Pop Culture: Drainspotting

Drainspotting: A Book About Japan’s Manhole Cover Subculture
Kenji Summers points to Drainspotting – a photography book of Japan’s custom manhole covers, found across nearly 95% of the country’s 1780 municipalities.The book features a curated selection of over 100 photographs, capturing the best and most visually compelling of Japan’s 6000 distinct manhole cover designs, part of a 20-year beautification program — orchestrated by what’s essentially Japan’s version of the WPA — aiming to make manholes reflect the uniqueness of each city — its mythology, its aesthetic sensibility, its legacy and essence.

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Twitter now for Teenagers! (And your Dog…)

As you can see from the chart below (and if you give a sh-t), more than 30% of Twitter’s visitors were under 25 up from about 20% of its visitors at the end of 2008; thank you in part to celebrity adoption and the mainstream media mentioning Twitter over 20,ooo times last year on television (can’t find the source). Twitter has also extended its global reach expanding in Indonesia, Japan, Mexico
Kids Don’t Hate Twitter Anymore! [Chart] (pamorama.net)
Is Twitter getting younger? (liesdamnedliesstatistics.com)
Mattel’s Puppy Tweets collar ($30) is equipped with a motion and sound sensor to help it somehow select which of the 500 pre-recorded Tweets best describes what your dog is doing. It then beams the Tweet wirelessly to a USB receiver, which in turn updates the Twitter account you’ve set up. Christ.

Puppy Tweets: Tweeting Dog Collar Lets Your Dog Share On Twitter (huffingtonpost.com)
Rover’s woofs now limited to 140 characters (news.cnet.com)
Mattel to Launch Puppy Tweets at Toy Fair (shoppingblog.com)
Tweeting Dog Collar Posts Your Dog’s Movements to Twitter (mashable.com)
Puppy Tweets will turn your Pooper into a world-class twitterer (engadget.com)
New device will let your dog Tweet (timesunion.com)
Puppy Tweets For Your Beloved Puppy (ubergizmo.com)

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Virtue v Vice

It seems my old mate Spencer Baim is kickin’ ass down at Virtue (the company he founded with Vice Magazine). The idea was to create a company that would add credible Vice-like mojo to brands and activate through Vice’s various media and experience channels. I just came across this article about “How Vice, and Virtue, Are Helping to Sell Brands” – seems they have picked up an AoR assignment …!
“Starting in January 2010, Virtue will serve as the agency of record for Palladium’s global creative and media accounts as the boot expands its relaunch campaign into countries like the U.K., Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Japan, the Phillippines and Taiwan in the coming months, all markets where Vice has a presence.”

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Automotive: Kerri Martin and Coda, OCC and Siemens, Honda Eco Grand Prix, Mustang 2010

Kerri Martin, once a high-profile marketer who did stints at BMW Mini and Volkswagen, will join electric-car maker Coda Automotive next week as its first chief marketing officer. Industry observers will be watching Ms. Martin, 39, to see whether she can make marketing lightning strike again. She and Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, Miami, created non-traditional blitz for the U.S. launch of the Mini small car in 2002 that was unique for the auto category, received rave reviews from industry pundits and created the concept of “motoring” for the brand. This time Ms. Martin will be working on the launch of the Coda sedan, the Santa Monica, Calif., company’s first car, next year.
Siemens has paired up with Orange County Choppers, the custom bike building outfit of TV fame, to build a one-off electric chopper. The “Smart Chopper” showcases Siemens technology, boasting a 60-mile range and a 100 mph top speed compliments of a 27-hp electric motor. Charging time is anywhere between 1 and 5 hours depending on the voltage available. In addition to leveraging Siemens electric technology, the bike also features LED lights compliments of Sylvania, a Siemens subsidiary. The bike has OCC’s characteristic flair, the least of which is a rear tire that wouldn’t look out of place on a car. The Smart Chopper will be making its way around the country for the balance of 2009 and is slated for auction in 2010.
Unveiling of Siemens first electric green chopper, made with Ora
Honda Formula E is an advergame launched in Japan to teach people how to drive with an eco-friendly attitude. In the game you don’t have to use the steering-wheel, but just the brake and accelerator to find the ideal speed to drive in the city, saving gasoline, and therefore saving the planet.
Firstborn are attempting to build a community around the (probably poor-handling, low miles-per-gallon) Ford Mustang 2010. Presenting a very powerful car-configuration tool, you can customize a template Ford Mustang the way you want or even customizing collaborating in real time with some people, in the end it’s about “experiencing” the car and also sharing it to the gallery (almost 2k submissions in a week) or, the main purpose for sport cars fans, downloading the image to use it as a wallpaper.
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Inspiration: Cool Japanese Tin Toys

Cool tin cars from Japan. This selection from the Tanaka collection features 70 cars, airplanes, buses, spaceships, speedboats, and helicopters that provide a fascinating overview of the postwar Japanese tin-toy industry—a symbol of Japan’s startlingly rapid postwar rebirth—and of the Golden Age of automobile styling in the United States.
jap cars
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Vuitton and Murakami QR Codes

I have seen a lot of coverage of the new Louis Vuitton x Takashi Murakami: Designer QR Codes. Sartorially-challenged savant Piers Fawkes opines: “QR Codes are the bar codes of the future, linking online and physical graphics to websites and multi-media. For the most part, the codes have still maintained an abstract look akin to their predecessors. A recently released designer QR symbol, produced by Tokyo based creative agency SET is looking to change all that with a stylized remake of the standard code. Mixing design with technological innovation, SET teamed up Takashi Murakami with Louis Vuitton to create a distinctive code featuring one of the artist’s characters and the classic LV pattern. The agency hopes this will add much needed style and character to the bland world of machine readable codes.”

louis vuitton qr code

Josh Spear adds: “How many of you know what to do with the image to the left? Hopefully most of you. Aside from identifying it as Murakami work, it’s a QR code for your mobile phone. QR (quick response) codes are like the Japanese version of bar codes, because they started in Japan. The code is scanned into your mobile phone via the camera and outputs a link. Think of it as a way to add hyperlinks in the real world. Normally, these QR codes look like deformed boxy versions of bar codes. But as soon as Murakami touches one we are all gaga. It’s amazing what a little Louis Vuitton pattern and color can do to a QR.”

My humble opinion? I am fascinated and excited by the opportunties offered by QR codes … as a connections strategist I am always thinking of ways to engineer links between the digital and offlien world and help people get to the next phase of their consumer journey…

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Asia: Couplelook, Maple Story

Couplelook: Dressing the Same in Seoul Evidently there is a trend among young South Korean couples and honeymooners known as “Couplelook.” Essentially, couples match their clothing together. Originally, it was full on matching of outfits, but recently, the trend has evolved into more subtle details, such as matching watches, glasses, or sneakers. The most common manifestation are matching t-shirts. Some high end brands are even offering special Couplelook outfits and there are even a few stores that specialize in the look.


Woman arrested for killing virtual husband in Maple Story A Japanese piano teacher has been arrested for the murder of her virtual husband after an abrupt but messy online divorce. The 43-year-old from Kyushu province in southern Japan faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail if she is found guilty of killing off her digital partner. She is accused of hacking into the profile of a 33-year-old office worker from Sapporo 620 miles away, whose avatar on the Maple Story computer game was married to her character until he unexpectedly demanded a divorce. The spurned make-believe wife was so angry at being jilted that she logged into the game using her partner’s password and destroyed the character that he had spent a year creating. She was arrested at home in Miyazaki yesterday on suspicion of illegal access on a computer and manipulating electronic data, according to police in Sapporo where she is being detained. The woman has not been formally charged. If convicted she could be jailed or fined up to £3,100.


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Internet Cities, Double Deckers in Japan, Art Ships, Publicis Chokes

  • “I propose that the Internet is the truest sense of the modern-day city. There are dense populations, a social infrastructure, complex architecture, rules, and culture. I will suggest that there is transportation as well as residences. Drawing mainly on the ideas of Jane Jacobs I will present the Internet as a modern day city that is governed under what I define as “Democratic Anarchy.”
  • digital city

  • The double-decker Routemaster bus, a phased-out London icon, is gaining a second life in a Japanese city that believes the red road giant fits right in. Families and tourists snapped pictures as they queued up at a bus stop to hop onto a double-decker, which has been running on weekends since April in Shimonoseki, on the southern tip of Japan’s biggest island of Honshu. As a summer breeze wafted along the seafront, passengers waved to people on the streets below from the second level of the Routemaster, which stood out conspicuously in the city’s fleet of non-descript buses. “The scenery of this town is totally different when I see it from the second floor,” said Mayumi Nakamura, a 33-year-old housewife. “I hope the London bus will be a new symbol of Shimonoseki.”
  • Street artist Swoon has undertaken an ambitious art project named the Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea. Swoon and a motley crew of contributors have built a fleet of seven art boats that will journey down the Hudson river from Troy, New York, to Long Island City, Queens. Part floating city, part sculpture and part performance, the Switchback team will make stops at cities along the way, performing plays and music for locals. The ships will dock in Long Island City on September 7th for a run of shows until September 13th. The boats were constructed primarily out of found materials from junk yards and construction sites.
  • It isn’t called the “Insight Factory” anymore, but the integrated-agency model Publicis Groupe announced in November is reshaping the way the holding company handles some of its largest clients. Designed to foster greater cooperation between sibling agencies in different disciplines, the group has begun awarding ownership of some of its major accounts to individual shops. Nintendo, which uses Leo Burnett for creative, Starcom for media, Arc for promotional work and Digitas for digital, is now led exclusively by Starcom, with staffers at the other shops reporting directly to a Starcom lead. Kellogg, on the other hand, is now a Burnett-led business.

Links for 2008-03-03: Japanese Men Prefer Trains, Consumers Cut Back, Neanderthals Ate Each Other, Kraft Webisodes, Social Media