28 September 2007

France France France. Para One.

I don't know what's going on with France. I really don't. Everything awesome is coming out of there lately. Ever since before I wrote about remix culture and how this particular brand of it has exploded seemingly out of nowhere, more and more and more has come up and it's all been from France (okay, with the exception of Simian Mobile Disco, among a few others). Justice, Uffie (well okay, all of Ed Banger Records), The Teenagers (who don't completely fall under this, but their remixes definitely do), and Para One, whom I just discovered today (yeah yeah yeah, sometimes things fly completely over my head). I know there's more. Help me out, guys.

Para One's stuff is really, really catchy. I just read about him in Earplug and found out that he's recently made the switch (this seems to be a trend in Paris right now) from hip hop to club music. The thing is, this isn't your typical club music that you would find in trendy places here in New York, all the girls wearing backless tops. This is different. Like I said in my reflections on the Dafterparty, these guys have a good time. They don't seem to care about who's looking. There is no pretension. Unlike the "I don't smile" attitudes of these other clubbers (or NY hipster socialites), this is what Para One does:

(which reminds me a lot of Teddybears, who played last night at Hiro):

The animal head thing - whether it's a trend or coincidence - is proof of this. It has to be. I mean, look at what Para One does to a dance floor. Nobody standing around and posing for the camera. They don't even think of it, they're too busy dancing their faces off and even sometimes injuring themselves doing so.

Sometimes when I'm really excited about something, I have problems articulating myself. But I guess what it is here is simple: they just want to make people smile and move. That's it. The energy clearly comes through in it all. When my roommate asked me what kind of music I was about to dance to last night, I shrugged and said "neon."

EDIT | I just realized the sheer idiocy it takes to rave about dance music that makes you unable to sit still, but only offer text and non moving visuals. Sorry guys. Here is Para One's video for dundun-dun. It looks like something Vice might shoot - a bunch of hot girls having a pillow fight, feathers blowing everywhere. Somehow milk got brought into the picture too.

Now, dance.

27 September 2007

Cause for Drinks

Last night I went to Cause for Drinks at Max Fish. It's put on every month by All Day Buffet, which is a relatively new project that links events with social causes. They explain it best on their web site:

alldaybuffet connects likeminded people by bringing together the things we like with the things that matter most. equal parts event filter, party planner, social network and think tank. Think Flavorpill on a Mission. Ed Banger with a Social Spin. Japanther for Cancer, etc… There’s a buffet of good options to choose from, we just want you to get full on good.

Every month, $2 from each drink goes towards a charity. September's proceeds went towards the New Orleans Kid Camera Project, which helps to expose the children who survived Hurricane Katrina to new means of expression (through photography, creative writing and mixed media).

cause for drinks

cause for drinks
[Adrian, cofounder of All Day Buffet, and Noah]

cause for drinks
[Arthur at the pool table]

cause for drinks

cause for drinks
[the guys from Behance, a network for showcasing creative projects]

Cause For Drinks is held at the same time in multiple cities, much like Likemind, which is pretty awesome (more cities = more people attending = more drinks bought = more money towards good causes). September welcomed Austin into the mix, along with New York City and New Orleans. I have a feeling this thing will grow quickly and more cities will start participating soon.

25 September 2007

New Next: It's not business as usual

Here's the October New Next. It's not up on Mediapost yet so I'm posting the text of the draft I submitted - I don't think too much has changed, except they removed the link for the Connection Planning Conference. I'm not sure why, because people who read this and find our discipline remotely interesting might want to know where to go for more information (instead of having to go through the extra step of Googling it).

This month's article was born out of and built around the section I underlined below. I wrote that part first; it was inspired by someone I spoke with briefly at Likemind last month. I can't remember his name, but he is studying copywriting at a portfolio school and asked me about job hunting in New York. He was finding it very competitive and said something like "But it must be easier for you strategists, right? I mean, all you guys do is do research and report it back to us." I politely tried to explain what it was that we actually do, but inside I was seething. I was so furious by the time I got to Naked that I immediately wrote that paragraph and structured my entire column around it. The whole thing really worried me. There are only a few ad schools out there, and if this is what some of them are teaching their students - the supposed young minds that will some day run our industry - how are things ever going to change?

Anyway, here you go guys. My frustration yielded this column, so I guess I should thank that guy I met and spoke with at Likemind.

"Last month I wrote about how exciting and dynamic our industry is right now. Much of the excitement is due to the rapid blurring of lines within the field of communications. Lines and silos are disappearing and titles are vanishing. Those who are realizing this change aren't drawing distinctions or referring to the people they work with as Suits and Creatives anymore. The fields of account and media planning are merging with creativity and moving into a new, more strategic and smarter direction.

Account planning as we once knew it isn’t enough. It needs more than the traditional process of doing research, unearthing an insight and reporting it to a creative team in the form of a one page brief. Media planning needs a change as well: it's becoming increasingly difficult to rely on mathematic projections that are based on old assumptions of behavior.
Media and people's environments are constantly evolving, and therefore so are the ways they interact with their surroundings. It's easy to use statistical data to justify expenditures, but it's getting harder to feel safe about using outdated algorithms that might be unrepresentative of today's reality of ever-changing media consumption.

Somewhere along the line, people realized that the model was broken. They got forward-thinking minds from various disciplines together and started to work with each other's strengths to form communications planning. They don't just focus on people and media; they observe the relationships between people and media as they interact with each other. For instance, communications planners realize that people behave differently with an opt-in e-mail than they do with a television commercial, a pod cast, a piece of direct mail or a billboard. A single brand message cannot be slapped onto each of these media channels and be expected to reach people in the same way. Three or four years ago, everyone was talking about Integrated Marketing Communications; that isn't enough either anymore. It's about adapting brand messages to work together seamlessly and reach people in the most strategic way possible, throughout the different stages of their journey with your brand.

Whether they call this new discipline communications planning, connection planning, creative media planning or anything else, people are taking notice and actually starting to do something about it. October 26th will mark the first Connection Planning Conference in New Orleans. Framed as a polygamous wedding (www.polygamousweddings.com), it plans to celebrate the marriage of the Planning, Media and Creative disciplines that lead to smarter and more strategic communications. Following in the same vein, the conference will draw visionary thinkers from a range of communications backgrounds – ad agency partners, planning directors, heads of media, independent consultants and writers – rather than only appealing to people from a single discipline and preaching to the choir.

What appears to be a great example of fresh thinking in this direction lies in what was one of the biggest movie events of the summer: The Simpsons Movie. Everyone from newbies to decades-old fans was able to interact with the brand from a variety of different touch points. In addition to one-way media channels like billboards and trailers, people could take an interactive tour of Springfield’s landmarks on the film’s web site. They were able to experience the brand in person when 7Eleven converted stores all around the country into Kwik-E-Marts (complete with branded uniforms and merchandise). The “Simpsonizer” added a viral personalization element by allowing fans to make a Simpsons character in their likeness to post online and pass around to friends. The movie’s campaign not only understood where its fans were spending their time, but also how they behaved with and consumed different media channels. The movie ended up grossing over $74 million during its opening weekend, putting The Simpsons Movie in the top five selling films of the summer.

The success of this and other such campaigns will hopefully serve as an example of how to effectively speak to consumers at a time when the communications lines are blurring more and more. This joining together of disciplines will succeed in pushing the discipline further, encouraging the proliferation of smarter communications and helping to move businesses into the future."

24 September 2007

South America

I've been back for a week and a half, but now I finally have all the photos I need to tell stories. I'll try to be succinct here. MT, John, Kacy and I traveled to Brazil and Colombia for some work /meetings. I had never been to either country, so I was really excited.

São Paulo was awesome. Our hotel had - among three million other awesome things - circular windows in all of the rooms.

[looks like a fish-eye lomo, right?]

There was a long rectangular pool on the roof, paved with red mosaic tiles. We called it the Blood Pool and - since we weren't really allowed to leave our hotel aside from our meetings (we had a long-running "ATM Stickup" joke going) - spent most of our (working (ha)) time there. We had a 360° view of the city from the roof too, which was beautiful.

MT on an hour-long conference call
[MT on a conference call]

Kacy working
[Kacy working in the Blood Pool]

Okay, the real adventures began after this. We decided - upon our client's suggestion - to visit the beach at Maresias, "a two to two and a half hour drive from São Paulo." I put that in quotes because guess how long our drive took. Yes you guessed right - six and a half hours. This was one of the most maddening journeys ever, because our driver spoke no English. Kacy was able to speak to him in French a tiny bit, but his French wasn't very terrific at all. To top it off, the most terrible Brazilian pop radio station was playing in John's ear the entire time. I think he was close to jumping out of the van.

At one point, we were starving and needed to use the bathroom. The driver pulled over to the first available place, in the middle-of-nowhere rural Brazil. This place was equal parts fish farm, pool hall, tikki bar and outdoor restaurant. It was fascinating, and we never would have gotten this taste of local flavor had we taken our originally-planned helicopter to the beach (the fog over the mountains ended up being bad that day).

motorcycles and people eating

The next day (at the hotel in Maresias, finally) was my 25th birthday. It was the best birthday of my life. We spent the entire day on this beach, where mountains jutted out of the sea. I climbed some rocks at the end of the beach and thought about Puerto Rico the whole time.

happy birthday to me.


Now let me tell you about the drive back. It took less time than the drive there, but was more terrifying. Very terrifying. Long story short, it was looking impossible to get back to the city. Problems with the helicopter again, our hotel hadn't sent a driver, there was only one driver at the beach resort with a tiny car, etc. He ended up calling his friend to drive as well, so we had two cars and enough room for our luggage.

This was a bad idea. But we were so desperate to get back to São Paulo that we really weren't thinking clearly. Kacy and I ended up getting into this two-door, teal tin can Fiat. The ceiling was practically rotting onto us, and there were blankets and newspapers covering the floor. The "driver" was a huge man with a huge scar on one side of his face. He was not a driver. He was just the resort's driver's buddy, who happened to have a car. MT and John later told us that their guy was driving on the shoulder of the highway the entire time, and sometimes on the wrong side of the road (just to pass cars). Neither driver spoke English.

At one point, our driver started cursing and pulled over to the side of the highway. He said something to the effect of "one minute" in Portuguese dialect /slang, and ran out of the car, away from us.

Here is the house we were parked next to. There were wild roosters running around, and a strange man that walked right behind our car (from the strange house? We have no idea) and came inches from the driver's side. Kacy and I thought he was going to get in and drive us away to kill us somewhere, so we lunged forward and slammed down on the locks. Turns out he was just taking a stroll down the highway, walking around our car (on the traffic side?) instead of at the edge of the road.

We still don't know why our guy ran away from the car. He went to talk to a group of bikers for 15 minutes. Kacy guessed that he was either in the market for a bike and wanted to ask them about it, was lost, was buying drugs, or was friends with the guys and "just wanted to say hi."

Needless to say, we all kissed the floors of our circle-windowed, blood-pool-on-the-roof hotel when we finally got back.

Our final dinner in Brazil was at a restaurant built around a 200 year-old fig tree. Best meal of the trip thus far.

I loved Bogotá. I kind of thought that it would be a "this could be any city" metropolis, because my parents lived there for 3.5 years in the 1970s when my father was the Colombia Head of Operations for an international bank. I guess I thought that it was a bustling business city. Well, it is, but it's beautiful. It has such an old-style, provincial feel to it. Downtown Bogotá has gotten very safe lately - we were able to walk around freely without feeling scared at all.

Everybody is beautifully dressed in Bogotá. The women look impeccable and the men are all wearing suits everywhere and carrying themselves so well.

We also noticed this amazing juice-drinking phenomenon. At lunches and dinners filled with businessmen and politicians, everybody is ordering tropical fruit juices to have with their meals. One of the clients ordered us glasses of feijoa juice - a fruit I had never even heard of - and it was delicious. He told us that a fun thing to do is to go to a restaurant and order every single juice on the menu. I wish we had known that sooner. This just means we'll have to return ASAP to try it out.

This trip was incredible. amazing. I can't even believe I got to be a part of it. Between the hard work, long meetings, longer drives and scary adventures... wouldn't have changed a thing. Not even our friend ScarFace.

[photos by Kacy and me]

I feel silly

I had never looked through the table of contents in Media before until this morning when I saw this NY-related headline at the bottom of the cover and thought it might be about my September column.

I flipped to the back to make sure it was the column I was thinking of, and then to the table of contents.


Now I want to find all of the issues from the past year and read the blurbs. I feel silly.

18 September 2007

Heron the blind pimp

I just had a conversation with Heron in our kitchen about my watch. I got it at Air Market; every hour it screams the time at me in Japanese. They had the watches in several different bright colors, and two other languages too (English and German).

screaming Japanese watch!

Heron told me that these Talking watches were originally produced to be sold to blind people, so that they could know what time it was at the push of a button (I can make it talk on command as well). I had no idea! Then he started telling me about a movie (perhaps a TV spot?) he starred in a while ago. He played a blind pimp with one of these Talking watches (plus bling of course). Wait for it to load: it's not a YouTube video (but a .mov)!

Every single topic of conversation seems to bring up a memory in Heron in which he did something far out like this. He's a good guy to have around.

I will update about Brazil as soon as I have everyone else's photos - there are a couple on Kacy's camera that are integral to telling our road-trip-with-scarface story.

10 September 2007

Army of Lovers

I will wait until I return from South America to talk about it; I want to include photos with stories, and my camera cable is at home. But anyway, hello from São Paulo!

I've been in such a good mood here in Brazil that I wanted to surround myself with more related stimuli last night. I remembered watching this video all the time when I was eight or nine years old:

Isn't that cute? I fell asleep with that playing last night.

Onto my point. I then started thinking about all the other videos I had seen when I was that age. All I watched on television in Puerto Rico at that time was a channel called The Box. I have no clue if they had it in the U.S. or not. It was a music video channel where everyone voted by telephone on what would play next. While videos played, you would see the three competing videos on the side, with their vote scores tallying up in real time. It was so exciting for me. I don't think I was ever allowed to vote, but I used to cheer on my favorite videos (usually either R.E.M.'s Losing My Religion or Guns N Roses' Don't Cry) and guess what the winning video would be.

At one point, these videos by a band called Army of Lovers played all the time. People kept voting for them. I had forgotten all about Army of Lovers until the name popped into my head this morning. I remembered enough to search for the two videos I would see all the time, Crucify and Obsession. I found both on YouTube, thank goodness. I started watching them and couldn't stop giggling at how ridiculous they were. catchy, but ridiculous.

The first thing I thought was that the girl in this video looks a lot like this underage go go dancer I see at dance parties in NY all the time. I then thought to myself, "This is what I watched when I was eight years old?"

So, I am curious. Does anybody else remember this band? I looked them up on Wikipedia and read that some of their videos were banned on MTV (but that they were quite big in Europe for a couple of years). Anybody? Ha, I can't stop watching these. They're great.

04 September 2007

A slight love letter to New York.

The September New Next just came out. I very slightly edited this because they didn't capitalize Naked Communications or New Next in the first sentence. But other than that, here you go. We didn't get the issue in our office yet, otherwise I would have adorned this entry with a .pdf scan (fixed!). Oh also, I don't think I knew when I wrote this a couple of months ago that McCarren Pool parties were not going to be happening anymore :(

"It's been exactly one year since I moved to New York, started at Naked Communications and wrote my first New Next column. After some reflection, I realized that New York is actually the New Next — the most exciting place to be right now for this business that we're in. Not only is this city naturally bursting with cultural opportunities, but brands are also beginning to add to this culture in smarter and more strategically complete ways. There are so many different kinds of agencies forming here all the time that do a variety of fascinating things, ranging from digital strategy shops to design and innovation startups.

Ten years ago, the mass communications industry in New York was far from exciting. Global brands worked with monolithic agencies, nobody wanted to take risks and there seemed to be a predictable formula for all campaigns. The Madison Avenue giants that dominated the ad world were as corporate as banks, and clients themselves were conservative. So much has changed since then though, and now this industry matches New York as a city.

New York has always been anti-establishment — and about opportunities, taking risks and being unafraid of change. It could never be the capital of this great country because New York is not so much about historical tradition and preservation as it is about tearing things down, reinventing and starting over with the next exciting thing. For example, McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn, built by the WPA during the Depression, was once one of the biggest swimming pools in the country. Closed for years, it's now used for a weekly summer indie rock "pool party." The High Line, a former elevated freight railroad in Chelsea, was abandoned and left to rust in 1980. By next summer, it will have been converted into a floating park for New Yorkers to enjoy.

People were always telling my class at the VCU Adcenter that we were coming into this business at the most exciting time in the history of advertising and media. We didn't understand what that meant until we got to jump in and live it. Whereas there were a small handful of general media channels in which to buy and place communications years ago, there are dozens today. From digital peer-to-peer to experiential out-of-home and SMS response, media channels have been fragmented and broken down enough to allow for virtually infinite ways of communicating with people. We can finally be more strategically creative about things.

For example, Nike Vintage Running didn't stop at its beautifully crafted and designed Web site — they had several of the shoe models displayed in a beat-up van right in front of the weekly party at McCarren Pool this summer.

It was so strategically placed and branded that partygoers had a hard time figuring out if it was a Nike-sponsored stunt or just a bunch of hippies trying to beat the heat in their van. Scholastic recently shut down an entire street in SoHo and converted it into "Harry Potter Place" in anticipation of the midnight release of the final volume. They brought in wizards, artifacts from the books and a giant countdown clock to entertain fans who had waited in line for hours to get the first copies.

This refreshing change in our industry is not going unnoticed, either. Global brands with billions of dollars in ad spend are pulling out static, one-way communications ideas and starting to take risks. Big agencies are re-evaluating and trying to reinvent themselves. Smaller agencies are growing because they were willing to take huge risks that are now paying off. And not just risks, but strategically smart ones.

The renaissance of the creative inspiration that was present in the early days has slowly been making its way back into our industry for a little while. Now it's in full swing. They were right — this is the most exciting time to be here, and I'm thankful for that. I'm able to watch and contribute to the energy that surrounds the thinking in our industry. We might not be the capital of the country here in New York City, but we are the capital of the creative and entrepreneurial spirit."

Written by Johanna Beyenbach, associate strategist, and curated by Paul Woolmington, Naked Communications.

Not sure how much I'll be updating in the next week, as I'm going to Brazil and Colombia for work-related things. I'll try though! xx
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