Gorbie Shills for Louis Vuitton

The first (and the last) president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, stars in the latest LV campaign along with other celebs. NY Times: "Of the group, Mr. Gorbachev appears the least comfortable. He is holding on to a door handle, as if the bag contained polonium 210."

See his Pizza Hut performance a decade ago.

Offtopic: Chavez's Endorsement Pushes Chomsky To Top of Charts

Explay Develops Nano Projector

"Explay has developed the world's smallest projector, a revolutionary nano-projector engine small enough to fit inside your pocket or be embedded in your mobile device, allowing you to truly enjoy the big picture wherever you are." The company says the screen size will range from 7" to 30". A working device has been demoed last May.

Do you know if there are any projectors that you can hang vertically so that it projects up or down the wall? If not (and I suspect not), is it impossible for reasons that have to do with how optics work? Very curious.

Korean Company Shows Prototype Of Pocket-Size Projector
Siemens Shows Off Phone With Projector
Future: Virtual (Not Only) Keyboard
Future: Personal Video Projectors

Hackers Turn iPhone into Web Server

Gizmodo: "Hacker NerveGas and the people at #iphone-shell have built Apache, Python and other Open Source apps for the iPhone. Yes, your iPhone can now be a web server and do all sort of 1337 things."

Web server on the go.

Mobile Phones as Game Controllers

Sci-Fi Tech writes about Megaphone, a company that turns mobile phones into controllers for games that run in public spaces on large screens. Call in a number to join the game, then control your piece of action by punching buttons on the dialpad or by simply barking out orders.

I've played a game of Battle Tanks this way at a demo by LocaModa, another company that develops interesting mobile apps. Lots of fun. Would probably work well for movie theaters, too.

Banner Ads You Can Vote On

Adpinion is a new online ad network with a twist: it lets users give each ad a thumb up or a thumb down and serves the subsequent banners according to these user preferences it remembers. Two ideas: would be cool to have the ads bookmarkable and embeddable.

Readers at Techcrunch where the story broke are skeptical and wonder why people would bother to rate an ad. I think it's a good idea. If people are stuck with viewing ads (not everyone using a comprehensive ad blocker), they can just as well turn them into useful information.

Can You Use Flickr Pics in Ads?

"Virgin Mobile Australia has started an advertising campaign called "Are you with us or what?", which has been collecting images from Flickr released under a CC-BY licence, which allows commercial re-use and modification of the licensed work." (Technollama via Idea City).

Apparently, Virgin didn't have to ask for a permission to use the pictures and they didn't, but people (photographers and subjects) are pissed. All images come with a link back to the photographer's profile. An interesting problem. Here's a lively discussion happening in the comments under one such picture.

On the other hand, Virgin could've handled the situation much more gracefully, like Nikon.

Wired, Too, Bearish on Second Life

Last fall, Wired published a huge "travel guide" on Second Life. "[...] This exotic realm can seem bewildering and strange to first-time visitors," the magazine wrote then

The August 2007 issue adds its voice to the growing murmur of disenchantment. Its story "How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life" has a great quote about the preceding SLandrush: "It's as if the moon suddenly had oxygen." Then it goes on about how there's nobody around and there's nothing to do and how advertisers now feel stupid for choking on Wired's own hype.

The article quotes Rishad Tobaccowala, Denuo's chief famous as the ad industry's media futurist.
"Companies say, 'It's an experiment' — but what are they learning?" Tobaccowala asks. "Basically, they're learning how to create an avatar and walk around in Second Life."
Tobaccowala quoted by a blogger last year: "Do not, under any circumstances, cut the 5% of the budget assigned to the experimenters, and do not require them to move a single case of product."

Isn't there a single successful case of bringing a brand into SL? Aloft wasn't bad at all, I think.

Anyway, I've been planning a post with some ideas about how to get your own SL initiative working and now is probably a good time so just give me a couple of days, but here's an advice from the veteran SL resident and land baron Prokofy Neva quoted on AdLab last November (there are many more):

"Don't build a big-ass pretentious build and have a hugely hyped media event with a one-hit-wonder in the RL media and then leave the build out to moulder on an empty sim for weeks later -- it's totally lame. At least throw up some sex pose balls and some freebie boxes."
Joel Greenberg, formerly of GSD&M and now at Electric Sheep, runs an excellent interview with a fellow planner who says:

You need imagination to understand what a brand experience should be in SL. It shouldn’t be like it is in the real world. Until you get the inventive people working on this, you’re going to see a series of failures.”

I've been plugging my presentation on Second Life ROI before, but here it is again. Another plug: if you are a real-life brand interested in Second Life but want to create something that works, let's get in touch.

Birthday Advertising

How many companies collect date of birth as part of their registration process? You have submitted yours to at least a few dozen, but possibly hundreds, from MySpace and IM programs to banks, dentists and retirement plans. How easy is it for them to set up a small script that would send a "Happy Birthday" email to each client once a year? Very easy. Maybe an e-card. Or even a coupon or two.

This is so obvious that I thought everyone was doing it and it wasn't worth writing about. Apparently not -- Cirque de Soleil's was the only e-card I got (a few weeks ago, but it only occurred to me now) from someone to whom I am a customer. Of course, I'm not horribly offended by this lack of attention, but the Cirque's card was a very memorable even if auto-generated touch.

T-Mobile's Talking Competition in Germany

A cute little story from Germany where T-Mobile is having "Quatsch-Dich-Leer" (page in German) contest -- "a competition in continuous talking." Grab that verbose colleague of yours and talk your way to 10K euros prize. The last couple standing and talking wins. Stop for more than 10 seconds and you are out. "Teams of two should talk non stop- day and night, until they can't say another word." Web Guerillas are behind the event.
-- thank you, David

Annoyed Customers Don't Buy, Defect

Accenture posted a new study "Act Now! Consumers are Limited" that looks at the effect of annoying retail cross-sell pitches on customers:

"Consumers continue to experience service annoyances and are responding by not making desired purchases, creating a revenue leak in retailers’ business models. [...] Retailers are losing not only sales but almost certainly consumers and market share as well. Nearly 70 percent of consumers are likely or very likely to defect from their favorite retailer to a competitor if the competitor does not cause their most troubling service annoyance and the favorite retailer does not eliminate it."

AdWeek has the story.

Study: Customer Service Boosts Stock Price

H&M Brings Fashion to The Sims

Fashion retailer H&M teamed up with Electronic Arts to bring modern fashion into the game world of the Sims with the H&M Fashion "stuff" extension pack. The game will allow players to

"- dress your Sims in a stylish ensemble showcasing the vibrant colors and bold accessories that are the latest trends this season!

- design a runway and show off all of your favorite H&M styles

- design your own H&M retail environment, or use new store-themed items to build an intimate H&M boutique for more sophisticated citizens" (source: Amazon).

The Sims 2 is a sequel to the best selling The Sims, a life simulation game where you control an animated character's interaction with virtual environment. The online version of the game, The Sims Online, is similar to Second Life.

- The Sims 2 Fashion Runway design contest site; a very cool idea, too.
- Read about the game on EA site, and on H&M's site, too. You can get a free demo by buying H&M's stuff.
- A trailer on YouTube, which really is a very cool machinima ad in Simlish for the store.
- A nice review of the extension pack
- Buy it on Amazon for $20 (you'll also need the original Sims 2 game; PC only)

Sims-Based Reality TV Show
The Strangerhood: Sims-based Sitcom
DIY In-Game Branding
Second Life Lures Big Brother, Older Traffic
Depeche Mode sings in Simlish
A fan-built Sears store in The Sims:

Evil Ad Tech, Part II

In February, I posted about a potential Vista glitch that could allow ad banners to manipulate Vista Speech Control. Two more recent articles about rogue ads:

WSJ: "In a development that could threaten the explosive growth of online advertising, hackers have started to exploit security holes in the online-advertising chain to slip viruses into ads. Just going to a site that shows such an ad can infect a user's computer."

Associated Press: "Hackers could take control of an iPhone if its owner visits a doctored Web site or Internet hotspot, security researchers reported Monday. "'You could have a million iPhones dialing the company's main line and overwhelm it that way," [a security analyst] said."

I'm filing it under the "formats" tag, but don't get any ideas.

Future: Talking Ads Take Over Computers

Wisdom of Crowds Says Harry Potter Kills Himself

If predictive markets can identify Hollywood hits and oil prices, can they tell what happens to Harry Potter when the last book is released in two days?

"William Hill Plc, a London-based bookmaker, closed bets on Harry sacrificing himself at 2/5 odds on July 17, cut from an original quote of 33/1 in early July. Lord Voldemort, who murdered Potter's parents, is at 9/4 to kill Harry, and Professor Severus Snape is at 4/1 odds to murder him. The bookmaker took more than 50,000 pounds ($100,000) in bets on Harry's fate, the first time in the company's history it had ever bet on a book." (See more odds).

"The idea seems to have gained momentum with Potter fans who expect Rowling to ensure that this is the last book ever written.''
--Bloomberg, press release

Harry Potter experts think Harry will live and even reunite with Ginny. Which gives you an excuse to go and bet that there's the unannounced 8th book in the making, in which Harry will have sex, at 20-1.

Advertising and Predictive Markets

Custom Action Heros

You think customized talking avatars are cool (like the current Simpsonization craze)? How about your very own custom 12" talking action figure, in your own if not likeness, than an accurate enough approximation? $425 at Hero Builders.

Friday Special: Baby Clean

Baby Clean (aka Baby Proper in some markets).
- Beb-Deum

Make a (Decent) Scene with Mr. Clean
Brand Mascots in Erotic Fantasies

Shopping Site For Blind Users

Techcrunch has a story about the upcoming White Cane Label online apparel shop designed for blind users. Can't wait to see (or, rather, hear) the interface that "will be driven by sound and text instead of images."

Advertising in Braille
The Robotic Shopping Assistant
Playboy in Braille
Advertising for the Color-Blind
Tool: How Color-Blind People See Your Ad
Target Sued Over Site Accessibility for Blind

3-D Printer for the Masses

The Next Disruptors at Business 2.0: "Desktop Factory is developing a 3-D printer for the masses. It literally prints out three-dimensional objects made from a gray plastic powder. Most rapid-prototyping machines cost $50,000 and up. When Desktop starts selling its machines later this year, they will cost $5,000. And they eventually want to get them down to $1,000."

To quote a recent NY Times piece: "The legal landscape, though, may not be ready for the Napsterization of three-dimensional things."

Fortune on Personal Fabricators
Sears Carries Cheap Fabricator, Enters Second Life
White Noise on Future of Advertising
NY Times on Rapid Prototyping

Odds and Ends

Modern Mechanix unearthed a human head shaved for an ad that predates modern examples (and ad-blocking solutions) by some 70 years.

"So terrorist organizations have logos. It recently occurred to me that someone had to actually design those logos. But how did they decide who gets to do it? Did the job go to whichever terrorist had a copy of Adobe Illustrator?" (Ironic Sans)

"YouTube is a style now, an aesthetic of its own. It didn’t take very long, but it has lodged itself into our consumer psyche as a recognizable visual, aural and narrative convention." (Subtraction)

Seems like you can get iPhone on AT&T prepaid by failing the credit check. Not this one from 1983, though:

Negative Search Engine Optimization

Ever browsed to the very last page of Google for any set of search results? This one is for "advertising". Even though GOOG says it has about half a billion pages about advertising, it only displays the first 1000 results (or 100 pages including duplicates), but it still feels a bit like standing at the edge of the universe and staring into the eternal darkness.

Which brings us to a recent Forbes article The Saboteurs of Search about "negative search engine optimization", a handy approach for relegating critics or competitors to where the search sun doesn't shine. In the toolbox: Google bowling (creating spam links to the target site), tattling (similar, only involves purchasing links), insulation (creating better-optimized content that would float nearer the top), filing DMCA complaints, creating sites with content duplicating the original, denial of service attacks (not sure why list it here), and click fraud.

Media Pendulum Swings On Second Life

Yeah, the media's honeymoon with Second Life is clearly over. Time mag has listed it among five worst sites to avoid: "We're sure that somebody out there is enjoying Second Life, but why? You interact in the space through an avatar, but creating and personalizing this animated representation of yourself is tedious. Movements feel clunky and there can be a terrible lag."

Compare this with:

Time, November 18, 2002: "... a startlingly lifelike 3-D virtual world now evolving on the Internet."

Time, June 30, 2003: "Second Life is a 3-D online world where you can do whatever you want, build whatever you want and be whoever you want."

In April 2007, the magazine featured Philip Rosedale in its Builders & Titans section and in the Time 100 list.

This shift is pervasive. Forbes on July 2: "It turns out that avatars seem more interested in having sex and hatching pranks than spending time warming up to real-world brands." Last December: "It is easier to describe Second Life’s growth: Very fast." LA Times last week: "Four years after Second Life debuted, some marketers are second-guessing the money and time they've put into it."

You can tell things don't look bright when even Business Week, which had famously put a Second Life resident on its cover, is writing a year later, "After all, the Web-based parallel universe is a messy marketplace where you're as likely to see a bare-chested, rabbit-headed avatar trolling for adult-themed entertainment or vandalizing a digital store as a corporate suit leading a training session."

By the way, LA Times writes that American Apparel has closed its Second Life outlet that had opened almost exactly a year ago.

Credit: LA Times, July 11, 2007. American Apparel store boarded up.

American Apparel store before its official launch, June 2006. More details at this archived post.

Is it over for Second Life then? Probably not, since the core user base is much more stable than at, say, MySpace. These people might switch to a world that has a richer and a better implemented feature set, but there aren't clear alternatives yet. As for the advertisers still eying Second Life for their campaigns, the somber media mood is a mixed blessing. It will be much harder to convince clients to invest in the world now that the hype is over, but on the other hand there's plenty of accumulated collective experience to learn from, and the field will probably get less crowded very soon, too.

Update [July 18 ' 07] Ha, funny. I just ran into a banner on Techcrunch for Second Life's PR agency, Lewis PR.

Skip Ads With Hand Wave

"Scientists [Dr Prashan Premaratne and Quang Nguyen] have come up with a box that lets television viewers change channels, switch on the DVD player or switch off an irritating presenter with the wave of a hand. The controller's built-in camera can recognise seven simple hand gestures and work with up to eight different gadgets around the home."
-- Daily Mail

IBM's Online Data Visualization Tool

Many Eyes is a free online data visualization tool from IBM's Visual Communication Lab. Upload your own data sets and spice up your PowerPoint decks with the many graph formats, from histograms to tag clouds and tree maps. Very, very cool and useful. The site is featured in BusinesWeek's "Thinking Outside the Design Box".

Republic of Ideas Teaser

Go and marvel at the beautiful teaser animation at the Republic of Ideas site that is coming live on September 3. I rarely post about beautiful animations, but the man who apparently is behind the project (and whose name googles up next to Vienna's DDB agency CCP, Haye) promised that it would bridge the gap between geekdom and creatives, and I couldn't resist. My guess is it's either a new agency or a new ideas marketplace.

Book: Ads to Icons

Kogan Page has just published (July 1, 2007) Ads to Icons, a collection of recent advertising case studies compiled by Dr. Paul Springer from Buckinghamshire University in the UK. While the cases are not as in-depth as the ones, say, sold by Harvard Business School at some $60 apiece, and lack the irreverence and the insider angle of the agency-produced books such as Crispin's Hoopla, they are many (50, to be precise) and span much of the new and old media landscape. Even though some of the examples will be already familiar to the readers of this blog, Billboardom, Communication Arts, Contagious, or the earlier reviewed Advertising is Dead! Long Live Advertising!, one of the book's strengths is its international scope with cases from Malaysia, Russia, South America and other places that don't pop up often on the North American ad radar (rADar?).

Ads to Icons is a book that will find its place on the bookshelves across all agency departments. Media planners will enjoy the story about how Mattel promoted its 100% Hot Wheels collectibles in the auto classifieds next to the ads for real cars. Creatives will like the famous Zippo Windproof lighters placed on the top of taxi cabs in Singapore (the original brief was for a small print ad; the entire budget was about $50K at the current exchange rate). Interactives will find out more about the already legendary campaigns of Axe, Burger King, Audi and Monopoly. For the client service suits, the book outlines the original business problems, provides budget numbers where possible, and gives a brief timeline of each project along with (self-reported?) campaign results.

Other high-profile cases include Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, Ikea's outdoor campaign in NY, Nike Run London, Livestrong, Adidas vertical football billboards, but also many others I had never heard about before but I'm glad I did now.

The second part of the book is an introduction into the world of new media. It is not as comprehensive as it might have been in a dedicated book, but has a unique chapter on new advertising professions that have emerged in the past decade. The glossary of terms is also a nice touch (do you know what "football" is?*) and the entire book is well-sourced. Some might find the language a bit dry, but I'll take the dry over the exuberant and the informally verbose any day.

Overall, the wealth of information in the book is well worth the original $47.50 sticker if case studies are what you are after, and it's a bargain at the Amazon's $32. Mine was a review copy.

Other similar books reviewed here earlier are Long Live Advertising! and Life After the 30-second Spot.

* Football: The increased amount of people going into a store as a result of a campaign, used as a measure if the client is retail.

Building With Interactive Water Walls

"The Digital Water Pavilion is an interactive structure made of digitally-controlled water curtains and will be built at the entrance of the 2008 at Zaragoza.

The "water walls" that make up the structure consist of a row of closely spaced solenoid valves along a pipe suspended in the air. The valves can be opened and closed, at high frequency, via computer control. This produces a curtain of falling water with gaps at specified locations - a pattern of pixels created from air and water instead of illuminated points on a screen. The entire surface becomes a one-bit-deep digital display that continuously scrolls downward."
-- MIT press release

Billboard as Shower

Get Beta Invites at InviteShare

InviteShare.c0m is a website where people share invites to closed betas. Very straightforward.

Bags Made From Billboards

The Alchemy Goods Ad Bags are made from vinyl mesh billboards that once graced the streets of Seattle. $30.
- via Ad Rag

British Cops Lifeblogging?

This Is London: "Police officers in the UK are to be given head-mouted video cameras to film incidents and arrests, the footage of which can then be used in evidence. The 'head-cams' can store up to 400 hours of footage with soundtrack on their hard drive." Looks like something marketing ethnographers and planners could use, no?

I've Got Mail: Tips From the Readers

A few interesting links the Adlab readers sent while I was away for the past couple of weeks:

  • Lenticular printing produces animation effect on Buccaneers' season tickets, pictured above (thank you, Mike).

  • Web banners from Tailgate that let users complete the transaction without leaving the host site.

  • A few tips for students who want to break into the ad industry from OpenAd network.

  • A reminder about the July 19 premier of Mad Men, a series about the ad industry back in the times when you still could smoke in the office (thank you, Angela).

  • The Golden Jigsaw is an interesting online campaign where participating advertisers buy puzzle pieces to put on their websites and the traffic ensues (thank you, Alice). Could be the next Million Dollar Home Page, with any luck. From the press release: "The image used for the jigsaw it taken from The Ultimate Alphabet, a book of 26 fantastical illustrations by British artist Mike Wilks, which was originally published in 1986. Each picture contained hundreds of items that began with the appropriate letter of the alphabet and the book was also a marketing first as it launched with a competition, offering £10,000 to the first person able to correctly list all the items in the book. The illustration used is the letter ‘S’ – reputedly one of the trickiest in the book and featuring more than 1,700 items."

  • "The Web Video Marketing Council (WVMC) is a professional association established to provide useful guidelines, information, education, and resources to companies, organizations and individuals interested in participating in the emerging web video marketing category." (thank you, Jennifer)

  • Offtopic: Great Slogan, Never Boring

    A poster for Budweiser Select seen in NYC subway a couple of weeks ago. Compare (wiki) with the famous "Tastes Great, Less Filling" campaign back from 1975 by McCann for Miller Lite, number eight in AdAge's list of 100 top campaigns.

    Book: The Cult of The Amateur

    When the word about Andrew Keen's "The Cult of the Amateur" first got out last winter, I was hopeful. Finally, I thought, we'd have an informed and comprehensive antidote to the poisonous hype around all things two point oh: all those conversationalist wise crowds of long-tailed lonelygirls-15 blogging their ride on the participatory cluetrain. This book was supposed to be a cold but refreshing shower on the parade of the new irrational exuberance. I picked it up in an airport bookstore last week hoping for a pleasant flight across the Atlantic.

    Mr. Keen has built the book on the premise that the newly gained easy access to content production and distribution technology has enabled the unwashed masses of amateurs to populate the web with worthless drivel that is drowning out the professional culture makers -- the artists, the music labels, the publishers, the newspapers, the retail stores.

    This sentiment, of course, is not uncommon, is not without its merit, and definitely deserves attention. It would even make a good book, as perhaps it one day will. But that good book isn't Mr. Keen's.

    Instead, Mr. Keen's book is one of bizarre inconsistencies, of self-righteous cliches, of stretched or omitted facts, and of shrill Ann Coulteresque diatribes that are entertaining in their boldness but quickly become boring in their monotony.

    It must be unnerving for the author who rails against amateur critics to have his book trashed on a blog without any lit-crit credentials, but it is equally puzzling to hear about "blogging monkeys" from someone who promotes the same book on a dedicated blog of his own.

    Mr. Keen has a lot to say against the culture that encourages mash-ups of others' content, taken for free, at the expense of original production. Yet The Cult of the Amateur is just that -- a mash-up of assorted articles and freely available research peppered with opinionated prose that is very blog-like in the very sense that Mr. Keen is criticizing.

    Then there are facts and their conspicuous absence. Mr. Keen's multi-page rant against Wikipedia fails to mention Nature's study that showed Wikipedia and Britannica being roughly of the same accuracy, or that that the number of Wikipedia's entries was 8.5 times greater than Britannica's in 2005. Mr. Keen observes that on the day of Anna Nicole's Smith's death, "her Wikipedia page was flooded with conflicting, speculative versions of the cause of death" and cites this example to argue that Wikipedia is inherently untrustworthy. He doesn't mention, however, that that particular article, just as all others on developing events, featured a big disclaimer on the top of the page warning the readers of potential inaccuracies.

    Mr. Keen also doesn't mention that those very changes in the Wikipedia article were based on the media reports that had been supposedly done by professional journalists who, in Mr. Keen's words, "acquire their craft through education, through experience of reporting and editing the news under the careful eye of other professionals" and are thus superior to citizen journalists.

    The whole argument about professional journalists and content makers, and the vetting process, and established gatekeepers very quickly deteriorates into a traffic jam of a guilt trip. The reader is supposed to feel bad about the "painful layoffs" at Britannica, about how when a free Craigslist ad is posted, a dollar is taken away from some poor newspaper's budget, how the movie industry is struggling (domestic box-office in 2006 was up 5.5% from the previous year), how the music industry is dying (judging by the RIAA's numbers).

    And blogging? Blogging is for losers, Mr. Keen argues. Bloggers are ego-driven maniacs (a statement not entirely inaccurate) who don't create any value, spread rumors, and are one-sided in their commentary. And no, the old media are not like that at all. Oh, and bloggers don't make any money. Mr. Keen cites Guy Kawasaki who apparently had made a measly $3550 of ad revenue in 2006 off his otherwise very popular blog.

    Guy, if you would like to double your ad revenue in a month, ask me how.

    "The Cult of the Amateur" is on Amazon for around $16.
    The NY Times' review is here.

    Vacation, Adless Browsing

    A quick note to apologise for the lack of posts in the past few weeks. I'm on vacation back home doing all sorts of fun stuff offline, and the dial-up connection I've got here is too much of a pain. We'll be back to our regular schedule on July 15th.

    In the meanwhile, I've got a note (thank you, Keith) about another way to replace online ads with something else. Last time it was art, this time it's whatever you want it to be, but you'll need to download a ProWebSurfer toolbar.