Stones' New Album Comes on Flash Card

"Virgin Records said it would release the Rolling Stones' latest album on a new encrypted flash memory card that will allow users to preview and buy locked tracks from four of the veteran rockers' previous albums. The memory card, dubbed Gruvi, is manufactured by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SanDisk Corp., and will be available in November at select U.S. stores for $39.95."
-- USA Today via TPWire

Cell Phones as Media Playback Devices
Converting Bits Back Into Atoms

Pixel Ads Round-up

This is the last post on pixel-selling business, unless something totally thrilling comes up, and an incomplete list of pixel-sites : claims to have spotted the original Million Dollar Home Page and is now following the development of this idea across the web. This piece of code lets you start your own pixel farm. is a growing directory of the pixel-pimping biz.

Blatant rip-offs, some with a twist:
MillionDollarHelpPage (charity fundraiser)
TheMillionQuarterHomePage (rip-off of a rip-off?)
AdultAdGrid (porn-peddlers)
AMillionQuid (categorized)

This Week in Billboardom

Image to ASCII Converter

I have no idea whether this image-to-ascii converter is of any practical value, but it sure is fun. Kind of like that x-face generator.
-- via Gattaca

Matsushita Develops Chip For Internet Over Power Grid

We've heard about Google working on enabling the power grid to transmit data, and now Matshushita announced a chip that will turn the common electric socket into a connection to broadband internet. "Attach a special device made by Matsushita to a socket and all you have to do is plug your TV or other gadgets into a socket for instant connection to broadband."

That not only means faster and wider available connections. This also means easier access. Finally, advertisers' dreams of a smart fridge nagging people into buying more milk will come true. Incidentally, broadband-over-grid will also allow delivery of video content. Peer-to-peer content, too, between interconnected PVRs with 60 terrabytes of memory.

Interactive Forked Comic Strips

"Meanwhile works via a network of tubes connecting each panel to the next. Sometimes these tubes split in two giving the readers a choice of which path they would like to follow. Sometimes these tubes even lead off the page and onto tabs sticking out from other parts of the book.

Inspired by Scott Mccloud I exploded "Meanwhile" onto a 5'x5' matrix in 2004."
Now the matrix has been brought online as a comic strip done in the style of old interactive adventure books.

Interactive Comics

e-Magazine for Sony PlayStation Portable

magazine download sony psp playstation

"In the spirit of those old CRD ROM mags of the nineties, a new generation emerges now as downloadable PSP magazines. Joining the PSP 'Zine scene is LOAD Magazine that just released its first issue."
-- Brand Noise

Google To Move Into Classifieds

"Google is asking classified advertising sites, including CareerBuilder and Adicio, for direct feeds of listings, according to an alert from newsletter Classified Intelligence Report" (source: The alert is here but the link is likely to rot, so hurry up.

To put the news into perspective: "U.S. spending for online local advertising will grow 26 percent to $3.2 billion this year and to $5.3 billion by 2010, according to a report released Wednesday by JupiterResearch. Online classifieds will drive the growth. Classifieds now account for about 70 percent of spending on local advertising online - and outside of classifieds, local ad spending online remains immature." (Source: Marketing Vox)

Google Tests Ad Sales from Publishers' Sites

"Google is testing a link and landing page combination that lets advertisers click to buy ads on individual AdSense publishers' sites. The "Advertise on this site" link, which appears above the AdWords ads on "select" publisher sites, takes potential advertisers to a Google-hosted landing page customized for the publisher."
-- Clickz

Microsoft To Patent Charging for Ad Skip

"Microsoft has applied for a patent for control-based content pricing, which describes a scenario in which viewers are charged higher fees if they skip commercials or replay sports highlights."
-- TechDirt via AdJab

Microsoft's patent application:
"In an implementation of control-based content pricing, a content server distributes media content to a client device in response to a request from the client device to receive the media content. A valuation application allocates a cost to the client device when the media content is distributed to the client device. The content server receives a view control input from the client device that indicates how the media content is to be rendered and the valuation application adjusts the cost according to the view control input and how the media content is to be rendered."

Picture Dialing

"A British designer Warren Goodland has noticed the difficulty that seniors often have in dialing phone numbers telephone. His solution: a system where photographs of the user’s regular contacts are placed in a special peripheral attached to the phone; touching either the photo or the holder dials the desired number" (Engadget, BBC). I wonder if this technology can be somehow fitted into outdoor posters (maybe near payphones? or Bluetooth-to-cellphone?) so that when you touch the picture, you get connected to the advertiser.

Bubble Wrap Calendar

If you liked the bus station wrapped in bubbles for Sony PSP, you will love this interactive calendar, a self-promo by a Russian ad agency Sorec Media.

SMS Chat Wall

"The SMS Chatwall receives short text messages, sent by any mobile phone and shows it on TV and projector systems. It is a new media event and promotion tool, separated into an administration and a visualization module. The administration module allows to look over incoming text messages before broadcasting them via projector system. All messages can be accepted, declined or edited by the administrator." Developed by Haase & Martin. Now available in English.
-- press release. Some older info (in German) here.

Million Dollar Help Page

By now, you have already heard about the Million Dollar Home Page by a guy who sells advertising space one pixel at a time. Now, a Californian ISP is using the same technology to raise $1 million for Katrina relief through a Million Dollar Help Page.

Update (27 Sept 05). Two more rip-offs found: and Or is it the same guy?

Update (28 Sept 05). Another rip-off with a twist: And another, more modest one: And yet another: What is this, people? A pixel gold rush?

Sell Your Own Pixel Ads

Correction: Iconix Brands Email "From" Field

Last week I wrote about Iconix, a company that brands the "From" field in emails and whined that the confirmation email never came. After Iconix had written back and offered help setting the thing up, I realized it was all my fault as I confused two different Yahoo accounts. Glad to report everything works as promised, and here's a screenshot from my own inbox. My apologies, and bonus points to the company for being so tactful.

Flashback: X-Face and Branded Emails

Google Enters Video Content Distribution

Freaky. I am just coming back from a meeting where we talked about Google Video (and Blinx, and Yahoo Video) being on the way to become powerful content distribution players, and the first thing I see is the news on Google airing the first episode of "Everybody Hates Chris". (And there's an article in today's NY Times on how Yahoo! is turning into TV).

Theater Combines Stereo Projection with Live Performance

Birmingham Stage Company has combined stereoscopic projection technology familiar from Disney rides and Hitchcock's "The Birds" with live stage performance.

"Audiences will see portraits of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I hover above their heads and find themselves dodging cannon-balls and pieces of wood when a ship of the Spanish Armada is struck. The objects come right at the audience, fooling the brain into believing they are real. At the trial in Darlington last week children were excitedly reaching out to grab them."
-- TimesOnline via We Make Money Not Art

NY 1 TV Viewers Vote with Remote Controls

voting with remote control

"This week, NY1 launched a new interactive component to its 24-hour newscast called the "Snap Poll." The technology, designed by Navic Networks, allowed anchors on primary night to ask viewers polling questions that you could answer by simply hitting A, B, or C on your remote control.

There are some other Time Warner Cable franchises throughout the country that have been using this technology for years now. And they're way ahead – even allowing some customers to take care of daily chores using just their remote."
-- News8Austin via Lost Remote

Advertising On Parking Stripes

parking stripe advertising

Parking Stripe Advertising does exactly what it's name suggests - it turns previously unused real estate into an advertising vehicle (vehicle, get it?) using sturdy adhesive tape. Denver Post breaks the story: "Imagine stepping out of your car in a grocery store parking lot. You look down and see that Pepsi has sponsored your parking spot. As you start walking, you see the same Pepsi ad on several parking stripes along the way. By the time you get inside the store, you're really thirsty for a Pepsi. Either that or you've subliminally associated this delightfully fizzy beverage with cigarette butts, chewed wads of gum and motor-oil spills on the asphalt."
-- via AdJab, x-posted on Billboardom

Advertising on Valet Parking Tickets
Advertising on Parking Tickets

MIT Brand Research: Call for Corporate Partners

The MIT Convergence Cultures Consortium - aka Brand Lab, of which this blog is part - is about to launch its first phase of research. We have put together a pretty powerful line-up of people from across MIT departments, both grad students and faculty. We have a couple of open slots for corporate partners that will be filled by mid-October, so here's your chance to influence the direction in which we head and benefit from the results. The agenda will be finalized within the next few weeks, and so far it looks like we'll be probing the following:

1. Changes in media consumption, from the cultural, anthropological and technological angles;

2. The intersection of traditional fandoms and "friends of brands" communities; consumer-created media and DIY advertising (think iPod);

3. Branded entertainment. We will work on building a guide on how not to do product integration and examine the potential of overlooked opportunities.

4. Future of advertising technologies - we have collected lots of material, some of it posted here. We will now analyze what we have and see if we can come up with a meaningful and applicable model that can help advertisers to plan the media that is likely to emerge.

If you are interested, you could either use this contact info, or email me at vedrashko(at) (nothing sketchy about Hotmail; I do have an MIT address).

This post is pinned and will move down on Sept. 26. 2005

Glass Screens by Wow Factor

ClaroTV and Wow Factor make "ultra-thing" glass screens for in-store projections that create interesting effects of an image suspended in mid-air. They call their screens "cutting-edge", which for something made of glass is rather fitting.

Apple iTunes Supports Video Podcasting

"Apple surprised a few people in June when they rolled podcasting support into iTunes 4.9. What is less known is that the company took another step and added support for video podcasts (or vodcasts, and some people call them). No longer do you only get to hear news and opinions read by people in their underwear, now you can watch them, too."
-- Ars Technica

Coupons Come to Cell Phones

"Mobile marketing company I-movo has developed a new mobile commerce system that allows vouchers sent to consumers by SMS to be redeemed at retail outlets over the payment counter. The firm said the system will use payment terminals already available in most high street stores, such as stand-alone point of sale terminals and retail EPOS systems."
-- NetImperative

"Dai Nippon Printing (DNP) has developed and commenced marketing the "Two-Dimensional Cell-Phone Code Coupon System" for shopping malls, used by distributing coupons issued via two-dimensional barcodes distributed on members' cell phones that can be read-off by in-store terminals."
-- press release (2004) image: PlusOne

Search May Come to TV

Search Engine Watch is convincingly speculating that Google is "planning to move well ahead with TV plans, both with making more television searchable and getting ads out there, as part of it. Wonder if we'll be seeing contextually-targeted TVSense-like ads coming."

Making Video Content Searchable
Future: Searchable Video
Text Indexing of Video Footage
Searchable Video: Blinkx

URLs and Physical Addresses Merge

"LookyLooz is an online company that allows realtors and home sellers to turn an address into a URL and Web site: for example, 1313 Mockingbird Lane would become" Neat idea to help people remember the otherwise unpronounceable long URLs of obscure low-level pages.
-- AdJab

Flashback: VeriSign's wireless push: Phone numbers as urls (2001)

Future of TV: DVR With Unlimited Memory

Simon Andrews at Big Picture writes:

"The price of memory has fallen dramatically - one megabyte cost around $7000 in 1956 when IBM launched the RAMAC 305 - and now its a matter of cents. The consequence of this? The CTO of Liberty predicts that a high-end PC or laptop in 2010 will have 60 terabytes of memory. To put that in perspective, you could save two hours of TV programming everyday for 75 years and still not fill the disc. What happens to the TV industry and the ad industry when that happens?"

One answer is that 60 terabytes won't be as much as it seems today, given our memory glut fest. Two hours of programming five years from now is going to take more space as TV goes high-def. I guess the 1956 guys couldn't imagine how one could fill a whopping 80 gigs with little more than a few games, some music and porn pics.

Another answer is more complicated and is a subject of my thesis. TV may follow the podcasting model when shows are automatically preloaded onto viewers' TVs and then unlocked either for a fee or in exchange for viewing a certain number of ad minutes.

Advertising on Magnetic Paper

MagneCote claims to make paper-thin magnets that don't require any special printing arrangements and are light enough not to cost more if mailed. They don't say anything about running their product through regular plug-and-play computer printers, but have a case study about a grocery store sending out coupons on their magnetic paper. Here are some other guys who do funky magnetic promo products.

Clinging Signage on Static Electricity

NBC To Go 3D In "Medium" Episode

3d nbc medium

"NBC's "Medium" will team with TV Guide magazine in offering a special "3-D" episode of the series on November 21. Special 3-D glasses will be distributed in the November 21 issue of TV Guide--which comes out four days earlier on November 17." I wonder if the commercials in the episode will go 3-D as well. That would rock.
-- Media Post

Sell Your Own Pixel Ads

pixel ads

Remember the guy who was selling pixel-sized ad space on his page (a total of one million pixels) to raise money for college? Well, first, he has already pimped out quite a few pixels, and second, now you too can join the pixel ad racket. Someone has put together a piece of code that turns your site's unused advertising inventory into a farm of happy money-earning dots.

And here's a rip-off of the original concept.

Update (Sept.25, 2005): It seems the enterprising guy has already made £56,000 in the four weeks since launch.

Book Samples on Cell Phones

"In Australia, Harper Collins Publishers have partnered with Legion Interactive to offer customers book chapter samples directly to their mobile phone. The service is called MobileReader and it was created to fulfill the needs of booklovers who don't have the time to gather information on the upcoming books."
-- Adverblog

New Genre: Mobi-Lit
Comics on iPod

RFID Tag With E-Ink Display

rfid advertising display e-ink

"Epson has recently unveiled a passive RFID tag that features a display. The display component is implemented by using E-ink's EP Sheet. The display works without batteries, by using electrophoresis."
-- Near Future

BBC to Integrate RSS Into Ads

And not the other way around. It looks like they are doing something like the FeedBurner's promo widget that streams latest headlines into an animated button:

rss advertising bbc

Here's the quote:
"The BBC plans to break a U.S. ad campaign next week that streams headlines in ad units. The RSS news feeds are targeted to specific media placements. For example, ad units running on entertainment sites would carry BBC lifestyle story headlines, while those on and will include political and world news."

Clean Up Your Lists

I'm pretty unapologetic about my choice of a career in advertising, but this NY Times article by a mother who kept receiving offers for baby products after her baby had died made me wish I was doing something else to avoid guilt by association.

"It took four phone calls to the baby formula company to get them to take my name off their list. The first three, made by me, did not work. After the third call, I hung up in tears and called my husband."

Flashback: X-Face and Branded Emails

So I did this post yesterday on Iconix and how they put little images in the email "from:" field, and a few other blogs (this one, for example) linked to it. All these blogs mentioned something called X-Face, but since they are written in German, I wasn't sure what they were talking about. It turns out that at the end of last century, there was a standard that allowed embedding a small 48x48px bitmap pic into the email headers so that people could match addresses (or IPs) with faces. You can learn everything about X-Face in this Wiki entry and generate your own little pixelated you right here.

Advertising on Rental Cars

Who said people don't like advertising? Throw in a cheap rental car, and people not only will love it, they will become your eager ad medium themselves. Springwise publishes a round-up on carvertising [sic] business around the world (read Europe and Australia). In a nutshell, people pay very low rents for their cars that are plastered with advertising if they drive enough miles in selected markets and make themselves visible.
-- via Cool Business Ideas

Context-Aware Human-Controlled Billboard

x-posted on Billboardom
This Belgian billboard for Ford reacts to people around it and is controlled by an actor hidden in the vicinity. It also talks. The campaign is created by Ogilvy is can be viewed here.
-- AdFab, Adverblog

Branding the "From" Field in Emails

So, there's this company Iconix that identifies email senders and displays their logos in recepients' inboxes - straight in the "From" field. A wonderful idea, only that for now it only works in Yahoo! Mail accessed with IE and requires a plug-in a confirmation email for which never came. The idea of branding the "from" field rocks, though.
-- via Clickz

Advertising Application for a Camera Neutrolizer

A grad student at Georgia Tech Shwetak Patel "is working on a system that will be able to detect cameras and shoot a focused beam of light at the lens, leaving the photographer with an artsy but useless pic of bright lights." Instead of light, maybe the system can be tweaked to beam advertising messages to the nozy photographers. Say, you think you are taking a snapshot of a new concept car at a closed trade show, but instead you will get a "hidden" message: "visit our website for more information".
-- via CNet

The Future of Entertainment

future of entertainment

The Hollywood Reporter runs a huge and fascinating feature on how today's entertainers see the industry's future 75 years from now. A quote from Steven Spielberg: "Fifty years from now, we're going to be inside the movies; we're not going to be looking at them from the outside. A good movie will bring you inside of itself just by the sheer brilliance of the director/writer/production staff. But in the future, you will physically be inside the experience, which will surround you top, bottom, on all sides."

And here's their take on the future of marketing.
-- via PSFK

Adware Hijacks Google Ads

"At least two new pieces of surreptitiously installed software can hijack the most popular search engine, placing ads amid legitimate Google search results on infected PCs, a computer security company recently revealed.

"It uses your search term and then replaces the Google results with their own results," said Paul Piccard, director of threat research at Webroot Software Inc., an anti-spyware software company in Boulder, Colo. The search results look "just like Google. You'd never know it's not Google. The search results are rigged only on infected PCs, not for all Google users."
-- Newsday via AdJab

NBC Promotes Show With Ads on Dollars

"NBC is promoting the "Three Wishes" reality show by having representatives go into grocery and clothing stores and pay for people's purchases. NBC reps pay with stacks of one-dollar bills that have tiny advertisements for the show attached to them. The theory is that the store will pass on the bills to their other customers." More on the NBC site.
-- NY Times via CMS.610

Advertising on Money

Ringtones for Skype

Skype began offering ringtones and pictures for $0.99 apiece. It's not going to be too long till advertisers start peddling their - and one would hope discounted - brand tunes (via MocoNews.)

On a related note, T-Mobile just changed my ring-back signal (they rotate them every few weeks), and now people who call me hear Donald Trump's voice: "Hello, this is Donald Trump. What do you think, I am gonna answer the phone at the first ring?" My friends think they got a wrong number, freak out and hang up. Before that, I used to have an apparently famous (how would I know?) song "I love you, I love you, I love you", so any time a girl would call, first thing she says would be "I love you too". I really liked that one.

Update (Sept.19'05) "Donald Trump, and Warner Music Group have reached a deal to launch Trump Mobile — a suite of products that includes ringtones, video ringtones and Trump wallpaper for cellphone screens." -- Near Future

Why eBay Really Bought Skype
Advertising on Ringtones
Ringtone Advertising - Check
Advertising on Ring Back Signal

Brand Building with Wiki

NanoSpot is a new Wiki-creating community around Apple's iPod nano. You wish it were your brand, don't you.
-- AdPulp

Advertising on Wikis

Friday Special: Hooters Employee Handbook

As you may (or not) recall, Friday Special is an excuse for me to post all kinds of garbage that otherwise wouldn't fit here. So today it's the Hooters Employee Handbook, which is bound to give you a fit of cognitive dissonance because it's one of the most uptightly restrictive handbooks out there. No this, no that, no buttocks showing from under your orange shorts. And they call it "the fun place to work" on the front page.
hooters employee handbook

Wells Fargo Opens Advertising Floodgates Into Virtual Life

When Cory Doctorow, a science fiction writer, did his last month's book signing in the virtual space of Second Life, a massively multiplayer online game, the mainstream collectively shrugged: geeks.

Cory Doctorow signing his new book.

Today, Wells Fargo, a huge bank you'd expect to be all uptight and no fun, announced the creation of a Second Life island - dubbed Stagecoach Island (site open to registered users only) - that they will use to teach kids about money management issues and, on the way, convert some of them into their future clients. The rumors are that other companies are looking into buying virtual real estate in Second Life as well. Here's a BBC article, and here's the Wells Fargo's press release. Apparently, the campaign was developed by a San Francisco shop Swivel Media.

An entire Stagecoach island - Wells Fargo's new piece of real estate.

BBC Ponders Future of Newspapers

BBC is pretty upbeat about newspapers' future, and the whole article is evolving around the news about Guardian switching from the broadsheet to tabloid format. "Even in 50 years' time there will be newspapers on paper, though they may be a niche product then, perhaps in the same way vinyl records are now."
-- via Everything & Nothing

Getting in Touch with Blog Content Thiefs


I felt special yesterday. It was the first time someone has ripped my blog's content and tried to use it for personal gain by pasting it on a different page surrounded by AdSense ads. Somehow it always happens to the big guys, but not to your regular rank-and-file blogmonkey. But now I felt flattered - the guys even pasted "MIT Advertising Lab" across their clone. Since I don't publish a whole lot of original thinking and rely mostly on re-blogging other people's work, seeing my own contribution's value in filtering and organizing instead of production, I normally wouldn't mind a whole lot. I got peeved, though, because I didn't get a single courtesy link back from the guys, and decided to let them know they needed to play nice.

There was no contact email, naturally, but I figured that if these guys run AdSense, they probably follow their revenue stats quite closely. The page was new and its Page Rank still at zero, so it was a safe bet that the page's daily traffic was in double digits at best. The way to say hello was obvious.

I grabbed the Auto URL Refresher, set it to refresh the guys' page every five seconds, and went to a class and then to a date (well, I made the date part up. Nobody dates at MIT.) In the evening, the gentlemen must have seen the interest in their work peaking at 5000 page views, all coming from one IP. For the morally queasy bunch, this is not a DoS attack that sends multiple requests knocking the page offline; this is more like calling someone every five seconds and then hanging up. While the refresher does nothing bad to the page itself, it hits where it hurts most - it dilutes the AdSense clickthrough by pumping up clickless impressions. After a while, Google pulls the badly performing ads off the page altogether.

Today, the page was gone and replaced by a generic linkfarm. I am not gloating, really. I do appreciate that the matter was resolved so quickly. I also imagine someone will give me the taste of my own medicine; oh well, I'll take solace in being original.

AOL Makes Podcasts Searchable

"America Onilne said it plans to add search options to its podcast offering in the fall. A podcast "search and discovery" feature will be added via a new version of Winamp Media Player, and another search option will become available as a result of a new deal with TVEyes, AOL said. The Podscope search engine from TVEyes will be integrated with AOL Search."
-- Media Post

Future: Searchable Video
Future: Searchable Print Publications
Text Indexing of Video Footage

Study: Future of Television is Broadband Delivery

"Within a decade, says the report from Lovelace Consulting and informitv, TV delivered to sets over the net (ipTV) will be an established way to receive content. TV will be much more web-like, with millions of shows to download."
-- BBC

Comics on iPod

I barely had finished a previous post on comics for cell phones when it hit me: "There must be comics for iPods then, right?" Right. A quick search brought up Clickwheel, a company that produces comics for iPod photo. They also produce animations, flip-book style, a genre already bookmarked earlier.

Comics on Cell Phones

It's clean-up time again, and I'm fishing out bookmarked items I thought I had posted but somehow haven't (or maybe I did, but on some other blog).

Anyway, "Sony Pictures Entertainment will almost triple the number of comic books it formats for viewing on cell phones in a move that will make it the No. 1 provider of popular Japanese "manga" comics for cell phones."
-- USA Today via Cool Business Ideas

Comeback: Advertising in Comics
Comics in Advertising

Hamlet Text Adventure Game

I wish advertisers would forget for a minute about "Flash-enabled viral advergames" (yuck!) and do something really fun for a change. Like this text adventure game based on Hamplet. If you played them or MUDs back in the 80s or 90s, then you'll find your way around easily; but even if not, you get used to the command-line interface pretty quickly.

"Hey Dad," you say cheerily. "What's up?"
"Hamlet," says the old man after a sigh, "you remember how I was found mysteriously dead in the orchard a couple of weeks back? Well... it's like this. Your uncle Claudius poisoned me so he could become king and marry your mother. I'd be awfully grateful if you could kill him for me."
"All right," you say, "I'll do it!"
Your life suddenly seems to have purpose.

As the author himself puts it, "Unlike most modern computer games, which rely on insanely complex graphics hardware to show you what's going on, the text adventure uses a technology of unsurpassed advancement - the English language - to project the images directly into your imagination."

I already posted about text games coming to iPod; they also can be played on PDA-like watches.
-- via BoingBoing

Mac RSS Reader Blocks Google, Feeburner Ads

The new build (1-2, 37-42) for Newsfire, an RSS feed reader for Mac, is now blocking RSS ads by Google and Feedburner by default. A user who broke the news writes: "I tested the new feature with Brad Feld's feed and Engadget's feed and both display advertisements in the source but not when displayed in NewsFire. I cannot find any way to enable advertisements at the application or feed level."

TiVo Auto-Deletes Flagged Shows

Looks like TiVo just kicked itself in the groin. Pissed off bloggers report that a new TiVo operating system auto-deletes certain shows flagged by publishers as protected. Some of the upset bloggers are PVR Blog and BoingBoing (big mistake; Cory Doctorow there is already recommending alternative DVRs). TiVo is saying it's not its fault.

Google Launches Blog Search

I don't know why I am posting this, really, but Google has just launched a blog search service at No AdWords ads on the sidelines, yet, and the blogosphere seems to be well indexed. Watch John Battelle's blog for more details once he wakes up.

Advertising on Trading Cards

When it rains, it pours.

"ABC will run an exclusive advertising insert in Entertainment Weekly magazine's Sept. 16 issue, that will consist of specially designed trading cards from the network's hit drama Lost. The cards were created with the help of the show's writers. The cards will provide data about each of the show's 15 characters, as well as information about Flight 815; the mysterious hatch, and other elements that are critical to the series' plot and storylline."
-- Media Week

Inspired by last year's success, Playboy once again will run an issue with naked female video game characters. "The pictures will appear on eight trading cards, four of which will be printed in two different versions of the magazine. When positioned together correctly, the eight cards form a ninth picture."
-- CNet

Study: Game Ad Spend To Grow 40% in 2006

"According to the Jack Myers 2006 Marketing and Advertising Spending Forecast, in-game advertising is expected to grow by 40 percent in 2006, though it will still represent less than one percent of total ad spend."

Why eBay Really Bought Skype

The long post in a nutshell: I think eBay wants to use Skype as a distribution platform for content, micro-paid for through PayPal and accessible on a wide range of devices.

There was no lack of expert opinion (here's a good one from a VC) regarding yesterday's purchase of Skype by eBay for a whopping $4.1 billion. The big question, of course, is why it paid so much for a VoIP company that doesn't apparently fit into eBay's ecommerce business model.

Even though I have never witnessed negotiations involving that much money, I can't imagine eBay just bursting in and throwing a huge pile of cash in front of Skype, take-it-or-leave-it style. I imagine the negotiations included at least some giving and taking and the price must have come down from Skype's initial demands. Which means that Skype valued itself even higher than the final $4.1B. Venture capitalists are by definition (Marx's definition, anyway) greedy, but not unreasonable. They must see something we don't.

Or do we.

Judging by its press release, eBay seems to be entering a pay-per-call business, that is advertising whose effectiveness is judged by the number of phone calls placed to the business through an ad unit, something like those late-night direct response TV shows. It also talks about integrating voice communications into the current marketplace to streamline shipments and payments. Fair enough.

On the surface, eBay is entering communication business and there's plenty of room for growth. We will see a tighter integration of Skype with web browsers and desktop applications. Already there are Skype toolbars. When the company develops a browser plugin, then "callto://" links will bring webpages and telephones much closer. Besides, Skype also finally puts eBay on users' desktops - a coveted screen real estate for any business - although how this plays out remains to be seen.

Since eBay owns a part of Craigslist, it also pieces together a puzzle that is a thriving marketplace, a vibrant and rapidly growing community, and a robust and versatile telephony and instant messaging application.

eBay could also develop a store-front platform for individuals and small business that will be richer in features than anything ever before. The online stores will be able to process offline orders that come by phone, and do so automatically through voice menus, dramatically widening their reach. eBay will get a tiny cut from each transaction. Tiny cuts do add up.

All this, however, is the "glass-half-full" part of the equation. Another quote from the press release hints at the other part: "The acquisition also enables eBay and Skype to pursue entirely new lines of business."

This new line of business is content distribution, and as Apple has so dramatically demonstrated, that's where the real money is.

After Skype had released its API, someone has developed a small application called DialMP3. In developer's own words, "DialMP3 allows you to listen to any mp3 in your collection on your phone, wherever you are, as long as you can send an email (most mobile phone companies allow you to send SMS's to email addresses)."

Admittedly, the process is still a bit awkward, but consider the potential. Imagine a music library into which you can dial either with your Skype, or your cell phone, or even a land line. Finally, all those "free nights and weekends" will be put to good use. Also imagine each user paying a token amount - say, $0.01 - for each content unit, a song. The sound quality is good and the transfer is fast thanks to the Skype's distributed model. Payments are painless and barely noticeable, and are debited directly from your PayPal account. Who needs satellite radio then? Who needs (oh my God) iTunes?

The promise of this Long Tail story is huge. If you run a podcast for which your audience is willing to pay, now you can "monetize" it without resorting to "podvertising", a model few have managed to figure out anyway. It will be in eBay's best interest to encourage indie content, since it will get a tiny cut from each transaction, much like Google now gets filthy rich on other advertisers' backs. Audio books and music, archival speeches and customized playlists - slap a phone number on it and you are in business. Besides, Skype is also capable of video conferencing; consider it a model for streaming video content on demand.

Suddenly, the $4.1B begins to look like a real bargain.

Telecrapper Talks to Telemarketers Instead of You

"The Telecrapper 2000 (TC2K) is a computerized system designed to both intercept incoming telemarketing calls on the first ring, and then carry on a virtual conversation with the telemarketer."

"It checks the caller ID when a call comes in and picks up if the ID is "out-of-area", "unavailable", or "private". A script then begins playing a series of WAV files. A new file is played when the script detects silence indicating the marketer has finished speaking. The entire conversation is recorded for later amusement." Here's what such a conversation sounds like.
-- via Hack a day

Deutsch's AdConceptor Models Tweakable Advertising

Deutsch released its AdConceptor, a parody (?) website that lets you create ad spots on the fly by selecting your product category, a desired tone of the commercial, and demographic target. This, incidentally, increasingly looks like one possible future for the advertisers, to an extent.
See an earlier post here on Spinner Networks.

Update [January 22, '07]: The Ad Conceptor site moved to
(thank you, Steven).

eBay After Pay-Per-Call Market with Skype Buy? argues that today's acquisition of Skype by eBay means the auction house is about to add pay-per-call features for merchants and advertisers.

Windows Vista Line-up Revealed

This looks like an expected line-up for the Windows Vista products.

Cell Phones as Media Playback Devices

"PortoMedia is working with IBM Research to deliver two-hour, DVD-quality movies in just 18 seconds to mobile phones or portable media players. The content is stored on digital flash memory cards and sold through kiosks.

The system the company is developing will be able to transmit a high-resolution image that will be downsized for the mobile device and expanded when it is output to a TV set through an “AV Out” connection on the portable device, or an adapter that will allow playback on a standard TV."
-- Moco News

Advertising Holograms

Colour Holographic specializes in holograms for advertising purposes (they call them ColoHolo and MoviPoster) that can combine up to 70 image frames, creating the effect of a 2-3-second video.

Million Pixels for Sale

Alex Tew, a 21-year-old British college student, is raising money for his tuition by selling one million pixels of advertising space on his home page - aptly named - for $1 each. Here's one of the stories now running in British media.

Data Transmission Through Visible Light

"Shimizu has worked with the Nakagawa Laboratory on a system for museums that uses visible light to convey information about exhibits to PDAs held by visitors. Viewers simply place their PDA in the path of the light coming from a nearby lamp in order to read and listen to information about the exhibit. The lamp, which can be an LED light source or a fluorescent bulb, is programmed to blink in a way that transmits a stream of data bits to the PDA. The PDA reads this stream to identify the exhibit and then plays back prerecorded information. The lamp blinks so quickly that to viewers it seems like a steady light. Also, see Talking Lights."
-- We Make Money Not Art

"Passengers at Japan's Kansai Airport will point the phones at the appropriate blinkenlights around the lounge to get information on departure times and shops and facilities, and to download music and video." (Engadget, June 29, '05)

Packet Vision's Device Delivers Targeted IP-TV Ads

"Packet Vision says its device - the PV1000 - could well be the saviour of TV advertising because it screens different adverts to different TV viewers during the same ad break, in theory showing commercials relevant to viewers. The device works with TV delivered via broadband, also known as internet protocol TV, a nascent technology available via Home Choice in London or Kingston Technology in Hull, but in which BT and the BBC are involved."
-- Guardian (password), press release

Study: DVRs Penetration Growth Is Limited

"Digital video recorders might not take over the TV universe after all, as worried TV advertisers have threatened. DVR usage might end up looking more like HBO or Showtime, a pay TV channel that only gets into a third of U.S. TV homes. A new study from Magna Global USA says that by the end of the decade, about 33 million homes will have a DVR--nearly a 30 percent penetration rate. But gains after will be tough to come by. The problem comes from lower-disposable-income cable customers who are averse to paying more monthly fees for their in-home TV entertainment."
-- Media Post

Ad-Supported Game Console To Hit US

There's this portable game console, which is not Nintendo DS or Sony PlayStation Portable, and it is called Gizmondo, and it is coming to the US some time soon. The launch price of the regular console is set at $400, but for $229 the company will sell units that will display three 30-second ads per day, streamed over GPRS connection. The program is called "Smart Adds" and the company already partners with Reebok, Levi's, Sprite and Adidas. "Barcode or coupon will sometimes appear after ads, along with mapping directions on how to get to a retailer's nearest location. Barcodes can be scanned directly from Gizmondo screens." Nifty.
-- via Media Post

Hall of Fame: Golden Palace

Unborn triplets, giant pumpkins, Jesus dumplings, branded cows, runaway-bride peanuts (above) and pregnant Chihuahuas are hereby collectively inducted into the Ad Lab's hall of advertising fame along with the Golden Palace casino that scours the darkest recesses of eBay searching for advertising weirdness, now cataloged here.

Machinima Advertising

The school started today, and within the first five minutes I was shown an amazing last year's ad for Volvo done in machinima. It's an eight-minute story about a guy who is thrust into a computer game he plays in his spare time, done with the Unreal engine by Furnace Media (the ad is available there). "This allowed us the freedom to create custom animations for some scenes, then for others we could simply play the game level we created and record it in real time to HD using and Nvidia graphics card." Well, it's not technically an ad, it's a submission to a Volvo-sponsored machinima contest, but it shows the potential. Here's an interview with the creators.

Coke Vending Machines To Sell Digital Content

"Inspired Broadcast Networks has signed a deal with Coca-Cola to distribute digital content from its soft drink vending machines. These machines will sell mobile phone top-ups, ringtones and music. The content will be transferred to the purchaser’s phone through their mobile operator’s network, or may also be transferred directly to the phone using Bluetooth. In the future, the company plans to allow people to collect their content by plugging their phones’ memory cards into a drive on the Coke machine."
-- Moco News

Greasemonkey Strips Web Ads, Mashes Up Sites

I thought I have written about Greasemonkey earlier, but apparently I haven't, so here's a link to a primer in this month's Wired.

"Greasemonkey is an extension for the Firefox browser that lets Boodman's Java­Script - or anyone else's - alter a Web page as it's downloaded. The site serves the same old data, but you get to decide what Firefox displays. Most scripts fix buggy page designs or filter unwanted content such as ads and sidebar links. The best mods mix content from multiple sites, upsetting the carefully calibrated sales environments at big online retailers."

Wired Magazine on Future of Television

Wired magazine runs a cover story this month discussing the future of television. In the nutshell: "Stewart's Daily Show offers a glimpse of what all TV may one day become: something we can consume in many distillations, at a time, place, and device of our choosing."

Opticality Demonstrates Live 3D TV

"Visitors at this year's IFA in Berlin will for the first time ever be able to experience live content streamed in a glasses-free, three-dimensional television format. Newsight (formally Opticality/X3D Technologies) together with companies Grundig and 3D Image Processing (3D IP) has succeeded in capturing live video and streaming it through an autostereoscopic 3D display system in real time whereas prior 3D content had been limited to post-production material."
-- press release via HD Beat

Subservient Chicken Command List

This is supposed to be a list of commands understood by Subservient Chicken, each linked to an individual Flash clip, but for some reason all of them go to the same spot. It's a nice read, anyway.

Lexus Campaign Goes 3D

Lexus is launching its new IS luxury sedan using a wide array of high-tech experiments. They are mounting a Time Square photomosaic billboard consisting of pictures people can submit through the website. They have also hired Kurt Wenner, an artist famous for his pseudo-3D street paintings (here's an earlier post on that). Finally, there will be a "full-sized hologram of the car at an interactive kiosk from which the user can rotate the car, change its color and choose to watch a 15-second driving sequence." All work done by Team One.
-- via Brand Week

Google: Pricing for Print Ads Will Emulate Search's

The most interesting part about the whole Google-buying-print-ads affair is in this NY Times quote: "Google executives have said that they believe traditional media will ultimately emulate search engines by using an auction structure to sell ads." That, and the fact that print ads will be increasingly context-sensitive.

Philips Shows Rollable Display Prototype

philips rollable display

"Philips subsidiary Polymer Vision NV is planning to demonstrate a handheld device with a roll-out electronic display at the Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA), a consumer electronics exhibition due to take place in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 2 to 7.

Readius is a prototype of a connected consumer device for business professionals unwilling to sacrifice readability, mobility, performance, or weight in a pocket-sized, e-reader concept, the company said. However, Polymer Vision does not intend to commercialize this concept, leaving that up to future customers."
-- EE Times via Engadget

Update: Foldable Displays In Two Years
Future: MicroMedia Paper
E Ink: Digital Price Tags
E Ink: Digital POP Display
E Ink: Digital Billboards