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Archive for June, 2007

Omnicom Summer School

The deadline for the Omnicom Summer School has been extended to the 7th of July. So get your applications done and send ’em off to Steve.

More here.

Whack your questions in the comments.

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Arty Farty

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I’ll just launch into this one. My partner is a Sculptress; she travels pretty much all over the world on private commissions, competitions, residencies or is in the UK on public commissions. As a result I pretty much have to spend 60% of my spare time in art galleries and exhibitions…..you can usually find me outside sighing, smoking with…I won’t go into that again.

Anyway, I’m currently doing the university final year shows. Goldsmith’s, Central St Martins, Royal College, Camberwell etc and one thing is a consistent thread throughout most which is that apart from an elite 5% of these shows I am distraught to the self indulgent matter that is produced. This may seem harsh and this may seem from someone who isn’t educated in art but then what is a qualification to critique? Essentially art is as subjective as the people you find attractive, the music you like and food you find tasty so I’m well in my right to say I find most university work quite appalling. On the flip side you are quite entitled to say you find it great…

…but let’s focus on it being so appalling. If you walk around these shows you’ll notice that the majority of the work has no appreciation of the end audience in mind whatsoever (a lesson taught on all art courses so I’m told). Presentation is bad, appreciation of space is lazy and even take away documents such a business cards are shoddy and ill thought out. Essentially a final year degree is to show case your best work to the public, it’s already marked so this is the beauty contest with the end objective to either get a scholarship to an MA course or get work. Why the fck then would you confuse the public with conceptual, self indulgent meaningless, ill presented wank? It just supports the statistic that 82% of art graduates aren’t working in the arts. I mean, one girl had a cardboard wall, with sand at the bottom and a projector at the top which gave a faint bluey effect – water I guess. She’s only put it in the most light part of the gallery so you couldn’t even see the projection. One had cut her business cards with blunt scissors, oh how very rustic, bin. One guy had filmed his shitty back yard in Stoke Newington with his bed in it and a lamp on the floor…..for 3 hours.

Final year degree shows make me really mad, they’re just not honest.

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Go to one and I dare you to write your honest thoughts in their comments book. It’s liberating! No longer will little Johnny waste his time under the delusion that because he ticked all the right boxes with lecturers, got a 2:1 and his Ma and Pa said ‘great’ will he think that drawing the 12 most influential people in the world, 6 good, 6 bad and calling it ‘The Balance’ is any reason for him to think he has a pubic louse’s size of a chance of working in the commercial art world. Now when it’s good, it’s good. It does everything that art is meant to do, it engages by using some sort of drama or craft skill, it has a visual impact that registers making you curious and you always walk back to it.

I was then dragged kicking and screaming to queue for Damien Hirst’s recent exhibition at the white Cube, Beyond Belief. Now I like Hirst I was just tired and annoyed of walking all around Brick Lane seeing gash. However, when entering the White Cube, fuck me, that man is a genius. Knowing every single button to press when creating things that people will just gape in awe at is a bloody strong talent.

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I wont get conceptual about how his work transcends from birth to death ending in a skull encased in £12m worth of custom cut diamonds (which strangely enough is shown first and not last) but I will say it’s just an amazing solo exhibition and should definitely be seen to instil confidence in the Brit art scene. It makes you angry that Tracey Emin is representing the UK at the Venice Biennale and that Hirst should be there destroying every artist that claims be the next best contemporary thing. It’s cliché to like the guy Saatchi made famous with the populist Shark and rotting cow head, but it’s a cliché because it’s true. He is populist because he’s just so fckn good. Anyway, I’ll leave it there. Just wanted to write how pissed off I get with degree shows and how much I melt at high profile, high budget and high expertise stuff. When put like that, don’t take any notice of the above, I’m clearly just a grumpy c*nt. ……but……  Deluze did say. ‘I don’t claim to be an artist, but knowing what I like puts me in a more powerful position than one’.

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An interesting but not really mind-blowing take on how Facebook users are apparently likely to be more educated than MySpace users. It’s not a shock given that Facebook started life as a college based networking site (up until some months ago you had to have your university on the facebook list and have access to email from that institution to join).

And to think it took a six month research project to come to this conclusion. Oh dear.

Read the article here.

Brandrepublic Forum discussion thread here.

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For The Record…

..I didn’t leak anything to Campaign about not getting Saatchis, but someone must have read the post I did. It’s pretty cool to be in Campaign again though. So no complaints from me 😀

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Last week I was at Chinwag’s latest event, The Darkside of Social Media. It was definitely thought provoking. However/but/etc I was quite disappointed/but not really shocked to see the vast majority of traditional agencies not present on the guest list. But that’s not something Chinwag had control of.

The panel (as listed by Chinwag) consisted of Luke Razzell, Tim Ireland, Mike Barrett, James Cherkoff, Cristiano Ventura and chair Mike Butcher. Be sure to check out Amelia’s and Peter’s blogs as they were there and will no doubt have more eloquent and thoughtful insights.

I found it a little ironic that MySpace and Facebook kindly refused to attend, thinking that they would have various cans of whoop ass opened up on them at the event. Why ironic? In my mind it alludes to a total lack of confidence in the product they’re pushing. As a guestimate, MySpace has 8 million subscribers and Facebook 2 million. If that many people have signed up, and have by and large behaved themselves, would you not at least have the temerity to show your face at an event where by its nature (i.e. it being a communications centric crowd) the audience would be sympathetic to what you’re trying to achieve? I would have thought so. But MySpace and Facebook obviously didn’t. Regardless, it was great to see MSN Spaces represented on the panel.

While all in attendance got the requisite horror stories (and I’m not trying to sweep them under the carpet, just that you usually hear about the same sorts of cases when talk turns to social networking), I think that generally the outlook for social networks that I got from all I talked to was one of cautious optimism. The truth really is that social media is not going to change the way people are, because intrinsically we as a collective body (the human race) are pretty much the same as we were 50 years ago in terms of the good, the bad and the ugly. You still have criminals, whether you’re in 1883 or 1956 or 2007, you still have crackpot stalkers, and you will always always always have freeloading teenagers who will jump on any bandwagon that is a free party and the opportunity to trash someone’s house.

It’s just that now we are experiencing changes in the way our collective antics, good and bad are a) communicated to the general public – hello sensationalist media (funny how when a huge paedophilia ring was busted because of MySpace it was buried in the broadsheets, but the MySpace party house that was trashed was screamed about from the rooftops – more irony) and b) communicated to our friends and their friends and their friends (you get the picture). Because obviously social networks/email/IM/text allow events/news to spread much quicker than say 15 years ago. But people are still people and will always be people. And I feel that solutions weren’t that forthcoming from the majority of the panel, which was probably due to the time-constraint (and no – ‘don’t use the internet’ is not a solution).

I really like James Cherkoff’s statement that ‘The Internet is the real world’ because I’m positive that some people (Hello Daily Mail) like to put the view out that the Internet is a haven for child abusers, terrorists and (as I’ve heard some people put it) generally bad eggs. But it’s not. Yes it makes it easier for such people to communicate but then it does that for all people. The internet is not discriminatory, if you will. But the fact that it isn’t puts a little more onus on the good among us to indulge in what the panel referred to as social self policing. If someone is being a jerk let them know. And be loud about it. It seems like generally, we’re more likely to put up with bad behaviour these days, when you have a punk kid blasting beats from the phone around his neck, people don’t really feel like they can say anything to him, yet all are royally annoyed. Why? Tell the kid to turn it off. He/she usually will, or will go off on an angst-ridden expletive-laced tirade that will showcase his/her intellect and give everyone on the bus/tube/train a good chuckle and a story to tell when they get home. It’s not socialist to give a damn (at this point I realize I may have gone off on a tangent – but there you go).

There are some things though that social media is throwing up that we aren’t used to dealing with and will therefore need to get to grips with pretty sharp-ish. The issue of cyber-bullying is one. Kids (and I know this because I still am one) can be really really evil. And the net gives them an opportunity to hunt in large(r) packs and prey on those who are a little different. So schools (and parents) really need to come up with ways to minimize this. I’m afraid at this stage of the night I can’t offer many suggestions, only comments. Astroturfing and general fake forum-based flashmobbing is another issue that was raised, particularly in the arena of politics – one that is gradually coming to grips with the web and its communicative power, a power that can be abused. Now this idea of creating numerous avatars and indulging in flaming is not new (I’ve frequented videogame forums for many years and the fanboy culture breeds this), but when politicians and members of society who we should hold to a higher moral standard (and who inevitably fail to reach any kind of standard – especially where money and power are involved) start to act like teenagers talking about how ‘Sony ROCKS, Nintendo = trash’, we need to begin to consider how to avoid this.

The issue of child abuse is a delicate one, yes the internet makes it easier and yes children are generally more aware of this kind of thing and aren’t very likely to give out detailed details about themselves online, but it does happen (as was pointed out by an attendee who worked for the NSPCC). And I think a large part of it (and again this may just be my warped opinion) comes down to parenting – or parents showing an interest in their kids’ lives. I started getting online in the mid-late 90s (so I am old school), when the chat rooms on ICQ and later Yahoo were the places we’d do the bulk of our communicating. And I distinctly remember my Mom and Dad taking an interest in how this internet thing worked, and asking me if I had talked to any cool people. It wasn’t invasive, it was inquisitive. And because of this interest, I felt the door was always open to let them know if I was weirded out by anything. If you see the internet as a way to get the kids to shut up and leave us alone, they will a) be insecure about themselves – they’ll think ‘is something wrong with me’ and b) they’ll look for attention from anyone online. And it’s when kids are feeling psychologically vulnerable that bad things can happen.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, there were those in the audience (like me) that thought the rise of social media is an amazing thing. My reasons? Pretty simple I think, it means I can keep in touch with friends from way back who are all over the world, it means I realize how close to truth the whole six degrees of separation is, it definitely keeps you honest (the whole world can see you now) and the mere fact that anyone is reading this sentence is a testament to the power of social media. Your voice can be heard on a greater stage now. And for me that really is it. The internet amplifies us all, every part of us (and by us I mean humans collectively). So the good is louder, the bad is darker and the uglier is sadly more twisted and ugly. But it really is still just us. And if you think that it’s all doom and gloom, well the internet really isn’t the root of your problem. And yes there are problems that this amplification throws up. But maybe we all have to take the initiative and police our own corner of cyberspace a little. And keep plugging the amazingly cool things that social media kicks up, like for me all the friends I’ve made online, I mean Anton and I wouldn’t write this damn blog had it not been for forums. And things like Interesting2007, and Chinwag, and the ability to meet people who I really have no business meeting like George and Charles and Amelia and Peter and Piers and and the list goes on (and you’re all on it..). And something that wasn’t touched upon is the empowerment this gives you. It makes me feel good. Like really good. And the good will always outweigh the bad, so let’s try and tip the scales a little more.

The stage is yours…

(A big thank you to Chinwag and Emily in particular for hooking me up with a ticket for this event. Make sure you register for the Chinwag Summer Party – it’s gonna be biblical!)

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Before I start this isn’t destroying those who network or enjoy it. It’s my humble view of why I care not to be a social butterfly with my occupational gain in mind. This could very well be a downfall of mine and as a result I may suffer in the future for having such a belief in an industry which is obviously quite populated with considerable top end favours being exchanged. So, shamelessly indulgent of me with no delusions of anyone being interested (I just care to write it down in a public place) why I don’t like networking and a type who network? Well, it’s again a fault of mine. I have this social flaw of being completely unable to act interested in anyone I spot with the pretense of verbally climbing the career pole all over their greasy little hands or like to spray those around them with their suspicious achievements.

Now Sam, Sam is gifted, he can quite gracefully (even with an American accent) work and charm the room and come across engaged with all those he passes. He’ll introduce me to a group, one will lean forward shake my hand give a nod, the overtly thin short lady to my left scopes me out, assesses my worth, forces a smile and tries to start a conversation with someone else, as karma would have it no one is interested in her so she pretends to read a new text message. A rather jittery researcher introduces himself to me. He gives me a card, I explain I didn’t bring any and the group all chuckle to themselves ‘didn’t bring a card’ they snigger. Sorry, last time I checked I wasn’t here to fckn flyer. I move away, partly because I would rather socialize with a disgruntled rattle snake than with these just human group that for some reason I’m in the same room as. Sam is still doing a great job, I sneer when he looks over, I’m going for a cigarette.

Outside, at last, free from feeling guilty that I won’t pretend that just because someone is talking on a raised stage it must be of gospel quality. A man barges past me, pacing up and down, talking on an ear blue tooth thing, I step around him so that I can’t see the side with the blue tooth so I can see what looks like him talking to himself, I imagine he’s insane and smile, he’s loud enough for me to hear which of course is on purpose and given the inane content could be convincing that he is in fact a mentalist. I sigh, I look back seeing lots of heads snapping back, mouths gaped open with exaggerated laughing. My spine shudders, I can’t do it, I won’t do it. A planner I use to work with stands next to me and lights a cigarette. At last, salvation. We chat about how much we hate these things, that certain speakers were great and some were, well, let’s just say not really as great as all the camera flashes will have them believe. Either way, we’re out of the office which seems the best thing right now.

Time to go back in, I spot the skinny little women chatting to one of the speakers as he nervously looks past her, waiting to have his cue to get mike-d up. Her rude compose with me and now her desperation with what she sees as an opportunity is in my eyes the very shallow, self serving and dishonest reason I don’t like these things. I’m filled with disdain for such people, I don’t trust them, I don’t like them….and I have a chip on my shoulder with those who play an arrogant card with me and alas it’s usually true to say that these were brought up in the ‘old skool’ and probably don’t ‘get it’. I’m told that she’s on the way out and that that neither office she applied to within her network want her due to being impossible to work with. I understand now why she’s putting so much effort into keeping this poor guy’s attention and dismissed abruptly anyone who can’t give her a helping hand. Mad blue tooth man barges past, still rabbiting to himself, maybe he’s in his own world of 24 and clearly has just learnt that a bomb is placed within this venue. That can be the only reason for the urgency, that or he’s just gagging to get to the front, open his gills and take in everything he’s told to.

The day goes on, some drag, some engage, some I’ve worked with and do in fact talk to, I enjoy their natural and good way. There is no glazed greed in their eyes, they are funny, they are natural, there is no agenda, they usually turn into friends who I would never dream of calling up for a career opportunity for the very reason they are friends.

But did I ‘network’? No Sir, I certainly did not, I had conversations with no ambition of gain but for the interest and enjoyment of my fellow tise men and women and to my detriment it maybe, so I’ll grim and bare that punishment if and when I feel the consequences. But if you feel the same way at such events which sporn this behaviour, look outside for the ones smoking and sighing with their backs against the wall, curled up spitting venomous comments

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…come outside and network with us..

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I’m No Hack

Following Sam’s Saatchi shenanigans and Saatchi’s petty reaction, I’ve had a few emails asking about hacking M&C Saatchi and how I went about it. Far be it for me to indulge, but if you insist.

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I was on my placement year at Leo Burnett working on McDonalds and thoroughly enjoying it. However my time was nearing an end at Leos and the Saatchi & Saatchi Scholarship Scheme was approaching. I rang Saatchi & Saatchi who told me that my brief to enter into the scholarship was to take their logo “Nothing Is Impossible” which would be supplied on an A3 poster and place it somewhere topical and interesting.

I toyed with ideas which were terrible, like taking a photo of a homeless person outside the Dorchester holding the poster. Really base line poor stuff. But, whilst having a cigarette outside Leo’s with my friend who was working in Arc (same building) we were talking about hacking websites and how people do it etc. Then, I thought, that could be a sweet idea to place the Saatchi & Saatchi poster on a website, and what better place to do it than on the agency they love to hate and vice versa M&C Saatchi. We both pretty much pissed ourselves laughing at the audacity of the idea. We were then joined by another of my friends from Arc (both worked in digital one being a project manager and the other a designer). We ran the idea past him at which his face broke into a smile. I had no idea on how to hack a site, make a website or anything like that so these guys were really the people who made this idea work.

However, everything got a bit out of control and I’ll explain why. There was quite a bit of press coverage about this, namely The Times and Campaign. Both thought that I had actually hacked the official M&C website. Thing is I hadn’t, I just convinced digital illiterate people that I had, such as the press. My friends constructed a site that replicated the M&C one. I had bought the domain name http://www.mcsaatchi.gov (Maurice and Charles are avid Tory fans and create their campaigns so it seemed like a potential money earner in the unlikely event the Conservatives won the 2004 election). Anyway, the site was constructed showing the image of the Saatchi & Saatchi poster falling on top of the M&C Saatchi logo.

I then took it upon myself to spread this far and wide to stir a bit of noise before I sent it on to Saatchi & Saatchi. I posted it as the actual M&C website on advertising forums and emailed it round to as many contacts as I had as well as the whole of Leo Burnett who in turn passed it on to their contacts. Before I had even sent it to Saatchi & Saatchi I had a viral website as we were able to track it being viewed up to 300 times a day and travelling from London to New York to Rio.

I then thought it was best to get this over to Saatchi so I emailed their HR department telling them this was my entry to their Scholarship Scheme. I rang them up the next day asking them to make sure that the people who needed to see this saw it and quick as my spidey sense knew there was trouble ahead. They applauded my audacity and from there I had an telephone interview and was told that I was accepted onto the scheme. Sweet I thought, but this viral website started to travel further and further.

Cue the phone call from M&C’s lawyers informing me of my breach of intellectual property, that the website had been pulled down by the domain owners and that I was facing court action. Laughing in the face of danger isn’t exactly how I would describe my reaction, more like a desperate need for my mum and that I was unable to stop saying sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. After this lovely chat I rang Saatchi & Saatchi who calmed me down, told me it would be fine and if there was going to be any trouble they would step in. That was great and I had started a little fisty cuffs with two adversaries that had been quite dormant in dispute..

To cut a boring story short, Campaign and The Times covered the story, convinced that I had actually hacked the real M&C site, which was fine by me, M&C dropped any court action as they were starting to look silly for chasing me, I rocked up to Saatchi & Saatchi where most had seen my website and the pats on the back were very encouraging indeed and then the website stills I kept were entered into the DMA Awards 2004 and helped to win Gold.

So that’s how it happened. I placed the stills and the Campaign article in my portfolio and flashed it at every interview which went down a treat. Other than that it’s not the kind of thing I bring up over dinner with clients.

You can check out the website here on a secure server:

Username: saatchi
Password: 3ntry

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