On-screen TV Shopping from ICE

ICE is working to give your TV some shopping capabilities: "ICE Innovative Technologies is a new interactive television technology accessible with a standard TV or cable remote control. With just a touch of a button, viewers can access lists of products showcased in any TV entertainment and purchase them in seconds. With ICE, marketers can use entertainment (product placement) as a superior alternative to traditional TV advertising (being eroded by DVR technology), and connect directly to their consumer to immediately satisfy the buyer's desire and impulse to purchase."
-- via TrendCentral

Adsensemeter Estimates Ad Earnings

Curious how much money that other blogger is making (or could be if he ran ads)? Head over to Adsensemeter, your friendly AdSense income estimator. Depending on how you read the numbers (are June's earnings projected or to-date?), it's either very accurate or not at all.

Fog Screen

Here's a pretty cool piece of tech. It's a screen made of dry fog, which means it's a screen you can walk through. More officially, "Using nothing more than tap water and ultrasonic waves, FogScreen projection screen machines employ a patented technology to create a smooth foggy airflow that captures images just like a screen. You can walk right through a FogScreen projection screen without getting wet. The microscopic fog droplets actually feel dry to the touch, just like air." Wonder if you can combine it with Reactrix.

Walking Vending Machine Mascot

Don't know much about it, but it looks like this walking humanoid vending machine is a mascot of a Coke's campaign in Japan. There are a couple of videos on YouTube (here's one). Apparently, the robot is cast in a superhero role, too.
-- via Japan Probe

Japan Probe also writes about plans by a Japanese company to install vending machines that would dispense stuff at lower prices or for free in exchange for viewing ads.


Hott Naked Movers

"Amateur" advertising never ceases to amaze. This is a real Craigslist post for a moving company I stumbled upon when looking for one today. Which also explains why this blog has been silent for the past week. If you remember the orange bathroom from last year -- and apparently many do because I keep getting comments about it -- well, one more week and it's gone. The guy who bought the house we've been renting is inheriting a lot of colorful walls.

Device Measures Engagement Through Face Recognition

image source

A piece of news from last year's New Scientist that surfaced on Digg today: Media Lab students built a device that alerts people suffering from autism to social cues. "The "emotional social intelligence prosthetic" device [...] consists of a camera small enough to be pinned to the side of a pair of glasses, connected to a hand-held computer running image recognition software plus software that can read the emotions these images show. If the wearer seems to be failing to engage his or her listener, the software makes the hand-held computer vibrate."

"The software picks out movements of the eyebrows, lips and nose, and tracks head movements such as tilting, nodding and shaking, which it then associates with the emotion the actor was showing. When presented with fresh video clips, the software gets people's emotions right 90 per cent of the time when the clips are of actors, and 64 per cent of the time on footage of ordinary people."

This looks like a much more graceful alternative to sticking your research subjects into a brain scanner to see if your ads activate something. In the future, all TVs or whatever media devices we'll have instead should come with this thing built in.

This is the Media Lab group's page with a few other details.

Swedish Uni Works on Fourth-Gen Paper

BBC broke the news yesterday (thanks to John for the tip): "Researchers from Mid Sweden University have constructed an interactive paper billboard that emits recorded sound in response to a user's touch. The prototype display uses conductive inks, which are sensitive to pressure, and printed speakers."

After some digging and struggling with Swedish (the ways one navigates pages in completely unfamiliar languages would make an interesting usability study), I fished out some details and links.

The "billboard", it seems, is part of this Paper IV project that's been going on at Mid Sweden University: "We believe that the technologies that will be developed initially will be of interest to popular magazines and newspapers, and we will focus our attention there to start with. However, we will also study, in parallel, the feasibility of implementing these technologies in billboards and product displays of various types." Here's a video showing the technology at work (the above picture is a screengrab of this). Also see some other related projects the group is working on.

Very Targeted Banner from Orbitz

Sorry for the lack of posts in the past few days; was working on something else this past week that I hope to be able to share soon. Am back though.

Here's some Minority Report advertising for you. See, I've been looking for a last minute ticket to Chisinau (?), a city that's definitely not a top summer destination. I looked at Travelocity, Yahoo (but not Orbitz), typed the query into Google, then called someone up on a friend's reference, found a good deal, and forgot about the whole thing.

Then I go to Technorati for something completely unrelated, and there I see this Orbitz banner that apparently was generated dynamically based on some sort of data stored on my computer.

My question is, what exactly is this banner using for targeting? My guess would be that it's a Google search string saved as URL in history that was picked up on a third-party site by the network serving these banners. I think I also might have used an obscure site that could've been powered by Orbitz, which would be a good explanation. Leave a comment (moderated) or drop me a line if you know. Oh, and wouldn't it be cool if the banner could pull up actual pricing from the database? (No, because Orbitz's prices are at least twice the amount I ended up paying).

Book: Branded Entertainment

Over the past couple of months, I'd received several books for review but the time constraints were such that it is only now that I can sit down and pay them the attention they deserve. You will see more reviews coming in the next few days. Today, and with apologies for the delay, I'm looking at Branded Entertainment: Product Placement and Brand Strategy in the Entertainment Business by Jean-Marc Lehu, published by Kogan Page. The book has arrived in March in its beta (uncorrected proof) version, and has since been officially published.

The editorial review on Amazon says, "Branded Entertainment by Jean-Marc Lehu is the most comprehensive portrayal of events that surrounded the evolution of product placement -- a must read basic tool for anyone who is involved with the media industry." It might as well be the most comprehensive since the books on the subject are few (see the list at the end of this post) but it's hardly encyclopedic, and it's probably leaning more towards being just basic.

The book is written in an accessible language with a heavy flavor of academia. If anything, it reads like a very well researched paper with an abundance of examples and illustrations, which is a goldmine for like-minded scholars but can be overwhelming for the general reader. The sheer number of examples does not leave any room for any in-depth case studies that a practitioner would find useful, and yet, strangely, the book in its beta version lacks an index [update on July 14, 2007: the final version does have an index].

This lack of depth and misplaced accents are perhaps the biggest flaws of the otherwise fairly useful book. The author talks at length about the death of the 30-second spot pointing at the old suspects -- fragmentation, DVRs, clutter -- but devotes exactly one paragraph to the importance of meaningful integration of a product into the storyline.

The chapter that covers the history of branded entertainment is the most, well, entertaining, and will provide you with plenty of dinner-talk fodder. Lehu talks about product placements in the 19th century plays and speculates about the Bass beer bottles with the red triangular logo in the Edouard Manet's painting.

Yet the eight-page-long chapter teases more than it satisfies and you will probably want to pick up the much more detailed Product Placement in Hollywood Films: A History.

Speaking of Hollywood films. The book devotes one chapter to other opportunities -- video games, books, plays, music lyrics -- and mentions TV shows on occasions, but for the most part it talks about product placements in movies, even though its inclusive Branded Entertainment title suggests otherwise.

Although its back cover says the book is an "essential reading for brand managers, marketing professionals and students of marketing", the two groups that would benefit the most are scholars studying the subject (because of the number of pointers) and budding film producers (the extensive chapter on legal matters will come handy, as well as the bullet points designed to help sell advertisers on the idea).

Yet despite the shortcomings, the book covers a lot of ground very quickly, and can well be imagined on a bookshelf of a curious advertising generalist. It definitely passes my own very subjective value-for-the-money test:

1. Have I learned something new? (Yes)
2. Is it an extended magazine article? (No)
3. Is it painless to read? (Yes)

The examples alone are worth the price of admission ($26 and change).

Other books about product placement and branded entertainment: