Physical stuff. It matters. In Matter.

A quick ‘un…

We love all the digital malarkey.  It’s ace, and new, and exciting, and so on and so forth.

As a result, we spend less time thinking about the physical stuff.  And as Ed points out here, physical connections for brands & companies can be phenomenally powerful.

It’s what Matter was started to do, over two years ago now. 

Here’s a photo of the first box I opened back then.  There’s a whole pictorial review on flickr here


Anyway, Matter is coming back this November, when we put the Pocketgames in it.  Woo!

Someone’s dropped out though, so Tim asked if there was anyone else that might want to put something wonderful in Matter to send to people. 

I thought I’d post it here, in case anyone who reads it might have something.

But what to put in?

Charlie wrote a good critique of the first matterbox pointing out that…

“Most of the other bits were a bit weak… not really getting me that excited or stimulated.”

I think (and may be wrong) that the trick to getting something that works brilliantly in Matter is to create something physical inside the box that will make people want to do something social outside the box.

It’s not (I repeat, NOT) a sampling exercise. 

It’s a box of actual social objects.

Email Tim, he’ll tell you more –


The stupidity of the IPA Excellence Diploma

Why would you want to come up with anything new? 

It just gets in the way of doing the same things that your boss did before you, and his before that. 

Nothing’s changing, not really, it’s all the same game… write a powerpoint presentation, make a telly ad, put it on telly, repeat every year ad infinitum.

Everyone gets paid, media folk go to lunches at The Ivy, advertising folk go to shoots in Argentina, digital folk go and get their microscooter pimped in Hoxton.

Why rock the boat?  We’re onto a good thing here, people…

If you go learning things, reading things, forming opinions on stuff, then go around writing and sharing these thoughts… well, how’s that going to make your agency better?

So, I guess, the IPA Excellence Diploma isn’t helping anyone at all.

I blame the tutors.  For a bunch of so-called industry greats, they really should know better.  Let’s name names; Nick Kendall, Chris Forrest, Jim Taylor, Peter Field, Gerry Moira, Mark Lund… all guilty, to a man.  Especially Kendall, he’s the ringleader.

You’d have thought they’d have just covered the ‘how to get ads made and shown as quickly as possible’ bit, and done everyone a favour.  But no.

Six modules, on just about every conceivable topic… brands, people, channels, measurement, creativity and leadership. 

They they give you a two months to read endless amounts of brilliant discourse on each area, after which you’ve then got to write a 2,000 word essay on ‘what you believe…’.

And if that weren’t bad enough, at the end of it all you’ve got to craft a 7,000 word thesis on what it all means… where the future of our industry lies.

Frankly, it’s asking for trouble.  So unsurprisingly, over the four years of the course it’s produced endless amounts of trouble makers… Faris, Sam, Graeme, Matt, Alex, Chris, Chris, Bethan… the list goes on. 

In fact, I was at the graduation last night of the class of 2010 (I mentored Ben Harrison at Rocket this year), and it turns our there are 66 of us who’ve gone through the course so far…

Which is enough, surely, yes?  How can the industry expect to stay firmly stuck in the nineties if we keep teaching our best people to think better, more revolutionary thoughts?

So, this is where you come in.

I want you to email Chloe at the IPA (, and rule yourself out now

I dunno, say something like “Chloe, if you were to send out any information about the next intake of the IPA Excellence Diploma in 2011, I would be in no way interested AT ALL.  I am happy sitting here in blissful ignorance, because life is easier that way”.

Or, if you’re the boss of a someone who’s looking like they might unfortunately turn out to be brilliant, maybe say “Dear Chloe, I would request that you refrain from sending my charge any information on this course, because they’re enough trouble as it is with all their ‘great ideas’, and I don’t’t want them having any more”.

So please, please, for the sake of the comfortable, easy, unchallenging world we all seek to protect, email Chloe right now.

Of course, you may take a different view. 

You may think the the only thing that’s stupid about the Excellence Diploma is that there isn’t a five year waiting list to be on it. 

But, you know, maybe that’s just you.  And me.  And a fair few other people.

Either way, drop Chloe an email (  Ask her about the Excellence Diploma.  And make up your own mind…




2010 Social Nework map… now in landscape :)

A couple of days ago, I posted an image of Flowtown’s brilliant update of the XKCD social network map.

Off the back of wishing they’d done it in landscape for easy-presentation-stealing, I sent them a wee note…

Hello there

Firstly – HUGE kudos for updating the XKCD map, genius work. I referred to the original with an oft alarming frequency…

Anyway, second thing… it’s be amazing if there was a version in landscape. Yes, I know, presentation format.  I know you’ve all put huge amounts of work in already, and it shows. Depending on what program you’ve built it in, I can offer my labour to help transpose.

Of course, do feel free to tell me which far flung island of the social media map to f**k off to…

I didn’t really expect anything, but I thought I’d ask anyway.

Imagine my delight to get a note back from Ethan at Flowtown this morning saying…

How’s this…?


Ethan, that’s brilliant.

Everybody, call up Ethan at Flowtown and say thanks, send him beer, pay his rent for a week…

…he’s just made one of the best slides you’ll have in your presentation for the next six months 🙂


Pocketgame… the story so far

I mentioned before that I was working on something with Cadbury called ‘pocketgame‘… a crowdsourcey open game design competition thingy.  Which has been tremendous fun so far, as this video shows:

Anyway, there are now 10 shortlisted pocketgames up for public vote; the most popular two we will make 25,000 of to send out in Matterbox in October, and people who play the games will decide on the winner.

Please have a look at the ten entries at and vote for your favourite; we’ve been blown away by both the ingenuity and quality of the entries we’ve had, and I know you will too.


Photoshop & Tate Modern's Giant Baby installation

I was at Tate Modern this weekend, and was really impressed by their new Giant Baby installation in the turbine hall…



Ha, yeah, fair cop… I was just mucking about with a bit of perspective, and using the TiltShiftGen app on the iPhone.

The app replicates some of the functionality of proper tilt-shift photography, which is most often used to replicate miniature photography…

…for instance this shot below from the Wikipedia page is a great example of a real life scene that’s been made to look like a model village scene.



All very fun, but do I have a point beyond just posting fun family pics?  Well, maybe.

A while back I wrote a post about how phone apps were beginning to replace hardware things

Well, Max (PHD’s resident photography whizz) and I were talking yesterday about the implications of apps for the more professional, heavy duty software like Photoshop.



This is a screengrab of Photoshop Elements, which I’m trialling at the moment; since switching to a Mac, I don’t have a copy of Photoshop anymore, as I was using an ancient version (PS7) on my old Windows laptop.  I do have CS3 at work though.

It costs £80, it’s very much the stripped back version of Photoshop, designed for the home amateur.  To be fair, I’m not found that much I’m missing from the full version, but there’s the odd thing here and there that bugs me when it’s missing. 

I’m not sure I think it’s worth £80 though, and that’s probably because my internal perception for the value of ‘mucking about with images’ is being pulled down by various things.

Firstly, of course, there’s the phone apps. 

QuadCamera, Hipstamatic, CameraBag, TiltShiftGen… they all do a small element of what Photoshop can do, and in comparison they are just one-trick ponies. 

There’s a Photoshop app too, which I’ve got, but only use it infrequently for the cropping tool.



But having the suite available wherever and whenever has meant that I never do what I used to with snappy phone photography, which is go back to a computer and touch up the best ones in Photoshop.

I have the instant ability to either take more interesting photos, or adjust ones I’ve taken already, right there in my hand.

Then there was Sumo Paint, which Michael drew my attention to yesterday… it’s basically a cloud-based version of Photoshop (and feels very like Photoshop too). 

As long as your connected to the web, you can use it.  If you’re offline a lot, you can buy the download for about £14.  That seems a lot better value than Photoshop Elements…



(Suneil pointed out the irony of something that challenges Photoshop so directly running on Adobe’s other big ‘ting, Flash…)

It’s all made me think that the ‘photo manipulation’ market if fragmenting in much the same way that the print market is.

Imagine Photoshop is the original newspaper; it sells you everything in one big package, you can’t strip out just the parts you want, because originally it couldn’t be served to you that way… and it was just the model they continued with when the interweb came along.

Then something like Sumo Paint is the news website… it gives you most of the content you used to have in a paper you paid for, but for free.  The catch?  You’ve got to be online to use it.  But that actually suits a lot of people, so they stop buying the newspaper…

Finally, the apps are… well, the apps.  They take one specific element of the paper, do it REALLY WELL, and sell it to people for a small fee.

I guess Adobe are heading down The Times paywall approach with photoshop; big fee, small audience. 

Personally, I’d like to see them playing more in the app end of things… let their imagination run wild, and use their excellent tech to make many small, cheap, wondrous things.

But maybe that’s not how big companies work.


The Eepybird Guys are back… with a Coke & Mentos Rocket car!

Oh, yes, oh yes they did…

…The Eepybird Guys, who did the original Mentos/Diet Coke fountain film, and then the excellent Sticky Note Experiments, have just released a trailer for their next project…

The full thing will be up on the 1st June, in 3D apparently.  Like everything is, nowadays.  My lunch today was in 3D.

Anyway, I’d recommend signing up to their mailing list to find out more… it’s really infrequent and non-spammy, which is nice for a change.


"Making communications products, not just communicating products"

Via the House of Yakob comes this brilliant 5 minute talk from Gareth Kay of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners… it’s excellent, please do watch it now…

The notion of ‘doing things for people’ rather than just ‘advertising at people’ has been something that smart people like Gareth have been saying, repeatedly, for a while… I picked up on an Ed Cotton post in Oct 08 and turned it into a little mantra for PHD

…do things for people that are useful, educational, entertaining, connective… or ideally a combination of as many of them as you can…




Uniqlo & Inception: Riding The Data Comet

I wrote a post in January last year about The Data Comet, which was about how…

…the data that we all collect in a comet-like trail behind us (either on purpose or inadvertently) can be harnessed by clever tools that make our life just a little better…

There was even a rudimentary little visualisation.  Aww.



Anyhoo, two things this week made me think of it again.

Firstly, the already much talked about Uniqlo Tweet Show… you enter your twitter account, and it makes a music video from the data left in your comet’s tail:

I think it’s a neat execution (though the music really fucking annoys me). 

I guess it’s an interesting twist on advertising rather than some groundbreaking marketing initiative, but that’s cool… it makes ‘sit back’ just that little bit more ‘lean forward’.

The second thing was the new game for the new Christopher Nolan film Inception.

Now, we work with Warner Bros in the UK, but this has emerged from the US (as a lot of film stuff does), and given the levels of secrecy Chris Nolan usually surround his films with, we always expect things to emerge from nowehere (we found out about all the Dark Knight stuff by registering & playing for instance…).

Anyway, the first level of the game that’s up is a pretty rudimentary casual game based (as far as anyone knows) on the movie… it’s fun to play, yes, but my favourite bit (and the thing that reminded me of the Data Comet) is the fact that when you sign in with Facebook Connect, it uses the names of your friends as the other people in the game…

Here I’m hiding out from Fiona and Mark…



…and here I’m being beaten up by Piers and Gibbo…



Again, it’s not revolutionary, but it’s the subtle pulling in of the data tail I’ve left behind in life to make something more relevant to me that I’m a fan of.

Just think what’ll happen when people get really creative with the comet tail…