Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Monday, August 21, 2006

Diversity in design

Just a quick note to any of you out there who happen to work in design in the UK, and are from an ethnic minority: would be worth your time participating in a survey currently being conducted by some notable figures from the industry, part of an effort trying to understand why black and Asian entrants to the industry are significantly fewer than should be expected. The survey can be found at:

What is true for design is also true for advertising and marketing more generally, although 'media' appears to be getting better. The creative industries are a tougher nut to crack, no doubt, because of the fluid nature of the ways in, as well as the fact that the lack of a 'professional' status must turn a lot of potential entrants off. That and the fact that there is no concomitant uplift upon qualification as one finds in law or accountancy.

Still, if we are to understand and talk to consumers properly, the design/marketing/advertising industries must reflect the population more accurately - empathy's great, but not a substitute for different perspectives.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

When Photoshop goes wrong

Only of relevance to those of you who have managed to make it down to The Oval over the last few days for the final test of the series of England against Pakistan. But if you have been, and picked up a programme, have a very close look at the individual photos of the England players in their biographies towards the middle. Now tell me: should Monty's head be at that angle?

Clearly what has happened is that someone in the ECB's programme production department couldn't get hold of proper mugshots in time, and so instead, using two templates (light or dark green background; and shoulders sloping or relatively level) has grafted the heads of the players on to these mostly inappropriate bodies.

The angle of Monty's head is one giveaway; Sajid's skin tone on his chest suddenly getting lighter is another. And Banger's head just doesn't look right.

What is going on? Couldn't the ECB stretch to proper photos? Really?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Of gentlemen, flirting and whisky

A recent email from Mansfield asking for recollections about the tutorial system prompted the following. These might surface in the future; then again, they might not.

Despite my best efforts (turning up hungover; breathless from having run out of the Rad Cam precisely three minutes before; 9am Monday morning starts - by my own choice) I generally enjoyed my weekly or bi-weekly intellectual ju-jitsu sessions. Thankfully by the third year, I had sort of figured out what I needed to do to at least appear conscious in them. Some notable occasions stand out:

* Being told that, "A gentleman never calls a tutorial before midday." On a Thursday morning. At 8.30am.
* Being introduced to Irish whisky, over an early evening chat about the perils of journalism and the delights of the eighteenth century novel
* Spending a term trying to focus on the delights of 'The Makioka Sisters', while trying not to be distracted by the radiant delights of my tute partner from Somerville. (I failed, naturally.)

At times they could be brutal - I used to curl up with a noxious fear before my British History I sessions, knowing that they would be an unmitigated disaster - but more often than not they were (and remain) some of the most free-wheeling, wide-ranging and stimulating conversations I've ever had.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Commercial: How a brand wins you back

First weekend of August 011
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333.
We spent a brief hour at last weekend's Fruitstock, organised by Innocent drinks, in Regent's Park in London. In the main, we wanted to check out the farmers' market (the bands and the dance tent are not really our thing).

After a long walk around to the north east corner of the park, we got there... to be greated by a common enough site if you are a regular (free) festival goer: many bodies, parched grass, interminable queues.

Which if this was any other brand or body would be acceptable. However, this is Innocent. A brand that has pioneered how an organisation can talk to its customers in a small, down to earth and intimate way.

And that was what we were hoping would be the vibe of Fruitstock: a way of saying thanks, but something that would not be too crowded, a bit of fun, gentle.

Clearly, both we and Innocent were taken aback by the sheer popularity of the event (less, I think, people attracted by a freebie, and more a re-assertion of more primeval impulses, as Londoners express their deep-seated desire to gather en masse in inappropriate locations). But in the context of a teeming scrum of people by the beer tent, a cheery banner saying 'Hello everyone' felt, unexpectedly, a little like taking the mickey.

So this post could have been a rant about a brand gap, about Innocent promising something small and perfectly formed and instead having us experience something large, rowdy and noisy. But that idea was instantly disapated after checking the Fruitstock website:

We'd also like to make a couple of quick apologies. First up, the toilets. The queues were too long and we're sorry that you had to wait in line. We're also sorry about starting late on Sunday. The amount of people that turned up the day before meant that sorting the rubbish took longer than expected. We also had to make sure that any broken glass was cleared up so that the site was safe. Anyway, hope this didn't spoil things for you.

Simple. Victory from the jaws of defeat. No fuss. No blame. Which means that there is now someone who will continue to buy the smoothies.

Why can't more brands be this straightforward and humble?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Defining an epoch

The Dastidar Era
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333.
Seriously. Someone is kidding.

Brought to my attention by Chris: on what is an innocuous Wikipedia page about a previous journalistic haunt of mine, Cherwell, a list of recent editors is pretty accurate. Apart from the year 1997-98.

There were three other people who also did the job - better than I did - that year. I'm wagering some of those three might not be so happy to be treated in so cavalier a manner.

It does suggest that the page in question has been written or edited by someone who knows/knew me, and/or was around at the time. It's a very good gag; but who are you?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Capsule: Exile & Mainstream

Exile and Mainstream 016
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333.
Hurry down to the Kemistry Gallery in Charlotte Road, Shoreditch to catch this all-too-brief exhibition by LCC'ers, including Mandatory Thinking, featuring meditations on what is to be and or in exile and or in the mainstream.

The mostly type-driven responses are stimulating - in particular, Jon 'Stace's creation of the new font 'Pop Culture' is a witty reposte to the bulbous idiocy of much of what passes for 'mainstream' comment, while Joel Foster's view that one can be as much in exile even when located in the centre of the mainstream is insightful.

The only disappointment was that I could not find use of the word 'banish'd' anywhere in the exhibition. It runs until 5 August (this coming Friday).