Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cultural Differences

i am OTHER is Pharrell Williams' company which celebrates people who are different. Who is the other, one asks? It could be those different or foreign. The new student in school, the refugee, the immigrant. To learn about the other adds depth to our analysis of consumers. To increase one's knowledge, it is important to travel and learn about other cultures. Subsequently, one could compare and contrast those cultures with one's own.

The recent exhibit "In Grand Style: Celebrations in Korean Art during the Joseon Dynasty," at the Asian Art Museum, provides a window, through art, of another time and culture. We learn of the Koreans' system of royal lineage, where political power could be inherited by women, although they could not be rulers. Think of powerful women in our history for analogy.


A painting of a king in front of a landscape signifies his relationship to and power similar to nature's. The five peaks behind him represent the universe. Current official governmental portraits or family photos reflect this painting.

The impressive 150 foot long scroll from 1795, "King Jeongjo's Procession to His Father's Tomb in Hwaseong" emphasizes the importance of commemoration for this culture. In this artwork, one understands the values of family, royalty and honoring one's parents. The commemorative quality reminds us of the incessant photography, Snapchat and Instagramming of our culture. The Koreans of the Joseon dynasty are the other, but not so different. We also want to record aspects of our lives. Through viewing other cultures, we may learn about our own. Thoughts on consumers...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Art of Finesse

It is not often that people behind the scenes take center stage. Yet that happens in the documentary of a Steinway & Sons piano tuner in Vienna, Pianomania. We watch Stefan Knüpfer and his efforts to perfect pianos. Perhaps he will add felt inside a piano. Perhaps replace parts. Even add acoustic panels to the concert hall. To achieve excellence and accommodate his clients, he will do everything possible.

PIANOMANIA - Trailer from OVALfilm on Vimeo.

The main story consists of the preparation and search for pianos for a recording session of Bach's The Art of the Fugue by the renowned pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard . (In other scenes, famous pianists such as Alfred Brendel and Lang Lang rehearse and perform.) Aimard plays several pianos and requests many variations to their sound. A twist to the plot includes the sale of a familiar piano, which disappoints the pianist. When the recording begins, the engineers also voice their opinions about the sound, which leads to more piano tuning.

The lessons for the viewer of this fascinating documentary are to have patience, and how to solve problems for clients. As they demand more and more of us, we learn about them and ourselves. Some clients are extremely difficult and finicky, but as we strive for perfection, the results could be brilliant and worth the trouble.                            


Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Lives of Others

Not many fictional films evoke real life as well as "What Maisie Knew." Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, it is the story of a child caught between fighting parents, based on the novel of the same title by Henry James. Not nearly as incisive and nuanced as the novel (but what films are?), it still imparts to the viewer the problematic feelings of a child affected by unhappy parents.

We observe Maisie, beautifully portrayed by Onata Aprile, as she understands and does not understand what happens around her. The close camera work, often indoors, focuses our attention on her. The day-lit shots and the natural acting of Alexander Skarsgård convince us that we are watching a documentary. It reminds us of the excellent Yi Yi by Edward Yang, also shot from a child's point of view, with the camera as his eyes.


As planners, we could learn the importance of sympathy and empathy from "What Maisie Knew." As Northern Planner writes, "The more we're in the lives of others, the more we can know them." As we watch Maisie and the conflicting emotions her face conveys, we understand her life. The way to understand others is to enter into their lives, as the camera does. Just some ideas for planning...



Monday, June 10, 2013

Mike Tyson, Storyteller

What are important elements for good storytelling?

Emotion, suspense and humor are a few.

Mike Tyson utilized these elements at his recent show "Undisputed Truth," where he told stories from his life.

Sad stories included his mother's death, his sister who died young and his 3 year-old daughter's death due to an accident. He talked about his violence, crimes and addiction, but says he has reformed.


Suspense caused the audience to listen attentively to details of Tyson's youth and a violent fight in a store against a boxer. We learned that he grew up on the streets of Brooklyn and how his mentor Cus D'Amato helped him become a champion. He mentions the book "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", which he jokingly says depicts a story quite different from his own.

Tyson utilized humor when he explained that "hard times" were the reason for his tour. This joke engaged the audience since they are sympathetic to Tyson as fans, know he lost millions and experienced difficulties themselves.

The fighter's stories fit the American love of a "rags to riches" tale. In American culture, we believe we could begin poor and end rich. We could redeem ourselves and receive a second chance. These values work with Tyson's show and our culture of possibility. Despite his losses, he could win again.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Three Ways to Tell Your Brand's Story

After a viewing of the 2013 British Arrow Awards winners, one notices the powerful storytelling of three commercials. Drama, realism and emotion were utilized.

The Guardian chose to employ news to transform a classic story, "The Three Little Pigs" (BBH agency) through drama. Perhaps an everyday occurrence, like a fire, could become exciting through its storytelling. Journalism could be fascinating.



The real life drama of a homeless woman is portrayed in "A Woman's Nightmare." (Publicis Conseil, Paris) The close camera and graininess of the film involve and affect the viewer, as does the interactive quality at the end, when the viewer could choose the film's ending.


Emotion connects viewers to brands. The strong film to promote the Channel 4 Paralympics (4creative agency) stirs us through music and documents the players' struggles. We understand that their difficulties resemble those of athletes without disabilities and applaud them.


These are three means of storytelling which are appropriate to the brands. Through artistry, the brand's values shine. A good story increases consumer interest and ultimately engagement. A few thoughts on branding...

And just for fun: Public Enemy's "Harder than You Think" UK Paralympics version, which boosts their brand's story.






Monday, February 4, 2013

Abraham Lincoln, Account Planner


Ideas come from the most unlikely places.

We decided to see one of the Oscar nominees for Best Picture, "Lincoln."

The film depicts the President strategizing to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which reminded us of planning in advertising. How could one best solve problems? What qualities are needed?

In the film, President Lincoln evidences many of these qualities.

Empathy: Lincoln understands the plight of African Americans when sympathetically speaking to his wife's maid.

Listening: The President listens with an openness and fairness to constituents who ask for his advice. Knowledge gleaned directly from the source is valuable.

Analysis: After gathering information, he uses it to solve problems from a different angle. He applies a mathematical principle he learned in the past to solve a human problem.





Storytelling: After solving a problem, he explains its solution through an engaging story.

Ideas from history for planners.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stop, Look and Listen


Comportment - To conduct or behave (oneself) in a particular manner. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1969)

Over time, societal behavior changes. As planners, we are attuned to that.

One noticed recently in public spaces: A man stretches his feet into the aisle of the bus. A teenage girl bends her knees and places her feet on the bus seat. An elderly woman rests her feet on a theater railing. A young woman lies down on a gym's bench while texting.

www.flickr.com/photos/themegster/

A relaxed attitude prevails. One of laissez-faire, one echoed in casual clothing. A lack of separation of public and private space, since the two spaces are linked by technology. It is the ever-present, ever-on device which connects behavior from the home to the public space. The possibility of digital communication everywhere translates to similar behavior everywhere.

How could marketers reach people when they feel at ease in all places? What could impact them? We could enter their space in an unexpected way physically. We could invite them to interact and play. We could use digital media so that they have a unique experience. We have to make people stop and look. Otherwise, they will not receive our messages.