October has been amazing month of cinema releases for me. The last I am going to write about is Chasing The Dragon. Hong Kong cinema is considered to be in its death throws. There are small independent films of course, but its far from its hey day with production houses known around the world like Shaw Brothers, Golden Harvest or Media Asia.
Mainland productions have the money and many technical experts and directors now work across the border. Korea has come on in leaps and bounds taking up the overseas arthouse audience.
There aren’t many new stars coming through, even in Chasing the Dragon; character actors and main stars are largely industry veterans since the 1990s. However, Chasing the Dragon gives me some hope for the Hong Kong film. Its an unashamedly Hong Kong film focusing on the economic boom of the 1960s and mid-1970s. It is a technical tour-de-force. Much of the Hong Kong shown in the film from old Wan Chai to the Kowloon walled city only exist in fading photographs. So much of it was green screened in instead.
It is probably too local for a mainland audience to fully appreciate the nuances and historical references. It shows a Hong Kong on the ascendancy, rather than suffering under a century of shame. It also holds up an unflinching view of British colonialism with its rampant individual corruption.
A modern British audience would have very little idea of how serving British police officers at all levels and government officials were central cogs in the corruption. Eventually the stench got to much when chief superintendent Peter Godber was found to have over $600,000 US stashed away.
Andy Lau plays ‘Lee Rock’ a clear analogue of Lui Mo Lok (呂慕樂) a corrupt policeman known as the The Five-Hundred-Million-Dollar Inspector by Hong Kong people. In some respects one can view Chasing The Dragon as a reboot of the 1991 film Lee Rock II where Lau played the same character through the same time period. Chasing the Dragon adds verve, detail and taunt storytelling to the mix.
The film is being shown at the Odeon in Panton Street.
In terms of the news agenda, the iPhone launch dominated the news. I wrote about it here and here. This image from the Chinese internet summed everything about the launch up for me.
We’re in a place of innovation stuckness at the moment – we’re celebrating incremental improvements in user experiences on smartphones as transformational, they aren’t. This is a category challenge, not a vendor-specific one. Even infrastructure and component vendor Qualcomm is struggling to envision ways to move things on.
I have been mostly listening to this playlist from this years Love International Festival
Japanese group meforyouforme combining traditional Japanese culture and dance with modern tap dancing FTW
Hong Kong stars Donnie Yen and Andy Lau go back to the 1970s with Chasing the Dragon – a thriller based on real characters involved in drug smuggling and organised crime in the turbulent go-go economic boom of Hong Kong – Lee Rock (Lui Lok) was a corrupt policeman nicknamed 500 million dollar Inspector, who avoided corruption charges by moving to Canada and then Hong Kong. Crippled (or Limpy) Ho was a triad called Ng Sek-ho who rivalled the 14K triad group. It is against the backdrop of the post-1967 riots economic boom which saw Hong Kong blow up in manufacturing and financial services. This brought rich pickings in corruption which led to the formation of the ICAC – the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
I have grown tired of a ridiculous statistic being used so frequently that it becomes marketing truth. It’s regurgitated in articles, blog posts, social media and presentations. The problem with it is that affects the way marketers view the world and conduct both planning and strategy. The picture below is a goldfish, his name is Diego. If you’ve managed to read this you aren’t Diego.
I realise that sounds a little dramatic, but check out this piece by Mark Jackson, who leads the Hong Kong and Shenzhen offices of Racepoint Global. It’s a good piece on the different elements that represent a good story (predominantly within a PR setting). And it is right that attention in a fragmented media eco-system will be contested more fiercely. But it starts with:
Over the course of the last 20 years, the average attention span has fallen to around eight seconds; a goldfish has an attention span of nine! The challenge for companies – established and new – is to figure out how to get even a small slice of that attention span when so many other companies are competing for it.
Mark’s piece is just the latest of a long line of marketing ‘thought leadership’ pieces that repeat this as gospel. The problem is this ‘truth’ is bollocks.
It fails the common sense test. Given that binge watching of shows like Game of Thrones or sports matches is commonplace, book sales are still happening, they would have to be balanced out with millisecond experiences for this 8-second value to make any sense as an average. The goldfish claim is like something out of a vintage Brass Eye episode.
To quote DJ Neil ‘Doctor’ Fox:
Now that is a scientific fact! There’s no real evidence for it; but it is scientific fact
Let’s say your common sense gets the better of your desire for a pithy soundbite and you decide to delve into the goldfish claim a bit deeper. If one took a little bit of time to Google around it would become apparent that the goldfish ‘fact’ is dubious. It originally came from research commissioned by Microsoft’s Advertising arm ‘How does digital affect Canadian attention spans?‘. The original link to the research now defaults to the home page of Microsoft Advertising. Once you start digging into it, the goldfish wasn’t actually part of the research, but was supporting desk research and thats when its provenance gets murky.
PolicyViz in a 2016 blog post The Attention Span Statistic Fallacy called it out and provided links to the research that they did into the the goldfish ‘fact’ in 2016 – go over and check their article out. The BBC did similar detective work a year later and even went and asked an expert:
“I don’t think that’s true at all,” says Dr Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at the Open University.
“Simply because I don’t think that that’s something that psychologists or people interested in attention would try and measure and quantify in that way.”
She studies attention in drivers and witnesses to crime and says the idea of an “average attention span” is pretty meaningless. “It’s very much task-dependent. How much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is.”
There are some studies out there that look at specific tasks, like listening to a lecture.
But the idea that there’s a typical length of time for which people can pay attention to even that one task has also been debunked.
“How we apply our attention to different tasks depends very much about what the individual brings to that situation,” explains Dr Briggs.
“We’ve got a wealth of information in our heads about what normally happens in given situations, what we can expect. And those expectations and our experience directly mould what we see and how we process information in any given time.”
But don’t feel too bad, publications like Time and the Daily Telegraph were punked by this story back in 2015. The BBC use the ‘fact’ back in 2002, but don’t cite the source. Fake news doesn’t just win elections, it also makes a fool of marketers.
This whole thing feels like some marketer (or PR) did as poor a job as many journalists in terms of sourcing claims and this ‘truth’ gradually became reinforcing. Let’s start taking the goldfish out of marketing.
I’d read Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works over lunar new year. Studwell dealt directly with there reasons for East Asia’s economic growth and Southeast Asia’s failing to follow them.
Studwell attached this same subject through through a different lens. In Asian Godfathers, he tells the story through Asia’s business tycoons; from the taipans of Hong Kong to Stanley Ho – the Macau gambling tycoon.
Cosmopolitan privileged people who where in the right place at the right time. Some of them had colourful origin stories as black marketers selling fake medicines and blockade runners. But they are just a side show in a wider panorama of political greed and incompetence. Asian Godfathers is more like Hotel Babylon than an economics analysis like How Asia Works, yet it delivers its message forcefully.
The End of Employees – WSJ – temp agencies, zero-hour contracts, outsourcing, asset-light businesses, focusing on core competences etc etc all driven by revenue per employee metrics. You can thank McKinsey & Company for the ‘thought leadership’ that brought on this sorry state
Is This the World’s Most Expensive Strawberry? | Time.com – interesting how the largely ex-pat Hong Kong Mums group kicked this story off. Gift giving is very important in Asia, is this any more offensive than Cadbury Christmas selection boxes, foil laminate packaging like Capri Sun or brittle plastic blister packs
Tucows – AVC – interesting how they morphing into an alternative telco infrastructure company