Three Lessons I Learned From Flappy Bird

Maurice Saatchi has this to write to the employees of M&C Saatchi – and the rest of the advertising world – about what he termed “The Brutal Simplicity of Thought:”

Simplicity is more than a discipline: it is a test. It forces exactitude or it annihilates. It accelerates failure when a cause is weak, and it clarifies and strengthens a cause that is strong.

Saatchi is known in advertising circles as the brains behind some of the world’s most successful ad campaigns. Things like “Labour Isn’t Working,” “Let’s Get Behind Scotland,” and the “Face” ad for British Airways. Then again, a developer named Dong Nguyen released a game called “Flappy Bird,” and is now a cause for celebration (perhaps even revulsion) among many mobile gaming fans.

Mostly because the game is hard. Damn hard. On my best day of playing the game, I got a score of 10.

I’m not a fan of writing “marketing thought leader” -ish pieces on my blog – for one I’m not, and for two most of these Mashable-y pieces are exercises in common sense – but “Flappy Bird” got me thinking about the lessons we can learn from the game. It can lend some order and perspective (read: sanity) into a world filled with “Let’s make a mobile app,” or “mobile should be a pillar for awareness.” Because sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t; most of the time, though, some things demonstrate the things we believe in most simply by doing.

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The Work of the Eyes

Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, “The work of the eyes is done.  Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”

Coy Caballes, among so few, lighted and stoked the embers that started a revolution.

That’s a lot to say for someone.  The word “revolution” has been so abused here that anyone can come up with something mediocre, and call it something grand for the sake of rhetoric or maybe even marketing.  But Coy – my friend, my fellow blogger, my client – came up with something that truly fits the mold of revolution.

In simple terms: Coy came up with social media marketing in the Philippines.  Yes, he was one of the first client-side social media managers in the Philippines.  And it’s an honor and a privilege to have been part of that journey.

I think it was way back November 2008, when I worked for a company that was once called NetBooster – when I walked into the Globe Telecom offices to meet Globe’s new social media manager.  It was on that day that a professional relationship was born, and a personal friendship grew.  There were five or six of us in that meeting: a meeting that, in part, probably helped start it all for community management in the Philippines.

I’m not one to call the task “pioneering” or anything like that.  It was just a meeting, probably.  Social media management – maybe branded Facebook pages – were around long before either Coy or myself got started with making projects named after StarCraft characters.  Back then, the role of the “social media manager” was a gamble: could brands use social networks for marketing?  What does it mean?  What does it give my brand, or my organization?  “What is this ORM?”

*     *     *

It was a mad hustle for people like me, Andre, ES, Bim, and Peter – to name a few – to get the clients that get business moving.  More so for someone like Coy, who worked for one of the country’s largest telco companies.  This was still new back then, when digital had small budgets (or if any) and the risk coming into the venture was too high.  There were no command centers: we had to work in sleeping bags, cramped coffee tables, and clunky Blackberries to get the dice going.

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Pinoy Cinema and Our Discontents

I think it was Lenin who said, “Of all the arts, for us the cinema is the most important.”  So it is for us here in the Philippines, where anyone who invokes Lenin would be an “enemy” and where “manood ng sine” is held in high regard.  And here we are – past MMFF season – and the Internet is abuzz about the “sorry” (or for some, “not-so-sorry;” still for others, “sorry-not-sorry”) state of Filipino cinema.

Some forced perspective is in order: cinema in the Philippines has seen better days.  In my hometown, the theaters and movie houses have given way to ukay stores. Filipino cinema is still vibrant, but even the pinilakang tabing is tarnished with the patina of operational costs, media piracy, and expensive movie tickets.  It may sound extreme, but every time we say, “I’ll just download the movie,” we move the wrecking ball an inch closer to the movie house.

And then there are “bad movies,” exemplified (at least for this MMFF season) by “My Little Bossings.”  Having opted to watch “Boy Golden” for this season (it makes me think more of KC Concepcion’s future in being this generation’s Cynthia Luster, and less of Jeorge Estregan’s movie career in general, but this is not a movie review), I’ll reserve my judgments for Vic Sotto’s movie for when I watch it.  But let’s take it as a given that our public intellectuals and cultural critics consider the film as a “bad movie:” my answer is a little less simple than what I want it to be.

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On Selfies

Towards the end of “Samurai X” – OK, “Rurouni Kenshin” – the dojo was supposed to have its pictures taken by a photographer in the village.  In the group, it was only Sannosuke who was averse to the idea of still pictures, claiming that the camera will “suck the soul” of anyone who may gaze into the lens.  He or she will be frozen, he claims.  A lot like a mechanical Medusa of sorts, that the blinding flash of the light will momentarily turn you to stone.

I’m not sure about the statistics of Instagram, but I bet that a majority of the pictures there are selfies.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s word for 2013 was “selfie.”  Their definition: “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or web cam and uploaded to a social media website.”  But we all know that there’s more to the selfie than just merely being a photograph.  It’s not an ID picture, but a filtered, saturated, “artistic” self-portrait.  It’s the self-image – in the strictest sense of the word “image” – that we want to project.

The selfie is the closest approximation we have to show the world how we see ourselves in the mirror.  The touch-ups, the angles, the filters and the colors and the hues are touches of personality that a clear eyesight prevents us (perhaps even betrays us) from seeing in the real world.  There’s a somewhat obvious subtext to the selfie: the way we see ourselves, is the way we want to be seen.

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