Monday, 30 April 2007

This is England - looking from the inside out

Image courtesy of PYMCA

I'm off to see Shane Meadows' latest film, This is England, at the weekend. If you are unfamiliar with the writer and directors previous work he's responsible for Dead Man's Shoes, Once upon a time in the Midlands and 24/7. This is England is a movie about the British skinhead movement in the 80s. Loosely auto biographical, the movie is based on the life of a troubled, working class boy from the Midlands who seeks refuge with a group of 'Skins'.

The movie touches on a number of interesting areas such as youth culture, Ska, social marginalisation, identity, racism and politics. Now I was born in 1980, so I don't really recall much of this movement, apart from the occasional menacing looking types, a couple of which happened to be my babysitter and her boyfriend. However, only since the movie has come out have I bothered to look into it in more detail - I like The Specials and a bit of Madness but that's it really. I'm fascinated with how it all started and evolved over time but I've mostly been surprised with how my original, mostly negative perceptions have been formed by the minority that turned it into the racist movement that my generation at least see it as.

Newsnight recently discussed this film and Mark Kermode made a cracking point when debating with Sunday Times columnist Peter Whittle. In response to the pompous and out of touch, Whittle, Kermode stated that people always tend to look at cultures from the outside and fail to truly understand them. As much as we hate to admit it, I think the majority of us working in communications continue to do this, merely scratching the surface of what's out there. Even those of us in research do it with tired methodologies . I think this is why I'm becoming more and more interested in ethnography. It might not go down well with a positivist but I think I'm finding my work more interesting.

The full Newsnight - This is England debate

Friday, 20 April 2007

The importance of objectives

Guy Murphy has a really interesting post on objectives over at the IPA Strategy Group’s blog. I personally find poor and restrictive objectives really frustrating. You end up spending too much time in ‘strategy’ meetings going round in circles, but more importantly it stops you from creating great work.

The way an objective is formed, presented and articulated can have such a major influence on the direction of a strategy. I agree with Guy, people should give it more attention. I’m always surprised by how often people fail to make a distinction between the different types of objective you may see in a brief such as campaign objectives, project objectives, business objectives, marketing objectives and communications objectives.

I love the analogy Guy has given: “If the objective set by Dick Fosbury in the high jump was to complete a perfectly executed Western Roll we would not have heard of him. A Western Roll is an interim measure of success. Instead, he set himself the objective of ‘jumping as high as possible’. Enter the Fosbury Flop. Not only did getting the objective right achieve a better result, it released creativity and freedom into the strategy”.

Working on a brief without a good objective is like playing football when you are a kid. Every time the ball gets kicked in a different direction everyone on the pitch runs after it with no purpose, other than to get the ball. You might win you might not. Only once you have decided on a match-winning objective can you play the beautiful game and not just win, but also win in style.

You can read Guy Murphy’s full post here.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007


I’ve probably just made another educational mistake. After all my marketing communications degree from Bournemouth University obviously wasn’t that appealing when I was looking for my first job in planning. Marketing communications is so cliché apparently. Perhaps Universities should start adding ‘interesting’ units to their courses with the aim of proving how interesting a student is. Things like Zoology, French History and Biochemistry being my favourites.

Anywhooo. The controversial words are; Open University and Ethnography. I start my course next month and I’ve been racking my brains trying to come up with an idea for my practical work. So far I have only come up with a couple of ideas.

The creative development process. I’m interested in how the dynamics of groups solve problems.

Something on fandom. My work is full of Southampton fans and they must be the most pessimistic bunch in the world. I’d like to know why.

Over at the Plannersphere I’ve also been given a couple more ideas. One from John Grant relating to how the planning community manage social and professional identities and another from Michael Johnston on moving research in web 2.0.