Ensuring that your Companies Glamorous Away Day in Goa Sucks

Ross and Russ
Fifty – Prague 2014

One of the most exciting things about working at Fifty is meeting up with our international diaspora once a quarter. Our most recent meet-up was in Prague, the next is in Barcelona. Reykjavik is the one after. Obviously we are choosing fun, not sucky cities. Its easy, as that is where our team have chosen to live. Ok not Reykjavik, that really is picked for fun.

Functional away days can be incredible, none more so than the ones I have experienced at London 2012. We have learnt to sing, dragon boat race and walked over the Millennium Dome looking like super heroes in blue jump suits. They stick in my memory more than the Games themselves. Sadly one had Boris Johnson banging on about being the murder capital of the world, so even the best organisation can get it wrong.

Yet, Boris was not as jaw dropping or sucky as the off-site that I attended in Goa.

Here is a summary of what I learnt on how to royally screw up.

Subdiffusion: “Tell nobody what is happening”

No one was formally told about this away day. Unless you count office gossip. The one formal email explaining the travel arrangements was sent the night before by the office manager. None of the leadership team explained the plan or issued an agenda. This was a great way to create a sucky start to the experience and let rumours fly. It was only when I saw people from the office at Nizamudean train station did I actually think I might make it to Goa.

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My London 2012 for Bupa Digital

Today I was kindly invited by Bupa Digital to come talk about London 2012.

After a little Olympic recap we went on a journey around Mascots, Travel, Digital Security and Social Media some of the most hotly debated topics in the press.

When you have CNN asking if the Mascots were creepy, how do you focus on your job, to give them a voice digitally ? Or when the Daily Mail is convinced that a ‘perfect traffic storm’ will bring Olympic chaos, how do you create a digital campaign to ensure it doesn’t happen ? Borrowing from Matt at Berg we talked about understanding 21st Vertigo and how to focus on the task in hand.


We finished by debating the social media game produced by Jacob and then turned our attention to my favorite* marketing manager

*bbc spoof

London 2012, Rio 2016 and Digital

I was recently interviewed by Ashley for his Masters thesis…

Q1: In the years leading up to the games how hard was it to plan New Media strategies for channels such as i.e social/mobile as these channels were still in the infancy?

For content strategy it was actually easy. Finn Concannon our Social Media Lead was clear from start we would focus on key social/mobile channels and we had a consistent set of channels on which our campaigns could run. So planning became a matter of understanding the channels and the audience reach. For example when I launched each new Mascot Game online or a new Mascot Movie was released in the cinema we knew we could only plan around twitter and facebook campaigns as that is where we were building the audience.

The ever changing landscape of platforms technology platforms were more of a challenge. We ended up having to deliver a number of platform refreshes as suppliers pulled technologies or changed strategies. A small example, the programming interface allowing users to tweet and or facebook post from the Mascot Games changed twice after the launch of the website.

Q2: What were your main challenges with New Media campaigns at London 2012?

For me the main challenge was ensuring that each campaign stakeholder had their requirements met while still delivering world class products that engaged users. The stakeholder group grew rapidly, LOCOG itself grew 10 times larger from the time I joined. The organisation were diverse in their culture from sports governing bodies, government agencies, the mayor’s office, management consultants and sponsors. To give another example. Mascots online could be dressed in various sporting outfits. Each accessory needed 14 different sign offs from three different organisations before it could be included.

Q3: Can you share your view on how you feel the role of New Media has evolved at Olympic events? The success of London 2012 shows clear demand for apps and social media means Rio must take it to a new level surely?

At LOCOG we had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented people to ensure our deliveries were are success across all aspects of the Games communications not just digital . In my opinion what made London 2012 different was having New Media firmly part of the Communications team which meant that our content strategy was always relevant. Campaigns such as #savethesuprise was the direct result of being firmly in Comms, understanding digital as well as the motivation of the audience.

At the end of the day the Olympics and Paralympics showcases the emotions and capabilities of the host nation to the rest of the world. My advice to Rio 2016 and all future Games with regards to digital is to define the campaigns and engage the relevant audience on their terms. That might means Spectators require more mobile channels in the future but Athletes will always need an email campaign. What underpins it all is the right content strategy.

Q4: How do you think London 2012 New Media campaigns performed against traditional media channels such as TV, Press etc?

I don’t have hard numbers to hand to answer this question.

During the Games. I don’t think I fully appreciated how the behavior of the UK would change. I had expected the UK to stop as it does in England during an international football match but what surprised me is to what extent people were watching coverage live on television at home – rather than in the office or in the pub. In terms of digital this meant a huge amount of family related dual screening. Although the biggest day for the main website was Monday after the Super Saturday weekend. The Mascots biggest day was during the Opening Ceremony, which suggest to me that families got together to watch and younger members controlled the digital screen. Not something that I had predicted or planned.

Essentially the summer Olympics is a TV event and Digital is a a supporting media. This will continue till the broadcast rights change. At that point a range of fascinating new range of opportunities will arise around real time engagement.

Q5: Can you share your views on the LOCOG sponsors and the influence these may/or may not have played in your campaigns? Do you think Sponsors could have done more/less to deliver a successful games?

The range of sponsors makes it impossible to comment on them as a group. There are several tiers of sponsors. Global sponsors are the heart of Games consistency. They create products that move from Games to Games. They regularly re-employ people from one Games to deliver the next. For me these were the easiest Sponsors to work with as they had processes in place to adopt.

Q6: Which New Media channels or strategies do you think Rio will use to deliver a successful games?

Each nation is different the New Media strategy that worked for London 2012 can’t be translated like a cookie cutter. Digital engagement is similar across the UK and primarily working in English gave us an advantage. Rio 2016 will benefit from a staying true to a single unified Content Strategy delivering its message.

I am expecting the people of Brazil to show the last two summer Olympics and Paralympic hosts how a nation actually parties. Impromptu carnivals and street parties, this won’t be nation watching sports on TV. I expect much more use of location based digital applications and short video sharing by the people of Brazil which will outstrip any digital campaigns by official channels.

Big Data in everyday project governance (Spectator Journey Planner for London 2012)

This month I attended the close down meeting for the London 2012 Spectator Journey planner (SJP or more affectionately known as Sarah Jessica Parker) and we determined what we had learnt.

The learnings included the comical, like not including my personal handset on the mobile testing list, which resulted in some serious retesting at the eleventh hour. As well the hindsight moment of knowing that we planned well for Olympic scale but had to define processes respectively for reducing capacity. One for all cloud architects everywhere.

I am a big advocate for defining interfaces including full UI designs upfront. Our DFD was very comprehensive as it took guidance from me as well as ODA, TFL, DfT and the supplier ATOS. We all agreed that this contributed to the success of the project. Which considering the 50 point review I submitted at 11pm before leaving on a disastrous ski holiday I am super delighted it was useful.
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Wrap up: closing ceremony – we are going live to the world – photography exhibit 8th Nov 2012

On the 8th Nov Avi and I held a photography exhibit at The Black Heart. The full catalog is available or below is a little reflection of the evening.

In a digital age where connection possibilities are endless it can be hard to actually ‘feel’ connected. So it was a surprise, that the purchase of my first digital SLR made me feel very much part of the world again. Having a camera in my hand at all times I was now part of the story. Part of the event.

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We are Lovies

The London 2012 New Media team, which I am privileged to be a member, were given Lovie status today. The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences awarded us;

Gold for best Sports Website London 2012 website
Silver for (my beloved) Mascots dressing up and web cam games
Shortlisted for Best Practice on the London 2012 website
Shortlisted – Social Game Tweet/Support Your Team

There were over 1,000 entries from 20 plus European countries. So their maths suggest that to make it to the Shortlist alone means we were in the top 15% of all work entered.


The Spectator Journey Planner for London 2012 – Open, Big and Evolving Data

London 2012 stated aim from the outset was to stage a ‘public transport’ Games. In the city that has the oldest underground network this was always going to be a challenge. As the press were keen to debate with one year to go.

Part of the challenge was to ensure that ticket holders knew where they were going and how long it would take. When I was assigned this project, as part of my Product Manager role at London Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee (LOCOG), I randomly polled a few friends. Most knew that the Olympics Park was being built in Stratford East London but few had ever been.  Continue reading “The Spectator Journey Planner for London 2012 – Open, Big and Evolving Data”

Londinium MMXII Hackathon.

As the Olympics opened its crazy schedule of sports Hackathon was taking place at http://centralworking.com near Tottenham Court Road in London.

Just in case you are wondering I couldn’t possibly attend as I was mostly sleeping, working or watching beach volleyball that weekend. In fact I was mostly sleeping, as at that point I had worked five nights straight.

I digress, details on the Hackathon can be found at;


And the result web page http://hackathon.new-bamboo.co.uk

I was a bit disappointed that non of my lovely travel data. However I think there are genuinely a couple of great ideas here for future sporting events.