Archive for June, 2008

Should films have open-endings?

June 27, 2008

Cliff-hanger

When you mention endings, many people immediately jump to the conclusion that you must mean the traditional Hollywood ‘happy ending’. That is, they assume that an ending must be a weak, highly artificial, uninspiring let down to the film that preceded it. In reality, the climax of a film should be the most emotionally powerful experience of the entire movie. There is no rule in screenwriting that an ending should be happy. Your ending should simply tie up all the significant plot threads as the level of emotional engagement with the audience reaches its highest peak. The audience has invested in your film and if you don’t provide a powerful ending they will leave dissatisfied.

But the worst endings are those that don’t resolve anything and just leave you hanging; mainly because such limp endings are normally accompanied by the assertion that they are intellectually superior to an actual conclusion. The Guardian recently said that “the open-ending credits the viewer with a low tolerance for…intellectual baby food”.

Sometimes you’ll hear people say that films don’t need to resolve anything, because real life doesn’t resolve anything. This argument could hold water if the film was about our perception of real life (e.g. Mulholland Drive) but normally it’s a standard “plot” film up until the ending – then it refuses to end!

A good deal of the much touted ‘great open-endings’ are in fact not ‘open’ at all. That is, all the main plot threads have been resolved prior to the credits. The Italian Job ends with a sight gag about leaving the audience on a cliff-hanger. But we have seen the robbers pull off the robbery and make their getaway. To illustrate, imagine if the credits rolled 60 seconds earlier, with the truck speeding away. That would be a normal ending, no? Therefore, everything has been resolved, bar the tacked-on cliff-hanger. This has more in common with the de rigueur creature-feature ending where the monster you thought was dead manages to crawl away or somehow ensures its continuation. The downbeat ending to The Thing, occurs after the creature is dead, everyone else is dead and the protagonist’s fate is sealed. It just gives you a good shot of paranoia before the credits. The Mist could have closed with the very open ending that is actually featured in the novella. Stephen King himself said that he just couldn’t think of an ending that was powerful enough, given the great story that preceded it. The final ending that was used in the film will anger a lot of audiences, but it’s a great, satisfying, ending. It resolves everything.

There’s nothing wrong with leaving open questions, provided the main threads have been resolved. Equally, there’s nothing wrong with having the bleakest, most dark ending imaginable. But your ending must be emotionally powerful.

Many people stay away from endings because they are hard to do well, but, please, don’t label this cowardice ‘intellectual superiority’…

Yah’rly?

June 25, 2008

It’s Wednesday – possibly the most depressing day of the week as it’s still too far away from the weekend and yet you feel like it should be Thursday already! So lets have a brief interlude into silly:

humorous pictures

On a more serious note, I think the success of the people behind these insane/cute images is one of the reasons why I love the internet. From creating a cute photo to cheer each other up after a long day at work, to becoming one of the most popular sites online with roughly 2 million page views per day and winning the Best Topical Weblog in 2008, icanhascheezburger.com is one of those sites which everyone can’t stop talking about. They’ve been discussed in Time Magazine, Business Week and even the Wall Street Journal.

UGC is something that we talk a lot about doing, but it’s not that easy get people to actually create their own content online. Lolcats is acting like the great internet meme which is encouraging people to create their own version and truly interact with the internet, rather than just being an observer. And plus, can’t we all do with a little bit of fun every day? I know I can!

humorous pictures

Sorry – couldn’t resist!

Which is better: PR or Advertising?

June 20, 2008

So when do you need advertising and when do you need PR? Or do you need both?

 

Well, each has PROs and cons (sorry bad pun)…

 

Advertising offers a far greater level of message control than PR. That is, with advertising your product or service can have exactly the spin you want it to have. Once a PR news story leaves the office and enters the real world, the message can be changed and interpreted. Often publications don’t even see the story as newsworthy and refuse to cover it. In advertising, if you’ve paid for it, you get the exposure.

 

But then there is the matter of shelf-life. PR releases tend to smoulder longer than an advert released on television. Search engines can locate an archived press release long after the initial PR buzz has waned.

 

But, the big bonus of a PR message is that it carries implied endorsement from the publication it’s printed in (and the reader may have a very high level of trust for that publication). Conversely, even the best advertising is recognised as self-serving communication. PR also happens to be substantially cheaper.

 

PR has also come into its own with the arrival of web 2.0 services, blogs and forums. Third-party endorsement, blogger recommendations and entering into a conversation with consumers has never been more important. Imagine how urgent it is for a PR consultant to stop a disgruntled customer talking about their horrible experience with your client on a forum read by 50,000 people…

 

The rule for the moment seems to be: if you have a large company and enough money to blast your ad through the constant din of media messaging with a huge campaign, go for it. But you should have PR too.

 

For small or medium-sized companies, or anyone working in the digital space, PR is the way forward.

 

Mash-up: Rambo vs Titanic

June 19, 2008

We reviewed the latest Rambo movie for the Download show this week…if you’re an action movie fan and don’t mind serious guts and gore splattered over your TV screen, this is for you. And Stallone doesn’t fail to impress, even at the ripe old age of 61. I was then browsing YouTube last night and saw this pretty vile parody of a seriously gory scene in the film with the Benny Hill theme playing over it.  

I don’t really want to post it on here as some people will find it really inappropriate (for those that don’t it’s not hard to find) but it does lead me on to another YouTube mash-up which I absolutely love.  You could be forgiven for thinking this film may actually exist…and that it would be a whole lot better than the first…Titanic, love it or hate it, you’ve got to watch the sequel…

LinkedIn now worth $1billion – gets $53m new funding

June 18, 2008

 

Congratulations to LinkedIn on achieving a fourth round of funding of $53m. The investment from Bain Capital Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners and Bessemer Ventures values the business social network at just over $1 billion. Compared to Facebook and MySpace, LinkedIn is the quiet older brother; less fun than the entertainment social networks but monitised, used by business and individuals and growing well. Right now it boasts 23 million members most of whom use it for business development purposes or to safeguard their future career paths by keeping in touch with professional contacts.

 

Unlike many web 2.0 companies that are feeling their way through these fast changing times (and there’s nothing wrong with that) LinkedIn has added features and benefits but remains largely the same model as it was originally intended. The founder, Reid Hoffman, is obviously very wise and when relieved of his duties at exit will also be very wealthy. Good on him.

 

Grammar Nazi: Potentially part one of a series…

June 18, 2008

 Just had a rather unsavoury request through from an un-named journalist who asks:

“Are you a mother with a child under five who is a smoker but who doesn’t smoke in the home?”

The journalist in question, did of course mean to ask, “Are you a mother with a child under five?  Do you smoke, but not in the home?”

One hopes, anyway.

And they say that English standards have slipped…

Mobile advertising: are the big brands holding back?

June 17, 2008

A recent report published by Informa, Mobile Advertising: Cutting Through the Hype, reports that the mobile advertising industry will be worth $12.09 billion by 2013.  In 2008, however, industry revenues will reach only $1.72 billion, 80 per cent of which will be generated by mobile content providers.  So what about the big brands?  According to vendors, this is the year that mobile advertising will go mainstream (as was last year, incidentally), but according to this report, and mainstream media, the big brands still aren’t biting. 

The mobile advertising campaigns of two big brands, however, have recently been well documented by the media.  The first is Jaguar.  Jaguar has recently announced the success of its US mobile campaign around the launch of its XF model, which has delivered over 15 million ad impressions across the mobile Internet, and over 85,000 unique visitors to the Jaguar XF WAP site.  The second is Nike, who has launched an interactive mobile campaign allowing consumers to create their own trainer designs.  Digital agency AKQA has created a pan-European campaign around technology that analyses the dominant colours of pictures taken on mobile phones.  The new service, NikePhotoID, encourages fans to customise their next pair of Nike trainers by offering them the chance to send an MMS of their choice, which the service will then use to create a picture of a shoe customised to the main two colours in the shot.  Consumers may then progress to buy the customised shoes. 

Despite the success of these mobile campaigns, apparently mobile advertising is yet to hit the mainstream: “big brands remain sceptical about the return on investment that will justify the premium rate-cards already associated with this emerging medium” (Nick Lane for Informa).  Time will tell….

Computers are going mental…

June 13, 2008

 

 

Researchers at Emotiv have finally developed a brainwave-reading headset. They don’t even need batteries – currently being powered by either body heat or sunlight.

This gadget was already making news at 2007’s Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.

But they also have another interesting application. Whilst able-bodied people may find this to be an entertaining gimmick for the moment, for heavily disabled people it can provide a new sense of freedom, allowing them to move around in and explore a virtual world. The same technology is also now being used to treat phantom limb syndrome.

This technology used to come at the cost of a rather dangerous operation that would remove part of the skull and insert a sensor to monitor brainwaves. Unfortunately, it also carried the very real risk of leaving the patient in a permanent vegetative state.

Now that the technology is non-intrusive (and has even been designed to look like headphones so you don’t stand out in a crowd) it may actually take off.

 

 
It’s almost certain to catch on better than the US military’s multi-million dollar “robotic pack mule”.

 

The UK’s top 100 start-ups

June 12, 2008

 

Startups.co.uk has a feature of what it believes to be the best group of start-ups, defined as trading post 2005, in the UK. Some of these are really clever businesses with a real need and innovative approach. Huddle, for example, is a really easy to use online collaboration tool, which agencies like us have a real need for to keep track of those ever changing documents in the approvals process. Huddle, I happen to know, is going places.  I also really like DIY Kyoto which makes a cool home gadget that visually keeps track of electrical usage in real time in their homes thus encouraging people to switch off and save energy. I suspect the £149.50 starting price will put most people off but it could make a nice wedding gift from eco warriors to their posh, capitalist and uncaring nieces and nephews.

 

Other companies that feature on the top 100 start-ups list are more likely to disrupt the local farmers market than those of an international nature. Two Chicks sells egg whites, which I don’t think on its own is a viable business. Grated cheese is equally lazy and equally easy for the supermarkets to copy, so if they don’t diversify soon (as the Very Lazy Range people did) then I can’t see them surviving the credit crunch. I was also amused to see that the UK’s 68th most exciting and disruptive start-up makes “trendy” walking sticks. Perhaps it’s a fad or perhaps our aging population will make it a goer. I wouldn’t personally put my pension fund into it.

 

Extra, Extra, read all about it…

June 12, 2008

 

I don’t think I complain a lot but actually looking back at the blog posts I’ve written recently, I think I’m becoming a bit of an online whiner…and nobody likes a whiner, on or offline. Still, sometimes you just need to vent and where better than on here? So my mini rant for this week is about “extras”. What do I mean by that? It’s the sort of things that you assume you will automatically get when you buy something so you don’t give them much thought, but then actually when you get home, unwrap what you’ve bought and then go to use it, you realise it doesn’t have batteries / storage card / control pad – delete as appropriate.

 

 

Now I know that perhaps I just haven’t read the small print but I reckon writing it in small print in the first place is just sneaky. If you’re buying something you’re vaguely excited about, like a new camera or games console, you tend not to think about the small things – you just want to play!  I remember when I bought my Wii I was devastated that I only had one Wiimote so couldn’t play 2-player tennis. And then when I found out they were £33 each I was more than a bit miffed. Especially since I then bought 4 so we could all play a full doubles match – which set me back £132!! Ouch. The Wii only cost me £160!

 

On the Download show last week we looked at the Sony HDR-TG3 and the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD1000. The Sanyo is by far the cheaper of the two and boasts that it has room for 16GB SDHC cards but then you realise that it doesn’t actually come with an SD card at all! So you have to shell out another £50-£100 for a good quality SDHC card too! Ggggrrrr extras. I’d stick with the Sony – it’s more expensive but at least it comes with a 4GB storage card so you can at least start somewhere. And as my dad always says, if you pay peanuts, you tend to get monkeys J

 


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