Gorillaz Plastic Beach isn’t made of rubbish

It’s been nine years since the the worlds first virtual  hip hop band spawned from the imaginations of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. And the Gorillaz are now back with their latest installment, Plastic Beach.  They may appear to dance on the fringe of pop, but do not under estimate the global fever pitch anything new from these guys creates.

Hewlett and Albarn cooked up the idea for the band in protest at the cartoon images of the popular commercial acts at the time, and the result was an ironic backfire as their popularity exploded. In 2006, a rumours of a rare live performance in Harlem led to tickets being sold in less than an hour from release. Their last release, Demon Days was the 5th biggest selling album of 2005, so this has a lot to live up to.

And they’ve returned with guns blazing. As ever, the collaborations are as eclectic as the musical style it’s self. Mark E Smith of post punkers The Fall, Snoop, Lou Reed and Bobby Womack all lend vocals to chunky hip hop beats, and bass lines so solid you could build a skyscraper on them. You can listen to the entire album at the Guardian.

Mixed Appeal

The art and characters of Jamie Hewlett account for a massive part of the appeal of the Gorillaz experience, and this hasn’t been ignored with the supporting release media. The new website allows you  explore the  Gorlliaz’ new home  for yourself and fully immerse yourself in the lives of band members 2D, Russell, Murdoch and Noodle.

This time round, visual media is playing a more predominant role. Idents focusing on characters stories have been released, along with an orchestral introduction to the Plastic Beach environment. They’ve even recruited a demented Bruce Willis hit man for the video  for the debut single Stylo.

Doing what most bands so after momentousness success, for the past few years they’ve been living somewhere on the south Pacific on their own island. Unfortunately for the Gorillaz, the island is made up of the washed up debris of humanity –  visit the Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach

10 WordPress magazine theme resources

Having project managed a couple of corporate WordPress magazine theme builds recently, I loved the end result and the lack of technical headaches even more. So I thought I’d get my head under the bonnet and set up this site:

Wordpress magazine theme

I’ve worked with a few heavy duty content management systems and have to take my hat off to Matt Mullenweg and all the open source contributors –  WordPress is a triumph.  Follow these steps and you can set up a site like this in an evening with next to no programming skills. There are countless great plug-ins out there, but others are a bit dated and cranky. This should help you sort the wheat from the chaff and save the time I spent on trial and error. Best of  all, these WordPress magazine theme downloads are 100% free:

1. Getting set up

  • Sign up and download WordPress – this gives you the basic frame work and back end to upload your  theme to
  • Buy some hosting –  one.com currently offer a year’s hosting and and a domain name for peanuts
  • Notepad – Not vital, but very handy for cutting and pasting code. You should always paste your articles from Word to Notepad, then from Notepad to the WordPress CMS. This ensures you are adding nothing but clean text, and don’t get any weird renderings on page
  • Firebug –  Again, not vital, especially if you do not want to change things too much. This is a fantastic developer plug in for Firefox that allows you to select and locate code and CSS for easy editing. I could not have customized this site without this tool

And finally, the most important thing of all:

Content, content, content. Don’t blog because you want to say something, blog because you have something to say. Brainstorm ideas around something you are passionate about. Try and come up with a unique angle so you can offer new, helpful,  insightful, funny or informative content. Then write a couple of two hundred (ish) word articles to get you going.

2. Choose a WordPress magazine theme

Wordpress Magazine themeThere  are zillions of free WordPress templates out there and some excellent premium themes available for a nominal fee. I was after something that didn’t scream “I AM A BLOG!”, and that offered a rich navigation and structure. After a  lot of  researching, Arthemia seemed like the best free wordpress magazine theme out there.

This theme’s featured content area and thumbnailing works really well, the navigation coding is slick, Micheal Hutagalung has even created a drop down menu if you need it.

Download Arthemia – Free WordPress Magazine theme

I will write up an Arthemia customization guide separately to make your WordPress theme unique – leave a comment and hassle me to get on it!

3. Cumulus – 3D spinning tag cloud
Tag clouds have had the tendency to appear a little cluttered and ugly, that is until  Cumulus came along. This sexy flash based widget renders out tags or categories or both with in a 3D spinning tag globe.   A super simple back end allows you to customize colours of background and font, size and the speed of spin. You can insert your cloud in the predefined Widget docks or place code anywhere in your template.cumulus

Download Cumulus

Make sure you read the readme.txt files in each of the widget downloads, but here’ a quick tip on adding Cumulus outside the usual widget place holders:

You will need some tagged content loaded into the CMS to fill your cloud, but you can choose to pull in the categories just to check it out and have a play with the customization tools.

  • Once you have installed, activated, set the size to 300pixels wide, width is up to you, but the developers recommend 3/4 of the width (225).
  • Int he  left hand navigation, go to Appearance/Editor/ then select in the right hand menu sidebar.php
  • In the sidbar.php text, paste this code<?php wp_cumulus_insert(); ?>

in the place of the following

< ? php echo get_option(‘home’); ?>/wp-content/themes/arthemia/images/banners/square.jpg” alt=”” width=”300px” height=”250px” />

4. Dynamic content gallery

Any WordPress magazine theme can be brought to life with a dynamic gallery of images and post titles. Easy to configure and create on the admin panel,   you can insert this flash gallery by pasting the code line next to the Cumulus code.

Download dynamic content gallery

5. Sexy bookmarks
It’s so important in blogging to make it as easy as possible for your reader to bookmark and tell others about your site.  The trouble is most of the social book marking plugins out there do not look very enticing,  and are not complimentary for a slick magazine style site. Sexy bookmarks allows you to render up to 40 tasteful social bookmarking icons at the foot of your articles, and feature an enticing roll over effect.

sexy social bookmarks

Download Sexy Bookmarks

6. Find me elsewhere
Blogs are becoming more of a community based environment, so you should try to connect with your readers. Again there are lots of choices out there,  I found Find Me Elsewhere most complimentary to the theme although I need to edit it a little so the links are nofollow.

Social Media links

Download Find Me Else Where widget

The next four plug-ins are not completely necessary to create a magazine style  WordPress theme, but highly recommended to optimise visitor numbers and page views, and if you are looking for lots of control over your template.

7. Query posts
Easily create recommended article links and related posts. The various customization channels allow a dizzying number of options. Query posts adds a dynamic links list that pulls in posts dependent on the page, tags, category, template etc etc.

Download Query Posts

8. Custom widgets
This gives you complete control over your widgets – where they do and don’t appear. Particularly useful as you can tailor the right hand sidebar depending on your users’ journey. Whether you want to only have a widget appear on the homepage, on posts or page ID’s, custom widgets is a fantastic Worpdress plug-in.

Download TS Custom Widgets

**Combining the functionality of both Custom widgets and Query Posts gives you an amazing array of options. The possibilities are almost limitless, but bear in mind when you have a lot of content the extra queries will effect the site’s speed and performance.

9. Contact Form 7

A neat and tidy widget that allows super fast addition of a contact form to your website. You can create custom form fields and play with the styling.

Download Form Contact 7

10. All in one SEO Pack
With the number of blogs reaching ridiculous levels, you have to do all you can to get your blog found and read – so search engine optimisation is vital. This plug in will create search engine friendly titles for your pages and allow easy creation of  the usual meta data, you can just plug in with the standard settings and forget about it if you don’t know much about SEO.

Download all in one SEO Pack

Please leave a comment or ask a  question!

Homepage takeover causes a chain reaction

I’m not quite sure if I’m a fan of homepage takeovers.  A homepage take over is a media planner’s  sledge hammer by allowing the digital marketer to take over 100% of a website’s real estate . Yes they can entice decent click through rates, hardly surprising when your entire page is filled with a giant red animated button bullying you into signing up, clicking here or downloading the free trial. But the annoyance factor can’t be ignored.  Your search is basically hijacked in much the same as Zango adware advertisements do. (more…)

Viral marketing campaign causes a plague

If you have missed “The Hero” viral marketing campaign recently,   then you must have be ignoring your peers’ social networking updates. With over 14 million interactions in just 8 weeks, the agency behind the viral campaign, DraftFCB, are claiming the most successful viral campaign in history.

You have to admit,  this is beautifully done. Successful selling is about creating a feeling in your audience, and there’s no doubt this slick piece interactive content hits it’s emotion targets right through the heart.   DraftFCB have managed to locate the key motivator behind paying towards a public service broadcasting body,  and hit the “pride” button.  I don’t want to give too much away, so make sure you check out the link and create your own video.

A few factors that have contributed to  this campaign’s success:

  • A high degree “blow your own trumpet” factor – this takes showing off to a new level
  • Unique personalization technology – any ideas as to how this video wizardry (or Vizardry™) is achieved? Please leave a comment

and some subtle but notable little touches:

  • A Flash pre-loader with a clever use of “live” video to set the scene
  • The pre-loader countdown starts at 100 and counts down – this makes more sense to me than an increasing number when you have no idea at what point the video will start.

You can view my “The Hero” video here

Urban vinyl is serious creative business

Kaws teamed up with Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama to create these drool-able  objet d’art.  Fully articulated and available in  dark  or light chrome, prepare to be $1400 lighter if you can even find one.

You may well be a wondering what an art toy is doing in a digital marketing site. Brian Donnelly, the guy behind Kaws and the OriginalFake brand has made it into Fast’s 100 Most Creative people in business.

I have been  a massive fan if urban vinyl art since my time in Asia, and lucky enough to own a few gems from Michael Lau and Eric So. Urban vinyl artists have big brands queuing up to be considered for a collaboration pieces. Both Nike and Adidas were quick to recognize the potential to gain institutional art and street credibility in one swoop.  Donnely’s roots lie in graffiti and street art but now enjoys courtships with the likes of Levi and Nike mega-brands.

Check out the Kaws site, but you won’t find much…we always want want we can’t have.