they
were using their personal cell phones to do so,"

CNN reported a fivefold rise in traffic and visitors in just over
an hour, receiving 20 million page views in the hour the story broke...Twitter crashed as users saw multiple "fail whales"…Google Trends rated the…story as "volcanic."

Neda?  Iran?  Iraq?  Sanford?  Korea?


But in the midst of the MJ tsunami that crippled the web last week, a fake story about the death of actor Jeff Goldblum (and Harrison Ford) starting making the rounds, requiring public debunking.  It was this site that generated the spoof celebrity death stories – the Goldblum and Ford riffs were spread through social nets, twitter, etc, and became "trending topics" – a near-guarantor of exponential meme proliferation.

Generating templated fictional stories that then index well on search engines and proliferate through social media (impacting organic and paid search results) was the strategy behind W+K's 2009 Silver Cyber Lion-winning "Swaggerize Me" effort for P&G's Old Spice.

As Linnie Rawlinson and Nick Hunt reported for CNN in regards to the fast spread of fake news:  "The Web can disseminate news — but like any form of communication it can also help us create what we expect to see next."  Or – don't believe what they tell you about Mark Hamill.

conspiracy thought #42: when it wakes


I'll go back to advertising in a second, but humor me:

We increasingly use technology to externalize our inner life, and in so doing become an interconnected web of socio-cultural dendrite/axon linkages across social nets and microblog tools, newly capable of collective/connective action.  These micro-thoughts accrete to an outsourced 'collective unconscious' in the cloud – the new "reservoir of the experiences of our species."

Buddhist thought calls the dichotomy between inner and outer, between self and other, 'maya', or illusion

So what if we aren't individuals, per se, but in reality, 6 billion neurons, creating linkages and meaning for a mind that's slowly waking up with each new neuron that connects to the whole?  The world coming on line, connecting, a being shrugging off sleep in geologic time?  And when Jormagundr finally releases his tail, we're just an intergalactic Willy Loman with a meeting to make? 

Or that our new/accelerating interconnections aren't creating something new, but unleashing/unveiling something very very old?

And when it wakes, we go back to just being a billion bizarre little neurons in a greater consciousness?

"In the mythology of the Aztecs…the present fifth epoch is called Nahui-Olin
(Sun of Earthquake), which began in 3113 BC and will end on December 24,
2011. It will be the last destruction of human existence on Earth. The date
coincides closely with that determined by the brothers McKenna in The Invisible
Landscape as “the end of history” indicated by their computer analysis
of the ancient Chinese oracle-calendar, the I Ching. The Mayan calendar comes to an end on Sunday,
December 23, 2012"

Or will someone hit snooze for another millenia or two and give us a shot?


alright, alright, I'll go back to looking for a brand using twitter well.

and reading Perry Bible Fellowship comics.


Xob on it

Basic premise for Claire Miller's Monday NYT piece on tech startups = "you need more of a business model that ad revenue off eyeballs".  My favorite quote on the subject comes from Jeff Bonforte, CEO of Xobni (a search tool/functional layer  for Outlook):

"Ads are an inefficient business model, making indirect revenue as a result of behavior and advertising to people who don't want to see them or for whom they're irrelevant."


Facebook Rights – and Ad Model Fail

We were having an internal debate about the Declaration of Independence today, while at the same time, voting is closing on the proposed Facebook Governance Documents. 

I know you know.  And I know you know that if Facebook were a country, its 200+MM population would make it the world's 5th largest (they just passed Brazil)

And here are the proposed "Guiding Principles" (hum "Mine eyes have seen the glory" as you read):

1. Freedom to Share and Connect

People should have the freedom to share whatever information they want, in any medium and any format, and have the right to connect online with anyone – any person, organization or service – as long as they both consent to the connection.

2. Ownership and Control of Information

People should own their information. They should have the freedom to share it with anyone they want and take it with them anywhere they want, including removing it from the Facebook Service.  People should have the freedom to decide with whom they will share their information, and to set privacy controls to protect those choices. Those controls, however, are not capable of limiting how those who have received information may use it, particularly outside the Facebook Service.

3. Free Flow of Information

People should have the freedom to access all of the information made available to them by others. People should also have practical tools that make it easy, quick, and efficient to share and access this information.

4. Fundamental Equality

Every Person – whether individual, advertiser, developer, organization, or other entity – should have representation and access to distribution and information within the Facebook Service, regardless of the Person’s primary activity. There should be a single set of principles, rights, and responsibilities that should apply to all People using the Facebook Service.

5. Social Value

People should have the freedom to build trust and reputation through their identity and connections, and should not have their presence on the Facebook Service removed for reasons other than those described in Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

6. Open Platforms and Standards

People should have programmatic interfaces for sharing and accessing the information available to them. The specifications for these interfaces should be published and made available and accessible to everyone.

7. Fundamental Service

People should be able to use Facebook for free to establish a presence, connect with others, and share information with them. Every Person should be able to use the Facebook Service regardless of his or her level of participation or contribution.

8. Common Welfare

The rights and responsibilities of Facebook and the People that use it should be described in a Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which should not be inconsistent with these Principles.

9. Transparent Process

Facebook should publicly make available information about its purpose, plans, policies, and operations. Facebook should have a town hall process of notice and comment and a system of voting to encourage input and discourse on amendments to these Principles or to the Rights and Responsibilities.

10. One World

The Facebook Service should transcend geographic and national boundaries and be available to everyone in the world.


Impressive, inspiring, thought provoking.

SO where does the "Ad Fail" part come in? 

Despite near-continuous, above the fold, high visibility FB profile page placements for the past week or so, only 536K+ members have voted.  

That's about .2%. 

And only 109K FB'ers (that's ~.05% of the total pop) have become "Fans" of the ''Facebook Governance Page', meaning
they will receive updates and posts about any conversations or proposed
changes to the documents. 

So in a community of 200MM+, only about a
half million are participating in creating the global guiding principles.

Wow.  All they had to do was click and vote.

Twice as many people voted for the guiding principles of what has become for many an indispensable social utility, as were sacrificed for Whoppers in a single promotion.

Clarification – Yes, Virginia, brands should engage in social media

A comment on my last post made a good point:  as an employee of an agency for Old Spice, it wasn't really fair for me to call out Axe or BBH without disclosing that I work for an agency that handles a competitive brand.

In the interest of full disclosure, W+K handles Old Spice.

So while that commenter may have wanted to write off everything I posted as bias (how I love the interweb), that doesn't really jibe with all the positive callouts I have done on this blog for other "competitive" agencies…and yes…brrrrr…even competitive BRANDS, doing great work.   

Amusingly, the person used an email address that masked their identity to upbraid me about a lack of transparency – "".

More importantly, and why I actually felt it important to follow up, is I was accused of "bashing brands going 2.0" by that commenter, and a few others may have gotten that feeling too.  Whooaa!  By no stretch of the imagination did I mean to suggest brands should not engage in social media – quite the contrary.  I have often stated that it isn't actually up to brands whether to "do social media" – frankly, their only choice is whether they will choose to participate in the conversations already happening and maybe start some interesting ones themselves.  That is the reality.   And I love it dearly.  Maybe too much.  SO GET IN THERE!

But I believe that "participating" in "social media" isn't just pointing at stuff.  Brands just pointing at stuff without a point of view feels like either (a) a bad replacement for a good idea, or (b) a half-assed compromise with a legal department:

Brand/Agency: We want to do social media.  Engage in conversations!

Legal: WHAT?  ARE YOU HIGH?  And get sued when someone posts a music track?  I don't need [record label] crawling up my [expletive].  Who's going to vet all this stuff?  What's the review process?

Brand/Agency: It's social!  We have to let what happens, happen!

Legal: [stony silence]

Brand/Agency: S…s…soc…social media?  Web…2.0?

Legal: [stony silence]

Brand/Agency: Right.  Ah….what can we do?

Legal: (grumbling) IF you want to "feature" content freely available elsewhere (subject to terms of service, of course), and IF we merely point/link to it, and make it clear we ARE NOT curating it, and you CLEARLY attribute it to a third party, we may be able to do that.  I'm not saying it's not without risk, but it would theoretically be acceptable risk…as long as we post our privacy policy and T&C's…

Brand/Agency: YAY!  Wild and crazy "Social Media", here we come!

No I was posting to call out LAMENESS.

A lame brand is a mirror that simply reflects the world we know now (hence my distaste for creative focus groups, an entirely different subject). 

A dynamic brand listens well, engages provocatively and relevantly, and leads me somewhere new. 

Do we at W+K always pull it off?  No, not always. 

We are all learning just how dynamic a brand can be.  And how fun and challenging it can be. 

No sleep 'til Brooklyn, No time for lameness.

Brands go web 2.0. Give me a F—ing break.

So now Axe's BBH tries to go all web metafilter for their new site, following on the heels of's blatant Modernista! rip off for Skittles.  Will we get the usual round of forehead slapping cries of brilliance from the tiny community who gives a crap?  Time will tell.

The only folks I don't see deriving ANY benefit out of this 2.0 wankfest are normal people.  Now arguably, Modernista! isn't trying to create a consumer proposition with their website.  But Skittles is.  And so, presumably is Axe.

Which begs the question: if I and most folks didn't give a crap about the TV ads companies used to slap on their brochureware sites, why the f— do I care about how well distributed their brand voice is online?  Does the average 18 year old CARE what the AXE effect is on Stumble Upon?  let me think…ah….NO.  Does the average kid give one flying hoot what people are saying about Skittles on Twitter?  Well, NO.  but then they may not be able to get past the age gate to experience the distributed joy of Skittles ANYWAY.

Wait a second – Skittles has an AGE GATE?  Why yes.

Picture 1

Because that big web out there might have some bad stuff in it. 

I'm sorry, folks.  this reeks.  If you're going to be social or meta, DEAL WITH IT.

Could brands stop being so scared of social media that they let their agencies hoodwink them into feeing like it's ok now that their brand presence simply be a catalogue of links and posts? 

That in the absence of a voice or an idea, dreck's a great subsitute?  (and no, doing your metafilter in the correct brand CMYK pallette doesn't count)

Coraline Marketing


[ Mike Baker's reconceived pulp 'Coraline' cover, from his blog 'Knack for Art':]

You haven't seen a lot from me on W+K's marketing efforts behind Coraline. 

The best gauge of a campaign is what other people say about it anyway, right?   And other folks have done a great job of covering it – Ward @ Drawn and The Future of Ads pretty much nail it, and if you missed anything, 'Evil Buttons' is the unoffical blog we've all been reading to track the campaign and its offshoots. 

Phil Knight was interviewed by AdAge about the Coraline marketing effort and had this to say:

"The original agreement was that Focus [Features] would do the advertising, but in
some of the early meetings, it was clear that we had a difference of
opinion on the advertising — "target audience" being one. They were
used to doing "data" advertising: They wanted to push this more as a
kiddie film, because that's what the data told them. And Nike and
Wieden & Kennedy together had grown up with what I call "emotional
essence advertising" — the essence of the product is its emotional
core, and you push that. It was two very different approaches, and it
kind of became clear in some of those early meetings that we had a very
strong difference of opinion. And to Focus' credit, they said, "OK, why
don't you guys try it? There's no use in fighting this thing. Let's
negotiate a different way to market this thing."
Marketing Quals ("emotional essence" types) and Quants ("data" advertisers) have been slugging it out for a while, so I wanted to share this nugget:

Pundits projected a $9MM opening weekend for Coraline, and $32MM total run gross.

We are damn proud that after a $16.3MM opening weekend take, Coraline's 3rd week US gross stands now at $53.93MM and counting.