All posts by Andy Cowles

Would you buy a magazine from this man?

vendor-week-big-issueIn the world of publishing, the Big Issue has a unique business model, as it’s the transaction with the vendor that delivers so much of the value to the customer. This creates real tension throughout the sales process; are you paying for the journalism, or are you supporting a homeless person trying to make a go of something for themselves?

This week I found out for myself, as I took part in #vendorweek, celebrating the people who sell 112 different street papers throughout the world. Along with a bunch of editors, supporters and ‘personalities’ I had agreed  to don an official Big Issue vest and see how many copies I could shift in London’s Covent Garden.

But soon, standing alone outside Pandora I realised that the Big Issue tabbard appeared to have made me invisible. Not only that,  but the thing I was really selling here was myself, and my perceived plight.

All told, I sold two copies. The first was to a chap who just wanted to donate me a pound, but not take the magazine. I literally had to run back up the street to get him to take it back; ‘Nah, mate, I can’t take your quid if you can’t take the magazine’. At which point he relented and bought an issue. Fair enough.

By this point, I was getting no-where just asking folk to ‘buy the Big Issue’, so I had started to quote the cover story, a somewhat high concept piece about Sir Ian McKellen interviewed by Shakespeare, apparently.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’ begins the feature. This became my fairground barker schtick, the claim of a world first, a journalistic exclusive, and that it was all inside THIS, the very latest Big Issue.

But as before, blank indifference, perhaps a wry smile, that was it.

The indefatigable Paul McNamee is the editor of the Big Issue. He’s rightly won a sackful of honours and currently holds the PPA Cover Of The Year Award noted on this blog earlier. But if ever I wished for a different cover splash, this was it.  ’Bloody Shakespeare, why can’t this be a Wogan cover’ I muttered, even though the issue had gone to press before he died.

Then, just as I was finishing my hour, a chap came from out of my eyeline and bought an issue. I hadn’t seen him before, he must have heard my pitch and come back.

At which point I experienced a true sense of accomplishment. Moreover, this man gave me the idea that I’d been seen, and accepted for who I was, or at least pretending to be.

All told, I’d made £2.50 profit for the Big Issue. But this last exchange was worth more than that to me, it gave me confidence that I could do this, that if needed, I could keep on going.

Thanks mate, much appreciated…

Five good links

Five-must-reads11From the FT, Adland’s continuing existential crisis, along with good observations as to how brands grow.

Twitter’s troubles, by Emily Bell along with a deeper dive from The Atlantic.

Story of the year; facebook’s interest in AI is going to become our reality. Posts from The Mail and The Guardian.

DC Thomson’s Jacqueline Wilson magazine goes Dyslexia friendly. A brilliant use of a really smart typography.

Dave Trott on the trouble with ‘content’.

Getting inside the closed world of professional comedy

Produced by me and directed by the talented Billy Boyd Cape, this new film tells the story of photographer Steve Best and the completely unique f.stop.funny project. Steve’s many years on the comedy circuit has allowed him to build real trust with some of the funniest people on earth: ‘Comedians are very suspicious, it’s hard to get that friendship if you’re not a stand-up’. These relationships have allowed him to take hundreds of intimate, documentary images that no-one else could ever get.

See more

Small, but perfectly formed

Facebook_Reactions3x2Here are the crisp new emoticons facebook is planning on us all using anytime soon. Will they give a better user experience? Maybe.

Will facebook aggressively sell the ‘nuanced responses’ to brand content that these emoticons might generate? Certainly.

facebook-emoticonsHere’s Mr Zuckerberg himself explaining how they work, using what the new pressure sensitive iPhone UI. This is a game changer in itself. Once the device in our hands starts responding to a nuanced range of physical gestures, it’s ability to express our feelings is significantly improved.

This is hardly AI, but it sure shows which way the river is running.

You lookin’ at me?

ed-walker-tube-girlTaking pictures of strangers in public places without their permission requires some nerve. Photographer Ed Walker clearly has plenty of that, as he’s taken loads of pictures in this very way.

There’s an extraordinary quality to his images. Because the sitter is given no notice that they are to be photographed, the look Ed gets is unlike any with-permission portrait.  But nor are they reportage, as the eye contact creates a sensation far stronger than just a documentary image.

ed-walker-tube-manWithout model releases of course, the commercial potential for this approach is zero. This is Art, with a capital A.

Which is why I was so pleased to be able to use some of Eds’ pictures to illustrate a presentation I’m giving next week; What’s Next For Banks. The images have the same feeling, but as all the subjects are looking at their phones, none are recognisable. See more

Rock n’ roll meets corporate finance

What's-next-for-banksAlong with my colleagues Andy Pemberton and James Lumley, I’m presenting at this top-notch event next week. Our agency Furthr has teamed up with White Light Media to challenge your expectations with a provocative line-up of speakers with backgrounds in business investment, disruptive thinking, brand development… and rock music.

It’s an invitation-only, free event for senior comms and marketing professionals in the banking sector from 4-6pm on Thursday 24 September at the 71A gallery and bar in Shoreditch, London. If you want to come, drop me a line! See more