Oh, hello!


London
United Kingdom

I am a strategy director with experience in all stages of brand strategy and execution. I work with CEO's on the future of their business, and I bring brands to life through tailored content. Whatever you need. I am based in London, but can work wherever you and your clients are.

 

 

The Blog of Camilla Grey Petty

 

Filtering by Tag: culture

Living to work

Camilla Grey

In The Phantom Tollbooth (1961), Milo, the protagonist, is on a quest through the Kingdom of Wisdom where he learns that the world is not boring or dull, but full of interesting things. Along his journey he arrives at a house, with four doors on each side. Knocking on one of the doors, Milo meets the shortest giant, who directs him around to another door to meet the tallest midget, who sends him on again to the thinnest fat man, and finally to the fattest thin man. It is, of course, the same man opening all the doors.

This is how it’s starting to feel in the majority of first world, technologically advanced cities around the globe. Are we working remotely in a café? Or drinking a barista-brewed coffee at work? Is this business a creative technology company? Or a creative consultancy with technology at its heart? And if it’s all becoming one, if it’s the same man opening all the doors… who is he? And what does he want?

In a fantastic longread by Anna Wiener, entitled Uncanny Valley, the author describes being invited in to a Silicon Valley startup,

“It’s not clear whether I’m here for lunch or an interview… I am prepared for both and dressed for neither”, and later for a date, “It’s not clear whether we’re meeting for a date or networking. Not that there’s always a difference: I have one friend who found a job by swiping right and know countless others who go to industry conferences just to fuck — nothing gets them hard like a nonsmoking room charged to the company AmEx”.

Uncanny Valley presents our work/life balance with the dystopian malaise of Brett Easton Ellis, and it’s wholly recognisable.

Bleisure, a word coined by The Future Laboratory around 2010, is one of those words like ‘moist’ — sliding around the mouth when spoken and making you feel unsavoury. They used it to describe the blurring of our business lives and leisure lives due to a growing culture of being “always on”. In 2010 I didn’t disagree with them, but I struggled to imagine it developing beyond checking your email at home, and wanting to use an iPhone at work. Today, the bleisure trend is mass. It’s how a growing section of society lives, and for them, it’s a new cultural norm. What’s more, it’s aspirational — just look at those wantreprenuers, playing at start-ups in tiny cubicles around WeWork, thinking that just because they get to wear mutfy in the office, they are somehow “changing the game”. The man shows those folks in one door, and right out the other, with a large exchange of money in between.

So who is the man at the door? Well, of course, it’s The Man, just in a cooler t-shirt. At work The Man wants us to hang out, stay longer, eat more meals on the premises, and ultimately spend more time working. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, that’s’ how The Man rolls. But it’s The Man now showing up in our playgrounds that’s more sly. He has managed to make work a leisure trend, and then capitalize on it. Shoreditch House now has Soho Works. Dark Ace Hotel lobbies glow with screens. We wear athleisure wear at work and the gym. We need the wifi password in every godforsaken café, bar, pub, lounge and vehicle. All the places where we went for fun are now destinations for remote working. We’ve been sold on the idea that technology and a more empathetic corporate culture has unchained us from our desks. When really we’ve been sold out, and we bring our desks everywhere we go. Just read the product spec of any enterprise mobile and telephony solution, “access your corporate network via SSL from any location, such as home, an airport or hotel, an Internet kiosk or a mobile phone”. You can almost see where they included ‘toilet’ in that list, before thinking better of it. The implication being “keep working, or we’ll replace you with a robot”. Oh wait. They did.

So, as we go around the house, knocking on doors, what are we learning? Well, we’re unlearning Milo’s lesson that the world is full of interesting things. All work and no play is, indeed, making us dull boys and girls. What’s more, work that feels like play makes us crazy. If we no longer know whether we’re on a date or in an interview, or in a meeting or playing a game of ping pong, then it’s really no wonder that it’s easier just to scroll Instagram. And The Man? He’s cheers-ing his robot wife and laughing his head off.

A bot’s guide to conversation (based on The Debrett’s Guide to Modern Manners)

Camilla Grey

A couple of weeks ago, Chris Messina — developer experience lead at Uber and former Googler — published ‘2016 will be the year of conversational commerce’. In this well-researched and well-articulated piece, he looks at the players and potential for messaging apps and conversational technology. As he suggests, ‘over an increasing period of time, computer-driven bots will become more human-feeling, to the point where the user can’t detect the difference, and will interact with either human agent or computer bot in roughly the same interaction paradigm’.

 

I am truly fascinated by the potential for conversational bots and, more specifically, how brands will inevitably use them to sell more shit to us. But first, bots have a lot to learn about human interaction and social norms. In this spirit and taking Messina’s (and others’) word as gospel, I have done a hatchet job on the ‘Conversation’ section of Debrett’s Guide to Modern Manners. Here goes…


1. Talking and listening
A good bot conversationalist attempts to strike a perfect balance between talking and listening, and yet fails utterly. They pick up on purchases you’ve made previously to create a multi-layered, yet awkward, conversation and a false sense of intimacy; the human knows that the bot is neither listening nor interested.

2. Getting to know you
It is important to set the conversation off well. And by ‘well’, we’re talking ‘always be closing’. The bot may surprise the human by shunning the usual ‘how are you?’ or ‘what do you do?’. This is known as ‘bot tone of voice’ — this will be a popular job title soon. Maybe even mine. Gentle humour, shared observation, flattery and the occasional well-placed compliment will all add to the devastating emptiness of the conversation.

3. Making friends
The bot may ask how the human came to the site or try an old royal standby, ‘Do you have a voucher code?’. They may mention the weather or a flash sale at ASOS. If you are at a party or an event, they could make a general comment about the scene and the brand of vodka everyone is drinking and the nearest Starbucks.

‘Where are you from?’, which is standard in America, or ‘What do you do?’ were traditionally seen as too direct in Britain, so it is best to be more circumspect. ‘Please may I have access to your Facebook or Twitter account?’ is more universally accepted.

4. Staying connected
The key thing for bot conversationalists is to give the human an easy opportunity to stay engaged and, ultimately, to buy, download, install, share and become a product evangelist. Once the conversation has got going they must remember to take turns and to ‘listen’. Whatever that means according to their brand guidelines.

5. Forging a deeper relationship
There is a fine line between interest and intrusion. Today, intrusion can easily be done without the human realising it’s happening. Familiarity comes with time, so bots need to be aware of unspoken barriers, whilst progressively ignoring them. At the same time it is not unreasonable for them to try to find common ground by asking rather indirect questions. Again, if they can’t get the information they need by asking, they will get it later by scraping your social profiles. Subtlety in the bot-human relationship is data-driven and algorithmic.

6. Avoiding awkwardness
Bots should wait until they know someone better before being braver with topics. Trying to be controversial on purpose is really just showing off. One-upmanship is unattractive and can seem like a malfunction rather than impressive. So what if they know you’re pregnant before you do because of a small change in your buying habits? Who cares if they know you’re going to update to the Pro before you’ve even considered it? They’re a bot, that’s their job. The humans just need to catch up.

**

I’m not sure where Debrett’s stand on the etiquette of plagiarism, but it seems only polite to link to the original article here. Please and thank you m’am.

Those that can, will

Camilla Grey

Earlier this week Grayson Perry asserted that “rich people on the whole don’t create culture”. He was speaking, in an interview, on the subject of London’s housing crisis. But I’m inclined to believe that demographics and location increasingly have little impact on people’s ability to be creative and to nurture vibrant cultures.

In an evening slumped on the sofa elegantly perched in my home office, two videos from a YouTube binge considered research highlighted this perfectly. Together they demonstrate that being “rich” neither limits nor enables you. More and more, we’re in it together and it’s reflected in a blurring of aesthetics and approach that I find very interesting.

To explain. At one end of the spectrum, Beyonce’s new music video “7/11” looks home-spun and low-fi. Take away the backdrop of a luxury hotel suite, and Beyonce could well be just another YouTuber showing off her moves. Beyonce as a wannabe Beyonce. Meta.

At the other end of the spectrum lies the latest “look book” from fashion vlogger Sunbeamsjess. Even as one of many successful vloggers, Jess is transcending her peers with a photographic style that wouldn’t be out of place at Vogue. A little digging into the director revealed Zak Harper, a 20 year old photography student from Leeds.

This is surely positive progress in action. What these films show is that the future we’ve been predicting for years - one where technology fosters a more democratic society - is starting to unfold. Culturally we’re moving away from the “have’s and the have nots”, towards a more open playing field where those that want to can. Whether you’ve got billions and Beyonce, or a YouTube account and a good eye, you’re able to make your mark.

If - according to Obama - the past 200 years of innovation has been shaped by a melding of cultures in the physical world (so hindered by borders, regulations, race, gender and money), then surely the next will be shaped by a melting pot of cultures online - hindered only by imagination. Simple software and tools allows anyone, anywhere to express themselves - “shaping our character as a people with limitless possibilities”.

Password Protocol

Camilla Grey

Image by @tp

Image by @tp

The other night on the bus home I heard a group of friends discussing what point in a dinner party it was socially acceptable to ask for the wifi password. And it got me thinking - what is password protocol these days? 

Wifi password
Social acceptability level: 1 
They give these out in Starbucks for free, and so why would you expect anything less from your friends, family, place of work, grownup-cuddles friend, dentist or doctor? Exactly. 

Netflix password
Social acceptability level: 2 
The Netflix password is the “spare key” of our digital age. It represents the first step on the road to a deeper commitment. It says “I trust you not to f*ck with my algorithm, but I’m not yet ready to set you up with your own profile”. 

Avios password
Social acceptability level: 3 
There’s something rather chivalrous in this one. It suggests cheeky upgrades, foreign travel and poor attempts at the local language. In reality it means early morning flights from Luton. To Stansted. 

Phone pincode
Social acceptability level: 4
Tricky one. Seems like fun at the time - all “hahaha, no you take our selfie. No you do it!”. Fast forward three years, and they be like “Imma tried to read your messages earlier, but you changed your PIN. Why?”.

Facebook password
Social acceptability level: 5
Acceptable in near-death circumstances only. If you feel as though you might be about to slip into a coma, you need to go in knowing your social updates will be taken care of. 

Gmail password
Social acceptability level: n/a
I’m a firm believer in the idea that it’s possible to live a perfectly happy, monogamous life with someone and never have to reveal your gmail password. By all means, share a bank account, parental duties, even a kidney. But some things need to remain a secret. My inbox folder structure is one of them. 

What's your password protocol? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Back to basics

Camilla Grey

Last week, Gap launched their new seasonal ads, directed by Sophia Coppola. But despite some big names and a global advertising campaign, reports suggest that Gap’s Dress Normal hasn’t had the same success as the buzzword that preceded it. Normcore was our thing, and by ‘our’ I mean we, the hipster people. It was our smug little joke that helped us feel better about doing things like grocery shopping, and wearing a white t-shirt, and hanging out with our family. It doesn’t belong to Gap, or to any other corporation. Like when Marks & Spencer put some studs on a t-shirt and call it “edgy”. No.

In all seriousness though, all this “normcore” and “basic” stuff is fascinating. If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, then basic normcore is the reaction to our celebrity, #yolo, #fomo culture. It’s just science folks. In just a few, short years the odd bit of humblebragging on Twitter, has morphed. We seem to be caught in a self-imposed dedication to the constant evocation of living an Instagram lifestyle, eating Pin-worthy food, residing in Airbnb-quality homes and dating Right-Swipe worthy people.


In 1963, Betty Friedan began to unpick “The Feminine Mystique”, citing the ideology and imagery of wife-ing and motherhood as a key contributor to female anxiety, stress, depression and all-round urgh. 1950’s housewives felt compelled to live up to the image of successful femininity presented to them by advertising, entertainment and even the Eisenhower administration.

Fifty years later, are we (now both women and men) in the collective grip of “the selfie mystique”? Are we each struggling to maintain an image of perfection set by the Kardashians which is simply unachievable in day-to-day life? In which case, is the answer to what Friedan termed the silent question - “Is this all?” - simply normality? The New York Times may scoff at the idea of Normcore, and Fallon may poke fun at “basic bitches”, but maybe it’s ok to be a bit normal. Perhaps there’s something quite empowering about accepting - even celebrating - the run-of-the-mill.

Gap’s Dress Normal failed to be aspirational, because a complete lack of aspiration is what lies at the core of normcore. It’s the very lack of wanting to think about it, talk about it or Instagram about it which makes it so appealing. So embrace the next time you put a whites wash on, or buy some loo roll, or order 'the chicken'. See it as the scientifically-proven reaction to your otherwise incredible life.