*** No plot spoilers*** Where do you start when talking about the most hyped film of the year?
Blade Runner 2049 starts up some 20 years after the original film. It captures the visuals of the original film, moving it onwards. The plot has a series of recursive sweeps that tightly knit both films together which at times feels a little forced, a bit like the devices used to join Jeremy Renner’s Bourne Legacy to the Matt Damon canon.
The 1982 film took the neon, rain and high density living of Hong Kong in the late summer and packaged it up for a western audience. Ever since I first saw it represented a darker, but more colourful future. I felt inspired, ready to embrace the future warts and all after seeing it for the first time.
The new film is a darker greyer vision largely devoid of hope. You still see the Pan Am and Atari buildings of the first film, now joined with brands like Diageo. The police cars are now made by Peugeot. It also captures the visual language of the book, something that Scott hadn’t done in the original to the same extent. In the book, Dick (and the Dekkard character) obsess on how the depopulated world’s crumbling ephemera is rapidly becoming dust.
Visually the film dials down its influences from Hong Kong, Tokyo or Singapore and instead borrows from the crumbling industrial relics of the west and third world scrap driven scavenging from e-waste in China and Ghana to the ship breaking yards of Bangladesh. The filthy smog and snow is like a lurid tabloid exposé of northern China’s choking pollution during the winter. It paints a vision more in tune with today. Automation and technology have disrupted society, but orphans are still exploited for unskilled labour and vice is rampant.
Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford do very capable performances. And they are supported by a great ensemble of cast members of great character actors at the top of their game. Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Barkhad Abdi (Eye in The Sky) and David Dastmalchian (MacGyver, Antman, and The Dark Knight). The one let down is Jared Leto – who now seems to play the same character in every film since his career high point of Dallas Buyer’s Club – I suspect that this is as much a problem with casting as performance. I think he needs to be cast against type more.
For a three-hour film it still manages to hold your attention and draw you in to its universe without feeling tired. It’s also a film that forces you to think, so if you are looking for visual wallpaper for the mind a la Marvel’s Avengers series of films it won’t be for you.
Scott Galloway talks about the way brands are using AI (machine learning) and the examples are very much in the background so that the impact on the customer experience won’t be apparent. In many respects this is similar to how fuzzy logic became invisible as it was introduced in the late 1980s.
The Japanese were particularly adept at putting an obscure form of mathematics to use. They made lifts that adapted to the traffic flows of people going in and out of a building and microwaves which knew how long to defrost whatever you put into it. Fuzzy logic compensated for blur in video camera movement in a similar manner to way smartphone manufacturers now use neural networks on images.
The Japanese promoted fuzzy logic inside products to the home market, but generally backed off from promoting it abroad. The features just were and consumers accepted them over time. In a quote that is now eerily reminiscent of our time a spokesperson for the American Electronics Association’s Tokyo office said to the Washington Post
“Some of the fuzzy concepts may be valid in the U.S.,”
“The idea of better energy efficiency, or more precise heating and cooling, can be successful in the American market,”
“But I don’t think most Americans want a vacuum cleaner that talks to you and says, ‘Hey, I sense that my dust bag will be full before we finish this room.’ “
A couple of years ago I did a presentation on connection planning and much of that thinking still has value. But some of the tenets of connection planning are now challenged by changes in marketing practice and strategy in the business to consumer space.
The focus on user engagement has been affected by three things:
Social platforms have been moving their business model and interactions towards traditional brand advertising models. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are structuring their algorithms and advertising closer towards the reach and repetition model of traditional broadcast advertising. TV advertising dollars are what social platforms are chasing, rather than going after Google
Consumer brands, particularly from publicly listed mature players are facing business pressures from the threat of private equity ownership that would look to sweat the assets at the expense of longer term brand performance. No one is immune to this, not even Nestle that was thought to be protected due to Swiss regulations. This has led to a resurgence zero-based budgeting that is locked in focus on return on investment over a shorter time period. From a communications planning perspective there are no sacred cows, no guaranteed longer campaign story arcs or brand engagements as spend has to be justified from a clean slate each year
Most marketing spend tends to be around existing products, often in mature markets. New products run a high risk of failure. New products in new categories are generally the province of start-up graveyards – we remember the few successes rather than the legion of failures. Marketing thinking for mature brands in mature sectors (so most FMCG categories and established brands). This change has been driven by research financed by FMCG companies including Coca-Cola, Mars, Kraft and Kelloggs at the Ehrensberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science. Ehrensberg-Bass’ Byron Sharp book ‘How brands grow‘ is the talisman for these marketers and their agency side media planners
The shorter focus of consumer marketers makes it much harder to build a brand culture that sticks like Red Bull has managed to do. Flow of storytelling becomes less important than reach and stream of repetition.