Digital ravings of an analog girl

Karma and the Greek girl
June 24, 2009, 7:22 pm
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Karma.  Not a word I use often. Frankly, it doesn’t suit my image.  People think of me as analytical, lucid, practical and considered.  (OK, maybe ‘considered’ is stretching it a bit)  I’m much more likely to use words like ‘consequences’, ‘payback’ and ‘return on investment’ than ‘Karma’.  But dammit, those words are limited by time, space and area of reference.  They don’t encapsulate the concept of the universe slapping/kissing you on the mouth the way that ‘Karma’ does.

So here’s where I fuck up my image.  I believe in Karma.  There I’ve said it.

Karma has slapped/kissed me so many times that I can no longer be a karma agnostic.  Not only is the world a small place, but time is compressed by karma too. Just look at today’s Dom Post and tell me Karma is not alive and well.

The back-story

So here’s a real-life Karma story from me.  In 1993, I was a circulation manager for a Hong Kong based publisher.  I would spend every third month in Bangkok, because that’s where the magazines were printed, and because I had a thing going with a Bangkok-based writer for one of the mags.  It was because of my romantic connection, rather than my work connection that I found myself visiting a Cambodian refugee camp on the outskirts of Bangkok where my writer-boyfriend was to interview several detainees and the camp manager for a story. 

While he went off to the Manager’s office, I wandered aimlessly through the dilapidated, dusty, smelly camp, and in the process collected a band of small followers – children from the camp.

Now here’s where I make my second confession.  I really don’t know what to do about children.  I don’t like children in general.  I like particular children, just like I like particular adults.  However, children in general do seem to like me.  On this day, I was a curiosity – big, tall white girl in (unwisely chosen) mini skirt and stiletto heels (give me a break – I was young, I had great legs and it was really freaking hot!).

The Karmic decision

I ended up in what must have been the kids dorm, and not really knowing what else to do with my band of small followers, I picked up one of the donated books in the dorm – Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, and proceeded to have story-time in the little dorm.  One little girl sat on my lap, and all the rest of the kids sat on the floor around me, all rapt attention.  This is not quite as cute as it sounds, because those kids had not washed for some time and they smelled!  Also, I’m not sure why these kids were so attentive.  Not one spoke a word of English, and I’m not well known for my melodious tinkling voice… Ours is not to reason why…

Now, the second choice that day (close second I might add) was to head back to my air-conditioned car and listen to Billy Joel on my Discman (emember the Discman?).  But I didn’t choose to do that on this particular day.  I don’t know why.  An hour and several iterations of the story-book passed, and my writer-boyfriend showed up and I drove us back to Bangkok.  I have to admit, I didn’t really reflect further on this day in my life.

The Karma! The Karma!

Fast forward 15 years.  I have moved back to NZ and I’m busy struggling with renovations to my house.  My struggle is not made easier by the fact that my friendly electrician has been arrested for drunk driving and is unable to work due a a head injury he doesn’t remember getting.  There are live wires hanging from the ceiling in the hallway (guess he forgot to tidy up before he left for a drink with his mates).  Not good.

So I look in the Yellow Pages and call the local electrician from up the road to come rescue me before I give myself a live-wire perm.  He says he can send his apprentice at once.  A few minutes later, a knock on the door announces his arrival.  As soon as I open the door, the electrician’s apprentice says ‘Ritsa?’.  He seems dazzled by my beauty (happens all the time…NOT!) ‘Yup, that’s me.’  He fixes up all my wiring, working quickly and tidies up after himself.  As he’s leaving, he says ‘Are you Khun Dong from Bangkok?’ It’s my Thai nickname – it means Miss Big Nose (but in a loving way :) and it was kind of an honour to acquire a nickname from my Thai colleagues).  My new electrician’s apprentice was one of the children in that refugee camp, that I haven’t thought about in 15 years. 

He tells me he was orphaned in 1990, aged 7, and spent 9 years in that sad, smelly refugee camp before being allowed to come to New Zealand as part of our refeugee programme.  He tells me that he and his fellow inmates talked about me often for years after that day, and that he decided to come to New Zealand because of the strange, tall white woman who read him a story one day.

He tells me that the first thing he bought for himself after arriving in New Zealand was ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak, even though he couldn’t read it. He recognised the pictures. 

This one small incident, that I barely remember, changed this man’s life.  I was moved and I cried.  I still cry about it.  Not because I had such a profound influence on this man’s life, but because I know how close I came to going to my car to listen to Billy Joel.  What would Karma have sent me if I had?

The Rainbow Gods Have Spoken
June 22, 2009, 1:00 pm
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This weekend while driving home from town I spotted the most gorgeous rainbow (tried to take a pic with my phone, messed it up, and also almost messed up a cyclist in the process – so sorry, no photo).  One end of it was planted firmly on the big yellow mansion in Mapuia which used to be the home of Jonah Lomu.  The other end terminated somewhere in Roseneath.

This strikes me as a little unfair.  What do mansion dwellers and Roseneath residents need with a pot of gold?  Would they even notice it amongst their other pots of gold?  How about a rainbow that starts in Poririua East and terminates in …say… the Newtown Flats?  There’s some folks that could use a pot of gold!

Clearly the rainbow gods aren’t socialists…

Digital media and the Obama campaign

This morning’s keynote session at ad-Tech Asia was given by Scott Goodstein, External Online Director on the Obama presidential campaign.  Scott and his team looked after all the online channels that were outside of

With perfect hindsight, of course we know that this campaign was a huge success.  However, when the campaign began, before most people had ever heard of Barack Obama, there was some risk involved in using digital and social media for a political campaign. If you consider that Campaign Managers (and Marketing Managers) spend all their time trying to control the messages out there, the use of digital/social media requires a bit of a leap of faith.

Scott Goodstein’s first point addressed this.  The most essential element of any campaign is to have a strong message and a good product.  He fervently believes that they had both in Barack Obama. 

This does not mean that you should shy away from social media if there is a chance there will be negative content posted about you/your product/your brand.  But, you should be prepared to hear negative comments and respond to them and act on them. 

This was Scott’s second point about why the Obama digital campaign succeeded.  The online campaign team made an effort to respond to every question or comment posed to the campaign (and there were a lot!).  This took huge drive, organisation and human resource, but not necessarily a great technology investment.  Outside of, all the online communication took place using free online tools such as facebook, myspace, twitter, youtube and eventful.

The purpose of using digital media for the Obama campaign was to engage the ‘long tail’ of voters and supporters who did not access traditional media.  While the majority of target voters did watch television and read the papers, there was a significat minority who engaged only via a wide range of digital tools.  The Obama campiagn started on just one or two platforms, and focused on small targeted segments. 

In the South, one campaign targeted barbers.  Why?  Because barbers spend all their day talking to their customers.  If you can make barbers talk about you, your message will spread rapidly.  My cousin Phil the Barber of Westborough MA is fairly typical here.  He spends all his day chatting to his customers, and every spare moment in between appointments interacting on Facebook (Go the Bruins! Right Phil?). 

The Artists for Obama campaign, allowed artists to make and post images to support the campaign.  The now iconic image at the top of this post was one of these.  It gave the artists a way to help the campaign (imagine how much an ad agency would have charged!), gave exposure and encouraged interaction. 

The Obama campaign really did leverage their advocates.  If you visit the site even now that the Presidential race is over, what remains is the supporter rallying and organising functionality.  The idea here is that supporters can find a interest group or event in their area, and if they’re really keen, can sign up to organise a group themselves.  The site offers a lot of tools and support to anyone who want to organise events.  Now it’s about pushing the Obama agenda for change.  During the election campaign, this was used for raising funds for the campaign and encouraging people to get out and vote.

Scott also emphasised that the technology available changed during the campaign.  The online Obama shop was partly a success because there was a shift in attitude to making online purchases.  More people began to believe it was safe.  Social media and mobile phone technology exploded.  Obama’s team were willing to experiment, and to commit resource even to smaller segments.  I should mention here, that Scott’s idea of a smaller segment was the one million subscribers to their mobile messaging service…

The Obama team were not afraid to direct traffic away from their own ‘controlled media’ (their website and emails) to the more open terrain of social media like Facebook and Youtube.  They used video very cleverly for everything from encouraging supporters to get out and vote to upselling contributors to make a larger contribution.  Barack Obama even recorded a ringtone for mobile phones.  You too can have your ringtone saying ‘it’s Barack Obama.  Pick up!’.

And finally, during the Q & A, Scott mentioned the pre-emptive use of search.  He cited an incident where a political candidate knew a scandal was about to break.  The candidates team posted their side of the story, linking up to all the relevant keywords, so that once the scandal broke, their content also appeared on the first page of search results also.  There’s some smart and adventurous thinking…

The social media analogy
June 11, 2009, 3:45 pm
Filed under: Ad-Tech Asia | Tags: , , , ,

A useful analogy from the ‘Leveraging Social Media’ session at ad-Tech Asia.  Compares social media channels to areas of interaction in the real world:

Your Living Room – Facebook

Your Bedroom – Friendster

The Nightclub/Bar – Myspace

The Boardroom – Linkdn

Take care of your pussy…
June 10, 2009, 6:48 pm
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Masterful marketing

Masterful marketing

Well, I feel a little bad classifying this under ad-Tech.  The truth is I saw this poster in the mall adjoining the convention centre last night.  Of course, it caught my attention.  This campaign is a masterful piece of marketing. 

Why is this some of the best advertising I’ve seen all year? 

Firstly, the obvious – Sex sells.  Although Singapore is a very conservative society, and the poster is likely to offend some folks, it will not offend the people it’s targeted at.  Namely, women who get or want to get a Brazilian, and men who want their wives/girlfriends to get a Brazilian (so, almost all men, then…).

Secondly, it’s a nice charity tie in.  Do something nice for yourself – add a bow tie tattoo to your Brazilian (it comes in pink or black and costs $5 extra), and the Salon will donate $1 to the cat protection league.  Come on!  Who doesn’t like poor abandoned pussy cats?  The one in the poster even has a cute mohawk and is wearing a bow tie.  :)

Thirdly, you gotta admit it’s witty.  It made me smile.

If you’re in Singapore, hop on down to a Strip – Ministry of Waxing  (warning, turn down your sound before you click!) and get a Bowtie Brazilian.  Do it now.  You know you want to.

Engaging with Youth
June 10, 2009, 4:26 am
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I’ve just attended the ‘Engaging with Youth’ panel discussion at ad-Tech Singapore.  Five bright young things (BYTs), aged between 19 and 21 sat at a raised table and addressed an audience of 300 about how they communicate, socialise, shop, live – all online using social media.  None of them were fazed by the large crowd – after all, they consider themselves experts in this area.  They’re here to share their wealth of knowledge with the old folks…  Their confidence was palpable.  They are the future consumers we will/are marketing to.

So, what are the BYTs like?:

Of the five BYTs, only one regularly reads a newspaper – but only on the weekend.  They prefer to seek out the news they’d like to hear about – but not necessarily from the online versions of print media.  One BYT said he gets all his news from Digg.  The news he reads is only the top-rated stories, and of course mainly American slanted news (so much like a local US paper then).  None of the BYTs watch television via the box.  All of them download and watch TV programs online.  All of them consume TV advertisements on Youtube (but only if they’re entertaining and informative and recommended by their friends). 

However, the BYTs all agreed that they still interact mostly in the real world.  They commute to school/work, they regularly see their friends in the flesh (and discuss the things they’ve seen in their online interactions),  They all still browse in real world stores, eat at restaurants, travel to real places, for real experiences.  But, the BYTs do their pre-purchase research online.  They don’t accept the first price offered.  They make purchase decisions based on the recommendations from their ‘friends’.  The reason that friends is in inverted commas, is that in this case, ‘friends’ might include members of their wider online circle – user groups, fan clubs, twitter friends, bloggers, users of Digg,, FriendFeed.

The BYTs agreed that they don’t like to see banner ads, and they don’t like being followed on Twitter so that if they follow you back, you can send them commercial messages.  This type of behaviour is likely to give them a negative impression of your brand or product, which they will share with all their ‘friends’.  You can see how the wrong behaviour in this world can materially and instantly damage your brand.

The BYTs do not check their junk email folder and they have no problem with hitting the SPAM button if perchance your un-requested message makes it to their inbox.  They block or ignore all unsolicited messages of a commercial nature, yet are quite happy to receive personal, non-commercial messages from people they don’t know.  When the BYTs want a commercial message, they will find you and ask you for it.  They are very sure of what they want, and when they want it.

Four out of five BYTs had shopped online recently.  Two had bought clothes, one had bought music downloads. None had bought books.  The moderator jokingly asked if they know what books are…  There was marked and prolonged silence, accompanied by five icy stares.  Clearly the moderator was one of those old traditional media dinosaurs…

Interestingly, even though all five of the BYTs have iPhones (even the one who claimed not to like Apple), they all agreed that the mobile device was still really for snacking-type consumption.  Text messages, brief tweets and the like.  For more involved messaging or surfing, all preferred to use their computer.

If they don’t read the papers, watch TV or view banner ads, how do I get their attention?

This tough question was posed to the BYTs by one of the traditional dinosaurs in the audience.  We know this audience member is a dinosaur, because she asked her question using the microphone.  All the relevant, intelligent questions were posed via twitter using #adtechasiayouth.  They responded that brands should interact with them in their forums, but not try overtly to sell them anything until they’re ready to buy.  When they want to buy, they’ll find you, and ask you for the sale. 

…erm, so how do I tell them about something they don’t know they want yet?

In short, unless you are in the BYTs circle of friends, you don’t.  You can try to seed a discussion in a forum about your product or brand, but if you then try to lead the discussion in a certain direction you risk turning the BYTs off.  And of course, the discussion could flame you and your brand, or even worse, fizzle.

So what does all this mean?

We’ve come full circle in marketing.  Back in the good old days before mass media, if you wanted, say, shoes, you’d ask your mum/granny/friend where to get shoes.  Chances are your mum/granny/friend would send you to buy shoes from your local cobbler, who would rely on you to tell your friends, and to come back when you needed more shoes.  With the advent of mass media, you no longer had to ask where to get shoes, because the shoe makers were telling us, even before you knew we wanted the shoes.

We, the mass media generation, came to trust what was told to us by the sellers of products and services.  In fact, we seemed to think that if it was on TV/radio/print, then it must be the truth, despite the fact that we knew these messages were paid for content.

The BYTs have an inherent mistrust of brands, mass media and the selling process.  They’ll listen to what you have to say about your product, but will not believe it until it is confirmed by one or many of their ‘friends’.  We are back to the friends and family advocacy model, but on a much larger scale, because now you don’t need to buy from your local cobbler any more.

Is this the end of marketing as we know it?

Well, not completely, not yet.  The BYTs still interact in the real world, and consume marketing from multiple sources  – conciously or otherwise.  But, we as marketers do need to adapt.  We need a mindshift about how we communicate.  Our brands and products need to make it back into the circle of trust for the BYTs.  We need to leverage the friends and family advocacy model.

The panel of bright young things consisted of:

Ajeeja Limbu: Nepalese by birth, brought up and educated in Singapore.  Ajeeja confessed that he likes quiet – to go into his bedroom and shut the door, read and surf the net (shame that he was placed next to the very un-quiet moderator…).  He is currently studying online journalism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Devin Gustafson: A 3rd year advertising student at University of Texas at Austin.  Devin is the opposite of ‘quiet’.  Everything about him, from his hot pink shades to his strident remarks, yells at you.  He’ll do well in advertising.  He came with his own large entourage from the University of Texas.

Dorothy Poon: Recent graduate of Singapore Management University.  Dorothy was hired for her first job via Facebook.  The employer did a search on keywords/tags and invited Dorothy to apply for a job as their social media executive.  Dorothy is already well connected.  She blogs, she tweets, she has her own site, she has her own opinion and she’s not afraid to share it.,, @summerisque

Daryl Tay: Recent graduate of Singapore Management University.  Co-founder of Social Media Breakfast | Singapore, and blogger  Claims he does not read newspapers.  Ever.  Already bears a striking resemblance to every cantankerous, opinionated newspaper editor I know.

Vickland Malik: About to graduate from Singapore Management University.  A youth with a social conscience and a soft-spoken but firm manner.

Shoe Month – the stats
June 9, 2009, 1:07 am
Filed under: Shoe Month | Tags: , , ,

Well, shoe month is over and it was a HUGE SUCCESS!!!!  Nah… not really.  That’s just marketing hyperbole (i.e. lying).  The month was sporadically interesting.  I connected with some great people, and a much larger number of fuckwits.  I wore all my shoes.  Did not acquire any new footwear.  I got 3 pedicures to keep up appearances.

Because I was wearing all my shoes, the tall, shiny Italian thigh-boots that started it all have had just one outing.  I have actually dragged them all the way to Singapore and Hong Kong with me to show my friends.  Much too hot to even contemplate trying them on here, but they look beautiful even lying on the top of my suitcase.  I do not look beautiful however – I sacrificed my make-up bag and hair straighteners to bring the boots, and consequently I look like Ronald McDonald – but without the make-up.

So, to the final tally for shoe month:

  • Shoes worn – 62 (31 pairs)
  • Shoe blogs written – 26 (I just ran out of steam and frankly, even I’m bored with my shoes)
  • Hits on my blog – 2,864
  • Which means how many actual people read it? – 452
  • Feeds to my blog – 112
  • Facebook pic and status updates – 24
  • Facebook friends lost to shoe month – 0 (but I’m pretty sure they’re just waiting around in case I do something interesting like make pedal porn)
  • Twitter followers gained – 862
  • Twitter followers lost – 670
  • Twitter followers who tried to sell me ‘Twitter Consultancy Services’ – 423
  • Twitter followers who tried to get me to lose weight – 98
  • Twitter followers who actually have a thing for shoes or feet – 14 (But I admit I followed 3 of them first)
  • Twitter followers who are a bit creepy and/or deviant – 3 (I’m dating them all now :) )
  • Free pairs of shoes from Manolo, Jimmy or Christian – 0 (despite quite open begging)
  • Blisters – 2
  • Frostbitten toes – 3
  • Pedicures – 3

That’s it really.  Not an unmitigated success is it?  The foot fetishist who bought my first six paintings has not made contact.  I’ve had dates with three slightly disturbing shoe enthsiasts.  Two of them were definately men.  I’m not sure about the third (I’m sooo not joking about this)…

I am not an internationally famous shoe blogger, although Dave the Shoe Guy in Chicago might re-publish some of my blogs (check him out – I like him).

That’s it for shoe month folks.  Over and out.

Next blog will be about the mating calls of geckos*

*That might be marketing hyperbole also…