Archive for the 'Sounds' Category

This is the world social media made

I had hoped my introductory remarks from the Market Research Society’s Social Media Conference last Thursday would have been the highlight, but I was wrong. I thought people would be retweeting my rousing speech about the path to the fire exits and the location of lunch, but I was mistaken.

Instead the delegates were talking about a ripping speech by internet Eeyore Andrew Keen, the author of The Cult of the Amateur.

The Cult of the Amateur was an angry book about how the internet is destroying culture by creating a world in which everyone’s contribution to a debate is equal, whether or not they know anything worth contributing; a world in which a CEO blog is more “authentic” than a press release, even though they are both written by the same person (a clue for anyone who isn’t in the copywriting business: that’s not the CEO).

It’s a book that is easy to hate (two stars on Amazon from reviewers), but I loved it. This is not to say I agreed with all of it.

Now he’s worrying about the effect that pervasive social media is having on the way we live, and that’s what he was talking about at the conference. A clip here:

The way that social media changes our behaviour worries me, for personal and professional reasons. Personally, as Keen points out (though not in this clip), the ease with which data about us can be collected may mean that privacy becomes something that only rich people pay for, rather than a right. Professionally I note that, when I’m doing editing jobs, increasingly better communication is confused with frantically saying more things.

Most of us spend hours a week hoovering up thousands of pointless status messages, tedious posts, updates and tweets, just in case. It’s like stuffing yourself with the entire menu in a crap restaurant, in the hope you will find something worth eating.


Celebrity Big Brother: Deny the holocaust again, this time by texting your mates

Obviously my close personal connection with Katie Price means I have a personal interest in the outcome of Celebrity Big Brother – though obviously only from the point of view of corporate social responsibility; after all, I’m not a moron. I could go on and on about this, but it’s a better use of your time to listen to Stewart Lee explaining how corporate sponsorship sometimes works. The first five minutes of this clip tell you everything you need to know about “a brand profile awareness marketing marriage made in heaven”:

Avoiding the question

People had excellent specs in the 1980s

I’ll be updating occasionally until the new year, but meanwhile click on the link to use iPlayer to catch up with Jon Sopel’s 15-minute nugget from Radio 4, “Avoiding the Question“, about how politicians do everything they can to avoid giving a straight answer to a straight question.

I wish the spokespeople that I meet would not try to copy the politicians that they heard on the radio that morning. Please stop doing this, not least because you’re not very good at it. In my experience it goes like this:

Spokesperson: While this type of tittle-tattle may be of interest to a small group of journalists back in the real world what we should be talking about are the enormous strides that we have made this year in delivering a world-class inkjet printer cartridge replacement service under enormous and frankly unreasonable pressure from people like yourselves.

Me: So you’re not going to tell me your job title then?

Two reasons to listen: Dr Peter Bull, a psychologist from York University, has identified 35 different ways that politicians use to avoid answering a question. And Daniel Finkelstein recalls the story that Dr David Owen once fell asleep on TV. The interviewer asked what he thought of the point that Geoffrey Howe had just made. He woke up and said:

That’s not the real issue in this election.

changed the subject, and carried on. Now that’s a class act. Just please don’t copy it.

Presentations to inspire you

This blog is sometimes accused of being too cynical about, well, everything. My first response is that there’s a lot to be negative about, but occasionally I like to inspire rather than criticise.

My post abut the excellent publicity video for the Retro Encabulator has proved to be an inspiration for Talknormalisers everywhere, and some readers have pointed out that the story does not stop there, as the technology was enhanced and licensed, eventually becoming the Turbo Encabulator. Those of you who worked in Chrysler dealerships will be familiar with it.

You can keep your Steve Jobs. If you’re looking for a difficult presentation done well, check out the videos, still some of the best examples of how to make sense of difficult technology. This was a simpler age: there’s not a PowerPoint slide in sight, but I feel the presenter captures something that today’s tech keynotes strive for, but miss.

If that’s not clear enough, it’s explained in more detail here:

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance

amber lightFrom time to time, in order to protect ourselves from those who would subjugate us with needless conference calls and kill our spirit with pointless blue sky thinking, we need to be aware of imminent and terrifying threats to Talknormalism. That’s why I’m raising the Talk Normal Crap Defence Readiness Condition to CrapCon 2 this week, its highest level yet. Well, the only level yet. It puts us on guard that there are people who would destroy everything we stand for to achieve their aims. That’s why there is a little amber light in the column on the right. Ha! Take that, world.

The reason, of course, is the imminent launch of Windows 7 and the marketing drivel that accompanies it. Most software launches contain their fair share of meaningless aspirational twaddle spoken by paunchy men in casual shirts, but Microsoft has always outperformed the market in this respect. Older Talknormalists will recall the launch of Windows 95, which included displaying the Microsoft logo on the Empire State Building and sailing a four-storey-high Windows 95 box into Sydney Harbour (a feat of self-regard copied later on the Thames by Michael Jackson. Draw your own conclusions).

This is an image from that era which will haunt me for a long time:

You make a grown man cry. Indeed.

Fast forward 12 years, and for the launch of a product like Windows Vista most sensible companies would have coughed gently and stared at their shoes. Microsoft parked a stage in the forecourt of the British Library and put on a concert by The Feeling to Crank UP the Wow! (their emphasis on “up”) as fearful academics cowered inside and waited for guys in branded polo shirts to sod off.

You’d have thought that the evidence from the Windows 95 video would have warned the PR company not to do anything to encourage Microsoft employees to dance. Maybe permitting them to jig about self-consciously is less embarrassing than letting them speak? We’ll soon have plenty more evidence to help us decide. Until then, I wish you luck in the dark days to come.

Golden archives


This, I hope, is the first and last time you will hear advertising for McDonald’s here, but this long-forgotten radio spot deserves to be temporarily brought out of my imaginary garden shed and dusted off in the interests of Talknormalism (click to play):

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