Posts filed under ‘contradictions’

transmedia, multimedia, transmodal, multimodal, what defines true interactive digital edutech?

Inspired by an entry by Kelli McGraw, Defining ‘multimodal’ on her blog, the folks over at Inanimate Alice’s educational blog decided to highlight the semantic morass in which Ms. McGraw and her fellow educators in Australia find them selves.

Australia and New Zealand’s official educational bodies and institutions have been early adapters and adopters of digital media in education- both teaching it, as well as making it a tool.  As these types of resources evolve, engaging existing and new curricula, and well as the platforms, hardware, connectivity and interactivity expand, the terms to describe these phenomena have become even more diverse than the subject itself.

We follow these subjects on twitter, Buzz, WordPress, LinkedIn, Google, Educational and ICT sites, but how do we know what we’re missing?  Is it #edtech #edutech #e-books #ICTeducation #transmedia #multimedia #transmodal #multimodal #newmediaed #education2.0…. the list is very, very long.

The environment, the culture, the technology and global adoption of this revolution is happening so quickly and in as many ways as the imagination of the students it is intended to engage.  The question is: do we need common terms?  Is that limiting or part of the ‘content curation’ movement?  Who makes that decision and what do each of these terms mean to all the different people involved- from grade 5 language students in Melbourne to Ministers of Education in the European Union?

Inanimate Alice is a fantastic springboard to solicit input and begin dialogue by its very existence and unique morphology.  So, we ask you to look at Kelli’s post about Australian curriculum, titles and the confusion created, the article by the Inanimate Alice teachers and supporters highlighting the semantic aspect of Kelli’s article.

Then, please, weight in.  What, exactly, are we talking about?  In an increasingly small world and stronger global community- how do we speak the same language?

Kelli McGraw: sharing resources, inviting conversations

iTeach: Inanimate Alice blog

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2010/05/13 at 01:30 Leave a comment

For the record…

I am very, very pro- social media and SM marketing, despite my somewhat skeptical recent posts.

The bubble will burst (the backlash is already coming, with teens leading the way by slashing their Facebook communities),

I’m advocating smart and sustainable social media tactics and planning, not that it doesn’t work.   I believe it does, but understanding how and why and when is important, and should be investigated more instead of just accepting as truth.  In these relatively early stages, we measure by followers and retweets, not by results (many marketers aren’t even sure what those are, unless they run a social-media-buzz-only business, or are coordinated, big-budget, campaigns à la Hasbro and Tribal BBD for Monopoly City Streets).

I’ve seen real results from FB, Twitter and LinkedIn, but we’ve all also seen more “Social Media Experts” than there are tweets, and as an industry we need to be smart about our business, our jobs and our futures.

2010/01/07 at 22:30 Leave a comment

Shadows and Tall Trees: what social media marketing can learn from third-world pro-social movements

Trying to nourish the roots from the canopy of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn- what the industry can learn from aid organizations and third world groundswell.

Even if your company, brand or product is not aiming for guerrilla, grassroots marketing models, shouting from the rooftops, no matter how state of the art your audio-visual equipment, may never even reach your traditional client.

The best return to investment ratio marketing tool is word of mouth.  No campaign will beat your best friend, father or trusted colleague raving about real world upside- great results, exceeded expectations, superior service, critical savings or having daily routines eased by a brand or business, wherever it’s found.

The trick, of course, is that those hearing the lauding may not need or want such a thing, and the message is not reaching the audience looking for it. What if you want a new netbook, but don’t know anyone you trust, or with similar usage habits, that just got one? You have no other source but the usual product claims and lures found on company websites or superstore specials.

In the age of brands growing personalities and trying to make themselves accessible and personal by tweeting news, promotions, or links to articles mentioning their wares, the reality is that this approach can be just as impersonal and scatter-shot as traditional media advertising.  Yes, it’s far cheaper and much more nimble (no production and media buying lead times), only with two significant extra hurdles: first, there isn’t the advanced, specific initial demographic data that allows you to target those you want or need to reach and second, even one had this information, one has to get the consumer to follow them to receive the message.

Facebook advertising can alleviate this to a great degree- it’s very nature allows Facebook to offer very specific consumers bases.  It’s not hard to reach out to all the 23-year-old female young urban professionals that listen to Jay-Z and like to knit and eat pepperoni pizza.  So now you’re specific, but are you engaged?

Facebook’s Pages are the middle ground- users opt in, choose to be updated, and have asked to participate with your brand.  Seems ideal- a somewhat captive audience on the world’s biggest social media platform, with people spending so much time there that one grows nostalgic for the (yester)days when parents bemoaned the amount of time their kids spend in front of the tv instead of bosses worrying about work hours whittled away online.

The reality is that those that tend to join these pages join LOTS of pages.  There are users who become fans of bands and stores and designers and companies and products and movements (real and imaginary), nearly every channel or medium you can think of.  There are few users who join just a few pages, and those tend to be solely cultural or political.

Jockeying for attention among a hundred other groups: back to square one.

So what does one do?  How do you “move the needle,” “rise above the clutter,” ‘be heard among the chorus of voices?”  A good road map can be found in an unlikely place: non-profit aid organizations.

Entities like the U.N. and its branches- UNESCO, UNICEF or Government foreign aid programs like USAID and giant NGOs like the WHO’s Sonagachi Project are big, well-funded and in the trenches.  The central, urban trenches.  They tend to focus on the cities (the most visible, obvious areas).  They pour tons of good intentions and money into education, awareness, infrastructure, regional offices and specific initiatives time after time, yet find that they are making little headway in their extraordinary efforts.

Why?  Because they are standing on the canopy, shouting through their proverbial bullhorn, watering these trees, missing every plant, bush, flower and blade of grass in between.

In other words: they’re missing those that need them most- the less visible, the less likely to reach out; the majority of the population.

Project (RED), of which I am an avid supporter, is the poster child for what is happening out there: great marketing, tremendous corporate partnerships, tremendous awareness with the social media universe, engaging campaigns and content, but not reaching the people they were built to serve.  Measure with traditional and cutting-edge metrics, they score off the charts for success in the twitterverse, on Facebook, the blogworld… but not in the savannas and jungles of Africa, where all their social media awareness is not matching the slow, slow progress they’re making in their fight.

They’re getting tons of return when it comes to social media success, but the equation doesn’t balance out- their goal is not being reached, at least not in any meaningful way.  The proportion is so lopsided it’s astonishing.

There is a complete and utter disconnect: the number of followers on Twitter, the legion of Facebook fans, the high awareness are all relatively useless if they are not endemic to the community you’re ultimately aiming for.   If mommy bloggers regurgitate your message all day long, adding up to 100,000 tweets a day for two weeks straight, what does it matter if you’re looking to reach that 23-year-old pizza eating knitter who doesn’t interact with, or is not influenced by, that demographic?  The answer, honestly, is: not much.

The reality is that every one of us in the marketing world- traditional, corporate, digital, social media, wherever, whatever, need to ground ourselves, converse with our real audience, go outside the hubs and online cliques and frankly get our hands dirty.  There is no substitute for an actual dialogue with your audience- no amount of retweets or diggs will ever offer you the insight or tools that a two-way conversation with a couple of real live customers does.

When it comes to social media, anecdotal research, even with a healthy dose of salt, is more valuable than a million twitter shouts into the wind.  Because the reality is that the M.O. of most of us is just that.

We need to dig among those proverbial roots- get out there, observe, interact and THEN plan how to nourish them.  Not the other way around.  There are good case studies out there and they are easy to find and even easier to learn from.  They’re coming from ground up, rural aid organizations led by single and singular people with vision and passion and the humility to listen;  an unexpected, nontraditional place.  Which is right up our edgy, out there, trail-blazing alleys.

For some examples, and a little perspective, pick up Nick Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn’s Half the Sky. You’ll be surprised what a high-powered, high budgeted executive can learn from an uneducated, unconnected former prostitute in Kolkota.

2010/01/07 at 21:49 1 comment

Hiding in plain sight- evergreen brands, evolutionary pace and the Wall Street Journal.

When Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal, liberals, old-school journalists and hard-core business-philes all bemoaned the end of an era, of an institution.

There was little doubt he’d leave his mark- Murdoch has never been known to be light-handed, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call him a 21st century William Randolph Hearst.

The majority  readers and admirers were sure he’d promote himself, his agenda (and that of his multitude of businesses).  Fluff pieces on his subsidiaries, corporate profiles of favored friends and partners, an uber-capitalist periodical containing promotional analysis and profiles of businesses that suited Murdoch’s taste.

The Journal has changed, to be sure, but in a much broader sense, inching closer to a right leaning NY Times than a business-anchored daily.  In the upper echelon of global newspapers, The WSJ enjoyed a well-earned spot amongst the elite of the top-tier dailies (elite meaning quality, not snobbish, but that’s a whole other bait and switch of title and subject).

It is increasingly about politics, splashy images and general interest content.  Yet, if you asked most people, including those who cried out at the time of the sale and since, they’d describe it as a business paper.  And that’s exactly what Murdoch and co. are counting on.

For so long, the Journal has been an institution, a cornerstone of commerce reporting and as steady and conservative- in its subject matter, not politics- as can be.  It is ingrained in the collective cultural conscious as such, but that consciousness no longer reflects reality.

How often does this happen?  And how long before we notice?

There are the business school anecdotes about Kleenex starting originally being marketed as a make-up remover, Crisco as candles, Kotex as surgical bandages, Silly Putty as a cheap war-era replacement for rubber, but this is the other end of the brand conversion curve.  Instead of starting out with marketing a product as a specific thing and then finding its unintended usage has far greater upside and viability, this is a brand that has been something for so long that it continues to be perceived to be what it was not what it is.

The reason is lifespan.  Consider TLC, “The Learning Channel,” sister network to Discovery and Animal Planet, it was originally stocked with educational fare.  It has since evolved or devolved into a reality based network with marginal educational value.  It is rarely referred to by its long form name as most people do not perceive it as an educational destination.

Then there’s KFC- formerly proudly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken.  In the wake of the eighties health craze, 90s vanity and aughts obesity crisis, the company has gone out of its way to market itself as KFC, years before they had a non-fried option on the menu.

But the journal has been around for, well, for forever.  And its identity is so integrated into our cultural DNA that the general population hasn’t noticed that it really has changed. Like someone you see everyday who has lost a not insignificant amount of weight, or gone grey, but so slowly, with changes hardly noticeable from day to day, you don’t notice until you see a picture from last year’s company picnic.

The aforementioned bemoaners were right- they’ve just been lulled into complacency by the slow changes, an almost real life evolutionary pace- there was no relaunch, no rebrand no WSJ2.0 campaign here.  It’s a real and steady (d)evolution into a general news periodical with a right leaning agenda.

It’s just hiding in plain sight- behind its evergreen brand.

The Media Equation

Under Murdoch, Tilting Rightward at The Journal

By DAVID CARR

Published: December 14, 2009

There are growing indications in the news pages that Rupert Murdoch, a lifelong conservative, is looking to use The Wall Street Journal to play politics.

Sunday was the second anniversary of the sale of The Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Rupert Murdoch, a lifelong conservative, addressing the newsroom at The Wall Street Journal two years ago, when he took over

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2009/12/15 at 02:29 Leave a comment

ROI is King.*

* That’s not a cross-lingual pun, (roi meaning king in French) just a coincidence, but now doubly true, I realize.

As a burgeoning social media executive who comes from the international sales and marketing world (via licensing, brand and account management), I found this blog from Business Week exceedingly interesting. I twitter, I blog, I use Facebook to promote a photographer, a band and a South African safari camp and run a very successful industry group on LinkedIn.

I look for the “buzz-” the hits, the new members, the retweets, but often wonder how much of that is still just a simple click of a button. Is it the social media equivalent of reading the book jacket of reading a summary of the Odyssey in high school and then recommending it to others? Or is it actual viral promotion. Or: does it matter?

In my experience, and way of working, return on investment is what matters. Having been a licensing manager at an educational not-for-profit, with a zero dollar (0.00 USD or ZAR, EGP, CNY, RUB, BDT, etc.) marketing budget, I learned at an early stage in my career that return does not always mean revenue. Raising awareness, creating goodwill, gaining mind-share, PR, gaining outreach and ancillary educational partners, raising the perceived value of a brand’s equity, etc. could all be as valuable, or more valuable than immediate monetary return. But the question there, which resounds here, is what is that return? And how do you measure it? What are the statistics? Maybe even: does it matter what the metrics are?

I would argue that the last question is the 64 million dollar one. How do you know if what you’re doing is worth your investment (time, money, man-hours, tools) when you don’t have a simple, clear way of quantifying results? You may be gaining revenue, word of mouth, elevated goodwill or endless array of positive outcomes for your brand or product, but not be able to tell because it gets mixed in with the measurements from the more traditional methods. True action to outcome metrics really exist- how does one know that part of the spike in earnings during a tv ad push is actually incidental and comes from earlier word-of-mouth or viral efforts that are just now manifesting themselves in purchases?

Science (say chemistry, biology, mathematics) talks about direct, indirect, causal, related and coincidental relationships. The first three are generally the easiest to prove, but then, with science, it’s actually usually disproving that makes the advances. The Heisenberg Uncertainty principle rules: the more precisely the position of a particle is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa. It goes on to state (paraphrasing, of course): one can never discover the empirical truth without setting up false or contrived boundaries to measure a thing. Like focus groups, or revenue return during an ad spend (the ad spend period being the contrived boundary- there’s no way to know that it’s advertising that’s the end-all, be-all cause of anything).

Apologies, the nerd in me took the wheel for a bit, but the point is this: true ROI can only be known, or more accurately, felt over time. In current global business, that’s the one commodity that almost no one is willing to spend. Metrics for social media effectiveness as regards business will be developed, refined, thrown out and the process started all over again as technology and consumer habits evolve (or change).

In the meantime, this week’s article by Steven Baker in Business Week raises some very interesting questions, but does not overtly mention the most important: What is ROI (in any given instance) and how does one measure that?

Beware Social Media Snake Oil

Hordes of marketing “experts” are promoting the value of wikis, social networks, and blogs. All the hype may obscure the real potential of these online tools

By Stephen Baker

For business, the rising popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media Web sites presents a tantalizing opportunity. As millions of people flock to these online services to chat, flirt, swap photos, and network, companies have the chance to tune in to billions of digital conversations. They can pitch a product, listen to customer feedback, or ask for ideas. If they work it right, customers might even produce companies’ advertising for them and trade the ads with friends for free. Starbucks (SBUX), Dell (DELL), and Ford Motor (F) have all testified to the magic social media can create.

But the same tools carry risks. Employees encouraged to tap social networking sites can fritter away hours, or worse. They can spill company secrets or harm corporate relationships by denigrating partners. What’s more, with one misstep, one clumsy entrée, companies can quickly find themselves victims of the forces they were trying to master. Thousands of bloggers attacked Motrin last year because of an advertisement from the Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) brand they found demeaning to mothers.

Over the past five years, an entire industry of consultants has arisen to help companies navigate the world of social networks, blogs, and wikis. The self-proclaimed experts range from legions of wannabes, many of them refugees from the real estate bust, to industry superstars such as Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk. They produce best-selling books and dole out advice or lead workshops at companies for thousands of dollars a day. The consultants evangelize the transformative power of social media and often cast themselves as triumphant case studies of successful networking and self-branding.

The problem, according to a growing chorus of critics, is that many would-be guides are leading clients astray. Consultants often use buzz as their dominant currency, and success is defined more often by numbers of Twitter followers, blog mentions, or YouTube (GOOG) hits than by traditional measures, such as return on investment. This approach could sour companies on social media and the rich opportunities it represents. “It’s a bit of a Wild West scenario,” blogs David Armano, a consultant with the Dachis Group of Austin, Tex. Without naming names, he compares some consultants to “snake oil salesmen.”

Critics complain that many of the new experts have adopted an orthodoxy that provides little flexibility for differing situations—or outcomes. Their pronouncements follow a rigid gospel: Be transparent, engage with your customers, break down silos. Yet these strictures don’t always make business sense. Adam Kmiec, director of interactive marketing at Marc USA in Pittsburgh, tells of a company he met with that got much of its revenue from the Defense Dept. and had allocated $4 million for social media. “What do you hope to get?” he asked them. Ultimately, the client decided the privacy-obsessed Pentagon may not be thrilled with a supplier publicizing itself through Twitter.

FURY VS. BUZZ

Scrutiny of the hype merchants is picking up. Rob Spencer, senior research fellow for idea management at drug giant Pfizer (PFE), mingles frequently with social media vendors and consultants as he looks for ways to amplify the company’s brainpower. He urges caution. “You have to tread your way carefully and have your B.S. sensors up,” he says. “I call them innovation hippies. ‘Here’s my book for free. Won’t you hire me for $500 to run some workshops?'”

Social media consultants’ own promotions can collide, on occasion, with those of their customers. Take the case of James Andrews, who was working early this year at the PR firm Ketchum (OMC). As a consultant, he helped companies such as Newell Rubbermaid (NWL), Monster Worldwide (MWW), and FedEx (FDX) work out their strategies for blogs and the microblogging service Twitter. On landing in Memphis for FedEx meetings, he says he had an ugly run-in with a racist at the airport and twittered that he would “die if he had to live” in the city. The tweet produced an outpouring of blogged fury from FedEx employees and a fast apology from an embarrassed Ketchum. But for Andrews, the tweet generated buzz and may even have boosted his brand. “It helps me today,” he says. “I use it as a case study. It creates authenticity.” In June, Andrews left Ketchum to launch a boutique consultancy, Everywhere. He helps Macy’s (M), CNN (TWX), and Jane Fonda promote their brands and monitor their audiences on Facebook, blogs, and Twitter.

Skeptics can draw from plenty of examples of social media experiments run amok. Consider Saatchi & Saatchi’s ill-fated promotion for the Toyota (TM) Matrix. Targeting young men, a demographic known to resist traditional advertising, Saatchi’s social media team last year created a campaign based on the pranks of the popular MTV (VIA.B) show Punk’d. According to the plan, a prospective buyer of a Matrix would single out a friend to be the target of a prank. The promise: a bit of fear, a lot of laughs, and perhaps a groundswell of free marketing across Facebook, MySpace (NWS), and Twitter.

Amber Duick, one of the targets in the short-lived campaign, says she received a series of e-mails from a fictitious British soccer hooligan named Sebastian Bowler. He said he was coming to visit her and bringing along his pit bull. He had a MySpace page where he bragged about “drinking alcohol to excess” and participating in riots. One e-mail Duick received was a fake bill for damage to a hotel room wrecked by Bowler. He had left her e-mail address, the message explained, as his contact info. Duick filed a $10 million lawsuit in October and says that to protect herself from the oncoming Bowler, she slept with a machete by her bed. “She was terrified,” says her lawyer, Nicholas Tepper.

In a statement, Saatchi and Toyota wrote that they would “vigorously defend against the claim,” which is “entirely without merit.” They said the plaintiff had granted “her permission to receive campaign e-mails and other communications from Toyota.”

CAN CHAGRIN BE GOOD?

James Cooper, Saatchi’s digital creative director, says social media, by their nature, are unpredictable, which makes them an easy target for critics. “Anyone who says ‘This is going to work’ is either lying or deranged,” he says. He compares the risk model with venture capital, where one bet out of 10 might pay off richly, while the others struggle or even bomb. And he stresses the difficulty of measuring results. “If something’s got 20 million hits on YouTube, that’s a good thing,” he says. “But what if half the comments are negative? I don’t think anyone’s got a long-term case study yet.”

Baker is a senior writer for BusinessWeek in New York.

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2009/12/04 at 18:19 1 comment

Be careful watch you wish for: what happens when your marketing campaign is *too* successful?

A really interesting post from Wired’s Epicenter and blogger Peter Kirwin about the problem everyone “wants to have:” a wildly successful marketing campaign that has taken on a life of its own.  Do you trade dollars for eyeballs- and is that just a short-term question?

 

Epicenter The Business of Tech

Wired-o-Nomics: Mad Men, Media, Marketing and a Fine Mess

Suppose they gave a marketing campaign, and everybody came?

Back in September, Hasbro launched Monopoly City Streets, a massive multiplayer online game that transforms Google Maps into a globalized version of the well-known board game. In the run-up to Christmas, the online game was supposed to promote a boxed version of the game that Hasbro sells for $40 list.

Three months on, however, Hasbro’s MMOG – constructed by ad agency Tribal DDB working alongside engineers from Google Maps – achieved something unexpected. It became vastly more popular than anyone expected. Monopoly City Streets now ranks as the world’s 12th-largest example of the genre, according to Matt Ross of Tribal DDB, attracting 15 billion page views a month.

Presenting his agency’s campaign at last week’s Creativity and Technology conference in London, Ross announced: “We’re trying to invent things that are useful to people. We never know if our stuff is going to work.”

“Now Hasbro don’t know what to do with it,” Ross said. “They have a kind of new product on their hands.”

Unexpected popularity has had unintended consequences for Hasbro. If it scraps the game next month, as planned, it risks alienating 1.5 million registered users. If it allows it to continue, it will need to find a way of monetizing all of those eyeballs that may cannibalize buyers of the game they want to sell who are happy enough with the online version it was supposed to promote.

Oh yeah — Ross also noted that his agency’s wildly successful campaign was achieved with “precisely zero media spend.”

Interesting things happen when advertising slips the moorings that have traditionally bound it to Big Media. In particular, Hasbro’s dilemma underlines the fact that the message-carrying capacity of traditional media has always been constrained. As a result, media owners have always carried promotional messages to audiences on a time-limited basis.

The cost of traditional media doesn’t decline appreciably during a campaign. Accordingly, the cost of reaching new consumers increases exponentially as a campaign proceeds. The risk of over-exposure increases, too.

Hence the advertising industry’s traditional ability to take pride in brilliantly crafted, but transient, promotional efforts.

So what happens when scarcity-based constraints disappear? What happens when advertisers and their agencies produce their own campaigns and distribute them on the web?

Attitudes change. As permanence becomes a possibility, pride in transience starts to look questionable. The ad campaign that Hasbro thought it was buying from Tribal DDB may yet turn into an enduring product. In a similar vein, Anders Gustafsson of Crispin Porter Bogusky Europe told last week’s conference: “The stuff we’re doing should last for years, not months.”

Several years after adland produced its first throwaway virals, this suggests that something much larger than frustration with search engines lurks on the horizon for Big Media.

For a century or more, the advertising industry and Big Media have operated on the basis of mutual dependence. Big Media offered unusually broad reach and attracted big budget creatives as a result. In adland, watching your creatives play out across major media was always a mark of high seriousness.

Now this historic pact is coming under pressure. In places, it has started to unravel. The crude appeal of banners and buttons remains important, but long ago ceased to be at the center of the digital action. For marketers who need to engage massive audiences, the web offers a genuine alternative to press and TV, one that allows advertisers to create their own content.

With no small sense of irony, last week’s conference of digital creatives took place at the galleries constructed by Charles Saatchi out of the elegant hulk of the Duke Of York’s barracks in Chelsea.

Yet the Big Media outlets that carried Saatchi’s inspired advertising copy three decades ago merited barely a mention. Among other things, delegates were asked to consider what might start to happen when we, our devices and the built environment become seamlessly networked.

Adam Greenfield, head of design direction at Nokia, describes one possible outcome:  an urban landscape filled with “dynamic advertising that covers every surface and knows everything about us”. He talks of a “shroud of awareness” surrounding shoppers and pedestrians with “dynamic advertising” constructed on the basis of “sensor readings that record place, time and event”.

The future of outdoor advertising has rarely looked so full of potential. The future of Big Media has rarely looked so marginal.

Kevin Slavin, another speaker at last week’s conference, lectures alongside Greenfield at New York University. He is also the co-founder of Area/Code, a New York-based hotshop that develops games on behalf of agencies and advertisers.

According to Slavin, “the idea of being able to see the value of everything all at once” is “grinding down” the price that retailers in particular can charge their customers. “Meaning,” he claims, is shifting from physical products to the “informatic layer” embodied in devices and networks.

This isn’t a particularly controversial notion. What is controversial is the conclusion drawn by Slavin: “If you’re in the consumer packaging and branding business, you’re fucked.”

Perhaps. But ubiquitous computing also represents a further threat to the historic pact between adland and Big Media. In the not-too-distant future, the cereal packets that contain my daughter’s Coco Pops may carry a cheap screen, wirelessly connected to the web, that plays cartoons across the breakfast table. As a result, BSkyB, the BBC and ITV will lose access to eyeballs.

Disintermediation of this kind is already a reality in some shopping malls, where retailers have started sending promotions to handsets carried by approaching shoppers. According to one analyst firm, 35 start-ups and established companies across Europe are developing technology for use in such digital proximity campaigns.

This won’t result in the death of retail advertising in the weekend editions of national newspapers any time soon. But there’s more to come. The next steps involve the gradual splicing together of three separate disciplines: mobile advertising technology, real-time search and the long-established science of retail footfall analysis.

Coincidentally, Twitter this week released its long-awaited geolocation API into the wild. In this context, one statistic is worth noting: according to the digital ad agency Razorfish, 44 per cent of US consumers who follow a specific brand on Twitter say they do so in order to gain access to special offers.

Campaigns that cut out Big Media with a mix of gaming, location awareness and social networking aren’t yet an established fixture in adland. But we might not have to wait too long. The iPhone’s crystalline screen was made for opportunities like these.

The fallout could make Rupert Murdoch’s dispute with Google look like the proverbial storm in a teacup.

Among the digital creatives who gathered together last week, a few are already looking toward the future. “Now that we’ve been invited to the party and have money, influence and power,” said Ian Tait of Poke London, “I worry we are like a bunch of kids with the keys to the sweet shop.”

Judging by the heady optimism on display at CaT last week, Tait’s concerns aren’t yet widely shared by his peers. But they will be – and soon enough. As Google knows all too well, disruptive power brings serious responsibilities in its wake.

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2009/11/30 at 22:47 2 comments

Snuggies: the 8th Wonder of the Modern World?

We’re all feeling the recession.  We’ve heard recently in the U.S. that it was over and the markets were stable, employers were just not hiring yet.  Then, it seemed things might not be so rosy.  This week brought rumors and reports that Dubai, Dubai, might be going bankrupt*.  In this increasingly intertwined global economy, every little up or down (or report of one) can have incredible ripple effects.

Imagine my surprise, then as I’ve recently returned to the States after an over-seas, TV-less assignment to see a new and expanded Snuggie infomercial.  At first I thought “ha, ha!  Snuggies in leopard print, just when I thought things could not get tackier!”  And then I started thinking about it: Snuggies are releasing a “designer line” of their product.  Unless it’s a marketing ruse to make the product’s profitability greater than it actually is, this meant something truly scary and of a significance I have yet to figure out: Snuggies are making money.  Making money, and enough to expand their product line.

For those of you that don’t know what a Snuggie is, yet are still here, I’ll try to explain.  In the States, and most English speaking nations, we have infomercials for products that seem to be completely superfluous, useless and usually are so ridiculous in their uselessness to the average consumer that they are laughable.  This particular product has been the latest in a long series of “As Seen On TV” products that have been lampooned and scoffed at in their inanity.

Essentially, It’s a blanket with arm holes, made of fleece.  The original advertisement points out how cumbersome and just plain inconvenient blankets and sweaters can be: you have to move your hands from under a blanket to, say knit, or answer the phone.  The actors seem have their spirits broken by this unfathomable act of uncovering their arms to perform menial tasks.  They can’t believe humanity has made it this far with such a burden.  But then!  Blessings!  Someone has invented a product that looks like a blanket with sleeves.  You can use your arms now!  You can lift the remote control from the couch without having to negotiate that insidious blanket.  A huge weight has been lifted and a milestone in the evolution of man has been reached.

As my 22 year old sister pointed out: it’s a robe you put on backwards.  That you pay a lot of shipping and handling for.

Everyone from news shows to parody programs (like The Soup and Saturday Night Live) and late night talk show hosts (Jay Leno, David Letterman) have all taken potshots at the Snuggie.  It’s just too absurd to believe, but too real not to mention.

Well, look who’s having the last laugh.  They know have leopard print.  And zebra print.  And camel (of course).  And THERE’S EVEN ONE FOR YOUR DOG.**

How can there be a recession, with reports of empty stores on New York’s always busy upper Broadway on Black Friday, and the run away success of a completely useless and superfluous product?  According to their website, they’ve sold over 4 million units in three months.  That means more than one percent of the US population has bought one in the last quarter.  Now, a lot of this is through TV marketing trickery (buying sets, up-selling, confusing ordering practices), but still.

Clearly half of this me joking, but it raises a real point: what in the french are consumers thinking?  We hear about belt tightening and foreclosures and bankruptcy, but the completely unnecessary products of the world go on, and do well.

It’s not marketing.  The ads are too targeted, too cheesy, too insignificant to have the impact they claim to have.  So I ask: what do you think drives consumers to these purchases when they are tightening budgets elsewhere?  It’s not escapist and it’s not essential.

Thoughts?

* Dubai is also a cautionary tale of excess, proof of the adage of location, location, location and bubble budget spending (use it or lose it), but it’s a very serious development.

** I’m not making this up.  Please see the second video below- there’s one that combines both, but then you wouldn’t really be getting the full Snuggie experience.

Designer Snuggie Infomercial here (brings you to youtube)

And for your little dog, too infomercial (youtube)

2009/11/28 at 20:42 Leave a comment


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