Mike Grehan says...

Random musings about search marketing, flying around the planet, networking and people watching.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A quick trip to Amsterdam.

I stopped over in Amsterdam on my way back from Shanghai. Actually, it was a beautiful little place called Loosdrecht, which is just outside of Amsterdam, in fact.

I was invited to speak at a private seminar held by European web analytics company Moniforce. They very kindly put me up at the delightful Golden Tulip Hotel which sits right on the lake.

The conference venue was excellent and also sat right on the lake. One of the other speakers, Rogier Croes, whom I'd met briefly at SES in Stockholm last year thought it would be a good idea to take a picture of me wearing a suit for the blog, as it's not something you see very often. Of course, I'm sure he was just looking for a link back to Checkit ;-) Always happy to oblige.

And here's my happy audience getting ready to... go to the bar for free beer :-)

That night I flew to London to meet my buddy Barry Lloyd. He and I were presenting a training day for NMA (I did a short interview with Barry for my ClickZ column this week). It was a great day with an excellent group. No pictures, I'm afraid as I'd forgotten to charge the battery in my camera.

Okay, time for a quick catch-up of breath. Next week ad:tech, New York.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

ad:tech, Shanghai.

I'm rapidly developing a huge love for China and its people. Chinese people are very friendly and very funny too. They have a quite unique sense of humor and very much able to laugh at themselves at the drop of a hat.

So I was delighted to find myself back in the great city of Shanghai, for ad:tech, last week. It's been almost a year since I was last there. Not a lot has changed. Pudong grows more Manhattenesque all the time. The traffic is the same nightmare. And Shanghai cab drivers should have the word Kamikaze on the roof, not taxi. Apart from that, it's noticeably quieter downtown since Shak moved out :-) Although, I don't think he's gone for good.

This was the first ad:tech show with Drew Ianni, the new chair of the conference. Drew's a good guy and a brilliant public speaker. This probably eased him into the job. The Shanghai show is much smaller than the American shows (for the record, the Shanghai show is in Beijing, next year. If you know what I mean).

I moderated one panel and did my solo show, also. The panel had a fantastic line up of luminaries in the Chinese internet marketing space. Shuhong Ye represented DianPing, a leading restaurant guide which benefits from a directory type structure and user generated content for recommendations. Zcom has a staggering 30 million registered users and is headed by internet entrepreneur Ming Ming Huang. His presentation showed the power of audio visual presentations for advertising in the many ezines they publish online And last but not least, Alvin Wang Graylin of Minfo. Here's a guy who really understands just how big the whole mobile/local market place is going to be in China. A very cool guy and a great speaker too.

The only problem I had with the session, is that these guys had so much fantastic content, but because the session before ran over, I had to get them to do their presentations at the double. Of course, they were wonderfully professional about it (plus, I was waving a large wooden shoe horn around to make sure they stuck to their time limit).

I then had to dash form that session up to the next floor to do my solo session in the China Hall. The solo presentation is an hour long thing I do at the American ad:tech shows and this is the first time I've done it outside of the States. And true to form... I was told when I got to the main hall that the last session had run over by, wait for it... 20 minutes. So I was asked if I could cut the session down to 35 minutes to get back on track. So yes, I did my solo at double speed also.

The show had changed location this year. It was help in the sumptuously luxurious Shangri-La Hotel, Pudong. I was very lucky and was allocated an executive suite. Now, I stay in a lot of hotels. But I have t say, out of them all, I have never slept in a more comfortable bed than the one I had at the Shangri-La. The luxurious and wonderful Valencia Hotel on Santana Row, San Jose has held the record for me for the longest when it comes to most comfortable bed. But Shangri-La wins hands down.

And I couldn't have a more iconic view from my window.

I hooked up with my great friend Inway Ni. He and I have been hanging out a lot lately around the planet. He had never been to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower, so we decided to sneak off for an hour and be tourists. It's strange, the tower is the third largest of its type in the world. But it's not the tallest building in Shanghai. The Jin Mao Tower is . Now this is me sitting at the very top observatory of the Oriental Pearl Tower, with the Jin Mao Tower out of the window. Doesn't it look smaller than the Oriental Pearl Tower?

Maybe it's aspect ratio or something. I took another shot from the ground, and the building to the left looks taller also.
The Jin Mao Tower, is, I believe, the tallest building in China and also houses the Hyatt Regency Hotel . The lobby for the hotel is on the 62nd floor!

After our little touristy escapade, Inway and I went to dinner. Inway is actually a very good chef himself. So when we're out eating traditional Chinese food, I always let him order. We went to a restaurant which served food in the north western style of China. At one point, I picked up some meat with my chopsticks and then asked Inway what type of meat it was. He seemed to say in Chinese, what sounded like "don key" so I immediately asked him what it meant in English. He said "don key", oh dear, there's one less ride at the seaside.

Having already mentioned how the Chinese can laugh at themselves sometimes, Inway told me that they have a particular saying in China. They say: In China we eat anything with four legs... except the table". And then followed up by saying: "And if it flies in the sky, we'll eat it. Except for an aeroplane."

Of course, I then had to go and ask if they really do still eat dog in China. You don't want to know...

My big pal Kevin Ryan flew into town for the show and also brought his Dad with him. Eating with Kevin is a different thing altogether. None of your traditional Chinese for him, when he and could eat at that classy brand imported all the way from the good ole USA:

He and I had a sedate dinner where we discussed Chinese politics, global warming and... Nah! We ordered burgers, Kev did a quick reccie around the room looking at the waiting staff, and opened the conversation with "do all Chinese women have the same ass?" Hehe! My kind of guy.

I stayed over the weekend so that I could hang with my great pall from Hong Kong, Eddie Choi. He's a very smart guy and very funny too. My favourite style of eating in China is simply known as "HotPot" and that's exactly what it is. A hot pot of stock on the table and you simply order the food and cook there and then at the table, It's delicious. Once again I left it to the expert and Ediie ordered a superb banquet for Sunday lunch in really traditional restaurant.

I was staying just off Nanjing Road which is the main shopping area in downtown Shanghai. Plaza 66 is simply breathtaking and you can crick your neck just trying to look to the top. Inside is the most upmarket range of brands you'll find under one roof. Paris, eat your heart out!

Nanjing Road is in the French Concession area of the city. With its tree lined avenues, it really does have a European feel about it.

And lit up at night it's very pretty

However, my new favourite place is just off Nanjing Road. It's called Big Bamboo and it serves great food, great beer and great wine. It also has some very hospitable clientele. I met my new friend Mimi, in Big Bamboo.

Yes, I like China very much.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Castles and coast.

Two weekends ago, I did something completely different. Something I haven't done for a long time. I stayed at home for the weekend with my wife!

I declared the weekend at home a child-free zone and told the hoards of kids that I have, to find somewhere else to go. No, I didn't arrange anything for them. I just told them to go... anywhere!

And Tatiana and I spent all day that Saturday just driving around our own neck of the woods. Travelling as much as I do, I sometimes forget just how beautiful the area I live in really is.

I live north of Newcastle, quite close to the airport, so it's only a matter of minutes in my car before I'm on the Borderland. This is the glorious area which separates England and Scotland.

There's a wonderful route for tourists to follow just known as the "Coast and Castles" route. I decided to drive it again, as I hadn't driven that route for more than 20 years. It was beautiful!

I took my wife to see a castle that I visited quite a few times when I was a kid. It's called Warkworth Castle, it's a ruin which dates back to the 12th Century.

The surrounding countryside in this area is quite simply breathtaking.

Then we moved on to the historical market town of Alnwick.

Alnwick also has a famous castle. And yes, it's known locally as Alnwick Castle. As you might expect. But to millions and millions worldwide, it has a completely different name: Hogwarts.

Yep, this is one of the many locations used in this area for the blockbusting Harry Potter movies.

The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland still have apartments in the castle. But I think they spend more time at their London home. Alnwick, is a really nice little town. But if were a Duke or a Duchess, I wouldn't want to be hanging around there too much either. Having said that, Northumberland has just been voted the most tranquil place in England to live. And Alnwick was voted as the best town.

I like the Duchess of Northumberland very much. I met her once, in fact. She's so cool, on a normal day she's blue jeans and sneakers and very down to earth. She's spent the past few years working on the latest attraction to Alnwick castle. The magnificent gardens. And what a splendid job she did. There's a real touch of Versaille going on.

Tatiana really enjoyed the gardens. But there's more. Not only did the Duchess create this wonderful tourist attraction, last year she added to it. She built the world's biggest tree house!

It's huge and complete with rope bridges too.

I had a great time. I like my wife very much. I think I'll try and see her more often. Yes, life is sweet.

And even more so when your wife treats you to a pint of your favourite beer in your local pub.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

In Munich stands a Royal drinking house... (Bavarian beer drinking tune)

I ended up in Germany again at the weekend. Back to wonderful Munchen town. Home city of my good friend Thomas Bindl. We got together and had dinner and a catch-up on Friday night. After all, we hadn't seen each other for almost 48 hours, when we had dinner together in London!

One of the main reasons (other than a little business) I was in Munich, was to make up for the fact that I forgot to take my son to Oktoberfest. I had promised him some time ago that I'd take him to the beer festival in Munich, because I'd been away most of his summer vacation and had hardly seen him at all.

So the weekend before last, I was in Germany with my buddy Ralph Tegtmeier. And at dinner, when I told him I'd be coming back to Germany soon for Oktoberfest, he told me: "No you won't." And then went on to explain that I'd missed it!

What could I do? I just had to tell my son straight: "Blue (his nickname) your Dad's a complete asshole. I got the dates wrong for Oktoberfest." He didn't as much as bat an eyelid. Nor did he disagree about me being an asshole, either, I should add.

So, there was nothing else for it. I just had to take him to Munich for our own little beerfest at the weekend. And so it was that we met Thomas, who took us to one of his favourite eateries, where we were served Wiener Schnitzel of gigantic proportions.

Thomas, being the SEM international man of mystery he is, prefers not to have his picture taken (probably doesn't want the spam cops at the search engines to recognize him :-)

So, we'll concentrate on the food, and look with complete disbelief at the size of the Wiener Schnitzel on my son's plate.

Next day we hit the famous English Garden. It was cloudy, grey and raining. That being the case. It was a pretty empty English Garden (unlike when I first visited it earlier this year). I took a pic of Blue standing in front of the Pagoda style tower which is the central feature in that part of the garden. I have no idea whatsoever, what that beam of light is pointing to his head from the tower. Could be aliens looking for some sort of brain activity... It's possible they may have chosen the wrong person for this experiment :-)

So, anyway, in the pouring rain, Blue and I headed for the wonderful Seehaus beer garden on the lake (which Thomas had recommended). Here, Blue was able to practice posing for his own blog (in typical Dad style :-)

The English Garden is very pretty and has some wonderful inhabitants.

Joe (Blue, that is) is a big football fan. In fact, a huge supporter of our local team, Newcastle United. But, he's also a fan of Bayern Munich. The city is full of multi coloured Lions this year (I don't know why?) and this one certainly caught Joe's attention.

He got quite attached to another when we hit downtown and headed for... yes, that's right, the Ratskellar!

There's some fine architecture in Munich. It really is a wonderful city.

There's one building Joe really wanted to see (the world cup stadium)... But we could only catch glimpse of it on the airport bus as we were leaving.

Not quite Oktoberfest. But we had a great time just hanging together. Okay, I'm off to China next for ad:tech, Shanghai.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

RedEye and a new agent...

One of the events I look forward to most of all on my speaking schedule is the strictly exclusive annual RedEye workshop in London. This is an invitation only event and involves a small audience of first-class online UK marketers.

It takes place in the wonderful Oracle building in London town. This is my third year in a row. And once again, today was great. We start with a seminar and then breakout into work groups. It's amazing just how much data about search you can release into one room by just having the right minds there.

Of course, as they were the most beautiful audience in the room... at that time... :-) So I had to take the pic

Well done guys, it was a real pleasure working with you today.

In passing, in London town, I happened to bump into international SEO man of mystery, Thomas Bindl. He was in the company of, perhaps, the most beautiful woman who ever ventured out of California. I was in the company of leading marketing big brain (and not to be outdone, Danish beauty) Nicholine Hayward, who's on the verge of HUGE success with her new venture.

Little more can be said about this private meeting of minds.

However, at dinner, Thomas presented me with... She that will forever be known as... Madame Fifi le Blogdog.


Over to you Thomas...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

ad:tech, London... and then hospitality Fantomaster style!

I thought that being unemployed I'd spend a lot more time at home and a lot of time in the unemployment benefits office. The truth of the matter is, I'm a complete stranger to the "dole office" as Ralph Tegtmeier (AKA Fantomaster) reminded me it was called in the UK (I don't even know where it is :-) And just about the same applies to home, I'm a complete stranger there still. But at least I do know where that is!

Since I returned from my last trip to Hong Kong a couple of weeks ago, I've been in London most of the time. Although, last weekend I ushered myself up to steel town (Sheffield) for a huge family get together. Both my younger and elder brothers were there with their kids. And for the first time in months and months I had my own two boys to prop me up at the bar. A great time was had by all.

And then, it was back to London. My buddy Gerry Jacobs was also in town on business, so once again, we had an opportunity to hook up. While he had his various meetings to attend in the city, I had ad:tech.

The London conference is a much smaller event than the US shows (much like SES) but it's a great opportunity for the little UK SEM community to have a second annual get together.

I was very much looking forward to the "Ten pillars of SEO" session I was moderating. It was an all star line up with Lyndsay Menzies from Big Mouth Media and her client, Tesco. And Bob Price from Your Amigo with his client, Sony.

Unfortunately, at the last minute, Sony had to pull out due to their guy suffering from tonsillitis. So we padded it out a little bit, with Lyndsay getting extra time to demonstrate the great work she's been doing with Tesco. And then Bob morphed himself into his Sony client and did a splendid job of covering for him.

I'll just throw in a quick and very special thanks to all those who hooked up with me for dinner, lunch, beers and general whispering in corridors at times. You all know who you are, so I won't bother mentioning here. Cheers!

Big time hospitality on the river Rhine.

Gerry and I flew to Cologne, Germany on Friday evening where we teamed up with my long time SEO buddy, the legendary Ralph Tegtmeier (Fantomaster). He and his business partner Dirk travelled over the border from Belgium, and the four of us checked into the most wonderful riverside hotel in a pretty place called Konigswinter, for a most splendid late dinner.

The Maritim Hotel literally sits right on the river edge. It's a wonderful location and Ralph had ensured that both Gerry and I had river facing suites. The view of the riverboat from my bedroom window, first thing Saturday morning was an excellent sign of a great day ahead.

The day began with a hearty breakfast. I have this strange pursuit, in that, everywhere I travel in the world I try to create the full English breakfast, no matter what ingredients are available. And the Maritim even had baked beans on the menu... (hehe! I hear the sound of many Americans going "ughhh! baked beans for breakfast!" :-)

The town of Koenigswinter is located on the Rhine in a beautiful landscape. And so it was, after breakfast, that we met in this beautiful little town... Outside a pub, where else!

Ralph has lived in this extremely pretty town before, and was able to give us a lot of history. In particular about Drachenfels mountain. According to the legend, it is right here where Siegfried's fight with the dragon took place. Ralph took us all on a ride on Germany's oldest rack railway, the Drachenfelsbahn, which went into operation in 1883.

Yes, after Lake Como and Hong Kong already this year, I was on another tram heading up a another glorious mountain.

The views from the mountain down to the river Rhine and surrounding countryside were spectacular.

And at the top of the mountain, I captured Gerry and Ralph together in a picture which just generated its own caption: Investment Banker meets Cloaking Ranker.

The countryside is beautiful, but we were all stumped for an answer to what the large golf ball was doing in there.

At one point, I couldn't find Ralph. And then I noticed he'd sneaked off for a quiet smoke :-)

There's a story about a guy who wanted to build a fairytale castle on the mountain. Which, in fact, he did. However it was very much a Gothic, Disney... er... bottom of a bottle of Asbach inspired creation. I really wanted to capture its entire tastelessness... But it was being renovated!

Next we delved into some real German folklore and mythology by visiting a Gothic style temple.

Inside we were treated to the dark imagery of Siegfried killing the dragon, accompanied by the "not at all whistle along to" music of Wagner (at his most demented, by the sound of it).

And then, something completely out of the ordinary happened... I found myself sitting on the romantic Rhine... drinking beer!

We rounded off our day with a late lunch watching the river flow and eating the most wonderful local dishes.

I can't thank Ralph and Dirk enough for such fabulous hospitality.

And now, from the top of one mountain, it's time for me to make my way to the top of another. Metaphorically speaking, that is ; -)