QTrax: Screenshot, Stock Chart

QTrax, the start-up that only days ago was promising 25M legally-downloadable songs, doesn't have any deals signed with major labels after all, but today the company has made its player available. It's a re-skin of the open-source player Songbird. For now, you can only play music from your own computer (or, thanks to the built-in browser, from a web site), but there are already plenty of ads. The Samsung banner opens this page in a separate tab.

Below is the stock chart for the QTrax's holding company. Someone's made a few bucks in what is reminiscent of those pump-and-dump schemes you get in your spam folder.

Update [Jan 29, '08] Wired: Is QTrax a Stock Scam?

YouBama: Citizen-Generated Campaign

YouBama. I'm also on the look-out for more innovative campaign stuff.

Ad Skipping Strains Power Grid

"The 1990 World Cup tops the list of record-breaking TV "pick-ups" (Source: National Grid, BBC)"

Even though the Superbowl Flush is a myth and our American readers have nothing to fear this coming Sunday, it doesn't mean that the collective ad avoidance doesn't strain urban infrastructure elsewhere. Virtual Economics unearthed a decade-old article from BBC about Brits leaving their TVs during the World Cup half-time to -- what else? -- make some tea:

"This mass synchronised tea-break has in the past caused huge power surges and problems for the National Grid, which operates the high-voltage transmission network in England and Wales.

A crack team of statisticians with their finger on the pulse of the TV sub-culture leaf through listings magazines in an attempt to predict peaks in electricity use."

Dissecting Advertising Clutter, Part II

Last November, I spent some time poking around and trying to figure out where the "an average American is exposed to 5000 ad messages" number had come from (see the original post). President of Yankelovich J. Walker Smith, whom I cited as one of the sources, offered his explanation in a comment to the post on Hill Holliday blog:

"Still, it’s interesting to know how these ad exposure estimates are calculated. The oldest such estimate is the one cited by David Shenk in Data Smog. His figure comes from a figure cited in Alvin Toffler’s 1971 book Future Shock. Toffler’s figure came from a conference speech that cited a number calculated by Bill Moran for use in that speech (delivered by his boss) when he was running the research function at Y&R. I know this because I am a friend of Bill’s and he has related this story to me. Bill made a simple calculation. He simply conducted a thought exercise and went through the typical day for a typical person in a typical American big city in the 1960s. How many times would such a person be exposed to some sort of ad, logo or promotion? He came to around 500. It’s that simple, and that’s where this early figure comes from.

Note what is being calculated here. Not the number of ads people pay attention to, but the number of ads that people might pay attention to. It’s exposure opportunities. Obviously, we live lives nowadays in which ever more of the white space around us is crowded with ads. Thus, we have many more opportunities for ad exposure."

Dissecting Advertising Clutter, Part I
Advertising Clutter in 1759

Future: Billboards with Face Recognition

How long will it take for face recognition technology that has already found its way into inexpensive consumer electronics to be integrated into digital signage?

Check the specs on Sony Cyber-shot T200:

"Because the face makes the photo, Sony has created Face Detection technology that recognizes up to 8 faces in a photo and automatically controls focus, exposure, color and flash to bring out the best in everyone. Unlike some competitive systems, Sony Face Detection makes skin tones look more natural and reduces red-eye with pre-strobe flash.

In Smile Shutter Mode, the DSC-T200 helps you capture more smiles by shooting automatically when your subject laughs, smiles, even grins - only when focus is fixed. You select the person to watch and the expression to catch -- your Cyber-shot® camera’s Face Detection system and intelligent Smile Shutter algorithm do the rest!"

We know that the advertising applications are already in the labs: Last year, Microsoft showed off one such billboard.


Bridging The Gap Between Online and Offline Shopping

A couple of years ago, I posted a small blurb on Fast Company's blog about how customer expectations of offline retail are being shaped by their online shopping experiences. Last month, Business Week published an article pretty much to the same effect:

"The Internet hasn't destroyed brick-and-mortar retailing, as many once feared. But has it ever changed consumer behavior. Across the U.S., stores are playing catch-up with shoppers habituated not only to the speed and convenience of purchasing online but also to the control it gives them."

Here's my in-store experience wish list:

1. Cross-selling of relevant and complementary products (if you like this, you will also like that and that)
2. Customer reviews. Somewhat counterintuitively, many product categories will benefit from negative reviews just as well as from the positive ones. Negative reviews help buyers overcome the "paradox of choice" and make up their mind faster instead of abandoning the purchase altogether. Plus, less post-purchase remorse and fewer returns. I would especially love a way to check GameSpot reviews before plunking another $50 for a game.
3. Online ordering + in-store pick-up.
4. Full product info look-up, including the manuals.
5. Bookmarking / "save for later" functionality.

Retailers gotta act quick if they want to have some control over the converging experiences. In a few years, people will be carrying web browsers in their pockets and won't be needing all this retail innovation. Then they would go to Barnes & Noble to browse books and order the ones they like on Amazon right from the store.

On a related note, I really like the idea behind Target Lists.

Qtrax: 25 Million Free Ad-Supported Songs

In about an hour (midnight EST), Qtrax will begin offering any number of the 25 million music files in its library for free downloading in exchange for collecting usage info and inserting ads. Until a hack surfaces, the songs are not iPod-compatible. You'll need to download a proprietary Qtrax player, too. More details when the thing is released, but here's an article in the British Times. Wonder what the value of the ads would be if the songs can't be played on the go.

It also seems that the company is yet to reach the agreement with all copyright holders, contrary to the claims in the newspaper article.

Update: So, it's 10 past midnight, and the site is down. Blah.

Future: DNA Targeting

If the dating site ScientificMatch.com can match two people based on their DNA profiles, is it possible to find the right brand messaging for people based on their genetic information?

Build Your Own Apple Store

Oobject has a list of objects and suppliers that you'll need to remodel your house to look like an Apple store (via Make). Don't forget to dress up like the Mac guy from the commercials.

Scientist Debunks "The Influentials" Theory

Fast Company runs an article in which Duncan Watts, a network-theory scientist, puts to test the idea that trends are sparked by a handful of highly connected individuals, or the influentials, as they have become known after the bestsellers The Tipping Point and The Influentials.

"Watts believes [...] a trend's success depends not on the person who starts it, but on how susceptible the society is overall to the trend--not how persuasive the early adopter is, but whether everyone else is easily persuaded. And in fact, when Watts tweaked his model to increase everyone's odds of being infected, the number of trends skyrocketed.

If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one--and if it isn't, then almost no one can," Watts concludes. To succeed with a new product, it's less a matter of finding the perfect hipster to infect and more a matter of gauging the public's mood. Sure, there'll always be a first mover in a trend. But since she generally stumbles into that role by chance, she is, in Watts's terminology, an 'accidental Influential.'"

Watts has published several books on the subject, including Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age.

Update [Jan 27 '08]: Mike Arauz from Deep Focus responds.

My own beef with the theory of influentials is its implicit assertion, in my understanding of The Tipping Point, that if you have influence over a certain social network, this influence will have the same weight over the entire range of topics. I don't know if this Absolute Influence exists, and my own daily experiences offer nothing to support the idea: it is not a given that someone who is an apparel fashion trendsetter in one particular network will be have the same influence over the choice of others' plasma TVs, for example. Likewise, one's influence will also vary across different networks, which makes identifying and targeting The Influentials a much more complex task than it is suggested by the theory advocates.

Measuring Sleep Patterns

Image: The ActiGraph

Actigraph is a device that monitors human activity and circadian cycles. It looks and is worn like a watch. The heart of the device is a very sensitive accelerometer that captures the tiniest movements of the patient.

Art: Moss Graffiti

Artist: Edina Tokodi. Via Inhabitat.

MRI: Billboards Generate Interest

"In its Spring 2007 in-person, in-home survey of approximately 26,000 adults (ages 18+), MRI asked whether consumers had seen advertising delivered via various alternative media and, if they had, whether they had “considerable”, “some” or “not much” interest in those advertisements. 49.3% of consumers (who have seen at least one billboard ad) report “considerable” or “some” interest in the ads that appear in this format."
- pdf of the press release, MRI newsroom

Site Content Analyzer - CleverStat

CleverStat is a nifty tool I've been using recently for web site content analysis. Unlike numerous online apps, CleverStat makes a copy of the site on your hard drive and analyzes the entire thing and not only individual pages.

World Trend Map 2008

Ross Dawson: "While last year’s map was based on the London tube map, the 2008 map is derived from Shanghai’s underground routes. Limited to just five lines, the map uncovers key trends across Society, Politics, Demographics, Economy, and Technology."

Phone with Foldaway Screen

Reuters: "A Dutch company [Phillips's spin-off Polymer Vision] has squeezed a display the size of two business cards into a gadget no bigger than other mobile phones -- by making a screen that folds up when not in use. The 5-inch (13-cm) display of Polymer Vision's "Readius" is the world's first that folds out when the user wants to read news, blogs or email and folds back together so that the device can fit into a pocket."

The final product differs from the last year's prototype that was truly "roll-up". It features a 5" display and is coming first to Italy some time this year.

Stats from Live In-Theater Games

Brand Experience Lab shares some results from the in-theater games they did for MSNBC (The Newsbreaker) in the US and for Volvo in the UK (video below).

For the Newsbreaker:

78% played the game
93% want more games in cinemas
86% prefer a game to an ad
71% unaided MSNBC brand recall
75% more likely to use MSNBC

Definitely one of the coolest ad things from 2007.

Contextual Audio Ads Network

Pay Per Play places contextual (so they claim) ads on websites; the ads are 5-second audio spots on autoplay. On the one hand, sound has been historically underutilized as an ad medium. On the other hand, autoplay is more annoying than pop-ups. Which probably won't stop the same crowd that places those contextual link ads.

Speaking of which. Contextual links have very impressive click-throughs (I'll have to look at conversion rates, though, since I suspect a lot of the clicks are by mistake), but isn't there a way to tie the ads to key phrases instead of single keywords?

A Blog About Chatbots

Toy robots at The Toy Museum in Prague, Summer 2007

Chatbots.org -- an entire blog dedicated to various chatbots. Also see Chatbothub.com, a chatbot developer community.

3D TV With Wii Remote

Update [Feb 15, 2009] -   Hello, scavenger hunters!

Human-computer interaction researcher Johnny Chung Lee at Carnegie Mellon demonstrates how with a Wii remote and a custom code you can turn your TV into a 3D display.

- Thank you, Erwin.

Advergames for iPhone

Not too many of those. Actually, just one.

DrPepper's Matchcaps is simple re-skin of Bejeweled. Not horribly imaginative, but this press release says it's the first advergame for iPhone (it came out in November 2007). So far, it seems to be the only one.

Fingerfracture is a concept for Vans from Miami Ad School that surfaced a few weeks ago. Just mock-ups for now, but way cooler than a simple re-skin.

Another mock-up: iPhone game controller. Clever and obvious.

The Ad Zapper in Your Brains

During commercial breaks,
  • 41.2% of viewers channel-surf
  • 33.5% talk with others in the room or by phone
  • 30.2% mentally tune out
  • 5.5% regularly fully attend to commercials
In other news, this winter fewer people eat (68.8%) and more people do laundry (58%) while consuming media (70% and 57.4% in July 2007, respectively). This and other amusing tidbits in the new BIGresearch's research of simultaneous media consumption SIMM 11.

Open Mic

From the mail that AdLab readers and PR people have sent in over the past couple of weeks:

Prudent People Brag: "According to a recent study conducted by the Mindset Media, people who report that they always pay their credit card balances in full each month, [...] to be far less modest than the rest of the population at large -- "Modesty 1’s," who are, perhaps, unable to resist bragging about their highly responsible credit habits.

JunkieAd.com creator would like to let the world know about another blog collecting creative advertising.

USA Today's Media Lounge accepts submissions from ad bloggers.

If I understand the terminology correctly, WebCollage.com lets downstream sales partners reuse the rich interactive functionality of the mothership site with less friction.

Spot Runner (one of the ad automation companies) has acquired GlobeShooter, a network of 1,200 independent filmmakers, videographers, producers and production companies across the U.S.

Flow automatically tracks the design process from idea to end result and manages assets and applications for the most complex workflows.

Hammerhead agency promotes itself with this video.

Luke Sullivan's legendary "Mr.Whipple" guide to great ads is out in its second edition.

For dessert, some spam: "The NOKIA Electronic Email Promo,was established 1970 by the Multi-Million groups and now supported by the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations Organization(UNO), United Kingdom(UK) and the European Union (EU) was conceived with the objective of human growth, educational, and community development."

MySpace Builds Game Portal?

Looks like MySpace is working on a gaming portal. The URL for this page is games.myspace.com. This could be a hit if the games are less like the ones you can find on other casual game destinations (Yahoo Games, for example) and more like Facebook app games with a stronger social component to them. Social advergames on MySpace would also be an interesting ad channel.

There are plenty of Flash games out there for MySpace users to embed already, but I haven't seen any that let you play with your friends.

Oh, and to the readers of this blog: I just got back from a vacation with no internet hook-up, but now we are back to our regular programming.

Also, this is the 2008th post on this blog since the beginning.