Gary Carter's Speech, Part 3

This is the last part of the keynote address on the future of television delivered by Gary Carter of FreemantleMedia at the National Association of Television Program Executives in Las Vegas in January 2007. (See part 1 and background, and part 2.) All emphasis mine.

"If you'll excuse some simplification, it seems to me that we can divide the history of television, as medium and as form, into three generations: mine, my mother's, and my son's.

For my mother, when television arrived in the fifties, it was a technology without history. It appeared as revolutionary, although in fact, like most technology it was evolutionary. Its technology was mysterious, new, perhaps related to film, and the form of programmes derived from other technologies and traditions -- the movies, the theatre, the radio. Television was a window on the world, a Modernist project which explained the world to its audience -- the world as it 'really was'. This was the era of television as social instrument, the era of the rise of the public broadcaster. The voice of television was the voice of the social establishment. Famous people as represented on television were famous because of their achievements, because of what they had done. Television came at you, it was a 'push' technology, in current terms, and in fact, it moved down -- it came from a position of power and moved down to the people. It is in this period that the means of reception -- the screen, the set -- begins to be domesticated, it drifts from the shop window into the living room.

But my generation -- the generation which came of age in the early eighties -- we grew up with television. Entirely domesticated, it had moved into our space, and appeared in bedrooms, in kitchens, even in toilets. It had a history of its own, it had a culture of its own to which we could refer, it had already codified its own conventions. And in this generation, fame began to share airtime with celebrity -- those people who were famous because of the amount of media exposure they gained.

And since television programmes started to provide exposure, in an unholy alliance with the dark arts of marketing, it was possible to become famous for being on television, or in the media. We were the first generation who had grown up as the subject of audio-visual media -- the Super 8 movies, the early videotape, which our parents used to film those important events in our lives. We grew up then, with an understanding of the conventions of television, and with the domestic version of the technology filming us at home, and as the subject of the camera's gaze. This we could characterise as the beginnings of the post-Modern phase, the development of a medium which was a mirror, not a window, one with its own dubious heroes -- porn stars, politicians, their mistresses, their rent boys, retired gameshow hosts, and 'ordinary' people. As Andy Warhol said, In the future everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes. This was the era of television as reflective and creative of different worlds -- and it was the period of the rise of the commercial broadcaster. Television came at you from different directions, not just 'down' -- but it also started to come from you -- in programmes like Fox's COPS and AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS, where, for the first time, the material was generated by the subjects of the camera's gaze.

But for the generation represented by my son, the world is very different. Television -- or rather, the moving image with sound -- has become totally personalised, and in all aspects: subject, production and distribution.

The digital project means that media represent no reality, where the image multiplies indefinitely, perfectly, and represents only itself, and no reality at all. Or rather, a reality in which the image is the only reality.

A reality in which 98% of photographs in the average glossy magazine are digitally altered, in which 98% of Hollywood movies -- even those without special effects -- are digitally altered; in which newsreaders and gameshow contestants appear in environments that don’t exist. A separate pseudoworld. Now it is possible to define celebrity as utterly divorced from achievement at all -- as someone who 'is recognised my more people than they themselves can recognise'.

This generation has a different understanding of media and technology -- for a start, it has grown up with games in which the individual audience member can affect the outcome directly. It has grown up with an in-depth understanding of genre derived from television history, with an in-depth understanding of technology -- a technology which is now of broadcast quality, with domestic editing sets which rival those used in what we like to call an industry, and now --crucially -- the audience has distribution. This is the world of digital television, digital networks, digital everything. Power, in this environment, is certainly not a push, but it's probably not, in fact, a pull: it is distributed equally, in all parts of the system, acting in all directions simultaneously. In fact, power is a peer-to-peer distributed network. The audience, having been first the recipient of the camera's gaze, and then its subject, took control first of the means of production, and now, finally, of the means of distribution.

Media has become totally personalised, in all its aspects. It has moved into 'my space'. The artist formerly known as the audience has become -- to use MacLuhan's prediction from the early '70s -- the prosumer. To quote Andy Warhol just before his death: "My prediction from the Sixties finally came true. In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. I’m bored with that line. I never use it anymore. My new line is, in fifteen minutes everybody will be famous."

I believe that we are living through a profound moment in the evolution of technology, and therefore of our species. We should be careful that when we mourn the so-called death of television we are only mourning our own loss of power as a media elite. I know that sounds rather dramatic at the end of a long day in a seminar, but I believe it nonetheless. We are not living through the death of television, for the simple reason that this is not about television. Technological development is a story, which runs through human history, and which shapes it and is shaped by it, and part of that story is the rise and rise of that which we call the media. This is about us, in a very deep and profound way, and it's about the way in which we as a species are driven by creativity. Obviously, I realise that I sound alternatively naive and pretentious when I say this, but these concerns of ours -- is television dying, what's the next big thing, will people want to watch television on a mobile phone, who will want to pay for it -- these are not the questions which are important, culturally or historically. The important ones are: now that we have it, what will we do with it? As it grows, who will control it? And finally, what will we become?

This is a moment in time in which we can all help to answer these questions, and that's why it's an exciting and important moment. It's exciting and important because it will require us to do the thing which ultimately defines us as people: it requires us to dream, and to create the products of our dreams, and to fill the flickering screens around us with those dreams. "

(c) Gary Carter 2006.

- A note of gratitude to Mr. Carter for sharing the full text of the speech with Adverlab.

Advergames Bump Burger King's Profit

"Since the fast-food chain launched a limited-edition collection of three Xbox games in November -- Pocketbike Racer, Big Bumpin', Sneak King -- sales of BK Value Meals have spiked to bring home meaty profits during the company's second quarter.

The world's second-largest burger chain said Tuesday its fiscal second-quarter profit jumped 41 percent to $38 million. Company officials cited consistently strong Value Meal sales and the video-game giveaway program for the positive report.

BK's games joined the ranks of other top-selling Xbox titles during the holiday shopping season with more than 3.2 million copies sold."
-- Sun-Sentinel

It's worth reiterating that food chains can be powerful distribution systems for all sorts of stuff, not just calories (see an earlier post for more).

Discovery Promotes Show with Toilet Paper

Discovery Channel Sweden promotes its "Dirty Jobs" series with rolls of custom printed toilet paper.
-- thank you, Gustaf

Advertising On Toilet Paper
Voice Advertising For Bathrooms
Bathroom Advertising Round-Up
Display Embedded Into Bathroom Floor

Boston Cops Mistake Ad Lights for Bombs

image: Channel 5

Boston was crazy today with at least five choppers hovering over the river on a news that seven suspicious packages were found under the city's bridges. One of the packages was blown up. "Officials said the package contained an electronic circuit board with some components that were "consistent with an improvised explosive device," but they said it had no explosives."

The "explosive devices" turned out to be ad installations for Adult Swim's new animated show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. "Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards. We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger." (More on ABC, Boston Globe.)

Update (9pm): More pictures via AdRag, Make and other sources:

source: MSNBC

source: Make (follow the link to see video)

Source: Vanderlin @ Flickr

Here's a YouTube video about how the device works.

Why do people keep referring to the campaign as "hoax"? How was it intended to misguide anyone? What is it about these LED displays that looks like a bomb? Besides, MAKE wrote about this project two weeks ago.

Bomb Squad Blows Up Tricked Out News Box (a promo for Mission: Impossible similarly gone wrong).

Apple Phone Patent from 1985

Patent D281,686: "The ornamental design for a telephone, as shown and described."

Lorem Ipsum Generator for Web 2.0

Eskobo goowy manjam. Guba simpy bebo, zecco plazes moola gpokr. Idio moola umundo zingee jaxtr mikons foldera doostang! Soonr mog!

Do you speak webtwooish?

Mike Lee took our Friday's lexicological rant one step further and created a lorem ipsum generator made from the crazy web 2.0 names. Awesome!

Gary Carter's Speech, Part 2

This is part 2 of 3 of the keynote address on the future of television delivered by Gary Carter of FreemantleMedia at the National Association of Television Program Executives in Las Vegas in January 2007. (See part 1 and background, part 3) All emphasis mine.

"But let's look at the question of the survival of television as content, as opposed to the distribution medium, or platform. By this I mean to make a distinction between the technology of television -- the distribution medium -- and the content -- the form of content made exclusively for television. I am asking whether content specifically made for television -- like gameshows, for example -- will survive.

In an unscientific way, I analysed a week of primetime in the UK, during the period 19:00 to 23:00 (23:30 in the case of ITV), across all terrestrial broadcasters. If we consider programmes created just for television, and exclude: news and sport, as being retransmission of existing material or common to other media, and dramas made for cinema or based on books, then of the 196 shows in this time period, 64% were 'television' and 36% was not, and of the 136 hours, 70% were television and 30% were not.

You could say, by this analysis, that some of the stuff in primetime was not television, although it was distributed by television, and that in fact it represented older historical or past media content forms surviving in a new medium. This means that the content which is intrinsically television, like the gameshow, for example, is likely to survive on emerging technologies. Certainly this is true for my own company, where our catalogue of gameshow formats has been reborn on the web, and on mobile phones, in the gaming environment.

So if it is true that television as medium and form will survive, what other lessons can we learn from the history of mass communication technology which might help us understand where we're going?

Well, for a start, no mass communication technology has ever been exploited in the way in which the inventors predicted it would. In other words, the really good news it is not just you and I who don't know what's going on -- nobody does, not even -- in fact, especially not, the engineers.

When radio was introduced, it was marketed in kit form, sold to men, as a kind of quasi-engineering hobby. It was only when families complained that men were spending too much time 'playing' in isolation that the set migrated into the living room, and kits were replaced with readymade radiograms.

When the telephone was commercially introduced in the United States, it was originally believed that it would find its primary market amongst businessmen. In fact, so convinced were the operators that they tried to prevent any other use. When women in rural America discovered that they could use the telephone to communicate with their neighbours, the operating companies tried to stop them through prohibitive legislation. Until they realised that this represented a market.

SMS has a similar history. Introduced originally as a channel for communication between engineers, the first commercial short message was sent in 1992, from PC to mobile. Its triumph was the triumph of the consumer, since it was barely promoted until it was already widely used. It was originally presumed it would remain an industry communication medium -- not the symbol of a youth movement, a set of manners and a culture, a way of extracting revenue from television audiences, the source of a new language, a flirting medium, a sexual technology. The users -- the audience -- has made it all these things, not us.

So far, I hope I have also explained why I won't try to answer the questions with which I began: Will anyone want to watch a television programme on a mobile phone, and who will want to pay.

Given that I think that an examination of history has answered the question of whether we are living through the death of television, and given the impossibility of trying to understand where technology is going, let us try to understand some of the forces underneath current trends in media. In other words, now I am not going to answer the question, What's the next big thing?

It is possible to describe what's happening in the contemporary media by looking at the way communication devices have historically become personalised. Communication devices tend to follow the same pattern of domestication. They move from the public domain, to the domestic, then to the private sphere, and then become intensely personalised. For example, the telephone was originally public: in offices, in public spaces in phone booths. When the phone reached the home, its first position was at the threshold, typically in the hallway, as a kind of uneasy marker of the division between the public and the private sphere. By freeing itself from the party line -- one phone line serving many customers -- it became domesticated: extensions allowed it to move into the bedroom, to other rooms -- and then freed by wireless technology it became possible for the telephone to roam with the 'owner' of that extension. The phone became personalised with the invention of the true mobile: now, for example, I don't know the number of my best friend's domestic landline, I only know his mobile number. This pattern of movement is followed time after time by communication technology, and you can map the same pattern of movement in the development of so called 'new media'.

Now you can explain this pattern of personalisation by ascribing it to capitalism, the triumph of the market, the segmentation of customer bases. But I think there is something more profoundly human going on.

The story I am going to tell you is like all stories, dependent on your position for its truth."

next: part 3

(c) Gary Carter 2006

Second Life Shorts, Set 2

image: moomoney via Giff Constable

A number of interesting Second Life developments happening all at once:

- The subscriber numbers for SL are now over 3,000,000. I think it was 2M a month and a half ago. And around 200,000 this time last year. If you follow the entire numbers controversy that's been smoldering for a long time and has recently erupted on Valleywag, you wonder what these numbers mean.

- Speaking of Valleywag: the blog last week featured an article by a financial consultant (see the full version on his own blog) who argues that because it's so hard to cash out of Second Life with any meaningful amount, the virtual world is nothing but a giant 3-D pyramid scheme. The money quote:

"And that’s the story of SecondLife. Like the paid promotion infomercials that run on CNBC, sadly SecondLife is a giant magnet for the desperate, uninformed, easily victimized. Its promises of wealth readily ensnare those who can least afford to lose their money or lives to such scam in exactly the same way that real estate investor seminars convince divorcees with low FICO scores to buy houses sight unseen with no money down.

Even some corporations have dedicated marketing budgets to creating a presence in SecondLife. While few will shed a tear for the frivolousness of these companies’ spending, such adds a false legitimacy to SecondLife. Interestingly, no legitimate, real world corporation has earned net profit from SecondLife activities."

My question from a few posts back is still standing: does anyone know what amount of Linden currency is in circulation?

- In the meantime, Sweden is about to open its embassy in Second Life. Ars Technica writes, "The embassy will be built and run by the Swedish Institute, an entity run by the Swedish Foreign Ministry and who is in charge of promoting tourism to the country. The Second Life embassy will be there to provide information about Swedish culture and history, as well as suggestions for places to visit in the (real-life) country, according to the Swedish Institute's director, Olle Wästberg." No word on whether the new embassy will have the authority to grant asylum.

- One of the best promos run in Second Life was the one for the Smokin' Aces movie where players were invited to play Assassin in-world. Why? Because it was interactive and engaged lots of people unlike the empty branded edifices. Details at I can't believe I missed it last week, and I hope it was really as cool as it sounds.

Also see the previous set of Second Life Shorts.

AdAge on Contextual Billboards

"It could take months, if not years, for patents to be approved and technology to be fine-tuned, but no matter how soon Silicon Valley giants-and possibly outdoor's legacy players-reshape the retail experience, it's safe to say the out-of-home industry will have a shelf life much longer than its static beginnings could have indicated."
-- AdAge

Related stories:

In Wired back in 2003:
Booth's team [at Mitsubishi] is developing a system that projects
product information onto a wall. As a customer approaches the wall,
the system senses that someone is getting closer and alters the
message it projects, incorporating data about the person gleaned
through facial-recognition technology. The closer the customer
approaches, the more specific the information gets. Eventually, the
message would focus on the actual product the person is handling.

A press release back from 2001:
"Visitors to the exhibit will be able to experience the process of
using face recognition technology to enroll into a loyalty database at
remote wireless enrollment stations."

Reverse Product Placement in Games

BrandWeek has a follow-up on David Edery's HRB piece on reverse product placement in games (see David's earlier post on the topic, my old post on the fictional brand Sprunk in Grand Theft Auto, and a summary of the HBR article in Gamasutra). What's reverse product placement (I call it "proxy branding") ? BrandWeek writes: "While traditional product placement refers to integrating a real brand into a fictional environment, an idea that's gaining traction is to create a fictional brand in a fictional environment and then release it into the real world."

One possible twist is to plant a real brand that exists outside the U.S. and then gauge the reaction. Mitsubishi, for instance, placed its Lancer Evolution in Sony PlayStation's Gran Turismo videogame years before the model was available in the U.S. in 2003. A Mitsu rep said placement in the game "helped heighten awareness here for a model that was not yet sold in the United States" and played a role in the carmaker's decision to release it here."

Gary Carter on Death of TV

Gary Carter, president of creative networks at FremantleMedia that brought us American Idol and other blockbuster shows, delivered a very inspiring keynote at NATPE (more notes: part 1, part 2). You can find a video clip with a fragment of the speech at AdAge; Gary kindly shared the full text with us. Here's part 1 of 3, with the rest posted over the next two days (Update: see part 2, part 3). All emphasis mine.

"My name is Gary Carter, and I work at FremantleMedia, where I have the unlikely titles of President, Creative Networks and Chief Creative Officer, FMX.

FremantleMedia is one of the largest producers and exploiters of entertainment brands worldwide. Our production arm consists of some of the world's most creative companies, and our commercial arm comprises distribution, licensing and home entertainment. We produce television in 22 countries, licence formats to 40 and distribute finished programmes to 150 countries. Apart from the 20 or so long running drama series we produce worldwide, we are probably best known for the IDOLS franchise. FMX, of which I am CCO, is the company's experimental personalised and participatory media division.

If you speak at conferences, you will know that questions, like formats and technologies, come in and out of fashion. At the moment, there are three questions you get asked from the floor. The first of these is: 'So what's the next big thing?' The second is: 'Do you think people will want to watch television on a mobile phone? And the third is, And who will want to pay?

I am not going to answer any of these questions. I'm going straight for the big life or death question.

Is there life after the death of television? And if so, what does that life look like?

In case you haven't realised already, I have to warn you that I have no particular qualifications for doing this. Not from a technological point of view, nor from a commercial point of view, and probably not from any point of view -- but that what's makes me a media executive.

I do have some limited qualifications for speaking from a creative point of view -- first of all, I am creative -- I'm pretty good at flower arranging, for example -- and second of all, I am a Chief Creative Officer.

Have you noticed the inexorable rise of the title Chief Creative Officer? Earlier this year, I was in Los Angeles, in a meeting of 6 people, 2 from my division at Fremantlemedia, 2 from a production company, and 2 from a gambling slot machine company, and in that group of 6, 3 of us had the title Chief Creative Officer.

This experience lead me to wonder if we can build on the 80/20 rule, the one that says that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. So I've come up with this, which I like to call The CCO Power Law:

In any meeting in which 50% of the attendees are Chief Creative Officers, 95% of the work will be executed by others.

These days, when I turn on the television, when I listen to the radio, when I listen to the radio on the web, when I watch the news on the web, when I read the newspaper, when I watch television, when I read the newspaper on the internet, when I read my email alerts, my rss feeds, when I click on Google, listen to a podcast on my I Pod, I see and hear the following messages:

Reality television is dead!

30 second commercials are dead!

Broadcasters are dead!

Old business models are dead!

Schedules are dead!

Television is dead!

Everybody is dead -- except iTunes!

And Google!... And You Tube!

And content! Content is king!

And of course -- gameshows! Gameshows are back!

Television is dying, technology is proliferating and content is kind of the network.

But are we living through 'the death of television'? And if it we are, should we kill television before it dies on us? Or should we just kill television before it kills us?

And if television is going to die, to quote Joey from FRIENDS, how will we know which way to point our furniture?

But when we talk about 'the death of television', what do we mean? The television industry feels itself under threat from a group of emerging mass media technologies, those which are usually, and awkwardly, described as 'new', or 'digital', despite the fact that they are no longer new, and that everything is digital, even the things -- like radio, or television for that matter -- which weren't digital in the past. And the industry blames these new digital technologies for a whole host of other ills. The steady decline in audiences, the supposed escalation of copyright infringement, declining budgets for programme making.

The response of the television industry to this perceived threat is, in general terms, about as unimaginative as it's possible to be, and it would be depressing if it weren't so banal. I used to say, five years ago, that if I had a cent for every pitch I'd heard beginning 'Twelve people, twelve weeks, one winner, the audience will decide', I’d be rich. Now, if someone would like to give me a cent every time I heard someone say 'It's a way to bring User Generated Content to television', I'd be even happier, because I'd be richer. Given this kind of response, I sometimes wonder whether audiences are leaving television because it's just not any good.

We can think about whether television is going to die in two ways. First, by looking backwards, at the history of the mass media, and second, by looking forward, and trying to understand some of the impulses behind what is going on, behind media proliferation.

The simple historical fact is that mass communication technologies are never replaced by newer technologies. They co-exist, while continuing to evolve. We still have the newspaper, the telephone, the radio, and the movies, despite the fact that each of these was at the time of introduction viewed as the beginning of the end for the other.

The only mass communication medium in history to have been replaced by another is the telegraph, a service which began in 1851 with the founding of the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company and spanned 150 years, ending finally on January 27, 2006, when Western Union discontinued the service. Western Union report that telegrams sent had fallen to 20,000 per year, due to competition from other communication technologies, including -- and probably mainly -- email. Arguably, of course, the telegram was not a mass communication technology."

Update: go on to part 2, part 3

(c) Gary Carter 2006

WSJ to Offer Smelly Ads

The Wall Street Journal plans to offer scented ad units (inserts) in the regular issues of the paper, write AdAge and Media Life. The paper's publisher suggested experimenting with the smell of new money. A killer idea for a financial services ad.

More odorous headlines from the past:

Adverlab's Bestsellers

If you ever get out of your RSS seclusion and visit Adverlab in person, you'll notice that among other design changes introduced in November, there's this feature on the top of the site that shows three handpicked books from Amazon on a particular topic that changes every few weeks. Apparently this feature is fairly useful because so far you guys have bought 116 books with about a dozen more in transit. Here are the Adverlab bestsellers for January -- the three books that have been gobbled up in much larger quantities than the others.

Hoopla: The undisputed leader in sales on Adverlab, this book offers a behind-the-scenes look into the workings of Crispin, Porter + Bogusky (first appeared in this post).

Advertising is Dead: a richly illustrated, annotated and cleverly categorized compendium of untraditional advertising approaches (reviewed in this post).

Convergence Culture: Henry Jenkins's seminal work that sparked the lively discussion about transmedia planning (first announced in this post).

These books did very well, too:

I've got two more to review next week: Punk Marketing: Get Off Your Ass and Join the Revolution (one of the authors used to work at CP+B, the other one wrote Full Front PR) and Kevin Roberts's sequel to Lovemarks (watch Grant McCracken rip the first one apart).

Advertisers Eye Comics

Lydia Loizides, a former executive at the recently disbanded IPG Consumer Experience Practice, writes on her blog and Media Post: "From the big screen to the little screen to the paper screen, this genre of periodicals -- once considered a medium for the weird, the nerdy, the uncool -- has become mainstream. But where are the advertisers? And I don't mean the ones chasing 12- to 16-year-olds. I am talking about the brands chasing those of us who were the weird, the nerdy, the uncool 20 years ago. Well, a few have caught on -- but honestly, not enough." She provides a cool amount of relevant readership and demographic data, too.

Here's some background on ads in comics as covered earlier on Adverlab:
Product Placement Returns to Comics
Comeback: Advertising in Comics
Corbis To License Marvel's Supermen

And some history:
Comics in Advertising
Dr. Seuss & Advertising in Cartoons

And some techie stuff:
Comics on iPod
Comics on Cell Phones
Interactive Forked Comic Strips
Interactive Comics
Variance Press releases Comics for the Sony PSP

Real Mystery Shoppers

Retailers, beware. The Big Customer is watching you! And takes pictures. And blogs.

A photoset on Flickr showing a SC Wal-Mart store.

Paul at Hee-Haw Marketing went shopping at Kohl's and shared his impressions.

A blogger keeps a watchful but friendly eye on McDonald's over at McChronicles.

Friday Special: Lexicological Rant

Language fashions are very disturbing. It's like when everyone wears stripes and it doesn't matter if they make you look too thin or too fat, just as stripes usually do. Here's a short blacklist of words that have been annoying the hell out of me.

1. Disruptive. You can't make a step these days without being disrupted, usually by something revolutionary. "Check out this totally disruptive web2.0 thing I've come up with!" "Wow! Very disruptive!"

2. Vlogs, as in "you can stick your vlog up your vortal."

3. Conversations, as in "Hello, can I please have a pound of that ham over there please?" "Uhm, no, the Cluetrain manifesto says it's all about conversation these days. The disruptive ones." I don't mind a friendly chat, but why do I need to have a "conversation" every time I want my toilet unclogged?

4. Unwarranted portmanteau words: craptastic, fantastilicious. Oh, and "zen".

5. Made-up company names. It's like learning a foreign language, seriously: "Eskobo, trumba vimeo?" "Renkoo!!! Oy ogi yedda chatsum, zimbra bloglog qoop." We could use it as the new "lorem ipsum" filler.


Image: NASCAR SimRacing 2005, Gamespot

ClickZ: "The interactive arm of Turner Sports, which owns the interactive rights to NASCAR, will roll out a new paid access 3-D application that gives users a video game-like experience while following drivers during live races.
The new 3-D feature, called TrackPass RaceView [designed by Sportvision], will cost $12.95 per month or $79.95 a year and give Turner Sports New Media a new revenue-generating component on the popular destination."

If it does look like a video game, I wonder what billboards you'll see on the screens -- the original or digitally inserted ones?

Future: Target Advertising By Body Odor

Telegraph: "Researchers have developed a way of analysing the traces of scent that every person leaves behind. [They have] found a way to collect samples that are as free of contamination as possible and analyse them using an "electronic nose" that breaks the scent down into its component chemicals. The technique is already being considered for use with forensic evidence such as DNA and fingerprints. Body odour could also be used in biometric passports."

Wouldn't it be great to flash in-store deodorant ads to people who need one right away?

PSA: How to Turn Off Snap Pop-Up

If you are annoyed at this new Snap preview-in-a-bubble blog fad that jump on your mouse's every move, turn it off by clicking on "options" in the right top corner.

Rumor: Google Planning Virtual World

For the record: Blogs today are widely broadcasting a rumor "from an academic who heard through the PhD grapevine" and passed on by a VC that Google is putting together pieces to create a SL-like virtual world based on Google Earth. You've heard it all back in May. It makes more sense now that another rumor has it that Google is shopping for a ad-to-games serving company. ZDNet blog warns, "I'd be careful not to pay too much attention to a rumor put out by a partner in the VC firm that owns a substantial stake in Second Life — any news of Google creating its own virtual world is sure to drive up acquisition interest in Second Life from the search giant's competitors."

If this is truly the direction Google has taken, it will need to get it some physics and perhaps AI engines. Another acquisition?

Three thoughts on Second Life:
1. If Second Life wants to survive, it needs to open its tech and let people host their own sims (islands), much like they host websites now. Maybe it can package and sell its own "operating system" and charge money for that, and for having the off-grid sims integrated into the world to allow teleports. There's also a need for an external editing tool for 3D objects.

2. Can anyone calculate the dollar value of all Linden currency in circulation? It seems like a perfect business model for Linden Lab -- sell Lindens for dollars at a more or less fixed rate and re-invest the dollar mass. And you can cash out only through the auction-based LindeX (or privately through PayPal), there's no danger of a bank run since the "sell" value of Linden$ will drop nearly to zero as the supply surges.

3. Is Second Life the only place in the US now where you can legally gamble online? Here's what Linden's laywer has to say. (He also says, "Linden Lab does not offer any right of redemption for any sum of money, or any other guarantee of monetary value, for Linden Dollars." That's regarding the previous point).

Listen to Podcasts on Your Phone

Finally! Earkive lets you listen to podcasts it has aggregated by dialing 1.646.401.0940 and a four-digit podcast ID. No downloading, no transferring, no cables, no hassle, although you do need to remember the IDs unless your phone supports dialing macros. Put your free minutes and that Bluetooth earpiece to good use (until your carrier blocks the number, that is). Or put a clever-sounding podcast on speaker and let your boss think you are on a conference call.


Duh: Mobile Phones Are Voice-Centric Media
Why eBay Really Bought Skype

(Subliminal) One-Frame Ad

YouTubbers (over 120K of them as of this writing) are abuzz over a video that shows how a single frame adorned with McD's logo pops up on Iron Chef.

keywords: McDonalds, YouTube, video, subliminal

Ads in Game Easter Eggs

An interesting and rare article -- from AP, of all organizations -- about brands being disguised as Easter Eggs and cheat codes:

"In-game advertising has been going on for years as marketers try to reach people who have largely stopped watching television.

But beyond running crass advertisements on billboards written into the gaming landscape, many game developers now accept product placements for milk, DVDs and other wares, embedding them deep into the game's software codes. You would need the type of secret tips and tricks long circulated for unlocking special powers and other bonuses.

The standard advertisements are not waning. But gaming executives say the newer, unusual pitches are more effective: They can be funny and tap into many gamers' desires to explore the darkest nooks and crannies of a game and discover tricks they can boast to friends."

-- AP, Rachel Konrad (in case the original article goes offline), "Game firms profit from ads, cheats"

Get a First Life

You have to see this.

Print-on-Demand Newspapers

A follow-up on this post from last week about newspapers in pdf and on demand:

"NewspaperDirect's Print-on-Demand solution enables out-of-market newspapers to be easily printed in different types of locations around the globe. This flexible and unique solution is powered by the ND PrintStation, which consists of a standard digital printer and a PC with our subscription and printing management software. When connected to the Internet, the PrintStation downloads and prints a single or multiple copies of the newspapers available on the NewspaperDirect network [about 250 titles].

To reduce transportation costs and ensure newspapers are available on a same-day basis, PrintStations are located as close as possible to the newspaper consumer. These locations include offices of our distributors, hotels, cruise ships, retail shops, libraries, corporate offices, yachts & marinas and conference centers."

-- via Future Perfect

Newspapers in PDF Format Catching On

Bebo Gives Users Control over Ads

Bebo lets users fine-tune what banners they see.

Tooting my own horn again. "If people are to endure ads on their MySpace pages, at least let them and their friends pick the ads to see." That's from an Adverlab post back last March.

And this is from a last month's AdWeek: "In 2007, Bebo [MySpace's British competitor] plans to add advertiser-supported widgets, like interactive games, which users can opt to add to their profiles. Advertiser applications will get a featured spot in the Bebo Widgets gallery. [...] One of the ways it plans to win over users is giving them more say in the site's advertising, rather than plaster it with banner placements." (via Interactive Marketing Trends).

How to Advertise on Social Networking Sites

Offtopic: Tagged Five Things

Was going through the email that's piled up over a month of travel and discovered I got tagged by Alan, Henry and Vincent (AdAge wrote about it, too). The five things from me:

  • The best leads for Adverlab come from blogs that don't have anything to do with advertising.
  • In the fairly near future, most of the advertising will be targeted at robots, not humans.
  • Radio is underrated. There's so much cool stuff you can do with just voice.
  • Love commercials. They spend 30 seconds to tell the same story that takes a TV show a whole hour.
  • On a personal note (which, I think, is the whole point of the game): I read fiction books online (Gutenberg,, BitTorrents) and barely own any hard copies. The six games that have been sitting on my computer for the past three years are the last two GTAs, Sim City, Far Cry, Call of Duty and Rise of Nations. My favorite party game is Mafia. I love Ramen noodles and can't stand beans. I think too much of our culture is disposable. Have been on Hotmail since 1997, on Blogger since 2002, and still use only ICQ for IM, but have bought an iPod only last year. Am not psyched about the iPhone (but its interface does rock). Am a PC fan but my favorite piece of hardware is that small aluminum Mac laptop that I wish could run Windows.

The next taggees: Steve Hall at AdRants and Regine at We Make Money Not Art.

Marketplace for In-Game Ads

"V-Lodge is aiming to create the marketplace of choice for in-game advertising. The market is still undeveloped, but a novel aspect of the V-Lodge model calls for creating relationships between game developers with companies seeking product placement in video games." (press release)
-- thanks, John

Create Your Own QR Code

You've read about QR codes before, and even about their 3D implementations capable of storing up to 1.8 Mb of data. Mike Fiorella from Japan Marketing News points to this article that says that "fast food brands are now printing these codes on sandwich wrappers. One quick scan and you're instantaneously provided with nutritional and/or ingredient information. As you'd expect, QR codes increasingly appear on packaged goods too." Most of the cell phones in Japan now come preinstalled with appropriate software.

You can create your very own QR code using this handy generator. If you had a QR-capable phone, you'd know that the code above says, "Read AdverLab to get a clear view of the advertising future."
-- thanks, Mike

Google Could Buy In-Game Ads Firm

CNN: "Google is in talks to acquire Adscape Media in a move to expand beyond its traditional Internet search advertising business and into video games, a news report said Saturday. The Wall Street Journal [sub.], citing people familiar with the matter, reported on its Web site that Google [the] closely held San Francisco firm whose technology allows for the placement of ads over the Web in video games. A deal could be reached as early as next week, the report said.

The report said that one person in the know said that for several months Google has been discussing with game publishers the prospect of delivering ads over the Internet into the action of their games."

I think that besides the obvious implications of the acquisition, the analytics drawn from 3D game environments will help Google to hone it's rumored contextual billboards offering. Also, could this be another sign that Google Earth is becoming a Second Life-like platform?

Microsoft Launches Virtual Earth with Billboards
Microsoft Acquires Massive
Google Earth Becoming Virtual World

NY Times: Ads Everywhere

Last week, NY Times ran a predictable but entertaining feature about the abundance of out-of-home ads. An interesting quote from Starcom's VP Jack Sullivan: "If you reach consumers out of the house, they're more likely to act than if they're sitting on their couches." Makes sense. The paper illustrates the article with these wonderful specimen:

Dice placed in pubs by Absolut, apparently designed to assist decision-making much like this randomizer wheel from Burger King.

Clothing designer Perry Ellis gave away "594,000 free shirt boxes and hanging bags to dry cleaners in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco last year". I want one. Why can't all cheepies-freebies look that cool?

This is as evil as it is awesome: ads for Children's Tylenol in pediatricians' examination rooms. Even beats the ads in school buses (in sound, too).

Libido-Enhancing Scent Patch

Someone who figures out how to spray stores with this thing will move a lot of merchandise:

"Scentuelle is an innovative aromachology product designed to help stimulate the libido. The small, transparent patch has been impregnated with a unique combination of scent molecules. Smelling the patch at frequent intervals throughout the day triggers sexual feelings and desire."
-- via Cool Business Ideas

Recommended reading on the subject:


Concept: Social Retailing

Welcome Social Retailing (TM) - a technology developed and trademarked by IconNicholson and demoed at the National Retail Federation conference's Store of the Future exhibition. USA Today describes it (in an excellent overview of the retail trends) as an "interactive mirror for use outside fitting rooms that will stream high-definition video of shoppers modeling clothes to their friends' computers or mobile devices. It also allows the friends to comment on the outfits and to select other designs in the collection for the shopper to try."

The article also talks about how the retailers, finally, are upgrading the dressing rooms with more hooks, larger stalls, better mirrors and more natural lights. And here's an overview of the expo from eWeek.

Here's the plan of the booth with a list of the exhibitors [click it to zoom in]:

Animated mannequins with face recognition
Smart Fitting Room Gives Fashion Advice
Mirror as Intelligent Computer Display

Study: Brands in Virtual Laguna Beach

"MTV's 4-month-old virtual world has been testing advertiser integrations with Cingular, Pepsi and Procter & Gamble's Secret. So far, according to MTV, 350,000 registered users are spending an average of 36 minutes on each visit."

Cingular used Virtual Laguna Beach to promote the fact it's all about communication, creating a virtual rep that acted as a party promoter, dishing out info on in-world social events. By interacting with him, users got bonus rewards such as VoIP access, skins for the instant-messaging player and animations of cellphones. Pepsi published an in-world 'zine that offers new areas of the world. By increasing their in-world skills, users can rack up MTV dollars for in-world purchases or Pepsi-branded items. Secret extended its "Tell us your secret" campaign with virtual booths where avatars could air their secrets for a chance to win a virtual cash prize."
-- AdAge

New Ad Automation Agency To Open

Omnicom's agency Zimmerman will launch a new do-ad-yourself "virtual agency" called Pick-N-Click-Ads, with the official showing due on Feb.3. "The site will allow users who pay a flat "all you can eat" fee to make their own TV, print, radio and interactive ads." It will enable "the user, however stupid or inexperienced, to build a professional-standard ad via a series of simple drop-down menus, all in 15 minutes." Besides Spot Runner, there's at least one other company offering similar services - Visible World.

Funny, this guy thinks he'll be getting money for the cybersquatted domain.

Spot Runner Sells Reusable Modular TV Ads Online
White Paper on Value of Digital Asset Management for Ad Agencies
Digital Management of Advertising Assets
Industry Embraces Uniform Ad Identification

Offtopic: iPhone Will Need Marketing

"The iPhone hardly needs marketing, right? It's a jaw-droppingly beautiful piece of design, from a company renowned for good customer experience, and it's already been lauded to the skies by every newspaper, magazine and blog you can name." Right? Wrong, says AdAge.

What's interesting is the timing of the iPhone unveiling. Most of other Apple's gadgets had been made available for sale on the very day of the respective announcements. Here, we have to wait half a year. Why the rush? Is Jobs "wagging the dog" over the backdating scandal? Is there some other big device coming? But as I said, this is way offtopic.

Update (later that night): Computerworld, too, thinks Steve blew it by raising expectations too high, spurring his competitors, putting iPod sales at risk and for a few other reasons.

Billboards With Face Recognition from Microsoft

"Engineers at Microsoft have developed a prototype advertising system that uses a small video camera and facial-recognition software to try to determine a viewer's gender and select an appropriate ad to display. The system is intended for use with large video screens in public places, such as shopping malls. It's one of the projects being pursued inside Microsoft's adCenter Labs.

"I really believe that the future of the entire advertising industry is sitting in this room," said David Jakubowski, general manager of Microsoft's overall adCenter advertising system."

MINI Tests Personalized Billboards
Google Eyes Contextual Billboards

Usability in Movies

Jakob Nielsen writes that the unrealistic portrayal of usability in the movies is not really a big deal except that "Research funding and management expectations are subtly biased by the incessant emphasis on unrealistic UI design such as voice, 3D, avatars, and AI. When you see something work as part of a coherent and exciting story, you start wanting it. You even start believing in it. After all, we've seen 3D and voice so often that we've developed an implicit belief in their usefulness."

Friday Special: Carmen Electra & Coke

Adrants would be so proud. More pictures at Gorilla Mask.

LCD Price Tags

In Japan, Sharp has created price tags equipped with liquid-crystal displays and is bringing them to the supermarkets. "The tags will also be able to display information other than just price, such as place of origin and sell-by date," writes Plastic Bamboo.

E Ink: Digital Price Tags

Want Free iPhone?

Spammers are the nimblest of marketers ever one step ahead of everyone else, in this case Steve Jobs. Direct your iPhone-related inquiries to

Designing Usable Conferences

Creating usable conferences means helping attendees achieve two major goals: to learn something new and to meet new business partners. Conferences usually have good content and bring the right people under one roof, and here's what I'd do to make that content more accessible and the networking more effective.


- In case of several concurrent tracks of panels, attendees must choose some of them at the expense of the others. Often, they tend to shop around: pop into one room, listen for a bit, and then head out to see what's across the hall. I would put out TV screens or at least speakers either outside the rooms or in one central location to make the comparison-shopping easier and to give access to people who couldn't get into the overcrowded rooms.

- There's no reason why moderators should run the panels, especially if they are asking pre-canned questions they think would be interesting to the audience. It would be more logical for attendees to post their own questions beforehand, perhaps online, and for moderators to pick the most interesting of those.

- South by Southwest had people to vote for the most interesting panel topics from a list distributed long in advance. Great idea.

- The politburo-style seating of the panelists as well as their number -- usually around five -- sucks. Can you imagine Steve Jobs on a panel? Speakers, if they have something to say, should have all the stage for themselves. Line them up for the Q&A afterwards.
Alternatively, have two people debating a controversial topic.

- If you have to have five people sitting on the stage at the same time with four of them snoozing, sipping water, or picking their noses as the fifth speaks, direct a spotlight at the speaker.

- Nobody can read those name tags on the table so it's hard to put the words in the context unless the speakers are famous enough not to require introduction. I'd put bigger signs with their names and some info behind and above the speakers on some stands.


- Murphy's law of the badges: badges hanging on lanyards will flip backwards. Print on both sides.

- Have a second badge that can be stuck onto the tote bag. It's kind of hard to be discreet while squinting at someone's badge and figuring out whether it's worth to strike a conversation.

- Print names, companies, and services these companies provide in a VERY LARGE FONT. Kill the event's logo -- the tag design should be enough to tell the participants from the outsiders apart. I've seen tags that have the conference dates, venue and description, the point of which remains a mystery.

- Have a better system for color coding. Usually, tags come in five flavors - for organizers, press, speakers, exhibitors, and everybody else. I don't really see a reason for having a special tag for the speakers unless they get better lunch boxes. I'm debating the need for a separate color for the press, but whatever -- if you have to, code these colors into the lanyards. For the tags, I'd create a color system that will indicate whether the attendee is looking to sell or buy something, and what. The tag coding can be done by the users themselves -- simply give them the system, a cheat sheet and a bunch of color stickers. So, if I stick green, yellow and brown, this would mean that I'm looking to sell (green) ad space (yellow) on a blog (brown).

- Have a bulletin board where people can post notes for others. I'd love to see a machine that gives away business cards preloaded by others, and at the very least, by the panelists. And numbered and colored meeting stations, so that people can prearrange meet-ups with someone they don't yet know.

- I'm yet to see a perfectly usable conference bag. Those shoulder/carrier bags are the worst, since people usually already have one in which they carry their laptops, so now they are stuck with two. More usable would be a simple canvass tote bag with five pockets on the outside: a notebook (with a notebook inside), the schedule and map, a pen, my business cards, and business cards I collect. That, plus a pocket for the name tag.

SL Screens: Sears, Circuit City

As announced earlier, Sears got itself some Second Life presence on IBM's island. Right next to it is a Circuit City building (press release). Unlike many other corporate builds, these ones offer a degree of interactivity. Both solicit visitor feedback that can by simply typed into the chat line. Like Dell, Sears allows to place orders for certain items through its website, which opens in a separate browser window.

But the main component of the Sears build are showrooms on three floors for kitchen appliances, garage stuff, and media rooms (four possible layouts of the latter you see above). The devices are supposed to represent real-world goods, the flat-screen TVs are Sony Bravia and, I think, Panasonic.

A nice interactive installation shows the possibilities of Craftsman: you click on the poster and the assorted stuff flies from the floor and right into the cabinet.

Circuit City's build is apparently in its first stage and there isn't much to do there yet. Washington Post writes that the company got the build for free and that it uses the showroom to "observe virtual world behavior and get feedback". The big screen to the left plays an IGN trailer for a Ubisoft game.

On the second floor (of two), you can press arrows to move the couch and the screen on the wall changes in size. The set-up is called Digital Advisor and is apparently designed to help people make up their minds about flat screens.

A bunch of iPods. They, unlike the bootlegs that were circulating around a year ago, are not preloaded with music, but instead are tuned into different radio (streaming, that is) stations.

MINI Tests Personalized Billboards

Last year, I wrote about how all the pieces were already in place to create Minority Report style billboards that address shoppers by name. Today, fiction has become reality in a test run by MINI: "The idea is simple, first give MINI USA some irreverent information about yourself (nothing too personal). MINI USA then sends out a special keyfob (4-6 weeks after sign-up) that identifies you to each of the Motorboards you pass. When the boards detect that you are about the drive by, they deliver a personal message based on the information you originally gave."
-- Motoring File via Digital Signage News

Google Eyes Contextual Billboards
White Noise on Future of Advertising
Another "Minority Report" Interface
Mini Billboards, Part I
Mini Billboards, Part II

Creating Games with Google Earth

A group of developers shares their experience of designing "Mars Sucks" -- a game prototype that runs entirely inside Google Earth. "We decided to overlay an image of a Martian craft cockpit over the Google Earth window and let the standard Google Earth controls handle moving around the globe. In the cockpit, players see a sequence of clues about the location of each Martian invader. Each clue gets more specific about where to find the Martian."
-- via pasta and vinegar

PSA: Work at Hill Holliday

Tolerable weather improving with global warming, breathtaking views, incredible people, very interesting things to get done, open positions.

Meet at NATPE

Say hi if you see me.

I'll be at National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) conference in Las Vegas over the next few days and would love to meet if you are there, too (drop me a line). Arriving on Sunday noon and the rest of the day is wide open -- first time in Vegas, so you'll find me somewhere gambling away my blog ad revenue. On Tuesday, I'll be in Ballroom I between 5-6pm on a fan cultures panel talking about the difference between brand loyals and brand fans and the typology of the latter. Watch for live reports on HHCC blog.

Google Eyes Contextual Billboards

Google filed for patent last month describing a technology that powers electronic billboards and displays contextual info on local merchants:

"Systems and methods for allocating space for advertisements in a network of electronic display devices are provided. Attribute information indicating retailer and categories of products available for purchase in the vicinity of a display device is maintained for each device in a database.

Advertisers may upload advertisement messages to a server specifying information such as budget, price per impression, preferred billboards and/or other constraints. One or more keywords or other descriptors are specified for each advertisement message. The system then generates an advertising campaign specifying where the advertisement message is to be output and send the messages to the specified displays. The output may consist of various forms including video, audio, printed incentive, interactive data transfers and/or combinations of these."

-- via New Scientist, Seeking Alpha

Book: Long Live Advertising

Got a review copy today of "Advertising is Dead! Long Live Advertising!" (selling for under $40 on Amazon) -- a rich and colorful album of guerilla and unorthodox outdoor advertising. If you follow this blog as well as Billboardom, Advertising for Peanuts, Coolzor's, Coloribus or Frederik Samuel's, (the book is like all these blogs printed out together, cleaned up and nicely bound) then many of the campaigns will be familiar, but you will also find context and background that bloggers often miss. Many other outstanding campaigns the authors covered (a total of 230) haven't surfaced in the blogosphere at all. The book also categorizes the campaigns by their conceptual approach: sensation, installation, transformation, augmentation among others, much like we did in the rethinking print post. It's a great book that will get you hours of either inspiration or frustration if you stumble across a brilliant but unrealized idea of yours.