Friday, November 28, 2008

The Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz

Dr. Nguyen Kim Long, Humor, Sexy, Babe, Nice Rack, H.L. Mencken, Long, Love, Love You Long Time, New York Times, Ph.D., Satire, Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz, Love You Long Time,  Sex, , Hot, Fantasy, In response to reader requests we are now introducing the Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz. The questions shall all be posed by a certified Vietnamese nuclear physicist such as the one pictured here, Dr. Nguyen Kim Long. No expense has been spared in vetting our physicists and I can assure you, I have personally checked their credentials myself. Sweet. So now, on with the quiz. Below, you will find a question in Bold Faced Type. Consider the question, come up with your answer, and then "mouse over" the question to reveal our answer. Should you disagree with it, we'll be more than happy to arrange a mud-wrestling match between your sorry ass and the more than fit Dr. Long to decide the winner. So here goes...good luck!

"Can people get poisoned by indirect exposure to polonium-210?"

For more quizzes, check here:

Iran's Ahmadinedschad - The Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz VII
Did Sarah Palin Just Nuke Herself? - The Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz VI
Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz V
Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz IV
Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz III
Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz II
Vietnamese Nuclear Physics Quiz I.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lunch With Obama: Perspective XVI: The Little Things IX

I was a ping pong ball today. My 11am was put off until three so I decided to jump up another appointment until just after lunch and then shoot back downtown for the 3 o'clock. On the way is one of Saigon's ubiquitous "wet markets" complete with fish sellers, plenty of hanging bags of noodles, garlic, dried peppers, panty-hose, sneakers, soap, handbags and dried squid amidst the aromatic drifts of coffee and chopped mint leaves. Does this sound disorganized? Only if you're anal retentive and have never visited Vietnam. This, my friends, is normal, and the sooner you get used to that, the sooner you'll understand my wonderful lunch.
I had never eaten at this particular market before, so when I say ubiquitous, I mean you wouldn't know one from the other once you are inside. I made my way down the far left and partially outdoor aisle of fresh veggies, Obama,  Lunch, Pho, Vietnam War,  Food stall, Democracy, Fairness, Opportunity, Politics,  News, hanging chickens and swishing catfish to find the food stalls in the rear of the place - and even as a three-year resident of the city, I still don't know exactly what goes into each bowl I see prepared. I spy new stuff everyday. But the last woman on the aisle knew what a foreigner wanted when she saw him. She hoisted her selection of fried spring rolls and pointed to the large bowls of noodles and fresh veggies waiting on her prep table - the idea being that they would all be mixed together in a savory concoction and dashed with spicy sauce. She nailed it.

I sat down and immediately made contact with the man to my left. He smiled a surprisingly youthful grin with a mole on his left-hand cheek sprouting as many as ten very long grey hairs. This is seen as early as men can grow facial hair and although I don't know the meaning of it exactly, I do know that it is seen as a sign of good luck, beauty and possibly wisdom for Vietnamese men. He had more hairs than I had ever seen out of this particular mole. Together we cobbled together a conversation that started with our respective ages. He held up five fingers and pointed at me. I held up five, then two, as I am fifty two. He then held up six and then seven and pointed to the woman preparing my meal. She smiled, and honestly, looked great - still in her mid fifties you would think. These numbers hit a pad of paper between us just to make sure that we both understood and then he held up seven, and lifted his chin. 70. Geez. You could easily have seen this man as a handsome young soldier with a big shock of John F. Kennedy hair atop his head - still there, yet now grey on top with dark brown under his horizontal wave from right to left. We all smiled.

The idea of youth had not evaded a one of us. The woman, I had now surmised was his wife, served me my bowl and it was all as promised - a big heaping pile of white noodles with chopped fried spring rolls, bacon and diced veggies on top. Look at the pictures of the old Vietnamese "enemy" from the war and see how skinny they appear. These people do not eat poorly, they eat handsomely - but always healthily. It's an art they have honed to perfection.
As I chowed down they were not surprised at my dexterous use of chopsticks - rather they were respectful that I had at least been around awhile and learned the local custom seamlessly. The man then blurted at me whilst pointing at my face and said "New Zealand?"
"No", I retorted, "American, American", I said.
"America?", they chortled together in unison, with eyes as round as saucers hosting a bit of wonder and respect.
"Yes", I said, "Yes". And then what happened, I could never have expected.
"Obama, #1", they blared together, "Obama #1", they chimed, with four thumbs jerked up in the air to form the universal #1 symbol.
I couldn't have smiled enough with them. For how many years have I waited for America's pride, and other country's pride in us to be restored in this, most curious of cases, by a President-elect.

As Americans, there is certainly one thing we must never forget. The world looks to us as the best example going of democracy in practice, fairness and opportunity for all. Our people have once again captivated the world by making a collective decision in the direction that will balance a previously tilted scale and hopefully shine a light of optimism on some of the less lit corners of the globe. The food stall I was dining at was buried deep in the heart of the cacophonous market but had a light that shined ever so brightly, just for the seconds that we all smiled together. Lunch with Obama. #1.
For more on the "Perspective" or "Little Things" series, click below:

My Morning Wake-Up Call - Perspective XX: The Little Things XII
We'll Have A Gay Old Time - Perspective XIX: The Little Things XII
"Rolled Foggy Disposed Ricepaper" - Perspective XVIII: The Little Things XI

Joyeux Noel - Perspective XVII: The Little Things X

Lunch With Obama - Perspective XVI: The Little Things IX

One Motley Crue On The Bus Today - Perspective XV: The Little Things VIII

Attraction vs. Conversion: How To Power Your Blog - Perspective XIV: The Little Things VII

A glass box full of deep fried chicken heads - Perspective XIII: The Little Things VI

Seoul Searching - Perspective XII

He Would Have Shot Me 40 Years Ago - Perspective XI: The Little Things V

Chomsky on Colour & Sleep - Perspective X: The Little Things IV.2

Running With Scizzors - Perspective IX: The Little Things IV

Henry Miler II - Perspective VIII : The Little Things III.1

Henry Miller - Perspective VII: The Little Things III

Big Brother - Perspective VI: The Little Things II

This Carnival of Life! - Perspective V

The Art Walk - Perspective IV: The Little Things

Bentley #5 - Perspective III.2

Bentley vs. Vespa - Perspective III.1

Bentleys Invade Vietnam - Perspective III

Death Of A Colleague - Perspective II


For more on Obama, click below:

Obama to Send 30,000 Troops to Tiger Woods House

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One Motley Crue on the Saigon Bus #4 Today - Perspective XV: The Little Things VIII

Just a couple of things today. O My last trip on the #4 bus was a charming story about and old soldier I met. That story will go down as one of my most pleasant experiences here. Today's story will have some merit as well, but of a different sort. The #4 today was a hard one to catch back from the airport. I had been in the area for a series of meetings all afternoon and it was certainly not my plan that I try to catch the bus from a location different from my usual and right in the middle of rush hour. But since I think I'm so fucking bright some daysBus,  Saigon,  Rush Hour, Gridlock, Motley Crue, Brian Wilson, Gum, Michigan Opinion,  Storytelling, , I thought I knew the return route and could find a stop easily. Wrong, dumbo. When I arrived at what was certainly a proper stop with a shelter, benches and a big advertising poster, it had been inhabited by street shoe salesmen - guys who spread out big tarps all over the sidewalk, preventing walking, and fill them with all manner of shoes. Gym shoes, work boots, sandals, whatever. Vietnam is a big shoe producer and some of them are really quite nice, and cheap to boot (bad pun intended). But the last thing one needs is these guys taking over your bus stop when a light rain is falling. A #4 came and just cruised right on by. I had seen him swing towards the curb up the street a bit but when he got to me it was adios mutthaf*cka. It took me awhile to sort out what was happening. It took me until yet another #4 came and blew by. The stop had been closed because of the street construction in the center lane where I have mentioned before they are digging a big long hole and installing drainage pipe. Saigon is at sea level or below and it floods like a swamp when the rains come, which is almost all the time. So the anser was clear. Walk to the next stop. And that was easily a kilometer. When I finally arrived a #4 dutifully swung by and snatched me up. It was about 1/2 full so I got my favorite seat riding shotgun to the right of the driver. But rush hour is a predictable yet unpredictable daily event in Saigon. Everybody knows it's going to happen, and the resulting gridlock where motorbikes can cut off busses and big trucks crossing from other streets, but they act like it's a big surprise. After spending nearly 20 minutes in a gridlock where a traffic signal had gone down, somebody finally called the traffic police and got a yellow helmeted cop to the scene to sort the rowdy bikers out and let us finally pass. But in the interim the driver thought we needed some entertainment so he switched on 99.9fm, Vietnam's classic rock station and treated us to a good loud sample of Motley Crue, followed by some screaming Gothic shrew with three wailing guitars as accompaniment. I nodded in approval and did a little air guitar for the driver as he broke into a big smile. At least the crazy whiteys on the bus dug the scene. Once through the gridlock his assistant, the girl who takes your money, whispered in his ear and the station was changed to something more traditionally Vietnamese. There were a couple of old ladies in the back mind you. I'm sure they had had enough Crue for one day. Maybe a lifetime. O Once at my internet cafe I had two Cokes a "Ban Xeo Man" (Vietnamese rice flour and egg pancake, folded, full of shrimp and pork and veggies - mmmm - tasty) and a hot coffee with sweetened condensed milk before I sat down to write this. Upon beggining to write a little girl of maybe seven came in with a puppy. It was a big hit with the customers and she, of course, was in the selling business. Little girls here sell gum to foreigners and we all buy it now and again, but I'll explain more about that and why later. With me she didn't try to sell me at all. She was interested in my headphones and the music I was listening to in the computer. She came into my booth, played with the trackpad for a bit and then said "music." I gave her the earbuds and she promptly popped them in and laid her head on my lap. She was tired. She needed a break. The music I was listening to was the new album from Brian Wilson called "Lucky Old Sun" and it's a bit of a tour de force from an old beach boy who just refuses to die. If you've got the sound cranked up on your PC or Mac, you're listening to it in the podcast. The little girl rested for about 10 minutes in my lap and the staff smiled and commented that I had made a new friend. When she finished I asked her, "Good?". And she promtly said "No, no good". And scurried away. I found it to be just as sweet an ending to a day with a fairly harrowing bus chasing trial as one could have. Here now for your perusal. O Over and out.

For more on the "Perspective" or "Little Things" series, click below:

My Morning Wake-Up Call - Perspective XX: The Little Things XII
We'll Have A Gay Old Time - Perspective XIX: The Little Things XII
"Rolled Foggy Disposed Ricepaper" - Perspective XVIII: The Little Things XI

Joyeux Noel - Perspective XVII: The Little Things X

Lunch With Obama - Perspective XVI: The Little Things IX

One Motley Crue On The Bus Today - Perspective XV: The Little Things VIII

Attraction vs. Conversion: How To Power Your Blog - Perspective XIV: The Little Things VII

A glass box full of deep fried chicken heads - Perspective XIII: The Little Things VI

Seoul Searching - Perspective XII

He Would Have Shot Me 40 Years Ago - Perspective XI: The Little Things V

Chomsky on Colour & Sleep - Perspective X: The Little Things IV.2

Running With Scizzors - Perspective IX: The Little Things IV

Henry Miler II - Perspective VIII : The Little Things III.1

Henry Miller - Perspective VII: The Little Things III

Big Brother - Perspective VI: The Little Things II

This Carnival of Life! - Perspective V

The Art Walk - Perspective IV: The Little Things

Bentley #5 - Perspective III.2

Bentley vs. Vespa - Perspective III.1

Bentleys Invade Vietnam - Perspective III

Death Of A Colleague - Perspective II


Monday, November 17, 2008

A sex Redesign obama For scandal The oprah Wild oral Wild butt East iPhone Dailies!

Yessiree! We've gone and redesigned the whole blog in proper SEO (Search Engine Optimization) fashion to make the most out Sex,  Redesign, Obama , Scandal Oprah,  Oral, Sex, Butt , iPhone, Funny  of search engine's obsessions with colours, dirty words, Obama and anything involving something bad involving Obama. Boy this is gonna throw Google for a loop! A few days ago, I actually ran into a blog that used headlines like the one above because they were trying to get the most out of popular keywords. The blog was just miserably written but had a photo of a somewhat attractive twentysumthing female and a lot of pictures of flowers and wedding dresses and kitty-cats. I almost threw up. I had to purge the girl as one of my "friends" on a particular social networking service. Will the outright shilling never end? She wasn't near as cute as Lonelygirl15.

Has anyone mentioned that the reason good blogs do well is that people like to read what the writers have written? No, not a single SEO consultant can help you with that. If you suck as a writer you just suck and all the technical tinkering in the world can't help you. Or me either.

But I've done something I hope will help my readers with getting through the many times long content I put up here. Rather than forcing people to read white type through black I've reversed the equation so that you can read black type on a lighter background whilst keeping the colour highlights that have become a bit of a trademark at the Wild Wild East Dailies.

And so now, it's your job to tell me what you think. Do you like the new layout and colours, or would you like me to go back to the ImmaBlackBadAssedBlog look and continue our underground quest? Honestly, I think so many of the black on white blogs are just so visually boring and I miss the look of a good magazine design, so I'm not in a big hurry to go totally black on white - and I promise, that even with this little tweaking of the look that I won't loose any of the acerbic yet hopeful commentary many people have become fond of. This is, just truly, a way to make it easier on a lot of people's eyes and computer screens.

Look in the sidebar and find the poll to vote for the blog look. I'll keep this design for about a month and then, based on your input, make a decision on how to proceed in the future. In the meantime, you can Google the "Obama Oprah Anal Oral Sex Butt Scandal" and let me know what you find out. I'm sure somebody's got a post out there.

I'm going to finish today with two reviews that have appeared on "Blogged". You can see my Blogged rating easily in the sidebar and vote for yourself if you like. I do appreciate the comments - at least ones like these:

(9.9) - "A rare foray into the underbelly of being. Takes one back to the golden age of blogging when being a blogger was akin to reporting from the dark side of the moon. Blogging has now become fashionable as well as a slick marketing ploy. David's blog really is a breath of fresh air!!" - David A.

(9.0) - "David writes with insight and personal comments, making it rather interesting read. Once you start reading, you will come back for more. He doesn't need to advertise much, he sells you with his product, it's solid. The good old fashioned way. You can't fake this or try to copy it, it just wouldn't work. This is David's world, and it is quite a read..." - Mads M.

(9.0) - After a long day at the office, this blog is an always fascinating, hangover-free cocktail of keen observation, a nothing-is-sacred perspective and heart. Read it via e-mail ... or, for a full sensory immersion, through your browser. - Freya R.

For more on Obama, click below:

Obama to Send 30,000 Troops to Tiger Woods House

For more in Political Satire and Satire see:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

BarCamp Saigon - A truly impressive start

I attended BarCamp, Saigon, RMIT, IBM, Vinagame, WPP,  Martin Sorrell, Advertising, New Media, BarCamp Saigon today with no preconceptions. No, that's a lie, I expected it to be boring. I figured I'd go for an hour and walk. From all I had read and seen on the Internet I envisioned a few rooms full of siliconmunist geeks, embroiled in their own laptops and discussing obscure programming language that only a Linux devotee could love. But this was my first BarCamp so a learning curve was in store for me. What I found instead, was many rooms full of many different kinds of people that was a perfect mix of Vietnamese, multinationals and a few Cambodians thrown in for good measure, discussing everything from New Media to "How to Start a Start-up" to "Sexy Cambodian Bloggers". It was fun, it was refreshing. It was interactive.

It was everything that the advertising business used to be, but doesn't seem to be anymore.Justify Full And that's a shame - for the ad business anyway. Over the last eight years, or maybe longer, the biz has been steadily eaten away by "New Media" businBarCamp, Saigon, RMIT, IBM, Vinagame, WPP,  Martin Sorrell, Advertising, New Media, esses, many represented by the variety of people in the rooms today and what I felt, in a more than general nature, is that this is where the business of creativity has moved for the future. Many many years ago, in the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan said, "The medium is the message" in reference to the burgeoning dominance of mass media in American society and today that statement was more than fact. McLuhan also coined the term "Global Village" and today was just part of the realization of his prediction.

To understand my description of the advertising business' decline over the last eight years one need look no further than to the current share price of WPP, the world's largest communications business holding company, at $26.50 today vs. $100 in the year 2000. I still own a few hundred shares. Ha! It's a sad, but real decline and representative of the entire industry. And a lot of it happened, because the ad business had tied itself to an old 15% commission model based on the purchase of mass media at a time when the masses were moving into more personal and segregated forms of media - and the ad agencies had no new media products or ways to charge for them. No, Martin Sorrell didn't make this happen - the consumer made it happen - because he/she wanted to consume his/her information in the new ways that were being made available in the day, and not in the old ways, where the company or government said the same thing to everyone and everyone had no choice but to hear it and sit down. The consumer began to not only have a choice, but a voice in their message channels and content. User- generated media was born. Over the last eight years New Media has enjoyed an upwardly spikey growth chart whilst television and mass media expenditures have declined consistently.

One of the most interesting comments of our BarCamp day came from a Cambodian blogger who said that in Cambodia "Blogs have become the most trusted form of receiving news because people no longer believe the mass media". This sentiment has been echoed by people worldwide over the last few years when, America, the former bastion of free speech, became the home of "embeded" journalism and government controlled media. By the time anybody in mass media checked the constitution, the bloggers of America and the world had already printed the stories of the day and citizens all over the globe had read them. I'm happy to have been along for that ride.

My Barcamp started at the registration table at RMIT University . The event was sponsored by RMIT, IBM and VinaGame. I was asked to sign a form and given a name bBarCamp, Saigon, RMIT, IBM, Vinagame, WPP,  Martin Sorrell, Advertising, New Media, adge and a program (iBarCamp, Saigon, RMIT, IBM, Vinagame, WPP,  Martin Sorrell, Advertising, New Media, n Vietnamese only) and informed that it was lunchtime so I could use a voucher for 40,000 VND inside my packet to have lunch. How cool. So the first thing I did was have a free lunch and a Pepsi. Sweet. My afternoon was full of bopping from room to room where I found active discussions, cool speakers and simple but interactive presentations. But the most impressive part of all was the interactivity. These audiences weren't the typical "sit and listen to the professor" type. Rather they weren't audiences at all but participatory bodies who drove the discussions into areas even the speakers hadn't considered. I've included the day schedule here. You can double-click on the images and make them large enough to read.

The afternoon finished around five o'clock with a wrap-up presentation in the auditorium. All the sponsors were thanked, and there we many aside from the three biggies, and we were given free t-shirts from the event and invited to an after-party with food and drinks provided gratis at a restaurant nearby. And unexpected treat. The RMIT team, a big one, came out jumping around and hugging each other to cheers from the crowd, camera flashes and spirits hitting a big high.

To finally wrap the event, cordless microphones were dispatched to the audience and we were each asked to state just one thing we had learned at BarCamp that day. The best comment came from a Viet student who said the following:

"Today I learned the meeting of Free. Free lunch, Free dinner, Free beer, but most of all Free Thought. We Vietnamese need to learn to speak more freely and share our ideas to build a better future and better businesses. Today I felt a Freedom of mind that I want all of us to continue in the future".

That comment illicited the biggest applause from the audience and probably the best feeling, all of us had had all day. The after-party was more fine conversation with a good solid dose of networking and a liberal sprinkling of food and drink for all.

A totally successful event I would say. Thanks to Kevin Miller, Thomas Wanhoff and the whole huge crew who pulled this off. (sorry, I don't know all your names)

For more on blogs, blogging and bloggers, check here:

Advertising People & Blogs - The Travis Diaries VI
How to Write the Best Damn Blog in the World
Throw That Blog a Bone!
If Blogs Are Free Are They Worthless?
What If Gutenberg Had a Blog?
If You Like the Blog, Read the Book>/a>
2008 Annual Report - The Wild Wild East Dailies
Blog Redesign WWED
BarCamp Saigon 2008
Attraction vs. Conversion - How to Power Your Blog
Are the Bloggerati Missing the Market?

For more on digital marketing and social networking see:

Xing vs. LinkedIn: Round II
Trial and Error: The New Normal
What's Wrong With My Social Networking? Xing vs. LinkedIn I
Low Tech Germany. Who Knew?
Advertising People and Blogs
How to Write the Best Blog in the World
What If Gutenberg Had a Blog?
If Blogs Are Free Does That Make Them Worthless?
Detri-Viral Marketing II: The Top 10 Social Media Blunders
Bright Lights, Big Internet and the WWED
Saigon Digital Marketing Conference Successfully Avoids Plumbers Convention
A Tale of Many Marketing Conferences
Detri-Viral Marketing I: How Web 2.0 Can Go Against A Brand
Marketing Predictions for 2009
Barcamp Saigon 2008
"Ignore Everybody" is Born: A Plug for Hugh MacLeod
Are the Bloggerati Missing the Market? Asia has Risen,
Into the Gapinvoid - Web 2.0 Social Networking Born 20 Years Ago

Monday, November 10, 2008

What's Important this Veterans Day?

A few months ago, I did a post about a little Vietnamese boy I did not know, grabbing my hand as we both edged into a sea of motorbikes to cross the street. The original is here.

Tonight in reviewing and re-publishing my work over this last year I ran across my old post again but had forgotten the beautiful and poignant response from Ken Herrmann, who had been here during the war. Today we only fight motorbikes in Vietnam. That's important to remember.

Ken Herrmann Jr said...

Your post reminded me of late 68 and early 69 when I lived in Hiep Duc village, thirty=five miles southwest of Danang, as the liaison for the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. There were 1,500 locals resettled in the village and me. I lived on a small hill next to the village. Each morning a few kids from the village would wake me. One I called "Mao" because he was the spitting image of a tiny Mao. I ate breakfast with him and his buddies, before walking down the hill to feed the village with hundreds of boxes of stolen C-rations. Later each day an ARVN surgeon came to the village for a medcap. Sometimes Capt Goldberg, the 4th/31st Infantry Battalion surgeon came to treat the people. I recall Mao holding my hand when a little girl, about four-years of age wandered into the village one morning. She walked and stared at us, but I looked at her brain. Her skull had been blown off the night before. The ARVN surgeon told me he would bring her home that day. "I don't know what my wife will say about this." He had brought home about a dozen kids I had begged him to help. I wonder what happened to her. I wonder what happened to him. I wonder more when you write about the little boy who held your hand. Some things never end. Some thoughts are never silent.

Thanks, David.

Ken works as a Professor of Social Work at SUNY and runs a Vietnam and foreign studies program there. He and I have been corresponding for nearly three years now, well before the birth of this blog, based on a PSA I did for his program.

Thank you for reminding me of this, Ken.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Language Barrier : The Asian Business Conundrum - Your best speakers are not always your best employees

I first heard this from David Miller, outgoing managing director of Leo Burnett Korea as I was coming in to the country as a managing partner with our office there.

"Your best speakers are not always your best employees", he said and went on to explain that as a new foreign manager that I would have an immediate withdrawal
reflex and lean immediately on those who could speak English, bypassing a whole building full of people who could possibly solve my problem. And he could not have been more right. Foreign companies are absolutely classic at populating meetings full of elegant orientals who can certainly talk a good game, but are miserably inept at managing anything when the job gets back to the shop. And this can happen in two ways:

1) They are Asian of national descent but were raised overseas. In Korea they are "Kyopo". In Vietnam they are "Viet Kieu". And while western managers are just fabulously happy to have people like this on the ground, the locals can many times resent them because they didn't grow up in country, don't really know the culture, and talk funny. Additionally, can be perceived by the locals that the imports are
getting a better deal than those who have fought for their country and don't deserve it - so they often have great difficulty getting anything done inside their native culture.

2) They are miserable managers. And therein lies a huge problem in Asian education, western hiring practices and any sort of management whatsoever here. The preference for excellent English over excellent thinking. Has anyone noticed that Putin never speaks English at a summit? Or that any other number of foreign leaders from everywhere from France to Argentina don't either, yet run perfectly solid countries with minimal crap over time - yet many African leaders with Indian and Pakistani ones thrown in, speak perfect English but have box-of-rocks countries that are rife with problems.

Back in the US you see it in a way that is almost comical, but common. At Leo Burnett we had an ac
count manager named Bob Chen, who was of Chinese American descent, and had been put in charge of the Nintendo account, a one hundred year old Japanese company. No one seemed to be worried that the histories of Japan and China at war over thousands of years could be an issue but the decision was much more simple than that. In a 50 storey building with 2300 employees, we didn't have any Japanese. Rumour was that management was running around the office looking for "yellow people" before the pitch and Bob was what they could find. Close enough, right? Bob worked hard but he didn't really understand the business and certainly didn't know fuck all about Japanese management. There was another instance, in which Sony had expressed a preference for German design in it's ads - you know, real clean, spare, cold stuff, so a German designer was shipped in. What a nice guy, but the entire account staff just regarded him as an alien. America has just been fabulously insular forever whilst claiming to be a "melting pot" but that's been largely crap. Happenings this week are the first hope I've seen. Ever.

But the problem has now reversed itself for me. It's the local companies who plant good English speakers in front positions and then direct with old men and an opium pipe from the back room. Whenever I walk into a meeting and meet a room full of perfect English speakers, I am immediately suspicious. Not a one of them is a decision maker. They're props. Actors, TV talents. And the sooner indigenous and foreign companies alike realize this, the further they will come towards getting a great group of different people working together. Not myself or a one of us is going to be able to erase this prejudice, but as managers we can recognize it and take real big extra care to include everyone in the projects. I leave you with two examples from my initial assignment in Korea.

From Wild Wild East:

Jinook Kim was our motorbike delivery man at Leo Burnett. He was also a TV producer, but as the low cub on the totem pole, was stuck with delivering tapes, first to the censors, then to the TV stations at god-awful hours in the morning. But Jinook's boss was such a complete bum, that had acquired such an earned disdain from me that I came to rely on Jinook for anything of importance. His boss, a Mr. Park, had been trained at Columbia College in Chicago, arguably the top broadcast school in the city, and it was obvious that during his time in Chicago, he had done nothing but take the train from Korea-town, attend class, and go back to Korea-town and drink beer with his buddies at the end of the day. He could speak English but was creatively worthless, had never been to the Art Institute, a Sox or Cubs game and didn't even know who Al Capone was (I'm serious).

Jinook, conversely, couldn't speak a lick of English but spent his entire day in the office, while waiting to do his evening editing and deliveries watching videos. Hundreds of videos. I called him Tarantino, (he had no idea what that meant) because Quentin Tarantino taught himself to write and direct films by working in a video shop. Jinook had gone to a crappy trade school and was treated like dirt by the other Koreans. He was also paid less than even a secretary and was my lowest paid staff.

Over time I came to realize than Jinook's talents lie not just in his technical and creative ability, but in his negotiating skills in getting persnickety censors to approve stuff at 4am.

One day we had a huge issue with a Reebok commercial. The censors had rejected it because it featured Shaquille O'Neal having his head shaved to reveal a Reebok logo on the back of his head at the end. Harmless. But the censors had called head shaving "degregating to the human spirit" and refused to put it on air. We, of course, had just received the film from the US and put a Korean voice over on it.

Arriving the next morning, I was apprised of the situation and informed by Jinook that he had already created a solution. Remember, Jinook could speak no English to me aside from things, like video, movie and Speilberg.

He showed me the revised cut and my jaw dropped. It was fucking brilliant. "How, how, how", I said, "did you think of that?", I asked him. "Because, I know your mind", he said, "I know your mind".

Jinook had simply re-cut the commercial, using the same voice over to run the entire film in reverse, beginning with Shaq and a Reebok logo on his head, and ending with a happy Shaq and a full head of hair. Crisis averted. Censors appeased.

My second story comes from the same company and a different employee, a writer.

Ms. Lim, was regarded as our top writer and had a well earned reputation for churning out mildly humourous and engaging radio commercials for BMG music on artists as scintillating as Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, and we know where they are now don't we.

All writers and artists had their copy and ideas approved through me and it was usually done with Mrs. Woo, our department mom and creative director, providing the translation.

I reviewed the script and made a comment about changing the joke at the end and what I got what an obviously incensed Ms. Lim. "You no speak Korean", she belted, "You no read Korean. You no!", and she stormed out. As was sometimes the case, I just suspected that this issue world be referred to the president and he would over ride me, so I didn't loose much sleep over these cultural flairups.

The next morning I arrived in my office to find a wide ribbon of beautiful rice paper rolled and tied with a bow on my desk. I grabbed my coffee and sat down to open it. As I stretched it out, it was written with a simple black pen but in a penmanship that was elegantly Ms. Lim.

I am paraphrasing here and imitating her dialect but this is the general gist:

Dear David;

When you come here, I no have confidence for you.
You not Korean. You no speak Korean.
How know you Korean writing?
I mad to managers about give us you.
But last night, I thought about your idea,
and it is good one.

Thank you,

Ms. Lim

Ms. Lim and Jinook ended up on a film trip to Chicago later that year to make a television commercial for Kelloggs. We ate at at all sorts of restaurants, they visited my house, met my wife and generally had the time of their lives. They were the first Korean staff to have ever worked outside Korea. On the shoot, we had big, 10" plastic cornflakes so that we could shoot high speed film and get proper definition on the "milk spash" shot. Jinook wanted to take one home but we had to say no. Trade secret stuff. Koreans can copy anything, even plastic cornflakes. Jinook's salary was appropriately raised from $12,000 a year to $18,000 by the end of my tenure.

Jinook ended up being one of the city's top commercial directors, working for the best production company in Korea and may even have his own company now. Ms. Lim became the principal freelance writer for my company, CarlsonCreative, and enjoyed a stellar career as an advertising writer. Both of them learned to speak impeccable English.

And there is the moral in this story: Infuse your employees with passion for their discipline, reward them and let the benefits come back to you. The English will come as they want it to come, if you inspire and support them.

For more on Creativity, Education and the like, check below:

"Do Our Schools Kill Creativity?" - Sir Ken Robinson
Brand Marketing and Staff Training in Vietnam
2009 Marketing Predictions
The Language Barrier - An Asian Business Conundrum

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Vietnam Advertising Association and the Golden Bells: RIP for the Bells?

The creative season is upon us in Vietnam and with the "Big Show", scheduled for early December people are just getting warmed up. Conversely, one would expect the Vietnam Advertising Association to be firing up their "Golden Bell" awards...but no? I don't know, you Google it, but I've not heard a thing and have already made a fairly large point about VAA's needs in that area and don't need to put the boot in anymore. Instead, I'm going to reprint my review of last year's two shows at the end of this post, and I can tell you, I was as journalistically critical of both as one could have been, but also fair and even handed in not trashing the whole scene. The scene just needs work. And a lot of it. My suggestion at the end of the review was that both shows talk to each other and join hands to bring the industry out of a foreigner vs. local mentality, but that certainly hasn't come to pass. The Big Show, will go on, as always, and certainly be better than previous years. It has every year I have been here. The Golden Bells? No info.

Recently, I received a note for the staging of
"Annie Get Your Gun" the first fully staged Broadway musical to hit Vietnam and this IS impressive:

"This massive co-production is the result of collaboration between the International Choir of HCMC, the HBSO Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera, The Saigon Players amateur theatre group and the DanCenter. Saigon has never seen the likes of this kind of show before!"

And this is what needs to happen in the advertising business. But it won't happen so long as the former said AD organization, won't involve the whole industry. Period.
As support for this I need to relate a recent experience that happened independent of anything I had written previously and independent of any work I have done in the business thus far.

A few months ago, I had discovered an Institute called ARTI, , The Advertising, Training and Research Institute, and made a point to drop by and introduce myself. And I did. On the day I stopped by they had just finished their opening ceremony. I walked into a small working room and was introduced to a number of men in suits and women as well. They were very warn. Business cards around the room and my CV given to the staff, they were all over it. "He came from Leo Burnett in Chicago - he worked for this client - he worked for that client. He won a lot of awards" As is customary only the younger people speak enough English to ask the questions, but the questions were obviously being fielded from a more senior man in the corner. I will not mention his name here but his card indicated a high position in VAA. They all handed me a pile of cards in return but you really do have to know that none of the younger people in the room even had a title above "housepainter", no matter what they call them. Sorry, but that's the way it is - same as Korea. Even if you thought the big man in the room was a decision maker there's always a bunch of wizards behind the curtain in these association deals that you can not see. Basically, he's not going to give you any decisions or money. Associations don't make money.

Thank you emails exchanged and I was contacted a few weeks later for another meeting.

At this meeting the big guy was not there, but I was able to talk with the staff. They were animated and had a young guy, who had previously spoken before, but not this day, just circling the room and videotaping everything I said. I found it annoying but said nothing. I put on my best camera face. The meeting began with them handing my a syllabus for a Brand Management class that was just phenomenally well written and on top of the game. "Did you write this?", I inquired. Another man responded, not sheepishly at all, that it had come from Columbia University in New York. I then proceeded to ask if they had any way to execute it. You know, lesson plans, visual examples, case studies, etc. I also inquired to see a textbook and was shown one paperback on Asian branding and told they had e-books. Hmmm. Has anyone checked the e-book offerings on branding recently? I'm sure all the big gurus are just giving away their books for free on the net.

I spoke of my design of a brand management class I had done for Vietnam National University a few years ago and also mentioned that I had 11 PowerPoint case studies done by my students for their final grade. That school had paid me well and I had worked hard to write and deliver their course. The interest level was more than palpable. There was talk of me teaching a course, being a guest speaker and other things. I had mentioned that I would have no trouble representing the program to the multinational agencies in town, and selling the thing, if I could be assured it was of some real value. Multinational agencies need well trained employees and the VAA needs a soft intro to the multinational community. They currently only have one of those agencies on their membership roster.

This wrapped up and I was invited to yet another meeting on Saturday, the same week, to meet the woman who would head the Brand Management class. As is customary, I did a conference report detailing the meeting and sent it by email that evening to the key parties. In it I promised to bring a copy of my VNU syllabus. Mine doesn't differ much from Columbia's, just more simple and applicable to the market. You couldn't teach a course from it. It's an outline.

Saturday arrived and the room was full of yet more people but not the big guy again. A woman from a reasonably huge multinational client was there, and if you know anything about meetings, and dog sniffing contests, she certainly didn't want to meet me. I was there as a foreign advisor and she wanted that like she wanted holes drilled in her head. I'm sure she gets her butt handed to her everyday at work and the last thing she wanted was to come to a meeting at a part-time job with a very experienced person. Hell, I was just looking for, honestly, a small bit of work. I didn't want her job at ARTI and never would.

The meeting began and the first thing on the agenda was my conference report. The main guy there, but not the real big guy, went through it and said immediately, "You forgot something." I asked what and he asked for my PowerPoint case studies. Things immediately became awkward and the video man was circling again. I explained, in as much of a logical way as they could not understand, that those were the result of my previous work and a vital part of any teaching I might do, not to mention my hundreds of video references and other PowerPoints that I only keep on my computer. I also explained that there was an entire website for the class but that that, required a code to access and of course they could not have, pretty much ever. Seems their e-books were not enough.

Things then just took a turn for the odd and they handed me the Columbia University syllabus again and asked if there was anything I would change. I crossed out about half of it and said, "Look, you've got to make these concepts accessible and interesting to your students" and you've got no backup or Viet examples of the theories in practice. My case studies came up again.

One needs to be as kind but firm in situations like this but did they ever ask themselves why I would be willing to give away privileged information for free? Probably not. What I did realize though was that I was the only man in the room, not on the payroll and the only one who had written a damn thing for the meeting. I had a conference report, a VNU syllabus and had edited a Columbia University document in 30 seconds. This meeting was soon to be over. They had gotten quite enough from me and I had gotten nothing in return.

The meeting ended with a woman, apparently the top account girl at the big guy's agency, the guy who wasn't there, handing me a complete document detailing the profile of a foreign client and asking me if I could help them write a response to an RFP. I asked her immediately, who the competition in the pitch was and she told me she didn't know. "It's a secret", she said.

"Find out or walk away", I said. Jaws dropped to the floor. "You can't fight ghosts", I explained. "If you find out the competition is big famous companies, or very good ones, that gives you a way to place your own company in the bid. If they're little guys, you learn something else. But if you don't know anybody in the mix you'll just be giving away reams of your own information and costs with no understanding of what they mean to the client in the mix." The ARTI man agreed with me and told her, "It must be fair". Interesting, her boss had sent her to get even more free consulting than I had already provided. But she did get good advice. In the end I saved her money and time.

There were a few pleasantries exchanged but they couldn't get their case studies out of me for free and had no intention of even hiring me to teach one class. A few emails exchanged the following week. "Would you be a guest speaker?", they asked. I sent them a more than fair price and that was the end of communication.

I write this not to really upset anybody, but I wouldn't mind shaking this VAA organizational tree a little. And I've not been a Trojan horse either. The following review was made aware to them in the middle of our discussions and I mentioned that's it's critical but in the end constructive. Advertising's a bitch man. Fragile egos will get you nowhere.

Here's last years run:

Vietnam Advertising: Trying To Find It's Face

Ho Chi Minh City played host to two different advertising shows this weekend and if you ever wanted to find two completely different faces on one city this was the place to do it – and what a confused face both sides combined to be.

Friday, an independent group called The Creative Circle staged their ninth annual display of work at the Galaxy Cinema in the courtyard outside and it was a massively attended event. Well over 700 people gathered to see all the print work displayed on gallery panels and then crammed SRO into one of the theatres for the TV showing with over 20 local agencies displaying works.

It was a summarily impressive event, except for the quality of the work, which aside from a few single entries, failed to impress or inspire most of the attendees. What the show accomplished in spades though is what advertising shows should accomplish: It brought people together, gave them free food and drink and encouraged them to discuss, debate and grouse over the some of the best and least inspiring work in the country.

For it's purpose, the Creative Circle Show was not a juried nor judged show – so no awards were given. No blood, no foul, as they say – and maybe not so good.

But if one were looking for fouls, the Vietnam Advertising Association show, The
Golden Bell Awards, on Sunday was a sure fix. A poorly promoted and garishly festooned TV special, this show had all the look of a Bollywood extravaganza with seemingly none of the professionalism that should go along with any kind of awards show.

Transparency in judging would have been the main issue with some of the awardees not even having appeared on the festival website for the last few months for supposed "voting". So poorly attended was the event that the organizers, a TV production company, had to stack the audience with high school kids to get 400 people in the seats because the industry from Friday was just plain absent.

When the judging panel should have been a "Who's Who" of the industry, this panel engendered more of a
"Who's that?" question – with not a single major advertising name on the list – not even the head of any local agency. If the government was looking to find extra duties for under-worked bureaucrats this was perfect, because the list of judges and committee members was exactly that.

Interestingly enough though, the work in this show was of much higher calibre than the show on Friday. Even a panel of dimwits would have had a hard time making a bad choice. But if more than 1% of the agencies were represented here, even that would have been a stretch. With over 5000 companies claiming to be in the advertising business in Vietnam, this show was an embarrassment – only because the association representing this industry couldn't seem to advertise enough to get anyone to enter or show up for the show. Entry fees were outrageously high, compared to even international shows, and no posters, print material or newspaper ads promoted the show.

In the end, it was loose–loose for both shows – because neither one did a complete or comprehensive job. The Creative Circle was good for cocktails and conversation but no real outcome, and the
Golden Bells managed a TV program, good for viewers of same-old, same-old Vietnamese variety shows, but absolutely no socialization, platform, education or advancement for people in the business – an inaccurate and disappointingly staged event.

To grow the business in Vietnam it's obvious that both camps could benefit from each other's expertise. The Creative Circle certainly know how to throw a proper show that attracts the industry, and the
Golden Bells know how to make statues and TV programs.

Working together in the future may be a bold and politically risky suggestion but it's the only one that makes any sense considering the shortcomings of both efforts this last weekend.

[David Everitt-Carlson has worked in the advertising business for more than 25 years and is a consultant in Ho Chi Minh City:

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