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Visual Communication

      Show & Tell’s Pantry of Curiosities Newsletter, 14th June 2019  Hello,  Unmemorable news!  I'm sitting at my home office desk, safe from falling trees*. The tree that was threatening our granny annexe has been safely cut up. (The family has firewood for the winter.) The manly men with chainsaws told me the tree was only being held up by the electricity cable it was resting against. The threat is gone. A happy end.    Stories with happy endings are best for the characters—they are less memorable for the audience.   Is it better to end a story abruptly and sadly?  In other news, Paul       Roger (& Paul & Anne)     * Unless one drops off a passing aeroplane.            Don't Stop ...        </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"         Our [GAB*] Tip     Be brave and unflinching in your endings. People will talk about them for decades.   The Sopranos Way:    Family is love, difficulty & protection. Eat together. Wife. Son. Daughter. And her obstinate car. Remember the good times. Live in the now. Because you never know when the empty seat next to you gives the assassin a clear shot to the end.     *Genuinely Attractive Business            Podcasting is for easing the burden of others  “Your podcast content should not be about you, but about solving your prospects’ problems.”   Steve Lubetkin, Journalist, Podcast Producer, and Author    3 Podcasts that solve problems:   (1)   More or Less: Behind the Stats   (2)   Grazia Life Advice   (3)   Magicians Advice Podcast      We (Roger & Paul) share our "Business Jazz Podcast" weekly:    Here's an extra special episode (even insiders don't know it exists):   "    Th      e Lost Episode    ".      

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
          
             
                  
             
          
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Roger creates a visual for each episode. Usually, it's a cartoon. It invites people to listen. The Lost Episode never got a cartoon. Will you accept this indulgence instead?   (Bad news is best delivered with a joke?)  :     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


          Past work—Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


    

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


       Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board   is where children, teenagers and adults learn. Documentary photography to show genuine pupils and students developing and growing. A commission through   Granite  , who build magnificent websites that make the internet a more pleasing place.           Your next step  Your next step could be the one that brings an end to your story. That's all right. You can tell another one. A new story about your business. A fresh set of images. A second episode of your podcast—maybe even a second season? A weekly newsletter to your customers.   Mata Hari  once asked  Ian Fleming ,  "What happens after James Bond defeats the villain?"    There is always another villain. They don't stop. They never stop. The stories go on.    (If we were Bond villains, we'd want to change the world and relentlessly shoot out newsletters until we won.)   Thank you very much for not closing the door on us.   Have a [GAB] week,      Roger       (and       Anne       and       Paul      )    PS—Villains bend the truth about historical meetings.

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Unmemorable news!

I'm sitting at my home office desk, safe from falling trees*. The tree that was threatening our granny annexe has been safely cut up. (The family has firewood for the winter.) The manly men with chainsaws told me the tree was only being held up by the electricity cable it was resting against. The threat is gone. A happy end.

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      Brooklyn Beckham, the 16-year-old son of famous parents, has been asked by Burberry to take photographs to market its new fragrance.  Photographers are up in arms about this.  They say it further diminishes the craft of photography, and is disrespectful to professional photographers who have honed their creative skills over many years, decades even. How could a 16-year-old possibly be competent enough? “Sheer nepotism” is how one photographer described it.  Well, let’s ignore, for instance, that  Joey L  was shooting high-end commissions when he was a teenager. Let’s, instead, pretend teenagers can’t take a photograph. Let’s also assume that Brooklyn Beckham doesn’t know which end of a camera to look through—though nobody has proved this, I think. Even then, focusing on his alleged lack of experience completely misses the point.  I don’t think this is purely a photography assignment.  It’s something bigger.  It’s a   marketing   assignment.   Brooklyn Beckham has 5.9 million followers on Instagram . Very likely, the majority of them are the audience Burberry wants to reach. On top of which, the publicity surrounding his appointment as the photographer for their next campaign has been significant and widespread—be it positive, negative or neutral. Beckham is, to use the parlance, box office. He brings something to the table that most photographers can’t. Audience and exposure (no pun intended). In fact, I can think of only one other photographer whose appointment gets coverage, albeit much less hysterical: Annie Leibovitz.  It all boils down to story.  Brooklyn Beckham’s story is potent. It travels and it has reach. It’s nonsense to complain about his lack of experience as a photographer or be snarky about how he won the job. Being a competent photographer doesn’t mean you are entitled to an assignment over someone who has less experience. Being the right fit for the entire marketing campaign is. For this campaign, Burberry has chosen the photographer whom it feels is best suited to its marketing objective.  In doing so, Burberry isn’t intentionally causing offence to photographers. Photographers are seeking and taking offence. Two different things altogether.  Instead, I think photographers should be more proactive in building their own story. If the story they could build with Burberry were stronger than the one Brooklyn Beckham can, they’d get the job, not him. Fact of the matter is, they can’t offer Burberry a better story.  It’s not like they didn’t have time to build their story. Don’t forget that many photographers are much older than Brooklyn Beckham. It’s their chief argument for being better candidates, after all. They have lived longer and have more experience, remember? Well, that knife cuts both ways. It also means they have had oodles more time to build their story than he has. But they didn’t build a stronger story, did they?  You might argue that Beckham is trading off the time his famous parents spent building their respective stories. Fine. That still doesn’t take away from the fact that most photographers didn’t create a compelling story about themselves when they could have. Brand Beckham is 20 years old or so. What have these photographers been doing for the past 20 years to build their own story to make themselves irresistible to Burberry? I’m going to be very harsh here. They didn’t even build a story about their own photographic competency that was compelling enough for Burberry to opt for them over a 16-year-old.  So, what can marketeers learn from this?  Well, for one, hiring celebrity offspring to do your photo shoot will give you tons of publicity.  Second, and herein lies the point of this piece, if your story is more compelling for your target audience than your competitor’s, you win.  So, ask yourself: What you are doing to build your story?    —Roger—

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Brooklyn Beckham, the 16-year-old son of famous parents, has been asked by Burberry to take photographs to market its new fragrance. Photographers are up in arms about this. They say it further diminishes the craft of photography, and is disrespectful to professional photographers who have honed their creative skills over many years, decades even. How could a 16-year-old possibly be competent enough? “Sheer nepotism” is how one photographer described it.

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      Do you know what a golden plover is?  It's a game bird, i.e. a bird that is shot for sport—though it seems a fairly uneven sport, if you ask me. The odds don't exactly favour the bird.  Or do they?  You see, the plover is quick.  Very  quick—as you would be if someone were trying to shoot you.  Of course, it's not all about incentive. Genetics plays its part too. The plover is built to be a fairly snappy mover. So snappy that, on a hunting trip in Ireland in 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver missed one.  The miss appears to have led to a discussion among his hunting companions about which is the fastest game bird in Europe, the plover or the red grouse. Maybe the question should have been whether or not Sir Hugh was a rotten shot. Regardless, the debate about the birds remained unresolved. No reference book could provide the answer.  Long story short, Sir Hugh reckoned plenty of other arguments were being held along similar lines—most likely in pubs (but probably not about game bird velocity). Fastest this, biggest that, loudest the other. So, he decided a book of records should be created.  Did I mention he was managing director of Guinness Breweries at the time?  In 1954, the first edition of  The Guinness Book of Records  was published. A thousand copies were printed and given away as a marketing initiative. The next year, a hardcover edition was produced and put on sale. It sold brilliantly and became a bestseller.  You roughly know the rest.  Here's the point of this post.  In the mid-1950s, a company created a book bulging with information people found useful and, initially at least, gave it away for free. The book grew to become a household name—respected, sought after and beloved even. Along the way, it helped promote a brand of beer and (I'm guessing here, I don't have any figures) surely drove sales upwards.  These days, this sort of thing is called 'content marketing' and it's often presented as if it's something new. Something of our internet and social media age. It's not.  T he Guinness Book of Records  isn't even the oldest example. The  Michelin Guide  was created in 1900 by the Michelin brothers, who made car tyres. The company they founded still does. The book contained all sorts of useful and practical information for the motorist. It too was given away for free to begin with. By the mid-1920s, it had evolved into a restaurant and hotel guide awarding stars for fine dining.  I'm certain there are even older examples.  The point is that the concept of content marketing isn't new. Companies have been giving away valuable content for free and reaping the rewards for ages.  By the way,  the plover is quicker than the red grouse . It's not even close.    —Roger—

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Do you know what a golden plover is?

It's a game bird, i.e. a bird that is shot for sport—though it seems a fairly uneven sport, if you ask me. The odds don't exactly favour the bird.

Or do they?

You see, the plover is quick. Very quick—as you would be if someone were trying to shoot you.

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      Stop lying!  Seriously, what is wrong with marketing people? Do they think we're all stupid or something? Maybe we are. I dunno. Maybe we've all become so pacified that we'll accept anything they say, as long as it's said with confidence.  Take this bit of promotional blurb from a company that promotes content marketing (I won't name them; I don't wish to be cruel):  "THE NUMBERS DON'T LIE... A photo is worth 1,000 words, and a video is worth 1.8 million!"  OMG! That sounds so good, doesn't it? And it has an exclamation mark. You could almost believe it. Except it's misleading nonsense.  For a start, pictures don't always speak for themselves. Many don't make sense at all without some accompanying text that provides context. That's because the context is lacking in the picture itself. Either because the picture cannot show what the audience needs to know, or because the picture is a rotten one in the first place. Claiming pictures are better than words is plain wrong.  Who came up with this silliness in the first place? Would you be terribly surprised if you learned it was probably a marketeer? Of course you wouldn't.  Although attributed to the ancient Chinese, the phrase "A picture is worth 1,000 words" can be traced back to the more likely source of a 1927 print advertisement developed by Fred R. Barnard for Royal Baking Soda. Incidentally, when translated, the Chinese script used as an illustration in the advert places the word count at 10,000. Over time, depreciation has clearly set in.  Possibly, Barnard based his proverb on a quote by newspaper man Arthur Brisbane, who is credited in 1911 with saying, "Use a picture. It is worth a thousand words."  Either way, there is no science behind the number. It just sounds good.  As for the notion that a video is equivalent to 1.8 million words, spare me! 1.8 million?! Where to start with this lunacy?  The English printing of  War and Peace , a book often cited as "quite long", is only  561,000-587,000 words  (depending on the edition and translation). So, apparently, a video will tell you three times as much as Tolstoy could.  The King James Bible  comprises a shade over 783,000 words. Still nowhere near what a video can tell you.  And how long is this blessed video, anyway?  A popular frame rate is 25 frames per second. Purists will insist on 24, but, for ease, let's just stick to 25 frames. If a single frame is the equivalent of a picture, and a picture is (shiver) worth 1,000 words, here's the equation:  1,800,000 words / 1,000 words = 1,800 frames  1,800 frames / 25 = 72 seconds of film  So, one 72-second video is, by this reckoning, able to convey three times the complexity of  War and Peace .  That's some video. The current BBC TV adaptation of the book is running at 382 minutes. What the hell are they playing at? By marketing standards, they only need 24 seconds to tell the story. Have they added bits on?  Sigh.  Take it from me (or don't, see if I care), the numbers   do   lie.  By now, you're hopping up and down and wanting to tell me that these figures should be taken figuratively, rather than literally.  I don't think that helps matters. As mentioned, without context, standalone images can be just that. Standalone, isolated and meaningless. As for video, there are so many awful and meaningless videos out there, it beggars belief. They say nothing. Not 1,000 words' worth. Not 1.8 million words' worth.   Can an image be effective? Absolutely. So can a video. But only if the message is meaningful. Without meaning, pictures and video are both hollow. The same goes for words.  Neither pictures nor videos are inherently better than words. And trying to quantify the impact of visual content over text in such ridiculous, inflated terms makes everyone look stupid. Here, let me paint you a picture:      

  
     
    
       
        
           
                
           
        

        
         
            Only one word needed: Ass.

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Stop lying!

Seriously, what is wrong with marketing people? Do they think we're all stupid or something? Maybe we are. I dunno. Maybe we've all become so pacified that we'll accept anything they say, as long as it's said with confidence.

Take this bit of promotional blurb from a company that promotes content marketing (I won't name them; I don't wish to be cruel):

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      Digging around the internet to learn more about visual alphabets (we all have our quirks), I was drawn deep down an odd rabbit hole. Would it be possible to create a language based purely on visuals that could be understood by everyone? I wondered.  Some people might say we're well on our way. Just look at the growing use of emoji—the icons increasingly used in text and email messages. Think 'smiley face' and you've got it. There is even a semi-official (and completely sinister-sounding) organisation that governs them:  The Unicode Consortium .  The number of emoji is growing. In May of next year, the Consortium will decide which of 74 candidate emoji will be added to the official roster. Among them are 'bacon' and 'avocado'. 'Lying face' (which will presumably double for 'politician') and 'nauseated face' ('voter') shall also be considered.   Speaking of 'lying faces', did you know that  =:o]  is the emoticon (the precursor of the more graphic emoji) for 'Bill Clinton'?  Ronald Reagan is either  ,:-)  or  7:^]   This is John Lennon:  //0-0\\ , though I'm not suggesting he was a politician. Or a lying face.  How far could The Unicode Consortium take this? Could we end up with sufficient emoji to constitute a full language?  It wouldn't be the first time someone has tried. Do you remember Zlango?  Let me refresh your memory.  Zlango was an icon-based language created in the noughties by a company of the same name. The idea was to shorten mobile text messages using a visual vocabulary of 300 or so icons. The language never took hold and the company no longer exists.  However, Zlango did prove how far you could get using only icons. Here is 'Little Red Riding Hood' in Zlango:      </iframe>" data-provider-name=""      Amir Yagil, a director of Zlango, narrated a story of 'Little Red Riding Hood' with its iconic language at the MWC 2008 in Barcelona, Spain. At the time, Zlango had over 1,000,000 users in 12 countries, according to  Aving , the product news agency that filmed this video.         I wonder what that other classic bedtime story  'Go the XXXX to Sleep'  would look like in purely icon form.   —Roger—

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Digging around the internet to learn more about visual alphabets (we all have our quirks), I was drawn deep down a peculiar rabbit hole. Would it be possible to create a language based purely on visuals that could be understood by everyone?

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      One of the key advantages of using visuals to communicate is that they are quick. People can understand a visual in the blink of an eye.  Literally.  According to Bionumbers, an online database that logs this sort of thing,  a blink of a human eye lasts between 0.1 and 0.4 seconds . Or between 1/10th and 4/10ths of a second in old money. Either way, it's very short.  Research done in France shows that  humans can process a visual in 0.15 seconds . That's up to 2.5 times faster than the blink of an eye—if you're a sluggish blinker.  To process an image that quickly, people only need to see it for 0.02 seconds, according to the French study. This is supported by an MIT study in which subjects were shown images for an even shorter period of time, only  0.013 seconds .  Not so fast—We need clarity  The subjects who took part in the tests were asked what amount to a yes-no questions: "Does this image contain X?" That helps the brain tremendously. It knows what it is looking for. It can discard a huge amount of information that doesn't fit the pattern it is looking for.  That's not to suggest in any way that the studies are flawed. Certainly not.  If anything, it highlights the need for simplicity in our own communication.  Unlike the French and US test subjects, our audiences won't necessarily know what to look out for in our messages. Our visuals will have to make that clear of their own accord.  Yes, humans have an amazing capacity to process visual information. But we have to do our bit too to help them do so. We need to be explicit about what exactly the important part of our visual message is.  Clarity equals speedy comprehension.   —Roger—

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One of the key advantages of using visuals to communicate is that they are quick. People can understand a visual in the blink of an eye.

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