A Cautionary Tale In Close-Up

May 2nd, 2017 by dewprocess.

The recently launched Hulu serialization of Margaret Atwood’s seminal novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” is proving a worthy challenge to viewers around the world. It is not for the fainthearted audience.

Executive Producers Bruce Miller and Warren Littlefield gave the reins to director Reed Morano who, in partnership with actors including Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel, Samira Wiley, Ann Dowd, Madeline Brewer, Max Minghella, and O-T Fagbenle, have inhabited a world at one and the same time seductive and horrific.

DP Colin Watkinson has used focus and color in ways designed to disorient and unsettle, and the symbolism of Ane Crabtree’s costume design is as direct as her craft is sublime. Not forgetting Julie Berghoff’s production design, but nevertheless unwittingly neglecting the host of other contributors, I found the show to be immensely demanding, in the best of ways.

This is not something I would actively choose to watch, as a means to relax at the end of a long day’s work. Then again, there is little about our current sociopolitical landscape that warrants relaxation. One might once have called “The Handmaid’s Tale” a cautionary tale. Today, it feels more like a peek in to a possible yet not-so-distant future. I wonder how much advanced warning we can afford.

WTHR TWTR – The Evolution of a Feathered Friend

April 23rd, 2017 by dewprocess.

With its traditional content limitations being “stretched” several months ago, in order to accommodate “photos, videos, links and up to 140 characters of text”, Twitter has arguable encouraged a more discursive and expressive community. Indeed, there are those who have become particularly enamored of the platform, when they might be better served, and of better service, were they to focus a healthier balance of their energy elsewhere!

However, political observations aside, it’s been interesting to see how the language of Twitter has and has not evolved, in the wake of recent changes. I’ve included below a list of acronyms, abbreviations, and unique terms that were once common parlance on the platform. Today, some #persist, while others have been effectively impeached (the other meaning of the word).

Which terminology do you still include in your tweets, and have you discovered or introduced new terms that are not included below?

BFN.

tweet_edited

Acronyms

  • MT = Modified tweet. This means the tweet you’re looking at is a paraphrase of a tweet originally written by someone else.
  • RT = Retweet. The tweet you’re looking at was forwarded to you by another user.
  • DM = Direct message. A direct-message is a message only you and the person who sent it can read.
  • PRT = Partial retweet. The tweet you’re looking at is the truncated version of someone else’s tweet.
  • HT = Hat tip. This is a way of attributing a link to another Twitter user.
  • CC = Carbon-copy. Works the same way as email.
  • FF = Follow Friday (a convention whereby, every Friday, one publishes one tweet listing newly discovered Twitter users deemed worthy of following)
  • IMHO = In my humble opinion.
  • AYFKMWTS = Are you f—ing kidding me with this s—?
  • GTFOOH = Get the f— out of here
  • OH = Overheard.
  • NFW = No f—ing way
  • IRL = In real life
  • NSFW = Not safe for work.
  • FML = F— my life.
  • FWIW = For what it’s worth.
  • QOTD = quote of the day
  • BTW = By the way
  • BFN = Bye for now
  • AFAIK = As far as I know’
  • TY = Thank you
  • YW = You’re welcome
  • FTW = for the win
  • QOTD = quote of the day
  • BTW = by the way
  • HT = hat tip
  • FIFY = Fixed It For You
  • OMG = Oh My God
  • LOL = Laughing Out Loud
  • TN = Tonight
  • TM= Tomorrow
  • SMH = Shaking My Head
  • IDK = I don’t know
  • AMIIC = Ask Me If I Care
  • FB = Facebook
  • FTF = Face to Face
  • FTL = For the Loss or For the Lose
  • FYI = for your information
  • IC = I see
  • IOW = In Other Words
  • IRL = In Real Life
  • JK; j/k = just kidding
  • JSYK = just so you know
  • JV = Joint Venture
  • ROFL = rolling on the floor laughing
  • TIA = thanks in advance

Abbreviations and other terms

  • GR8 = great
  • 4ward = forward
  • abt = about
  • b/c = because
  • b4 = before
  • bgd = background
  • chk = check
  • cld = could
  • clk = click
  • da = the
  • deets = details
  • Eml = email
  • fab = fabulous
  • fave = favorite
  • fav = favorite
  • fwd = forward
  • itz = it is
  • kewl = cool
  • K = okay
  • L8er = later
  • L8 = late
  • peeps = people
  • plz = please
  • PPL = People
  • props = proper respect
  • PWN = Own
  • R = are
  • shld = should
  • thx; tx = thanks
  • Twouche = Someone acting like a big fat jerk via Twitter.
  • Twurvey = A survey sent out over Twitter.
  • u’ve = you have
  • ur = your
  • U = you.
  • w/ =with
  • wld = would
  • wOOt! = an expression of joy or excitement.

The Ties That Bind.

February 22nd, 2017 by dewprocess.

present-past-future

I am a big admirer of Satya Nadella. However, when Mr. Nadella states in a recent interview, “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal”, he seems to be confusing and conflating the concepts of a VISION and a MISSION with the notion of VALUES. Perhaps this is an effort to distance himself and his administration from the legacy presence of the brand’s co-founder, but I fear that would be misguided strategy. Perhaps he was misquoted (it happens). Perhaps he didn’t say what he meant to say, or in quite the way he intended. Media interviews are fraught with the peril of partial clarity.

It bears reviewing that a vision statement should, if pursued properly, have an expiration date. At that point, the sitting leadership should reinvigorate the brand strategy with a new vision statement. Similarly, a mission is not well defined if it is not clearly achievable, and thus temporary. The values of a company may also change, but they can also endure.

Bill Gates’ vision of hardware ubiquity, expressed in his mission of “putting a PC in every home”, was well stated at the time, and largely accomplished, as Mr. Nadella concedes in this interview. Quite correctly, Nadella also points out the geographic and cultural limitations of that mission: a perfect opportunity to refresh the Microsoft brand, with a new more expansive Mission Statement, a new Vision Statement, and – if he and his leadership team so choose – a new Statement of Core Values (which is what I believe he is attempting to do here).

If a company accomplishes its previously stated mission, this is cause for celebration, not criticism and distancing. I hope Mr. Nadella will recognize and underscore this, going forward, and give his company the credit it justly deserves. I believe Microsoft has an exciting path ahead of itself, and how its leadership frames the past will do much to develop market and shareholder confidence in its future.

Whither/wither interstitial advertising?

November 14th, 2016 by dewprocess.
They say the ad industry has lost touch with the consumer, and I find myself agreeing, but not only from the creative perspective. When watching streaming or OTT content, I am disappointed by how unimaginative the ad allocations are, resulting in nauseatingly frequent repetitions of the same commercial spot, to the point where the brand actually suffers from being forced upon the viewer with mind-numbing frequency. Recently, a rather amusing Geico ad turned into a Gitmo ad, by the time I had been tortuously subjected to its pitch no less than 7 times in the same show. It’s a simple enough algorithmic exercise to parse out advertising content in a manner more digestible for consumers, and ultimately more profitably for brands. Indeed, with some intelligent and imaginative programming, online content ad streaming could be so much better targeted and varied, as to really promise the clickthru and brand adoption rates that conventional broadcast content has never been able to even suggest, despite all their metric mumbo jumbo.
 
While ECM is certainly a major challenge that needs prompt addressing, the creative content of ads is also in dire need of innovation. The drug ads have become little more than legalese white noise (to the point where our family doesn’t worry about the daytime Viagra ads, as we know the kids aren’t listening or watching), and the rest is a leftover soup of copycat automotive, CPG, and family restaurant dreck. One would hope that brands would take advantage of the upcoming holiday period to reposition themselves as partners in consumers’ lifestyles, both functionally and aspirationally. Several British brands seem to have got the message (see links below), but I’m having a hard time finding US brands that have positioned themselves as anything but hard sell commercial pitches. Another missed opportunity. Here below are a few of the British ads for this upcoming holiday season. Let me know if you find any other spots from the US (or elsewhere) that recognize the value of building a relationship, as much as hawking the initial product.

Letting Out the Slack.

November 2nd, 2016 by dewprocess.

Microsoft just announced a chat-based enterprise collaboration tool. It’s called Microsoft Teams, and the implications are deeper than one might imagine, at first blush. Whether those implications realize themselves or not depends (of course) on how enthusiastically the market embraces this SaaS.

One’s first assumption might be that Microsoft Teams is a “Slack killer”, and this might certainly be the case, if Microsoft were to have a fantastic track record of imaginative and impactful marketing. It does not. It’s unlikely that Microsoft Teams will have much initial impact on Slack user numbers, given the fierce loyalty of Slack users to the brand. The same applies (to lesser extents) to Basecamp, Smartsheet, Asana, Podio, Trello, Samepage, Quip, Projectplace, Yalla, and, and, and…

Each of these collaboration platforms provides an experience with which its users are – for the most part – quite comfortable. You don’t often see an Evernote user of longstanding jump over to OneNote, or vice versa.

So what’s the big deal with Microsoft Teams? There are two big deals, in fact.

First, if the solution is well-thought and intuitive, and if it integrates with Office 365 in as fluid and seamless a fashion as intended, it will secure those enterprise users of the Office Suite, and prevent their adoption of the other aforementioned “standalone” collaboration toolsets. Microsoft will be strengthening its enterprise software ecosystem, not by preventing escape, but by making the notion of staying more attractive. More of a golden cage, than a walled garden.

The second implication, however, is more dramatic: Microsoft was almost going to acquire Slack earlier this year – a move I did not quite understand, given both the $8 Billion price tag and Microsoft’s existing holdings of SharePoint, Yammer, and Skype, to mention just a few. Opting to withdraw from the purchase has made a silent statement that will, I believe, reverberate through the already flawed VC world. For the past years, convention and hubris have driven the notion that companies will purchase and absorb promising or threatening products and solutions, as a matter of course and self-preservation. On balance, this has not proven as cost-effective or innovative as many have pretended. Whether intentionally or not, Microsoft, by opting to pursue internal development and release of their own Swiss Army collaboration tool, has communicated that their IP, combined with internal dev talent, are sufficiently robust to offer solutions that do not require Slack.

Admittedly, this remains a risk. Slack users tend to comprise small businesses that “graduate” toward Google suites of product offerings, rather than the traditionally heftier Microsoft suites. However, the Microsoft brand (somewhat inadvertently, I feel) has been ceding its Goliath mantle to Apple and Google, of late, and many small businesses with which I work are less intimidated by the brand than they once were.

If Microsoft manages to position their Teams offering properly, this could be the moment when all the vaporware startups out there realize they are standing in the street naked, and need to actually develop something unique and truly valuable (read: unrealizable by others without great investment), or risk being eclipsed by developers who have finally wised up to the fact that a snappy presentation does not a mighty valuation make, even if it’s in PowerPoint.

Is “Periscope Depth” still too shallow?

July 6th, 2016 by dewprocess.

The power of live streaming is incontestable, as most recently demonstrated by the awful but important footage captured by Lavish Reynolds. This media innovation has the potential to revolutionize journalism, communications, storytelling…but then Twitter had that same potential, when it rose to prominence. Technological innovation will usually manifest compelling results, but many pioneering brands will stumble along the way. Is this unavoidable? Are there better ways to grow a product or solution, so it may realize its best potential more effectively, efficiently, and sustainably?

The recent Democrat “sit-in” in the US House of Representatives launched Twitter’s subsidiary Periscope into the spotlight (at the edges of which it had been operating for more than a year). This app has the potential to merge the functional merits of both Twitter and YouTube. Will this “Video Twitter” evolve into a long-term media platform enhancement, or is it little more than the latest social media fad? Who remembers Meerkat?

Snapchat took over from Instagram, which itself apparently supplanted Pinterest, after the latter briefly challenged Facebook. Of course, some will argue that I have one or two of the brand incursions mixed up, but that only underscores my contention: Will everyone have the Periscope app on their smartphones for the next 6 months, only to hop to the next shiny bright object, as soon as some bright young startup creates it (with a surfeit of investment from Venture Capital companies eager to reap quick cash rewards, before their latest vaporware is supplanted)? Will Periscope instead grow “too big to fail”, as Twitter seems to have done, yet – like Twitter – represent little clarity, in terms of functional positioning? Are our social platforms and channels destined to come and go with the whims of youth, or are some focusing on developing a degree of operational maturity that will more securely establish their merits and utility, both on our smartphones and in our communities? For all of Facebook’s flaws, it has consistently pursued this maturation with the degree of academic humility and professional confidence that is the hallmark of most engineers. Its relative longevity is as much a result of its willingness to adapt and iterate, as it is due to its refusal to be molded by its user base.

Therein lies the lesson.

Too many brands have relied upon the “Crowd” to manifest and elevate their identity and fortunes, simply because it was this same “Crowd” that first adopted the company’s initial value proposition. The “Crowd” is a powerful current, but while it runs most aggressively in shallow waters, it carries the greatest power in deeper seas. In much the same way, it behooves companies that operate in the Social space (which effectively includes all M&E and Communications companies, along with a host of other markets) to study more assiduously the role of their user base in the ongoing development and growth of their brand. It is not the Crowd’s responsibility to identify or define the brand, nor its value proposition. Furthermore, the longer we allow Startups to scale too quickly, simply as a means to secure larger investments, IPOs, and other Get-rich-quick objectives, the weaker our innovation pipeline will become. The vast majority of Venture-backed startups fail in their first year, and the many articles acknowledging this long-known but too often ignored fact effectively concur that the solution lies in more sustainable development, both of IP and workforce.

I have spent the past 15 years promoting this thesis: that Startup success should no longer be gauged by how fast a company sells, but rather how solidly it is able to build its value proposition; how securely it is able to hire and retain talent; how reliably it is able to integrate its offering into the physical and functional communities within which it operates. While the ROI may not be as immediately “sexy” as the silly Unicorns investors still chase, the longer-term returns generated by the far less mythical “workhorses” I have been supporting are more rewarding, both financially and otherwise. With this in mind, I look to brands such as Periscope, and I wonder: will they be seduced by the noise and sparkle of short-term ROI aspiration, which more often than not represents little more than a mirage of unattainable yearnings, or will they plot their course with thoughtful care and imagination, giving themselves, their investors, their employees, and users the best chance of hitting the mark, and driving forward into an increasingly valuable future?

What Lies at the Heart of a Business?

June 21st, 2016 by dewprocess.
Businesses all too often find themselves pulled by powerful gravitational forces into the black hole of “quarterly prosperity at all costs”. The vision becomes about paper profitability, and the true core value is lost in the mists of market competition.
 
Great business is, however, always tied to great community, great innovation, and great people. Without those ingredients, the heart of a brand fails, and all the remnant frantic activity is little more than life support, performed on a gradually failing entity.
 
No matter the size of your venture, be it startup or multinational, always remember your people, your vision, and your community are your core.

Are musicians getting valid ROI from video efforts?

May 17th, 2016 by dewprocess.

The music industry is admittedly not my wheelhouse, but an undeniably creative video, released yesterday by Coldplay, has highlighted a conflict that lies within the creation of promotional content: to what does the content owe its principal allegiance? In this case we have a marvelously impressive creative visual production (CGI heavy as it is), ostensibly produced to promote a song. If the core consideration is the song, however, it is arguable whether the video is doing it good service. Then again, if the song were abysmal, no amount of production sophistication could help. So, what role do music videos play today? Are they supposed to principally increase sales of the song, raise consumer awareness of the musician, or win awards and the media coverage that (sometimes) comes therewith? Is there some other purpose (such as simply generating buzz for the director, sufficient to springboard them into a commercial or feature career)?

Obviously, different music videos have different objectives, but I would posit that a core goal ought to be either to increase fandom (and purchase) for the song itself, or to increase viewer investment in the musician, sufficient to garner increased sales – be they merchandise, concert, or content. Maroon 5 achieved the former with their video for “Sugar”, while also generating a good deal of buzz for their inventive approach. Sia achieved the latter with her video for “Elastic Heart”. Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” achieved both, I would argue (and the sales numbers corroborate that claim). I have long championed the videos of FKA Twigs, which establish the artist firmly as the lost love child of Madonna and Bjork. Indeed, there exist a number of compelling music videos that successfully compel the viewer to either buy the song or follow the artist more enthusiastically.

What, however, do Coldplay’s videos (or those by OK GO, for that matter) accomplish, extant high YouTube views? Obviously, those who never liked the music might claim they mitigate an otherwise painful audio experience, but a massive investment in a music video is not going to sell the song or musician to someone who hates the music. Nobody suddenly became a new fan of U2’s after watching the video for “Numb”. If you didn’t love Christina Aguilera before, watching her embarrassing Lady Gaga copycat for ‘Not Myself Tonight’ was not going to endear her to you. Then again, Lady Gaga did herself no favors with her Madonna copycat for the forgettable “Judas”. So where’s the value?

After watching Coldplay’s recent video for “Up & Up” (the third single from their last album, “A Head Full Of Dreams”), I barely remembered the song, and I notice that all the online comments are about the video, with nary a word about the song or musicians.

Securing viewers of content on YouTube is a tough challenge these days, with the vast majority being relegated swiftly to burst traffic. It stands to reason, therefore, that content posted to online video aggregation sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, (arguably) Facebook, and soon Amazon Video Direct, needs to be compelling enough to merit swift and sustained viewership, but at what cost, and with what intended outcome? Content production without strategic context will rarely return satisfactory value. People will notice something attractive, but to what end? If that is the goal, kudos. Music videos are supposed to promote further action on the part of the viewer, though, aren’t they? Is clicking “Like” or “Share” enough, these days?

Shakespeare 400

April 22nd, 2016 by dewprocess.

shakespeare400

March 8th, 2016 by dewprocess.

Women who changed the world.Women who changed the world. Literary mastery, pioneering science, life-saving discoveries and actions for peace and human rights – achievements of women around the world awarded the Nobel Prize. Learn more about the impactful work of these Laureates at Nobelprize.org.#InternationalWomensDay Photos: Ulla Montan, Alexander Mahmoud, Nobelprize.org. Music: Epidemic Sound.

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