Archive for April, 2010

The other election debate

Emily Pitts writes:

Another Nick captured the imagination this Wednesday of a 16+ audience at Downside Fisher Youth Club in Bermondsey, where I work as a volunteer, as the Lib Dems came out on top in a mock ballot and election debate for young people. The evening event was intended to engage young people in politics. Many feel ignored by politicians and question the point of voting. Parliamentary candidates for Bermondsey and Old Southwark – Val Shawcross (Labour), Loanna Morrison (Conservative) and Nick Stanton (Leader of Southwark Council, standing in for Simon Hughes) spoke to the 50 strong audience, answering the question ‘Why should I vote?’ and taking questions.

The audience enjoyed having the opportunity to meet the candidates and question them on the matters closest to their hearts. Leon Bruff, who’s 21, said “You don’t think you’ll be able to have a proper conversation with people in politics and actually get them to listen, but tonight showed me that’s not true. It was a really great opportunity, something that doesn’t happen every day.”

Questions covered a range of issues, from crime and punishment to housing provision and funding for further education. But the issue that came through most strongly was employment and access to jobs. There were several questions about lack of jobs in the area and some sharp criticism of the lack of opportunities available for young people even after they’ve achieved qualifications and training. There were suggestions of new green technologies creating jobs under the Lib Dems, Crossrail related jobs from Labour, and tax breaks for small businesses from Conservatives. I’m not sure how satisfied the young people felt by these answers – their reality is much more immediate than suggestions of potential future jobs in industries that don’t yet exist. They did, however, feel empowered by getting their point across and ensuring that whoever ends up as the area’s MP is well aware of the priority of their new voting generation.

In a way, this was probably the point that came through most strongly – a strong desire to be heard and taken seriously rather than just lumped into a ‘tough kids on the streets’ stereotype. Nick Stanton talked about lowering the voting age to 16, which went down well, of course. David, who’s 16, said “He [Nick] was talking to us as young people and he listened to us. The voting age should definitely be lowered to 16 – we are the new generation. We should all have the opportunity to be heard.” And judging by the turnout on the night and the energetic questioning, the young people of Bermondsey do want to get involved. The question is whether the political parties will find ways to let them.

30 April 2010 at 4:22 pm 1 comment

Trying it on

Denise Hicks writes:

Next time you’re in a changing room or at home wondering if those shoes really go with that dress, don’t fear. Help is at hand online. Sign up to ‘Go try it on‘, post a pic of your questionable outfit, and receive instant feedback.

It’s an interesting idea in theory, and a great example of how the web is enabling users to solicit instant advice from online networks. However, it seems to fall into a similar trap as most online ‘forums’, which is that you don’t have any idea about the validity of the opinions offered.

Putting aside the fact that most people probably use it to confirm what they’re already thinking (be it positive or negative),  why should you listen to what Jennifer C, or Alexa F, or any of the other 200 participants think? If there’s a debate going on, who do you trust? (Especially when there’s a penchant to say ‘change it’ rather than ‘keep it on’, for the sake of it).

There must be a way for these comments (and similar binary opinions on other forums) to be filtered via an attitudinal profile at the outset, so that you can prioritise the feedback of those who share your attitudes.

Certainly retail sites, and some restaurant reviews, are aggregating and cross-referencing previous feedback and purchasing data to help filter and edit your shopping choices. And sure, it may not be relevant for sites like YouTube that are geared towards capturing mass opinion. But still, if my mates aren’t there, or can’t be relied upon to give an honest opinion on my fashion sense, I want to know what ‘people like me’ think. Not the opinions of people who bought similar stuff, or the ones that most people agree with, but the ones who share my outlook on life, fashion and the universe – a group I can consider my ‘advisory panel’.

So when I’m told that ‘the puff sleeve with the high boat neck makes for too much bulk’ around my face, I can think ‘y’know what, Fawn G, you might just be right’.

The picture at the top is from Go Try It On, and is used with thanks. In case you’re wondering: Julia N needs an opinion on a super-casual look at her work.

26 April 2010 at 4:12 pm 1 comment

Barefoot running

Allie Schnidman writes:

The media is buzzing with the “back to basics” theme. While this trend started with food – from the Slow Food Movement to Michael Pollan’s latest book – this “all-natural” trend seems to taking hold in the world of exercise as well.

While it is far from new, barefoot running has recently gained a considerable amount of media attention.  Runners are learning more about the advantages of running with minimal foot support and testing it with their bare feet, or for those less confident, with Vibram’s ‘Five Fingers‘  or Nike’s ‘Free’.  Runners have joined with scientists and podiatrists to debate the advantages of barefoot running: less impact on the ankles and knees leading to fewer injuries, slower strides with improved running postures and a closer connection to the environment. In fact, one of Vibram’s selling points is “a deepened connection to the earth” with a heightened sense of touch when jumping from one spot to the next.

As can be seen in the food industry, there is an ongoing shift in which the consumer seems, sometimes erratically, to reconnect with the natural environment. The shift in food consumption started with health concerns  but now extends to environmentalism: consumers want to eat for their own sustainability, and also for the environment’s sustainability.

The trend of barefoot running could follow the same pattern: we start by kicking off those shoes for health reasons, but continue for the pleasure of a heightened connection with the Earth. But perhaps this is where the comparison stops. For, sooner or later, the barefoot runner comes up hard (literally) against the experience of the paved city roads.

Certainly, as a runner, that’s the reason for my hesitation. I’m interested in testing this out with The Futures Company’s running team, but have concerns about exposing their fine feet to the streets of London. Perhaps it’s just a prejudice, but I wonder if barefoot running is meant for the countryside while pavement running is safer with a cushioned shoe; I find it hard to believe that running without shoes on paved roads is truly a natural experience. But perhaps readers have had a different experience; if so, I’d love to hear your comments.

The photo at the top of this post is from the Fitness Concepts blog, and is used with thanks.

20 April 2010 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

Keeping Track

Eloise Keightley writes:

The industry for personal informatics is certainly one to watch. There’s even been talk of a ‘movement’ and unsurprisingly, the iPhone has spawned a host of personal informatics applications. These applications are tantamount to an omphaloskeptics’s dream: pretty much any variable of life can be tracked to the most granular degree. Users of personal informatics sites can log everything from vegetables consumed and number of migraines suffered to variations in mood and their feelings about particular places.

Perhaps evidence that consumers are seeking certainty in these uncertain times, the sheer number and variety of personal informatics applications suggests not only a rising interest in self-analysis (or an increasingly narcissistic society) but a desire for more control over one’s personal life. For starters, these tools help you to learn from the past and plan for the future – if you ate too many calories this week, you know exactly how many to remove from your diet next week. However, much of the allure of personal informatics lies in the visualisations these sites can produce with the raw data. Sites such as your.flowingdata.com allow users to create custom visualisation pages for what they’re most interested in and encourage you to ‘play’ with the data.

In theory, brands could have an enormous pool of data at their disposal should these tools become mainstream enough to attract sufficient users. While many personal data tracking accounts monitor health and leisure habits, many others track brand usage, product usage and attitudes towards brands. Personal informatics could help brands spot emerging competitors faster and track whims and fads with more agility than conventional methods. However, criticism of social networking sites that have deployed their members’ data for commercial gain mean that brands need to tread carefully: an assumption that you own the data simply because it is publicly available is imprudent.

On the other hand, brands are beginning to wake up to the potential of incorporating personal informatics into their business propositions – most notably Nike, through its joint venture with Apple and a handful of health clubs to produce the Nike + iPod package. It’ll be interesting to see how others follow suit.

The above image comes from Mapmaker, a user of the Mycrocosm personal informatics website, and is reproduced here with thanks.

14 April 2010 at 10:10 am Leave a comment

Advertising evaluation en masse

Denise Hicks writes:

Lobbyists 38 Degrees are one of the many organisations that have become heavily involved in protesting against the BBC cuts. In response to the huge amount of opposition, particularly to the potential closures of 6music and the Asian network, 38 Degrees have managed to raise enough money to launched a billboard campaign in protest.

They have just posted a first concept of the proposed billboards on their site and are asking for public feedback.

Now it’s not a great concept in my opinion and pretty much misses the point. As you can imagine, akin to a YouTube commentary, the feedback is varied and entertaining, with comments such as…

  • ‘Poor miserable counterproductive lack of imagination.’
  • ‘it’s very white’
  • ‘I’d suggest that you start again from scratch.’
  • ‘Driving past will cause confusion and accidents ala the wondabra advert’
  • ‘I think it’s lovely’
  • ‘I would suggest just typography – big letters “NO TO BBC CUTS!” or somesuch’
  • ‘does it need to be “clever”?
  • ‘The DDM (Detracting Demographic Monkees) are at it again’
  • ‘You have paid an ad agency for this? If so, I am very disappointed. May I suggest you talk to some other companies instead? Airside are superb’

See what you think… I’m sure they’d be grateful for any (constructive and informed) thoughts!


9 April 2010 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment


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The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.


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