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

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Reportage: Silent gavotte

She was pretty much asleep, even at 8.07am, traveling northbound on the Northern line, one hand clinging on to the yellow handrail above her, the other holding on to a bottle of Coke, her concession to trying to wake up.

She was wearing a blue and white flower print skirt, more blue than white, and black flip flops that sparkled brightly. Her sandy, shoulder-length hair had just been washed and had started to dry, but not well or evenly. She was lost in a song – from the way she was gently rocking her head, I imagined it to be some sort of soft rock, maybe Foreigner. Even though she was clearly too young to have remembered them the first time round.

At Waterloo, he got on. Same height as her, with yellow skulls across his olive green t-shirt, skinny black jeans and back and white check Vans. His grey hair with black roots lay in perfect, greasy, artless waves. He nestled into her personal space, with a wide open smile. And she responded; boy did she respond. He did what the Coke hadn’t managed, her eyes blazing, a silent laugh running from the top to the bottom of her face. Still silent, their heads bobbed together for 30 seconds or so, a dance where all the energy was concentrated above the neck, looks never moving away from each other.

And as quickly as this limited gavotte had started, it ended. She went back to her Coke, and her Foreigner and her semi-sleep. He looked up at the ceiling, and stayed stock still.

Until they both got off at Goodge Street. There, as they were the last into lift two, his gentle hand ushered her in. And as I was running out of the station, I caught a glimpse of them crossing into Chenies Street, no silence between them this time, as laughter animated them away into the day.


London by Walkman

Courtesy of Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney (via Protein OS). Not quite as good as London by Simon Patterson.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

26 recommendations for August

can be found here. Enjoy.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Commercial: I made this!

This could get addictive...


Commercial/Editorial: Sitting Target

'Sitting Target' by Stanley Myers

While round at Punt's place the other night, we had a bit of an old tunes sesh. One of the classic platters he wheeled out was this baby, from 1972. Well worth a listen indeed, but those of a writing bent should be sold by this legend, on the back cover:

“You are looking at an animal! – A woman is his target… No cage can hold his lust for revenge.”

Following the huge success of his ultra hip soundtrack albums ‘Kaleidoscope’, ‘No Way To Treat A Lady’ and ‘Otley’, legendary composer Stanley Myers provides brooding psychedelic soundscapes for the first ever ‘R-rated’ British movie. Featuring Jill St John, Ian McShane (‘If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium’) and Edward Woodward (‘The Wickerman’) alongside an animalistic Oliver Reed on a Pentonville escape mission fuelled by a bleeding heart, a gallon red mist and a diabolical lust for revenge.

They don't write them like that any more, do they? Find out more about the film here, and you can get it from Boomkat here.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Commercial: Contact everyone

So, it appears that Microsoft Outlook 2003, working with my agency, has had a major improvement quietly slipped into it. Although setting up the BCC to over 1bn people could take some time...


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Editorial: More putdowns

This time from Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the LSE. Writing in The Guardian today about another resignation from City Hall, he says:

[Ken] Livingstone's team works on, in exile, to pour scorn on every City Hall mishap. The former mayor is a bit like Bonnie Prince Charlie with a PR team and internet access.

It didn't work out well for Charlie, in the end, btw.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Commercial: What would Don Draper do?

Why don't you ask him? If you're really lucky, maybe you'll get to socialise with him. And an introduction to Joan too.

(Hat tip: Gareth at Brand New)


Satire just got totally hot

I know, I know, late to this particular party. But it's tres well written, and did make me laugh. She would liven up the debates no end.

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die


Gee. Knee. Us

I had forgotten this. I hugged myself with delight when I watched it again last night. Apologies for the rubbish quality. You can find out more here.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Commercial: Where will our culture come from now?

Cultural anthropologist and thinker extraordinare Grant McCracken has posted what is, for me, a persuasive argument on why it is getting harder to produce culture - the decline of the avant garde, what he terms 'our magnetic north'.

He writes:

Generalizing a little, we can say that the center now has some of the creativity and risk taking capability of the margin, the middle class sometimes is an artist class, and that increasingly the culture of capitalism beats the drum of innovation so insistently that privilege, tedium and orthodoxy have gone to the margin and all of us must hew to the cause of risk, imagination and departure.

Which is to say, without an force to oppose, or be in opposition to, it means that we rely on, allow, the centre, the mainstream to dictate the terms of our culture: what we produce, what we celebrate, what we share. While it might appear that *we* are all culturally producing now - Faris Yakob's 'recombinant culture' - the pool of inspiration and the end results are increasing narrow, sharing homogenous roots, outlooks and impacts.

Evidence? Well, most obviously, the rise and uniform similarity to found in hipster culture, as recently eviscerated in Adbusters. It has the simulcra of rebellion, and opposition, but actually as a product of the centre, it has a deracinated if not non-existent avant garde component and outlook.

But the truth of the overall observation has to be reconciled with this idea: the 'decline of the middle'. What do I mean? Well, it's most easy to illustrate in the economic sense: over the last 15 years, it is the largest corporations, and the small to micro niche businesses that have thrived. Those middle-sized enterprises, serving a middle market, and a middle class, have been squeezed by various forces ascribed to globalisation, greater economies of scale, and the greater use of technology to find precisely what you want. What need Woolworths when you can either get or commission exactly what you want via Etsy or browse the biggest selection of stuff at Amazon?

And another observation? Isn't everyone fighting over the same centre ground politically?

So we come to a paradox about the 'idea of middle': There is a hollowing out of it economically; a convergence on it politically; and it is nearly the only cultural playing field that matters now.

What does it mean? No idea. But one point to bear in mind: for a few years now, thanks to network theory, we've been getting used to the idea that the middle doesn't matter as much as the ends/nodes do, because 'innovation happens at the edge'. Is this still true? Probably. But if the middle is taking this increasing prominence in cultural production, then the 'non-generative' future that Jonathan Zittrain has described can't be too far behind.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Neologisms (4)

hipsterbrow (n): the cultural products that hipsters like; (adj) attitude of liking and consuming said cultural products: 'he used to be highbrow, but he's become very hipsterbrow since he started seeing that girl in the American Apparel adverts.' cf. with 'mezzobrow'.


Some guidance on long term thinking

From the clever, clever people at the Long Now foundation. Their guidelines for a 'long lived, long-valuable institution' are:

* Serve the long view (and the long viewer)
* Foster responsibility
* Reward patience
* Mind mythic depth
* Ally with competition
* Take no sides
* Leverage longevity

Which sound like pretty good life lessons to me. Might even be worth joining up to get the cool membership card as well.


Commercial: Brand behaviour and delivery

If you're a brand manager anywhere, you should read Jenni Russell's column in The Guardian today.

Hand on heart, can you say that the brand that you are responsible for does not force people into the sorts of emotional states she describes?

Brand is nothing, repeat, nothing without it behaving properly, humanely and delivering its promises.


Editorial: On putdowns

Danny Finkelstein reports this in The Times this morning:

Neil Kinnock was entirely unsuited to being Prime Minister. His endless whirling speeches showed that. As John Major pricelessly commented, as Kinnock didn't know what he was saying, he never knew when he had finished saying it.

That Major eh? We completely underestimated him, didn't we?


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Commercial: Brand alignment failure

Tonight the Evening Standard in London reported that Charmaine Eggberry, vice president and managing director of European, Middle Eastern and Africa (EMEA) operations for RIM, had left the company.

That is to say, Ms Eggberry will no longer be in charge of the BlackBerry in Europe.

Eggberry. BlackBerry.

One wonders how the brand police didn't catch up with her before now.


Commercial: Brand the band

James Cooper at Another Anomaly has an interesting post on Brand Republic today, on how more brands should take their cue from the Foo Fighters.

Which is superficially correct. But (and you knew that was coming), is it enough?

That's to say, is it ambitious enough? I love the Foos - they blew Wembley away when I saw them earlier this summer. But but but but: when the history of rock is written, it's not clear that they'll be more than a footnote. Nice enough chaps, competent at what they do. But not game changers. World beaters. People who shook the axis of the world a little. After all, have they ever really escaped the shadow of one of Dave's earlier bands?

I know James says:

The Foo Fighters are not a ‘great band’. They are not really critically acclaimed and yet every one of their six albums has been up for a Grammy. So how does that work? They give people more reasons to like them than dislike them and they work hard at it.

But if we start saying that's all we aspire to do, with our brands as much as our bands, then we aren't setting our sights high enough. And it would be anathema to a challenger brand just to settle for this philosophy.

Remember: the point of being in this world is to change it, not bimble along and accept it.

PS: Any bands who can or can't be made into a brand manifesto? I might be persuaded to offer a reward for the most creative or unlikely examples. Make that 'definitely' if your example involves Dumpy's Rusty Nuts.

PPS: And when did it become acceptable to start demanding that bands/artists turn up on time? 'I had to wait, and it was cold, and waaaah, it's past my bed time.' It's rock and roll, FFS. Don't you pay for a little licensed bad behaviour? Or must every cultural exchange now be about what 'I', the invidious creep of an individual consumer, get out of it?

Sheesh. Grow up. Bend, and roll with the situation. Get out of your head. Live a little. You might enjoy it.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Commercial: This is an ad

This is an ad for the Metropolitan Police

For the Metropolitan Police. It is not an advert for punctuation, alas. No wonder they moan about the forms they have to fill in.

(Cross posted at This is an ad.)


Concept - help required

So, in conversation with Antigob last week, this phrase came up:

"i slam, you slam, we all slam for islam"

which he reliably informs me is reminiscent of, "skate muties from the 5th dimension an old skate zine".

I thought the phrase would look great on a t-shirt. I then went further:

"Imagine: a shoot in Finsbury Park. 1,000 Islamic skate kids all wearing that t-shirt. It'd be immense."

So, whaddya reckon? Anyone willing to help make it happen?


Monday, August 11, 2008

Commercial: Old bank

Old bank
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
Old banks don't always become trendy wine bars. They can stay as old banks.


In memoriam: Isaac Hayes 1942-2008

Everyone will be playing 'Shaft' today. Wiser heads will head for Hot Buttered Soul, and in particular, this slice of genius:

While we're at it, the speed of YouTube tributes like this continues to astound. These are the digital equivalent of flowers by accident blackspots, right?


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Editorial: Euphemism generator

When I discovered this euphemism generator via Nick's blog, I have to confess that I was as excited as a starlet enjoying the academy.



Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Linkorama for 06.08.08

1. A perfect ten isn't perfect any more.

2. Olympic medals are actually bubbles of many hues.

3. MAD actually invented modern advertising, according to these images (via This recording.)


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Linkorama for 05.08.08

1. Some authors are embracing the digital future.

2. Some teenagers are, like, actually being more accurate in the way they speak.

3. Some profit maximisation is better than total profit maximisation.

4. Some people will be taking photos in a few days' time.


Listorama: RSC pencils

Shakespearean pencils
Ms Beta left these on my desk, to fill in a wedding invite, in the absence of her silver pen. What I didn't realize is that the pencils have these following messages on them:

'pure congealed white' – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

'she did commend my yellow stockings' – Twelfth Night

'this rotten orange' – Much Ado About Nothing

'with eyes as red as new-kindled fire' – King John

'i am the very pink of courtesy' – Romeo and Juliet

'sing all a green willow must be my garland' – Othello

'green indeed is the colour of lovers' – Love’s Labours Lost

'their blue coats brushed' – The Taming of The Shrew

'is black so base a hue?' – Titus Andronicus

'low and browner than her brother' – As You Like It

'our younger brown' – Antony and Cleopatra

You can get your own RSC ephemera here.


Monday, August 04, 2008

Commercial: This is an ad

Adult entertainment at Gym Box

As seen outside the Holborn branch. Made me laugh.

(Cross posted at This is an ad.)


Friday, August 01, 2008

Linkorama for 01.08.08

1. Clay Shirky on gin, television and the social surplus. This is genuinely one of the most important things I think you will read this year. Key quote:

It's better to do something than to do nothing. Even lolcats, even cute pictures of kittens made even cuter with the addition of cute captions, hold out an invitation to participation. When you see a lolcat, one of the things it says to the viewer is, "If you have some sans-serif fonts on your computer, you can play this game, too." And that's message--I can do that, too--is a big change.

This is something that people in the media world don't understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race--consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it 's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.

And what's astonished people who were committed to the structure of the previous society, prior to trying to take this surplus and do something interesting, is that they're discovering that when you offer people the opportunity to produce and to share, they'll take you up on that offer. It doesn't mean that we'll never sit around mindlessly watching Scrubs on the couch. It just means we'll do it less.

(via PSFK)

2. Adbusters on how 'hipster' is the first 'counterculture' where the participants in it are merely consuming it, not creating it. Key quote:

Hipsterdom is the first “counterculture” to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.

An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry. The only way to avoid hitting the colossus of societal failure that looms over the horizon is for the kids to abandon this vain existence and start over.

(also via PSFK)

3. Some software design tips from David Pogue.

4. According Charlie at Tantramar, Sister Ray has gone into administration. I'm appalled and stunned. The old shop, at the lower end of Berwick Street, was where I learned to buy records. So I'm very much up for helping to save this cherished place.


Commercial: This is an ad

1. New - not convinced yet. Buttons are small, and it's a strain to look at. Colour coding is good though. And of course the name change - just 'delicious' now, eh? I liked the random dots.

2. An ad for a 'copywrighter' at the 37signals gigs board. Is it a deliberate doozy?

(Cross-posted at This is an ad.)