Friday, 26 February 2010

Chat roulette: You have 2.9 seconds to make a good first impression

I've been mildly amused by the levels of buzz around the web recently on the topic of chat roulette.

Chat roulette , for the un-initiated amongst you, combines an eclectic mix of MSN/Skype-like video chat (via your webcam), speed-dating and my favourite web lucky dip machine StumbleUpon.  In essence, sign up, turn your webcam on and wow, there's some completely random person right there in front of you that you can:
a) chat with or
b)"Next" i.e decide you don't like the look of them for whatever reason and just jump forward to the next person.  Mad.

I found this fun video piece that illustrates it nicely (so you can spend a few minutes and feel like you are up with the latest digital trends without having to talk to loads of random people, or re-apply your lipstick / brush your hair or adjust your tie), and shows off the results of a straw poll. It's humorous, but also makes some interesting points.

It's a crazy world we live in. Enjoy

chat roulette from Casey Neistat on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Nice engaging ad possibilities from Spotify

Those nice chaps over at Spotify sent me a nice beta / mock-up this morning to show off what they can do with their lightbox ad format.

In essence you can scroll around the ad format (in this case highlighting an individual character), and you get a nice spotlight that hints at more interactivity to come....

And from there deliver content directly from the ad format....


Fun. And all without leaving Spotify.  

Like all the best executions I've seen recently on Spotify, this ad would be triggered by a user clicking on a standard display format, in itself promoted by applying the principles of good radio creative to the ad.

Spotify might run in the background all day, but I only tend to interact with the interface itself if I am either choosing what to listen to, or my curiosity is aroused by a good "radio" ad.

I quite liked this recent example promoting a forthcoming new series of Grey's Anatomy on Living.... 

The idea was "get him out the house" (so you could indulge yourself watching the show), but the creative execution was nice- it featured a publican encouraging boys to come down the pub and leave the ladies to it.

If you don't ask....

A friend of mine spotted this image on a friend of theirs Facebook wall.  Thanks Mr B!

What a friendly way to acknowledge that there's otherwise dead time in your service delivery process, suggest positive ways to use that time and simultaneously encourage people to talk about your brand in social spaces.  Nice work Dominos Pizza.

It doesn't have to take hours or huge budgets to encourage people to interact with your brand or service.

Get thinking!  What little touches could you easily add?

UPDATE:  I've just seen this call out in my Facebook newsfeed from Walkers Crisps asking for photo contributions of crisp sandwiches  (you probably have to be English to truly appreciate them!)

I couldn't help but smile at this...

A friend of mine just shared this video, which is too good for me not to share it further.

It's humorous but makes some serious points about client / vendor relationships.

Watch, smile wryly, and then think about when you are either being unfair in what you are asking for or where you are perhaps under-valuing your services.  I recently read about Belgian ad agencies staging a week long virtual strike in protest over the way pitches were being run.  Worth a read.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Hula Hoops harness charity & brand attributes to create brand experience event

I like Hula Hoops.  I don't actually eat them very often but I do have a nostalgic soft spot for the brand, and I  really like some of the promotional work I've seen over the last year. The results from the Golden Hoop Awards consumer generated video competition they ran are well worth a watch, and nicely presented to emulate real film award events.

This morning I tripped over this video ad on YouTube encouraging people to sign up to take part in a one off event - a Hula Hoopathon in aid of charity Comic Relief's counterpart Sport Relief .

 Watching the ad / clicked me through to their YouTube Channel, which was nice- not dragging me out of the environment I had chosen to be in (presumably with a purpose) when I tripped over their ad.

As a promotion it's got lots of the ingredients of good thinking - charity is always a strong angle, as most people like to contribute to good causes, and the warm fuzzy glow of having done something nice will be reflected back on the Hula Hoops brand.  And then some, because on top of which,  Hula Hoops are donation matching / contributing too.  Nice synergy between Hula Hoops snack product form and Hula Hooping (I will loosely call that sport), particularly as it's also promoting exercise which is a great re-inforcer of the "you can eat these things that aren't so good for you but be aware of the importance of a balanced diet and exercise" message.

Brand experience, participation in a real event = opportunities for others to talk about your brand expanding the reach further and in an influential fashion.

Packaging pushes both the broader "take part" message but also gives detail of how to text and donate (smart use of mobile as many crisps are consumed as a snack on the go, when you might not have online access).

I'd have given them almost full marks if they had not built the whole website in flash and had been buying the paid search term Sport Relief as well as just Hula Hoops. Maybe next time!  
Hula Hoops are nowhere in the first page search results against Sport Relief

But they are buying their own search terms at least.....

Most brands still don't get the benefit of thinking beyond the brand term. It's what I call Brand Manager Silo Syndrome. The supposed experts on the consumer often seen to forget to think about how a consumer would search in relation to something and therefore miss out on relevant opportunities to get their message out there.

Don't be guilty!  Think outside the marketing box.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Finding what you want to watch online now even easier

Fledgling video-specific search engine Clicker have just got a new round of funding.  Great!

Whilst you can find videos via video search tabs in Google or Bing, or of course search directly in YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion et al, it's quite interesting to have an aggregated medium-specific search engine as a destination.  Have a play, you can search from a variety of angles including "made for the web" which is interesting in itself.  My TV Production buddies should take note!!

Procter & Gamble tune in to the Winter Olympics with an umbrella brand campaign

P&G are a corporate sponsor of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, and have released this short video, focussing on the people rather than medals / competitive side of the Games.

Nice messaging, well delivered and emotionally relevant to the vast numbers of US purse-holders who buy their many many products in lots of different categories, whether they wittingly know they come from P&G or not. If they didn't before, they might now.

For me, it's interesting to see that the FMCG super-giants are taking different routes in the digital world. Lifetime value of a given customer to a company is huge when you have a portfolio as vast as P&G, Unilever & Nestle to name but a few.

Yet so far only Unilever have consistently started more publically stamping their umbrella brand name on their brand communications so people realise how many Unilever products they have in the house. There's pros and cons to this approach of course as if as a company you make some bad decisions and fail to act with integrity in one part of your business then the knock on effect elsewhere is going to be more significant.

I smiled to myself last week when I read that Nestle have put out a brief looking for agencies to help them improve their disastrously bad profile in social media spaces. It doesn't take a genius to work out that if the action / issue that causes all the negativity (selling infant formula in Africa) isn't addressed then it's not going to get any better. Negative noise always lurks longer than the good stuff. Nothing new about that in PR terms, just now it's far more widely dispersed and very visible. Sticking your head in the sand and hoping it will just go away isn't going to work, as Vodafone found out last week when someone used the UK Vodafone Corporate Twitter account to say something that was very very inappropriate. Oooops.

UPDATE: Found this extra piece of P&G TVC work around the "Moms" / Olympics

Unilever make me smile with their latest Axe/Lynx work

I think the video speaks for itself, but I love the fact that Unilever have totally got the hang of the point that says you can create tangental, humorous content for low-interest product sectors and still get a brand message across.

Daft but fun.

Google Buzz - retrofitting Google Wave?

As social search (using your friends to get trusted recommendations rather than leaving yourself to the mercy of the search engine's algorithms) gains groundswell, Google in particular is ramping up it's efforts to stay part of the game that Facebook is increasingly well positioned to capitalise on (in dwell time if not necessarily directly in revenue terms).

Last week Google announced the acquisition of social recommendation engine Aardvark, swiftly followed by their own attempts to get in on the social networking piece with the launch of Google Buzz. Here's the official intro video explanation:

In essence, Gmail meets Twitter meets Facebook meets GoogleWave.

Retro-fitting some of the neat features of Google Wave ( links auto-embed and I can send direct messages, follow and collapse threads in conversation etc) into the bigger playing field of Gmail makes a lot of sense, particularly given the fact that the GoogleWave beta remains a walled garden and therefore limited in its day to day application, but points deducted for the way Buzz was implemented and executed leaving Google wide open to criticism over privacy issues.

First off, it means there's yet another status that I might have to consider updating of a morning, in addition to the already long enough list of Facebook, Twitter, Yammer (internal Twitter/Intranet), plus dealing with multiple email accounts etc.

Secondly, like lots of people I use my Gmail as my primary email account for everything, personal emails, stuff I sign up for, professional stuff, all sorts, so in my 800+ contacts there's a real smorgasbord of people I interact with for different reasons.  So when Google then decided to just sweep my Gmail account for people to follow/follow me (not that I opted to follow) at that point, I ended up with a pile of people that I really wouldn't chose to share certain things with but even under the "public v private" publishing options were still being considered to be my friends. Or at best I end up with a very general list of followers that if I were going to interact with,  my interactions would have to be very "vanilla" and not targeted around anything specific.

Doh. No!

Barry T, whoever you are, despite my 4 attempts to block you, please go away!  After much furore Google have put their hands up and said "Ooops" and fixed the address book sweeping issue but clearly still not managed to sort out the bug that won't let me block whoever Barry is. Grrrrrrrr.

Grumbling aside, like all good geeks I obviously had to dive in and have a play, and suddenly I found myself caught up in all sorts of Google-Wave like conversation blips amongst people I know and friends of theirs. Interesting but life is busy enough already, and there are lots of other spaces I can already use for that functionality. Mashable have a fairly comprehensive range of views on Google Buzz which is worth perusing.

You can't argue with the critical mass of Gmail account holders across a lot of the world, so from Google's point of view it makes a lot of sense to leverage that scale when Facebook have recently announced that they've topped 400m global members, and implemented (yet another) re-design that makes search more prominent. 

In a world of dispersed digital identity I make very conscious choices about who I choose to interact with, where, under what identity, and why,  and I'm not sure where Google Buzz fits in that landscape right now. Nor have I quite worked out yet,  what interacting via Buzz publically v privately does to my own personal Google profile SEO, nor that of my blog and the other Google owned /provided spaces I interact with, given that they are linked together.  Watch this space.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Location sensitive vouchers & coupons direct to your mobile

Yesterday I tripped over an interesting location based voucher & coupon finding app called VoucherCloud.

There being no time like the present it was swiftly downloaded, a simple 2 stage email & password sign up dealt with and we were off.  I was admittedly slightly amazed at quite how many offers from a broad range of places were jumping out at us, all set out by  location/specified distance from us / specific category to choose from if we wished (although it took us a while to work out that the elephant icon meant attractions!)...

The app shows the range of offers (where there is more than one from a given promoter) and where the nearest locations/branches you can redeem the vouchers at , giving address and contact details / or showing them on a map.


We opted to try redeeming a free coffee (seemingly not even conditional on any other purchase) at the Coffee Republic around the corner from the office. 

We walked in, showed the barrista the voucher on the phone, and voila,  a free coffee.  Too easy!
The app then invited us to input the money we'd saved on the cost of the coffee presumably so we can track out savings / encourage us to value the (free) app. Smart.

I've been seeing location based offers on FourSquare for a while, as per this example, 

but Vouchercloud is more expansive because it's already hooked in to an established online couponing destination, and just bringing this already familiar behaviour / promotional opportunity closer to a point of purchase, which makes a lot of sense for both consumers and marketers alike.

I can totally see why I would use this app over and over again.

Useful = get used repeatedly in the app space = builds loyalty and brand affinity & advocacy.

London living means that I am often meeting friends for coffee, drinks or dinner, but in this mobile age plans often hinge around meeting near a Tube station without a specific plan to meet at a particular pub or restaurant, and so mobile couponing could readily sway plans in favour of one venue over another.

It's easy to see how couponing can work for restaurants and bars, but I see no reason why the same principles couldn't apply for packaged goods brands and beyond. Imagine the opportunity for your brand to call out about a free sample, event or a promotion at one of your retail partners with a branch near by? 

Barclays Bank are already embracing location based services via Layar, with their own Layar that shows not just where the nearest Barclays Branch or ATM is, but also retail partners who accept their cashless RFID / wave and pay card technology, which enables you to pay for low value items just by touching your card against a reader. No signature, no code to punch, no cash to look for.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Mobile World Congress 2010

Geeky happiness, it's the MWC in Barcelona this week. Sadly I'm not going but I am/shall be avidly absorbing the news.

Yesterday's interesting news bites for me were:
1) Multi-operator Consortium announced to develop apps for non i-Phone platforms
2) Samsung announce they are bringing out their own mobile operating system called Bada.

Ooops!? I refer you back to point 1!? Like the world needs yet another mobile O/S to develop for!? Not.  Oh, and Windows Mobile got rebranded as Windows.... wait for it..... Phone!   Check out this point of view from one of my other digital nerdy mates

Today (so far at least) I will award points to Sony Ericsson for their use of search. I was just checking my Gmail when I noticed this Adwords ad at the top of my mailbox

 Which took me off to an event specific (if horribly over-using flash) MWC site.... to support their conference presence. 

All that Flash clearly wasn't going to work for any iPhone users, so they've clearly had to develop a different version of the site for that....  (that's just a whole load of extra un-necessary effort if you ask me!)

Meanwhile I shall just have to content myself with reading about the latest HTC offerings, The Google Nexus One equivalent the HTC Desire, and the next generation HTC Hero, the HTC Legend.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Neat thinking from Down Under...

Someone just shared this Australian Beer launch campaign with me.

I love the big thinking behind it. Do watch:

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Winter Olympics - get your round up here....

The Winter Olympics are currently upon us, starting in Vancouver on the 12th Feb, and somehow, despite the appetite for all things snow related amongst the huge number of avid winter sports fans I know, it just doesn't seem to get the same level of buzz and coverage as the Summer Olympics.

On the subject of which, only 898 days to go says the BT Tower out of my office window today - they've had a daily countdown showing for weeks now but it took me a while to figure out what the random number was, 'til I twigged they were a sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics).

Doh, where's the paid search on that activity??  Joined up thinking people???

However,  back to the Winter Olympics, and those ever helpful folks at Google have kindly pulled together a handy Winter Olympics 2010 quick reference guide where you can check out the medals table, get links to event coverage, see the buzz around events via a link to real time search and even check out the slopes in Street View (clearly they should have called that Piste view but never mind!).

Worth a look.

It does a nice in-one-place showcase of the many things Google brings you, that lesser geeks than I may not have realised.

But nice as that is, I still like the daily pictures on Bing. They make me smile. And therefore divide my search love :-)

 Utterly gratuitous but here's some very cool camels from yesterday

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Last minute Valentines gift? There's a Pop up shop for that

As I came through Paddington station last night on my way home,  I noticed this brilliant opportunity seized by jeweller Ernest Jones.

Forgotten to buy your Valentine a gift before you jump on the train to Heathrow / see them?

Marks & Spencer run out of  £10 bouquets or red roses?

W H Smith only left with the really ghastly cards? Panic!

Ah ha, magic solution. Ernest Jones. Diamonds are a girl's best friend.[Hint!]

You can't lose.  Genius.  For one week only: As it says on the store-side, "Exclusively open for Valentine's."

I think we'll continue to see more of these pop-up shops this year, and if the fit is as great as this one, I'm all for it.  Are there occasions where your brand could benefit from a time or a place to drive sales & direct to consumer brand experience?

Valentines Day looms spawning some seasonal fun

Heineken used to be known as the "beer that refreshes parts other beers can't reach", but whilst these days their strapline seems to have evolved to "made to entertain", this Italian campaign I just found courtesy of my friend Lucia, combines both really nicely: Beer Lip Gloss, positioned as the perfect Valentines gift!

Here's the video (English version)

The website links to Facebook prompting an instant "share this site" message, allowing those engaging with the campaign to share the fun with the minimum of effort. Nice touch, adding easy influential reach.

And the final touch? You can buy the product from the site for 5 euros :-)

Friday, 5 February 2010

Mobile finally gets a little more accountable (in the UK)

Yesterday I attended the GSMA/Comscore launch event of the Mobile Media Metrics at the BFI IMAX theatre.

As I walked in I overheard another delegate saying that this was the most exciting thing in research this year. Oh dear, I thought.

However, once the free popcorn had been picked up by some, we were allowed into the iMax theatre, and provided with ridiculous oversize 3d glasses. Which confused a whole lot of people given that they started off with a film that was distinctly not 3d.Glasses needed? Ah,no.

So, what was all the fuss about? Well at long last there's going to be a vaguely robust measuring system for mobile, derived from a collaboration between Comscore and the 5 main UK networks and based on census data that will integrate with TGI. But as yet it only works for mobile display advertising, no mobile search, no apps, and it excludes wifi based access via iPhone, iTouch, iPad as it comes on stream, which all add up to some pretty serious flaws in giving a real picture. So I was left feeling a bit yeah whatever.

Don't get me wrong, it's a very definite step forward on something that is currently lamentable and that's very good progress, but we're barely out the starting blocks in making mobile a more accountable platform. Rome wasn't built in a day I know, but it's been the "year of mobile" every year now for years and the iPhone came out in 2007, making a big change in people's usage and experiences of the mobile web. It's now 2010. Come on people!

Yes, starting off with the media side makes sense, as it's the piece that clients find the easiest to transition into the platform in as they more or less understand it. But if people are still only seeing digital display consumed via a handheld device as the be all and end all of mobile then as far as I am concerned they've left the restaurant after the amuse-bouche, let alone the starter.  Let's hope the industry scontinues to apply pressure to get the search and app related analytics in place ASAP, as this is no time for resting on laurels.

For anyone desperately keen to find out what little they missed you can read a summary here or watch it via this link, but I'd recommend skipping forward to about 4minutes 40 at least.

 However, what made yesterday afternoon a really interesting experience for me was it's the first time I've been to a conference or event full of fellow lovers of techy toys where I've experienced real time participation on a whole new level.  I've followed lots of tech conferences and launches over the last year via following the Tweet stream / event hashtag, I've attended webinars and participated in the #tag streams, but yesterday really changed my perspective on these events.

Given it was a mobile event it was hardly a surprise that there was a fairly dynamic level mobile activity, most people had a least one smartphone device with them, and what amused me no end was even during the opening video looking around me there were more people playing with their devices than were watching the film.  ADHD, or just an audience that knew that mobile metrics are hugely necessary?

The #tag for the event was #gsmammm, prominently displayed at the top of the HUGE screen.  Check it out here.   As the presentations and then the panel discussion ensued the tweets flowed, and following the hashtag live gave me a really interesting perspective on what the other people, in the same room, experiencing the same thing at the same time were thinking. Tweets, re-tweets, twitpics of slides being posted, people immediately adding followers and following new people. Here's just a small sample.

Comment, thought, discussion happening in real time amongst the people in the room, while they were half paying attention to the presentations, comments posted as soundbites at amazing speed, as much for the audience in the room as for those outside following the #tag as I have done so often before. Really participatory, real time and great fun. The Twitter activity really added to my experience of the whole event.

Above all I think it made me realise not just the power of real time, but how technology can bring extra dimensions to events. It means embracing the critical with the complimentary as by nature at any such even you'll have very different perspectives and knowledge levels (something that rang very true yesterday), but it was re-assuring to know that I wasn't alone in some of the aspects I was underwhelmed by. The stakes for events and presentations just got raised a bar or two, and I now have a far better understanding of how daunting presenting at these events these days can be, and how important choosing your material carefully is.

Great event! The mystery 3d glasses eventually came in handy as at the end they showed us a trailer for Avatar and the forthcoming Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland. Just as well as I'd been highly confused as to why I'd had those on my head all the way through the session.

GSMA sent me a feedback text link today on a URL called WAPMEIT. I appreciate they need to be embracive of multiple platforms but you'd hope that most of the audience yesterday had actually graduated beyond WAP already.

Really interesting experience. I shall look forward to seeing mobile media metrics rolled out so I can have a proper play with it.  Especially following an interesting meeting I had with mobile site analytics firm Bango, earlier this week, showing me the depth of detail their analytics platform can offer to add insight to site-side behaviour via mobile.

How the iPad became known as the iTampon and other stories...

(I refer of course to Rudyard Kipling's great story of "how the elephant got it's trunk")

The last week has flown by and somehow it's been a week since Steve Jobs announced the launch of the Apple iPad, and I've only just had chance to blog about it.

Yes, without question it's an interesting new toy, the reviews are many and divided.

Lots of ooooh, shiny new toy perspectives, lots of it's just a big iPhone / iPod Touch with bells and whistles and lots of but hmm, but it won't support flash, I have to plug in extra bits if I want to take pictures off an sd card, and fine if I'm vegging on the sofa surfing and watching the box, but could I use it sensibly on a train to commute?  If anyone fancies buying me one, I certainly won't object, preferably one with 3G v just wifi (for reasons I'll come on to in a post to follow shortly about mobile metrics), but whilst it will start at $500 for a basic one so it's not ridiculously unaffordable,  I do question whether I'd be popping one in my handbag for some extra work productivity time on the train?  I can see my osteopathy bills rocketing up if I have to try and write documents of any length on it, unless I go and raid a department store china department for one of those decorative plate supports my Grandmothers found so handy. Hmmm.

A great device for leisure use, but I'm not sure I've been won over from the netbook category for the in between my smartphone & desk needs.

For me what made the iPad launch so interesting to follow was to see how quickly the product name got lambasted for it's similarity to feminine hygiene products, and just half an hour into the launch event it was already beginning to be referred to as iTampon.


The idea caught, the jokes went on and on, constantly evolving, with enterprising swift to react people capitalising fast with mocked up creative and aggregating jokes.

Within 4 hours of the iPad's launch,  iTampon jokes were over-flowing (forgive the pun), taking the topic to the #2 trending topic on Twitter (and the first being an auto-tag so doesn't really count!)

I sat there captivated, watching the search results jump from nowhere to 15k in 4 hours, to 22k 2 hours later still. Just phenomenal evidence of how far and fast and idea that captivates imagination can spread, and how little control brands have over these things.  Although if I were Steve Jobs I don't think I'd be unhappy about that level of buzz connected to my product, even if it wasn't likely to have been anticipated. By harnessing the sanpro angle the joke reached further than the techy alerts ever would have done.

Within 6 hours of launch the iTampon topic was trending all the way around the world. Amazing.

Facebook groups sprung up, images on Flickr, the joke clearly appealing to a broad range of men and women around the world.

This spoof video made and posted way ahead of the iPad launch suddenly found new life, jumping from 54k views when it was first tweeted past my radar to over 1.5m view in a week, the vast majority of which were clocked up in just 72 hours.

Whilst the buzz died down again in 3 days or so it's a joke base that I know will never die. As the product comes to market, all the jokes will resurface, when the iPad 3 GS or whatever the next generation product will be called is released there will undoubtedly be another whole round of fun, probably not reaching the same intensity but this one is going to run and run.

If that story doesn't convince marketers of the value of listening, that they need to be in a position to react swiftly if they want to participate and derive benefit from these fast moving trends, I don't know what will.