For an audiovisual company blog, we don’t run much material about audiovisual technology, because our clients and presenters aren’t really interested in the technical detail of our projectors.
But wait for it, here’s something interesting about screens!
Americhip, a US company that does ’sensory’ marketing tools like those scratch & sniff strips in magazines, has developed a tiny video screen that can sit inside a magazine and play your client’s ads. They’ve just launched it with a campaign for Pepsi. Yes, a working video screen stuck into the pages of an entire run of magazines.
Is there nothing they can’t do now?
It can hold 90 minutes of video. The battery lasts for 65-70 minutes, and it’s rechargeable via a mini USB cable. Check it out here:
There’s no doubt which state leads Australia in moustache production. That would be Tasmania.
While other states dropped the mo for a couple of decades, or only resurrected them for ironic purposes, great Tasmanians like David Boon and David Foster scaled the heights of achievement while sporting classic handlebar facial growth.
David Foster: Mo Hero
Inspired by these mighty Tasmanian heroes, the team from Scene Change Tasmania are stepping up for their second run at Movember. Last year’s efforts raised an impressive sum of money toward important yet often ignored men’s health issues such as depression and prostate cancer.
Movember was started in Australia in 2003, and has since spread across the world, a testament to the global appeal of the mo.
Now it’s your chance to support the intrepid team of Gareth Percey, Rod Street, Ben Coombe, Damien Free, Dean Vervaart, Ben Wallace, Paul Davies, Josh Warwick and Matt Walker.
Sign up as a donor here and watch their mo’s unfold during the course of the month.
A big thank you to the Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart, who have given us permission to look like pool cleaners around the hotel for the month.
And for some valuable information on whether facial hair on presenters affects audience trust , look here.
PS. Our clients can be assured it won’t go quite this far (pic via @cyantaeed):
A friend who works in finance is responsible for, among other things, liability insurance for the board of directors.
Insurance companies come in and make presentations all the time, hunting for his business.
The corporate insurance business has, until recently, been less about marketing and more about personal connections and lunches.
Then a couple of years ago, one of the companies hit on the idea of calling their top customers Gold Clients. They were pretty excited about this breakthrough, and came around and presented my friend with a special gold-printed folder holding documents that told him how important he was.
The marketing floodgates had opened.
Within a year, a competing insurance company came around and made a presentation. They were proud to announce that he had been made - you guessed it - a Platinum Client.
That’s the end of that, he thought. Nothing trumps platinum.
Last week, the Gold Client people did their new presentation. They had a special surprise for my friend.
They had upgraded him to a Palladium Policy.
“What the f*** is palladium?” asked the CEO after they’d left.
Good question. It’s a white metal that sits just near platinum on the periodic table, used in jewellery and various industrial processes. Where this Zimbabwean-grade status inflation will end is anybody’s guess. Beryllium?
For this, they get inducted into our “Infinity Plus One” Hall of Fame for goofy presentation over-promising.
Big presentation at the weekend. It was our Dad’s 80th birthday party. He was a sixties marketing guy called Don, though more of a packaged foods man than Don Draper. We put together a video from old shots of a bygone, excellent era when dads had their own chair, smoked constantly and dressed properly for work.
Trawling through the black and white stills, looking at immaculately turned-out grandmothers in airports and dashing, denim-free uncles at kid’s parties, it was clear that adults knew how to be adults in those days. They had a natural authority, demonstrating to the children how they, one day, would be expected to behave.
Rewind to another party a few weeks ago, a 40th. The talk is of iPhones.
I mention that I’m thinking of getting one, though I’m bothered by the cult-like conformity of my marketing industry brethren. If their iPhone told them to wait for the special spaceship in matching tracksuits and a pineapple in each hand, their only question would be: green or ripe pineapple?
A happy iPhone couple wanted to help me make the decision.
“Show him the fishing app!” the wife says. “It’s awesome!”
The excited husband pulls out his iPhone and taps on a fish icon.
“So it turns your phone into a fishing rod. You cast it like this.” He makes a casting motion.
“Then you wait for a bite. Here’s one now! Feel that!” I feel the phone. It’s vibrating like there’s a small fish attached.
“Now you reel it in,” he says, making a little rotary motion with his finger. “Cool, huh?”
Really, has it come to this?
Adults, with children of their own, wetting their pants with excitement about a screen game that, if it came in a box from John Sands, would say ‘Recommended Ages 3-7′?
I’m all for youthful energy, enthusiasm, and high technology. But for the good of the human race, can we direct it into things a bit less infantile?
As the hand-held digital device habit devours all before it, it’s time for some serious reflection on where the human brain is headed.
Forget extended teenagerhood. We’re talking pre-school stuff here. The evidence is all around you:
Adults wearing shoes with velcro fasteners.
Every coffee comes in a toddler’s sippy-cup, as if we can’t be trusted to hold an open drink.
Imagine you live in an area that’s about to consumed by massive, fatal bushfires. Now compare these two calls to action:
“There will be signficant fire activity with potential to impact.”
“Your house will face unstoppable fires with flame heights up to 35 metres high, moving at speeds much faster than your car’s top speed.”
Which one is going to make you leave your house?
This comes from Don Watson’s depressing analysis of how some fire authorities handled the massive Victorian bushfires earlier in the year, and how managerial language can completely fail to communicate, even in situations that are literally life or death .
These were people doing their heroic best in a terrible situation, but they were mired in the swamp of ‘key learnings’, ‘weather events’ and ‘iterative documents’ that they speak of every day at the office. When the time came to say ‘Run for your lives!‘, they didn’t have language vivid or specific enough to do it.
Another alleged ‘Call To Action’ popped up over the weekend, for the information of our international visitors. Kraft Foods, owners of the iconic Australian yeast spread Vegemite that has terrified the rest of the world for decades, have released a new product - Vegemite blended with cream cheese.
They decided to get their creative done via a contest, an approach that has won a lot of fans in corporate finance departments the world over. From 48,000 contest entries, the winner was announced:
According to a Kraft spokesperson, it was chosen for “its personal call to action and clear identification of a new and different Vegemite.”
We’ve been staring at it for a couple of days now, and if anyone can spot a call to action in there, please let us know.
It’s an interesting choice. For consumers who don’t know much about the web, it makes no sense applying that sort of unappetizing imagery to food.
For consumers who understand the web, it’s like seeing your Dad at the disco wearing a backwards baseball cap.
Kraft are not renowned for their understanding of the web. Their web site’s hyper-lawyered terms and conditions forbid anyone from linking to their site, as well as this chilling message:
“You may not redistribute or sell the material (web site photos and copy), nor may you reverse engineer, disassemble or otherwise convert it to any other form usable by humans.”
As a result, the clearest call to action has been from the outraged public, demanding that the abomination be put out of its misery.
Lesson for presenters? The winning entry was written by a 27 year old web programmer, speaking in his own language. It’s dangerous to assume that your audience speaks the same language you do.
As if in response to this afternoon’s post on public apologies, this story popped up. A 21 year old McDonalds manager at a island resort conference took phone shots of her 48 year old room mate sleeping naked and showed them around the next morning.
The room-mate, who had slept naked in the belief that she had a single room booking, was understandably enraged.
In court, the young photographer said:
“I am very, like, remorseful for what I did.”
Which should be added to the previous list of things not to say after you’ve done something appalling.
The other notable quote came from her defence lawyer, who said:
“Despite her being a manager of McDonald’s, [Murison is] a manager of flipping burgers, not a person who is trained up to deal with situations such as these.”
As if you need special training not to take nude phone shots without permission and show them around a conference breakfast.
Conference managers everywhere will be thinking: this incident represents one percent of the stuff we have to deal with, if the rest of it made it into court nobody would ever hold a conference again.
How impressive is Amelia Lester, a 26 year old Australian who has just been appointed managing editor of the New Yorker? Go Australian expats!
She started as a fact checker, a junior but indispensable role behind the scenes at any major magazine. Their job is to verify whatever the writers submit, make sure names and dates are correct, and generally make sure the publication isn’t held up to ridicule once they publish.
The fact checking urge has spread beyond the magazine world.
I was watching a presentation the other day, and the speaker was doing pretty well, making each point with breezy confidence. Then a voice from the back:
“Um… no it isn’t.”
This was the voice of an amateur audience fact checker, armed with an iPhone. He’d checked something, found it to be wrong, and brought it up mid-speech. Not in a “you’re wrong, fool” sort of fashion, but more in an attempt to be helpful.
He wasn’t the only one stroking an iPhone back there, either.
So be warned. Whatever facts you’re planning to present, you’d better check them beforehand, at least to a basic Wikipedia level. Or risk an embarrassing interruption from the iPhone fact vigilantes.
I’m working my way through a digital box full of Chaser episodes I missed while travelling, so apologies to readers in Australia for month-old news, but it’s important for our international visitors to see a world-class language mangler at the lectern.
I refer, of course, to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Orwell foretold his arrival half a century ago in when he wrote 1984, in which language was an important tool in keeping people under control. In Newspeak:
“Any word in the language . . . could be used as either verb, noun, adjective or adverb.” *
Watch Kevin as he pulls out an invisible sock puppet and drones out this stream of Kevspeak to the German media:
“It’s highly unlikely that you’ll have anything emerge from the MEF by way of detailed programmatic specificity.”
God knows what they would have made of that, given that Germans all speak much better English than this. Probably something like:
“Why does this man not use a professional speechwriter like every other leader in the world?”
Inspired by Will.i.am setting Obama’s words to music during the US Presidential campaign, The Chaser recruited a batch of prominent Australians to do the same for some classic Ruddisms.
Forget Yes We Can. Never have Appropriate Processes or Natural Complementarity carried such emotional power
What’s the best thing about working in smaller companies?
It’s being around people who can use the company kitchen to make simple snacks and refreshments without injuring themselves.
Who can get stationery out of the cupboard without jamming their head in the door hinges or getting staples lodged up their nostrils.
Who laugh at the dangers of residual heat in the toasted sandwich maker. Ha!
At bigger companies, these things take a fearsome toll in human life. The edges of the corporate fast lane are littered with the broken wreckage of those who got their tie too close to the paper guillotine. Or those who got trapped in the compactus that can move any time.
If the producers of the next James Bond movie want to continue with the ‘gritty reality’ theme, M should send him into the Compactus of Doom to hunt down his old petty cash receipts.
“Without those receipts, 007, we cannot approve any more fuel bills for those damn Aston Martins of yours. But I must warn you – that compactus can move at any time, and your fingers may be jammed upon closing.”
Once upon a time, the only thing to protect you from office danger was your own good sense, and the safety skills your mother taught you: don’t run with the scissors and so forth.
But at large companies, there’s always one person who doesn’t trust your good sense. They work undercover. Let’s call them Laminator Lady.
They have PowerPoint and a laminator, and they’re going to use them. And speaking of your mother, that’s the theme of the first message that appears in every office (including the traditional spelling):
“You’re mother does’nt work here so please make sure you leave the kitchen clean.”
Fair enough. But like serial killers, they can’t stop at just one. They get a taste for it, and when they find out how easy it is to put up signs undetected, they strike again and again.
Really - could there be anything funnier than a finance worker who’s cut his tie off while guillotining the balance sheets?
There’s a few essential elements for the classic laminated office sign.
Signs should contain at least one ‘grown-up’ word to convey some serious authority. Words that nobody has actually said since 1956. Though if you worked next to Laminator Lady, you might unmask her secret identity when you hear something like:
‘Whilst you’re going to the café, can you pick me up a packet of Tic Tacs upon your departure?’
And if you want to add the ultimate, Magna Carta-style decree of authority, you add the sign-off:
In an era of scant regard for management, these capital letters strike fear into Gen-Y slackers, ensuring that from now on they Pull Their Socks Up.
We’re not suggesting that all safety signs are bad. They make perfect sense if you work around heavy machinery or in warehouses, where you’re in genuine danger of being run over by a forklift driver with a hangover.
But where does it stop? At a company where I used to work, Laminator Lady had sneaked into the men’s bathroom, and placed this little gem at eye level. In World War Two it was ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’. Now the dangers are closer to home.
You could argue that reading distracting signs could actually add to the whole drip problem.
Thanks to our undercover agent at Largecorp for the kitchen and stationery shots. They’ve had a series of very active, toasterphobic Laminator Ladies.
“They’re always called Vicki, for some reason,” he says.
And if you want to see a really compelling piece of safety communication, set aside 9 minutes and watch this German forklift training video from a few years back. Starts dull, like any training video, but it really gets moving at the end.
Some months ago I was honored to win the first Miles Clarke Business Events Communication Award - seen being presented above by the adorable Elizabeth Rich.
I’ve been waiting for it to appear in print before I posted it. It’s now published in Brad Foster’s fine Mice.net magazine.
Read it here, it’s a PDF so you’ll need to click on the orange “Time To Embrace The Unvirtual” link at the bottom of the page.
It’s interesting to re-read it - modern trend articles always run the risk of being a bit out of date by the time they get printed. It was written about 6 months ago, during which time meeting Twitter has gone feral - at least in the US - with sweeping implications for meeting etiquette.
The core message is that people need to get away from all their screens occasionally and actually do something real and memorable, surrounded by actual humans.
Jarvis Cocker, ex-frontman of Britpopsters Pulp, put it nicely in a recent Sydney Morning Herald interview:
The idea of a performance being a one-off appeals to Cocker.
“It gets on my nerves when people seem so intent on filming everything on their mobile phones. I just wish people would experience it and be in that moment,” he says.
“It used to be when you went on holiday you’d see families where the father couldn’t interact with anyone, so hed’s stand there with the video camera filming the whole holiday and you’d think ‘what a sad character’. Now young people are doing it - it’s bad. They’re becoming middle-aged before their time.”
Cocker says having something that lingers only as a memory is better, as it changes over time.
“It gets altered by your brain, by your perception, whereas if you’ve just got a crappy, handheld phone footage version of it, it brings it all crashing down to earth, you know what I mean?”
Ian Whitworth believes passionately in the power of live communication, without the buzzwords and bullet points. He works as a creative director and principal of agency A Lizard Drinking. He is also one of the founders of audiovisual company Scene Change. Ian is an ex-professional presenter and long ago, ex-audiovisual technician. For non-presentation stuff, try @ianwhitworth.