Time Square in Google Earth

Google Earth got a lot of new textured 3D buildings for New York (--gearth), and here's what billboards on Times Square look like.

Lots of coverage of Google Earth in the past; some highlights:
Avatars, Bots in Google Earth
Altoids Clues Game in Google Earth
Best Buy in Google Earth
Billboards in Google Earth
Local Ads, Anaglyph Buildings in Google Earth

Buy Your Own Ad Agency On eBay

Ad agency in a box. Only $6.85. The testimonials alone are worth the money.

IBM Developing Virtual World Interface for the Blind

"Virtual Worlds User Interface for the Blind is a prototype "accessible rich Internet application" (ARIA) that gives blind users the ability to participate in many virtual world activities. Although this interface for the blind is a GUI and can be used by sighted people, the virtual world space is not rendered pictorially. Instead, all information flowing to the user is text-based in order to allow compliance with ordinary screen-reading technology. Recorded verbal descriptions are also played for the user."  (via )

Isn't it what MUDs used to be?


MIT CMS Class Notes Online at MIT OCW

There are bunch of lectures and reading lists for courses in comparative media studies uploaded onto MIT's OpenCourseWare, including such gems as Sam Ford's  American Soap Operas and Pro Wrestling.

While you are at it, take a look at the letter circulated by the department's alums on the importance of media education:

"Our rapidly changing times also call for the remembrance of technological and media history, lest we remain caught up in our societal fascination with newness. CMS reminds us that early radio in the 1920s and comics in the 1950s triggered moral panics over our “impressionable” youth — fears which we look back on as reactionary and simple-minded, even as the same turns of phrase are employed over certain video games and social networking sites today."

Online Publishers: Sell What Others Are Buying

Yet another speculation on business model for Twitter on Techcrunch -- AdAge, too, recently joined this new parlor game -- and an insightful comment by a user known only as SAG that boils down to "sell what others are willing to buy":

"This shouldn’t actually be that hard if they’re smart and realistic about how much revenue they can generate given their value proposition. And if they look at their leading users to figure out what they want.

Google is Search; Users want to find something; Advertisers want to pay to be found so they can sell something;

Yahoo is an Information Hub / Community Hub; Users can good info and to be a part of a community they like; Revenue is good around branding good info and brands associating themselves to communities they want to identify with.

MySpace is a Music / Entertainment Hub; Users want to connect with musicians and entertainers; Musicians, entertainers, and brands want to build relationships with users, so they should pay for that (not for adds above their inbox, those are worthless).

Facebook is a Socializing Hub; Users want to connect with real life friends and find out about social events; You would think people throwing said social events would be willing to pay, plus advertisers would be willing to associate with the right events. Instead I think their revenue model is something about taking over the world.

Twitter is a Communication Platform; Users want to follow people they want to hear from; Some users have a very strong reason to want a lot of people to follow them. You would think companies, professionals and would-bes trying to build their reputations would be willing to pay for one of the world’s best PR platforms…
But maybe they’d rather be Facebook and think they’re going to be worth as much as google when, fundamentally, no advertising will ever be worth as much as search advertising that connects would-be clients with advertisers selling products they might purchase."

19 Tips for In-Game Advertising

I wrote down these thoughts some time ago for a project we did together with Futurelab; they were intended as closing remarks for a larger work on in-game advertising.  Some of these tips may seem trivial in the real world, but turn out more useful in the context of a game space. Others may be less intuitive to someone unfamiliar with the medium.  I hit a writing block at #19; perhaps you could add one more to round it off. 
  1. Ask yourself the “why” question. Why are you choosing games as a medium for your message? Is it to reach an otherwise elusive audience? Is it to demonstrate your product to a small but influential group of trend-setters?

  2. Set clear and measurable objectives. Games are among the most measurable media where you can track everything from detailed exposure to the otherwise elusive “engagement.” Tying the metrics to sales will require innovative thinking but is not impossible.

  3. Treat in-game advertising as R&D investment, not marketing expense. Online commerce has changed a lot during the decade since the first web shop was opened by Pizza Hut in mid-1990s. It will continue to evolve and game-like 3D environments are one possible direction the evolution may take. Acquire the basic skills now to stay ahead of the game, so to speak, tomorrow.

  4. Play. Games have changed a lot since you last played your Nintendo in high-school (or ColecoVision, for that matter). Familiarize yourself with the mechanics, the jargon and, in case of multi-player games, the etiquette. Play at least one game to the end even if it will take you 20 hours. The downside: you will die a lot. The upside: you can mark it as research. Treat an in-game campaign as a foray into a foreign country where you have to learn a new language, socially-accepted behavior and fashion sense.

  5. Whatever you do, don’t step off the trail.” In Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder”, the participants in Time Safari are instructed to keep to a narrow catwalk or risk upsetting the delicate balance of history. To paraphrase, whatever you do, stay in character. If you product doesn’t fit a particular game, turn to another one or try advertising through a proxy -- a fictional brand that resembles the real one closely enough for you to take the credit if things go well and deny involvement if they don’t.

  6. Each medium requires its own creative. You wouldn’t play a radio spot on TV. It’s just as ineffective to reuse web banners to advertise in a computer game. Games are a medium with its own set of characteristics and it is in the best interests of advertisers to take full advantage of them.

  7. Remember Confucius’s “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand?” The interactive nature of games lets customers “do”.

  8. Challenge and surprise. Offer players interesting things to do with your ad unit and let them discover these things themselves. They will spread the knowledge through their communities along with your brand.

  9. Don’t twist players’ arms. There have been games that threatened players into passing by a billboard, “or else”. In other words, these games made an interaction with the ad a condition required for progress. Providing extra incentives is ok, but remember that gamers have already paid north of $50 for playing the game they have been expecting, in some cases, for months.

  10. Games are inherently “multimedia” and your ads don’t have to be limited to graphic units. The available options range from short secret codes to lavish branded mansions. Take your imagination for a soar (but don’t step off the trail).

  11. Integrated marketing is one of those industry buzz-words that actually make sense. If you are targeting gamers through games, complement your efforts through other media they consume. You can also create a “360-degree” brand experience right inside some of the games by designing multiple points of contact – through a fictional magazine, points of purchase, a sound bite. Another useful emerging buzz-word is “transmedia branding” meaning that each participating medium tells only one part of the brand narrative. Don’t repeat within the game what you are already saying on the campaign website; instead, develop the story further through new elements, characters or dramatic twists. Besides, creating a strong bridge between the virtual and the real gives an eerie Matrix-like feeling.

  12. Provide the right tools and the right incentives and enjoy the bliss of consumer-generated content. Game makers have enjoyed creative player participation for a long time and have learnt that letting players tinker with the product contributes to the bottom line in more ways than one. Make spare parts available and see how players re-assemble your brand in unexpected but exciting ways. Bonus: player tinkering provides invaluable (and measurable) insights into consumers’ perception of your brand.

  13. Be prepared for a strong word-of-mouth effect, even more so in the multi-player environments were inter-player communications are in real time. Your successes and failures alike will be amplified on player forums or virtual water coolers (or dragon caves, as the case may be). Where there is a community, there is a need for a community manager who would follow the conversations and address player concerns on the fly.

  14. Be prepared for graphic manifestations of player discontent. If things go wrong, expect sit-ins, demonstrations and defacing. The fact that all those forms of civil disobedience take place in a virtual world makes the challenge a double-edged sword. On the one hand, “it’s just a game”. On the other, there is no police to disperse the angry crowds. And whatever happens, don’t step off the trail. If you have to deal with player resentment, do it in-character. Don’t have the game administrators ban the offenders from the game. Instead, ask them to summon a fire-breathing dragon to protect your property.

  15. To quote a Second Life resident Prokofy Neva, a branded t-shirt you give away in the game may be worn forever because it needs no washing.

  16. If you are advertising in a virtual world, become its engaged citizen and not a foreign capitalist intruder. Don’t just show up for one-off press events or, worse, not at all. Give your brand a live face, even if it’s a face of a pink orc.

  17. Don’t simply mimic the layout of your real-world branded spaces; design your virtual presence in accordance with the world’s physics. Allow for comfortable camera movements so that players don’t hit the wall when they try to take a closer look at your merchandise. If characters can fly, make the ceilings taller and put an entrance on the roof.

  18. Deal with the demographic uncertainty. Game audiences vary by genre, size, complexity and even distribution channels. Very few games today can be put in a narrow demographic bucket as they are often played by groups that extend beyond the original customer. Be prepared to have your ad unit seen by someone on the opposite end from your intended target.

  19. Learn from the mistakes of others. If you are yet to plunge into in-game advertising, you have the advantage of knowing what has worked for the pioneers. Often, the arrival of a new medium prompts similar advertising solutions.

See also:

Guest Post: Hulu vs YouTube

This is a guest post by Eric Franchi from the Undertone ad network:

An analyst at Screen Digest predicts that YouTube will generate U.S. revenues of $100 million vs. Hulu’s $70 million in 2008. Next year, however, Hulu is predicted to nearly triple revenues and tie YouTube’s projected $180 million. On the surface, that is impressive. But when you dig into it, it is downright outstanding: Hulu is nearly one-tenth the size of YouTube in U.S. unique users.

You have to give YouTube credit: they are being as aggressive as ever with trying new strategies and ad formats. This likely comes from their new head of monetization, ex-Facebook executive Ben Ling. But the core difficulty they face - a lack of quality, professional content - is Hulu’s strength. Hulu can stay focused on building audience and adding content while YouTube is distracted by growing hardware costs and legal fees. At the same time, YouTube has the resources of Google, which is clearly committed to finding a winning formula for online video. And that’s a good thing for YouTube, since they have to blaze a new path - monetizing a site that has thus far had traction with any format tested. My guess is that they’ll see some success leveraging search and search data and less with a new breakthrough ad unit

How can Hulu continue their momentum? By staying on their path. Hulu aligns marketers with some of the best shows and movies of all time while providing them a platform to get their message across using sight/sound/motion. The ad opportunities themselves are fairly standard so any breakthroughs would likely come via experimentation with new units along with time and engagement analysis. They are amassing so much data - is a :05 spot better than a :15 when the video time is 3 minutes or less, for example - hopefully they’ll use it and combine it with some kind of content and user targeting.

This is going to be interesting to watch, since the site content is so different. It is likely that they will both hit upon successful formulas but will they be similar in strategy? Too early to tell, but based on the different business models, I’m going to predict not.

Doodle in Anaglyph 3D

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about anaglyph microsite -- create red-and-blue doodles of your own at the wonderful Neave Anaglyph .

Future Now: Rioters Use Lasers Against Cops

Daily Mail : "Protesters in Athens targeted police officers with lasers yesterday as riots sparked by the police killing of a 15-year-old boy continued into a second week."

In unrelated news, Smart Miracles is now selling a laser toothbrush for around $70: "the laser toothbrush does not need toothpaste but directly radiates laser on teeth".

Agency Microsite in Anaglyph 3D

Good thing I have a pair of those nerdy glasses handy.  An excited fan of 3D, I've posted on the subject before but Snowdin.com, a holiday Flash production by and for Colle+McVoy, is one of only a handful of interactive websites done entirely in red-blue anaglyph 3D that I've ever seen. (Why doesn't the site for Polar Express have a 3D section?)

Adfreak on how it was built: "To go 3-D, Colle + McVoy went old-school and built an 8-by-12-inch physical model of Snowdin, then photographed individual elements of it to allow the colors to be separated in Flash to create the special effect."

Other aspiring designers of anaglyph interactive experiences will find out that (1) not everything makes sense in red and blue and (2) getting motion just right is particularly tricky.

Volvo's Internet Campaign in 3D
Anaglyph Print Ads
Retro Porn Flick To Come Out in Stereo
Rant: "Medium 3D" Sucked
T-Shirts with 3D Prints

Future of the Internet: Pew Report

Pew / Internet has published the third installment of its The Future of Internet series where they question a group of experts on a variety of scenarios and their likelihood of coming to life by 2020. Among the highlights:  virtual and augmented reality, the future of user interfaces, and mobile.  There's even a whole book of this stuff out on Amazon.  The report makes for an interesting reading but the research methodology seems restricting (respondents have to react to pre-canned scenarios instead of suggesting their own ideas) and I'm struggling to find practical applications for the rather non-binding expert comments such as "The use of the keyboard may [?] disappear."

ROI Math for Brands on Twitter

Tweetwasters, a new Twitter-based toy,  calculates the total amount time you spent twittering by multiplying all your tweets by 30 seconds (a conservative estimate, in my opinion, since you probably spend more time reading than typing).

I thought it would be interesting to check a few of the brands I follow (the links are to the corresponding tweetwaster pages):

ComcastCares: 20,719 tweets, ~173 hours
Starbucks:  591 tweet, ~5 hours
HRBlock: 303 tweets, ~3 hours
DellOutlet: 143 tweets, 1.19hours
SouthwestAir: 1,112 tweets, 9.27 hours
Zappos: 1,226 tweets, 10.22 hours

Who is doing better, Comcast or Zappos? Let's assume that our benchmark is cost per follower and crunch some numbers.

ComcastCares is run by the company's director of digital care who makes, let's say, $50/hr and has written 20.719 tweets in ~173 hours.   Total time investment into Comcast's Twitter account is $8,650.  The account has 6,001 followers, which results in $1.44 per follower.

Zappos is being represented on Twitter by its CEO, who is paid, say, $250/hr and has produced 1,226 tweets in ~10 hours, which makes the total time investment about $2500 and the cost of each of Zappo's 24,049 followers about 10 cents apiece -- 14 times cheaper. 

Here's a pretty inclusive list of brands on Twitter. Maybe someone will write a script to run them through Tweetwasters to find the most sociable and efficient brand account?

From Hamnet to Mad Men: Fan Fiction in Real Time
Facebook, Twitter Buzz Visualized
Block Twitter Madness Out of Your Life

Five Things For Monday Morning

Colorful balconies promote Ikea's storage bins in Germany (- ads of the world)

How a supermarket chain in Switzerland got local singles to model for underwear -- and printed their contact info. (-- Neatorama)

A story about Jesus, Tiger Woods, and a game bug that turned into a feature (-- Derek Powazek). To quote the recent but already instant classic, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

Vending machine dispenses real men (-- Future of Ads).

How to improve design of queues: CNN highlights work by MIT's Richard Larson. Related: The Future of Crossing the Street (in Boston Globe); Standing in the Invisible Line.

Western Brands on Russian Stones

Russian artist (and blogger) Sergeech paints Western brand icons on stones.
-- More at English Russia

Future: Seeing Through the Mind's Eye

Scientists make new progress in reading people's minds: "A research group [at Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International] has succeeded in processing and displaying optically received images directly from the human brain.  Dreams as well as mental images are likely to be visualized in the future in the same manner."
-- The Yomiuri Shimbun

It's the cover story of the Dec.10, 2008 issue of Neuron.

Future: Brain Scanner To Visualize Dreams

The Making Of Photoshop CS4 Ad

The brilliant print ad for Photoshop CS4 from Indonesia (via adgoodness) and how it was made. Reminds me of this Russian video for Gmail.

Agencies should share more of these "making of" details.

Accessible Porn

"Porn for the Blind is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to producing audio descriptions of sample movie clips from adult web sites. This service is provided free of charge."

It's kind of hard to say whether the site is NSFW.


From Hamnet to Mad Men: Fan Fiction in Real Time

If you are intrigued by the entire "Mad Men on Twitter" thing and the fan fiction angle of it, you'll love Hamnet, a performance of Hamlet on IRC back in the early 1990s, and an academic paper published in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication in 1995 exploring the emerging phenomenon of online theater.

Fold Yourself Into a Christmas Decoration

Customize Cubecraft figures with your pictures, print them out, fold them up, and you have a set of perfect Christmas decorations. At Vodafone Christmas Clone. More details and credits in the press release.

The guy above is apparently called "test cricketer".
-- thanks, Nic

A foldout airplane in Google Docs
Papercraft advertising
Rethinking print advertising

Hot: RSS-to-Print, Orwellian Ads, Future of Retail

AdLab does not usually play host to heated discussions, but in the past couple of days three posts have received more than their fair share of comments:

HP's Tabbloid Turns Feeds Into Personalized Magazine: is an RSS-to-print service even needed?

The Future of Retail: Instant Price Match: what should retailers do about mobile instant price checking apps?

Ten Half-Baked Advertising Ideas: Orwellian? Feasible?

Holograms, 3D Movies and Social DVDs

Institute for Creative Technologies: demonstration of 3D teleconference setup at the 2008 Army Science Conference.

WSJ on Monday ran "The Way We'll Watch", a special section report exploring the near future of vide entertainment. Among innovations making their way into the market are bigger screens, smoother picture, and social DVDs -- chat with others who watch the same movie and are not in the same living room -- powered by Sony's BD-Live ("the text goes in a box over a portion of the screen").

Other tech coolness: kiosks that burn movies onto portable memory, 3D movie theaters, and holograms: "And entertainment futurists are always thinking ahead. For example, engineers are working on affordable, large-scale hologram images. Last week, at a Florida conference, the Institute for Creative Technologies showed off a hologram-like image of an animated head that held conversations with bystanders as they walked by. It's not hard to imagine a time when holograms will be able to move around a room in a lifelike way -- and possibly end up as part of the movie-theater experience."

This WSJ's work is important not because it discovers something new -- most of the stuff has been talked about for years -- but because it finally lends legitimacy to all this tech and puts it in front of the folks in corporate boardrooms.

Video report follows.

More Future of Advertising

Future of Ads is a recently launched blog about, well, future of ads with a focus on creative.  Also by the same author: Didn't You Hear, where you will find out about how Amazon is fighting the cause of wrap rage.

"Unboxing" Documents Out-Of-The-Box Experience

HP's Tabbloid Turns Feeds Into Personalized Magazine

Tabbloid is a long-overdue service that takes your RSS feeds and converts them into a neatly laid out pdf files that are emailed back to you at a desired frequency. It's not perfect, but it's the best I've seen so far and there's an API. By Hewlett-Packard, a company that once branded Print buttons and makes blogs printer-friendly. Next, they need to team up with Adobe and insert some pdf ads.

Update (Dec 10): To respond to Max's thought that "converting RSS into PDF won't sell any more ink" in the comments section: if this thing takes off and people start printing their RSS feeds, HP with its 45% share of ink market will be the first to benefit. It's pretty much like the Michelin guide the company created to get people to drive more and replace tires sooner.

-- Your personalized printed newspaper (Oct 2005)
-- Dutch blog content to be turned into newspaper (Jan 2006)
-- Guardian: Print Your Own Newspaper (June 2006)

Pay-per-View as Advertising Model for YouTube

Mark Cuban: "From all appearances, Youtube is trying to squeeze every last nickel they can out of Youtube.  They are doing everything they can think of to create advertising inventory.  Pre rolls, overlays, display ads, you name it."

That's what many online publishers think advertisers want to buy: pre-rolls, overlays, display ads.  But advertisers rarely think like this: "If we buy  $100K worth of overlays, we'll hit our revenue targets for the quarter."  Advertisers pay for the traffic of certain quality they get sent their way, and, ideally, how this traffic is generated shouldn't be of their concern.  This is the principle behind lead-generation sites, and Google's search ads are similar, too.

There's one thing that advertisers who look at YouTube really want to buy. Google, despite all the overlays and pre-rolls,  hasn't really been selling it to them, at least not until the recent launch of the sponsored videos program. 

I'm talking about video views. I don't think there's an agency out there that hasn't uploaded a creative to YouTube. It's safe to assume that advertisers hope to have as many people view these videos as possible. Why isn't there a straightforward way for advertisers to pay for the views?

Yes, you can buy display ads and featured video units (a minimum order is in, what, six figures?) and now you can also put your videos in video search results, AdWords-style. But shouldn't the burden of driving traffic to your video be shifted from you to Google, who has deep insights into site users' behavior and more computing power than an ad agency ever will? 

When a company is being paid for ad impressions, it naturally looks for ways to increase the number of available impressions -- the inventory -- and hence all those crazy ad formats Mark Cuban laments.

But when it is paid for driving views to specific videos instead of ramping up ad impressions, its focus and priorities shift and suddenly an entire universe of possibilities appears.  Google knows what tags work best for what videos -- then how about promoting videos by automatically choosing the most optimal tags?  Or using the "social graph" of users to identify people with similar tastes and propagate the videos the graph's branches?    Or adding a sponsored thumbnail to the "related videos" end frame? 

So yes, maybe Google could experiment with selling what advertisers are willing to buy instead of ad formats.

Picadmedia Inserts Ads In Your Images

Picadmedia's idea is simple: web publishers with lots of pictures install a piece of code, and the company inserts advertising overlays that slide up when the picture is "mouse-overed". They claim: "It [the technology] will pull relevant ads from our database and place them only on relevant images that match the same topic. It is highly accurate."

The image above is from their "How It Works" page where they show an image of a Macbook Pro with an ad in action, which makes the "highly accurate" claim look like an overstatement.  If it worked as advertised, I could imagine ads promoting trips to Hawaii over photos like this on Flickr, but I wonder if the technology goes beyond the file name, the alt tag, and surrounding text in identifying content of an image (Google found it hard).

Update (Dec.8): I just remembered this old post from last year about AdBrite's BritePic that works in a similar fashion.

New Format: Ads Around Your Images (March 29, 2007)

Disposable Phonograph as Propaganda Device

"A new weapon for sending messages behind the Iron Curtain without danger of radio jamming has been offered to the U. S. by RCA. It’s a refinement of the basic hand phonograph and could be mass-produced for 50 cents each. The little machine is in three unbreakable plastic parts—base, turntable and tone arm - and can be packed to drop by parachute."  (Popular Science, Jan 1956, via Modern Mechanix).

Flashback: Cereal Box Carboard Records
Choxpics Print on Chocolate
Advertising On Chocolate

iPhone as a Game Controller

A proof-of-concept video of an iPhone game played on a big TV screen and controlled by tilting the phone, via Ars.

Fat and Happiness are Social

A self-fulfilling prophecy in action as the blogosphere cheers the latest research findings: "Psychologists have long known that feelings can be contagious over short time frames or that people reflexively return smiles. But the new social network analysis showed that that contagious effect extends three "degrees" - as far as a friend of a friend of a friend - and drops off with time and distance.

Yes, but cheer this: the research team's earlier "study, involving more than 12,000 people tracked over 32 years, found that social networks play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual's chances of gaining weight" (source).

From which we conclude that popular Twitter users' extra bulk is pure happiness.

Ars Technica: Amazon's Price Checking App A Declaration of War

Ars Technica in an editorial on Amazon's new price checking iPhone app:

"It's certainly a consumer-friendly idea, though one wonders if it will cause that throbbing vein on the necks of Best Buy and Borders execs to throb a bit more quickly. For Amazon to explicitly suggest that shoppers take advantage of bricks-and-mortar stores—an expensive investment that Amazon has purposely not made—and then use the benefit derived from those stores to order the product cheaply online, well, that's a pretty straightforward declaration of war.

Retailers certainly can't be pleased with idea of all those 1-click iPhone orders going to Amazon even as customers stand in their stores, fondling their merchandise. Not antagonizing your customers is the first rule of business, but it's not real hard to imagine some stores approaching heads-down iPhone users with a crisp, "May I help you, ma'am?""

Target Clerk Bans Mobile Price Checking
Barcode Scanner Apps for Android Reviewed
The Future of Retail: Instant Price Match
Bridging The Gap Between Online and Offline Shopping

Target Clerk Bans Mobile Price Checking

Lots of guests today from ReadWriteWeb and some of them think it is AdLab's fault that confused retailers are banning mobile price-scanning apps: "[Target] said it was against the rules for customers to scan items with their phones. (once they found out what i was doing) if they would’ve cooperated instead of making up new policies i would’ve saved more money."

Barcode Scanner Apps for Android Reviewed
The Future of Retail: Instant Price Match
Bridging The Gap Between Online and Offline Shopping