How to | NOT annoy people with social media ads

Remember the flashing advertisements that graced many websites in the early 2000s? I’d like to think that the internet has become home to better taste and design – where crude pop-up advertisements suggesting different vices are reserved for websites for watching online tv. However, it seems as if many social media platforms, once hailed for their user friendly aesthetic, are taking a turn towards the tacky. Facebook announced that it is going to include commercials in personal timelines that will automatically start playing. Pinterest sent out a kind email earlier this year that they are including advertisements and on Instagram product placement is taking place in various sepia tones.

It seems fair that social media platforms are cashing for the services they provide freely. Furthermore, since people are sharing a lot of personal information online, social media platforms provide businesses the opportunity to target their advertising to very specific groups – so advertising on these platforms is lucrative for investors as well. The question becomes: how should social media advertising be presented?

how not to annoy people

Classic commercials 2.0

In a sense, Facebook and Youtube are re-inventing the classic commercials formula – where commercials are put in between your content, and you may not be able to skip it. Videos pop-up between content (your Facebook timeline) or before you watch videos (on Youtube). These advertisements are clearly recognizable as marketing, and although they will be tuned in  to your assumed interests, they may still be intrusive by wasting your time or cluttering your timeline. ‘Forcing’ consumers to watch commercials is not necessarily effective – research by google shows that the option to skip advertisements increases the probability that viewers will click on it (source: Business Insider). In other words, consumers demand the choice in which advertisements they view, and which ads they ignore.

Subtle selling

On the other side of the spectrum, advertisements as they appear on Instagram aim to blend seamlessly with the tone of many Instagram photos. On a positive note, this means that they will not distract from browsing and they may not feel superficial and evasive. The Michael Kors advertisement initially had a negative reception, but ultimately resulted in 34,000 new followers (source: Nitrogram).  However, what if we don’t immediately recognize an advertisement when we see it? Is that an ethical problem?

Using social media culture

A third way to use social media to increase sales (or in the following example, donations) is not by directly using social media to place advertisements, but to use the cultural importance of social media to garner attention. Perhaps the most effective social media campaign of 2013 was the ‘hashtag killer’ campaign by the Water is Life charity. Winner of the Webby award, this campaign ridiculed the popular #firstworldproblem by asking people in Haiti to recite the tweets – thus emphasizing that complaining about ‘first world problems’ is really quite ridiculous. In this way, trends on social media, with which many are familiar, are put into perspective and associated with an organization. The only question that arises is whether the social media platforms can make money off this type of advertising by third parties.

Getting to know | Das Magazin

das magazin 2kopie


How we met:

I had read about Das Magazin, a Dutch literary magazine, in various articles (ranging from mentions in De Volkskrant to mentions in blogs). The magazine seemed to embrace a cultural shift towards book clubs and against superficial 50 shades of grey prose. Hence, when I saw it lying in my local bookstore, I picked it up.

First impression:

I was immediately drawn to the dandy theme and the stunning graphic layout. The detail of the embossed cover and weighty pages make it feel like a treasure. Rather than shying away from lengthy texts without pictures, the mood of the magazine makes me crave a cup of tea and a corner in which to retreat and read.

Favourite character traits:

The supplement guide to the modern dandy with instructions to ‘always be overeducated’ and to shave the hipster moustache (“because, let’s be honest, everyone despises hipsters”) is quaint and gives body to the dandy theme. Another highlight, aside from the stunning graphic layout, is the collection of Very Short Stories (VSS). Barely a paragraph of fiction, the two VSS by A.L. Snijders briefly create a mode and a thought – a sound bite to remind me of the joy of fiction.

A long-lasting friendship?

Reading Das Magazin feels like holding a piece of culture. Somehow, a subscription would diminish this, for I think the magazine should be picked up when browsing in a bookstore. I’ll keep my eye out for the next issue, and if a quirky theme or interesting stories tempt me, I’ll go on another date. 

drink & debate | how do you choose your charity?

When writing about the social life of food here, I started thinking about how ‘getting drinks’ with friends is also an example of where social rituals and the consumption of nourishment meet. Going to a café provides the ideal setting to catch-up with each other, so perhaps taking the time to make and enjoy a drink for yourself allows you to catch-up with your own thoughts?

Drink & Debate is about taking the time to pour yourself a drink and talk about little questions that might go unanswered in life’s daily grind…

drink & debate charity

The drink…blackberry-meyer-lemon-gin-tonicBefore putting on your philosopher’s cap…pour yourself a blackberry and Meyer lemon gin tonic. In many countries October is breast cancer awareness month, so a pink drink is fitting! Find the recipe here.

The debate

It feels like the idea behind philanthropy has shifted from a “here’s the money” approach to a “what’s the impact”. The question that this automatically raises is – what is impact?

How is impact related to the cause at hand?
How can the impact of a charity be measured?
How is impact related to how a charity is organized?

There are probably hundreds of causes that would be delighted with your money or time. However, choosing a charity to fund or a place to volunteer is a very personal choice. Perhaps this makes our ideas about the impact of charity a very personal dilemma as well. New technologies may be able to give a more transparent view of how charities and non-profit organization spend the donated time and money. Would you be more likely to donate to a charity if – like a postal package – you could follow how your money was spent through an application on your phone? Many charities are criticised if too much money goes to the organizational costs. However, if a business spends money on marketing, this is considered the norm…

I leave you with a ted talk to spark the debate!

images author’s own and  from here

The social life of food #2 | buying our daily bread

easy as pie

Grocery shopping is something you put on the ‘to-do’ list, not a part of your social calendar. However, that was not always the case. Markets, the place where food was bought and sold, were places of social interactions and a place where news was spread. Now, we don’t have to shop every few days because we are able to store food for longer periods of time. Our ‘daily bread’ can become our ‘monthly bread’ – if we store it in the freezer.

Carolyn Steel, author of The Hungry City,  identifies the moment we pay for our food at the cash register as the last direct link we have with those who produce our food. But on top of that, our exchange with the cashier may also be the only social moment left in our process of buying food. Large supermarkets are rarely located in central parts of town with ample parking space so that we can load in a week’s worth of groceries. Once in the supermarket, most marketers have agreed on the best layout: vegetables at the entrance, candy at the cash register, and the smell of baked bread present throughout the store.

If we want to re-create our relationship with food we also need to re-think the way we design our (super)markets. My suggestions:

Stimulate explorers

Imagine entering a market where you can taste a sample of bread while faintly smelling the smoked meat from the butcher department or citrus fruit from the produce section… by increasing the sensory stimulation consumers will be stimulated to try new things.

Increase in-house knowledge

A market used to have salesmen to explain what a product was and how it could be prepared. Increase the information available for consumers about how to prepare food so that they are challenged to try different things. Knowledgeable store staff can increase the sociability of the shopping experience.

Increase traceability

Allow consumers to question where the product comes from and be curious about their food.

image from here

perfectly branded | Shiseido Eye Color Bar


Sometimes I bump into products that are so cleverly designed to support a brand concept, it seems marketing textbook-worthy. Hence, I can’t help but analyse it from a classical marketing perspective: using the 4 P’s.

Shiseido has already won prizes for the luxury feel of their packaging but for his holiday season they are also showing their playful side with the Shiseido Eye Color Bar.

Product |Eye Colour Bar

Shiseido’s first 9-color eye shadow pallet, this product signifies something new. The product is launched as a playful pallet with the names of the eye shadows referencing alcoholic drinks – perfect for making cocktails. The bottom right shadow is the only one with a  non-alcoholic name: soda. Then again, club soda is the perfect filler for any good cocktail. The playful names and on-trend colours fit with the innovative and lively nature of Shiseido’s head make-up artist Dick Page.

Place / timing |Holiday season

The holiday season is an excellent moment to launch a luxury make-up item that matches fall trends in fashion. The general increase in social events will be a reason for many consumers to ‘allow’ themselves to buy a luxury item. The names of the eye shadows playfully remind the consumer of this social calendar as well.

Price |€37,90

This price fits with the general pricing strategy of Shiseido and underlines that it is a luxury brand.

Promotion |Limited edition

Publicising the color bar as a limited edition may help it attain a cult-status.

The Postman will keep ringing twice | why postcards remain relevant

hello from someplace beautiful card

When looking at the possibilities of the internet, it may seem as if sending and receiving mail through the post is no longer relevant. Yet, when entering any museum shop, one usually finds a wall filled with postcards. So what is it about postcards that enables them to survive the demise of the postman?

A post card for yourself…

Moncole reports that for museums, postcards remain big business. Perhaps because they are an easy, cheap souvenir? Or do they also have symbolic value? Alain de Botton said that when looking at a painting, we realize that it is important to us – but it also represents something we can’t quite reach [on seeing and noticing]. A postcard can serve as a small daily reminder of this emotion. If museums were to track which cards were most popular would we see subsequent bestsellers? Or would our postcard choice ebb and flow with the social trends that society is subject to?

…or a post card for a friend?

Receiving a postcard represents an effort made by the sender. The effort of choosing a postcard, writing it and, perhaps the biggest challenge, actually sending it. Sending and receiving postcards has become a part of our culture and rituals throughout the year – Christmas, Valentine’s day and a note to home when you’re away during the summer.

Do you still send postcards regularly? Or do you buy them for yourself as little memories?

Check a selection of my favourite stationary here.

image from here

The social life of food #1 | eating together

the fondest memories are made when gathered around the table

Anyone who’s watched Downton Abbey can attest to the idea that important conversations often seem to take place around the dinner table. Food, eating together – it’s not just about nourishment of the body, but also the soul. So what happens if we start seeing communal dining as a social strategy to talk about important issues? In particular, a setting to start talking about the subject literally closest at hand: food.

When we start talking about food, we quickly realize it’s a complicated issue. There are lots of trends and ideas about our relationship with food, health and sustainable food consumption. So before taking a nose-dive into the actual dinner conversation, it might be interesting to look at some communal dining events that have taken place or are taking place…


Eating together can be as simple as inviting over some friends. Or, in the case of neigbor, inviting some friends and asking them to invite some of their friends as well. Emily & Archie Lee Coates host a dinner party in their Brooklyn apartment once a month and anyone can sign up. Now they invite  +/- 20 guests in their apartment each month.They noticed that eating together and doing the dishes quickly created bonds and lasting friendships.

The big lunch

The big lunch was initiated by the Eden project in the UK as a way to tackle social isolation. What is it? Nomem est omen – it’s a big lunch event that’s organized in various places in the UK, open for everyone in a community.

Innocent 5 for 5

In 2012 the Innocent company launched a pop-up café as part of the promotion campaign for their new veg pots. For five pounds, visitors could enjoy a meal that incorporated the 5-a-day requirement for fruits and vegetables.

Click here for a video recap

Damn food waste

The damn food waste festival was organized in Amsterdam by different organizations and research institutions to increase awareness of the fact that a lot of food is thrown away – by producers, supermarkets and consumers. Visitors were invited to share a meal made of products that were still edible, but would ordinarily have been thrown away.


These examples give a sense that communal dining projects are already taking place at different scales, for different reasons and organized by different parties. When reading reviews of those who were there a striking similarity is that the visitors seem empowered by the atmosphere that was created by sharing a meal.

re-activate | trends in city planning & architecture

radical localityRadical Locality: Actual Potential is an exhibition about the changing role of architects in modern society. The exhibition was organized by Bureau Europa, a regional architecture centre based in Maastricht.5 major themes provided the backbone of the exhibition. They were ideas and concepts that I recognized from projects that I had read about, but having them structured in themes allowed me to see the bigger picture.

reactivate- 5 rules by bureau europa

tradition and the new

Cultural nostalgia is seen as a reaction to the increasing detachment from place. The architectural reaction to this is an increasing hankering towards craftsmanship and the values that are associated with it: self-expression, geographical connections and identity. In this vein traditional building methods and ideas in architecture are re-considered. The challenge facing architects is to envision how traditional buildings and ideas can be combined in a fresh way that suits the modern lifestyle

For me, cultural heritage and landmarks provide a sense of familiarity. Craftmanship is about more than creating something with your hands – it is also about the passion for creating a product (in the broadest sense of the word). Society’s increasing value of craftmanship is clear in the increase of things such as micro-brewers and artistry products. This theme summarizes that this trend is taken place on multiple levels in society.

cycles and time

The general public is increasingly aware of the environmental and social problems that are taking place globally: a population growth, scarcity in natural resources and an earth that already has some major pollution problems. The architectural world has also become aware of this problem. Its reaction? Recycling waste material for new concepts so that they become part of a sustainable cycle. The existing materials are also being re-used by creating (temporary) projects in old buildings or vacant lots.

The ‘cycles and time’ as title for the theme of re-use in architecture aptly summarizes that recycling is not just about recycling materials but also about adjusting time frames in which projects occur. Parks can be temporary nature solutions to vacant plots. For me, paradoxically, this theme emphasized the importance of ‘now’:  looking at which materials and spaces are available in your direct surroundings and being flexible enough to create something from there.

re-evaluating value

The results of the economic crises has meant that ‘star architecture’ (creating multi-million dollar icons) has become more rare – simply due to monetary restraints and risks. Architecture has responded to this by using alternative business models such as crowd-funding, collective commissioning and self-developing such as pre-fab homes. One of the examples cited was the crowd-funded walkway in Rotterdam, which I also wrote about here.

The economic crises has encouraged a new type of creativity. Concepts such as pre-fab, that previously felt tacky, are reconsidered due to their economic and environmental efficiency. The re-evaluating of value showed that different economic models need not be constraining as long as critical design aesthetics are retained.

 new collectivity

The concept of a new collectivity stems from the changing connections that technology provides us and the increasing mental and physical mobility related to it. Improved access to information and ideas mean that the amateur can become an expert. Knowledge networks are created with open-source thinking – everyone can add to an idea and help transform it. In terms of architecture, this social trend means that ad hoc (pop-up) architecture and projects featuring social participation are becoming increasingly popular

The information paradigm of the internet is structured around a network, rather than a hierachrical, linear narrative. This section of the exhibition nicely illustrated how this paradigm shift is affecting different aspects of society – how we live mentally but also physically.

re-activating landscapes

The importance of re-activating landscapes stems from the increasing participation of stakeholders and decentralization of government involvement with special planning. Open plan processes (allowing for intermediate changes) and performative planning (where the plan is partly created during the process) allow for greater input from the stakeholders that will ultimately interact with the landscapes. Rules and regulations regarding the environment can also be changed to match current norms and values. A clear example of re-activating landscapes was the ‘Werk aan het Spoel project, where fortress ruins from 1794 were re-designed as a modern park and amphitheatre.

When reading about the concept of re-activating landscapes it struck me that architecture is about more than design buildings or public spaces. The regulation of the city also plays a role in transforming cities into landscapes that function environmentally and socially. Perhaps the decentralization of certain projects from a national level to a local level can allow for more creativity and more attention to the needs of specific places.