Japanese Scientists Developing Smell Recorder

Engineers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan are building an odour recorder capable of doing recording a smell and playing it back later. "Simply point the gadget at a freshly baked cookie, for example, and it will analyse its odour and reproduce it for you using a host of non-toxic chemicals. The device could be used to improve online shopping by allowing you to sniff foods or fragrances before you buy [and] to add an extra dimension to virtual reality environments."
-- New Scientist, Daily Mail, WMMNA

The Nose Job
Smelly Packaging Encourages Impulse Purchase
Smelly Postage Stamps

Burger King's Wheel Solves Paradox of Choice

Burger King came up with an interesting solution to the paradox of choice (see a great book) where an increase in number of options beyond a certain point leads to decreasing sales because of the difficulty consumers have in reaching a decision. To their confused patrons, the King suggests they spin a wheel and leave the lunch to chance.
-- via advertka

Product Placement Returns to Comics

"Superheroes like Superman and Spider-Man can save mankind from natural disasters, space aliens and evil mutants. But there's one thing they are powerless to stop: Advertisers shilling products within the pages of the comic books they call home.

In July, Time Warner Inc.'s DC Comics, home to characters such as Batman and Aquaman, is launching "Rush City," a six-part miniseries that boasts visible promotional support from General Motors Corp.'s Pontiac. As part of the series, a new hero known as "The Rush" will be prominently featured driving a Pontiac Solstice in the comic book. "The car will be as essential to the character as the Aston Martin was to James Bond," says David McKillips, vice president of advertising and custom publishing for DC Comics.

Over the past few months, Marvel Entertainment Inc. has begun putting the "swoosh" logo from Nike Inc. in the scenes of some of its titles, such as "New X-Men." So far, the emblem has appeared on a car door and on a character's T-shirt. "We are always looking for new and interesting ways of connecting with our consumers," says Nate Tobecksen, a Nike spokesman. "This is certainly one of them."

-- Wall Street Journal (April 18, 2006) via Clickable Culture, Dotting

Comeback: Advertising in Comics
Comics in Advertising
Dr. Seuss & Advertising in Cartoons

Advertising on Electrical Outlets

Media Post writes about a recent campaign for Chase banking where ads were placed on electrical outlets in airports. The image above is from this blog that posted about this or a similar campaign for Chase in February.

Sona Mobile Puts Video on Blackberry

image source

"CanWest MediaWorks VideoPlayer is a video player designed to play multimedia files on the latest generation of BlackBerry devices. It has the ability to receive and play high quality synchronized video and audio files using Sona Mobile’s technology. Initially, the VideoPlayer for BlackBerry® will be commercially available for RIM 8700 and 7130e devices. Going forward we expect that newer RIM devices will have increased processing power enabling them to take full advantage of the CanWest VideoPlayer capabilities." See some first impressions here.

Columbia Pictures Promotes Movie With Blackberry Game
Reaching Business Audience Through Blackberries

Keywords: blackberry, advertising, multimedia, video, music

Offtopic: 1001 Subscribers

We just passed the 1,000 RSS subscribers threshold. Thought this day would never come. Woot.

List of Brands on MySpace

One of the three minds at Organic put together a list of brands on MySpace along with the respective friends count. Wonder if MySpace has seen any revenue out of it.

GE Launches Campaign of One-Second Commercials (plus profiles on MySpace)
Advertising on MySpace
VW's Helga on MySpace
Playboy Features Girls of MySpace

Machinima Commercials

In-game advertising meets consumer-generated content - what can be more cutting edge? Anyway, we talked about machinima ads before, and here are a few YouTube links to actual spots:

-- Beautiful (pictured above, a must-see), The Motel, and Video Camping for Nylon camera in Second Life (more info).

-- An entry for Converse Gallery made in World of Warcraft.

-- A spoof of the Bravia spot done in Battlefield 2 and a piece of MasterCard's "Priceless" theme in Halo.

Machinima Advertising
Chrysler Sponsors Machinima Contest
Advertising and Episodic Gaming

Amazon Engineers Working on Second Life Intergration

In case you didn't get enough Second Life post last week, here's another one:

"In response to an audience question at the Supernova conference a few hours ago, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels revealed that a group of Amazon engineers is looking at ways to use Amazon Web services to bridge Amazon with Second Life." More at 3pointD.com, Business Week.

Research Tools at Microsoft AdCenter

Found this a set of interesting tools over at Microsoft adCenter Labs. The image above is of their Search Funnels that show queries either preceding or following your keyword in other people's searches. In other words, 194 out of 4,200 searched for "honda" after searching for "vw" first, and 182 searched for "toyota". Could be useful for refining consideration sets. Also check out the tool that predicts commercial intention associated with particular search terms.

Offtopic: Two Stories from Mack Simpson

Two great articles from Mack Simpson, the creative director at Dieste Harmel in Dallas and one of the ad blogging veterans. The first one is about MIT students who built a raft from Gatorade bottles and why Gatorade was right not to create a campaign around it against the conventional wisdom that consumer-generated content is gold.

The other one is "a true story of theft, suicide and the death of an agency."

Panel on Marketing to Virtual Avatars

Today, Harvard’s Berkman Center hosted a panel discussion titled "Avatar-Based Marketing: What’s the Future of Real-Life Companies Marketing to Second Life Avatars". The two-hour event took place on Berkman Island in Second Life. Panelists included the following avatars (pictured above, left to right, real names in brackets, info taken from the event’s notecard):

  • Razor Rinkitink (Raz Schionning), director of web services at American Apparel that just launched a store in Second Life.
  • Fizik Baskerville (Justin Bovington), a virtual marketer. His company, Rivers Run Red, serves such clients as Adidas, Disney, Vodafone, EMI, BBC and Carat. Recent projects have seen the virtual marketing developments for: 20th Century Fox, Buena Visa International, Warner/Chappel, Universal, BBC, Mtv, Fender Stratocaster.
  • SNOOPYbrown Zamboni (Jeff Paffendorf), Electric Sheep Company’s futurist in residence. He is currently leading Electric Sheep's founding involvement in ASF's Metaverse Roadmap Project and helps curate the Second Life Community Convention, State of Play, and Accelerating Change conferences.
  • Cristiano Midnight (Cristiano Diaz), a member of Second Life since December of 2002, created one of SL's first and longest running third party sites, SLuniverse.com in 2003. In 2004, he launched an in-world business called ANOmations, and in early 2005, he developed the Snapzilla web site.
  • Zero Grace (Tony Walsh), speaker, writer, and cultural critic behind SecretLair.com and ClickableCulture.com.
  • Hempman Richard (Paul Hemp), a senior editor at Harvard Business Review. He is the author of the HBR’s recent article "Avatar-Based Marketing?"
  • Hamlet Au (Wagner James Au), covers Second Life society journalistically at the new New World Notes. Works as an SL consultant for both for-profit and non-profit companies, including Rivers Run Red and Creative Commons.

The event was moderated by Ansible Berkman (Rodica Buzescu), a recent graduate of Harvard College and the manager of Berkman Center's presence in Second Life.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity. Changes to the raw log may include punctuation, capitalization, order of replies, spelling. Some off-topic conversations have been omitted. Please leave a comment if you find a mistake. All hyperlinks and emphasis added by me.

Ansible Berkman:
We shall begin with a small blurb from each panelist on a very broad question I'll ask them and then the conversation will be open to the audience. Please right-click on me and send me a note if you would like to participate. I'll hold a queue of individuals and call on you when the person before you has finished "speaking".

This panel has the incredible task of answering a very basic and yet large question: do virtual worlds present a significant marketing potential for real-life companies? We shall leave the moral debate on this topic for another discussion. For now, I would like invite you to frame your answer to this important question from a marketing/logistical and even technical standpoint.

Let's start with Paul Hemp/Hempman Richard, the author of the Harvard Business Review article. He'll give us a short overview of what he has written and why he wanted to bring together such various minds to chime in on this issue

Hempman Richard: Okay, well, I'm most interested in hearing what others on the panel and those in the audiences have to say about my argument that virutual worlds and games represent an unexplored opportunity for marketers of RL companies, and that avatars are in some way distinct consumers from their creators. That is, that we're not just talking about the "where " of a new mareketing frontier but the "who".

Ansible Berkman: Let's go over to Zero Grace aka Tony Walsh.

Zero Grace: I think it's worth exploring not only this virtual world of Second Life, but also other virtual worlds as well... Uh, anyway, I guess I was going to say that it's valuable to compare and contrast the varying landscapes in order to determine viability, etc. Also I'm wondering where the typist ends and where the avatar begins, in terms of being a consumer that can be targeted.

Ansible Berkman: I'm intentionally skipping Hamlet a bit and moving on to Cristiano.

Cristiano Midnight: Well, to expand on what Tony said, I do think that each environment is different and more or less viable for various reasons – SL, I think, presents the most comprehensive environment to explore this issue in. No other environment I can think of offers the depth of content creation that SL does. That said, I think any company that comes along and does not understand the environment and just treats it as another marketing venue is doomed to fail. I think, for example, the way that American Apparel has entered SL has been a very interesting and effective thing - I knew nothing of their company beforehand, and the clothes are actual clothes I would wear on my avatar. So at least marketing to me, they were quite effective -- I would be more inclined to explore their RL offerings as well.

Ansible Berkman: Thanks Cris, very good intro to your perspective on this. Hamlet?

Hamlet Au: The potential for marketing in online worlds is truly staggering, especially when you take the definition beyond straight up MMOs like World of Warcraft or user-created worlds like Second Life. For example, there's Habbo Hotel in Europe and Cyworlds in South Korea, both much more limited avatar-driven experiences, but online worlds all the same. For that matter, even MySpace and other Web-driven interfaces have MMO aspects as well. But today we're also seeing some clear examples of issues need to consider.

Online worlds very much involve social contracts in the sense meant by Nozick and Rawls, to cite two great Harvard alums. And creating a world that's ideal for marketers *and* its subscribers is a matter of finding a balance between Nozick's libertarian society and Rawls' free society with government assistance (i.e., the company in this case.) So when the social contract fails or becomes too restrictive, the dangers emerge. As we see in Cristiano's decision to close down his Snapzilla today, very much the Flickr of Second Life, in protest of Linden Lab's recent changes to the billing policy. This is actually a good thing for the vibrancy of the world, just like the tax revolt of three years ago was. Hopefully LL and the residents will strike a compromise between their interests. The larger moral for marketers is to understand in online worlds, especially user-created worlds like this one, the consumer is also the creator, and you have to work with them together on creating a worthwhile experience.

Ansible Berkman: Now, moving on to Snoopy.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: First thoughts. Virtual worlds face what i call "the gravity of reality" (truly a force) on a number of fronts. A couple of big ones: As people spend more time using virtual worlds that are web-connected, they'll want to sew them into the rest of their lives -- identity, friendship, and work-wise. So it makes sense for outside offerings to come in and mingle with the homegrown fruit. It's natural. Over time that distinction will blur. Also the massively multi-player VW industry itself is changing. We're moving from Blizzard's throwing $100 million top-down at fantasy games like World of Warcraft to much smaller amounts of money; going into smaller, flexible, networked virtual environments like we see with Second Life and soon Multiverse and others.

Environments where anything can be built, not just dragons, and real life money is encouraged to come on in. Real life companies will contribute to that development, creating their own "3d websites", coupling virtual and real versions of their products, testing out designs, styles, and campaigns in VWs, and ultimately taking products from the VW and making them real.

Ansible Berkman: Fizik?

Fizik Baskerville: I think we should step back a bit, ask why suddenly the interest. The larger media companies have been searching for an alternative to the 'interruption model' or the classic 30/90 second TV commercial. They've been talking and needing a place for a 'real' brand immersion experience. Platforms like SL are the perfect place. The issue is, making sure that the brand immersion experience is built and created from the communities wants and needs.

Also, whenever something takes 'time', in this case the time absorption taken into VW. Companies will know that the time spent is valuable and a commodity of trade. In short, the VW experience is the brand immersion experience; that’s an exciting new era for most of the media companies and brands.

Ansible Berkman: And last but not least, Razor, the American Apparel representative.

Razor Rinkitink: Hello everyone. My RL name is Raz Schionning and I live and work in Los Angeles. I'm the Web Director for American Apparel - so I oversee our web sites, web development, and online marketing. AA opened the doors to Lerappa Island and our SL store a week ago and we're very excited about it.

Why did we do it and what do we hope to achieve? On a personal level I see Second Life as a budding example of the evolution of the “web experience”. The potential is amazing and very compelling. The constant expansion and participation is energizing. Our store in Second Life is an experiment in how we may establish relationships with our customers in this evolving medium. To speak like a marketing person for a moment, I see a strong overlap between SL users and AA consumers. They are sophisticated, educated, have money to spend, and fall into our target age range. So it makes sense to investigate how we can speak to this community. Not unlike the way we approach any potential audience in order to grow our business.

That said, I have few expectations about generating significant revenue right now – it's not the objective at this point. As with all the marketing we do, we’re being innovative and keeping our ears to the ground; we want to see how people will respond to our presence in SL.

Ansible Berkman:
And now, we already have a few questions lined up. Let's see what the audience has to say. Divo?

Divo Dapto: My question is what essentially is the difference between the real world and virtual words - from a marketing communications perspective? In other words, what opportunities do virtual worlds offer that real world does not?

Hamlet Au: Marketers need to be playful, need to embrace the fantasy aspect, need to embrace the ability to suddenly morph into a squirrel with a jetpack or just like I did, jump on the table and start playing air guitar.

Fizik Baskerville: Most of our clients are interested in developing brand equity, not sell directly, therefore, the gap between RL and VW marketing is really blurred.

Boliver Oddfellow: If I might make so bold the key to reaching today’s end users in this marketing space can be summed up in the words: don’t sell me, play with me.

Fizik Baskerville: By building a relationship and creating content that adds values, it’s a two way dialogue. As Boliver just said, its about giving 'props' for people to add value to their VW experience. Very much as we've just done with the BBC and 20th Century Fox.

Tetherdown Book: My consumption in VR worlds is friction free, so I've gone nuts - bought houses, clothes, shoes galore. In the real world, I can't buy a stamp, I hate shopping so much. So there is a giddy quantity to virtual consumption which is playful.

Boliver Oddfellow: Which begs the question re retailers entering this space like AA, is taking a “if we build they will come” approach enough or do you have to imbue your sim with some sort of playful corp culture?

Ansible Berkman: We can move on to Jeff's question.

Jeff Wakawaka: First, I wanted to say hi to all of the panelists and that I'm very excited I got to come see this. I've been talking about it at the office all week and everyone now thinks I'm a freak because I nearly wet myself over a virtual panel discussion on avatar-based marketing.

Anyway, I know that both American Apparel and Rivers Run Red, as well as a host of other companies (both virtual and real) that I haven't mentioned have created branded experiences within Second Life. From an advertiser's perspective, what are the types of quantitative results (specifically with regards to engagement) that I should expect from doing something similar? And what recommendations does each of the panelists have for balancing both an advertising client's interests with maintaining the cultural integrity of Second Life?

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Last question is interesting because many of the groups wanting to get in from the outside aren't interested in the 250,000 "accounts" currently in sl but want to build a space that their existing communities can come into. They don't want to disturb or in many cases even interact w/ an existing culture here.

That's unique to sl w/ its country metaphor but that is changing too. See the flight to islands -- it'll be a flight to networked spaces soon.

Hamlet Au: I think Second Life has long passed the days where it was a hothouse utopia where any hint of the outside world, especially the corporate for-profit world, causes much of a ripple. Now the challenge is to create cool, lasting, *exciting* experiences--and the companies are competing on an equal level with the best creators in SL.

Hamlet Au: "causes a giant controversy", I meant to say. Now, corporate involves "causes scarce a ripple".

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Resistance has systematically fallen. Been fascinating to watch. I remember the days when you couldn't get an island. Fizik here got the first
and some ppl thought the sky was falling!

Boliver Oddfellow: That is THE key: if you don’t make your corp presence here both interactive and immersive so that you provide the end user with a brand positive experience then you are truly missing the boat.

Ansible Berkman: Goh, you had a comment about spamming, which may be appropriate now?

Goh Mfume: Ah, yes. There are concerns about commercial spam and adverts entering VWs... but it's a bit ironic that spam and adverts are already here...just look at what players have done in SL. billboards everywhere.

Fizik Baskerville: In RL, the real media companies are finding it hard to sustain results via 'billboard advertising.

Glitchy Gumshoe: Isn't it just that putting up billboards is a lot cheaper and easier to do then designing environments?

Goh Mfume: It's already here, and companies will have to compete with all the individual entrepreneurs to be heard.

Cristiano Midnight: To address Jeff's question, as well as the issue of spam...again I think that any RL company that comes into the enviroment and does not understand it is doomed to fail.

Boliver Oddfellow: The real world company that comes in here and [does] strictly a billboard campaign will learn very quickly why you don’t alienate the consumer base. It’s suicide.

Razor Rinkitink: Look at early web pages with blink tags and crawling marquees. It takes time to learn subtle techniques.

Cristiano Midnight: Second Life residents especially have been very sensitive to the encroachment of the big bad RL business...not in the forms we see, but in the dreaded form of Coke billboards spread all across SL and plastered on buildings.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Most companies (to generalize) coming in from the outside should have their own private space, an island, and invite ppl to come to them.

Cristiano Midnight: Companies that really get SL and understand how to take a more lifestyle approach to their marketing will have far more success than those who just treat SL as another ad buy opportunity.

Fizik Baskerville: Actually just one thing. In RL billboards rely on 'footfall' and 'eyesballs' to work, in SL we have no major routes or areas that fit that RL convention. Therefore it really shouldn’t be a problem here, especially since p2p tp.

Ansible Berkman:

Susi Spicoli: Do you think that we will go beyond traditional marketing: participation in product development, open-source like, which makes traditional marketing obsolete to some extent because consumers are designing their own products? For example, a bank might design (with users)/test their future offering incl branch lay-out, which then already will have a strong in-world following which will spill into the RL. Finally, you might get some great international ideas fertilization (easy in SL), what if Italian customers would give comments and ideas on American Apparel?

Glitchy Gumshoe: Yeah, has any one company (besides the defeat george bush guy) ever tried to market anything to the entire SL population?

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: I'm interested in sl as a test bed for rl products/creations.

Csven Concord: I think we'll see some of that happen. There's a recent entry on the Mass Customization blog that gets to some things being tried in Europe but I think that most people aren't aware of how much tedious stuff goes into products and so there will always be some "professional" stuff that isn't really done in a collaborative way but mostly because no one wants to do it!

Susi Spicoli: That's what people said before Linux and the success of open source.

Csven Concord: The difference between Linux and designing the boring, legally necessary font on an iron are a ways apart, imo.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Coming up on the xbox 360, as I understand it, you'll be able to design your Nike sneakers in a basketball game using the id system, then have a real pair shipped to you.

Csven Concord: I have a source at Nike. And when they first introduced their shoes in NBA 2k6, the word was that it would be linked - eventually - to the website not seen it yet, but I expect it'll soon happen.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Stylehive has some of that, virtual-real coupling of merchandise.

Hempman Richard: That goes back to my hobby horse: does the fact that we're avatars allow US to try stuff out that we might not try in rl? And get used to it and then buy the product in rl?

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: I love your idea that avatars double the consumer but... you can also have multiple avs all trying out different avenues of self expression.

Razor Rinkitink: We have certainly talked about trying things in SL that would be difficult to test in RL. Store layouts and even clothing concepts would be interesting to test. But it would be important to remember that the SL audience is rather different from the RL at-large. So how much of that could feed back into RL is not clear.

Fizik Baskerville: We're working with a lot of our clients in SL doing exactly that, Raz.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: But when you are using sl to model, it doesn't matter who's here now, right? You just use it to sketch and design and then show it to ppl, in sl or out.

Hamlet Au: The challenge with testing real life designs is presenting it in a way that's fun, a kind of game. Otherwise, people will get bored and fly (literally!) off in search of something that is fun.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Yes and no, Hamlet. It depends on if they're shopping for their real life selves, in which case they're going to want things that would, erm, "fly" in the real world and a realistic avatar to boot. One thing I'm very interested in is the recreation of real life in VWs.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: An avatar that reflects your appearance, when you want that for dating, trying things on, doing business, etc.

Hamlet Au: I dunno, SNOOP, I think even then the constraints (or freedoms) of the world will impose themselves. For example, has anyone here ever tried walking, just walking, through an SL building? It gets frustrating. You get stuck in doorways. You eventually just want to fly or teleport to wherever you were headed, most times.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: That's because sl is limited atm lol. Have you driven down the streets of Grand Theft Auto? Runs like a breeze. Oh, and of course p2p teleport, but it'll get easier to run around

Ansible Berkman: You're ok running in SL too, as long as the building space is large enough. maybe it's a matter of better designing the space.

Ansible Berkman: If no one else wants to add here, Jangles...your question please?

Jangles Junot: Thanks, Ansible. This is quite an experience. So a question for Razor... If you could buy apparel in the AA store here and get it in the real world, that would be interesting... is that in your thinking? I'm thinking of the impulse. you see something here and you want to buy it... so you order here rather than go to a browser and go to the website.

Razor Rinkitink: It could go that way, but I'm not sure that a buying experience in SL connected to RL is ideal. I'm expecting that people will be curious enough to go out and see our stores and our online store for those types of transactions. But it makes sense to build a smooth transition.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: And razor, please please please get some posters of sexy avs up in rl aa stores and advertising ;)

Jangles Junot: Yes, i'm thinking of that relationship, another facet to building it.

Razor Rinkitink: I really do like that idea.

Cristiano Midnight: It appears that the main grid has been attacked and the system may be taken down, so this island may go down as well soon.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: To the bat cave!

Csven Concord: *gets camera out*

Ansible Berkman: Until we're taken offline, let's proceed as planed.

Razor Rinkitink: Before the world ends... anyone who feels like checking out our RL store, please visit: http://store.americanapparel.net ... and while you're at it, pop in the promo code BERKMAN and you'll get 15% off for the next couple of days.

Komuso Tokugawa: Now, that's marketing to avatars!

Hamlet Au: It's worth noting that grid-attacks like this are relatively rare but definitely worth considering in relation to how you create your marketing experience.

Gideon Television: I think rl/sl purchase linking in the other direction is more likely - I buy an AA clothing article in RL and then can wear it in SL too.

Razor Rinkitink: AA will do a discount in July off any item purchased SL... on that same item in RL. Going the other way is more... complicated. But could be done.

Ariel Spoonhammer: A barrage of questions to Razor: How did the SL store get approved internally within AA? Why did you opt to sell clothes for what in SL is a significant amount of money instead of giving them away? Do you plan to advertise your store both in RL and SL? Do you think SL is the kind of place where AA's "risque" ad strategy can go even more "risque"?

Razor Rinkitink: I remember when I pitched the idea to the creative team here - the people who handle our print and traditional marketing - they were totally perplexed and a little scared. But they were kind enough to give me the benefit of the doubt. And now they are very excited about the whole thing. It's been fun to see the come around. It's especially fun to see everyone creating SL accounts for the first time - the room erupts in giggles!

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: Is the ceo in here?

Razor Rinkitink: Our CEO, Dov Charney, is not on SL... yet

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: He's an avatar already! Interesting character :)

Cristiano Midnight: I think, speaking as a consumer, the clothing at the AA store is in line with pricing in SL, especially given the fact that you get the same item in about 20 colors.

Razor Rinkitink: The price is really just a token sum.

Cristiano Midnight: I think it was important for you to not just give the clothes away though, for them to have some perceived value

Razor Rinkitink: Yes, indeed. If they were giveaways they would have no value.

Razor Rinkitink: About the ads... Can we be more risky? I think we need to be ourselves no matter where we are. It would be odd if we went R-rated in SL and I think it would not make sense.

Cristiano Midnight: I would say you are already pretty close to that, without crossing the line into full on soft porn.

Razor Rinkitink: Yes (chuckles) many would say that. And some people don't like that. I appreciate that perspective. We're not for everyone.

Cristiano Midnight: I'm not saying I mind it, I just don't think it can get much more risque without crossing a line that wouldn't serve you well.

Hamlet Au: I would even encourage more raciness, myself, which is, after all, kind of a roleplaying experience in itself. People want fashions that are a step or two (or three, or four hundred) from what they usually wear IRL.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: No one's talked about virtual sex appeal here yet, when that's such a big thing in rl.

Razor Rinkitink: The boundaries are much broader and many things are possible, but I'm talking about maintaining a personality. Keeping the brand at the center regardless of the medium.

Cristiano Midnight: Yes, Starbucks is Starbucks - you don't open up an adult version in SL called Starfucks if you are trying to maintain the brand

Hamlet Au: Think American Apparel in Amsterdam, would be my advice. :)

Razor Rinkitink: We are already in Amsterdam... and no brownies or ladies for hire.

Ansible Berkman: Last question for today belongs to In Kenzo.

In Kenzo: Good timing, too. I have a conference call in 15 minutes with a potential new partner. They know NOTHING of SL. My question regards how to explain the possibilities here in just a few words on a phone call....

Csven Concord: One word: data

Hamlet Au: "Second Life is MySpace meets YouTube meets Flickr meets World of Warcraft. Get on now or be left in the dust of Internet history."

Razor Rinkitink: You'll need to send them some screenshots at the very least, because any description you can dream-up will fall short.

Cristiano Midnight: I think the two most compelling things that really show the potential of SL quickly are screen shots and video. I know that Linden Lab has often used Snapzilla to show off what SL is, because the pictures are often very evocative

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: "like an open-ended video game with no game, where you can build anything and connect to the web."

Cristiano Midnight: I don't think you can explain SL to someone really, other than in very broad strokes, or in sort of obtuse ways.

Cristiano Midnight: However, showing my mother Snapzilla, she understood what SL is at least to a degree that she could wrap her mind around it.

Hempman Richard: How do you show them that there is something conceptually interesting before they freak out on the photos?

Boliver Oddfellow: All I say is log in and see.

Cristiano Midnight: I would say that the initial user experience is so bad that just saying "try SL" is not a compelling way to get someone to envision it.

SNOOPYbrown Zamboni: At first ppl think you actually have to pretend the whole time :)

Csven Concord: When I explain that to someone, I ask them if they've ever seen on the News a story with a 911 call and if they felt ... touched or affected by the voice. That's television - a passive medium - giving the viewer something less connected to them than what they'll have in here. It's difficult to comprehend, but seeing how we react to other "virtual" things helps.

In Kenzo: I think SL has the potential to bridge out to TV audiences, to convert them into active participants.

Razor Rinkitink: What a potential customer really wants to see and hear is a group of users around the computer who have never seen it before. The excitement it produces is amazing. As I sit here people have been gathering around with slack-jaws.

Hamlet Au: Another shorthand I use: "It's like playing Legos (tm) with hundreds of thousands of people all over the world."

Cristiano Midnight: Very naughty Legos.

Second Life Panel on Virtual World Marketing

I'm just coming back from a panel in Second Life on virtual world marketing organized by Harvard's Berkman Center. Full transcript coming later tonight, but to give you the taste of it:

"Hello everyone. My RL name is Raz Schionning and I live and work in Los Angeles. I'm the Web Director for American Apparel - so I oversee our web sites, web development, and online marketing. AA opened the doors to Lerappa Island [read more] and our SL store a week ago and we're very excited about it.

Why did we do it and what do we hope to achieve? On a personal level I see Second Life as a budding example of the evolution of the “web experience”. The potential is amazing and very compelling. The constant expansion and participation is energizing. Our store in Second Life is an experiment in how we may establish relationships with our customers in this evolving medium. To speak like a marketing person for a moment... I see a strong overlap between SL users and AA consumers. They are sophisticated, educated, have money to spend, and fall into our target age range. So it makes sense to investigate how we can speak to this community... Not unlike the way we approach any potential audience in order to grow our business.

That said, I have few expectations about generating significant revenue right now – it's not the objective at this point. As with all the marketing we do, we’re being innovative and keeping our ears to the ground; we want to see how people will respond to our presence in SL."

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: The transcript is here.

Friday Special: World's Largest Web Page

The Deep Sky Frontier must be the world's largest web page. It is "9 quadrillion pixels wide by 9 quadrillion pixels tall. Thus it contains a large number of pixels:


Using the arrow keys to scroll, see if you can move the scroll button even one pixel. On second thought, don't-- especially if you're the doggedly persistent type. To do so will take about seven times longer than your natural lifespan."

Commentary: The Problem Of Pay-Per-Action Ads

"Finally, a search engine offering true pay-per-performance advertising." It's not Google, though, which, it was leaked, is testing a new CPA (cost-per-action) format. It's Snap, created by the same guy who created Overture whose model was later adapted by Google.

The problem with CPA is that it shifts the entire burden of responsibility onto publisher, and it shouldn't. Publishers are responsible and should be awarded for impressions their sites generate (the old-fashioned circulation, if you wish). They share responsibility for click-throughs with "ad agencies" that create the ad; publishers' role is to position the ad unit on a page in the most effective manner. Publishers and "ad agencies" get customers in the door, but it's the job of the shopkeeper to close the deal. Publisher should not be punished for transactions that fail because of the problems on the shopkeeper's end, such as low inventory, confusing store layout or unfriendly service. Look, do you think my ad spread in Cosmopolitan should be free if it fails to move my bling even if my bling is worthless and the distribution system sucks? How many ads have you clicked only to be lead to a page that has nothing to do with the original offer?

The ideal system, I think, would be more like restaurant tips; the publisher would get some money for simply displaying the ad, some more if it clicks through, and a premium when the stuff sells.

And a few parting words of wisdom from the usability guys (they've been called gurus too many times now) Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman: "Now, it might be tempting to present your successful search page ad as a pop-up, or in a news site, or somewhere else. But if you do, it will simply be ignored because it isn't part of the goal: users now want to read the news, or do whatever it is that initially drew them to the site, and advertisements -- no matter how enticing or relevant to users' other interests -- will be ignored. However, when users complete their main task, they're then ready for advertisements. And guess what? The ads are gone."

Software Predicts Which Songs Will Become Hits

"The versificator, a machine described in George Orwell's novel "1984", automatically generated music for the hapless masses. Today, computer programmers working in a new field called "music intelligence" are developing software capable of predicting which songs will become hits. This surprisingly accurate technology could profoundly change the way pop music is created.

The software uses a process called "spectral deconvolution" to isolate and analyse around 30 parameters that define a piece of music, including such things as sonic brilliance, octave, cadence, frequency range, fullness of sound, chord progression, timbre and "bend" (variations in pitch at the beginning and end of the same note). "Songs conform to a limited number of mathematical equations," says Mike McCready of Platinum Blue, a music-intelligence company based in New York, that he founded last December. Platinum Blue has compiled a database of more than 3m successful musical arrangements, including data on their popularity in different markets.

According to Platinum Blue's software, called Music Science, for example, a number of hit songs by U2 have a close kinship to some of Beethoven' s compositions. If a song written today has parameters similar to those of a number of past hits, it could well be a hit too."

-- Economist

Study: What Makes a Song Catchy?

A somewhat related piece from Guardian (and Independent) about a fake indie band that made it big on MySpace: "Hope Against Hope are a scam, a spoof indie band "with no talent whatsoever" invented by Q magazine in order to prove that the Rupert Murdoch-owned site is now just another cog in the older industry phenomenon of hype."

Future: Printable Robots

A fascinating article about the future of home 3D printing:

"The first printed robot may more resemble a paper origami insect than an octopus. It would operate as a digital ugoku (moving) origami capable of locomotion under its own power and even performing preprogrammed physical tasks.

So when will we be able to swap out the ink cartridges in our home printers and print out our own robot? How close are we to being able to print out a robot on a flat sheet of paper, fold along the dotted lines and have it move under its own power?

"Such a capability is somewhat years away and it is difficult to predict how soon. Someone is going to be the first to make such robots and I am not sure if it is not already being investigated," Dr. Bar-Cohen said."
-- ohmynews

Gourmet Photography

If you are intrigued by the paper sushi served in Chicago's Moto restaurant, you can buy this machine to print out your entire Flickr collection right on turkey for the next Thanksgiving reunion. The Jet Decorator prints directly on food items, but you can also get a printer that spits out edible icing sheets. Frame or fridge, your choice. Their client list includes photo-cookie-makers Dessert Gallery and Party Photo Flavors.

keywords: branding, advertising, food, printable, photography, print

Reality Check: Community-Governed News Sites

image: enfact.com

Here's a bit of rain on the parade of web 2.0 enthusiasts who claim that community-edited news sites work better than the traditional vetting structures. "Sixty-six percent of all stories posted on digg that make it to the homepage are pushed there by the same 60 people. Digg is essentially a community of 60 unpaid editors, and eventually the only new hardcore editors to join digg will be those with agendas and interests like the core group. This is because people with different interests will leave as they are pissed when their stories don't show up." This should explain all those madly dugg Photoshop tutorials.
-- Plentyofffish Blog, Enfact

BMW Uses TiVo's Tags to Add Interactivity to TV

"BMW this week became the first advertiser to use TiVo's new interactive advertising features within a program, embedding interactive tags into an episode of Speed Network's Test Drive series featuring its new M line of cars.

This is the first time an advertiser has used the tags within a TV show. They appear during a few different points of the Test Drive episode that features BMW's M line, offering users the chance to sign up to receive a brochure, help them find a nearby dealer, or let them watch an exclusive product video for the new M line of cars. BMW is also using tags in commercials to remind viewers to record the Test Drive episodes featuring BMW."
-- ClickZ

TiVo Tests Banners, Plans Interactive Format
. . . more posts on TiVo

Offtopic: Google's Competitors Buying AdWords

You might have heard about the lawsuit by a dating site against Yahoo that supposedly bought Google's AdWords that allegedly infringed on the dating site's trademarks. Intrigued by the irony of the situation, I used this handy tool called Googspy to see what other AdWords Yahoo's been betting on. I counted 10,020 of them. Microsoft, which also has its own search engine and an ad application, is paying for just over a 1,000 of AdWords. I don't know how accurate Googspy is, but the few random searches indeed showed the respective ads by Google's two competitors. Quite a few of these words are trademarks, so it will be fun to watch how the suit turns out.

In 2004, Geico filed a similar suit against Google itself and lost. "The judge said that as a matter of law it is not trademark infringement to use trademarks as keywords to trigger advertising."

Sublymonal Button Swaps Site's Background

Here's an interesting take-over effect I just stumbled across on this Xanga blog. When you roll the mouse over one of the top menu buttons (the one with the green-yellow logo), the page background changes to display a "secret message".

Clicking the button whisks you to the Sublymonal site, where you are asked to enter a code.

When you enter the code (figure this one out on your own), you are introduced to Lymonics.

The whole thing is a promo for Sprite and is somehow tied to Lost. Notice how the fine print on the site says "OBEY" is trademarked by Coca-Cola. Very fitting. Anyway, the whole purpose of the exercise was to point out the nice background-swap effect.

Cannes Lions Direct 2006

Cannes Lions awards for direct ads are in and I think this category is where you can find some of the most innovative stuff. Below are my three most favorite pieces.

The Door Viewer for Papa John's pizza by QUORUM/NAZCA SAATCHI&SAATCHI in Peru. Gold. Leaflets attached to the outdoor side of the peephole showing the delivery dude.

A direct mail piece sent to media planners to promote a TV channel's movie line-up. Saatchi&Saatchi Auckland, New Zealand. Silver. Awesome.

A toy used as a direct mail piece to retailers showing the effect of Bosch chainsaw. Could also be used to demonstrate the effects of deforestation. SCHOLZ&FRIENDS, Berlin. Bronze.

Telemarketing Hitting Skype?

It looks like the advance of telemarketers onto the greener pastures of cheap VoIP Skype calls that was predicted last year might be upon us. A blogger writes, "While having a conversation with my friend, he told me that he had another call coming in and asked me to hold for a moment. A couple minutes later he came back on the line and told me that the call was a recorded message that appeared to be a telemarketing pitch–in Spanish!" On the other hand, as one reader comments on that blog, Skype has a feature that lets in calls only from the contacts you have "whitelisted".

Guardian: Print Your Own Newspaper

"The Guardian is launching a new service providing readers with a rapid overview of news that will be updated every 15 minutes. G24 will be a free service featuring news content from the Guardian Unlimited website across five areas: general news, international, economics, sport and media. Users will be able to log on to Guardian Unlimited and download an eight to 12-page A4 pdf document, which can then be printed off. They can select any of the five news streams. The Guardian hopes the service will to appeal to lunchtime and evening commuters wanting a live print-based update of the day's events." (Download a preview one-page pdf.)

And then they will insert ads, dynamically generated to fit readers profiles and perhaps past behavior, the ads that people will print out and read on their ride home. Very smart. Similar ideas:
-- Your personalized printed newspaper (Oct 2005)
-- Dutch blog content to be turned into newspaper (Jan 2006)

-- thanks, Nishad.

Advertising on Lottery Tickets

"State lotteries are long shots indeed, but here's an inside tip: Advertise on the back of every ticket sold and every ticket could be a winner. The bet via LuckyMedia, a unit of Anomaly, a New York-based boutique, leverages that bare space on every scratch-to-win and printed ticket in a deal with the Michigan Lottery. With nearly 1.3 billion annual impressions, 10 other revenue-hungry states are lined up to take their chances on LuckyMedia, which was in the process of securing its first client as Media went to press."
-- Media Post

The One Show Awards 2006 for Exceptional Innovation in Media

Lots of good stuff on the updated One Show site, some of which we have seen here or on Billboardom, but some new finds as well, like the outdoor ad pictured above for the new mobile banking service in Guangzhou.

Disney Goes Bananas

And apples, and other fruit. "Disney has pledged its name to branded fresh fruit in Tesco and other European supermarkets to appear more health-friendly as its venture with McDonald’s approaches expiration. The Disney brand is highlighted by character stickers on the fruit skins - such as Winnie the Pooh on the Tesco satsumas - which are promoted as sticker book collectibles."
-- fresh info

American Apparel Opens Store in Second Life

Update [Nov.13 '06]: I see this post comes on the top of Google for "Second Life Advertising" and if that's how you got to this page, here are a few helpful links:

In September '06, I defended a whole thesis on in-game advertising with half a chapter devoted to ads in Second Life and similar worlds. I've also been following the subject fairly closely and here's a collection of the more interesting posts:

**** the original post follows ****

The second biggest news of the week after Bill Gates's retirement was about American Apparel opening a store in Second Life. The store got ink in Forbes, and other mainstream media are sure to follow soon since in-game advertising is suddenly a hot topic.

So, the store is located on the Lerappa sim (that's "apparel" spelled backwards, see on map). Two floors, floodlights, a terrace. High ceilings to allow comfortable fly-ins.

Winning over the new consumer is what Aimee Weber, one of the store's creators, does best.

Blurred borders: the AA's Fine Jersey T dress on the web, pictured on the display (modelled both in real life and in SL), on the racks and on customer. When you touch the display, a dialog pops up inviting you to check the corresponding webpage. The real life dress costs US $26, the Second Life version costs 350 in Linden playmoney, or about $1.

Changing rooms. I think the images on the walls are rotating, but am not sure. Otherwise, this area seems to be more for decoration, that is, you can't touch anything here and buy it.

The first floor of the store. Aimee said the Second Life outlet is not an exact replica of any particular store because the real-life layout is not very suitable for the virtual world. Makes sense.

The second floor of the store. You can't click on the actual outfit you see on the racks; you need to click on the corresponding displays.

The screens in the left show a looping video of some dude playing an instrument. The credits say the video is AA's copyright.

More coverage and screens:
. . . earlier posts on Second Life

New Headphones Rely on Bone Conductivity

"Clothing and accessories trading firm Morito is launching stereo headphones that transmit sound vibrations through users' skull bones rather than their eardrums."
-- The Raw Feed, Nikkei

Binaural Advertising
Near Future: Personally Targeted Advertising

Google Eyes GPS-Targeted Radio Advertising

ZDNet: "Google CEO Eric Schmidt shared his vision for GPS location-based delivery of highly targeted and personalized advertising via in-car radios at a luncheon with a group of publishing executives in New York City yesterday. While Schmidt predicted a realization of his vision within the next one to two years, he did not share his vision for how the Google owned dMarc Broadcasting, a "digital solutions provider for the radio broadcast industry," would enable such digital ad delivery via car radios. Google acquired dMarc in January to bring 'radio advertising to Google AdWords advertisers.'"

GM Turns to Students for Advertising Ideas for Chevy

"General Motors turned to 32 college students to come up with the best campaign to promote the new Chevy Aveo, which debuts this summer for just $9,890 — the cheapest new car in America. All of the student groups raved about Facebook.com and MySpace.com — two wildly popular online community sites that, incidentally, have recently been trying to decide how best to implement advertising to target youths."
-- Left Lane News

Of course, we all remember what happened last time GM turned to consumer-generated ads. And, somewhat offtopic, this is a really nice price for a new car.

Google Earth Compatible With Other 3D Environments

Tony from Khronos.org wrote in with some details about 3D modelling for Google Earth in reply to a recent post about texture support. I don't know much about this stuff but I thought it was interesting, so here's his letter almost verbatim.

"By using COLLADA as their format for geometry and textures, Google has suddenly offered a mainstream 3D visualization environment and 3D world to anyone in the 3D modeling, AEC, and game model development communities."

"I saw your post on MIT Advertising Lab about Google Earth now supporting textures, and I thought you might be interested adding more details - something that was pretty significant but seems to have been missed by most of the press

Google Earth and KML 2.1 now use the COLLADA interchange format for 3D geometry and textures

COLLADA is an open standard for that defines an XML-based schema for 3D authoring applications to freely exchange digital assets without loss of information.

If you check out the textured 3D sample file in [Google's] KML 2.1tutorials you will see that they include both the COLLADA .dae file and the textures in a compressed zip file. They add the geospecific data in their own xml file.

Collada is a way to enable full interoperability between 3D applications - you can move content freely from one application, add something else in (like shaders or physics), and then pass the model on to the next in a tool chain sequence.

This is significant because (in addition to giving Google Earth the capabilities for 3D textures) it means you can use any of the popular 3D modeling applications including Maya, SoftImage|XSI, 3ds Max, Blender, and Sketchup of course, to create sophisticated models with textures, export them as COLLADA, and then import or drag and drop them into Google Earth.

Combined with the new KML support for LOD and streaming, you have some pretty high performance 3D visualization, virtual reality and advertising capabilities. Suddenly Google Earth is opened up to the entire creative community.

What is also interesting is that game developers, who are very familiar with COLLADA can now start exporting their assets to Google Earth. (FYI Collada is the file format for the new PlayStation3) IMHO it does not seem far off when this will enable Google Earth to beome the new Second Life but with true geospatial capabilities.

At this point, Google Earth has not implemented support for animation, shaders or physics. But these are supported in the COLLADA format, so it is likely only a matter of time.

Suddenly, there is this venue where anyone who does 3D models will have a place where they can display these models. And it is a mass market commodity venue. There has never been anything like this. Google Earth is single handedly making 3D visualization on the web, become an everyday thing. And with Collada support, they are making it easy for everyone to participate and contribute content.

Sure you can use high end systems like Autodesk or Maya to display 3D renderings and scenes. But that is not mainstream and not anywhere as easy as Google Earth to use. There is room for both, but Google Earth is compelling to untrained (as well as highly trained) users. It makes viewing 3D models in context, easier and more engaging. Google Earth's 3D look and fell is almost like a video game - and that is a good thing for getting people involved!

So with Collada and Google Earth, you have interoperability between programs for 3D content and you have a mainstream way to engage people with the content."

Offtopic: Billboardom Off Google

So, Google took the most wonderful collection of billboards off its index. Fair is fair: they wrote me a nice automated letter saying they had found some hidden text, which is against their publisher guide, and said they would blacklist the site for about a month. I wish they were more selective in enforcing the rule since the hidden text (blue on blue background) was one short sentence designed to help the spiders to index it better, but whatever. It's their index and I knew what I was doing.

I removed the offensive text and did the magic dance to appease the Google Gods, but it will take a bit for the things to go back to normal. In the meanwhile, I hope you don't mind if I post occasional links back to Billboardom here. If you want it in your RSS reader, the direct link is this.

For the morbidly curious, here's what the wrath sounds like:

"Dear site owner or webmaster of billboardom.blogspot.com,

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that were outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here: http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, we have temporarily removed some webpages from our search results. Currently
pages from billboardom.blogspot.com/ are scheduled to be removed for at least 30

Flashback: Intelligent Design of PR Stunt

"The most important thing to understand about the Scopes trial (wiki) was that it was a publicity stunt. There were no fundamentalist preachers trolling the hallways of Dayton’s schools hunting for teachers who were violating Tennessee’s prohibition on teaching evolution.

"By Southern standards, Dayton was relatively progressive," said Douglas Linder, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City law school who maintains the exhaustively detailed Famous Trials Web site, from which some of this account is adapted. "Evolution had been taught in the classroom for a couple of years without any controversy."

The American Civil Liberties Union had published an offer to defend anyone willing to challenge the statute, and Scopes, a football coach and substitute teacher at Rhea County High School, volunteered at the behest of prominent Dayton residents who thought a show trial would be a good way to get attention."
-- MSNBC (May 2005); also a bit more here.

Friday Special: Photogenic Mask of a Young Woman

If you need a street promotion team of attractive women and all you've got is a bunch of dudes, don't despair. For about $1,500, you can order a very realistic "photogenic mask" together with the chest piece and a wig. After all, "photogenic masks have been created for anyone who desires to become a girl quickly and easily." And you thought advertising to avatars was weird.

Commentary: The Future of Advertising

The summer issue of Strategy+Business came out with "A Field Guide For The New Marketer." It's big and juicy and I'm still working on it, but one quote from an article on the future of advertising by Booz Allen Hamilton executives begs to be lifted: "Does that mean gloom and doom for the rest of us? Hardly. These can be glorious times for media companies and marketers that are capable of change." Free registration required to read; passwords for the lazy available on bugmenot.

-- via emergic

NY Times on Branded Weddings

We've noticed a few eBay auctions selling out sponsorship rights for weddings last year, and now NY Times runs a more detailed story.

"The notion of a sponsored wedding now has so many followers that simply offering a captive audience of guests is no longer enough to beguile sponsors into donating cash and products. Brides must have an angle, something that will generate publicity.

In addition to breaking every rule of etiquette, said David Popenoe, a director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers, the sponsored wedding is alarming in other ways. "To turn human intimate activities into market-oriented affairs is ultimately destructive," Mr. Popenoe said. 'You're expressing the desire for a lifelong bond. That has really nothing to do with the economic angle, one hopes.'"

Reuters: Electronic Newspapers Could Arrive This Year

Nothing we don't already know, but the fact that Reuters has picked up the story about electronic newspapers must be a good sign. Here: "The newspapers of the future—cheap digital screens that can be rolled up and stuffed into a back pocket—have been just around the corner for the last three decades.

But as early as this year, the future may finally arrive. Some of the world's top newspaper publishers are planning to introduce a form of electronic newspaper that will allow users to download entire editions from the Web on to reflective digital screens said to be easier on the eyes than light-emitting laptop or cellphone displays."

NY Times Tests E-Paper; Advertisers Interested
Belgian Newspaper To Test Electronic Paper

keywords: electronic paper, e-ink, electronic ink

Why Isn't Packaging More Fun?

Csven at Rebang asks why isn't all packaging as fun as this art piece presented at the Subculture show.

Study: Packaging Design Patterns
Talking Packaging
Ethnographic Research on Packaging Usage
. . . more on packaging

Flashback: Chocolate Records

"The two very rare tin phonographs pictured above were made in late 1903 and have to rank among the most unusual phonographs ever made: they were designed to play disk records made of chocolate! Made by the Stollwerck Chocolate company in Germany, the phonographs were powered by a tiny clock motor made by Junghans, a company still in the clock business today."
-- antique phono (also see Eat Your Own Records)

Flashback: Cereal Box Carboard Records
Choxpics Print on Chocolate
Advertising On Chocolate

keywords: advertising, chocolate

Google Earth Now Supports Textures

Google has just released Google Earth 4 BETA that, unlike previous versions, supports textures on 3D objects.

Google Earth Becoming Virtual World
Google Earth Runs AdWords
Google Earth Becoming Advertising Tool

Decorated Adhesive Tape

This is fairly straightforward: adhesive tape acquires a secondary decorative meaning. Comes in a variety of styles from NPW (via Coolhunter). Also consider this measuring tape tape.

Rethinking Fishwrap
Inside Wrapping Paper

keywords: wrap, wrapping, paper, advertising, tape, direct mail

Cursing As Shortcut Through IVRs

Lifehacker came to an amasing conclusion. If you get frustrated while conversing with the very artificial intelligence of IVRs (interactive voice response systems) and say something along the lines of "fuck", chances are you will get a human response right away. They should definitely put more Easter eggs like this into those time-draining things.

Interactive Fiction by Phone
Play Text Games With Voice on Phone