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Saturday, December 30, 2006

The more things change...

The Private sector umbrella organisation in Dominica invited us to join. The DAIC has admirable goals like any chamber of commerce. However, when we join we will do so with a level of objection as to the way the DAIC is doing things. At present the DAIC has taken over the management of a now absentee company, called Visions and Concepts which managed a portfolio of benches and bus shelters for advertising.

The DAIC, yes, the umbrella organisation for private sector companies, is deriving revenue from selling ad space. FreeStyle Inc, FSI Creative, one of the companies in which I am a director, is the primary ad agency on island and Visions and Concepts used to be our competition for OOH.

One of the members of the DAIC board, who owns a printing business is also managing the V&C account from within the DAIC. Of course he must get something from it. Lots of printing for benches to be done if it works ok. The DAIC takes a commission and the business sector just motors along.

There is something seriously rotten about that kind of thing.

In most countries the private sector organisations raise funds from memberships and from events (dinners, speeches, hosted tradeshows) etc. In Dominica, the DAIC is also functioning as a revenue earner through competitive venture. Why would FSI join and then be faced with competition from its own umbrella body ?

They need to cut V&C loose to be bought or to die by an entrepeneur. In the meantime we will continue to see these organisations as a talking shop for buddies.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

No Respect (Part Deux)

Multinational companies dont pay the Caribbean consumer any respect. How do I know ? Look at the advertising. What usually happens is that local distributors are given the marketing budget and in the main misuse it. Coca Cola are lucky that Pepsi has missed a trick through most of the Caribbean. Why ? Coca cola are only the market leader through external marketing imagery and the continued presence of product on the ground, WITHOUT a credible competitor. Even if Pepsi were to export product to our small islands and 'can' the advertising they'd clean up.

When you consider that Caribbean people punch way over their weight its actually insulting. There is no way Digicel could have become a giant anywhere else in the world that quickly. What it has shown is that if you target the Caribbean consumer specifically that you can gain dominant market position regionally. Of course the telecoms market is different. The ARPU (avg revenue per user) position is not really an overrriding concern for Digicel. Just a dominant numbers position is being sought early on. Potential buyers will have the mental work of how to turn those numbers into a revenue positive position across the board. But Digicel has shown the way in terms of actually deploying a model targetted at the Caribbean consumer, no matter what the real morality is underlying that effort. After all it is business.

But seeing that advertising mirrors marketing or at least tries to play it up, it shows you that imported chicken isnt the only substandard product which finds our shores. I would love to see some multinational, be it LG or Pepsi or Starbucks or someone credible actually show Digicel type interest in dominating a product or service in this region. They'd be surprised by both the related kickback into their ethnic market perceptions (and revenue) in first world markets and also the kind of revenue they can make from intelligent delivery of quality to Caribbean people. It can work.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Busy

Been real busy over the last few weeks. Was in NY and kinda getting a real eyeful of what is one constant blast of commercialism. I wonder if advertising works anymore in these markets. Maybe having a good customer experience is worth its weight in gold.

Just completing the joining of a global ad agency network. No ...we were not bought over. Anyway its always interesting having to deal with perceptions of what someone is supposed to be doing in Dominica. Professionally I have never had probs once people actually understand my knowledge base. But the why we are here I guess is natural. An economic engine this lil place isnt.

I dont know how to handle christmas anymore. Its a nice time to hang with the family and its great to see children happy, but so many people go broke for this feast of excess.

Later

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dissapointing

I look at how Dominica is governed and I have to shake my head. Dont get me wrong. The job isnt sexy. The country has irrational demands for itself considering where we fit into the world scheme of things.

But Caribbean people do not seem to be progressing in the ways we make our decisions.

The government in Dominica esp needs help. No matter what your political persuasion its difficult to see a good end to the current story. An easy way to define things is to observe what would happen if the government were to collapse and the individual players had to 'survive' of their own means. Unfortunately many of them would have to leave the country. You dont have to dig deep to be worried when your government is struggling for credible professionals.

But that in itself is not even the big deal. The PM is a driven person. That can go over any academics and professional experience. The big deal is the dumbing down of institutions and processes. Sometimes you can be so obssessed with holding sway you dont recognise that the whole structure may be crumbling around you.

But again, maybe we like it so.

Friday, November 24, 2006

No respect

Advertising in the Caribbean is filled with seriousness, cliches and information.

In fact in reviewing the market not one advertiser in the Caribbean uses humour.
The idea is sell product and sell it directly and it is purely client driven. The issue is that the more literate markets, like Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados refuse to lead the way. And the smaller markets are even more focussed on the
campaigns which attack the wallet from start to finish.

Buy me, Discount, Promotion, Free. Sale. Those are the paradigms of this region and especially in places like Dominica.

Whats worse is the institutional adverts dispensed from larger affiliate marketers and agencies worldwide take a lead that it works. Well in the absence of a new way it seems to work, but noone can tell you because market research is like a dark art in the region.

Caribbean people in the region are like any first world market basing their purchases and brand perceptions on emotion, instinct and yes, things like price sensitivity and reliability.

And if they are calculating in their decision making, why arent we more creative and demanding with our clients that advertising even in small, poorer markets needs to talk to dreams and desires rather than a constant direct demand to buy product or a service.

After all take that same Caribbean person and put them in Europe or the US and they suddenly become a 'consumer'.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dem preachers botherin me

Since lil boy days I have been thinking about religion and the consequences of my ways. Sometimes I really push the envelope of wutlissness to see if I get the clap of thunder and searing flesh but intelligent minds suggest that I will suffer in more subtle ways. So if my son turns up goin to jail in 15 years time I guess it can be linked to the time I used to corrupt someones daughter. My actions to date suggests that I have hell to pay or that everyone down to my dog is in danger of getting licks for me. Though there is something really comforting about penance and forgiveness. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I can actually do the crime and not serve the time.

But those preachers really bother me. See I wonder whether really believe or if they actually spend time messin with the heads of their congregations because they recognise the power they have. Their must be something real good about watching otherwise uppity folk give you tithe and collection and at the same time use you as a conduit to another life you not even sure about.

And surely a pastor or priest sinning is like everyone else but he then has to turn up to work next day and get paid for not doing what he did the day before. Caribbean people are devoted to the afterlife. The usual thing that we say is that black people are spiritual, but in general, people living in the Caribbean are fatalistic. 'Thats how it is', ' I taking my blows', 'man what to do nuh but live well and pray'. And the more fatalistic we are, the more we defer the actions we are supposed to take in our communities, to the afterlife.

But the real reason they bother me is that unlike even the cornbread fed preachers in the US, very very few religious leaders in the Caribbean have stood for anything. Political amoebas, glory hunters in general, and silent on every single topic except in toeing the party line from their Grand Leader somewhere else. They almost like some regional company with the head office in the US or bahamas or something.

And lawd we have tings going on. Incest, Old fellas paying their way for young women, Political Corruption, man beatin up woman. But every sermon concentrating on where we goin to rather than dealing with the bare reality of life in the Caribbean. You'd think someone that goin to heaven no matter what would be able to speak their mind on any issue eh.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The flesh is weak

Are Caribbean men more wutliss than the average man ? I dont know why men have to walk a moral high ground anyway. We are dogs for real. Whether we run the genetics argument or simply follow the history of men in the world we are lucky to have our knuckles off the ground. Take war. Most people, especially women, seem to abhor war but very few civilisations and cultures which are expansive have been built without war. I mean no man goes to another man and says I want your land, your woman and your food and negotiates his way into that position. So therefore we have conflict. And actually we also have progress, as messed up as that position is to the morality of coexistence and to humanity.

Coming back to things, the society in the Caribbean needs a strong family base, and needs responsibility, but its way too much to assume that other societies are working off stronger bases. Matriarchal societies like Italy exist with constant crime, almost chaotic govt, and a culture of infidelity and yet progress occurs.

Maybe we concentrate too much on our weakness and not on our strengths. And I am talking about Caribbean man here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The tourist

I feel sorry for the poor tourist when they get here. today I watched as a man and his wife, lobster red from the sun, walked their way through a minefield of vagrants, would be tour guides and merchandise sellers to walk about 100 yards.

Of course no doubt they must have pitied me too, in a reverse form of I feel sorry for that local guy who has to go through this shit everyday.

I worked and lived in the US once. Lived in the Old Colonial Inn in Concord, Massachusetts for about 6 months. Very nice old world type living and just 10 minutes drive from where I worked in Maynard.

it was nice. I was treated like some kind of exotic bird that was nesting for a finite period. The suite which I had courtesy of good ole Breakaway in those days, was not cheap and that kind of couched the behavior to me. But a tourist I always was and I never really got to see the real face of the people except for one evening when I stayed at the bar and talked with all the staff after the 'guests' were gone. Then the smiles turned practical and you heard the real stories about how stupid it was to pay 18 bucks for a clam chowder or why people couldnt shower without getting the whole bathroom wet.

And you realise, so thats what its like.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Business as usual

I will develop this thought sequence again and again.

Initially i toyed with the Cable & Wireless vs Digicel example but lets make it more general. Is there any chance that the Caribbean will develop while personal interests and patronage is more important than doing things right ? Not on occasion. But 'everytime'.

Forget the fact that all corporates are there to make money and dont really care about the average person. Thats a given worldwide. In fact dig deep and the life of making a buck is selfish fullstop. Sell the cancerous soft drink to the little old lady or increase your night deposit....bzzzt, old lady loses out again.

But the personal thing hovers over Caribbean development. Yes we smile at each other alot, but the routine backstabbing in business life in the islands gives a clue as to why the Governments polarise the people so easily during elections.

Plenty Caribbean people have beef to settle.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Special

Mirandas. A little bar and restaurant in the hills of Roger on the way to the airport. Miranda is a friend. She can also humble the most dirty mouthed trucker with her own range of cuss words that could make you hide under a table. Miranda has her garden behind the house and runs the business on a 'how I feel today' basis.

Many times people will be broke and Miranda will feed and water them and send them on their way to pay or not another day. She also cooks for some of our parties, usually on short notice and with much cussing if you are late. But she is a good woman. Her black pudding on Fridays is hot and peppery and full of taste. Her chicken just tastes different. And her bull foot soup or goat water (she has goats behind her property) are real nice.

She calls me doudou when she is happy with me. She calls me a f...... m......when she isnt. well and about twenty other things. But it all adds to the ambience. if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Maco

Thats a term thats both a reference to a homosexual man or someone minding your biz. I havent got any thoughts on our non existent non active religious gay community so lemme get to the peeps who peeping.

Small country, not much going on, rumours abound where knowledge is absent. When I first moved to the Caribbean one person had a good story that i'd divorced, sold all my belongings and just about afforded to buy my vehicle and return to the Caribbean. I actually met him just as he was asking a mutual friend who was the lady that drove my car :-). Of course, seeing that I was a confirmed divorcee he took the fact that it was my wife a bit hard.

Anyway, the probem with a country of so much rumours is that some of them are very true. And that makes the whole Macoing scene very tricky. You cant exactly throw them all out of the window, so you have to listen to them, no matter how ridiculous.

So the merry go round of rumours keep on going.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The God Squad

Dominicans are religious. Not in the stop enjoying life kind of way of course. 'God' knows promiscuity is at an alltime high in our psuedo Catholic, Evengelist culture. Everyone and their pastor is doing it. The rest of the Caribbean is no different. As the reggae tune goes, "sitting in the church on sunday, planning who you gonna screw on monday".

the politicians play to it all the time. from elections to troubled times they go straight for the God button and it works. I am in a strange place with all of this. Believing in God is pretty uncomplicated. Its like a club. Noone asks questions once they know you are part of it. But I dont really. The french philospher Blaise Pascal was right when he spoke about believing in God as a nobrainer. If you are wrong you'd at least have lived a good life. But if you dont and you are wrong, hellfire aint a nice thought.

I'll risk it. I believe in something but I havent placed it yet. in the meantime I gain comfort from the fact that those that believe are sinning so much more than me that one day the rules must get bent to allow even the heretics in.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Stop the Bobol

I was wrong. Its even sadder than i thought.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Vex

Client changes budget 20 times, has creative and is delaying approval, and is shifting dates for an event which two heads of state are supposed to attend and endorse.

The biggest problem for creative work is trying to get people to understand that this is not just a canned exercise where you pull a couple pics together and get it all singing and dancing.

Dyam.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reality

Everytime peeps from overseas come here for a festival or carnival, they start to talk about their plans to come back home to live and work in the great nature isle etc. All the bbq smoke, the sweet looking women in tight jeans and the constant partying goes to their brain.

When I studied in London there was a group of mostly older law students who we limed around, mainly at London U (anyone ever go to a ISH jam in Baker St ? ) . Most of them returned to the Caribbean.

Lisa AGard is now VP of legal at TSTT, Mia Mottley is Deputy PM of barbados, Allison Demas is head of the Copyright oRg of Trinidad of Tobago, Lisa Adrien is fine fine fine...:-), Petrus 'Papo' compton used to be AG in St Lucia but now is a minister with a new portfolio, Gregory Georges is now CFO of West Indies Oil for Antigua and Dominica, Arden Warner is in Tortola somewhere practising law.

Of those Gregory georges is Dominican and he lives in Antigua. I didnt know any Dominicans of my generation who went to University outside of the Caribbean and returned. Denise Robinson lives in Bim and Eustace 'Boogy' Fontaine is more English than plenty Englishmen.

Thing is, other Caribbean islands have a wider depth of jobs available for trained professionals and unless you have some maverick entrepeneur in you or are very very determined, Dominica can be scary. The country has potential but many people want to build their lives and families on reality. And when you are done studying you are usually broke and needing to make money.

A padna of mine has been looking to come back for the last ten years. The better the food he eats when he is here, the more concrete his plans get. Carnival is his next stop. Should be fun.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tired

Really am. I am off to Trinidad to the COTT Music awards on Thursday. mainly to press the flesh. The other company I am involved with, PixnPhones, pretty much started the mobile content supply business in the Caribbean. We work closely with the music societies regionally to pay them royalties. COTT now has an affiliate relationship with ASCAP which makes it easier to get access to R&B and Hip Hop content.

The Caribbean music business is chaos. The main distributor in Trinidad, Earl Crosby, basically said its no use stocking new CD's for sale. Piracy eats up coin.

We have started trying to move some of the artists digital but its tough because the rights assignment is something most composers even are not used to. And there is no recording rights association for artists in the Caribbean.

So we deal with CCL on one front, The record labels on another, and the content aggregators on another hand.

In Dominica, we are looking at WCk closely. Just finished looking at their latest album which is very promising. But the band does not have a manager and that is a priority as it can be potential chaos if they dont get someone professional.

We are hoping that we can convince the Trini market to organise itself as they are capable of leadership. if we can get a recording artists association then PnP can acquire master rights in bulk rather than dealing with all the artists and their managers individually. The societies are with us on this, but it still needs to be negotiated.

If all this is confusing, dont worry, it just gets me tired.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Culture is all we have

Its that time of the year again. Independence.

from what I wonder.

I can tell you that our base culture, a combination of everything under the sun from African to European to Carib, is stronger than anything I see in the Caribbean. And its not about music only or painting. Its about a lifestyle thats just natural. Its actually beautiful to witness.

maybe its lack of development which does that. The minute you have more hotels, more fast food chains, more nightclubs, everything becomes less natural, less discovered. and more expensive.

I rarely fly the flag. politicians and vagabonds are usually the first people to declare their love for their country, usually while they try to screw you. the rest of us, well it happens through our actions, and not through our words. the ordinary man who supports everyone through his daily work is more of a patriot than a politician who will actively serve to treat his cronies better than others.

anyway, Dominica has some major questions to ask itself about independence. Most of our income was from a protected relationship with Europe which we scream to regain, brokered by England. Our current dependence is on Cuba, China and venezuela. Our macro economy is being run by the IMF and World Bank. And our major export is people.

There is little or no independence in all of this. Just signs of continued inferiority complex.

Our real independence is reflected in the strength of our culture. The minute we lose that, the country is lost totally. It defines us as different. It defines us unique and powerful.

Viva Dominican culture. Its our real independence.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Look joke

I cant help find it funny that the Cricket World Cup might be 'pulled' from the Caribbean and given to the backup ICC country, South Africa.

Unlike many West Indians I dont look forward to the World Cup here. Dominica is lucky that it didnt get any games. The exposure of our country to the microscope of the world would reveal some very nasty bugs.

But thats not the real issue. Most big sporting events are excuses for bobol and exploitation and eventual disaster. Hosting any WC is like having a house party for someone else at your home, who pays you to get the place ready, and then proceeds to tear it up and leave you to clean up.

The Caribbean needs to improve for itself, not to host some event where the real beneficiaries are already some of the best off people in the region.

And that ultimately is my biggest beef. The social and economic problems the region face are not going to be helped at all. This is going to be another case of help yourself.

So help yourselves to South Africa ICC. I really hope so. And for West Indians who might be embarassed if we dont host the World Cup ? Think of the economic repercussions of all the white elephants if we do host it. Unless of course you just want your aunty in the UK or US to see how nice your country looks on tv after they edit all the other stuff.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Rainy day

torrential rain falls, for around 30 minutes at a time, and then it calms down.

I am in my second home, at the office, laughing at an article I am writing. If people dont have my sense of humour I am in so much trouble. Then again does it matter ?

We have a client who I'd really like to succeed. She is Cuban and when we showed her the concepts we prepared for the launch of her business, she cried. The brand name we came out with was actually the name of her fathers band in Cuba, a name which was famous and which died when he did.

Sometimes you come across clients you like beyond the buck and really want them to have success. And it shows in the work you do for them. For those of you reading this and thinking, does this mean you dislike some of your clients ? Well, not dislike, but clients dont stop being part of the normal chain of human beings we interact with. They are simply paying us money ontop of everything else.

So you have some you like more than others.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Tip

Ok we reverse launched a product called The Tip. Its a weekly publication in Dominica, free. Effectively a free paper. We have alot of stuff in there, mainly listings, tv guide, coupons etc. The effect will be interesting.

We know the papers locally are going to scream. We are doing a press conference tomorrow to launch even though the actual first distribution happened on Wed.

We wanted the product in the market so the consumers could understand where it was coming from and also not be in the dark about its qualities.

Its actually a nice product and though its not under pressure, it will face the usual small country challenges.
So thats what we have been lookin at over the last few days.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cyah work

Every morning I see groups of women walking and running getting fit. Meanwhile Caribbean man drinks and eats to his heart content. Usually what happens is Caribbean women outlive us, while we seem to have more fun. Maybe we are playing to the stereotype of Caribbean woman keeping things going while Caribbean man just has a ball.

Look at Carnival. You couldnt get a more one sided picture. Women working hard for months to get their figures into shape. Men, couldnt care less because around that time, any slob in a costume, or even without, can get a sexy looking woman to rub up on him.

Actually, thinking about it, its year round.

The real thing though is that Caribbean man starts looking real bad when he gets to 50 plus. All kinda problems when stud man turns into dud man. Meanwhile Caribbean woman keeps on trucking.

Now lemme go get some bakes and codfish.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Damn

Its after lunch. I had fish koubouyon, in a yellow butter sauce with pepper, dasheen, yam, and lentils. All washed back with some fresh passionfruit and grapefruit juice.

And I am supposed to function after that.

Anyway I am at my desk and getting rushed by a client for a TV edit, and by another client who is launching a campaign in another island in November, and I am thinking of sleeping.

Organising for a radio appearance in the morning on a popular am show to promote a new publication we are launching. I like radio. Noone can see you and work out the obvious lies that you tell.

anyway...back to fighting sleep.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Boys Nite

Well in between waiting for a great idea for a name for a new plastic surgery brand I can as well tell you about Boys Nite.

For the last three years a group of us get together every wed night for something we call boys nite. No women are allowed because women complicate male - male communication. thats a legitimate reason btw.

Boys nite rotates between about four - five houses, usually starts at 9:30pm and the host is supposed to have drinks and food ready. By food, we dont mean sandwiches. It has to be a full meal, cooked by the guy who is hosting. We all drink alcohol, and a boys nite session is usually hell on anyones alcohol. The guys will drink whatever is left.

The main people are Daryl, a car dealer, Geoffrey , Cliffy and Ali who are all work colleagues of mine, Billy, who is actually an international cricket umpire (look it up if you dont understand), Cleve, who is an engineer and night club owner, Ashton who is a TV cameraman, and David, who is an IT repairman and car detailer.

The talk is usually part psychiatrist, part sex therapy, part old talk and politics on island. But its like a club with invisible rules.

Blouse and Skirt

Sometimes I feel really stupid about taking work seriously in the Caribbean. I read blogs by people who come to Dominica and want to go into Zion and smoke some herbs and think I should be writing about that to.

But its kinda mixed up to explain. The guy who grows up in a concrete jungle gets tired of it. The man who grows up in Zion, gets tired of being in the middle of it too. Well, not tired. Dont know how to explain.

When you get past the fact that the country is beautiful and fresh food and water are plentiful and that the pace is 'yeah mon", you still have to make a living. And if you are ambitious and still dont want to be slap bang in some cubicle hell in the US or Europe, or even in some open plan designer nirvana dreaming of that fettucini lunch the company is goin to pay for, then you could be screwed.

Anyway, Dominica is one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean, but it still has its pluses. Jamaica and Trinidad have way too much crime, trying their best impression of 'I am first world', and Barbados feels strange. I could do a one liner assessment of the rest of the Caribbean but in short, Dominica is sweet. But its not supposed to be an entrepeneurs starting post so why am I here ?

Answer is I love the island. But I cant settle for Zion and planting corn and tomatoes. I can get them for free though. Anyway, like I always wonder how English people dont go nuts having to travel underground in a train without speaking to a soul, I am sure people must wonder how anyone can get better off than just middling.

After all that I will tell you what its really like to try to get fresh meat or fish on a Wed for our weekly boys night lime (a lime is a get together). next post.
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First Post

Ok. this is my first blog post.

Its Sunday and I am in the office at 10:20 am which is not good. I am going home in a sec anyway. I live in the Caribbean island of Dominica and am married with two children. Thats not as settled as it sounds by the way. This myth of stress free Caribbean life is not true and then you add the wife and two kids equation and everything is the same as any big city existence.

Used to live in London and have lived in Massachusetts and for a stint , New York as well.

Dont miss any of them, mainly because of the cold.

I also dont get a chance to read anymore, listen to Robbie Vincent on the radio or to laugh at 606 live commentary. Or get a chance to visit the Strand book store. Or go chill out in barnes and noble and pretend I am about to purchase a book that I really intend to speed read through.

I am a director in an ad agency and a mobile content and services company. Sounds sexy, but I am a working director in both. I think it would be sexy if I were just popping in once a month into either company but sadly they need my contribution.

Anyway, I am hungry and I am off to eat some breakfast.