Don’t ask me why…

… but I ended up going to Dubai this past weekend. 20 hours to get there, 48 hours on the ground, and another 20 hours to get back. HM Customs found my itinerary a little bizarre too, thus the hour-long interrogation in the pokey little back-room upon my return to NZ.

Anyhoo, for those of you who haven’t been there, Dubai is an amazing place. The shopping is great, architecture astonishing, and clubs rockin’ (particularly those run by the Russian mafia). 48 hours doesn’t make for much sightseeing, but I did manage to get out to the Emirates Mall (complete with an indoor skifield that leaves SnowPlanet for dead), the Gold Souk (home of the world’s cheapest and most garish jewellery), and of course the Burj al-Arab.

To be honest though, my strongest memory of Dubai is a bad one, and a reason I’d encourage you all to spend your tourist dollars elsewhere till they (hopefully, one day) sort themselves out. I captured this screenshot while browsing my usual array of blogs from my hotel on Saturday morning:

Some of you will wonder why I removed the URL of the blog in question from the screenshot. You’ll say ‘It was probably porn, you dodgy bugger!’ Ok, so think about this for a second – even if it was a porn site (which I can assure you it wasn’t) would that make it ok? Is it ok to censor stuff that some people find objectionable? Which people? Define ‘objectionable’? What about people that don’t find it objectionable – don’t they have rights too?

As the man said, you either believe in freedom of speech or you don’t. These guys don’t.

Some of you will think I’m over-reacting. If you do, give me a call and we can discuss it. I’ll share my reasoning with you and listen to yours. I’ll hope to convince you with a superior argument – a logical chain of valid premises, which you’re free to try and refute. You’ll probably make some good points that will help me to understand the UAE position, if not sympathise, and we’ll both hopefully walk away wiser and better people. You see – that’s what civilised people do.

Man Ordered To Wear ‘Sex Offender’ T-Shirt

A judge in Delaware has just taken the unusual step of requiring a pedophile to wear a t-shirt that says ‘I am a registered sex offender’ in bold letters. Good job, I say. Thanks to all the publicity though, I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before that one’s available from T-Shirt Hell. (Seriously – some familiar with the TSH catalogue would consider it a tame addition).

I wish I’d realised back in the day what a huge business online t-shirt sales would become. As a product, t-shirts are ideally suited to eCommerce: they aren’t subject to the variable sizing nightmares you get with pants and shoes; they’re relatively high value by weight, so you can ship them all over the world quite inexpensively; and because they’re all pretty much the same except for the design (which you can apply after the order has been received), there’s massive scope for economies of scale.

T-Shirt Hell is the biggest shirt site out there, and much of that success is due to them being very (very) good at self-publicity and handling the media. You’d have to be good to get away with selling a shirt that says ‘I (plane) NY’ – with a big red plane crashing into the N – in September 2001.

Earlier this year, the owner of T-Shirt Hell decided that Aaron Schwarz wasn’t a cool enough handle for a successful entrepreneur, so he launched this site. People were invited to suggest a new name and then vote on the finalists he selected. Whoever suggested the wining name would get $25,000 and Aaron would change his name by deed poll.

Sorry kids, the polls are closed. Two months and 40,183 suggestions later, Aaron Schwarz is now Sunshine Megatron.

Air NZ uses blogs to support China entry

Air NZ begins a direct service to china this month, running three 777’s to Shanghai and (hopefully) back a week. No surprises there – we’ve all known for some time that China is an emerging economic powerhouse and there are big bucks to be made if you can get in.

The surprise for me is Air NZ’s approach to supporting their market entry – blogging. They’ve hired a bunch of famous and influential Chinese to visit NZ and blog about their experiences

The idea is for the well-known travellers to file blogs about their experiences and spread the word about New Zealand and its national carrier to young and rich Chinese

This makes so much sense I was just about floored when I heard. Air NZ is 80% owned by the government – surely they should be pissing their advertising budget away on billboards, TV commercials, and other costly and pointless schemes?

The logic they’ve followed is definitely sound, and rings true with a lot of the great Web 2.0 campaigns we’ve seen of late:

…have taken a very innovative … approach in Shanghai because we just simply do not have the money to do advertising such as television and print on a grand scale…

…need to take a very focused approach in this market because it is so huge…

Credit where credit’s due – this is really innovative and is going to do wonders for Air NZ. Well done.

You know you have too much money when…

Article today talks about how David Geffen looks set to buy the New York Times. Amid mounting speculation of the deal, Geffen has recently sold some of his art collection – including a Jackson Pollock valued at $US 140m – to raise a little walkin’ around money.

Depressing thought for the afternoon: If I sold my art collection I could maybe raise enough cash to by a copy of the NYT.

Speaking of Jackson Pollock, here’s a nice little time-waster to help you through till beer o’clock. (Wave your mouse around in the space below to create your own Pollock-style masterpiece. Slow down for thicker lines. Click to change colours).

Great CGM campaign

This is really cool…

3M in the UK is running a great promotion right now for office supplies brand, Viking. has a set of 20 movie posters that they’ve mocked-up using various pieces of stationary and office equipment. Guess all 20 movie names and you go into a prize draw.

Having waaaaaaaaaay too much free time on my hands (not!) I picked ’em all, and was mortified that the movie containing the best stationary gag of all time, Office Space, didn’t make the list. Are these people nuts? Then again, maybe red swingline staplers aren’t a 3M product.

As an added component, consumers are also invited to create their own stationary-themed movie posters and submit these for judging. At face value this sounds really (really!) dumb, but if you check it out it’s actually pretty cool and my guess is it’s going to be a really successful campaign – especially if you compare the ROI of this campaign with the bog-standard stuff they normally do.


Google market cap nearing $US 150b

Want to know why? I’ll tell you why – they’ve got a license to print money, that’s why!

An article in the Financial Times today pointed out that Google is set to overtake Britain’s main TV channels in advertising revenue.

The internet search company’s advertising revenue in the UK is expected this year to surpass Channel 4’s anticipated 2006 take of £800m. Within 18 months, it is forecast to overtake ITV1, Britain’s leading commercial TV channel and the country’s biggest single recipient of advertising revenue.

Are we looking at the end of broadcast television? Hopefully not. Are we looking at the end of TV advertising? Sadly not. Is it obvious that advertisers are wising up after decades of being scammed by ad agencies, and putting their money where they know the ROI is better? You betcha.

Welcome to the 21st century, kids.