SXSW

March 28th, 2010 No comments

On Wednesday I got back from the USA, where I’d been for just over two weeks, spending most of that time in Austin, TX.

I was there to attend the Music, Film and Interactive portions of South by Southwest (SXSW for short, or – for those really in the know – simply “South by”).

What is SXSW? From Wikipedia:

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a set of interactive, film, and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring in Austin, Texas, United States. SXSW first began in 1987 and is centered on the downtown Austin Convention Center. Each of the three parts runs relatively independently, with different start and end dates.

The music event has grown from 700 registrants in 1987 to nearly 12,000 registrants. SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive events attract approximately 11,000 registrants to Austin every March.

I’d heard lots about SXSW from various people over the past few years, and since my interests span Music, Film and Interactive I didn’t need much persuading to go this year.

2 weeks is a long time to be away from the office, but I figured it would be time well spent if it enabled me to learn some new things and get inspired.

SXSW delivered. It was time well spent. I learnt lots of new things, thought about some current things in a different way and it inspired me lots and lots. It reminded me why I set up Acknowledgement in the first place and reinforced how privileged I am to work in one of the most exciting and fastest changing industries in the world.   Austin also provided an ideal change of scenery that enabled me to have some thinking time around the future direction of the business and indeed the industry as a whole.

SXSW is big. Too big in fact to cover in one blog post, so I’ll be making several posts over the coming weeks talking about different aspects of the festival, and what I found interesting or memorable. And what I think could be done better. Having lost my SXSW virginity there are also some performance tuning issues from my side I want to hone for SXSW 2011. I’ll be sharing those on this blog too.

I even took some video footage when I was out there, so I’ll edit some of that down and post so you can get a taste of the general setup and atmosphere.

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Categories: Digital, Film, Music Tags:

Normal service will be resumed

March 28th, 2010 No comments

Hold onto your hats blog-o-sphere. I’m back.  With lots to say.

Stay tuned for blog posts about the USA, SXSW, Virtualisation, Nexus One vs Iphone, The BA Strike, some of London’s best new theatre shows, some really interesting digital production developments, giving up alcohol, plus the trials, tribulations and sheer joy of running your own business.  Oh, and protein shakes.

It all kicks off tomorrow. (book)mark my words.

Categories: Misc Tags:

Hello World!

May 4th, 2009 No comments

It’s been a very busy few months, hence the lack of updates. I’ve finally got internet at home again now, so more updates will follow…. honest!

Categories: Misc Tags:

Win!

March 16th, 2009 No comments

Nice to see one of our recent wins (there are quite a few!) has made the news:
http://www.brandrepublic.com/News/890729/Avis-appoints-Acknowledgement-Web-Liquid-pan-Euro-DM-business/

Really proud of Team Acknowledgement!

Categories: Advertising and Marketing, Work Tags:

Just how many Londons are there?

March 15th, 2009 No comments

The week before last I was lucky enough to attend a read-through of a new film script with my friends Keith and Jen – both of whom are involved in the actual production of the film being read through!

I’m always keen to try new things, and the event was given an added gravitas because a well respected director had not only agreed to direct the film but was also going to be at this read-through.

I rushed there after work: as usual my day was busy and it was hard to get all the things I needed to get done by 7pm done but somehow I managed to make it into a cab and across town to arrive at RADA with minutes to go till the 7.30 start.

Legging it in through their doors just off Gower Street I was furiously replying to people on my Blackberry and checking a voicemail I’d missed, when I suddenly realised I’d entered a whole (great) new world.

I managed to stop myself from announcing to the security guard that I was “from Acknowledgement” just in time and instead didn’t even need to give my name before being simply directed through to a big area at the back of their reception.

In this area no-one was on their Blackberry. Or their Iphone. In fact I didn’t even see an Iphone. I sheepishly put mine away.

No-one was walking around having loud mobile phone conversations. On the walls were pictures of current RADA students and also alumni.

This wasn’t the kind of building reception I was used to! Where were the client logos, marketing press, campaign showreels and yellow pencils?

A bar in the corner momentarily reassured me that I had in fact walked into an ad agency after all. But people seemed to be drinking in moderation: what sort of place was this?!

Before I had too long to contemplate these things, the evening kicked off and I found myself being captivated by the actors young and old who expertly brought the script alive.

The actors were (I later confirmed) doing this for free: to act to an audience is what they love doing: and despite having only spent 3 days with the script they put in a fantastic performance. In the Q and A afterwards I was really impressed by how much they had thought about the character they were playing: what that character’s motivations and desires were, and what, perhaps, had happened to that character in the past to explain their actions in the script.

The actors weren’t dressed in the latest designer gear or sporting fashionable haircuts. In fact I don’t think I spotted a single “credible” label in the whole place. But some of them were certainly young and fit enough to have been ad agency account management fodder and their intensity and dedication to their craft coupled with such confidence in delivery meant they didn’t need any such props to win the audience over.

Throughout the evening various bright young things (current students I assume) tiptoed in and out on their ways to other parts of the building.

Who were these people? Where were they going? How did they get here? I was asking myself all these questions!

So the evening worked for me on two levels. Firstly to hear the script read aloud really brought the story to life and made me understand it on a deeper level. It was a triumph for all involved and a milestone on the road to the film doing great things.

But Secondly the evening also reminded me that despite living here for almost ten years I don’t know London at all.

I know MY London.

But my London works in advertising or media. Hangs out in Soho or Shoreditch. Maybe Farringdon. Drinks at the Ten Bells or The Endurance or Soho/Shoreditch House. Lives in North London. Works 9ish to 6ish. We listen to similar things, wear similar things. We know who Joel Veitch is, of course we are on Twitter and yes Mum and Dad we saw that viral 5 days before it made The Sun. Hell, we might of even made that viral.

And there is nothing wrong with any of that: human behaviour is at it’s total base inherently tribal.

The first time you meet anyone new you immediately try to discover the tribes they belong to: where do they work, where did they study, who do they worship (“no-one” is the biggest tribe of all!), what football team do they support, do they like boys or girls (it’s confusing these days…), what music are they into, what food do they consume, where did they grow up, etc etc

You use the answers to work out where this new person fits on the big venn diagram of your own tribal allegiances.

But this evening reminded me just how many tribes there are and how many I’ve not even touched despite being in London ten years.

There are acting tribes. Political tribes. Student tribes. Parenting tribes. Music tribes. The cool cat 25 year-old advertising guy who likes The Hoxton Pony and MGMT is represented in a parallel universe by a young Tony Blair type who drinks in the Cinnamon Club in Westminster, goes to the Barbican lots and vaguely knows Price Harry. In another parallel universe the 25 year old is an aspiring song writer and performer playing the Hope & Anchor in Islington and living in Camden.  Or maybe he’s a junior doctor actually doing something important, like saving lives!

All those people rushing around London, heads down, ipods on: what do they do? Where are they going? Are they students, actors, lawyers, rent boys, unemployed, athletes, on the way to hospital treatment, politicians, medics, on the run? The answer of course is that they are all of the above – and much more besides.

It’s so easy to think your world is the only world: that what matters to the people around you is the only thing that matters to the world at large.

Advertising folk talk of “cut through” all the time: and this night at RADA did just that for me: it reminded me what a great city London is. How great all cities are. How great life is. But how little I actually see of it.

I love London: You can make a million pounds in a week in London. You can find the love of your life in a week. HOW you do it is another question, but it’s possible – it’s all out there.

You can go to some of the best clubs in the world, or see some of the best theatre and music there is. You can eat the best food, or volunteer for charity and also see the worst poverty.

When I first came to London I walked through the streets with sheer wonderment as to the potential this city had in store for me. Ten years later I’d started to kid myself I’d conquered it and have spoken to people about being bored of London.

Bollocks! I realise now I’ve maybe seen 1% of what this city has to offer. The London revival for me starts again right here right now.

London is a city I want to rediscover and find new things in. And that’s what I’m going to do! And you blog reader are coming along for the ride.

More soon!

Categories: Misc, Social Tags:

Fundamentally Great

February 22nd, 2009 No comments

It may not be cool to like them these days, but the Pet Shop Boys have always been one of my favourite groups. I can remember buying “Always on my Mind” as a 7 inch when I was a kid and their music has always featured in my life. The album “Nightlife”, for example, reminds me of being at University and staying up the whole night to start and complete the essay that was due the next day.

“Very” reminds me of school and the song “Later tonight” from the album “Please” is one of my all time favourite ballads.

Visually, the PSB have also always been a step or two ahead of other groups. Working with people like Mark Farrow from the start they’ve also collaborated with other visual heros of mine including stage designer Es Devlin and photographers/film makers Bruce Weber, Sam Taylor Wood, Martin Parr and Wolfgang Tillmans

It was great therefore to catch them at the end of the Brits this week where they were recipients of the Outstanding Contribution award and learn their new album is out soon, plus also catch news of an O2 show.

I hope this serves to remind the British public consciousness that Lennon/McCartney aren’t the only great British song writing duo we’ve produced.

Their Brit’s performance in case you missed it:

Categories: Music Tags:

Breaking news is best on Twitter

February 15th, 2009 No comments

As mentioned in my earlier post, on Friday evening I was at London City Airport en route to Amsterdam. I love London City Airport: it’s small, quick to get through, £20 in a cab from my office or flat (compared to £15 for Heathrow Express or similar fares to Gatwick or Luton) and the staff treat you as human beings rather than cattle.

Also, as I’m not the biggest fan of flying, what I like about City is that I can get there early evening on a Friday, have a few beers and something to eat and before I know it I’m on the plane enjoying one more beer and then I have landed at my destination. The place is full of city boys doing the same thing, so there is a sense of camaraderie. (Or, alternatively, I am just a bit odd).

Anyhow, on Friday there I was waiting for my flight to Amsterdam, which was showing as being delayed by almost 2 hours. Annoying, especially as the VLM flight due to take off at the same time made it away quickly. But then, all of a sudden the status changed to “Cancelled”.

As we now know, the crash landing of the incoming flight from Amsterdam was unfolding.

Not that you’d know from inside the airport! As other flights started to show “cancelled” or simply disappeared from the departure screen people started to gather round the information desk. All the staff would say is that there had been an “incident on the runway” and that we couldn’t leave.

People speculated perhaps someone had run on the runway? Out of the windows people could see fire engines, but no fire.

Bar staff said they knew what had happened and it was serious but they couldn’t tell us.

An announcement said the airport was now closed but we had to stay where we were and couldn’t leave. A further announcement asked passengers to return their duty free!

London City has free Wi-Fi. I fired up my laptop and nothing on BBC News or Sky News: but then Twitter came to the rescue….

First entry I could find was cryptic:

“hope everyone is ok at london city”
@exatco

then they came thick and fast:

“Something odd at London City airport. All flights canceled no one allowed to leave. Talk of a crash. Website says due to “an incident”…!!!”
@burgesg

“LCY London City Airport Incident. What happened? Runway closed?!”
@interchris

Finally some clarity:

“Serious Incident at London City Airport: BA 8456 from Amsterdam landed and LCY and the front gear collapsed. Pax evacuated via slides”
@TransWorld

My own tweets were soon re-tweeting their way around Twitter too. I even got a few direct messages from people I didn’t know. One claimed to be a journalist. All very exciting.

Fellow passengers were tweeting too:

“All flights from LCY are now cancelled, but noone is allowed to leave the airport. Noone seems to know what’s going on.”
@philip_clarkson

Then the story appeared on BBC News and Sky News and soon a small crowd of people were queuing to use my laptop to look at other flight options, contact hotels or read the news reports for themselves.

In true British spirit passengers who 30 minutes earlier were looking at each other with thinly veiled looks of contempt were all chatting together, giving each other advice on how to handle travel plans and collectively wondering what had happened.

Throughout all of this there were NO official announcements form the airport as to what had actually taken place!

Free tea and coffee were obviously part of their rehearsed emergency plan as they started to serve them en mass! I opted for more alcohol but had to pay!

Then, all of a sudden, security started throwing everyone out of departures very rudely and very quickly. I had no checked in luggage so didn’t have to queue, but many people did! On the way out the police asked each passenger if they’d seen anything on the runway before they could go.

Fortunately no one was killed or seriously injured, but it did give a strange insight into how these situations are handled. I wonder if the refusal to give any information to passengers is a paranoia that giving the wrong information can result in a law suit?

All the BA staff had gone home and BA’s phone lines were closed so people had to guess at what was the best course of action. We headed off to Heathrow – others tried to book themselves into local hotels.

One thing is for sure though: as the Hudson River plane crash also proved breaking news now belongs on twitter. Forget news wires: twitter is the wire of the people!

Categories: Digital, Misc Tags:

The best laid plans…

February 15th, 2009 No comments

This weekend has been a bit of a weird one.

I was supposed to go to Amsterdam but events at London City Airport conspired against us – the wheel fell off the plane we were supposed to fly out on.

A very expensive cab drive to Heathrow followed, along with an awful nights sleep. On Sat AM feeling as rough as fuck I abandoned my plans and started the trek back home. I’ve finally had some sleep but still feel very odd. I am hoping an early night tonight will sort it though as this coming week looks like another really busy one. The joyful task of trying to get my money back is on my to-do list for this week.

Categories: Misc Tags:

Busy ++

February 11th, 2009 No comments

This week is another mad one work wise but I’ve sorted out my new flat (goodbye Islington, hello Shoreditch) and I’m really looking forward to going to Amsterdam at the weekend!

More soon! This blog will continue to be updated :)

Categories: Misc Tags:

On estate agents (and cab drivers)

February 1st, 2009 3 comments

So I’ve been looking at flats. This was a recent conversation that took place in a flat with an estate agent.

Me: “Yeah, I quite like it – it’s not bad. Bit overpriced?”

Them: “It’s an exceptional flat. There’s already an offer in on it.”

Me: “Oh. So it’s not available then?”

Them: “Well, a guy has put an offer in. A banker, lots of cash. Wants to move really fast. Moment he saw it he wanted it. ”

Me:  “Oh right, a banker with lots of cash? Nice to know they are still around! So you know him? He’s your client? He’s not with another agent?”

Them: “Yeah he keeps calling me. Really wants to move fast”

Me: “Right.  So would you do this to me as well? If I was to put an offer in? Show other people a flat an offers already in on? Aren’t you supposed to take it off the market? Isn’t that what it says you do on your website?”

Them: “Well, yeah, technically, but with these flats you can’t hang around, they will just go, everyone wants them. I’d put in asking price and no break clause if you want it mate”

Me: “Right.”

Them: “So yeah do you want to put an offer in?” 

Me: “Sorry, but it’s empty, no? Have I missed something? We are standing in an empty flat? And it’s on your website? And has been for a while? And I think there is one two floors up on with your competitor?  Would suggest it’s not being snapped up in minutes?”

Them: “It will go mate.  These don’t come up very often”

What is it with Estate Agents? Are they thick? Bad salesmen? Or just wankers?

I read a great article the other day about how the physcology of estate agents is totally fucked.

Of course, I forgot to bookmark it, but the jist of it was that they spend too long trying to turn a “in the right ballpark” offer into a high offer.

Because Estate Agents only get a small percentage of the asking price the actual difference into their pocket from a mid to high offer is very small.

3 “in the right ballpark” deals in quick succession are worth more to an Estate Agent than 1 big one. So they should be spending their time convincing landlords or sellers to stop losing money on an empty property and accept these lower offers rather than chasing a high value deal off a punter and wasting hours wearily showing multiple people the same flat time and time again.

More on the psychology of estate agents here:
http://www.channel4.com/4homes/buying-selling/estate-agents/the-psychology-of-estate-agents-08-05-28_p_1.html

A cab driver was telling me a similar flawed logic exists in his profession. Lots of drivers will come out until they make a set amount and go home.

Say that amount is £200 a day. Some days it might take them 8 hours, some days it might take them 16 hours.

If they make £200 in 7 hours, they race home amazed they have done so well and put their feet up. Bad move! If you’ve made it in 7 hours on one day, that is the day to stay out – by 16 hours chances are you’ve made £400.

i was intrigued by this and did some digging around online and it turns out this theory was first put forward by Cornell Professor Robert Frank in his book The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas.

You can read an article based on it here too:
http://www.stockcentral.com/learn/blog/tabid/159/EntryID/40/language/en-US/Default.aspx

Lots of food for thought!

Whilst we’re on the subject of taxis though, I do love my conversations with cab drivers: of course some are full of shit, but amongst my many journeys I’ve spoken to cab drivers who built up multi-million pound businesses and lost it all, others who used to work for the Royal Family and even one who claimed to be the fifth Beatle. To be fair, that last one was a bit odd but he did have a Liverpudlian accent.

In my whimsical way though I do often think it must be interesting to be in a profession where you so often see little intimate snatches of other people’s lives without them really realising they are being observed.

The phone calls overheard by cab drivers, the insecurities and ramblings of couples en route to an event one of them is dreading, the last tense conversations between former cabinet ministers (or even faded 80s pop stars!) and their legal counsel as they head to court to be sentenced: I’m sure there is a book or even a film that could be made about this sort of thing one day. If I was an under cover author I think I’d spend 6 months driving a cab in a kind of George Orwell inspired mission to learn about what really goes on in London.

One for the ideas box, that.

Categories: Misc, Work Tags:
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