Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Another new advertising medium: Sailboards

If you think the online space has a monopoly on additions to the ever-growing list of media, think again. Here come the Sailboards.

The world's fastest growing cities are all sitting on either rivers or harbours. A giant TV screen sailing back and forth is guaranteed to reach a massive audience. And let's face it, riverfront property is most expensive in the world, so purchase power guaranteed!

Not sure if this has been done before, but Shanghai is the first place where I've ever seen this.


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Coming back to Shanghai after a few months' absence always has the same effect: shock and awe. The building boom goes on and on, higher and higher and on an ever grander scale. Hardly have we gotten used to the 420m Jin Mao Tower's skyline domination, or next to it arises the world's tallest bottle opener, the 455m Shanghai World Financial Center.

Literally around the corner, the old Shanghai is still being demolished. Maybe the Bottle Opener will be joined by a Corkscrew? Don't say it out too loud. This is Shanghai, after all.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Back to the roots of Marketing

Siem Reap is doing well. The tourist trade is booming, hordes of Korean and Chinese tourists overrun the ancient temples of the Kingdom of Angkor. Everyone in the service industry is doing a brisk trade.

Take for instance the remorques, tiny taxis consisting of a two- or fourseater compartment pulled by a moped. Remorques are a bit of a commodity, they're all alike and your negotiation position as a tourist is good. A US Dollar will get you anywhere.

Except this one. This entrepreneur has discovered the value of advertising. If you make yourself heard, and shout just a little bit harder than the others, you will get more business and you can charge just a little bit more. We paid this gentlemen $3.

Next step is branding, of course. A transport tycoon in the making.

Germany funding minefields?

The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) does good work, removing a lethal danger that still lurks in parts of Cambodia's civil war scarred soil.

Too bad then that the Germans keep funding new minefields, according to this CMAC sign near Siem Reap. Or do they mean the opposite?

This grammatical minefield would've been funny, given a less deathly serious subject. Wonder how many of these signs can be found throughout Cambodia, and what effect they have on Germany's public image?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hello Kitty Unlimited

If you've ever visited Hello Kitty Hell then you know that the Hello Kitty Universe knows no bounds.

Thanks to Hong Kong's MTR Corporation it now has an underground railway too. Complete with trains and uniforms.

Hong Kong respects global brands too

Welcome to Lamma Island, home to just about every Leading Hotel of the World:

True sign of globalization: each country its own speciality

Cuba's was already well known. But Macau's?

Asia's continuing IP crisis

Just a high street pharmacy. This one's in Macau, but could be anywhere in China or Southeast Asia.

Honestly. No fakes. Cross my heart, hope to die.

Ugliest skycraper. Ever.

Stanley Ho's Grand Macau Lisboa atrocity may not be finished yet, but it already dominates the skyline of Macau. Too ugly for words, I guess it'll easily take the trophy for Macau's most photographed building. Here's the definitive picture angle.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Alien is Alien, and English is English...

... and never the twain shall meet. I bet Rudyard Kipling lies turning in his grave.

Some like it French

Not a word of English in this little tableau. Still, it's in South Kensington. Or shall we say Quensington du Sud?

English may dominate the business community. But from Sydney to London, French is the global language for the culinary world.

No fusion here...

... at least some of London's stock brokers seem to prefer it English through-and-through.

Anglo-Japano-Greco-Thai fusion

From a distance it looks like your typical wood paneled English corner pub. Up close, it turns out to be a Thai restaurant. Design cues from ancient Greece (Ionic columns). And the name? "The Rising Sun."

Not that there were any doubts that London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on Earth. But this pushes the envelope.

"You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."

Scott McNealy's classic quote is now over 8 years old. But it turned out to be quite visionary. UK's largest credit bureau Experian seems to think so too. In this tube ad Experian tries to educate the English consumer to not only accept this fact of life, but to try to make the best of it too. "Our information affects your position in life," it seems to say. "Why not come and check it, and ensure it's up to date?"

Quite the double-edged sword. One wonders if an ad like this would have the desired effect in other cultures as well. Would it work in, say, China? Somehow I doubt it.

Pottermania in action

Quick research in the London Underground, morning rush hour:
1. One in two spend their tube time reading;
2. One in four readers reads Harry Potter.

By the looks of it J.K. Rowling's books are not only enjoying record sales, they're being read too. By adults.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Concrete scarcity: a blessing in disguise

Concrete has become scarce and expensive in Singapore, since Indonesia started blocking sand exports to the little city state. If you compare Singapore's brand new skyscrapers with the old ones, I'm not sure whether that's a curse, or a blessing.

And by the way, the quality you can get out of your Nokia N95's camera on a bright, sunny day is impressive...

High-tech endangers low-tech

Seen at Singapore General Hospital. Acupuncture is a venerable, 5000 years old medical technology; mobile phones a 50 year old communications tool.

One wonders in what way handphones pose dangers for 'sensitive' acupuncture equipment. Have today's needles become electronic gadgets, coming a long way from the Bronze Age's sharpened stones? Or do loud conversations interfere with the serene atmosphere in which the needles are being applied?

Acupuncture is from Venus, handphones are from Mars.

Commercial email getting more threatening?

Guess those Webroot guys are used to dealing with spammers and other vermin. Bit of a cruel way to treat your customers, though. Wouldn't "Your subscription has expired" sound a bit more friendly, and less lethal?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sunset over the East Coast...

... and Moonrise over Suntec City:
You see too few of these pictures around. It leads one to believe that Singaporeans value their own cityscape too little. The fact that the Government has to put pressure on developers to build landmark buildings speaks volumes. And yes, we are starting to cherish our conservation bungalows and shophouses, but they're still being razed and mutilated by the dozen.

Thirty years from now, the next generation will start to regret what happened even today.

Fortunately the tide has turned. Too slow, as always, but already visible in places, such as Blair Road, the street where I live.

Hopefully, as the old becomes scarce, we'll start to cherish the new as well.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Relaxing Singapore

This is new. By this I don't mean the picture, taken at One15, the new yacht club and marina at Sentosa, but the title of this post. Singapore has made it, it's not only about living to work any more. We now work to live. But Singapore wouldn't be Singapore if 'working to live' would not be made into a business itself. So now we build marinas, casinos, and resorts. By the dozen.

Bustling Singapore

The old and the new. But looks deceive. Capital Tower looks new, Ann Siang Hill's shophouses in the foreground old. Reality is, Capital Tower is occupied by old-style financial institutions. Ann Siang Hill is the home of up-and-coming interactive advertising agencies, and internet startups.

Booming Singapore

Palm trees and building cranes.

The Age of the Internet has arrived. Books have become decorations

Remember books? You know, the stuff we used to read when they still had paper? Well, they've completely done up the new food court at Suntec with them. How quaint.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Do Not Disturb

Interesting post from Jan Chipchase on Future Perfect. Hutch in India apparently offers a blanket opt out for sending commercial text messages through to your phone.

Jan frets about the 72 hours before the block will be in place, and the unspecified time it will take for Hutch's marketing clients to comply.

If Hutch gets this right (that's a big if), client compliance should not be a problem. Mobile providers, after all, are known for 'keeping the keys to the Kingdom', allowing their customers access only to those bits of cyberspace they make money off, and generally blocking the kind of progress we've seen on the wider Internet. But that should work both ways.

The flip side of the medal is the provider's responsibility to shield their customers from unwanted communications. Either accept that responsibility, or take you hands off the whole thing and let your subscribers roam freely across the Web.

Unfortunately this logic does not appeal to telcos, judging by their initial reactions in last year's mTouche scandal in Singapore.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Sorry Officer - I was just praying for free parking"

The best excuse for not getting a parking ticket in Singapore - ever.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hong Kong's cultural identity...

... Impatience.

Still life with presentation materials, anno 2007

Typical shot during a 21st century presentation. Presenter brought a laptop, a projector, and speakers. The quaint, authentic 20th century whiteboard stays unused in the corner.

Wonder how this tableau will look in another 20 years...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

France, count your blessings

French Governments have a tendency to keep whining about the French language being endangered by globalisation, even to the extent that official words have been proclaimed for new media, to counteract English.

This picture was taken in an Australian pub, on a street corner in The Rocks, the fashionable downtown Sydney neighbourhood. As Ozzie as it gets, with bitters and ales and rugby on the TV screen in the corner. And the word 'BRASSERIE' in bold letters on the age-old ceiling beams.

Who says only the English contribute to the global Lingua Franca?

Cultural crossroads

The quintessential Flower Power Volkswagen Van, sitting along a road in New South Wales. In the sixties you'd just know who drove this: bandana'ed, pot smoking hippies with guitars and flowers in their hair.

Forty years on, Flower Power is over. Free lifestyles have become multiple lifestyles. People are so much more difficult to pinpoint. Who owns this van? A poor guy who lives in it? A well-off collector, with a sprawling place in Watson Bay and a sentimental yearning to his student days? Australian gypsies, if these exist?

And what's the wilting flower garden doing up there? Is it a remnant of the Flower Power days, or is the owner just trying to make his vehicle carbon neutral?

Lifestyles are fragmenting. Every crossroad has become a cultural crossroad.

Commercial overload

Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Just another view, waiting for the shuttle train between the main terminals. Literally every surface is covered with advertising messages, some of them static, some of them dynamic. Dynamic means you see another message every few seconds. So in this shot you see ten messages, or fifteen, or twenty, depending on how long you're looking. And my camera phone doesn't cover as wide an angle as my eyes.

Every day we receive around 3,000 commercial messages. On paper and packaging, TVs and radios, posters and billboards, interior walls and the sides of buildings. On websites when we surf, in our webmail if we use the free variant, even when we're playing games.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing that we need to relinquish some of our privacy in order to help marketers increase their accuracy in targeting. My answer: fine, if you have to, but for chrissake show me some results!

How long until we all succumb to information overload?