Sep 05

London 2012 Taekwando

Taekwando was one of the original tickets that I had. Well, not me, one of the two tickets that my sister had received in the very first ballot. The second event was later that day, diving. So down she came from the Midlands to make a day of it. First up was the Excel Centre, setting off early to brave the transport. No issues with transport, no issues with security meant we were there early. With the Excel, with plenty of different sports taking place, they herded you into holding areas, where you could get food and drink and wait around for the session to start. Once in the holding area, there was no getting out, so there was no wandering around looking at the different bits. There were huge queues for water here. Although there were 6 spouts, only 2 of them could be used to fill up bottles, so it was slow going.

London 2012 Taekwando

Sarah had bought budget seats, so we were up the top in the far corner, but it was still a pretty good view of the action. In fact, even the cheapest seats I’ve bought had good views – just further away than others. After a warm up act of ‘stunt’ kicks and tumbles, the action was under way. We got to see 2 British athletes, one of whom, Sarah Stevenson, was a favourite to win. Unfortunately, she didn’t and didn’t get through to the reps as her opponent lost later. The other, Lutalo Muhammad, also lost, in what appeared to be a far closer match. As his opponent got through to the final, he had a second chance in the reps and ended up with a Bronze later that day.

My sister is a 4th Dan (I think) in karate, so was able to cast an expert eye over proceedings, or at least an eye of someone who is used to fighting bouts. According to her, they were not aggressive enough and didn’t punch enough, but it’s a different sport so what do I know. I’d rarely seen fighting bouts, so had no idea what to expect but had a great time.

London 2012 Taekwando

Aug 29

London 2012: Showjumping

My final event of the weekend was one of the first ones I booked – the showjumping at Greenwich Park.

Getting there

I’d decided to eschew the most obvious route, which was DLR to Greenwich and took the overground to Blackheath. Again, as with almost every trip I made, there were no issues. A long walk, but no issues! Guides were plentiful on the walk, pushing you across the heath to the entry point. This was way at the south of the venue, on the heath, before you entered the Greenwich Park area, but served its purpose. A few queues, a few holds to minimise congestion and security was traversed safely again. Then another, very long walk down to the arean, which was by the Greenwich buildings.

London 2012 : Show jumping

The Venue

Greenwick Park is big – that’s why they could hold the cross-country there. The area itself was wonderful – it held the all the jumping and dressage events. A large, separate catering area, toilets in every block (which had drinking water on tap), and plenty of great volunteers again. The water situation again led to long queues – it was only after I’d queued that I was told the washroom taps were potable as well, something that was not spread around. Seats were good, all the sightlines were good, so overall, an excellent place.

London 2012 : Show jumping

The Event

Equestrian events were one of the very first sports I started following. As a child, I’d learnt to ride a horse and taken part in a few dressage and show jumping events. Not very well, but it’s a sport I knew enough about, including taking trips to various showjumping meets. So unlike all the others, I’d seen it before!

This was the second round for the individual event and the first round for the teams. The target was to get a great score for the teams and to qualify in the top 40 for the next individual round. I had a great seat up high in one of the side stands, directly above the finishing fence, so got some lovely photos!

London 2012 : Show jumping

Although photos were great most of the time, not when it was raining. Open stands means umbrellas, for those that had not prepared for the weather by bringing ponchos and waterproofs. Which meant grumpy people who couldn’t see. But when the sun came out, all was brilliant!

The other thing that I could see was annoying to the jumping fans was the fan reactions. Like everything else, most people in the arena were not horse fans – so when British people came in the tendency was to cheer. Loudly. This had obviously upset some of the horses, as there were clear warnings before the British team riders came in to keep the noise down. Which was surprising, as I’ve been to indoor arenas and the crowd is generally loud!

London 2012 : Show jumping

So once the rain had stopped and the crowd cheering was contained, I had a brilliant time. Some great horses on show, the best jumpers in the world. One thing about showjumping is age is less of a barrier, so riders ranged from teens up to their sixties – and the fans had an even wider age range.

London 2012 : Show jumping

I left the same way I’d arrived, via Blackheath. Lewisham Council had set up a big screen on the heath and the Andy Murray tennis final was playing. So nothing for it but to stop, sit and watch more sport, cheering along with everyone when he was doing well. And then huge, huge cheers when another gold medal for Britain was grabbed. Another medal seen on the TV, none yet seen in person.

Aug 19

London 2012: Football

For my second event on the middle Saturday, I dashed out of the Olympic Park, jumped on the Jubilee Line and headed right across London to see some Football. Here’s a sport I could easily see for 9 months of the year on the TV and would find it easy to find a match to go to every weekend but I’d only ever been to one football match before (Celtic vs Ajax in the Champions’ League). But as it’s the Olympics AND I’d never seen Wembley Stadium, thought it would be good to add to my list of sports.

The journey was great, the people management was great and it was all nice and smooth. The only issue was when my self-printed ticket did not work properly. for some sports, they appear to have been emailing tickets to people to self print and the scanner was not picking it up correctly. The volunteers in this case were little help, seemingly suspicious that is was a paper ticket, but a little perseverance and the scanner eventually worked.

London 2012: Football

Wembley is well used to hosting large crowds and it appeared the match stewards were the same ones as would normally be there. The football stadiums had their own rules – you were not supposed to take in DSLRs for example. They also would not let you take alcohol into your seat, unlike all the other venues I went to. But overall, it worked well.

The match was Mexico vs Senegal. I sat next to quite a few Mexican fans, although it appeared that many in the stadium were neutral – British fans after some Olympic experience. The first half was OK, not brilliant, but average football. The second half picked up a lot more and there was a lot more energy in the match.

London 2012: Football

Having only really watched football on the TV, there was not as loud a crowd as some league matches, with little singing or chanting 🙂 But somethings seem to be the same – the deployment of stewards at the end, presumably to prevent a pitch invasion??

I left 5 mins early for the match, which was a shame, as it went into extra time, but it meant my journey home was easy. Those staying on were not as luck. The Stadium and Wembley Arena both emptied out at the same time and that led to the tube stations being closed for a while.

I’m still not convinced that football belongs in the Olympics. There were plenty of comments during the games about the difference in attitude between footballers, with their salaries and their dramatics on the pitch, comparing that to the attitude of the other athletes. Even if restricted to the under-23’s, the sport definitely needs to learn lessons from those who struggle to get enough money to make training sessions.

London 2012: Football

Aug 19

London 2012: Water Polo

Once the Olympics had started I decided I hadn’t got enough tickets. My sister was sharing the one’s she’d got in the initial lottery, I had bought some in the follow up lottery and from the EU site. But now I’d been to my first event, I’d seen the empty seats and LOCOG were releasing new tickets everyday. it was time to turn on my lucky clicking finger and get searching on the convoluted ticketing database. There was such a demand created for tickets that everytime some were released, the site ground to a halt, putting people in queues, with long wait times. If you only had 3-4 minutes max wait, you were probably going to be fine. Anything longer, no tickets for you!

Although I’d constantly look for events such as Athletics or Swimming or Cycling, the exciting ones, so did everyone else. They were very rare and I was unlucky. So I looked for other events, that I may not have seen, just to experience the Olympic atmosphere again. First of these was Water Polo. I’d watched it occasionally, seen the odd ‘how to play water polo’ feature, but had never experienced it live. Although, to be fair, I’d never seen most of the sports I went to live.

Water Polo was being held in a temporary structure, next to the Aquatic arena. Purpose built for this sport.

London 2012: Water Polo

During the session, I saw two matches. First was Romania vs Montenegro, then Australia vs Croatia. And I loved both matches. The action was fast and furious and interactivity very ‘vigorous’ – by which I mean it seems to be a pretty heavy contact sport. Players seem to develop a very exaggerated swimming action that just seem to land heavily on the opposition! I’ve no idea what was going on underwater, but I’m guessing there was as much jockeying for position.

Most of the action was around the goals; in that it was similar to handball, which I saw later in the week. One team has the ball around the goal, passing between themselves until they try to score, then it gets thrown to the other end for a repeat. Very little action in the middle of the pool.

London 2012: Water Polo

This sport had another odd volunteer role. Showjumping had the muck scoopers, who ran out in the breaks to clear up the horse muck from the course. Water Polo has the ball boys, whose job is to swim out and place the ball in the middle for each half. They sit there in their dressing gowns, collecting the balls when they get thrown out, just stripping off to put the ball in the middle of the pool. I wonder if they had a set of trunks in the volunteer colours?

London 2012: Water Polo

Aug 06

London 2012 Beach Volleyball

My third Olympic sports trip was to see the beach volleyball. There’ll be no legacy from the construction of this area – for some reason, beach volleyball takes place in the heart of government, right next to Downing Street on Horseguards Parade. There was obviously some interesting thinking going on when this decision was made, but it paid off, the location is gorgeous!

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

The whole of the Mall is cordoned off during this part of the games, which can’t make getting around London by car too easy, but makes it easy to get to the event. Volunteers were everywhere, dotted every 10m or so, keeping you moving, keeping you on the right side of the road and moving you through security. As at the tennis, security was easy, just a small fast-moving queue and straight through the scans.

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

Inside, the same stalls as in the Olympic Park, non-branded as usual, loads of loo blocks and loads of volunteers ready to answer your questions and keep everything fun. Initially feeling quite empty, the grandstands soon filled up.

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

There were 4 matches on the programme, each scheduled for an hour from 8pm. Two men and two women’s matches. The women’s clothing seemed to disappoint the men in the audience, they were fully covered up. Apparently special dispensation has been given from the governing body for the London Olympics to allow more clothing to be worn and I think they’re right. It was COLD out there especially when it started raining. But the entertainment – a group of dancers who appeared between matches and in time-outs – were dressed for the sun rather than the rain.

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

I’ve seen beach volleyball on TV, so rules are pretty straightforward to understand. Just in case, they played the how-to video for the crowd before the first. However, the whole set up of the evening appeared to want to distract you from the sport. There was music between each point, there were calls from the announcer. There were congas and dancing and crowd shots. And all the time, people just coming and going, moving around. This was not a tennis or golf crowd, no respect for play here. In fact, that was the deliberate atmosphere encouraged by the organisers. The game itself seemed to be less important than the party. Fun, but not quite right for me…

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

So go with a bunch of friends, have a beer and have a laugh and you’ll have a great time. Enjoy the view!

Jul 30

London 2012: A day at the tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

Saturday was the first of my eight events (that I currently have…I’m looking for more!). It was a day at the tennis, Wimbledon, somewhere I’d never managed to get to when the Championships are on so I was really looking forward to the opportunity to take a look at the place.

First impressions – small! A lot smaller than it feels on the TV. Then how well put together it is. It’s obviously a permanent structure that has developed over the years and it knows how people move around it. It’s just been plastered with Olympic branding.

Getting there was straightforward. Train to Putney (where I found the street lined with people waiting for the men’s cycling road race to go by) then one stop on District Line to Southfields before the 15 minute walk to the venue. Getting back was just as straightforward – no problems at all with getting transport. I’d turned up just as the gates were opening, so the queues were very, very long but they moved quickly and security was easy to get through.

We were called to go along to the hill for a ‘special surprise’. Sitting down, waiting for it to start, I was surprised at how many young women appeared to be in the audience – had there been a student offer? It turned out that they weren’t the typical tennis audience…they were part of the special surprise. A ‘flash mob’ of dancers got everyone cheering before the Pet Shop Boys turned up for a few songs

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

After all that entertainment, it was time for the tennis. I had a seat on centre court and settled in for the day. We had the pleasure of four matches, including seeing the two reigning Wimbledon champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams, and British player Anne Keathavong. The celebrity spotting was high as Michelle Obama popped in to see Williams.

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

It was definitely not like normal Wimbledon; it was bright and brash. Music was playing in between matches and the people watching seemed to be a different crowd from what you saw at the regular games – more noisy, less likely to quieten and sit down for serves. There was also more of a patriotic crowd – turning up to see their national players and then seemingly going. That contributed to the lots of empty seats that were obvious, both in blocks and scattered around the grandstands.

This was the scene for the most watched match on the day, the Federer match. Plenty of court side seats available – the most expensive ones. This was a theme of the day in many, many venues. Given how short the supply was, how many wanted to go but could not get tickets, why weren’t these being filled? For the final match of the day, with a British player, it was even worse.

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

The unfilled seats became the national story on Saturday and because of my tweets, by comments got picked up by the BBC for a news story and then I ended up heading east to take part in an talk show on the World Service, talking about empty seats and all other things Olympic, which was great fun 🙂 There were about a dozen people, BBC reporters, bloggers and other people who had been at the event discussing seating, cycling and the other events of the day.

BBC World Service at the pub

Jul 29

London 2012: The Opening Ceremony

Did you watch it? 27 million people in the UK are reported to have watched the show, the biggest UK TV event in the 21st century. At £27m, that’s a cost of a pound per person, pretty good value I think. You’ll have noticed that last week I went along to the technical rehearsal and had a sneak peak at some of the elements, but we didn’t see it all, so I tuned in on Friday ready to watch the whole thing.

My initial reactions too the pastoral scenes were fed, in part, by the media. It was cute, it was old fashioned, what are they going to do next

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

The songs from around the nation, had me welling up; I love a good patriotic hymn. And the the drums started, filling the stadium with sound and feeling, driving the clearing of the pastoral scenes and turning it into an industrial nightmare.

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

This was the bit that had me gasping in the stadium, sitting quite low down and not being able to see it all, it was brilliant to see the whole picture on tv, see what has happening across the stands and then to see HOW the ring was forged. All I saw was the rings moving from the sides and then the bright molten one rising from the ground to join them, in, for me a symbol of hope. This was just amazing.

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

We didn’t see the James Bond cutscene in the rehearsal – we heard the music, saw the helicopter, but had no idea what was going to happen. So a just laughed out loud when watching the clip. How did they get teh Queen to do that – and what other country would try something as insane!

Dancing Nurses, flying Mary Poppins, the Child Catcher and Voldermort. What a fun sequence. You could see that everyone was getting into it – especially the children. They performed Monday, Wednesday and Friday, did they ever get any sleep because they were obviously excited!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

We heard the music for the next change scene, with Chariots of Fire, and caught a glimpse of Atkinson at the end, but the skit (and video) again were hidden to save the surprise, another brilliant execution. The final bit that we saw on the Monday was the dance section. One thing they did not show on the TV was everyone banging their heads to Queen – we’d practised it in the run-up to the song, and I saw the queues in the stadium, but they did not show the audience. A pity, because that was a fun moment!!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

For us, that was it. We did not get the reveal of Tim Berners-Lee (and wonderful touch, tweeting from the middle of the show), We did not see the memorial dance nor the torch scene, which was one of the best kept secrets ever. I loved that they used young athletes for this, nominated by Olympic heroes. All of the speculation passed for nothing with that decision, doing something really different. passing on the toch to the future.

The challenge for the UK was always ‘to beat’ China. but how can we play that game. We didn’t plan to beat them; Danny Boyle just played a different game. A massive pageant, staffed by volunteers, with humour and awe-inpsiring moments. With all that symbolism, then why did the show close with Paul Mcartney doing what he always does. Nothing different, the same old Hey Jude with no surprise or re-interpretation. for me, that just brought a small sour note to the whole show. So off the TV went before the first verse was done and that was my night over.

Jul 28

London 2012: the torch relay

London 2012 Torch Relay

Our office is in Southwark and on Thursday 26th July it was perfectly placed for the torch relay. Just after 10am,t he torch was due to go right by the office. Some crowded the windows for an overhead view. Caroline and I decided that we needed a ringside seat. So 45 mins before, we headed outside with our chairs for a meeting – and, to be fair, we actually did have a meeting, before packing away and getting ready for the torch to come by. Right on time, the sponsor buses made their way past

London 2012 Torch Relay

And then finally the torch..just a brief glimpse as it ran by to the kiss point on the corner

London 2012 Torch Relay

And on Friday, we had another chance to see the flame, as it came down the Thames on the Glorianna. A slight mistiming meant we were slightly too late to see the flame go by the closest point, but a mad dash down the bank got us to London Bridge where the final (but one) stage of the relay was to happen, as the torch got passed to City hall for safe keeping before its star turn tonight.

In both instances, what was so, so apparent was everyone’s enthusiasm. This was an EVENT…something everyone wanted to be part of. They stood on balconies and in windows, on cheery pickers on on top of walls. They ran down the side of the towpath and tried desperately to get a glimpse of what was happening at London Bridge, standing on tiptoes to peer over the heads, or raising arms high to snap photos in hope of getting a shot. The buzz was palpable and excitement was high. This was not just tourists, but office workers and local families, out to take part in the biggest event they are ever likely to see in London. Let’s bring on the Games, London is ready!

Torch Relay

Torch Relay

Jul 25

London 2012: Queueing for Cosport tickets

I’ve been quite lucky with my Olympic tickets. Following my initial disappointment of not getting any tickets in the initial ballot, my sister asked me to accompany her to her Taekwando and Diving events. I also got a ticket in the resale, – for people who did not get any in the first round – and I’m off to the Modern Pentathlon. I then did some digging, realising as we’re EU members, I can buy tickets from any EU agent. Off to take a look at Cosport, as recommended by a NZ friend (they’re official agents for US, Canada, Australia and certain EU counties, which means no issue in my buying from them).

The Cosport website was a LOT simpler than the London 2012 one. You could see everything that was available on a single page, instead of having to keep clicking on different events. Far simpler to glance and see what tickets were there for the events you wanted. Buying was simple and they sent plenty of information through before the event.

But then came the collection. I’d decided not to have my tickets posted, deciding that as I’d have to make a trip to the post office anyway to pick up the tickets, I may as well pick them up at the desk and save postage. In hindsight, not the most sensible idea – given how their first day of collection went. Following up on the stories earlier in the month about Cosport selling sponsor tickets, you then had complete chaos at the collection point on the first day. There were long, long queues, 7-8 hours for some. There was no organisation and no news about what was happening. for some, who’d ordered multiple tickets, they were not seated together. They were the lucky ones – many tickets seemed to have gone missing and could not be found ‘out back’

By today, things had improved. They had a tent up to shelter you from the sun. They gave out water and wandered around the lines, checking up on if you were OK. I waited 55 minutes before getting in and out in 5 minutes, a pretty simple process. But the delays are still there and some problems are – there are still issues about tickets lost and seats not together, so there have been some major mistakes made

So the queues may have been sorted – the general organisation seems to be lacking at the moment

Jul 24

London 2012: Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

I’m still on the reserve list for the Olympic volunteers. I’m not happy about it and I’d rather be taking part, but one compensation I did get was a ticket to the Opening Ceremony Technical Rehearsal the Monday before the games start. This was to be a major test event for the ceremony and for all the transport and organisation around it. So how did it go?

Transport: Travelled in from London Bridge to Stratford; returned Stratford to Waterloo. Had no real problems either way. Getting there was straightforward – although the station may not be a easy to traverse during the games. Getting out of the stadium was harder; somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand people exited the Olympic Park at 10.15 all looking to get home – with the Central Line broken. There were queues, but they kept moving and I got right onto a train and got a seat. The train was filled up completely before it started moving, so it was a pretty warm journey back. There routes to and from the station were well supplied with friendly Gamesmakers keeping everyone informed. However, I see issues arising if the trains are kept regular, because the queues and jams will quickly build.

Olympic Park

The Olympic Park: Slightly underwhelming. Lots of concrete, no where to sit around the stadium. Outside of the Stadium island, nothing was open and it looked pretty sterile – although the wild flowers were good. I was only in the bit immediately around the stadium and the rest of it is supposed to be better, but nothing brilliant there.

Olympic Park

The commercial bit: almost all the stalls were open around the stadium itself. This was the first time for all of them and they seemed to be doing Ok for the main. When I approached the bar, the servers were calling me over, so they could have their first customer. Later on it got a bit more hectic – a lot more queues were seen. This seemed to be a combination of slowness due to not quite sure what doing, slowness due to Visa restriction – and the payments, which were NOT fast – and the bars running out of soft drinks and water so people being turned away. Water IS going to be a BIG problem – there were long, long queues for the few water fountains that were available, so I think something needs to be sorted there

Olympic Park

The Gamesmakers: definitely some first day nerves for some, but overall everyone was brilliant. Bright, bubbly, keeping everyone moving. I did see a few occasions of them not quite knowing what to do and passing it along chains, but for a first day, think they did OK.

The Ceremony: Wow. Just wow. I’m still buzzing from it. But you are going to have to wait until Friday because we all promised to #SavetheSurprise – and watch the hashtag on twitter on Wednesday evening for peoples reactions. I wasn’t sure going into the evening what to expect and the first part did not fill me with confidence. The very first bit was slow and full of some of the clichés that have been talked about. But then, it took off and kept delivering. We didn’t see everything, but what we did see was absolutely amazing. Watch it!!!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

Mar 24

SXSW – Behind the scenes with Mad Men on Twitter

How did characters from a show based in the analog 1960s fast forward to become a sensation on Twitter? Tweeters behind the profiles of Peggy Olson, Betty Draper and Roger Sterling discuss how it happened, why it happened and–most importantly– what does it mean for the future of entertainment branding?

Helen Klein Ross Partner, Supporting Characters
Michael Bissell Pres, Conquent
Carri Bugbee Pres, Big Deal Productions

  • CB:Madmen on Twitter came out serendipitously. I saw a tweet about don Draper on twitter.I loved it never thought it was official, but wanted to join in. So I registered Peggy Olsen, thought it was fun, thought I would do it over the next few weeks. Over the next few hours got about 160 followers, people were getting into it. I thought it would be interesting, a case study, so I treated it as a job, to the extent that it was possible, I deleted the snarky tweets and went to get inside the character. On the same day there were more people involved, over the next few days most Mad Men were on Twitter and it garnered a huge following and lots of pieces about it.  A lot about whether it was by AMC or not. At that point I kept quiet about it was me – I got a kick out of the speculation and writing.   Later, there were issues with getting into Twitter – they had suspended the account.  I had really got into Peggy and was loving it, but the minute they took the character away I was wringing my hands. Got an indecipherable email from Twitter about copyright (so I then emailed my lawyer, just in case). Watched the stream and lots were annoyed about it, it got reported, eg Silicon Valley Insider, who reported from Twitter there was a DMCA takedown notice.  All I could think about that night was oh crap a network was going to sue me. The following morning, lots were writing about how AMC had failed, how it was wrong to do a take down.  A day later, the journalists were contacting other characters.  We did not tell anyone, we kept it quiet. Later they let us go back up…reportedly on the advice of the digital agency.  Lessons:  Brands/Shows reserve your screen names.  Lessons: you may not be able to achieve it.  Lesson: if in middle of PR problem, don’t bury your head.  Give them something, speculation is not good.  Lesson: use your fans to your advantage.  this has not really been absorbed by people who create content.    Once we were back in action it was the long slog of building followers.  It was just word of mouth.  You should use Twitter to follow your brand, to see what people are saying.  You can get real-time feedback about the show and characters.
  • HR: I’m Betty Draper.  I started by being followed by Betty and Don. I thought this was another brilliant promotion by AMC. I had already seen them seed subway cars with business cards and they had wrapped a car in promotion.  I blogged about it about how brilliant AMC was and I was shocked when they were taken down. When they came back up, I went to see what was avalable…no idea why. Just thought it was a brilliant idea, a new kind of marketing. I picked up Francine (betty’s friend) and a few others. I saw it as a form of fiction.  To generate spontaneous fiction.   I could create mini-dramas across my characters to entertain followers.  We made characters live between episodes and seasons.  We enabled Mad Men fans to interact with the characters.   All of us have strived to remain parallel to Matt Weiner’s universe.  I have a whole 1960’s library know, had to do a lot research.  We’re only half of this..the other half are tweets from fans.  Our Mad Men on twitter would not be exciting if it was just us.   I come from advertising … have tried to think about what does this mean for entertainment marketing.  How we think about and consume entertainment has changed. We can expect to have some active participation in it. The old contracts were a very passive model…media heads put a lot of focus on impressions when deciding on which show to advertise on. They are looking now at expressions now, how many are willing to engage with show.  To get 80% reach you used to be able to buy a spot on 3 networks, now it’s 100 networks.  Advertisers have to stop siloing it.  Consumers are changing. Neilson has a convergence channel..combining internet and TV. We think that Mad Men on Twitter is something different. We’re not just fans, we’re professionals. We are transforming fan fiction into a new form of marketing – it’s not fan fiction, its brand fiction
  • MB: I’m Roger Sterling. When first contacted, i thought it was silly, but I went to look for Don Draper, but ended up with Sterling.  It was perfect for me..the tweets about the hangovers etc were not just fiction!  The research, definitely needed.  The Long Island Iced Tea was not invented until the 70s..I did not know this but the fans did. I changed it. Twitter is very transitory, it’s gone. Twitter is very Buddhist, it’s in the now.   But for tracking, it’s very have to regular on a schedule grab all the data.  There’s the peekaboo followers, who follow and unfollow. You don’t catch these in regular stats.  So the people who say they have this figured out are assuming that world will not change again. We started in Aug, when the most followed had 40k followers. There’s an article today about Twitter has peaked. You have to watch and track and know the universe is changing.   The outside stuff was interesting, how people perceived the characters.  The WSJ which came out a few months ago gave very little in traffic or views…
  • Q: does it make sense for an agency/professionals to do this?
  • CB: if I was the agency or client, i would absolutely want to own it.  There is so much more you could do..but we can’t do as we are not sanctioned.
  • MB: Look at Star Trek…Paramount has had pseudo fanfiction that they have managed, to let fan world grow but push it in the direction the want to go
  • Q: Are you getting work out of this?
  • MB: can;t confirm or deny.
  • HR: but we could do it for you or teach you to do it.  We hope to teach others to do this
  • Q: Did it feel like work?
  • MB: we saw that. there were characters that showed up, but no longer there. It is so time consuming.
Mar 03

Watchmen Review

I got the chance to see the new Watchmen film today, at a bloggers preview sorted out by those nice people at Paramount and PPC. It was a pretty exclusive gathering, the numbers restricted by the less than 24hours notice and the fact it was at 10.30am. I was lucky in having an understanding boss!

I’ve not read the book, so had no idea what to expect. I’ve seen enough graphic novel adaptations – and read the reviews – to know they rarely meet the fans expectations. The reviews for this one have been mixed as well, with people not sure what to make of it. I’m not sure what to make either, except I enjoyed the experience. Here’s a relatively spoiler free review, no plot points, just my impressions.

What I didn’t like

  • It was long, it felt too long. There was whole sections in the middle, exposition and backstory, which I felt could have easily been removed from the film. They helped the story, but were not essential and I think they could have easily been removed and added to the DVD or put online for those who were interested.
  • The excessive and graphic violence. I have generally no problem with films displaying violence/fighting, but this was too much for me. There were scenes when I had to close my eyes to avoid the squirting and breaking and crunching. It was not every scene (in fact, there were some absolutely superbly choreographed fight scenes) but enough to put me off a little

What I liked

  • I liked the movie in general, the stories, the characters. It kept me involved for most of it (with the exception of the aforementioned slow scenes).
  • I liked the complexity. It was not a straightforward ‘superhero’ movie, it made you think. It was a thriller, a murder-mystery, a scifi, lots of stuff in there. I’m still working through the ethical questions it invoked. There was another level of complexity that I’m sure will come clear once I read the novel and go through all the easter egg sites!
  • I liked the film style. At the start they introduced a scene that slowed the action down to draw attention to particular viewpoints, which are obviously key panels from the novel but this technique reduced as the movie went on (which was a good thing from my POV). But throughout, the style was gorgeous

Would I recommend it? Yes. But you will have to go in with an open mind. It’s not a straightforward hero movie, it’s far more complex than that.

Would I see it again. Yes. However, I think I now want to see it post reading about it, so I can get a better idea of the world that surrounds.

Watchmen (screenshot from site)

Watchmen (screenshot from site)

Feb 20

Notes from BeeBCamp

I was honoured to be invited along to the BBC for their second BeeBCamp, one of a group of external people who came along to, as Philip says ‘to leaven the mix’. Hopefully I contributed something, I definitely learnt a lot. Each session was only about 20mins, not nearly long enough, and many ran over.

UGC: What do you do with it?

Ran by Charlie Beckett, this session asked questions about why the BBC asks for UGC, what they do with it, what are the transaction costs and what is it worth. The session specifically focused on content that is SENT TO the BBC, often current affairs/news related, through the website or after on-air requests. From the discussion, the BBC thinks it obviously does add value, both for the participants (happy to submit things) and for content that is used. But they only use a small handful, with the recent Snow Day resulting in over 60k images being sent in and only a few displayed.

The discussion later went onto the difference between ‘publisher’ or an ‘enabler’. For example, with the snow photos, they BBC could publish a few of them and that would be it. But for one of the audience, who worked in the education site, the BBC could also be an enabler – take the UGC, comment on it and use it to add further value to the relationship, ie discuss how people could take better snow photos.

When it comes to more newsy items than photos of snowman, there is always a burden of verification on the BBC, they have to be sure that what they use is truthful, valid and genuine, so they have to think carefully about what they use and how they can use it.

Games and the BBC

The next session I took part in focused on what the BBC is doing and could do with games. A key issue seems to be the definitions used, which are not consistent. A better set of words to use would be ‘playful content’, stuff that the public can play with. Games/interactivity are part of the BBC remit and their is an opportunity with some re-organisation to consider the strategy and plan for new things. However, there is a cultural issue (as there is most other places) about what games are and what they actually mean to people.

Different groups across the BBC are working on this problem and this appeared to be a great session for them to connect, as the work in London, Radio, Salford and Glasgow were all discussed. There’s some fascinating collaboration taking place between the Glasgow BBC and the University of Abertay in the gamespace.

The BBC could offer some valuable development opportunities, giving game companies the opportunity to do stuff they would not normally be able to do. Dan, from Six to Start, suggested that they BBC need to ensure that there is a clear structure in place to talk to about ideas, as at the moment, it is spread out and not clear at all.

I’m a pirate, what are you going to do about it

A general discussion about ‘piracy’, the Pirate Bay trial in Sweden, alternate routes for getting content and making money out the content, such as, rights, iPlayer, streams and downloads. According to some around the table, many people are torrenting because of the ease and convenience. Another group argued that actually, it is far easier for most to hit the play button on iPlayer (or Hulu, or whatever your choice is) and torrenting is far too difficult. A key reason why people may struggle through the set up of the clients is because the entertainment is not available in ways that make it easy for them – in their format, their time, their place.

There were three key types of ‘pirates’. those who do it because of ease and convenience of access (the ones who would most easily switch to channel provided routes), those who do it as they will never pay for anything and want to ‘stick it to the man’ (unlikely to choose an alternartive route) and those who want the content to do things with – the remix brigade)

BBC Blackops – post lunch there were a few wild moments triggered by a laptop sticker, where a new pitch for a TV show was considered: BBC BlackOps. It included stealth helicopters, men in uniform zipping down lines, secret computer rooms with computers that could never be turned off and the porn highlight editing suite, producing highlight packages in the same way the sports guys do. (although there was a discussion about how you determine what a porn highlight is). However, the madness soon abated and we got back to the serious discussions.

UGC: Enabling co-creation and remixing

Following on from the first session this morning, which looked at the public sending content to the BBC, I decided to run a session on how the BBC could help enable co-creation and remixing my letting content OUT from the BBC. I tried to steer away from data, which I know they do a fair bit of already via Backstage, and look at the entertainment properties. One rational, which I don’t think I explained in the session, was that the BBC make some great programmes based on the ‘classics’, programmes that appear make a fair bit of money in foreign and DVD sales and win awards. These stories and characters are in the commons, in the public domain, so how are the BBC contributing back to the commons. My notes on this are understandable brief, but it seemed to go well; there were some interesting future activities discussed which will become visible in the next few weeks/months but were not bloggable – I’m looking forward to see what happens with them.

Some notes I took were:

  • Comedy Soup tried something like this, released the raw material, but the uptake was small and had little focus
  • Producers are concerned about people subverting the content. (this is the same argument found in my industry, but brands can be very surprised at how much good stuff can be created
  • Commissioners don’t necessarily have the same understanding as the people round the table
  • Adventure Rock – a children’s virtual world – had great success letting the members create the story around the assets, gave them all the tools to work with.
  • Teachers TV does it all the times – expects remix, reuse and re-release. Al Jazeera does something similar
  • Major concern about allowing more certain types of content (mainly currently affairs/news) out. I think this was a misunderstanding about the call for content to be released – I primarily wanted to focus on entertainment not news. Also, it was never said that it had to be done with everything, you would choose what to release just as carefully as you choose what to broadcast.

A new kind of Book Club

this session was about a new tool that is being developed by Adrian Hon, which allows you to annotate texts/books online. Not new, but he’s adding a lot of social network tools to it, such as groups, notifications etc to make it a far more community appearance. The discussion extended to being able to do this with videos, scripts etc.

Communities and Comments

A mainly off the record conversation about message boards and comments on the BBC. One things I learnt, which is never realised, is the the Points of View Boards have lots of conversations about ITV programmes, such as Emmerdale, as those sites don’t allow conversations. Completely weird in my opinion. In general, the conclusion was that boards where there is clear direction from hosts (community managers) were far more effective than those without, which is not an unsurprising conclusion

That was it; then we went to the pub. Well some of us did, I think a lot of the BBC people went back to their desks! I had a good day and was exhausted at the end of from concentrating hard. This was the second BeeBCamp, i hope they run more.

Nov 29

Mobile Geeks, Amplified08 and team building

As well as the Pinkerton Lecture, I made my way to a few other events this week.

Mobile Geeks of London. Run by Whatleydude, this event is a drinking and connecting event, run every few months or there about. I got there later in the evening, after my trip to the IET, to find the place buzzing. There was a special preview of a really cool mobile app, involving barcodes, utilising the idea of putting virtual objects in your screen. The project launches next week (it’s a marketing project) and I’ll be writing about it on Digital Stuffing. I had a great time, buying my ticket for the Mobile Industry Review Christmas Presents and having some great conversations.

Amplified08. I managed to get to the last session at Amplified 08, the first in a series of ‘conferences’ trying to connect the multiple networks across the country. My original choice of session was one on using social networks for change, to compare it with the previous night’s lecture, but I ended up skipping that and joining in an impromptu session about Hierarchy of communication and adoption of the tools. There’s no doubt that many people at these sessions are edge cases, using online tools to connect far more than most, but it was interesting to see how we used things differently. We all had out own hierarchy, the different levels and ways you connect with people.

Team Building and Farewell Parties On Friday, the team got a few hours out of the office to discuss some works processes, but if you were following my Twitter stream you would have noticed the conversation varied a little. We talked about internet use, I was surprised of the lack of usage for someone working building websites. We discussed communication strategies, from email and phone only, through to me who uses a lot more channels. Other topics included Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard, co-relation coefficients and the Netflix challenge and the learning of languages. We also got onto London, how it’s a palimpsest of history, multiple layers of meaning. At the end of this, after calling into see James, I went to say farewell to my cousin, who’s back off to Australia after spending a few years here. The pub was just round the corner of Pudding Lane, another reminder of the city’s history.

That’s enough; next week there’s a few things I’ve not confirmed plus a trip to Leeds for the office Xmas party.

Nov 16

Henry Jenkins and Josh Green Opening Remarks

An opening introduction to the conference.

  • Tex Avery 1953 The TV of Tomorrow – started off by showing the start of the cartoon.
  • the film shows some of the things that are still relevant today – simplifying the TV, specialised devices, disruption to social life, gaming systems,
  • the conference is ‘Futures’ as there can be multiple futures
  • one of the things that seems to be lacking with TV is the ability to get really involved.  But one of the things that has been happening is the move of the content from the TV out to other channels, eg Simpsons sponsorship. Quik-e-mart was an extreme – pushed the TV world out to the real world, into peoples lives
  • TV text has gone into virtual worlds, eg CSI in Second Life
  • The notion of expanding what the TV does is demonstrated by the Wii remote – it changes the mode of interactivity
  • NBC newsbreaker game was an attempt to make news an interactive experience – may not the most compelling but is playfulness with the content.  They did live events with it.
  • Halo 3 has broken records for a game and challenged movies.   It may not be as narratively complex as Bioshock, but has pushed the envelope for marketing – the ad campaign, with the diorama.  It tours as a museum piece.
  • Heroes could be seen as the TV text at the moment that fully realises what is happening, a large scale narrative across multiple channels.  Eg 9th Wonder comic, in the show, a website and now a book as well.   It provides more content than can be put on the air
  • this is part of a larger trend where comics and tv are working together, eg Buffy Season 8.  BSG, Supernatural, all having comics to supplement
  • Extension also extends to branding, eg Geico Caveman.  Characters can migrate across the converged mediascape
  • In advertising, personalisation is looming large.   We are startig to get to that level of granularity; we are targeting smaller and smaller audiences.  It challenges how the audience is understood.  Facebook is at the forefront of personalised advertising, selling campaigns based on profiles.  This can be seen as inappropriate – the data is out in the public but expectation is that it is not necessarily aggregated.
  • Widgets are some of the growth points, it can be better to do a widget than a microsite.  But then you have to approach the audience in a different way
  • Writers Strike: showed the ‘Why We Fight’ video.   One of the striking things is that YT is being used to connect with the public by the WGA; an example of how YT is an alternative comms channel.
  • But YT is emblematic of some of the contradictions of the new world.   Look at how Colbert uses the site and the stuff that gets put on there. 
  • The same media channel is becoming central to the political campaigns,
  • The same distribution allows independent film makers to send their stuff out, connect with fans to see the film…ie Four Eyed Monsters
  • Soulja Boy using the web to drive his rise to fame – the web support meant that when he released songs he got sales
  • see 300Vogue from Luminosity for a great example of a mashed up film.
  • The contradictions of the implicit social contract between fans and ‘content’ companies are coming to the fore this year, eg FanLib.  This was a Hollywood company, but did not respect the fans, they assumed they could co-opt the work not co-operate.   There was a massive response, using LiveJournal to push back.  Although there is an agreement that we are moving towards a more participatory culture, but the terms of this are been ‘negotiated’ at the moment
  • Look at Harry Potter – a huge mass market hit.   Mass media is not dead yet, but we are having a lot of focus on niche content and fandoms.   With HP you got a lot of tension by people putting stuff online, spoilers, people trying to avoid it.   JK Rowling outed Dunbledore, outside of the book.  Fan created media and groups, such as Wizard Rock, HP fan podcasts, HP Alliance taking the books as a starting point for music, political activation.
  • Comic Con is a meeting point of fans and entertainment world  IS the place where companies goes to meet the increasingly influential audience.


May 02

The cats are in on it

I can Has Cheezburger

I was going to write a post explaining the background to this, but Ethan has done a brilliant job doing just so and it’s pointless to repeat why this number has raised such passions.

For much of yesterday, almost the whole of the front page of Digg was related to the HD-DVD story, triggered by the numerous cease and desist notices. Digg appears to have calmed down now, no doubt helped by Kevin Rose’s acknowledgement of what his users were telling him, that bowing down to pressure about this issue would not be tolerated. On his last post, sitting at nearly 30k Diggs, he said the following:

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

Kevin Rose on Digg

The page is sort of back to normal, although the top 10 story listings this morning carry their own tale.

Digg top stories

Meanwhile, the number of posts and sites containing the number currently site at around 60k on Google (or 300k without dashes or quotes). The cat is so out of the bag. The AACS site explains that they withdrew a key for some devices, which I think is this one? However, the whole furore demonstrates the futility of relying on security where the lock and the key have to be in the same device. It will get cracked and it’s an arms race in which there are far more people on the cracking side. The music industry are already travelling this road, are the film industry going to end up in anywhere different?

A recent study by the BBC Trust into its intention to offer video on demand concluded that:

When it came to video content, the situation was far more complex. Although no specific question addressed it, the Trust came away with the impression that, while industry considered DRM a given, the vast majority of the public was opposed to it.

Don’t restrict where i can play my DVDs. Don’t force me to buy only one operating systems. Let me choose where and when I watch things that I have bought!

PS: I know sometimes reporters get things wrong, but this story on MSNBC (apparently from the FT) seems to be from a none-existent timezone.

On Thursday, Kevin Rose, Digg’s founder, reversed course and said the company would no longer delete articles featuring the encryption key, even though that might lead to the site being shut down by lawsuits.

Apr 12

Cheezburger Cats

Sometimes you just have to go and see a site; with I can Has Cheezburger being mentioned twice yesterday, it was time to take a closer look. First of all it was being discussed as one of the extremely successful WordPress blogs at the WordPress meetup and then I got home to see that Tara has used an image from it in her round-up post of parties in SF next week. (which makes me want to pack up and visit for the week).