Friday, February 29, 2008

You can call me the Universal Ruler.

That's the meaning of the name 'Uwe'. I'm pretty sure my parents didn't intend to name me to become a dictator one day. Actually, they had two inspirations:

This rather stern looking fellow, a highly regarded politician in the 60's. (I'm still working on that stare.) Kai-Uwe von Hassel was member of the Christian Democrats, my parents always voted Social Democrats. Did they try to push me into a certain direction???

And, more importantly, one of the most beloved soccer players in Germany, the always smiling Uwe Seeler.

Because my mother felt that Uwe was too short, they called me Uwe-Karsten. (Thank God not Kai Uwe, that was the second choice. Whew!)

Little did they know that their son would migrate to the US one day and thereby create a dilemma: How can I convince Americans that my name is Uwe and not Huey, Ooov, Hoover, Hover, etc.? Well, I decided to go for two different tactics:

- For friends, co-workers, people I interact with very often, I help them out pronouncing my name correctly. It might take 20 tries, 2 months, 5 years: at one point the 'Uwe' sounds almost right. Almost is good enough.

- For Starbucks, restaurant reservations I work with my second ego: Bob. Bob grew up in some little town in Kansas, played football in his younger years, studied at some State College, drank too much beer in his 20's, always had a clear career path in mind, one day drove to Los Angeles to make it there or anywhere. Kind of the opposite of me. (Except for the beer.)

Bob and I live peacefully together. Uwe never ordered a cappuccino at Starbucks. Bob always does it for him. Bob doesn't have any friends (besides Uwe), just baristas, hosts and strangers on the phone he meets once in a while.

So, when you meet me and I introduce myself as Uwe, you already made a big step from a stranger to somebody I value enough to explain at length the origin and correct pronunciation of my name. (and Bob will retreat into his solitary existence.)

Which reminds me, my maiden last name is even more unusual. When I got married, I took my wife's name. Call me progressive. Or just lazy.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Who said this?

"I get satisfaction of three kinds. One is creating something, one is being paid for it and one is the feeling that I haven't just been sitting on my ass all afternoon."

"I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said."

"I would like to take you seriously, but to do so would affront your intelligence."

"Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could."

He died yesterday.

Whenever I saw him on 'Firing Line', I was amazed by his eloquence and precise vocabulary.

Yes, William F. Buckley said many despicable things. (Calling the Civil Rights Movement a 'Negro Revolt' is just one of them.)

But he was also able to have civilized debates with people on the opposite end of the spectrum, such as Noam Chomsky. Something we're missing today. Desperately.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Candy Store

Having a kid reminds us of the wonders and miracles of childhood. New things happen to you every day. Amazement through small, little things. The world is your oyster.

Every time I see my kid experiencing new things, I'm reminded of my own career. It started out in advertising (the best copywriter ever!), continued in marketing and now I'm at the intersection of advertising/marketing/branding. My excitement comes from the new world of marketing/advertising. Learning new things every day. Experiencing changes every day. Trying to change the marketing reality each and every day.

While my kid explores the world one Duplo, puzzle and book at a time, I'm delighted to explore this new world one blog, Twitter and RSS feed at a time. I wouldn't want to have it any other way.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Starbucks Nation is in uproar because their beloved Java won't be available this pm. I don't care about Starbucks, prefer really good coffee like Intelligentsia. (Best coffee I ever had.) But I think it's a good move by Starbucks.
Instead of just changing out some advertising or signage, Starbucks signals very strongly that they're willing to change. Works better than any new tagline or fancy ad. I might even give them a chance again.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The art of storytelling

As shown in a Monster Commercial

Friday, February 22, 2008

East Germany

I visited East Germany once. It was a scary, yet fascinating place. On the border you were treated like a felon: Your passport was taken away for a while, extensive searches, drawn guns.

My most memorable moment? Standing on a platform in West-Berlin, looking over the Wall to the other side. While West-Germans were able to touch the wall, spraypaint it, damage it; East-Germans had to stay away at least 150 feet, the Dead Zone (as they called it) filled with landmines and automatic machine guns. Looking over the wall, seeing East Germans in the distance living their lives reminded me of a zoo or some exhibit: We can do whatever we want, they are trapped in their dreary existence forever.

I grew up with the wall being part of life. It was there before I was born, it will be there when I'm gone. Many people of my generation cried when the wall came down. But we didn't want to reunite with East Germany. They were strangers to us. I had so much more in common with Dutch, Australian or American citizen. Nothing in common with East Germans. Yes, the language. Well, not really. Their language was different. Old, dusty, depressing.

I'm glad I was in the minority. My wife and I went back to Berlin a few years ago and it was so inspiring to feel the heart of Berlin beating in the eastern part. That's where innovation and ideas come from. Berlin is one of the few European cities I could live in. So much energy, so much drive.

Above pictures are from Thomas Steinert, an East German photographer. He was not a communist but he believed in his country's strength, hoping that one day people would look at his pictures and say: "We made it through these times." Instead, these images are a historic document to a country and societal experiment that failed miserably. A testament to a time when ideologies and processes were more important than humanity. These human insights into an inhumane time make these images so powerful.

See the rest here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Do you know this guy?

His name is Momus, a Scottish artist. Why should you know him?
Because he moved us from Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame to famous for 15 people:

“The future will be a lot of musical shrapnel… The old unifying stars like Madonna and Michael Jackson will be seen as the last of their kind, global monoliths, relics of an age of monopoly capitalism which has been smashed to smithereens.”

Putting his own spin on Andy Warhol’s “fifteen minutes of fame” adage, Momus suggested a different dynamic. In the future, he wrote, “Everyone will be famous for fifteen people.”

This idea of microcelebrity is fairly new and Clive Thompson describes it really well in his December column:

"Adapting to microcelebrity means learning to manage our own identity and "message" almost like a self-contained public relations department. "People are using the same techniques employed on Madison Avenue to manage their personal lives," says Theresa Senft, a media studies professor and one of the first to identify the rise of microcelebrity. "Corporations are getting humanized, and humans are getting corporatized.

You could regard this as a sad development — the whole Brand Called You meme brought to its grim apotheosis. But haven't our lives always been a little bit public and stage-managed? Small-town living is a hotbed of bloglike gossip. Every time we get dressed — in power suits, nerdy casual wear, or goth-chick piercings — we're broadcasting a message about ourselves. Microcelebrity simply makes the social engineering we've always done a little more overt — and maybe a little more honest."

In general, I agree with his small town assessment. Growing up in one myself, I remember those little social signals that turned into gossip and categorizing people.

There are good reasons for people to social engineer their social media experience: The mother that doesn't want to show pictures of her neighborhood, fearing possible stalkers. The entrepreneur who's fallen on hard times and doesn't share his problems with his audience because his blog was meant to be inspiring and uplifting. The social media blog that doesn't criticize specific clients because, well, they are clients.
That's social engineering.

But there's a fine line between social engineering and self-censorship. Sure, not everybody can be as open and honest asGeorge Parker (Is there a better word in the English language than Douchenozzle?) but are we censoring ourselves too often? I do. Often for good reasons, often for not so good reasons.

I think it's mostly a maturation of the blogosphere and social media space. We're still learning. And exploring how to interact with each other. And the world.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You thought you had an important day?

My daughter's day was monumental: First day in pre-school.

"The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done." -Jean Piaget

On to new things.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This makes me happy

Michael Globisch is a friend of mine. Sure, I might not have seen him in more than 15 years but he will always be my friend. He is a talented artist, has a very deep soul and a big heart. While I moved from city to city, trying to find my place in the world, he had go through a lot of suffering and pain.

Many people think artists need to suffer to create good art. I don't agree. Some artists don't suffer and create great art. Others suffer and, despite that pain, create great art.

Artists have power: Their work offers humanity, help the human spirit grow and celebrates its power. Great art comes from a combination of observation, consideration, deliberation and a passion for understanding outside of society's norms.

I'm so happy that Michael was able to get back into the game and create art that inspires and transcends.

That's what he was meant to do when he was born into this world. He went through so many battles and still persevered, as you can see above.

Michael, you should be proud of yourself.
I am.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another 50% off day

The biggest difference between Europe and the US?
Holidays in the US are marketing events.
European holidays are family events.

I guess the patriotic duty during holidays is to buy. And then to buy more. 25% off, 0% APR, etc. My favorite deal currently is the Lasik deal: 2 eyes for the price of one. And I thought eyes always come in pairs. I need to meet the marketing manager who came up with that idea. Much more brilliant are those fake pupils above that let you sleep at work or in class while others think you are wide awake. Too wide awake for my taste...

Well, let's move away from marketing today, honor Washington and Lincoln on this special day and remember Lincoln's quote:

""Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way."

Saturday, February 16, 2008


"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." - Budha

Follow your passion. If you follow your passion, you follow a path that was always there for you. Once you follow that path you'll live the life you're supposed to live. Once you follow your passion, you'll meet others that are as passionate as you. They will open doors you never knew existed.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Timing is everything

We need a lot of data and insights to prepare a good plan. But taking edges off, not understanding where the disrupting force is makes campaigns and product bland. That's the challenge for good planners: How long do you keep the research head on and when do you switch it out with the dunce cap?

Timing is everything: Take the research hat off to early and you end up with a silly campaign. Take it off too late and you end up with a rational message that doesn't connect. My recipe has always been to start wearing both hats while the research and insights are being finalized. It helps to let silliness creep into the research process.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How Doritos lost its ways

Doritos was the clear winner of the Super Bowl commercial arms race in 2007. The combination of product focus, innovative usage of UGC and refreshing ideas from semi-amateurs worked well.

This year they moved ahead with their UGC approach under title 'Doritos Crash The Super Bowl Contest'. They asked unsigned talents to submit a song, the winner, Kina Grannis, was featured in a Super Bowl commercial (above).

Sure, Kina scored a record deal with Interscope Records and the song was fine but the whole campaign didn't connect with the audience.

Why? People that didn't hear about the contest had no idea why Doritos featured a Folk Song in their commercial. Don't expect football fans at a loud party to read all the copy. It might work in a darkened board room, ain't working in a Super Bowl party madhouse. Most importantly, the product was not the hero. Last year's commercial focused on people's passion around Doritos, how they like to express their appreciation of the product to the world. This year? It's a song. Ok?

Let's look at the lyrics...

Don't break me, I bruise easily
The source of both your love and misery

I am steady, beating endlessly
While you are dozing, dreaming pretty things
Lovely things

I don't work for free
Please take care of me

This is a message from your heart
Your most devoted body part
Taking blood and making art
This is a message from your heart
Pounding away into the dark
You could thank me for a start
This is a message from your heart

Don't hurt me, I bleed constantly
My efforts leave me but flow back swiftly

My rhythm, soothing, like raindrops steady
On foggy windows when you gaze outwardly

Just a sappy song. No connection to Doritos or any product attributes.

I applaud Doritos for not resting on their laurels. But I gotta say that UGC without any product connection doesn't work. For me, that is.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Have we become assholes?

People love to be part of tribes. The advertising community is not different. We have the traditional tribes, the digital tribes, the Web 2.0 tribes and and and.

In the last few months I've seen a lot of blog posts, heard many podcasts and overheard conversations where the Social Media/Web 2.0 guys sounded like arrogant hypocrites: The big agencies don't get digital, everything is about the 30 second spot, they're just trying to hold on to their riches. Traditional folks have become enemies. Outdated jokes we look down upon.

And, the digital guys are the Rambo's and Rocky's of the new era. We know the answer to everything, we know where the game is going, we know the future. In short: the traditional folks sit in dark-wooded bars sipping on their three martini lunches while we sip on organic fruit elixirs changing the world one pixel at a time.

By talking and acting like this, we have become the enemy. We act like arrogant 'know-it-alls' , stopped listening to the traditional folks and, basically, turned into the people we warned others about.

In the end, we need to understand that the advertising world is a community. Sure, there will be differences, discussions, fights, politics. And we will continue to see things from our point of view and will continue to struggle accepting the 'traditional' point of view. But we have to make this a productive process, not a destruction path that goes nowhere.

The advertising community has many problems: limited attention of people, dramatically changing media usage, overwhelming amount of channels - you know the drill. That's our real enemy (if you want to call it that), not the other side of the advertising community. High School attitudes and cliques won't get us any further in tackling this enemy.

Ultimately, we should take our own advice of listen and learn to the advertising community. It's not about who's right. It's about doing the right thing in this new marketing reality. At this moment, all of us are one eyed kings and queens. Let's work together to get the whole picture.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Puzzle Solvers

Honda's UK work has been exceptional in the last few years, specifically the amazing Cog commercial.

Wieden & Kennedy's latest Honda work didn't do it for me. I really wanted to like it but it just didn't connect with me. The commercial is too long and, frankly, I couldn't give a hoot about all these engineers. If you want to solve puzzle, let people participate. Everybody is up for a good trivia quiz or a puzzle to be solved. But nobody wants to watch others solve puzzles. (Deep Announcer Voice: "Coming soon on Fox Reality - Puzzle Solvers. See Raymond Smith solve a 25,000 piece puzzle.")

But it could work really well in the interactive space: Introduce the puzzle idea through video and then let people focus on the companion unit, allowing them to solve their own puzzles. Since Honda is a brand for the people, an interactive solutions feels closer to the brand and the engagement interests people have online.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

It's the little things in life...

When you stay at a hotel, you expect a nice bed, decent bathroom, all the amenities. But, it's the little things that tell the real brand story. The little things that a hotel pays attention to that guests will spread. Well, here's mine.

I've never seen a good stopper for bathroom sinks. They didn't do it aesthetically to me. Until yesterday.

This little plastic ball functions as the stopper at the hotel I'm staying at.

It withstood the hot water for a morning shave test. Now I'm looking to purchase this little miracle for my house. Where do I get it?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Voter Fraud?

No, just my little daughter wearing proudly my 'I voted' sticker. It was very busy at our polling place, good to see the enthusiasm everywhere. My wife said she made her decision right at the polling place. I wonder how many people did the same. Is that the reason why the exit polls are so off?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tsnuami Tuesday

Coming from Germany, elections took place on Sunday's. You either voted right after church or after your lunch nap. People dressed up to vote. It was an important ritual, almost followed by 90% of the population. Voting made our family feel good. We were part of democracy.

Living in California, voting has become a routine: Ballot initiatives, Propositions, recalls - you name it. Generally, I vote right before I go to work or I rush home to get it done before 8. Voting is a commodity in California. Most of the candidates get 80% approval, ballot initiatives are not that controversial.

Today feels different. Today feels like an important day. Today will decide (or at least set a direction) who will be leading either parties into the general election. So, today I will rush back home arround 4, get my wife and daughter and we will vote together. For once, it feels good to vote for a candidate and not against one.

Monday, February 4, 2008


In between the Superbowl and Super Tuesday, we're recovering today, looking forward to tomorrow. Everything seems to be in flux: Yahoo bought by Microsoft, economic signs are rather negative, the ad industry is in turmoil. Personally, I didn't care for any of the Superbowl commercials. Most of them felt forced, off brand and something I would rather fast forward to get to the exciting game. Sure, the big game is still one of the few moments where everybody gathers around the tube but our mind continues to opt out of advertising at an alarming rate.

It's fascinating to see and experience how quickly people are changing their consumption habits and how we re-program ourselves daily, destroying the old marketing/advertising model fast forward by fast forward.

For now, we have to live with change. No fear: Stick to the rules and you'll be fine.

Friday, February 1, 2008

In case you haven't heard...

Still looking for additional logos...

The big debate

Scored a 7th row seat at the debate yesterday. Always interesting to see the media machine working: tons of satellite trucks in front of the Kodak Theatre, hundreds of Obama and Hillary supporters being silly and screaming their respective names, lines after lines, celebrity sightings (Stevie Wonder, Jason Alexander, Leonardo di Caprio, Christina Applegate, just to name a few) and Democrats doing a lot of self-congratulating.

When you're up close at that spectacle, you understand how hungry and how powerful the TV machine is. It's about the show, it's about the lights, the celebrities, the little tiffs, the looks between Hillary and Obama. Utter bullshit.

On my way home, I was thinking about the visionary Neil Postman and his book: Amusing ourselves to death - Public Discourse in the age of show business.

Here's his foreword:

We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.

Social Media and Web 2.0 tools give me the hope that sometime in the future our votes will be based on real conversations about issues and challenges. Currently, we're discussing $400 haircuts.