The birds and the city

April 24, 2012

Heiko, our German development guru found a passion for the birds in Sydney and he wasn’t alone. Here is the story of Wingtags told in his own words:

“Ever since my fiancée and I arrived in Sydney two years ago, there was something we particularly liked about this city. It’s probably because we both grew up in Germany, not a place exactly famous for abundance of wildlife, but we were always delighted to see these large, noisy, sulphur-crested cockatoos flying low across our heads, chasing tourists in parks and stirring up the CBD area with their distinctive raucous calls. Having had the chance to live close to the botanic garden for almost our entire stay, we started to study and eventually grow fond of these remarkable birds that turned out to be surprisingly intelligent.


Earlier this year we started to collaborate with the University of Sydney & the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust to monitor their movements, breeding and habitat preferences with the aim to better live alongside urban wildlife. Even the SMH talked about it already here. Being both experienced mobile app developers, we couldn’t ignore the crowdsourcing potential and started to design a little iPhone app that comes with a simplified interface to report sightings of tagged birds. The App is called Wingtags and you can download it from the link here and below. Just spot the number on the wingtag, enter it into the app and feel free to attach a photo of your encounter if you get close enough for a nice shot.


Download the app from the App Store


We hope this project gets one or two Sydneysiders a little more curious about the feathery inhabitants of this extraordinary city. Once the database starts filling up, we’ll also be able to visualize the movements of birds right within the app. Spot a bird in Potts Point in the evening just to find out that it had breakfast in Manly – that may pretty much coincide with your own commute.


Special thanks goes out to Robbie Tapping (Amnesiafish in Melbourne) for building the API for the database and to Amnesia Razorfish for sponsoring hosting and bandwidth. The birds do very much appreciate it.”

Let the bird catching and cataloguing begin.


Fake Stephen Conroy Twitter account censored by Telstra?

March 17, 2009

The @stephenconroy Twitter account has ‘reappeared’ since the initial writing of this article. It was certainly down for us (which the SMH also points out below).

– Telstra has published some ‘facts’on the situation (here):
– @StephenConroy has stated he has been asked to stop Twittering (here).

Much more than a prank – a piece of Twitter History:
So the Twitter account @stephenconroy as written by Leslie Nassar, a Telstra employee, was today shut down. Whilst some called Nassar a prankster, those who followed @stephenconroy know that this was a brilliantly written, satirical, entertaining and fun parody that was never in doubt as a fake. In fact it brought some well needed humour into a debate about censorship and the internet filter in Australia. We even played a part publishing a list of suspects (which really was all part of the fun and quite the opposite to being a witch hunt as some saw it).

image Even the real Senator Stephen Conroy seemed to think the character was healthy satire (as stated in an SMH article), and >1500 followers on Twitter were regularly drawn into @stephenconroy’s daily musings and conversations. Amongst the followers were many of the “Twitterati” (high reach Twitter users) as well as journalists and other key influencers. It is safe to say that Nassar has a strong base of support in the community.

The Censorship Debate:
It raises an interesting debate and all eyes will now be on Telstra to handle the matter with dignity and fairness. There is clearly a conflict of interest for the corporation given its pending deals with the government. However most neutral observers would agree that Nassar kept the debate a considerable distance from his employer. The broader reaction has been one of disappointment at the termination* of the @stephenconory twitter account (although it is suspected that Nassar may have removed this to avoid conflict with his employer). Many consider the profile a part of Twitter nostalgia given the brilliantly written tweets that were posted daily. History has shown that brands that censor rather than support in these situations do not fare well. We’ve set up a poll below to let you voice your opinion:

Did Telstra make the right decision in silencing @stephenconroy?

If you feel strongly (ie: should Telstra ask Mr.Nassar to continue to run the @stephenconroy account please post a comment below).

Todays smh article:

Click image to visit SMH story above.

Fake Virals, Social Objects and Naked.

January 29, 2009

Today I presented at the 6th Annual Future of Digital Advertising for the IAB and AIMIA (#foda09 on Twitter). I talked about a few things, shared some insight on what I thought (hopefully) could help the digital industry further itself this year.

The main body of my preso was on the digital consumer and how brands need reconsider their approach, especially when using social as a tool. I discussed social objects – good ones, bad ones, great ones. I talked about Digital Brand DNA- something that Joe Crump our Razrofish NY Creative Director has pioneered with his ‘Digital Darwinism’ presentations.

In the last year I have come to believe strongly that great digital creative usually contains 7 digital brand genes that Joe Crump identified. See his full preso and video from Cannes (here):


OK, so what about that Naked / Witchery Viral? (I’ve embedded their YouTube campaign in case you missed it). It’s clearly a bigger story than I realised (the SMH and Naked have both been in touch with me today as a result). The thing is, I like Naked as an Agency  – I like the way they challenge, stand up, break things, and do things that are counter intuitive. I know the guys well and we’ve worked with them many times on probably 6 or more different clients. In fact they’re one of the best agencies in town to collaborate with especially when it comes to their open approach to digital.

So what’s wrong with the above and why bother raising it, especially in a public forum? Well as you may have gathered my problem is not with Naked at all, it is with fake viral in general. In fairness, Naked were one example of a few I showed. QLD Tourism and Nike were both raised. We have a mountain to climb to be accepted (as advertisers and brands) into the new consumer landscape and these social channels are theirs, not ours. I know that consumers genuinely welcome cool clever intelligent advertising – but I cannot see any evidence that they like being deceived routinely. Comments below the videos often do the talking, especially when the deception is revealed.

Fake Viral for Nike feat Taylor Momsen


I’m a big believer in being able to make mistakes in the search for progress (digital is a tough gig, and there are new things we learn every day so mistakes do happen), but why the same mistake over and over? I also can’t understand why the elements of risk associated with generating negative brand sentiment in consumer channels are not better understood. As I tried to point out today, the 2.5m tweets per day, 915,000 blogs per day are heavily indexed by Google and can quickly produce negative organic search results. Let’s face it – search is very important, especially if you are a digital ROI client. Why would any company want to see their first page of Google results polluted with negative blog posts about their brand? The reality is that the social media sword cuts both ways.

Unfortunately the knock on effect is that negative news like the above often impacts other agencies, especially digital ones. I’ve seen brand managers get nervous when they see things like this in the news and subsequently make rapid judgement that the social medium is too volatile and uncontrollable. Budgets get withdrawn. We all start to lose – and that’s where I have a problem, because we know enough about social now to start doing things differently, and do it right.

What’s the solution?
So here’s the thing – Fake Viral is completely possible, and without deception. There have been some great examples from the US. Here’s one from Coors:

Here’s another ad for Coors, deliberately designed to breed consumer imitations (of which there are many). Great use of Social Object Theory:

Rolling Rock ran a hilarious campaign on Moonvertsing (here) which although potentially controversial produced a great digital response. Again completely Fake but with full disclosure from day one. I could go on, but it’s late and I think you get the picture right?


In Conclusion:
There are better, bigger, broader opportunities to engage consumers using social media that can still be authentic, mysterious, realistic. Yes it’s a creative challenge but if we can start to get this right there are big wins for consumers, clients and agencies alike. Naked aren’t the first, and won’t be the last to feel the heat on this issue – but they’re a great agency and will rise above it. I do hope that in the future the industry will adopt some of Joe’s 7 digital brand genes, it’s a good place to start.


Adolf, Memes and the SMH

September 29, 2008

Amnesia gets a nice mention in today’s Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) technology page. A front page story about how the Downfall clip is being mashed up and repurposed.