The Social Network

It’s not hard to imagine that a biopic of the creation of facebook – a project that isn’t even complete as its rise to world domination continues unabated – could be monumentally bad.  For a start all of the characters in the movie are real, alive and known litigation junkies.  In fact the structure of the film is built around litigation.

What’s more, it’s set in geek land, and it’s populated by America’s landed money generation; a class of kids who are not exactly imbued with likeability.  Add to that the layer of egotism of successful entrepreneurs, that has to be applied if this is going to be a true reflection of the situation.  And early on the movie dwells on a scene where the two key characters get off on the creation of an algorithm in a Harvard dorm and we’re in a place that has to be bad; does it not?

Well actually, no it doesn’t, in fact I can’t recall a biopic with such historical realism that betters this magnificent creation.

David Fincher is a director of some impact.  Fight Club and se7en, to name but two of his grisliest creations, typically hit you hard from the off and keep on hitting.  Not the sort of director you’d expect to be behind a successful exploration of coding in the Ivy League’s finest Halls of residence.  But what Fincher does is dial back the excess and zone in on a cast of young people that somehow creates a magnificent and fully fleshed ensemble whilst giving Jesse Eissenberg the star vehicle that at its core it has to be.  His portrayal of Mark Zuckenberg has to be seen to be believed.  And believe me you’ll believe it. This is direction and acting of the highest calibre.

The establishing scene of Eissenberg in a College Union bar being dumped by his lifetime love Erica Albright (played gently and beautifully by Rooney Mara) is jaw-droppingly good for three reasons; the camera work (subtle and gorgeous throughout especially the tilt shift effect later in the movie in England’s Henley), the dialogue (well what did you expect, Aaron Sorkin wrote the script) and the acting.  And that’s it.  We’re off and running for nearly two hours where the action never stops for a second and yet,; not a swear word is heard, no fights, no sex, no nudity, no special effects – so how can this be an action movie?

And yet it is, it’s hilarious (but there are no gags, no slapstick) and it makes you think from start to finish.  Because what Fincher and Sorkin have achieved is a morality tale for our time; not with the big crass in-your-faceness that Wall Street revels in, but in the intellectual ethics of Intellectual Property (IP).  Wherever you look in the movie you’re challenged to think who was right and who was wrong.

IP changes hands and evolves at a dizzying speed – one wonders whether it was it the germ of the idea or its evolution that created Facebook’s value.  Was Napster creator and serial entrepreneur Sean Parker (slyly played by Justin Trousersnake) a bandwagon-jumping opportunist or the real creator of Zuckerberg’s ultimate wealth?  Was Zuckerberg an impressionable but loveable innocent or a self-centred traitor to his only friend Eduardo Severin (also played sympathetically and at times the axis of the movie by Andrew Garfeild)? Was Severin a philanthropist or a pariah and were the Winklevosses (I lied, there are special effects in this movie) real? I particularly liked the fact that Sorkin and Fincher avoided the temptation to rip into these ridiculous stereotypes and, in so doing, gave them at least a shred of dignity by the film’s end.

Oh, did I mention the stunning soundtrack by Trent Reznor (NIN)?  Well, if I didn’t I should have because I’m going to buy the CD as soon as I’ve finished this review.

This is a very good film indeed.  It most certainly justifies a ten rating and I urge you to see it.

PS.  My pal did a show during the festival with this hilarious song in it.  I leave it for you to enjoy.

A really interesting point of view from luddite land

Thanks to a friend of mine for sending me this article.  It’s an interesting comparison of “new” and “old” media and their respective effectiveness.  The trouble is it’s written by a man with a very large chip on his shoulder.

Funny though…

I’d be interested in your views.

Digital Dream World

It’s a world in which consumers want to have relationships with brands and conversations with marketers. It exists mainly in your dreams.

Oct 19, 2010

-By Bob Hoffman

Welcome to a new world.

It’s a world in which people are eager to interact with ads. It’s a world in which consumers want to have relationships with brands and conversations with marketers. It’s a world that is causing a revolution in advertising and marketing.

Unfortunately, it’s a world that exists largely in our dreams.

Let’s start with a little background. Have you noticed that what was once called “interactive advertising” is now referred to as “display advertising?” The term interactive advertising has been quietly bundled off to its room and told to be quiet.

Advertising interactivity was the first of our pleasant little digital dreams. In this dream, people would be more engaged and interact with our ads, making the ads far more effective. The logic went like this: “Um . . . people like to interact with the medium, so, um, ya know, they’ll like to, ya know, interact with the ads, too.” The only problem is, people don’t want to interact with ads. Bastards.

Click-through rates are now hovering around one-tenth of 1 percent. That means 99.9 percent of the time people aren’t even engaged enough to move a finger. Naive clients, however, bought the fantasy of advertising interactivity lock, stock and pixel.

Slowly and quietly “interactivity” as a rationale for online display advertising was retired before it became too much of an embarrassment. These days, the sales pitch for online advertising sounds remarkably like the sales pitch for traditional print advertising.

But don’t worry. We have a new dream world. It’s a world in which consumers want to have relationships with brands and socialize with marketers online, and have conversations with us. It’s being fueled by the sensational rise in popularity of social media. However, I’m afraid this dream will turn out to be every bit as misguided as the last one.

When social media experts start talking, I get the same feeling I get when listening to political debates. My eyes glaze over, my jargon detector jumps into the red zone and I get an urge to dive through plate glass.

Pitches for social media marketing almost always start with a recitation of startling facts about social media — how Facebook has more members than there are grains of sand in the universe, how the average American spends over 28 hours per day with social media. You’ve heard the pitch.

What they don’t seem to understand is that there’s a difference between social media and social media marketing. The fact that social media has experienced phenomenal popularity is not prima facie evidence of the magical powers of social media marketing.

The new logic goes like this: “Um . . . people like to interact with each other so, um, ya know, they’ll like to, ya know, interact with us, too.”

From what I can tell, there are two things consumers are enthusiastic about when it comes to online social behavior: Connecting with each other and getting something for nothing from us.

I can’t prove it, but I’ll bet you $10 that the primary reason people become “friends” or “followers” of brands on Facebook and Twitter is not to have a conversation with the marketer, but to get a discount, a special offer, a deal, or some other form of insider information or advantage. It’s the same reason they join a frequent flier plan. They don’t want a relationship with a baggage handler; they want a free flight to Hawaii.

Yes, I know there are examples of brands that have been successful with “conversational” social media strategies. We always hear about them. We never hear about the thousands of failures.

Yes, I also know there are people who are unaccountably fond of a particular brand of mayonnaise and want to have a conversation with the marketer about it. But let’s be honest here. These people are weird. Most days, your sensible consumer doesn’t have the time, patience, or inclination to have a conversation with her husband. Why in the world would she want to have a conversation with us?

Having a social media marketing strategy is a good thing. But if your strategy is contingent on the idea that consumers want to have a conversation with you, create a relationship with your company and engage with your brand, you may be living in a dream world.

If you want to avoid the digital dream world, build your strategy on a foundation of reality. Give people an interesting way to connect with each other, and then give them something for nothing.

It’s not all that complicated. But just like the last time around, the lesson the ad industry is resolutely committed to not learning is that in the digital world people are passionate about interacting with each other. Not ads. Not brands. Not you. Not me.

Bob Hoffman is CEO of Hoffman/Lewis. He can be reached at

It’s been a summer of research


Hmmm. This looks like fun. Not!

More and more I’m called on to moderate research groups, so far this summer I’ve conducted a project for a major Scottish charity, a leading UK wide pensions provider, a housebuilder and tonight I’m researching a leading FMCG brand.


I love doing focus groups.  Sure, many people say they are dead and new technology is consigning them to the dustbin of research history, but the truth is you can’t beat getting a bunch of well recruited people into a room and just talk about stuff.

Funnily enough, if you can keep them engaged and inject a bit of humour to relax them you’ll get a great result every time.

All summer I’ve had people thank me for making their evenings so enjoyable.

And that pleases me (and my clients.)

Since I wrote this I’ve got two more research projects in the pending file.  Mad,  likes.