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Catch up on the Cannestagious Podcast

We podcasted at Cannes for the second year running, all part of our #cannestagious push1, and Dan Southern and I had a lot of fun hosting. We typically would have a few Contagious folk and a few external folk join for each one, and discuss what went on that day at the festival.

The timing was a bit screwy—last year it was a ‘morning after’ timing, so we’d record the intro and outtro and get some juicy gossip in there, then play the segments recorded the preceding day.2 For those who might be interested in gear: we use a Blue Yeti mic attached to an iPad running Bossjock software to do all the cues, ducks, fades, etc. Typically afterward I’d clean everything up in Audacity and send it over to Soundcloud. The one and only DJ Tedward did some dynamite bumps and idents for us. Our audio booth? The world’s largest walk-in closet, in our villa, with duvets draped through the shelving to muffle echo.

I think we’re going to look into doing more with the podcast; key will be finding out how me in Portland and Dan in London can connect in a way that’s got some measure of audio fidelity. (The last phone-in interview, recorded off a conference call line, is crapola.) If you’ve got any idea, let me know.

Anyway, we had some fun interviews: Scott Galloway, Joanna MonteiroIain Tait, Nick Childs and Sir Martin Sorrell, and we had one kinda live-y podcast segment where we went cold calling with The Barbarian Group and Rood Studios.

Here’s the mighty podcast playlist in all its glory too.

  1. dig that amazing papercraft Cannes Lion! []
  2. The awards results are under embargo until like 9pm every night, so we can’t publish when we learn the results at the press conference in the morning. []

Written by Nick

July 2nd, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Advertising,Clips

Tetraethyl Lead and Pure Inquiry

I just finished a standout investigative piece that’s aged very well, Jamie Kitman’s look into leaded gasoline’s terrifying public health legacy, published by The Nation in 2000.

A few things struck me.

One is the continued prevalence of the cascading uncertainty rule, described here:

By relying on what Jerome Nriagu of the University of Michigan has called the cascading uncertainty rule (“There is always uncertainty to be found in a world of imperfect information”), the lead industry and makers and marketers of TEL gasoline additives were able to argue in 1925: “You say it’s dangerous. We say it’s not. Prove us wrong.” (Or, as Nriagu prefers, “Show me the data.”) They still do.

This is an almost classic misdirection that’s affecting how we judge huge dangers to society and public health, like vaccinations and global warming.

Meanwhile, a crusading scientist used techniques for determining this age of the earth to hypothesize how badly we were screwing it up by blanketing it with lead. Clair Patterson then gave what stands as a lasting caution against undue influence in research. This has recently been in the news, with Wall Street and academia cozying up.

“It is not just a mistake for public health agencies to cooperate and collaborate with industries in investigating and deciding whether public health is endangered,” Clair said. “It is a direct abrogation and violation of the duties and responsibilities of those public health organizations.”

I tend to use a lot of others’ research to make points; often, I can be lazy about sourcing. Was it the federal government, or a non-profit organization that’s providing that figure, or is it an entity motivated to make a specific commercial point? Research, both good and bad, can be easily manipulated. This served as a great reminder that concrete, civic-minded fact-finding is always going to serve the truth better than interested parties’ ‘findings’.

Written by Nick

January 16th, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Around and around we go…Goldfrapp Mobile

Maybe it’s the rumbling beats and Alison Goldfrapp’s melty smooth voice?

Written by Nick

October 24th, 2013 at 9:32 am

Posted in Advertising,Music

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear Meets a Google-y Glass


I like Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear stuff—it’s direct, and right out of the hardware launch playbook Apple wrote for the iPhone.1 And we might, on first glance, think that’s where Samsung’s big competition for the watch lies.

This near-final frame though, the two seconds it the camera lingers on Jamie, and what are we left with? An Android UI, telling us Ms. Glass is calling? That’s a brilliant bit of priming to link the Samsung gadget with its the real competitor in wearables. These categories don’t invent themselves, people.



  1. The work is also everywhere right now, with tons of media spend behind the launch. []

Written by Nick

October 13th, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Jonathan Glazer’s Newest, Under the Skin

I really hope Jonathan Glazer follows in Neill Blomkamp’s footsteps1 and brings his special breed of moodiness evolved through ads and music video to tangential future scenarios. Under the Skin is described on IMDB as “An alien in human form is on a journey through Scotland.”

The inimitable Ben just dug out his canned Flake ad which I’m glad to see is still online. I remember frantically saving the source when it came out and have been showing it to folks we work with at Kraft / Mondelez as an example of something envelope-pushing, dramatic stuff that at least got partially made through previous incarnations of their organization. Lovely. Someone out there wants to make more of this stuff, right? A guy can dream?

Flake – Jonathan Glazer from David Nichols on Vimeo.

  1. For my money, Neill’s slightly dingy, surveillance state aesthetic is the best one going in contemporary sci-fi. I talked to him about it way back in ’07. []

Written by Nick

September 2nd, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Advertising,Clips

Nudging the salad, pushing the Big Mac

Written by Nick

July 2nd, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Advertising,Food,Gaming

eBay Nowness: eBay Now comes to New York City


I caught this new one for eBay Now in the subway coming home from work yesterday and at first glance I wasn’t quite sure what was offered. Was it a move rental service? Is eBay yet another company trying to rent me a film online?

Nope. On second look its the proposition you use eBay Now to buy a flatscreen and a carnival-style popcorn machine to guarantee success on a date. Huh.

Good old eBay, haven for bargain compulsive shoppers has become a momentary dropshipper for those same folks. Now, take that itchy trigger finger that bought 1,000 copies of the Billy Ripken “fuck face” card for an art project (that never panned out) and apply it to home electromics and durable goods.

Funnily enough (and maybe showing how out of it I am) when we chatted about this in the office one of our Contagious folks mentioned her friend using the service to buy, you guessed it, a flatscreen. The reason? Because she could be sure it would be delivered ASAP. It came 25 minutes later. So, like pizza delivery, maybe it’s less about fast and more about control.

Written by Nick

June 27th, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Advertising,NYC

Contagious’ 2013 Cannes Lions Seminar

Well, back from Cannes, and after three days of not shouting in opposition to overloud, washy acid breaks at an expensive agency beach party my voice is almost returned to normal.

And after a year off I’m glad to say the world’s premier advertising awards show slash boondoggle is still going strong. One global network CEO we met estimates the Cannes Lions organization (which is for sale) turns all that delicious communications milk into €80m of net cream a year. It’s a really expensive exercise in ego validation if you see it that way, or a chance to give some ideas world-class recognition if you see it otherwise.

I’m not entirely jaded about it, but close. What keeps me from going crackers and retiring to a cave tends to be the stuff we do, and the response to it. Contagious events are a break from the norm of bizniz-led chest-drumming or celeb-puffing nonsense. We try to do stuff people actually get value from, entertainment value, or inspiration, and measure worth in that, not just in terms of the value derived by us through people talking about it or the fact we “got our message out.”

So its with great pleasure I present our seminar, sponsored by and created alongside Holler. Our cofounder Paul, James from Holler and Will Sansom worked pretty hard to make this come off as well as it did.((Meanwhile, I ducked all serious obligations and helped set up a Moth StorySLAM on the beach. To each according…)) And the gorgeous Scriberia animations didn’t hurt.

Seminar quality this year was spotty at best, and delegates, who paid (or their agencies did) $2,400 for a pass often had to wait over an hour for entry into the theatre. But our seminar won the popular vote to be broadcast live on YouTube, and was packed in the Palais. Invariably through the rest of the week when I was introduced someone would remember the session and compliment us. And that’s pretty cool.

Written by Nick

June 25th, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Advertising,Events

When life gives you lemons…

…take a Tylenol. Though hopefully not even Johnson & Johnson is crass enough to tout this advantage.

It sure ain’t often fate offers you this easy an out, folks.

From The Onion

This What World Like Now

BOSTON—After Monday’s horrific terror attack at the Boston Marathon that killed three and left hundreds injured, officials confirmed Tuesday that the bombings and senseless violence that followed occurred primarily because this is the kind of world we live in now.

To Psychological Science

Anxious About Life and Afraid of Death? Tylenol May Do the Trick, Study Suggests

The study builds on recent American research that found acetaminophen — the generic form of Tylenol — can successfully reduce the non-physical pain of being ostracized from friends. The UBC team sought to determine whether the drug had similar effects on other unpleasant experiences — in this case, existential dread.In the study, participants took acetaminophen or a placebo while performing tasks designed to evoke this kind of anxiety — including writing about death or watching a surreal David Lynch video — and then assign fines to different types of crimes, including public rioting and prostitution.Compared to a placebo group, the researchers found the people taking acetaminophen were significantly more lenient in judging the acts of the criminals and rioters — and better able to cope with troubling ideas. The results suggest that participants’ existential suffering was “treated” by the headache drug.

Written by Nick

April 16th, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Posted in Advertising

Creativity, and how ideas evolve




Well, often I did unpremeditated things in those days, as I have said. Once, from the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome, for no reason except that I had come upon a Volkswagen van full of them, I let hundreds and hundreds of tennis balls bounce one after the other to the bottom, every which way possible. Watching how they struck tiny irregularities or worn spots in the stone, and changed direction, or guessing how far across the piazza down below each one of them would go. Several of them bounced catty-corner and struck the house where John Keats died, in fact. – David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress


Off to 1976 we go…

  1. Approximately, as it is near the beginning, and Markson had the novel rejected 55 times before it came out in 1988. It took a while in the days before email. []

Written by Nick

February 11th, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Posted in Advertising,Art,Books,TV