Remember the Yellow Pages?

remember-yellow-pagesThinking back, the memory of using the Yellow Pages to find information seems crazy. Every time you wanted a number, you had to grab these huge books and search through them. You could only access numbers from your own city. There was no way to ascertain anything about the quality of the company – all you got was the information that the company chose to provide.

Companies, that wanted to be found, had little choice but to participate – going as far as naming themselves AAA COMPANY just to rise to the top of the alphabetical list.

Today we are awash with information.

We can easily find the details of companies all over the world, along with reviews and recommendations. We can easily compare prices from multiple vendors and complete much of our shopping without leaving home, should we desire to.

In the future though, we will look back at today and laugh about how primitive our technology was. How limited our access to information was.

Kids will find it hilarious when we tell them about ‘Googling’ for things. Or maybe about how we actually had to use a computer or smartphone – our brains couldn’t access the net directly back then. Or maybe that we had ‘webpages’.

It is exciting to wait and see.

 

New Andheri Cinema!

akshay-kumar-pvr-andheri

When I lived in Seven Bungalows, Mumbai, the Andheri cinemas (Cinemax, Fame and Fun) were a second home. I’d catch the new films during the week and the international and classic films early Sunday morning.

I loved going to Cinemax (very clean and great reclining seats). I loved going to Fun (crappy seats but there was ten pin bowling to kill time before the show).

I hated going to Fame. Fame was run down, I constantly ended up with broken seats, the sound was always too loud. Fame’s only strong points were that it had good Samosas and participated in 2-for-1 ticket schemes during the week.

But times are changing and Fame is now PVR and PVR makes beautiful cinemas. Yesterday they opened the new Andheri PVR in the place of the old Fame and it looks great. New screens, new sound and PVR’s Enhanced Cinema Experience (ECX).

Can’t wait to check it out. I wonder if they kept the samosas…

Indian Domestic Violence Campaign

This campaign has actually been around for a while, but I stumbled on it again recently. It’s such a wonderful concept, and I loved that they have tried transplanting it to other countries.

It is an interesting approach in encouraging others to interrupt. The more common approach for public service/safety messages is to directly target the perpetrator and show the consequences of their actions, however given how ingrained domestic violence is in Indian society, I can understand why this might not work.

Something I really liked was the range of emotions of the people who stepped up to interrupt the violence. Some of them were very nervous and tried to think of an excuse, others were confident and almost agressive in taking a stand.

Here are some of the videos:

A group of children use the excuse of looking for a cricket ball

A neighbor uses the excuse of returning a mis-delivered letter

A man rings his neighbors doorbell to ask the time.

This is one of my favorites – a man rings the doorbell to check if there is electricity in the house.

Another more confident example – a man goes to his neighbours house to ask for some milk, and then walks away.

This was the first of the ads to be released. This one features the wonderful actor Boman Irani.

Other Approaches in PSAs

Dangerous Driving

An Australian ad film. When young men drive dangerously, people use a hand signal to suggest that the men have small penises and are trying to compensate.

(As a humorous side note, a man later blamed this ad for his angry behaviour, as a woman made the gesture to him while driving.)

Drink Driving

This ad refers to people who drink and drive as ‘bloody idiots’ and tries to establish the regular use of the term to encourage friends to stop each other from drink driving.

 

Life of Pi – Globalisation in Action

Novel written by a Canadian author, Yann Martel

First screenplay by US screenwriter Dean Georgaris

First proposed director was Indian-born US resident M. Night Shyamalan

Second proposed director was Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón

Third proposed director was French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Final screenplay by US writer David Magee

Directed by a Taiwanese director, Ang Lee

Funded by a U.S. studio

Filmed in India and Taiwan

To release world-wide

Hopefully to win some Academy Awards :-)

Are CEO’s Really Overpaid?

Steven Kaplan from Chicago’s Booth School of Business has released a research paper on CEO salary, titled, “Executive Compensation and Corporate Governance in the US: Perceptions, Facts and Challenges”.

Here are some myths on CEO pay that he busts. All data below is related to the CEOs of S&P 500 companies (not the economy overall).

Myth: CEO pay keeps rising

  • In 2010 S&P 500 CEOs were paid about as much in real terms as they were in 1998.
  • When CEOs are hired, their ‘estimated’ pay package is announced. They generally don’t end up earning the full amount.
  • Top lawyers earn about as much as company CEOs.
  • The top US 25 hedge-fund managers regularly earn more as a group than all the S&P 500 CEOs together.
  • The ratio of CEO pay to firm market value has remained roughly constant since 1960.

Myth: CEO pay is not tied to performance

  • Firms with CEOs in the highest 20% of realised pay generated stock returns 60% greater than those of other firms in their industries over the previous three years.
  • Firms with CEOs in the bottom 20% underperform their industries by almost 20%.
  • Companies are quicker to fire non-performing CEOs. Average CEO tenure fell from eight years in the 1990s to six years today.

Myth: Shareholders are ignored by boards in setting CEO pay

  • Since ‘shareholder say-on-pay’ was introduced in 2011, 98% of CEO pay packages were approved by shareholders.

 

Image Credit – Flickr user Doug 88888

India Set to Ban Children From Acting?

(image – an Indian child actor who seems to be trying to dislocate her own jaw. Perhaps to avoid having to speak the dialogues she has been handed)

India is in the process of introducing new child labour laws that would stop any child below the age of 14 from working (except in a few situations such as in the family business after school hours).

Read literally, this law means no more child actors in Indian film/TV. I’m sure that the media industry will get an exemption added to the new law, but it got me thinking about the topic.

Part of me thinks that the ban on child actors is a good thing. I’ve worked on TV shows with child stars in India and I really feel that it ruins the kids’ lives.

They can’t go anywhere without being recognised, fawned over and pinched and prodded. They find it difficult to make regular friends. And they become attention addicts – accustomed to adults pleading with them to complete actions/scenes/ dialogues. One kid throwing a tantrum or just being mischievous can hold up an entire set (much like adult stars).

These kids grow up with a false sense of power, which dissipates once they mature from being a cute kid. They then become a teenager (a difficult enough phase) who everyone liked better when they were younger. Every now and then they are dragged out in “What happened to your favourite child actor” gossip new stories. They must hate the fact that they grew up.

In my experience, it is a terrible thing to put kids through. Sadly, I encounter many Indian parents you are obsessed with making their kids into actors. I constantly get emails with photos of children, pitching them for their fair skin and cute smile.

Side note: I doubt Indian parents are any less considerate than parents in some other countries – look at the hideous American child pageant system.

But there is another side to this coin.

Film and TV should mirror society. The best film and TV talks to us about, and makes us question, our world. Do we really want to show a world without children?

No stories about family life that involves children?

No stories about the experience of raising kids?

No stories for kids featuring other kids, hopefully, as positive role models? (yes you, Hannah Montanna :-)

Should we not allow great films like Gattu and I am Kalam?

For society as a whole, this is certainly worse.

(image note – I don’t know why, but for some reason lots of chold actors pose like this in photos. Personally, I

 

Anatomy of a PR and Social Media Attack: Arctic Ready – Greenpeace vs Shell

1 – The Website

Around May 2012, a website appeared, called Arctic Ready – http://arcticready.com/ This appeared to be an educational campaign as part of Shell’s real website. http://www.shell.com/home/content/future_energy/meeting_demand/arctic/shell_in_the_arctic/

2 – User Generated / Shareable Content

The website offers several games to readers, including the ability to add tag lines to images of the arctic, in order to create fake Shell ads. These ads could then be shared using social media. Here are some of the best ones.

 

3 – The Viral Video

A mobile phone video appeared on You Tube showing Shell’s private arctic launch party. A mini oil rig, that is supposed to pour drinks, malfunctions and sprays all over the guest of honour, an 85 year old lady. A Shell staff member demands that the recording be stopped. The video is tagged #shellfail and includes a link to the fake website.

 

4 – Failed Attempt to Silence Criticism

Any journalist who covered the story received a threatening email from Shell asking them to stop reporting and claiming that the video is a hoax. The email said. “lawyers operating on behalf of Royal Dutch Shell plc (Shell) are considering formal action… Shell is monitoring the spread of potentially defamatory material on the internet and reporters are advised to avoid publishing such material”.

5 – Social Media Communication

The Shell social media team @ShellsPrepared starts tweeting, asking people to stop sharing the fake Shell ads online, and threatening legal action. They screw up, hilariously.

 

6 – Another Viral Video

Another video is posted on youtube. This one shows Shell’s plan to use fingers and a mop to cap and clean up an oil spill.

 

7 – More User Generated / Shareable Content

The arctic ready website launched a ‘Mercy Poll”. This allows readers to vote for one of the arctic animals. Whichever animal first reaches 10,000 votes will receive ‘less harassment’ from Shell than the other animals. All the responses are tweeted.

A Coordinated Attack

Here is the best part. Every single one of these items was fake – all of them. The campaign was run by Greenpeace and Yes Men to draw public attention to Shell’s arctic drilling campaign. Much of the campaign’s success stems from the layers – each new activity claimed to be genuine while announcing that the previous activity was a hoax. The campaign was shared extensively on social media by a public (and even journalists) who believed that much of it was a huge PR/social media fail by Shell.

Ethical Issues?

As successful (and fun) as this was, it raises some ethical questions. Greenpeace committed and encouraged others to commit trademark violations by creating the fake website and ads. They also impersonated Shell staff  to mislead the public and the press – is this really the best way to build trust in a non-profit activist organisation?

Shell is stuck in an awkward position. If they pursue legal action against Greenpeace, even more attention will be drawn to the campaign. But keeping quiet isn’t really working either…

The Young Manager’s Guide to: Body Language in Meetings

*This is a reprint of one of my recent columns on career advice that was published in the Hans India newspaper, in August 2012

A simple measurement of your progression up the corporate ranks is how many meetings you are asked to attend. The more senior a manager is in a company, the more of their time they spend in meetings (to the point that they complain, “All I do is attend meetings”).

How you behave in meetings is very important, as your conduct will be watched by senior managers. Why? India is experiencing a major talent shortage. Any manager, who is responsible for growing their organization, is constantly evaluating anyone they meet, looking for management or employment potential. I know managers who have made corporate job offers to staff at restaurants or supermarkets, based on the professionalism those staff displayed.

Similarly, your managers will be observing you during meetings, to evaluate not only your contributions, but also how you conduct yourself. Would they feel confident in sending you to meetings on their behalf? Do you represent the company in your behavior?

So, how can you create the best impression possible at the meetings that you attend?

Keep high.

Adjust the height of the chair (if it adjusts) to the highest possible point. People instinctively link power to height. 90% of American CEOs and almost all American presidents are of above average height.

You have little control over your normal standing height, but when you sit in an adjustable chair, you have choice in this. Pick the highest level at which you can comfortably sit.

Sit up.

Sit up straight in the chair so that your back is vertical. If possible, change the chair settings so that the back doesn’t tilt. Leaning backwards on your chair, or spinning from side to side makes you look like a kid, not a manager.

Stake out your space.

This is especially important for younger managers or those who lack confidence in speaking.

Bring several items to the meeting and arrange them in front of you, so that they take up space slightly wider than your seat. Start with a note pad and pen. You will always look more professional if you use a folder or portfolio that keeps a notebook and other notes and papers organized.  Open this in front of you. A water bottle placed beside your folder also secures your space. If glasses of water or tea are served, you can place this beside your folder as well.

By controlling the tabletop in front of you, you are symbolically ‘owning’ your place at the table and you remove the risk of being pushed backward if the table becomes crowded.

Hands on the table

Keeping your forearms on the table radiates confidence. It also keeps your hands ready to gesture when you get the chance to speak.

If your hands are in your lap, some people will wonder if you are sending messages on your phone. Gripping the edge of the table, or resting your hands on the arms of the chair, both send the message that you are not engaged in the discussion.

Look at other people

Don’t disengage when the topic doesn’t concern you. If you have been invited to the meeting, make an effort to stay involved. If the person speaking looks in your direction, making eye contact with them tells them that you are listening and that you respect their time. They are then more likely to pay attention when it is your turn to speak.

The best way to signal your attention is to twist your upper body towards whoever is speaking, so that your shoulders and chest are facing the speaker. This is a classic body language technique to indicate whom you are focusing on. Just turning your head to face the person doesn’t cut it!

No laptops.

You might be carefully taking notes but everyone else will wonder if you are checking email, surfing Facebook etc. It is also rude not to look at the person who is speaking. If you are typing notes, it is likely that you will end up staring at your screen while you type. Finally, that is a chance that you will be asked to take meeting minutes, which is never fun!

No phones.

As obvious as it sounds, this is a problem with many younger managers. Answering calls or sending sms’s or emails during a meeting, is a direct insult to whoever is speaking. You are sending a clear signal to those present that you consider your other work to be more important than what is being discussed. Keep your phone on silent, and keep it somewhere that it doesn’t loudly vibrate.

Being perceived as professional and confident is incredibly important, if you want to rise up the corporate ladder. Promotions are not given based on how well you do your work or how many hours you put in. They are given to people that the company perceives to have management potential. Start implementing these tips in your next meeting, and you are well on your way to making a great impression!

Marketing/Distribution Strategies – Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

Halo, the long-running video game franchise, has always been an ideal candidate for a feature film: great characters, sweeping storylines and millions of engaged fans.

Microsoft is now moving ahead with a live action version, interestingly, without any film studio involvement!

Here is the plan:

  • Microsoft will spend $5-10 million to create 5 short episodes
  • These will be released online
  • They will combine these with some additional footage to release a 90 minute film which will be given away for free with copies of the new HALO game, as well as being sold through regular DVD channels and online stores.

I wonder if it may even get a limited theatrical release?

For the production, they’ve brought in some solid talent. The director (Stewart Hendler) and actors are all experienced and the award-winning visual effects supervisor worked on The Pacific.

I love this new approach to content creation and distribution. Microsoft ends up with both a web series and a feature film. Thanks to the fan base that they have built up over the years, they can give the web series away free and still count on some dvd distribution, and, it promotes their new game release at the same time.

Here’s a teaser trailer of the project:

How to be a Useful Film Critic

I loved this post from the Telegraph blog about the state of online film criticism, because I feel exactly the same as the author.

I don’t need an amateur critic’s website to tell me that a movie is bad. I have rotten tomatoes and metacritic for that. I have friends for that. Blog posts that pick a big Hollywood film and then try to ‘hilariously’ dissect its lack of virtue, add nothing to the internet, or my knowledge of cinema.

What I need you for, amateur film critics of the world, is to help me discover hidden gems. Great films from before my time, or that went straight to dvd though crappy distribution deals. Suggestions for movie marathons or your picks of a director’s early work. Beautiful stories from developing countries that can’t get a cinema release because Transformers 8 is out on fifty thousand screens.

That’s want I want you for.

I occasionally review films on my blog if  (a) it is a film that I loved and (b) most people around me don’t seem to know about it.

When I started this blog, I made a decision that I wouldn’t write negative film reviews. If the film is so bad that I don’t want you to watch it, I’m better off just not talking about it.