Generating Buzz Around Ad Formats

How much excitement can you generate around changing your ads' format? You'd never think anyone cares, but webmasters and bloggers who use AdSense notice every little new tweak in Google's testing program and document it with excitement comparable to that produced by Apple around its products. This week, it's italicized titles (got them on Adverlab and now feel totally special), but some of the weirder ones included small icons, multiple languages or Google logos (more about these tweaks on Quick Online Tips).

My share of buzz:
Google Tests Advertising on Demand
Rumor: Google Tests Video Format for AdSense

Advertising on Hangers Catches On

Funny to watch the information move around. The Hanger Network has been around for a while and got written up on this blog two years ago, but it seems the mainstream media people are just taking notice. Boston Herald from a few days back: "The Hanger Network is rolling out a campaign for shirt-maker Van Heusen by distributing environmentally friendly hangers to dry cleaners from Boston to Manchester, NH. Those commercialized hangers will be used to hang customers shirts, suits and dresses."

As with any other creative media planning exercise, the challenge is to figure out what message would fit best this particular medium. Van Heusen shirts are a good product match but the execution is not taking the full advantage of the contextual opportunities.

Billboards in Google Earth

Bright GIS rents out billboard space all around the (virtual but real) world: "Promote your business through our world-wide network of hundreds of Google Earth Virtual Billboards. Located in dozens of cities around the world, these billboards can serve as the face of your organization in Google Earth. No experience with 3-D modeling necessary! We've already done the hard work for you. Simply provide us with a copy of your promotion, or work with our design team to develop your ad, and we'll take care of the rest."

Microsoft Launches Virtual Earth with Billboards
Local Ads, Anaglyph Buildings in Google Earth
Google Earth Becoming Advertising Tool
Advertising on Google Maps
Google Earth Runs AdWords

Branding the Sun

Second Life's sun with an engraved St. Valentine's message last year.

AdAge today writes about Discovery's Sunrise Earth HD show -- "an hour of panoramic sunrises shot in HD glory at exotic locations around the globe" -- that is looking for ways to attract advertisers. Apparently, they've come up with all sorts of interactive product placement formats. I'd just put the logo on the Sun itself as they do it in Second Life.

Event: Creative Brand Management

A public service announcement: The AdCenter at Virginia Commonwealth University will be be hosting an executive education program in Creative Brand Management the week of March 12-16, 2007. Instructors include:

* Ted Ward, VP Marketing, GEICO
* John Jay, Partner/ECD, Wieden + Kennedy
* Scott Slagle, Senior Brand Manager, Chrysler
* Bill McDonald, EVP, Brand Strategy, Capital One
* Elizabeth Talerman, VP Mktng, Martha Stewart Omnimedia
* George Neill, Corporate VP of Global Marketing, Motorola

Video: Google Theater

You don't usually get many YouTube links on Adverlab, but I've never seen any video work (and only a couple of billboards) from Google before apart from whatever orientation clips they have on their recruitment site, so here. A set of five Google Theater acts about GMail.

Ringtones for Your Car

Or, simply, Horntones. "The Horntones FX-550 system is the first mobile audio system that allows you to customize the sound of your vehicle’s horn function using virtually any standard audio file."

How would you get the tunes to your car? Elementary. Through a fuel dispenser that "is an Internet-ready, WiFi-capable gas pump with a 15-inch touchscreen and speakers, which enables the transfer of media content to other WiFi-enabled devices." Dresser Wayne Ovation²® iX.

Watch the road rage stats go up.

ARG for Nine Inch Nails has a feature on an ongoing alternative reality game (ARG) promoting Nine Inch Nail's upcoming Year Zero album. Details of the game are "currently being disseminated through a series of increasingly spooky — and downright odd — Web sites," such as and

Jane McGonical's ARG Papers

Advertising Through Product Design

Didn't know that Bank of America's popular Keep the Change service was created by Ideo, a product design company. Earlier, I posted a few thoughts about the intelligent design theory for advertising; this is a good illustration of the idea that advertising should be part of product development from the very beginning. Ideo writes, "In less than one year, it attracted 2.5 million customers, translating into more than 700,000 new checking accounts and one million new savings accounts for Bank of America. Impressed by the unique and intuitive nature of the program, 99% of its subscribers have chosen to keep the service--along with their change."

While on Ideo's site, check out this business card project of theirs where a group of designers rethought how the cards will be used in the future as business rituals and values change.

My favorite is this card with perforated elements that you can remove depending on the context of the encounter.

Uses for QR Codes

A few interesting uses for QR codes in case the tech ever catches on in the US.

Business cards. (

Ads for escort services. (Jan Chipchase)

Tattoos. (

Branded QR codes. (

T-shirts. (Jos' Blog)

Billboards. (Ogilvy)

Barcodes for TV Commercials
Create Your Own QR Code
3D Barcodes To Store Video

Automatic Commercial Skipping

image: comskip

The good news: "On average, Nielsen found, DVR owners watch 40 percent of commercials that they could skip over." (IHT)

Onto the bad news. You are probably familiar with technologies that zap pop-ups and even strip banners off websites you are visiting (here's an earlier piece on GreaseMonkey, and see more links at the end). Now imagine a pop-up blocker for TV. If you think that the 30-sec skip button is evil, how about a completely automated way to skip commercials?

Here's a 2004 paper on "Automatic Detection of TV commercials" (pdf, researcher's page): "There are two main categories of methods used to detect commercials. Feature-based detection relies on general characteristics of commercials to detect their presence [things like black frames, silences, variations in sound, absence of broadcaster's logo, etc). Any of the commercial characteristics mentioned earlier could be used to indicate the (possible) presence of a commercial. Recognition-based detection attempts to identify individual commercials in the broadcast as matching commercials it has already learned."

"Comskip is a free mpeg commercial detector. It is a windows console application that reads a mpeg file and analyses the content based on a large amount of configurable parameters. After analysis it generates a file in various possible formats containing the location of the commercials inside the mpeg file." Check out the manual to see how it works.

"For those of you unaware, ever since XP Media Center 2005, there has been this fantastic application called "DVRMS Toolbox," which had a bunch of tools to analyze DVRMS files recorded by Media Center and cut/edit/compress/etc. The only feature I use but found difficult to live without is the Commercial Skip Feature. This does exactly what it suggests, it analyzes your Recorded TV shows, and automatically will skip the commercials while you're watching." (Missing Remote; another review.)

"Simply put, ShowAnalyzer is the most advanced commercial detection program available to the public... plus a little extra."

Already, there are TVs that are shipped with a DVR built in as a standard feature (like this LG plasma). How hard is it to imagine TV sets that come with a commercial filter inside, much like today's web browsers packed with pop-up zappers?

How Geeks Block Ads
Set-top Box Blocks Ads
Commentary: Philips's Ad-Skipping Blocker Good Idea
NY Times on Anti-Ad-Skipping Patent by Philips
Firefox Users Click Less, Kill Ads

Google to Buy Adscape for $23M

Seems like the rumors of Google's intended foray into in-game advertising were not unfounded:

"Google has made a foray into in-game advertising for video games with an agreement to acquire Adscape Media for $23 million, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.

But sources familiar with the in-game ad business said an Adscape acquisition gives Google little beyond a few potentially interesting patents. While market conditions could change rapidly, don't expect the Internet giant to announce big in-game ad deals with publishers like Electronic Arts anytime soon."
-- Red Herring

Google Could Buy In-Game Ads Firm

Future: Edible RFID Tags

Kodak has filed a patent application for edible RFID tags, or more specifically,

"A system for monitoring ingestion of medicine comprising: forming an antenna comprised of metal segments and said medicine; forming a digestible radio frequency identification (RFID) tag comprised of at least one of said antennas; ingesting said RFID tag; receiving signals and power from an external transmitter; transmitting signals from said RFID tag to an external receiver; and monitoring a signal from said RFID tag."
-- via Institute for the Future, New Scientist

They should be making these tags a required food additive. Then fitness clubs could detect that you've just lunched on three pork chops and beam guilt messages with your name on them.

Mobile Phone for Old People

Why did it take so long? The Emporia Telecom (Austria) at the 3GSM congress in Barcelona showcased a phone designed to be used by old people. "The handset they developed has no digital camera, Internet access or instant messaging capabilities, but it does include a button to call relatives or friends in an emergency, is compatible with hearing aids and can run on regular AAA batteries. [...] None of the mainstream handset manufacturers has launched an oldies phone, but some appear to have recognised that enthusiasm for new products and flash handsets is not shared by everyone." This quote is pretty unbelievable: "Finnish manufacturer Nokia, which has a strong reputation for simplicity, has so far desisted from launching a special phone for the elderly" because their market research didn't show strong demand. (Physorg, Yahoo.)

A two-edged sword for the ad people here if the trend catches on. On the one hand, a wider install base among the older demo. On the other hand, the lowest common denominator is pretty low -- pretty much voice only, no Bluetooth, SMS (?), alerts, MMS or other funky stuff.

Duh: Mobile Phones Are Voice-Centric Media

Visual Map-Like Shopping Browser

Brilliance. Pure brilliance., a shopping comparison engine by Dotted Pair that has just launched, works like Google Maps for merchandise. The entire universe of stuff is displayed on one page, and then you can drag it around and zoom in and out. Perfect for shoppers who are not sure about the exact item they are looking for but will know it when they see it. If this interface can be licensed and layered on the top of the existing e-commerce engines, we'll see more stores adopting this approach.
-- thanks to Jeff for the find.

Flashback: Bone Fone

"The Bone Fone put a unique spin on personal stereos--with its wrap-around design unique speaker placement, the vibrations "resonate through your bones--all the way to the sensitive bones of your inner ear" giving the listener breathtaking sound.
-- Pocket Calculator Show

Binaural Advertising
New Headphones Rely on Bone Conductivity

The Bone Fone was one of the many novelty radios reaching a niche radio buyers back in the '70s and early '80s. Joggers, cyclists and disco roller skaters loved the convenience of the handy little radio while exercising; techno-weenies like us appreciated the unusual approach toward high quality stereo sound. The Bone Fone wasn't cheap--it cost over $70 US but included lycra sleeves in an array of colors and even a fabric pattern to create your own."

Toy Fair 2007 Round Up

If you missed this year's Toy Fair that just ended in NYC , below are a few links. If you are wondering why you should care, consider how many media and ad innovations begin or end their lives as toys. If nothing else, toys make cooler promo freebies than branded pens and keyholders. Above: one of the iPlayaz, "a hip-hop figurine that chops its hands in time to the music played over its onboard speaker. That's from Wired's Toy Fair blog. Other links:
-- PhysOrg has an overview
-- ToyFair Times -- the event's newsletter in pdf
-- Need instant snow for your event? Read about it at Anders Frick's article. This blogger also writes about a Mentos-Coke Fountain Kit.
-- A report from Playthings (click around for other parts).

Too bad it's a closed event restricted to the trade. Don't know about any other conference I'd love to go to as much.

Event: Virtual Worlds 2007

"Virtual Worlds Conference 2007 is the event for Fortune 500 businesses seeking to understand and maximize marketing and business strategies within virtual worlds. Participants will receive an inside look at the virtual worlds activities of MTV, Disney, AOL, Pontiac, Leo Burnett, Sundance Channel, GSD&M, IBM and others major brands. Attendees be exposed to a variety of virtual worlds platforms including Second Life,, Multiverse, ProtonMedia, Forterra Systems, Whyville, Entropia Universe, Habbo, Areae and more."

March 28-29, Museum of Jewish Heritage, NYC (directions), $995 ($595 early bird)

E-mail Snail Mail

"PixelLetter is a gateway between your computer and the real mail system. You send us your letter online, we print, fold, envelope, prepay and send it out within 24 hours." Europe only.
-- via Cherryflava

Brain Scan Reads Intentions

Guardian writes: "A team of world-leading neuroscientists has developed a powerful technique that allows them to look deep inside a person's brain and read their intentions before they act. The team used high-resolution brain scans to identify patterns of activity before translating them into meaningful thoughts, revealing what a person planned to do in the near future. It is the first time scientists have succeeded in reading intentions in this way.

How does it work?
The computer learns unique patterns of brain activity or signatures that correspond to different thoughts. It then scans the brain to look for these signatures and predicts what the person is thinking.

What is next?
The researchers are honing the technique to distinguish between passing thoughts and genuine intentions."


Fans of Spam

Fandom is a lot about storytelling (more about it later), and one of the more unlikely subjects for fanfiction is spam.

An Unsolicited Commercial Love Story weaves the appearances of a stock photo model in variaous unrelated spam ads into a dramatic narrative of love and betrayal. "Can this unsolicited commercial storybook opera have come to an end? Only my spam filter knows for sure!"

Lower My Bills Ad Watch follows the evolution of dancing cowboys and stretched-out dogs spawned by the brilliant but often misunderstood minds at

Speaking of which, NY Times runs a story on these ads saying that they bring $4 in revenue on each dollar invested.

Branded Flight Tracks


"The advent of Internet-based flight tracking technology enables an entirely new kind of skywriting. Gulfstream Aerospace sent up one of their $50M business jets today on an 8.5-hour test flight spanning 11 states for the sole purpose of leaving their mark on the Net in the form of a flight track that spells out 'GV' (the nickname of the Gulfstream V aircraft being flown) when viewed online."
-- Slashdot via Pantopicon

Flashback: Poem of the Masses

While everyone's heads are turned to the collaborative wiki novel writing undertaking A Million Penguins that Ars Technica says is not working out too well yet, I wanted to point at a similar project that's been running for at least past seven years -- Poem of the Masses. Can we have a massively-multiplayer advertising campaign, too?

Local Ads, Anaglyph Buildings in Google Earth

Last May, Google was testing its AdWords inside Google Earth and this week bloggers report more sightings. I replicated their experiment: ran a search for "Car Rental" in Boston, MA and got an ad for Budget and a custom logo on the map itself (click image to zoom in).

And while we are on the topic, Google Earth Blog linked (a year ago, but better late than never) to 3D anaglyph models of buildings that can be uploaded into the software (original here).

Google Earth Runs AdWords
Google Earth Becoming Advertising Tool
Microsoft Launches Virtual Earth with Billboards
Google Earth Becoming Advertising Tool
Advertising on Google Maps

In-Game Ads To Be Worth $1.2B in 3 Years

Ed Bartlett, a VP at IGA, talks to
"Here at IGA, we’ve looked at numerous predictions from major analysts in the industry – including reports from Citi, IDC, Yankee Group, Forrester and SIG – and we can confidently state that the in-game advertising industry should be worth at least $1.2 billion by 2010. The growth rate is just phenomenal!”

"By the end of the decade anything the in-game advertising industry is going to be worth anything between £800 million to $2 billion annually. Certainly a billion per annum by 2010 is reachable, whereas at the moment we are at something like $350 million a year. "

The numbers, though optimistic, aren't new, but I just had this "life comes at you fast" moment -- 2010 is only three years away. In other but related news, AdAge writes that "digital-media buyers have a hard time seeing how Google's simplified, automated buying processes could result in effective in-game ads."


If you liked the MINI ride, you will love the MINI desk.
-- via Ubergizmo

Secret Codes in Pizza Hut Ads

Pizza Hut has launched a new text-messaging Cheesy Hunt promo for its Cheesy Bites using the TV ads before and during Super Bowl. "As part of the campaign, viewers can search for a hidden code in both TV spots for a chance to win a new car, an entertainment package or a year's worth of pizza. Once fans see a code, they can text "THEHUT" to 843488 to enter the sweeps. Entrants who text in a code can also opt in to get offers by phone for their local Pizza Hut." (MediaPost, PromoMagazine). Here's an entire branded YouTube channel (in addition to a MySpace profile), go try your luck.

KFC Creates TiVo-Proof Ad

Thoughts on Current Trends

I thought I'd bounce around a few thoughts. It's basically about taking a few key trends and looking at them at a different angle. Don't know what's going to come out of it, but the comments are open (although moderated to kill spam, so no instant gratification).

Branded utility. It seems to be a misnomer; it's not about brands; those already are supposed to provide objective/subjective "utility", it's about communications. It's a great concept, though: imagine designing your packaging so that it can double as kids furniture, for example. Check out this playhouse by Paperpod. It's about planning for second life (not the game) -- designing the product with the entire consumption cycle in mind. It doesn't have to be big; adding a fold-out handle to a paper cup is another good but smaller-scale example of branded utility.

Intelligent design. We need more ads and products that have message propagation mechanisms built into them from the beginning. It's not exactly viral in the popular sense. "Viral" as we know it is about evolution: you drop your messages into a tank with sharks and the fittest/funniest/hippest survives. Intelligent design ads will be like YouTube videos, they will let readers-viewers to take them away and plant elsewhere. Amazon's affiliate links are a great example. Another great example are print ads that decorate walls in dorm rooms. I think this is exactly the logic behind Flip's model.

From Editors-in-Chief to Editors-en-Masse. Consumers may want to be in total control but there's just too much stuff to control. Hence the Rise of Mass Editors -- bloggers, gatekeepers, filterers. Blogging is a lot about putting together compilations of secondary material relevant and valuable to a specific group of readers. It's not so much about citizen journalism as it is about citizen editing. The bigger force is not consumer-generated content, it's consumer-edited content. The mass editing phenomenon of the blogosphere will migrate to other media. It's already happening in online radio and to an extent in online video as well. It will come to the living-room TV, too. People are moving from passing around magazine articles or recipes or VHS tapes to emailed video clips and eventually entire TV schedules. This will be the next big thing after cable; millions of channels put together and shared by citizen editors with 1% being the most popular. Can't wait to see if Apple TV will be it.

Content a-la carte. Speaking of magazine articles, I'd love to see a magazine that comes as a set of unbound sheets in a folder. Kind of like Gum magazine.

Media communism. The means of media production, distribution and consumption are being nationalized. But it's not only the consumer who's benefiting, it's also the advertiser. Advertisers have been creating their own media for years and it's now easier than ever -- from direct mail and printed newsletters to websites, then blogs, and now online TV channels (

HBR on Harry Potter Marketing

Harvard Business Review has come out with the 2007 set of breakthrough ideas. Their selection runs across many industries, including marketing. Last year, HBR has profiled marketing to avatars, this year they offer Harry Potter marketing. The idea is to create brands that age along with the customers just like Harry ages along with his readers, which means consistently targeting age cohorts (say, everyone born between 1978-1982) instead of age demos.

The danger, I think, is that it will be increasingly harder to get new customers into your brand as its story unfolds. It's like Lost - if you miss the first season, what's the point of watching the rest of it?

Flashback: Perfumed Ink for Smelly Ads

Popular Science, April 1940: "A color advertisement that smelled, but smelled beautifully, was printed recently in an Indianapolis, Ind., newspaper to promote the sale of a new perfume. To accomplish this novel feat, green printer’s ink was scented by adding concentrated perfume oil, and applied to the page on which the advertisement appeared by means of a special 'ink fountain' of the type used to print a color on a single page of a large newspaper. The unit, pictured below, can be attached quickly to the press."
-- Modern Mechanix


The Inevitable Super Bowl Post 2

Go rank your faves at YouTube's Supervote. Here are mine: The "connectile dysfunction" by Sprint has a chance to become part of the cubicle pop culture, the Finger by was very clean and straightforward, the two animated Coke spots (1, 2) I've seen before and they are awesome, and the winner is the Immigrants spot for Bud Light. The big trend: robots have joined babies, boobies and talking animals as a must-have; we've seen it last year, we just saw it this year too. Just like last year, the AdWords price for "superbowl commercial" are through the roof as advertisers are capitalizing on the post-game search traffic.

Last year:
The Inevitable Super Bowl Post

"Best Before" Study of Garbage

This is going to make some planner's day. "BEST BEFORE is an evolving project about the relationship between individual and object. Plastic bags have been placed on the doorsteps of homes throughout the New York City area, and individuals have contributed their 'expired' items, documented here as excerpts of small pasts in material form. This is the online archive of items donated to the BEST BEFORE project between August and October, 2006."

If you are into this kind of stuff, check out Rubbish: The Archaelogy of Garbage book written by the same people who ran The Garbage Project in the 1970s.

Future: Talking Ads Take Over Computers

Here's one very interesting glitch brought to you by the new Vista. "George Ou writes in his blog that he found a remote exploit for the new and shiny Vista Speech Control. Specifically, websites playing soundfiles can trigger arbitrary commands." In other words, you go to a website with your speakers and mic on, a banner literally tells your computer "Click here" and your computer does click there. Or maybe buys something for you. How cool is that? There's a discussion on Slashdot, if you are interested.

Jane McGonical's ARG Papers

If you are interested in alternative reality games -- things like I Love Bees or The Art of H3ist -- there are a lot of interesting papers over at the site of Jane McGonical who is a lead designer at 42 Entertainment, the company behind I Love Bees.

A few other links:
I think MIT Convergence Culture Consortium is writing a white paper on the subject, so you might want to check with them, too.

Flip Too Gives Users Control over Ads

Just like Bebo, Condé Nast’s Flip -- a MySpace-like service -- "will offer its users an unprecedented amount of control: over what advertising they see on the site and in what manner it is displayed. [...] The primary ad-units on Flip are nonbranded digital images that members can use however they’d like to populate their 'Flip books' -- which are sort of mini photo albums/diaries/digital scrapbooks that a given user creates within her profile. [...] There are traditional banner ads in some parts of Flip, including on individual profile pages. But even on those pages, the girls themselves decide which brands’ ads will appear during the setup phase."
-- Media Week

Bebo Gives Users Control over Ads
How to Advertise on Social Networking Sites

New Books: Lovermarks 2, Punk Marketing

Reviewing something is always tough because you have to appear authoritative enough to be qualified to pass judgments, and it is a double duty when you don't understand the books you are reviewing. The two books I received in mail last week are just that. On the one hand, there's a lot I don't understand about the two books, including their purpose. On the other hand, it's like, who am I to argue with Tom Peters who called the Lovemarks Effect "just bloody brilliant"? Or, like, one of the Punk Marketing guys used to run CP+B, so he must know what he's talking about. So, I'll shut up after a few quick bullet-pointed impressions:

Punk Marketing: Get Off Your Ass and Join the Revolution:
  • Welcome to another buzzword. In case you are wondering, punk marketing "is a defined approach to doing things differently based upon a clear set of principles for how marketers [...] can use the shift in power to the consumer to their advantage."
  • In the authors' own words, "There is no single idea in this book on which all else hinges." The authors claim it's a feature; I see this lack of focus as a bug.
  • It's informal and chatty, which makes it accessible to a wider audience but perhaps too verbose for a specialist who is looking for something new to learn.
  • It often interrupts itself with footnotes that amount to little more than a "Hey, ma, look at me!" hand wave.
  • The examples it cites are very fresh (the book is due in February). Some of them are not blogosphere's common knowledge.
Whether you'll learn anything new from this book depends on how deep under the rock you've been living for the past few years. If you have an RSS reader tuned into a dozen popular industry blogs and have visited a few recent conferences, you are probably all set. If you don't, the book sums up a couple of years worth of blog posts rather nicely.

The back cover says the book is a guide for "marketing zealots seeking to overthrow the remains of marketing as we know it." Zealots aside, I can see how this book can be useful in an advertising or marketing class as a secondary reading. It's about $18 on Amazon.

The Lovemarks Effect: Winning in the Consumer Revolution. Top reasons why you should buy it:
  • It will look nice on your coffee table or next to the first Lovermarks book.
  • It's more of the same (that is, if you liked "the same").
  • Lots of interviews with important marketing people -- makes for a good conversation starter should you bump into one of them.
  • One of them is John Fleming, CMO of Wal-Mart -- who would've thought Wal-Mart is a lovemark.
  • This quote from the CEO of Victorinox, "There's nothing more intimate than exploring the various blades and functions on a Swiss Army knife."
  • You should be able to expense it if you work in Saatchi.
  • The concepts are easy to convert into good-looking PowerPoint decks.
This is probably one of the best reviews of the original Lovermarks: "When I was a teenager we had lovemarks. They were called hickeys." But seriously, for all the shortcomings of the first book, it deserves credit for cramming a lot of marketing thought into one word and the second book takes off where the first one stopped. The Lovermarks Effect is about $21 on Amazon.

Here's a bonus for those who've made it that far into the post: Showmanship in Business from 1939. The last time I looked, there were two left on Amazon, but there should be a few more over at Abe Books. It talks about passion, mystery, emotions, guerrilla stunts -- all that lovermarky and punky stuff minus the filler. How's this for a 70-year-old piece of pre-Cluetrain ad wisdom: "Showmanship [is] an accurate appreciation of the other man's interest [and] the presentation of one's own proposition in a skillfully colored adaptation to, or portrayal of, the other fellow's sense of values."