Bruce Stainsby's Blog: Muttering from the mo

Well that’s a weight off my shoulders. 

August 7th, 2016

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

I have finally taken the plunge and purchased a new camera.

Since my Sony Alpha 55 died in 2013 and I was forced to buy a new camera in Japan, I have had nothing but trouble.

Then in 2014 in China I had to buy a new Alpha 77 and another telephoto lens, after a major lens malfunction and an incompatibility issue with my Alpha 66 (the one I bought in Japan).

Another concern was that every new model in the Sony range seems to get larger and heavier.

So with two camera bodies, three lenses and the associated equipment, my camera bag was weighing almost as much as my luggage.

Definitely time for a change.

I decided to go with the Micro Four Thirds system developed by Olympus in 2008. This is a mirrorless digital camera with interchangeable lens and 16mp stills.

The Micro Four Thirds shares the same size image sensor as the Four Thirds system but because it’s mirrorless has a much smaller body size. I chose the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, despite its ridiculously long name, as it also has a built in image stabiliser, so the lenses are also smaller and lighter.

I have now reduced my equipment to one camera body and two lenses, which weigh a fraction of what I was having to schlep round.

All I need to do now is learn how to use it.

I purchased my new camera from Michaels Camera Store in Melbourne, as they were parity with their pricing and willing to give me a generous trade-in on my old Sony equipment.

So it’s not only a weight off my shoulders, it’s also a weight off my mind and my wallet.

Know your market. 

July 23rd, 2016

Swan_Hill_RSL_duo

We have recently travelled by road to Brisbane and back.

Travelling north was via the coast and the return journey was on the inland route, passing through Goondiwindi, Lighting Ridge, Bourke and Griffith.

For many evenings meals we availed ourselves of the various clubs, especially in NSW. These are reasonably priced, centrally located and offer some surprisingly good food.

In Swan Hill, Victoria, we had a meal at the RSL, which was next door to our motel.  It was a Sunday night and the only patrons were people of our vintage and many who were a lot older.

The bar and waiting staff were at least two generations younger and this was reflected in the music that was being played.

While the older generation were enjoying their Grilled Barramundi, Reef n’ Beef and Parmi, they were subjected to a medley of Chicago House, Rap and Detroit Techno.

Fortunately most of them could block out the music by turning down the volume on their hearing aids.

Photo composition by Steve McCurry.

June 20th, 2016

I receive countless posts, comments, opinions and videos each day on Facebook, most of them I ignore.

I must admit I’m a bit tired of cute animals, babies and people telling me about things that they have done, that don’t interest me in the slightest.

When this little video popped up it was so simple and to the point that I could’t help but share it on Facebook and post it here.

It’s by Steve McCurry an American editorial photographer, best known for his 1984 National Geographic cover titled ‘Afghan Girl’.

Sharbat_Gula

The video is a simple explanation of his favourite 9 Photo composition tips. It uses some of his great shots and demonstrates graphically how they are achieved.

The Afghan girl, who was later identified to be Sharbat Gula, uses his seventh tip, Centre Dominant Eye, to great effect.

Of course if you aren’t interested in photography, it won’t interest you in the slightest.

Now I know it’s time to retire.

May 25th, 2016

AI-CD β

The world’s largest advertising agency, McCann Erickson, has just hired an artificial intelligence (AI) creative director (CD) – his name is AI-CD β.

This has got me worried.

AI-CD β is designed to work alongside the humans to develop the look and feel of the advertising. It is automated to troll through award winning commercials, that have been tagged as relevant. From that data it develops a brief, of what the commercial should look like, then humans take over and come up with a creative concept.

AI-CD β has a physical presence and is capable of writing the brief for the human creative team. As this bot was developed by McCann Ericsson in Japan, the brief is written in Japanese calligraphy.

To my mind this process is back-to-front in two ways.

Firstly, the look of the commercial should be driven by the idea, which should come first. The creative concept should contain the hook, or idea, that gets the consumer involved and then gives the commercial relevance and memorability.

Secondly, great creative thinking doesn’t come from copying another idea but from creating something that is uniquely different.

There is however another aspect to this use of an AI-CD that’s of more concern.

And that’s if this concept takes-off, and bot creatives become the norm and are successful, who will go up to the podium to collect the awards?

http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/science/future/article/2016/04/26/when-new-guys-robot

Is the truth really out there?

April 6th, 2016

X_files

Recently I watched six new episodes of the very successful science fiction TV series, ‘The X-Files’.

The original series ran from September 1993 to May 2002. Written by Chris Carter and staring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, there were 202 episodes and two feature films. The second film was released in 2008.

It was the longest running science fiction series in US history.

I think that this latest 6 episode series is a fishing expedition by 20th Century Fox Television. Each episode was so completely different that I can’t help but feel they are all part of an elaborate market research program.

Some episodes were verging on ‘slap-stick’ while others continued with the old protagonists and conspiracy theories.

The producers even introduced Fox and Scully clones.

Its been 8 years since the last film and 14 years since since the last series, so the market’s attitudes towards the characters and plots may well have shifted.

Will there be more X-Files and what will be the theme?

The truth is probably out there, or at least buried in the market research.

All’s not well in the Spamasphere. 

March 22nd, 2016

Disaster_strikes

There has been a strategy shift in the spam I get – it’s moved from greed to fear.

I receive up to six spam emails a day, and until recently they have all played on the greed factor to try and get me to respond.

I have won competitions, had thousands of dollars put into my account and been offered amazing money-making schemes.

All I have to do to unlock this wealth is to ‘Click here’

I know that they more than likely contain malware or are using ‘phishing’ to get personal information – I have therefore never clicked on anything to find out.

They seem to get around the text-based junk mail filters by disguising the content using numerals instead of letters and inserting punctuation in the middle a word.

‘The first thing you need to do is c0llect your c0mmissi0n ch.eck of 6,492.94. Set up your details here:

This has suddenly all changed.

I am now getting, with equally annoying regularity, a different form of spam. These all relate to impending disasters that will be unleashed on the USA, changing the American way of life forever.

And I don’t think they are referring to Donald Trump.

Subjects like: ‘The Imminent Danger From Within Our Borders’ and ‘The Worst Crisis Within US History is Almost Here’ now grace my inbox.

The ‘Click here’ relates to viewing secret reports or videos that will reveal these dastardly plots.

Conspiracy is now the new reason to ‘Click here’

Also to be found at the base of these emails is another link:

‘If you want to unsubscribe from our list. Click here

By clicking to unsubscribe you are actually verifying your email address.

Of course the spam will continue – that’s unless disaster strikes first.

Don’t worry, they’re English. 

March 14th, 2016

Richmond Bridge

The Twelve Apostles

We have recently spent 2 weeks travelling around Tasmania and then along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. This was with our English friends, Pat and Graham, from Dorset.

Being a tourist in your own country is an eye opener, as you start to see you home from a different perspective.

Not as a local but as a visitor.

We met Pat and Graham in Launceston and had intended to travel west towards Strahan, via Cradle Mountain. We had never seen that side of the island and we knew that they wanted to see some of Tasmania’s wilderness areas.

This was not to be.

In the week leading up to our visit bushfires had developed right across the north and west coast areas. Spring 2015 was the driest on record and the conditions were described by farmers as the worst in 70 years.

So after a night in Launceston we headed east, away from the fires, through St Helens and down the coast to Bicheno.

It was in Bicheno that the Tasmanian drought broke.

The temperature plummeted and the rains were torrential. So much so that our apartment in ‘Bicheno By The Bay’ flooded.

Pat and Graham had come to Australia for warmer, dryer weather. After all this was the land or oranges and sunshine.

On that particular day the temperature was higher in London than on the east coast of Tasmania.

In Bicheno we were told that there was a colony of Fairy Penguins (for politically correct reasons they are now called Little Penguins) just near the hotel, so we went out in search of them. It was raining and we were out in the dark, getting wet and cold. Pat and I decided to return to the apartment but Graham was undeterred so he and Thea stayed out in the foul conditions a little longer.

The penguin sightings were few and far between.

The next day we headed further south and spent hours walking around the Freycinet Peninsula. This stunning 18km hike took us to Coles Bay and then over the peninsula to Wineglass Bay.

Despite the rain Pat and Graham always carried their bathers. This was Australia and they were determined to swim whenever there was an opportunity.

We didn’t worry, they’re English.

Port Arthur was our next destination.

I have been to Port Arthur three times and on each visit the somberness of the place is reflected by the gloominess of the weather.

This time was no different.

What was different however is the development of this historic site. This is now a truly world class tourist attraction that showcases the brutality of the convict settlement – this was slavery in the guise of a penal colony.

Hobart Town was thriving, Van Dieman’s Land needed workers and prisoners were a cheap, available labor force.

The rain alternated between drizzle and downpour but we continued on our discovery tour. Pat and Graham seemed unfazed by the rain and by the end of the day we were all soaked to the skin.

They didn’t worry, they’re English.

Hobart was next, and as our hotel was very close to Salamanca Place, visiting the Saturday market was placed on the agenda.

This is a huge market that almost takes up the entire length of Salamanca Place. It’s sells everything from local arts and crafts to plush toys like Tasmanian Tigers and Tasmanian Devils.

Surprisingly most of these were made in Tasmania and not China.

That afternoon we visited the Cascades Female Factory. Again we found the whole tourist experience professional, enlightening and very confronting.

In many cases the women were treated more harshly than the men, and again were nothing but slave labor for the fledgling settlement. And even worse, any child that was born to a convict in the Female Factory had little chance of survival, as the mortality rate was almost 100%.

If by some chance a child did survive they would have been mute, as there was a strict code of silence in the gaol – so language skills were never learnt.

The Cascades Female Factory and Port Arthur, along with nine other convict sites form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. These sites highlight the growth, through forced migration, of the Australian nation.

There was an exhibition of photography at both Port Arthur and the Cascades Female Factory by Mine Konakci, titled ‘A convict in the family?’ This was inspired by the fact that from 1787 to 1868 over 160,000 convicts were transported the colony, and many Australians have identified a convict in their family history. Mine posed the descendant with props, directly relating to the crime that had been committed.

This was a very creative way of connecting the past with the present.

Later that day we drove north east to Richmond. This is a well preserved tourist town, best known for its bridge that was completed in 1825 and is the oldest in Australia.

On our last day in Hobart we took the catamaran up the river to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). The current exhibition was a Gilbert and George Retrospective – 97 pictures painted from 1970 to 2014. To my mind Gilbert and George are a well oiled ‘art factory’. Via a controlled form of graphic design, they use their distinctive style to make social commentary.

It’s not to everyone’s taste but you wouldn’t expect anything that David Walsh does at MONA to be main-stream.

Having had enough of art, culture and history we left Hobart and headed north to Pine Lake on the Central Plateau. This is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It was here that the sun finally broke through and we got to see some blue sky.

On the road to do the Liffey Falls walk we met a group of ‘Firies’(male and female firefighters) heading back from a week in the state’s north west.

It was great to chat to them and get a small insight into their battle with the Tasmanian bushfires.

That night, at our motel in Deloraine, there was another group of sixteen firefighters, this group from New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

It was an interesting encounter for Pat and Graham, after all there aren’t that many bushfires in Dorset.

On our final day in Tasmania we drove from Deloraine to Springlawn Lagoon in the Narawntapu National Park.

Just off the track in the National Park is Bakers Beach, a long stretch of sand and surf that opens out into Bass Straight.

The beach was deserted and the water cold, but it was here that Pat and Graham finally got their only dip in Tasmanian waters.

They didn’t mind, they’re English.

We flew back to Melbourne for a week of sightseeing on home soil.

Graham discovered Sandringham Beach, which is less than 200m from our front door, and a dip before breakfast briefly became part of his daily routine.

After two days exploring Melbourne we made the trip down the Great Ocean Road to Lorne and then Port Fairy. On the way down to Lorne Pat and Graham had a swim at Urquharts Bluff. There was a surf class finishing up on the beach as we arrived. The young girls looked frozen, even though they all were well insulated with their winter wet suits or ‘Steamers’.

As Pat and Graham plunged into the surf, with nothing but their togs on, I got a strange, questioning, look from one of the instructors.

“Don’t worry”, I said, “they’re English.”

Lorne was a bit of a nostalgic journey for me, having spent two summers working there while I was at college. We had a drink in the Pacific Hotel, where I worked and breakfast at the Arab, which was the ‘cool place to be’ back in the 60s.

Graham again found the beach and while we had breakfast he went swimming.

One of the main reasons for the drive along the Great Ocean Road was to visit the Twelve Apostles.

We weren’t the only tourists with that idea.

Every vantage point was crawling with them. They came by the coach load and by private vehicles. We later discovered that the reason for the swell in numbers was Chinese New Year. The coaches were full of Chinese tourists while the private cars were local Chinese getting out of town for a couple of days.

They were all there to celebrate The Year of the Monkey.

On the way to the Twelve Apostles we passed through Separation Creek and Wye River. Evidence of the devastating Christmas Day Bushfires lay as a black carpet along the roadside.

However the rejuvenation had already started and the were patches of green sprouting from the charcoaled tree ferns.

We spent that night in Port Fairy, a delightful seaside resort town with an abundance of good pubs, restaurants and accommodation.

Taking the inland route back to Melbourne we briefly stopped off at Ballarat and gave our visitors a quick glimpse of this product of the gold rush.

Much to our visitors delight we got to see, and photograph, a couple of rather sleepy koalas. They were high up in a gum tree on the Hopkins Highway, south of Mortlake.

Once we were back in Sandringham we did the usual walk to Half Moon Bay, again Pat and Graham has a splash. While the next day we drove around the Mornington Peninsula, visiting the Merricks General store for a coffee and Arthurs Seat for a view. Then it was down to the bay and into Sorrento. There we did the ‘Millionaires Walk’ past the homes of the rich and famous.

Needless to say Pat and Graham’s togs got wet again, this time at both the front and back beaches of Sorrento.

While Pat and Graham swam at every opportunity, our bathers never got an airing – it was far too cold for us.

Don’t worry, we’re Australian.

Put the magic back into advertising.

February 11th, 2016

rabbit_and_hat_6

The only way a client will buy an idea is if it’s sold to them.

These days they just don’t buy it without a solid, business based, rationale.

In the past an ad agency was a magnet for clients. They were drawn there because it was a wonderful world of clever thinking and creativity.

Yes, there was booze, long lunches and pretty girls but there were strange people who dressed differently and, more importantly, thought differently. They were challenging, aggressive and they had ideas that were beyond the client’s grasp but, strangely, they seemed to work.

Clients trusted the agency to create solutions that would help their business grow.

So why did the clients suddenly decide they could do it all themselves?

It wasn’t sudden, it took years, because over time we abrogated our responsibility.

We took the path of least resistance.

We failed to quantify the ROI that good creativity can deliver and settled for delivering ‘what the client wanted’ rather than ‘what the client needed’

In other words it was easier to capitulate than fight. This resulted in the client believing that he was right.

Once that happened it took the magic out of advertising.

The client then believed that they could come up with the ideas and they could make the ads. All they needed was a Mac and a technician.

The rest is history.

They now have the Macs, the technicians and a belief that agencies are nothing but a cost centre that they can probably do without.

There is also a belief that the media is the message.

Success won’t come by simply having a presence on Facebook or YouTube. These messages still need to have an idea, one that will catapult them beyond being just a public announcement.

We have to put the magic back.

This will only happen once we give our clients something that they can’t do themselves. And that is still clever creative thinking.

However there is no magic wand that we can wave to return the status quo. We now have to ‘prove’ our worth by justifying the value of that creativity.

This will come down to statistics and the ability to quantify how a creative approach is worth the perceived risk.

It will also come from reintroducing the idea that a creative solution is also better value for money than a mediocre one, or no idea at all.

Creativity sells, it always has done and still does now.

Agencies once promoted themselves as being the conduit between the client and the consumer – we have forgotten how important that is. By connecting the client and consumer, through great advertising ideas, we can again prove our worth.

Short term thinking and instant rewards are no excuse for taking the easy way out. Clients need to look seriously at their brand, its lifecycle and then be made aware of how important building a sustainable, long term, brand image is.

We must educate them to be able to articulate the importance of their brands to their senior managers.

In most cases we are not dealing with decision makers within our client’s business. At best we are talking to the people who have the power to say “Maybe”.

Arming the timid marketing person with the arguments to sell strategies and great ideas must be part of what we do.

Great work isn’t bought by clients, it’s sold by agencies. Advertising is the art of selling and great ideas need to be sold.

Casting. 

January 14th, 2016

Lee_Lin_Chin

The latest installment of the long running Australia Day Lamb Campaign has been released.

This highly regarded series of ads started in 2005 and stars Sam Kekovich. Sam has always been very forthright in his approach to eating lamb, especially on Australia Day, and he castigates anyone as being un-Australian if they disagreed.

In this day of inclusiveness Sam’s brutal approach could be misconstrued as being overtly nationalistic.

Enter Lee Lin Chin, the legendary newsreader for SBS.

This is an inspired piece of casting, that brings a new face to the Australian Meat and Livestock campaign. It proves once and for all that you don’t need to be a white Australian male to enjoy a lamb chop.

Not surprisingly the latest commercial has still received a number of complaints, this time from the vegan community. They believe that the torching of the kale, by the commandos, borders on violence towards those; “…soap avoiding, hippy, vegetarians” as Sam described them in the original ad.

Good ads stand out by being controversial – this one is no different.

The sales figures also back up the success of the campaign, with butchers reporting that lamb sales skyrocket by 35% around January 26th.

Watch the Australia Day Lamb 2016 ad here.

‘F’ is for Ford or is it for frightened? 

January 11th, 2016

Ford Mustang poster small

What does the latest Ford posters say about the company?

For one it says they are frightened; frightened that their ever dwindling market share is going to vanish completely into an Australian heat haze.

Why else would you feature a poster campaign where the logo is larger than the product and the proposition is even smaller still.

Ford will stop manufacturing cars in Australia later this year, and it’s my guess that these ads are more about propping up confidence in the dealer network, than they are about selling vehicles.

Given the new car sales figures for 2015, they should be worried.

Ford were 6th, with 70,454 sales (down 11.6%) and behind, of all manufactures, Mitsubishi with 71,752.

2015 was a bumper year for car sales with 1,155,408 vehicles sold – a 3.8% rise on the previous year.

Holden and Ford were the only companies to post a sales decline, with Ford having its worst year since 1966. Even the Mercedes-Benz C-Class comfortably outsold the Ford Falcon.

It appears that Australians have already given up on Henry.