Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


So I got some work from an agency I like, doing the kind of old-fashioned, copy-led advertising that I like to do. I can't tell if they're going to give me any more of it, they're being cagey, but I would appreciate it if you could all hope on my behalf that they will. It's the very least you can do.

Freelancing from home is great, but sometimes I look up from my kitchen table and think, what, is this it then, am I going to spend the rest of my life sitting here devising effete wordplays about drills and hand-sanders? Is this what it has all been for? Can I really survive on so little time spent with other people, hang my self-esteem on the shreds of positive affirmation I receive by email, and never have to interface in reality with anyone whatsoever?

I probably can. Even if it makes my emails to the agency sound a bit sweaty and praise-hungry.

The only irritating thing is that when the account handler calls me at home I can't just ignore her call (I have to override my instinctive response) because really I'm at work also. Which makes me feel fiendish and like I'm constantly at work even when I'm just sitting here eating cake and staring into the middle distance.

I think I'm going to have to get a dog. Not to have sex with – just for company you understand. (Still haven't quite finished the Gill biography, largely because I've started to read Infinite Jest all over again).

Anyway, I thought I'd write about my brief foray into the world of mobile advertising.

I did a good lot of work for a mobile advertising start up. I won't mention their name, because they're still out there. Unusually for me I was on good terms with the creative director of their agency, and he used to take me to the board meetings, mainly for company I think, because their meetings tended to be long and leg-gnawingly dull. I enjoyed them, because I got to witness the undignified jockeying for position amongst the legion of branding, marketing and PR minions who had all leapt aboard this idea. They were all slightly older than me, all at that point in their thirties when people start to believe that they should be important, even if they are in fact, in sales. In this high-pressure situation they started displaying their grotesque psychological deformities, like, floridly. It was like being on a U-boat, manned by 8 year olds.

Mobile advertising is the future I'm afraid. That's the horrible truth of it. But it won't really be mobile any more, it will be more like web advertising but delivered to a handset like the iPhone, so will probably have more video elements, and less clicky arsing around than web, which has all that real estate to fill with buttons and links. And it won't be an iPint application because that misses out on the really good bit of mobile which is that you can contact people through the same device that they use to communicate with people they actually like, and hopefully engage them in some sort of to-and-fro, with changing responses based on what they've said to you.

At the moment in order for a mobile response engine thingummy to process user's responses they have to be predetermined. So it will ask you "Are you gay?" and you have the options "1. Yes 2. No 3. Sometimes." What you need is some kind of system that can parse the shades of meaning in "No, but I sometimes have homosexual thoughts about my boss, which I interpret as a subconscious acknowledgement of his dominance over me, so what I'm really picking up on is a kind of sublimated version of the way that male dogs will sometimes mount one another merely to express heirarchy."

One way to do this is to have someone sitting there, reading all the messages. The other way is to fake it, using a machine like this.

(I can't stress enough how much I want you to click the link. It started off as this throwaway aside, but ended up eating two days of my life.)

This is called the Tamagotchi Effect - based on a horrifying idea about our inability to know anyone. Since so much is hidden, who they are and what they're like is only something that happens in our mind, the inside of their heads being a totally closed area. So for instance, with my Gordonbot you can almost imagine that you really are interacting with another human being, when in fact it's just a load of Javascript, that has no interest in you whatever.

When you think about it, our relationship with a brand has been like this all along - we deploy all our interpersonal machinery to fill in the gaps between the few symbols that we're given. How else could we develop feelings toward a brand? People believe that Google is friendly. Not that it's like someone who is friendly, they believe it is friendly.

Anyway, it'll probably take a few years before anyone works out a model that makes people feel okay about having brands contact them on their phone. And it will probably be even longer than that before the marketing managers finally develop the balls to take a chance on it.

As you can see I've now eaten all the cake. Which is equivalent to eating a packet of butter and a bag of sugar, four eggs and about a fiver's worth of glaceed cherries in three days. Has anyone at Wiedens thought of doing a cake campaign? Thursday is cake day? Anyway, I'm free if you need a hand with it.

PS: Is my new purple masthead taking as long to load for everyone else?


Tosh said...

I'm starting to worry about you Gordon, my boy. You need to get out and smell the Easter eggs.

Mike Laurie said...

Automated telesales is the future? I'm sure that by the time that kind of technology is possible then we'll have all sorts of nifty ways of selling things to people like automatic face recognition that ID's you and knows exactly what you want and need. I honestly don't think the most effective means of selling brands will by pushing messages to people, I reckon it will be more of a pull mentality. That's not to say push advertising won't exist, but pull will be way more effective.

Anonymous said...

Thursday is cake day, very funny. I don't know if we have thought about doing it.

As a weird aside, we just had an account person leave Wiedens to go and set up a cake sculpture company! She made a horses head cake as a goodbye present, very impressive.

neil said...

Every day is cake day at Wieden's. Though not necessarily in a sense that involves actual physical cake.

Integral said...

Welcome back Gordo. Did your friend find his cat yet? I was hoping to see my pet masterpiece up on his wobsite soon. But then I went to his wobsite and it wasn't there. So I can only assume his cat hasn't come back. Which is sad.

Anyway. I will check out the Gordo bot.

Also. Why did you get rid of your strapline? I enjoyed reading it and looking up what manque meant every few days.

Bit of a random comment. But some bloke at my work has asked me to write some stuff. With deadlines and everything. Best get to it.