Faris Yakob: Genius Steals, Age of Outrage, Paid Attention, the Great Blurring and predictions for 2017. Today on Uprising Scott Goodson interviews the globally renowned strategist Faris Yakob, author of Paid Attention and co-founder of Genius Steals, an itinerant strategy and innovation firm. For more ideas on Uprising and movements, cultural movements and movement marketing, follow Uprising!!! on Facebook. We’ll continue to publish brand-new columns on a regular basis. Hey, do us a favor and please give Uprising!!! a review on iTunes. Scott Goodson is the author of best-selling book ‘Uprising: how to build a brand and change the world by sparking cultural movements,’ available on Amazon.com. Scott has helped create and build some of the world’s most iconic brands. He is founder of StrawberryFrog the world’s first movement marketing agency.
Uprising Interview transcript
Faris: The language of stealing, often people say that’s dishonest. And well no, copying is dishonest. Stealing is not, in our terms. In other words using this reference sets. Because copying inherently attempts to disguise the debt it owes to where it get inspiration from. Stealing does not. Stealing inherently refers to something. It builds on the reference. It incorporates the illusion. And so do you get caught? Hopefully yes. Part of the point is working from existing material is to achieve something of a higher order more rapidly.
Welcome to Uprising. Each episode takes a look inside what it takes to lead the most dynamic and successful cultural movements. Some of them in the business world, some in the social realm. Some in politics, and some in between. To see why people start uprisings. What gives those initiatives momentum and keeps them going? And most important, what lessons can you learn from these movements and how to apply them to your business and even personal life? Let’s explore the secret to sparking movements that move people into action.
M: Passionate ideas.
W: Controversial ideas.
M: Uprising ideas.
W: The power is now in the hands of anyone.
M: To start a cultural movement, your movement–
B: To move the world.
Faris: Alright, we’re live! We’re live.
Scott: Exactly. We’re live from New York in Nashville.
Faris: Live from New York in Nashville, it’s Tuesday afternoon! Hi Scott, how are you? I’m Faris and I am the cofounder with my wife and business partner of an itinerant strategy and innovation consultancy called Genius Steals. And I’m the author of a book called Paid Attention and so we, using some of the thinking that we developed in the book traveled the world looking for interesting companies to partner with. We worked with brands and agencies and startups primarily. We’ve worked with a lot of agencies of different flavors as a consultant or as a partner on pitches and projects and we work on marketing clients and brands looking at how they structure their agency relationships, looking at how to best to work with agencies and looking at what they need, certain kinds of agencies, as well. Or helping them build in house resources and that kind of stuff.
Scott: So I mean, just a basic question. If you actually steal and you get caught, are you still a genius or is that–
Faris: So the cosmology of Genius Steals is predicated on earlier flirtations attributed to Picasso: if you can’t imitate a genius, steal. It’s’ been kind of part of our core creative etho for my entire career at least since i first discovered the real quotation which is not Picasso nor Oscar Wilde nor any of those characters, actually. There’s no quotation like that. They’re all flirtations, as I call them. The closest thing is a reference that Eliot wrote and it leads to some criticism. T.S. Eliot, the poet, when he said that immature poets imitate and mature poets steal.
Scott: There you go.
Faris: The honesty element, a theft in this aspect, and partially, you know, when you’re stealing in literature, part of what you’re doing is creating allusion, reference. Intertextuality. You’re making content more interesting to people who understand the larger set of references you’re utilizing.
Scott: That’s fascinating. So you actually go around the world teaching people to steal ideas? Or is that just a metaphor for another way of thinking?
Faris: No, we do go out doing that, actually. But when we talk about stealing ideas, we mean don’t start from a blank page. And what I mean by that is, you know, famously Hemingway said the scariest thing about being a writer is that blank white page. His white bull, he called it. it’s a terrifying thing. nd particularly in advertising we have sort of been sold this myth of originality. And originality is a nonsense term. The idea that things could be generated just magically from nowhere is just stupidity of the highest order, frankly. THe idea that one could have an idea so original that’s not predicated on the reinvestment of any idea you put into your head is childish and naive. So yes, we do go around teaching specific methodologies of how to steal ideas but what we mean is what references are you going to look at? Cause all creative people are constantly scouring for references for inspiration, right? WHat we do is help formalize that process and say everybody is creative, and the way to be creative is to make new combinations. Not just to steal one thing and then copy it and apply it to your problem, to steal the best of that which has gone before and recombine it into a unique but not original solution to specific problems.
Scott: That’s fascinating. So in fact it’s kind of we believe that stealing speaks louder than a blank page.
Faris: Absolutely. If we want to learn and evolve as an industry both digitally advertising or business-wise, we should be always basing our ideas on the best and most robust thinking that drives efficacy. If we just started from scratch every time, in other words, with media firsts, the we are being utterly self-involved to some degree, you know? Why would we try to have ideas from scratch when there’s a body of evidence that says these sort of things seem to work better?
Scott: So most people who like yourself, and not everyone is someone like you ‘cause you are definitely unique. They come from an unconventional place. They’re not ducks. They don’t come waddling off the assembly line. They certainly have something that has inspired their creative thinking and I’m interested as a person, what happened in your past to explain where you are today?
Faris: SO I think some of the thought there is already built in, right? Uncommon thinking tends to come from uncommon experience. I think that what seems obvious and tautological is really not because we don’t provide opportunities for uncommon experience in the modern business world. SO let me tell you what I mean. When I left university without a clear direction I ended up working for, imagine a consultancy, because that’s one of the three industries that would approach us most aggressively when I was at school. Banking, law, and consultancy were constantly courting us when I was at university. So I became a consultant for a bit. Was part of, very briefly, a sort of very successful consultancy that invested a portfolio of startups that then was decimated by the explosion, the crash in ‘01. Because of that, I sort of had to rebuild what I thought I was going to do from scratch. So I went to work for a record label for a while. I became a journalist at Maxim magazine. I say journalist, person who writes at Maxim magazine, some kind of magazine journalist perhaps. I don’t want to get into the news fight there, it’s not really reportage. And it was only after doing that for a year or two that I ended up looking for a sort of more structured position, I guess. I found those environments academically and intellectually unsatisfying so I thought well, what can I do that’s sort of more structured in terms of learning? And that’s how I got into the industry which was through actually media planning. So I applied to a graduate’s team because I wanted some structured learning about how an industry operates that was based on more than just gut feel, which i swhat music and journalism is entirely based on, or was 15-20 years ago when I was doing it. And so from media planning there I got to naked, but I guess from Naked everything gets a bit blurry. But I think to me one of the things that I noticed is that part of what we talk to clients about a lot is understanding the whole industry in its breadth and how it interoperates in different pieces, right? There is, it occurs to me, a significant lineality to how we recruit and hire people within industries, right? So people that work in creative agencies often tend to only have worked in creative agencies, and people that work in media agencies have only worked in media agencies and vice versa. Whereas I’ve worked in media and creative, I’ve been an account planner, brand strategist and a digital strategist and a comms planner and a creative director on two occasions. And I think if you want diversity of thinking it helps to have a diversity of input in your experience set rather than hiring somebody to work on this car brand from a direct marketing agency because you’ve got a brief for a car brand or a direct marketing agency.
Scott: So your background kind of got you into this thinking that staring at a blank page was an opportunity for you because a lot of people need help in figuring that out? THere’s actually an interesting podcast that’s done by Malcolm Gladwell. HE did one about the idea that genius takes time. And he was talking about all these great idea people who really were doing incremental improvements over like 25 years. Like Cezanne, who would take 150 sittings and portraitures versus you know, Picasso that would do it in three seconds. Or he looked at Leonard Cohen who took literally 18 years to write Hallelujah to what it became, sort of a jewel of a song. Versus Elvis COstello who literally sat down and wrote a song in fifteen seconds, you know? Some people have it, you know. The ability to sort of see a blank page and see the world in that page and others don’t.
Faris: Yeah. I think that’s what we tend to call creative people, right? It’s people f0r whom the facility of combination is far easier for them. Their brain sort of naturally matches things together and often, in fact almost exclusively, the way our brain works is kept opaque from us. So when we have ideas, the reason the metaphors of creativity are all around birth and appearing out of nowhere like Athena fully formed in the mind of Zeus is it’s a model for creativity. It’s a metaphor for how the idea feels. But your brain is simply finding it. From the point of view of your brain, when you do scans about this,a new idea that you think you’re having is two old ideas firing at the same time.
Faris: So people whose brains are faster at that more naturally, we tend to call creative. But it’s a facility everybody has. It’s just sometimes it needs drawing out, you know?
Scott: Creativity is interesting because there is on the one hand almost somewhat of a defect in the brain to be creative. I read this article once that there’s a lot of similarities between insane people and people who are creative. Actually more common than not. And the same time the other thing I think is interesting is the content. So take a creative person and put them into a specific environment and their creativity is expressed in different ways. So in the 1500s in Holland when Rembrandt was there, he painted portraits of what looks like photographs because wealthy people wanted to be expressed and people needed to understand that they were wealthy. but then fast forward to the 1930s and 40s and you get Picasso and he paints people from the inside out. And he’s seen as sort of a genius. And yet both painters, living in different contexts, both creative.
Faris: A hundred percent. So let’s look at those two things in order. THe first thing I think is yes, is it a defect? It’s a spectrum. i have a little model of creativity and hit has boxes in it and a little center target in it in my book and if you imagine the sort of brief or the problem or the task at the very center, whenever you start thinking about something, the most obvious connections your brains make are the most hardwired connections. Those connections tend to be culturally determined. Which is to say when you say the word coffee to a creative person, their mind will initially flash to the most obvious things around coffee that everybody things. It’s black or it’s white with sugar and cream. It’s stimulating, it’s inspiring. And all those associations are the most obvious associations. Everybody has them first and fastest. The challenge then is to get to less obvious connections. BEcause what we tend to mean when we say creative is that it’s not obvious how you got there, but the connection is satisfying and makes sense. So there are people who tend to make less obvious connections at the furthest extremes of this spectrum if you like And at the very very furthest extreme, to the point of about insanity, insane people make connections that seemingly make sense and are very unobvious but often don’t actually make sense. Their brain is misfiring. And it’s that level,right? That an idea cannot be a combination of the most obvious ideas smashed together. Ti has to work. it has to be intellectually satisfying or emotionally resonant or solve a business problem otherwise it’s nonsense. But there’s a sort of line where crazy ideas sort of seem really interesting, which is why I suppose conspiracy theorists have developed such traction. Because ideas are, at their very end, they’re seemingly held together so well but they’re actually kind of insane. And then context. Context is everything, right, because context to a point, once photography was invented, photorealistic portraiture ceased to be very valuable, or at least very interesting, at least fora while, and then it came back as a sort of next generation skill. Some Of the best photo realistic portraitures of the last couple of decades. So context is really important because creativity and craft are not the same thing but one informs the other, and craft is changing constantly. You know, in the digital world, craft changes fantastically fast but creativity doesn’t as much, which is why creative director maybe can’t hand code front-end web but can still give useful feedback, hopefully, on such things. BEcause the craft is moving on such a rapid rate. ANd the craft language, of words, is more robust in some ways than the sort of tools of design because the tools of design are evolving in step with technology and changing because their software mitigated whereas words you just need to be able to type them down, so that’s not quite the same.
Scott: SO ou grew up in obviously in the UK. Do you find that there’s a difference in the way people think about the creative industry or what you think about strategy and ideas versus the US?
Faris: I would say there definitely is and I’d say it’s in several areas. So first of all, the first thing you notice when you get to america is the function of scale and what scale does to the market, right. So there’s a two-fold thing here. There are more brands in America. There are more agencies and there’s more money. And so that choice thing is really interesting. You begin to see far more options for everything in America than you do in the UK which changes the environment in which ideas are fighting for attention. Agencies in the UK tend to be heavily clustered in London as they are somewhat degee in New YOrk in America, but the scale of the industry is much smaller and ess driven by sort of billion dollar budgets. The same time, account planning grew up in the UK a long time before it got exported to America and account planning was a sort of marketing qualitative research job in the UK whereas when planning got to America, as Miles Young wrote about in his sort of impassioned appeal to the industry and campaign at the end of last year, it sort of transformed into a creative catalyst function rather than efficacy and research function, which is fundamentally different. So you get the situation where account planners are ready to research firsthand especially in america, there are different people that do that, different agencies. In terms of creativity I think the UK, creative industries are some of the largest industries in the country apart from finance. IT’s a big chun. So the identity of the creative cool Brittania that was sort of captured cloyingly in the 90s still is a bit live. and there’s a sort of pride about creativity. There is I think a more conservative climate in America. Again, there’s a function of scale. There’s so much money involved and a lot of marketing is sort of derived from the MBA pathway which is very unusual in the UK or at least it was when I was working there. So it tends to veer towards the conservative moreso.
Scott: SO in terms of timing, obviously you’ve been in the business for a while and you’ve worked in it in lots of different capacities but talk a little bit about today versus when you started. Obviously there’s’ massive shifts that are happening over the last few years. Over the last decades of course, but the last few years have been accelerated. What is it like today versus when you started?
Faris: It’s three things. By the way, I love how you’re Canadian-ness snuck out there with an “a-boot’. Otherwise undetectable Canadianism. I’m very fond of Canadia. I’m trying to rebrand it as Canadia.
Scott: Canadian’s a good one.
Faris: I think it’s great. I think it sort of rolls off the tongue better and i think it’ll help Canadia take its place on the global stage.
Scott: Canadia. No, it’s good. No, I was once actually in Granada and there was this wonderful Christmas celebration and they were saying we’d like to wish a very good friend from the commonwealth a happy holiday and a merry Christmas. And our friends in Granada and Canada. So actually it’s somewhat similar, yes.
Faris: Anyway, let’s pick three. Because there’s lots of important changes I feel like. When I started out in media planning, I said how does this all work and so forth and they tell you about right place and right time and efficiencies and audience buy in and buying channels. And at the time, and this was only fifteen years ago, but there were only five things you could plan. There were five media channels that existed, you could buy media space in: outdoor, cinema, radio, TV and print. And the digital had just come online, as it were, and had yet to formalize its kind of advertising unit. Everybody was trying to work out how you could buy its scale and what that was gonna do. o at that time media planning was still a skill but you could sort of replicated it. You could see how software was gonna take over because you had five options and you had numbers against efficiency versus quality essentially. So it’s a highly prone to algorithmic problem essentially. SO that’s one thing. THe great fragmentations occurred everywhere. The great fragmentations occurred through channels, yes, and then channels via agencies also. So I saw recently, while doing some research ora client, there are a number of INstagram-only agencies now, I think mostly in New York. But the idea of an agency that only works on instagram is not a nonsense idea at this stage of the game. Whereas that would have been ridiculous 15 years ago.
Scott: I work today with agencies, exactly. I have an agency with a larger client whose only expertise is on LInkedIn.
F:! Right! See? So that’s an interesting situation. So obviously that leads to, the great fragmentation wasn’t just in agencies and in channels. When these new agencies sprang up the great fragmentation there began the great fragmentation of strategy. So when media agencies broke off in the 90s, to begin with planning was still incorporated in the primary agency and then planning was spun out into media agencies proper late 90s, give or take. All these agencies that grow up around new channel opportunities, new ecological niches for marketing services, new possible product for clients began to realize that in order to get budget for their channels they needed to spawn strategists. Right? SO all these companies began to create. On the model of Naked and Model and you guys in the early 2000s, right, when we all started calling ourselves strategists because we weren’t doing planning. It was a fundamental difference. We are not account planning. We are doing media and account planning at the same time, we’ll call it comm strategy, we’ll build it together, and then we’ll brief the agencies to execute. That thread, essentially, spawned every agency that executes to create strategists. So strategists are essentially like these salmon swimming upstream so they can spawn budgets from the top table down to your execution capabilities. That fragmentation of strategy became the biggest problem that clients now face. So clients ended up now having to manage, in some cases, rosters of 10 to 20 agencies to allocate budgets appropriately when everybody has a slight bias toward their own channel for both business models and cognitive reasons. you know, you spend all day fishing, and someone asks you what they should have for dinner you’re gonna say frsh, not just because you’re selfish, but because your brain is heavily involved with fish thinking, as it were. So that’s two aspects of the great fragmentation and then more recently what we’ve been talking about is the great blurring.
What the great blurring is is in sort of macro conditions a blurring between private and public, between employee and ambassador, between media and content, editorial and advertising. all these things are up for grabs now. The boundaries are blurry and because of that, agencies have begun to reposition themselves in the last decade or so as creative solution providers to business problems. Which the consultancies noticed and pulled them directly into our business, essentially. But as soon as we elevated our conditioning away from channel-based execution, advertising or direct marketing into strategic communications, we began to blur what agencies do and put everybody into competition with everybody else. To some degree social media fored this because social media was a new space that everyone realized they had to have capabilities in, whatever they did. It’s a uniquely horizontal layer. IT runs across all other media, if you see what I mean.
Scott: But there’s always been media innovation in communications, right? It’s always been there. I was actually, interestingly enough, just reconnected with my ancestors so my great, my grandfather was the youngest of eleven and his oldest brother started a company called Goodson Record Company in 1925. ANd they literally were the first company to create the flat record when Victrola was developed as a machine. And of course that was a huge transition because before they had these cylinders and so forth. And then the flat record let on and developed but it’s interesting, I look at that and I look at the development of music and how technology has changed that industry and in our industry, you talk about the beginning of the 2000s when they started these new crazy companies. Mother and Strawberryfrog and Naked and so forth. We really were riding on the back of digital. Digital for the first time is coming in in e mail and people saw wow, this is different. We don’t need to sit in meetings and rooms. Actually geography is disappearing. So really that created a space and a new way of thinking. I think social media to a large extent as well. Let’s say as a macro question, do you think from an economic standpoint that advertising and marketing as we know it is a sound business model?
Faris: Yeah. There’s a number of bits, right. The advertising business model media companies is definitely being challenged because it’s being sucked away by Facebook. So that’s gonna be challenging ongoing. So there’s a number of pieces, right. Anytime somebody decries the death of something, you know that they’re selling you something and not giving you strategy. So the death of advertising which we heard about endlessly, or death of the TV 30-second spot with you heard about endlessly in the early 2000s never came to pass because things change more slowly than we tend to think about. And so the business of making television commercials is relatively robust considering how much disruption has gone through, whcih is fascinating to some degree. And if you think about consumption habits and media, the people who watch the most television without time shifting or ad jumping tend to be over 50 in America. And they also have all the money. So it feels like there’s going to be a robust business serving that audience, which tends to be less evasive in media consumption terms, and it has all the money anyway. So that’s gonna be a robust business. At the same time, the creative and ad agency historically had very low barriers to entry. You needed three guys, if that, and access to a PowerPoint slide. And you could pitch ideas and find ways to get them made. So there was very low barrier to entry to that part of the business, the ideas-only part of the business. I think the challenges now are two-fold. The ideas-only are buckled into other kinds of consulting thinking. So just ad ideas, not business building ideas, I think then we come under threat there a little bit. And then in order to regain some of that revenue, the vertical integration that’s occurring through the whole of companies and networks is presenting challenges to the very nature of agency. As we found this week with the subpoenas issues to the holding companies for their production price fixing and whatnot. Once you have an agent for this bias to its own P&Ls, its agency nature is inherently under threat. It was that insight that Naked was based on. That if you give advice–that’s also why the accountancy firms and consultancies were split apart. All of the accountants are supposed to be separated apart too, you know? If you give advice, strategy and ideas but make money out of certain kinds of strategy and ideas, than your advice is going to be biased. The way we make money by selling time I think is not a scalable business. And I think however there’s still a lot of money in the world that companies want to use with outsource partners to help them increase revenues and do all the things that companies need to do. So as long as we can compete effectively in these new competitive sets with consultancies and design companies and so forth, then yes.
Scott: So we’re here listening to Faris Yakob, author of Paid Attention and the founder of Genius Steals, philosophizing on the future of marketing, the future of branding, the future of the world hopefully as we get further on. In 2015 you released the book Paid Attention.
Faris: That’s right. THe blog starts in at 5. The book finally got there at 15.
Scott: And so you answered my question. I was gonna say when did you first come up with the theory for the book Was it in 2005?
Faris: Well, no. The original version of the book was something called Genius Steals and it was much more about recombinant creativity which is now really just a chapter of Paid Attention. The idea of Paid Attention came because…it was a flash moment. So the attention economy had sort of been created by an article in WIRED about ten years before. The attention was there, but it was very ahead of its time. And I was looking a lot at digital advertising and the scale of it. And two things happened. one, I saw a datum from comms score that said in 2012 5.2 trillion digital ads were served in America alone. And I couldn’t reconcile that. I looked at it and I kept cooking it and I couldn’t reconcile the work. The number 5.2 trillion was the amount that ads that were in the world and the number of people that were in America. And I was like how could that possibly be the case? And if there are, if that is the case, how can they all be working as well when there used to be not 5 trillion of them? So what are they using? THey’re using attention, which is a finite resource. And then I saw an interview, or I read an interview with a guy called Apollo Robbins. Apollo Robbins is a magician– a magician’s magician if you like. He’s very favored by Penn and Teller. And He’s a pickpocket. An dhe says this. He said it a few times in a book called Sleight of Mind which I find very interesting which is about how magic exposes certain cognitive quirks our brains have. And he says attention is like water. You can sort of chennai it but you can’t control it. And I found this sort o f really elucidating. i thought this thought was brilliant. The idea that attention has force and power and it rushes down channels. That’s why we call the channels. It makes absolute sense but you can’t control it. It’s always got its own directionality. All you can do is hope that the channels that you open up for it is where it’s being directed. it talks about sort of the misnomer of misdirection, how its attention management is the thing of magic. It’s not misdirection. You’ve got to know where the attention is in order to manage it to move around it. so those two thoughts combined in my head and I suddenly realized that those 5.2 trillion ads were all trying to eat away at the same finite resource of attention. And that couldn’t possibly make sense. So i began to explore how human attention works. And I read a lot about human attention and tried to understand how the media industrial complex has always been in the business of advocating human attention, cutting it into tangible slices and then selling it to advertisers. That’s the business model. And then thinking about how that changes in the digital world and I think it does, but not…I think it does change because of digital but not in the slightly facile goldfish have longer attentions than we do now, because that is a really thing to say that I hear a lot in relation to attention.
Scott: I mean the digital world is interesting to me. i mean It you know, I’ve obviously spent a lot of time studying digital brand and evolution of digital but I don’t know, I just find it, as a platform, obviously it’s incredibly useful and easy to use for me when I want to watch content or listen to music or interact with somebody over skype or whatever like we’re doing now. But I think ultimately though as a media platform for advertising it’s kind of clunky, if you think about it. Watching films makes sense. No one clicks on banners. That’s, to me, a fallacy. I think social media is super limited in terms of its ability, its scale. And yet, you know, what we’re witnessing is–and you may disagree with me, and that’s totally okay. This is totally an open debate here. I wonder whether what we’re experiencing in the digital world is really just automation. And the robotization of marketing, where on the one hand you have ideas and creativity but on the other hand you’ve got basically the automation of execution and are we not within a very short period of time going to see–here we go, big prognosis. Thunder and lightning and gnashing of teeth, but maybe it’s possible that in a very short period of time the whole traditional business marketing world that we’re used to is just going to disappear because it’s a commodity anyway and you can get a great website done in Prague or india or somewhere in between. Maybe you’re not even going to use one. I mean, look at Facebook. It’s all served up in an automated format today anyway.
Faris: 100%. And I think there’s two bits there which we can sort of grab. The second bit: I had somebody very very senior at some recent judging I did, one of the global CCOs that I was judging with recently, who sort of said casually over conversation his prediction that one of the big networks will cease to exist in the next five years. Which i think is a very bold prediction for someone who does that and is there.
Scott: Which by the way is the same timeline they’re looking at for the evolution of artificial intelligence. You know like AI and ASI.
Faris: That’s really interesting to me but I think it’s not as scary as people make it out to be. Although, well. It is scary. I think our business is as open to globalization and automation as any other. I believe that’s true. I believe emotional resonance is beyond the skillset of AB testing bots. We’ve got to deal with the banner problem first which is that I came out very aggressively from year 5 onwards sort of talking about digital and social as being a fundamentally different kind of medium. I swallowed cluetrain. I still believe in a lot of that stuff but to your point, the environment has changed dramatically. A number of choices that were made early on in the infrastructure of advertising on line caused a number of problems that have slightly ruined it to some degree. The separation of serving advertising and content in the same server to allow the third party tracking because of what Cory Doctorow calls the intrinsic relationship between advertising, readers and publications. They can’t trust each other, basically, and they have different needs. Because of that, tracking and pervasive tracking has horribly diminished the online experience for a lot of people, especially on mobile. At the same time, around 2001, which was a very important moment. I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. It feels like 2000 was a moment of optimism and fear and that things have changed since a lot. But 2001, minority report came out, a film that really tried very hard to think about some of these problems of the future, newspapers, transportation, especially advertising. And we all watched it and everybody sort of said it was so well-rendered as a future of advertising, we lal sort of bought into it as the future of advertising, forgetting unfortunately that it was set in this surveillance state fascist dystopia which wa designed to be utterly terrifying. You’re arrested for crimes you haven’t committed yet. ANd advertising in that environment, with this aspect, this surveillance state culture that took pictures of the retina everywhere you went, established biometric readings of you to see if you might want a Guinness and then aggressively exhort you by name in the street. I mean if you look at the scene in Minority Report that we’ve all been copying, it’s utterly terrifying. IT’s a horrible assault while he’s actually trying to escape from something terrifying and terrible. So we sort of fell into this model that somehow if we could target better, if we could personalize and target dynamically on the fly, ads would work better because they would seem relevant. This is a whole chain of logic which just doesn’t make any sense at all, actually .First of all the promise of targeting at scale could somehow dismantle [inaudible] that somehow half the advertising is wasted is predicated on this idea that if I get the message to the right person and only the right person then they will act upon it. Which misunderstands entirely how advertising functions as a sociocultural stimulus, rather than as a sales exultation.
Scott: Kind of in a nutshell if you’re walking down the street and this weird guy is just behind you and you notice him but then he jumps and attacks you, you drive for about 20 minutes and then you get out and the guy’s there, and you get in the shower and there’s that guy again, it’s creepy. You get angry, don’t you?
Faris: It is, it is creepy. Absolutely right. It is creepy.
Scott: Are you physical? Would you actually beat him up or would you throw your computer out the window?
Faris: No, I am not physical. I am a pacifists. Well, i don’t have any ists, and isms. I’m like Ferris Bueller. But at the same time I’m deeply un, I don’t like violence at all, any form, frankly.
Scott: That’s good. I guess you need that if you’re a nomad.
Faris: Well yes, I mean partially. That’s true. So yeah, we decided that personalized targeting was good. Think fundamentally it’s probably not right. I’ve written extensively about this. I think there is a difference between someone knocking on my door trying to sell something saying my name, to your point, and generating associations at a cultural level that create price premiums for brands. It’s a confusion of tasks.
Scott: What do they have to do? DO they have to come into your house and cook you a dinner? Do they have to look you in the eyes and put a beautiful kiss on your lips? DO they have to take you to bed? What do they have to t o get you to buy something?
Faris: It’s nice to be flattered and it’s nice for someone to be useful. Yes, no doubt. There are so many little things that we could do to make things better, which is just not lie to people. And I don’t mean us lie, I mean companies that brief us in good faith to talk about things that end up being wrong or untrue. Famously, VW in the last couple of years demonstrated they were happy to lie to everybody and poison the world. You know, I mean, that’s the thing. So just not doing that would be a great step in my opinion and I think a lot of brands need to re-pivot around behavioral integration. So each business is optimized toward delivering a brand’s promise rather than just the marketing department. Cause that seems inherently divisive, you know? I also think, so Tim Ambrose said this, that wastage is the part that works. In advertising, if you believe in the handicap principle in nature which is that the reason the peacock’s tail is a good and reliable indicator of fit, of health and efficacy if you like, is because they invest so much into it. And the problem with advertising in Facebook and highly personalized digital spaces is it feels small. it feels like only I’m seeing it. It doesn’t feel like a reliable signal, I think, because we don’t see it in the world. Which Is an aspect of fragmentation.
Scott: We’ve talked a lot about inside baseball here, which is totally fine, but I wanted to skip and while we’re on this subject, before we get to your predictions to the future, I do want to ask you about your book Paid Attention. I just want to say we’re here, Uprising, I’m talking to Faris, the author of Paid Attention. I’d love to talk for just a second about the theory of your book, and are you working with any clients today where you’re actually using your theory? And could you just talk a bit about that?
F; Yeah absolutely. SO first of all, the sort of basic theory for the book is that attention is the resource aggregated by media that then gets sold on. IT’s the world’s’ most valuable resource. The great giants of our age are not powered by fossil fuels. They Are powered by human attention. So the Facebooks and teh Googles, the companies that are creating artificial intelligence and self driving cars are all funded by access to attention at a global level which seems impossible. So understanding first of all, then, what human attention is, why is it so valuable, how does it operate, and then to some degree how digital has impacted how it’s utilized is part of the piece of the book. And then it’s also kind of understanding that advertising is predicated on attention. It’s built on the edifice of attention. Attention, interest, desire, action is the model of communication. Ad vertere means literally in Latin to draw attention to something, to pull attention toward something. So it’s all part of the idea. And then if you believe certain things about attention, how does some hack it to some degree or utilize it or respect it in order to act and create actions for brands. So that’s the idea. THe idea that should be respected is in short supply and then recently my thinking since the ad block explosion has evolved, how it’s sort of comes under threat. By that I mean, if we abuse it, like in the tragedy of th commons, then people take away access to it. So famously in San Paulo there are no billboards because they got too many and out of control and they’ve all been banned. Ad blocking is a similar response. ANd that’s the difference between perception and attention online, is that perception and attention are not the same in the real world. if you can get into someone’s peripheral vision you can create a low-attention effect but online that isn’t the case because if I turn off access to my attention there’s no possible perception.
Scott: You’re obviously working with clients in agencies. Do you have an example of a client that you’re working with or clients that you would never work with based on the fact that they just don’t–
Faris: It’s really interesting question, that clients I would never work with. I think there are. at the same time as a consultant rather than an agent I feel that my job would be to help companies that seem to be fundamentally tone deaf or ultimately immora in their actions, my job would be to help them in some way. So i feel weird about it now in a way that I didn’t when I was an agent. So yes, we do a lot of different kinds of work based on this thinking. So this year, for example, we spent a few days with the leadership team of Coca-Cola. And we worked on provocateur and facilitator their workshops and digital transformation of their business. So outside of communications, outside of marketing with the CIO, the CEO, and the heads, all the seats being marketing of course. We worked on that kind of work, thinking about the modern attention scape and how someone should respect it and utilize it. Equally we do things like on a Genius Steals basis. So we did some work with Ad New Zealand in Auckland looking at just some how other, form our experience, in terms of comms and experience design, us traveling so frequently, ‘cause we live on the road and fly out once a week from client to client, etc. Looking At the experience design and customer journey of flights and how that experience has degraded so much in America and how they could use that as an opportunity to represent their brand differently and so forth. It’s really fun. it’s a lot of fun stuff. Sometimes it comes in through a marketing hole and not always because we don’t’ have any, you know, we work with marketing partners and agencies. On the other side of business we did some really fun work with a media agency in New Zealand. We helped them, the biggest media agency in New Zealand develop a creative process which I thought was very interesting as a desire. A request came in from them that said we are pitching more an more idea in competition with creative agencies that have significant muscle memory in making ideas and articulating and selling them, can you help us develop that? And I said yup. And that was great. And we worked on a big consulting project about the future of research for the biggest independent research company in the UK where we helped them think about their business, how their clients business needs were evolving, what they could do to evolve and ultimately how their brand can express that future-facing positioning from the inside of the industry.
Scott: So this show is about, you know, movements and uprisings and you probably are one of the most perfect guests to have on this show because not only are you working with such an interesting mix of clients in so many different areas and as a result of that you have tapped into insights and probably see things that many of us miss but you also do it in a way that is nomadic. We haven’t talked a lot about it but the fact that you really travel the world ad live nowhere but experience everywhere is really fascinating. So with that in mind and looking at global culture and this whole global soul, you really are the global soul. What do you think looking into the future crystal ball of your life are the big movements that you see in the current environment and how will they influence the way people buy services or products or ideas?
Faris: I think there’s two or three things that we’ve noticed. We incorporated our company three years ago this week. We’ve been on the road for four years come February and we’ve been to something like 40 countries in that time and done work with various clients.
Scott: Which air seat is the most comfortable?
Faris: I prefer the aisle, my wife prefers the window.
Scott: Which airline? Is there a specific brand that you prefer? Is it all the same?
Faris: No, the ones outside of America ten to be better than the ones inside of America, to be honest.
Scott: That’s a pretty big carport. Do you have any specific one that you love? Is it Air NewZealand?
Faris: Air New Zealand is fantastic. Air New Zealand in terms of experience is up there. So is Emirates up there, Qatar is up there. What other…Singapore Airlines used to be really good. There are a few that really focus on service and have not sort of, have not begun the process towards sort of American airlines have, what’s been called a strategy of calculated misery, which is constantly degrading the normative experience of the flier so they have to keep buying new upgrade packages or fees or whatever. So you heard recently one airline in America announced they’re now gonna charge you for putting luggage in the overhead bins. Because everybody pulled their luggage out of the hold when they started charging it for that. We only fly with carry on because I don’t want to carry more luggage than that.
Scott: You have to pay the airline stewardess to actually speak to her.
Faris: Exactly! They’ll make you stand up and pay to use the restroom, all that kind of terrible stuff.
Scott: Flight attendant, I mean. But getting back to the question. Sorry, it’s okay, we can go off tangent. It’s quite funny.
Faris: I enjoy tangents. But yeah, so o the global level, even in the last four years of being on the road, we have noticed more things coming online and being the same. By which I mean we went to Myanmar, formerly Burma, or possibly Burma again, it’s not very clear what you’re supposed to call it, even there. It only just opened up. It had only just been opened to the public for the first time in 50 years for a year and a half. Advertising everywhere. IT’s fascinating because there’s two systems currently interlocked. Advertising has appeared, banks have appeared, but the locals of 50 years have never used banks, don’t want to get paid by check, but international brands coming in all pay by check and the local employees are confused by thiss. It’s an interesting, teh flattening of the world as technology and brands become more global, the world looks more similar everywhere than it used to. In a really noticeable way, and dominantly os. I was in Turkey for a speaking engagement not even a month ago and the restaurants in the Turkish airport were like Popeyes and McDonalds and stuff and that just seems to be the default now. That’s one thing that’s interesting.
Scott: As a point, I mean, what’s interesting about that is kind of the tiring of customers. If you look for example at the luxury segment, it used to be quite eotic to think of going to a Louis Vuitton store and picking up a bag. Now you could probably walk down the main street in Myanmar and find a Louis Vuitton store.
Faris: That’s a really good point. One of the queues or values of luxury is scarcity and hard to get-ed-ness. Not the same thing necessarily but, if you can get everything anywhere, what’s the status symbol of having that? Money, okay, fine. Like for example, for our [inaudible] we acquired a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. It’s very hard to do that. it’s not about money. It’s very very hard to get a hold of. You have to have relationship inside the industry. I mean, it’s crazy. So there’s a sort of homogeneity occurring. At the same time people are looking for more interesting cultural experiences. So it’s a cultural part of, you know, you want to find new things when you travel. You’re looking for the same patterns everywhere. So the digital thing obviously is queued as people are coming online. Countries like Cambodia are suddenly very viable places to work and live in some senses because the bandwidth is pretty robust there. Even more so in parts of America frankly, which is surprising to me.
Scott: Interestingly, the basis of that, I mean, this podcast has quite a large following in Indonesia, Nigeria, Scotland, and of course Canadians are listening in.
Faris: Hi everybody!
S; Yeah, hi to Canada. They’re gonna love that comment earlier. And Colombia and of course in the United States.
Faris: So that’s fascinating. We were in South America for Q1 this year and met with some communities down there in the industry. It was fascinating seeing. Anyway, so at a global level, quite clearly what’s happening is there’s a, I characterize this as a status quo anxiety. Everybody has this sense that things are a bit broken and there are no narratives that are explaining the brokenness well. And it feels like what happened, a lot of the stuff politically that’s happening in terms of the rise of authoritarianism and someone telling you what to do, someone telling you what the world is that provides that clarity seems to be a function of that, and it’s slightly terrifying. At the same time, if you look at what happened in 2000, the great fragmentation that we spoke about before, right, when media began to fragment massively and the world got really complex, there’s a sense that, and this is not my thought at all. This is hyper normalization by Adam Curtis, the BBC documentary that just came out. It talks about how the world retreated from the growing complexity that digital was ushering, and globalization was ushering in and we retreated back into a sort of regressive narrative. And I was thinking about this yesterday, right. I went to see Rogue One yesterday, the Star Wars movie. Have you seen it?
Scott: No, but I’ve seen the coming soon and it’s like the dark force is returning as of January the 20th when the new administration takes over.
Faris: [laughs] So not just that part, which watching it yesterday was particularly symbolic in some sort of disturbing way but it was interesting. Not just the narrative of it, but what it is, what the movie is, and I’m not gonna give any spoilers and if you’ve not seen it you’ll enjoy the spoiler part of it. But in some ways it’s this perfect both homage to and Star Wars film at the same time. It’s sort of made in a way that you are utterly convinced of its perfect fit into the universe that you grew up with and yet it doesn’t look, not modern, you know, a testament to Lucas in his time, he managed to make things future-proof. But it looks like this beautiful, and it’s also this feeling of being trapped in a narrative that’s 30 years old. This idea that there’s two ways to think about culture. You can think about problems of the present and imagine a brighter future or you can imagine a brighter past, which is conservatism, right. Progressivism imagines a brighter future, conservatism conserves the status quo, imagines a brighter past and hearkens back to golden age magical thinking. And it feels like, if you look at our culture as it began to recycle itself, our music and our movies and the fact that power rangers is coming back to our screens next year, and Ghostbusters this year, and Star Wars franchises will now last the rest of our lives. ANd all these narratives that we’re all recycling are kind of inherently putting us back to an earlier comforting time. It’s kind of like being sold recidivism as comforting nostalgia.
Scott: I don’t know if it’s comforting. I feel like it’s 1930. Honestly. I mean I’ve been getting all these beautiful Christmas cards with grinning snowmen and handwritten messages on the inside with messages like 2016, the worst year ever, can it get worse and then I’m like yeah, I think next year is gonna be even bleaker. But I don’t know, you seem to be incredibly optimistic.
Faris: I’m trying to be very hard because that’s I think the best way to deal with this. We have to, I think. But no, I think the thing is, the comforting nostalgia part is kind of a hoax, right. It’s inherently regressive. It’s inherently saying I’ve given up on new ideas, let’s get back to the old ideas that we knew worked.
Scott: It’s like empty carbs.
Faris: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Scott: Doesn’t do anything for you.
Faris: So as much as I love the Star Wars film aI think it was a symptom of this kind of, it’s almost like the perfect expression of us being trapped in a bubble of culture that’s recycling itself, it can’t move forward. The final thing is, it’s the pillarization thing, which you see everywhere. It’s people who run towards new adventures, people who run away from fear. It’s people who want to travel versu people who don’t, you know and whatever reason, structural education and economy and so forth, that split is kind of what’s dividing up the world right now.
Scott: I’m worried about structural education. I know it’s an aspiration and most people need it. nd to many people, actually majority, it is a way to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. Especially if you educate girl children, we can get into a whole discussion about that. nd anyone listening, if they have money they should go to thegirlstore.com and actually buy a girl her life back because it helps educate girls in India and so forth. However. Nevertheless. I do worry though as a father with two teenage boys that this structured education is really going to ruin them for the world that’s coming because who knows what’s coming? And you know, they’re being taught in a rearview mirror.
Faris: It’s true. I think there’s two kinds of education, right. And there’s, if you think, in the metaphorical terms, there’s databases and there’s software. You can either write, install pieces of software in people’s heads that they can then use to solve different problems or you can make them learn a set of facts that become outdated. And o I think one of the challenges is that yes, education, Ken Robinson, his thing that the most viewed TED talk ever about how school doesn’t really optimize you to creativity, I think that’s fair. I think the education system that we have around the world was invented by the British in order to create bureaucrats of the empire. That’s literally specifically why it’s created the way it is, right. So maybe it’s time to shake that model up. THat’s I think also sensible. But I think the important thing is any kind of vocational teaching that is how based and not why based i under the threat of disruption. Right. Inevitably. Like if I learn how to be a flash designer at a certain point in recent history that skillset ceased to be useful if I can’t redeploy those skills in different technologies and media. So it’s kind of like making that choice. You want to teach people how to think, famously, and not to think hopefully.
Scott: And have values. And so it’s been an extremely inspiring discussion. Actually the word inspiring is a bad word so I’m not gonna use it. It’s been an, I’ve been enthralled with every one of your insights and truly it’s great to finally catch up with you. I want to end up on our call today on the show with some predictions. You’ve looked to the world, you’ve traveled, you’ve seen things. Social-climbing seems to be inherently negative. I mentioned to you earlier joking about the dark force rising but it feels like we’re moving into the dark forces taking over the universe and even positive, progressive people are thinking maybe we need to be more negative, maybe we need to be more aggressive. How do you advise your clients to think about their own marketing strategies in relation to where the world is going?
Faris: Okay. So that’s a thirty party question. Um, I think you’re right. I think the cultural discourse has ticked into negativity. I call it the age of outrage. People are constantly looking for things to be outraged about so they can scream about things. Doesn’t seem very helpful. I think both from the extreme left and right, this conflation of hate speech and trigger warnings and freedom of speech is super super dangerous and I think very very unhealthy. Education’s all about being exposed to ideas you find challenging and if you don’t get that you just get reinforced robots which nobody wants any more of, hopefully. But that said–
Scott: That’s actually an interesting question ‘cause I think in some part of the world, they do. But in other parts of the world where you think that they do, they don’t. Like for example in India where the culture does limit people. Like they keep them in the box but yet the greatest business leaders are trying to change that and let these brilliant well-educated people think outside the box and eventually take over the world. Whereas in other parts of the world they are trying to make people into robots. But anyway I’m sorry to address this. but really interesting discussion.
Faris: You’re right though. It’s a good point and also there are different stages of–I’m really uncomfortable with words like evolution because all that kind of first world third world emerging is deeply self-aggrandizing to certain countries.
Faris: But there’s poverty and there’s less poverty in some countries and so there’s a difference somewhere.
Scott: And potential.
Faris: Yeah, exactly. And also just different ways–what I was doing was trend insight work for a company years ago in the UK, so like maybe three or four or five. One of the things we would always do was to just look to Japan because Japan was clearly like five years ahead of anywhere else in the world in terms of wireless telephony, right. But what we would always say was don’t look at Japan like it’s straight ahead. Look at it like it’s ahead but 25 degrees askew. It’s not our future, it’s simply part of the future set and we can work out where we’re gonna get to by looking at that as a sort of parameter, you know?
Faris: It’s not like all countries are to evolve on the same lines and I think that’s a thought, that all countries were evolving into AMerica is now being aggressively challenged. Anyway, that said, [inaudible] is not giving up and not being depressed and having to keep moving. So in times of great uncertainty, in times where the narratives are unclear, there is a change to write new narratives for all of us. To work out which stories we want to adhere to. ANd so I think that’s part of our role, you know, as thinkers, writers, storytellers, whatever you want to say that we are good at. Part of our role is to think about how we establish these narratives, these countervailing narratives, the negativity and division and kind of let’s go backwards thinking. Progressives need to show what progress looks like.
Scott: It kind of reminds me of your insights. Almost like Austin Powers defeating Dr. Evil. We’re almost in that world where these countries are being run by these Dr. Evils.
Scott: I mean, do you think, what will that do in essence? Will that inspire the clients to be more positive?
Faris: In terms of our clients, and again some of our work is very much not, it’s about how they behave as brands not just how they optimize messaging as well. So there’s a couple of things. People were saying, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the disruption of trust and institutions including advertising, the cause of consistent trust violations has challenged the nature of advertising and I think it’s lead to the rise of reality advertising in America. A lot of real people and real situations ‘cause they seem like they’re real. YOu know, you can trust other people. Someone’s seen that insight, people trust other people loads. So they just put them in the ads and hope for the best. You know, that’s kind of one response. I think now though, the thing that’s really upsetting, the thing that’s been challenged for a long time which is the division between what you say and what you do. You know, when you go out to the marketplace and say we love our customers and then I can’t get through to you on the phone in less than 20 minutes, those two things don’t fit together properly and that dissonance is becoming more and more obvious to people I think. BEtween utterance and behavior. So I think we’re always advised that close the gap between utterance and behavior as fast as you can, you know, behave first and sell it later. But that involves trying to get your clients to wend their way through the organizations so it’s easier when you work with certain kinds of businesses. IN terms of, I think what’s going to happen realistically is there’s a lot of uncertainty in the market, right. The stock market is already made its opinion at least in the short term clear. THey think it’s good for stock market people, what’s happening. But there’s uncertainty and in business, we know what happens. You and I know what happens. People stop spending for a bit to see what’s gonna happen. So we know that’s gonna happen in Q1 next year. We know that’s gonna happen in a lot of markets as people try and work out what the situation[s gonna be. And that’s inevitably gonna cause a lot of shortfall in targets and you know late term panic. But yeah, in general terms, we’ve been espousing a degree of agility in terms of spend for some time I think. So that isn’t necessarily a bad thing a long as we can be agile enough later.
Scott: When you say that what do you mean by that?
Faris: KNowing when to spend money and how to spend it and where is one of the big challenges in marketing. Especially now.
Scott: What’s your advice if you’re a marketer listening to this. How would the perfect media strategy look today?
Faris: It depends, obviously. Um, the answer is always it depends otherwise it wouldn’t be strategy. Here is my formula for writing a good campaign.
Scott: But it’s never throwing a dart on the board. If you were sort of, here’s what I would, you know, based on all this that we’ve seen, what do you think is a…?
Faris: I think pushing against the endless kind of death of a thousand cuts model. If 60% of a media budget programmatically goes to ad tech and not to the actual media publications, I do think instead of chasing cheap reach and frequency, I think reach and frequency are still really important. It hink thinking long term is more important than thinking short term, especially for brand ideas. I think instead of bleeding ourselves to death and ourselves to death through a thousand million trillion trillion cuts, and just that number, right, the fact that 60% of programmatic ad buys go to ad tech and not the publication is baffling to me. Two thirds of the media budget isn’t going on media, it’s going on targeting and serving and tracking. So that seems crazy to me personally. i think the best and biggest ideas, and I don’t think big in terms of appetite, I just mean literally in terms of scale, are where brands can really operate, righ. Cause individuals can create content and botnets can create volume. But it takes really, it takes a brand nowadays to put a man in a satellite, put him into space and push him out with a parachute. Those kinds of actions at scale are I think what a lot of marketing will look like–effective marketing will look like at one end and not just data manipulation at the other end which is the other side of it. And I do think that either the increased focus, digital essentially what digital is doing now is driving customer experience design through business. And we do a lot of work and workshopping in this area which is kind of okay, we’ve got this new line for an agency, what does it mean in terms of specific behaviors in our hotel or in our airline or in our stores. I think that part is gonna be increasingly important. But you know, Russell Davies said this: no one’s allowed to do any innovation until the basics are fixed should be a rule. Fix the basics first. I’ll give you a couple examples here. There are a couple of banks that I use in the US and UK, the website has not been upgraded since, hmm, maybe five or six years and that infuriates me. I’m sure the backend has been made more secure, ate last hopefully. But if you can’t push an update through as often as Uber and you’re making billions of dollars in quarterly profit, then shame on you. Shame on you is what I think. So I will be consolidating my bank accounts into banks that have much better interfaces.
Scott: There we go. So with that I Would like to say thank you. We’ve had a really interesting discussion about shame, about the age of outrage, about paid attention which sounds like a fascinating book. Where can you get ahold of that? Is that available on Amazon or a specific website?
Faris: It’s on Amazon, it’s on my publisher’s page but easiest probably from Amazon. Yeah, all over the world I think it should be available and in a number of good bookshops around at least Europe and America as far as I’m aware.
Scott: Absolutely. And by the way do you have a tracker on you? Can we follow you online?
Faris: Yes, actually, you can. So my website for my company is genius steals.co. The easiest way to find me, ‘cause I tweet very high frequency is @faris, just @faris. I own my name on Twitter ‘cause I’m an old school geek, yo. And we have a site called technomatics.co which has our six month rolling calendar as far as we know it into the future for public consumption in case, in case we’re gonna be nearby and somebody wants to grab a drink we are always open to doing so.
Scott: Fantastic. Well, I would love to have a drink with you and last question before you go is have you ever been in jail? Do you ever just sort of show up one day and you know, didn’t have your passport proper and they just sort of popped you into the slammer, anything like that?
Faris: It hasn’t happened.
Scott: Greatest travel story? Anything?
Faris: Yes. The most detailed I’ve ever been is by the American TSA.
Scott: Ah, okay. As we all have.
Faris: HOwever, yeah. On my first time back in I was detained a little bit. ANyway, all good fun. Now I have a green card and that’s all very smooth. To begin with I was an O1 visa and that’s a visa for aliens of exceptional ability, you might be familiar with it, and it triggers interesting questions at the point of entry. Bt the scariest passport story was I was in Mexico City earlier this year and two things happened. One, on rare occasions I go on gigs without my wife and partner and this occasion was one of those, and two, you know the safes in hotel rooms, right. That’s really a bad idea. Cause I’ve read a bunch about hotels. People don’t really steal from hotels. The staff really need those jobs. It’s very unusual from the point of the hotelier to find thefts happen. They’re just designed to make you feel safe. What they always do is make you forget that your passport’s in the safe so I go out to the airport and I didn’t have my passport and I had a mild panic attack, and I called the hotel, I’d gotten there several hours earlier to use the lounge to do some work. So I called the hotel and the hotel was a very good hotel and they, ‘cause the client had a very nice place and they went into the room, found the passport from the safe, put it in a cab and the cab actually came to the airport with my passport and delivered it in just the nick of time. So terrifying but ultimately a good story of how a hotel can go above and beyond in terms of their customer experience.
Scott: And with that, I’d like to thank you for your time. I mean, I know you have a flight to catch.
Faris: My pleasure. We’re in Nashville this week. It’s Christmas, it’s family, we’re just sort of wrapping up our local affairs.
Scott: In Nashville do you ever feel the urge to, I don’t know, get up onstage and sing karaoke and do like, I don’t know, Johnny Cash or Elvis or anything like that?
Faris: SO I have done a couple of times. There’s a fantastic karaoke place called Santa’s Pub which is a double wide trailer in Nashville and it’s sort of only sells beer and you can still smoke in some places in Nashville in bars so it’s a very not good throat environment but you know, I went in and got up and started singing, fun, I like karaoke. The thing is though, to remember, the ambient level of musical talent in Nashville is literally the highest of anywhere in the world.
Scott: That’s what I mean, is it a pretty–
Faris: Yes. When you go to karaoke everyone else is gonna be really really good and it’s worth being aware of. It’s a great show, a great show.
Scott: Well thank you so much Faris, super interesting. All those insights are really valuable and you’ve been a tremendous guest on Uprising today.
Faris: Thank you so much for having me, especially the week before Christmas when the advertising season is in full swing.
Scott: Yes! Have a great holiday and hopefully we’ll have a drink in the new year.
Faris: Sounds great. Take care, brother.
Scott: Okay. Buh-bye.