Honda shows Hyundai how it’s done

Most people who read this blog, follow me on Twitter or know me in real life remember the time I had a somewhat high-profile disagreement with Hyundai.


BBC World News

For those who didn’t see it, Hyundai made a really badly-judged ad that showed someone trying to commit suicide in one of their cars, and failing because the car only emits water. As I commented at the time, there were many more creative and interesting ways to deliver this message without sucker-punching people who’ve lost loved ones to suicide, or showing them how to do it (there were details in the ad that would help people die effectively).

Honda – a brand I’ve worked on and have a huge soft spot for – have just come out with their answer to the water-emissions brief. And isn’t this just a world away from someone ending his life?



Image and story via PSFK


Honda-branded bottled water, created entirely from the emissions of their FCX model.

Simple. Effective. And it didn’t make me cry.

Wasn’t so hard, was it?

Why Facebook’s ‘Trending’ section is like that one really annoying friend


“So I saw Titanic at the weekend”
“Oh yeah? Is it good? I’m going tomorrow”
“Yeah, it’s not bad, I mean I knew Jack was going to die from the start, obviously…”
“FLARGH why would you tell me that?!”

(Apologies to anyone who was unaware of Jack’s demise, but come on).

Facebook now has a ‘Trending’ section. I’ve had it for a while but all the big sites just announced it, so I think it must have just finished rolling out to everyone.

It’s a useful section in that it makes you aware of big news stories and exciting developments in the world.

It’s a terrible section in that it instantly spoils major plotlines in popular shows.

It’s done this to me twice now. First, when Brian died in Family Guy, and now:


See, I don’t watch Coronation Street, but Facebook doesn’t know that. For all Facebook knows, I’m a huge Corrie fan who recorded the big episode and hasn’t watched it yet. This story appeared within an hour of the episode ending – is that the statute of limitations on spoilers now?

I don’t believe the internet should be spoiler-free. In fact, someone once berated me for giving away the twist in a film from 1973 (Soylent Green – which has one of the best-known twists of all time) on Twitter. But I think it’s only fair that we get a few hours of breathing space – I’d never post “Well, Hayley’s popped her clogs” the same night the episode aired. I might subtly refer to how emotional the episode was, or how brilliantly-acted, but I’d never just give it away. If you’re wondering why I’m OK with revealing Hayley’s demise in this post, by the way, it’s because A) it’s been a day now and B) Facebook’s told everyone anyway.

You could argue that I’m very likely to see the same spoiler in a tweet or a friend’s Facebook status. Completely true. But in that case, it’s a person choosing to spoil it for me – being a dick, in other words – as opposed to a corporation. There was outcry when the Metro newspaper posted details of a Game of Thrones episode two days after it aired – now we don’t even get two hours?

I don’t disagree with the Trending section itself – I think it’s a good and useful thing, and I’ve discovered several stories through it. But Facebook, you’re not my spoiler-happy ‘friend’ from high school who thinks it’s hilarious to ruin it for everyone else. You’re a social network. Do you think you could at least manage a spoiler warning? A ‘click-through-at-your-peril’? Or, dare I suggest, a subtle summary that hints at the big reveal without beaning me in the face with it?

I thought Facebook might have something to say about this, so I clicked ‘Learn more’ on the Trending panel. Here’s what it told me:


Oh Facebook. You are SO hard to love.

What the hell, Twitter? Why the block changes need to be reversed, now

Update: in one of the quickest backtracks ever, Twitter has reversed the changes (see their blog post here). We won! #RestoreTheBlock

The rest of the post will remain below as a record of what happened.

Today, Twitter made a small but incredibly significant change to the way blocking users works on the site. In their own words:


The bit in blue is the really crucial part. Previously, blocking someone meant that they automatically unfollowed you, and if they went to your page, they couldn’t see any of your tweets, photos, videos, links – anything.

Now, since people with unprotected accounts (and I would argue that most people should have unprotected accounts on a social website) tweet publicly, you could get around someone blocking you by logging out and viewing their profile, viewing it in an incognito window, or even making a whole new account if you were bothered enough. People defending Twitter’s new block stance keep trotting this out as a reason why the change doesn’t matter.


In my experience, most of the people dim enough to get themselves blocked by me were nowhere near smart enough to know that they could still see my tweets by logging out. And even if they did, it’s a lot more effort than your average troll is going to go to.

With the new policy, for the blockee, nothing changes when they get blocked. They can’t tell they’ve been blocked, they still see your tweets in their timeline, they can still retweet you and tweet at you – it’s just that you don’t see these in your Interactions column anymore.

I have to ask… what the hell, Twitter?

Have you never been harassed?
Have you never had a person obsess about you to the point that you wished you’d never met them?
Have you never wished someone would just. Go. Away?

One of the very best things about social media is the ability to make people disappear at will. That probably sounds a bit Stalin if you’ve never been hassled, but when you’ve had someone follow you for a long time, carefully amassing information that they can use to tear down everything you hold dear – you start to understand why the power behind that little ‘Block’ button meant so much. Even if it was only superficial, clicking that button felt like putting up a shield, and that feeling makes all the difference when you’re being targeted.

Here’s an example. Earlier this year, when my Hyundai blog post went viral, I got four blog comments from the same troll. From what he wrote, it was pretty clear he’d followed me on Twitter for a long time and knew a lot about me – although only things I’d been willing to share on the site.

So after reading about the suicide of my father and how an advert reminding me of it had moved me to tears, he wrote this:

You are a sick fuck for using your old man’s mental illness and subsequent suicide to coldly further your own career in advertising. Fortunately your book says more than “Boo hoo my dad is dead” whining, and your book says one thing: “I am a shit creative”

Fuck you and die you fat ginger cunt. No wonder you can’t get a job, or a boyfriend.

Yesterday, I could have blocked this person from seeing anything I wrote on Twitter ever again. Today, I can’t.

I can only assume the people who work at Twitter are lucky enough to never have been stalked, trolled, or harassed by strangers – or worse, people they knew – on the internet. I’ve long railed against the fact that you can’t block people on LinkedIn (a creepy ex-boyfriend still likes to look up my page every so often, and I can’t stop him) but this is actually worse. Twitter had that functionality, and chose to take it away.

Why would you do that? Who’s benefiting here? People who’ve been complete and utter tosspots to other human beings, and… that’s it. I fail to see how this in any way improves the service for non-trolls. Please, someone enlighten me.

Self-promotion on 9/11 is worse than ever

How many times do brands have to backpedal and apologise before things like this stop happening?



How many times do we have to say “don’t slap your brand all over tragedies”? How many times do we have to ask who approved using mass grief to sell products? How many more times?

Retweeting is not a way to pay your respects

Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist when 9/11 happened, and it’s hard to imagine what the reaction would have been like if they had. The volume of grief and disbelief might well have crashed Twitter. But while it’s perfectly OK to tweet that you’re thinking of the people who lost their lives, this kind of thing is not:



This year, an account sprang up just to do that. It already has eight thousand followers despite its four tweets. It appears to have no association with any of the victims’ charities, and it’s not accomplishing anything. All it does is ask for retweets. It’s a parasite, frankly. 



Just in case anyone is unclear on this, retweeting does not in any way show respect to the dead, or ease the grief of their families. Asking for retweets is a shameless, selfish way to promote your own account and nothing more. If you want to pay your respects, pay them. Send up a prayer, visit the memorial, or by all means tweet your sentiments. But adding “Retweet to show respect” strips your message of any humanity, and turns it from a genuine statement of grief to a shameless plug for you.

Probably the most egregious example of this was perpetrated by MSN when BeeGee Robin Gibb died:



That call to action actually makes me shudder. How can anyone reduce grieving for the dead into such a mindless, meaningless action? And how do brand and community managers of huge, worldwide companies keep making this mistake? Why is it always down to the twitter community to point out the huge failing of humanity here?

I thought AT&T’s inevitable apology might provide some explanation of what they were thinking.


Clearly, what they were thinking was that their image of a great big honking smartphone taking up the foreground of the tribute to a mass grave was somehow “paying respect”. 

Somehow, I doubt the families of the fallen would agree.

Potluck: a worse social network idea than Google+?

The creators of Branch have launched a new social network called Potluck. Depressingly, they call it “The best house party you’ve ever been to… on the internet”. I really hope that’s not true.


From what I’ve seen of Potluck, I don’t see it taking off at all. The aim is to get the 86% of the internet who don’t post or tweet to start sharing things – but this assumes that the non-sharing is because they haven’t found the right social network yet. I think it’s because they don’t want to share.

And why should they? The fundamental dynamic of humanity is that the minority create and the majority consume. If the majority created, most content would go unseen. We don’t run around trying to persuade everyone to make TV programmes or write books, do we? It’s just accepted that most people won’t and the best people will. What’s wrong with that?

How it works

On Potluck, you’ll see a news feed of links, none of which say who originally posted them. You can click through to find out, then comment or ‘heart’ things.

I do not understand the point here.

This quote from the site suggests you’d use it to share things you wouldn’t share elsewhere, like your My Little Pony mashups:


But if the point is nameless sharing to remove the ‘stigma’ (one article actually used this word – since when has sharing online ever been stigmatised?!), then clicking through to find out who posted ruins it. If the point is sharing with your friends, then the semi-anonymous part is redundant.

People share stuff online for glory. They share to be the first to break a story, to get likes, to get comments, attention, validation. They don’t share just to share, and they don’t not share because someone might see that they shared. I mean, what?

When you sign up to Potluck, it asks you to promote it on your other social networks:Image

No, Potluck. Twitter is where I go to talk about cool things my friends and I find on the web.

So I have to ask, what’s the point of Potluck? If I want to share anonymously, I’ll set up an anonymous twitter or use Reddit or any other forum. If I want to share with friends, I’ll use any of the existing social networks (even Google+). If I want a weird hybrid of the two, I’ll have a word with myself.

Nonetheless, I really hope Potluck takes off, because the lack of users means I got a killer handle.

I’m not slacking, I’m…

On Twitter because…

  • I’m asking my followers for advice about something related to work (‘What’s the best social media monitoring platform?’, ‘My boss sent me a Mac font, how do I make it work on PC?’ ‘What was that ad with the dude and the things?’)
  • I’m writing brand tweets, so am using the automatic character counter in the input box to check they’re not too long
  • I saw a really epic thing earlier that I want to use as a reference in my presentation

On Facebook because…

  • I’m checking how our last post went down with the fans
  • I’m seeing what other brands are doing
  • I’m posting our campaign to my friends because you told me to in your all-agency email
  • I think that really epic thing I saw on twitter might actually have been on Facebook

On YouTube because…

  • I’m looking at the way YouTube ads appear for an idea I’m working on
  • I’m trying to get a feel for the brand, or the public’s perception of it
  • I’m plotting a homepage takeover for my new client, the EDL

Reading a blog post/article/news page because…

  • It’s relevant to our brand, campaign, industry, or some cool idea I’ve just had
  • I need to rest my brain between writing or thinking sessions (this is not slacking)
  • You wrote it/emailed it round, remember?

And so on.

There are a bajillion reasons why anyone in advertising could be on websites considered ‘timewasters’ by more corporate industries. Of course, us advertisers slack with the best of ’em, but maybe give someone the benefit of the doubt before you rubberneck at their screen and make a bitchy comment, eh?

Add your reasons for ‘slacking’ in the comments – and your best bitchy comments if you have them, too.

PS: Feel free to send this to your boss.