Today’s Advent calendar door opens to reveal a commercial from a long time ago. This one has stayed with me years after I first saw it. And never more relevant than it is today. Where have all the flowers gone?
Cross posted on my Linkedin page. Header image is a screen grab from Where Have All The Flowers Gibe? – ACNUR Refugee commercial.
GoPro have access to some of the world’s best action footage. From base jumping to ice diving, their cameras manage to capture some thrilling adventurous action from a vantage point. And yet, when GoPro were launching a new range of cameras called Hero, they chose some unusual action sequence to promote them. Not the pluse-racing, mind-blowing sort but instead they were tender, heartbreaking sequences.
In today’s Advent calendar video, a fireman goes in to rescue someone and the action unfolds from his point of view. The short video is bookended by the branding but that apart, there is no mention of the camera. Unlike the British Airways promo, the product here plays no role in the action other than to capture it as it plays out. The product is not the hero, it is not an aide but a mere witness to what has transpired. It is pretty daring to step away from the obvious high voltage action to low key action moments. It whispers when it could have shouted and that is powerful.
Cross posted on my Linkedin page. Header image is a screen grab from GoPro promo.
Spellbound is a documentary that follows a small group of young people in America as they set out to become champion at Spelling Bee in their country. Despite the young people’s pursuit being something that a simple spell check would quite easily make redundant, it is a riveting watch. Not surprisingly the documentary was shortlisted for an Oscar and won several awards and from the extract below, you can see why.
Notice how the camera stays resolutely on the speller for over thirty seconds of a clip that’s only about two minutes long. His every twitch and every sigh amplified for the viewer, making it an acutely uncomfortable watch. Some years ago, when I did a course on directing documentary, the tutor told us to have the courage to hold a shot and to resist the temptation to cut away. This is a terrific example of why it is important to stay with the character and not look away.
Cross posted on my Linkedin page. Header image is a screen grab from Spellbound trailer.
It is the season to spend and much of this year’s Christmas gifts would sooner or later, end up in a landfill we’d rather not think about. Landfill Harmonic is a project in Paraguay which creates musical instruments out of the rubbish found in a landfill which are then used by children who live locally. I had the opportunity to hear them play at a social investment conference in Amsterdam a few years ago.
Meeting with the young people of the orchestra before their concert and watching them tune their instruments, I saw how they treated their instruments no different to how you would a ‘regular’ violin or a cello. And what makes this orchestra so different is as much the people playing it as the the tools of their trade. Ecoutez!
This was cross posted on my Linkedin page. Header image is a screen grab from Landfill Harmonic – the Recycled Orchestra
Behind today’s advent calendar door is a particularly favourite promotional video. If like me, you are living thousands of miles away from home, this video will find greater resonance.
Notice how there’s not a single shot of the aeroplane (okay, there’s a fleeting shot of a flight), there’s no mention of the prices, the comfort or the service. All there is, is a good story well told. And the brand is a mere device that allows the hero of the story to reach his goal.
At nearly five minutes long, this video bucks the trend of short form story telling. It challenges the notion that online audience have limited attention span. It believes that good stories take time and so rolls it out gradually. Also noteworthy is how they delay the ‘money shot’ till the very end. You only hear what’s going (at 04.17) and the audience has already seen it in their mind’s eye before it’s played at the very end.
An the two words that carry the entire heft of this video are not ‘British’ and ‘Airways’ but ‘Visit Mum’. Regardez!
Over the next few weeks, leading up to Christmas, I will be posting a new video every day. This is a personally curated, assorted stocking filler of stories. Some are marketing videos and others are of talks and suchlike, but all of them pack a mighty punch.
About the very first video, I have often heard the term ‘one man army’ bandied about at networking events. Someone would invariably refer to a plumber or an electrician or other sole traders in that term (occasionally modifying it to its feminine version). And very often use it to to suggest ‘small’ or a ‘jack of all trades’.
Equally, I have heard several micro-businesses express concern over what they can do as individuals. I am just me, they would say, whereas they are a big corporation. What can I tell them that don’t already know? Size it appears, is everything.
In this video, Barack Obama talks about what a sole voice can achieve. Watch how he takes you with him as he tells the story. The careful detailing, the gradual culmination and the powerful punchline – all delivered with impeccable timing. Ready? Go!
Starbucks. Who’d have thought they’d have a good story to tell. But they do. At a time, when people are increasingly looking for good news stories, for stories that shine a light of possibility in a timeline that is filled with pessimism and foretells of gloom, Starbucks have showcased humanity and its infinite capacity for compassion in a series of web stories called Upstanders.
Rather than peddling coffee, Starbucks has aligned itself with those who have stood up for kindness in times of strife, for ingenuity when they saw an opportunity, for hope when there was despair.
And it works brilliantly for the brand. There is not a single shot of the coffeeshop. Not a latte in sight. But what we see are fantastic stories that engages you from the very beginning. They leave you feeling favourably towards the brand. So much so that I am almost tempted to find a Starbucks and order a coffee. Here is my favourite from the series.
I’ve been driving in Munich for a couple of weeks now and after years of driving in Britain, I have yet to get the hang of driving on the other side. Here’s what’s been happening when I get behind the wheels.
Until now, I had not known that several banks and shops down their shutters at lunch time in Germany. So in keeping with this tradition of Mittag Pause, I have taken to wandering down to a nearby cafe for lunch every day. The staff smile politely at my lame attempts at speaking their language and leave it to their Nepalese colleague to take my order, which he does, in Hindi.
The time spent eating alone allows me to reflect on the new environment that I find myself in and the happenings of the morning or the day before. So it was that I was sitting in front of my plate of food this afternoon, that my thoughts turned to last night’s conversation.
After yet another unsatisfactory house viewing, I was making my way back to the hotel in a taxi that I fell into a conversation with the driver. For the first mile or so, I said nothing as I was still wrapped in thoughts about the house when the driver, a young man of about twenty or so asked me the now very familiar, ‘so, where are you from?’. My reply was the even more trite, “India via England”.
My response prompted an extraordinary tirade from him which began with some very strong opinions about the English and their attitudes to his own beliefs as a young Turkish Muslim man raised in Germany, his faith, how it was perceived and ended with who he would marry some day (it was a long journey and he had a lot to say).
Finally, as he was dropping me off, he asked me if he could find work in London. He had heard so much about the city and how wonderful it was there. He had studied Economics and was a German national and wanted to work as a tax assistant. Could he do that?
I encouraged him to try while the UK was still in the EU. And secretly hoped that some of his strong views and ideas would be challenged by living in a different country. As someone who is now embarking on life in a third country, I know how much this moving from one country to the next has made me take stock what I had grown up believing to be right and absolutely wrong. How much it has contributed to my own growing sense of greyness around several issues.
Some months ago, Katherine Viner of The Guardian wrote about algorithms used by Facebook which are designed to give us what we want. How the newsfeed that will appear on our timelines will only reinforce our pre-existing beliefs and not challenge them in any way. Which can be dangerous and can distort how we view the world and its truths.
Living in different countries and being thrown out of your familiar environment can be the very antithesis to this kind of a world where everyone agrees with you. It forces you to see different points of view, interact with people with whom you have little in common, question what you had thought was unquestionable.
My pancake was growing cold, I thought of the young Turk (ha!) and tucked into its cheesy deliciousness. It tasted good.
You’re the only one who has no work to go to, said my younger son this morning as I went to wake him up. Harsh but true. Today my children begin their third week at a new school. My husband starts work in a new office. And me, I will have to find something to keep myself busy with until they return home (or in this instance, hotel).
My family and I have recently relocated to Munich following an unturndownable job offer for my husband. It came with plenty of promising prospects for all of us and presented me with an additional selection of challenges.
At present I have barely any network here and I have to build one up from scratch. And there are some large and some small obstacles to overcome in order for me to achieve that. Obstacles such as becoming confident driving on the other side of the road (tricky but needs practice), such as learning German (a lot more tricky and also needs plenty of practice), such as learning how things are done here – the cultural subtleties and suchlike – (not insurmountable but takes time), such as the legalities of registering myself as self-employed, such as finding a house to live in so that the last mentioned can have something to fill in in the address box.
I guess in that sense I have my work cut out for the next few months. Here’s what you can expect from this blog over the foreseeable future. I will chart the ups and downs of setting up and trading a sole trader business (or an einziger Händler) in Germany. Complacency is not an option and the comfort zone has long been consigned to the cobwebs. This is well and truly an opportunity to learn and I will be charting the growth on these pages.
To begin with, here are some cursory observations from the last fortnight of living in Munich.
1. This is cash country. For Brits used to swiping left, right and centre, put your credit and debit cards away. Most places still only take cash and contactless might make an appearance some time this decade but I am not holding my breath.
2. Cigarettes are still advertised here. Large posters can be found on main roads and thoroughfare. There are also public vending machines which can be found near bus stops. Both of the above surprised me as I had assumed cigarettes advertising was banned in much of Europe and there were age restrictions on who could buy them (I guess it still applies here but how you monitor who buys them from a public vending machine?).
3. There are invisible, unspoken social rules which you will only find out when you transgress them.
4. Most people speak English and those that don’t have been very patient at my valiant (and frankly, pitiful) attempts at speaking Deutsch.
5. Munich is blessed with country parks and woodland trails which the locals seem to take full advantage of.
6. Children do not appear to be wrapped in cottonwool. I have noticed several small groups of unaccompanied children walking around and playing in public. No one seems to fear the bogey man.
7. In the afternoons, I have noticed several elderly people dining alone in cafes and often eating large slices of cakes and desserts.
8. There is a huge culture of cycling and there are dedicated cycling lanes.
9. One thing to bear in mind while driving in Germany is to be mindful of pedestrians and cyclists who also have their green signal when you have yours to turn. And they have right of way.
10. If you happen to be driving through countryside and you notice a field with a board that reads ‘Blumen’, do pull up to take home fresh flowers from the fields. You will find an unmanned till with an honesty box. You’ll also find a set of small knives hanging from a board which you can use to cut the flowers. You can pay per stem or for a bunch.