Advertiser Shout-out

A hat tip and a thank you to AdLab's very own advertisers:
  • DoMedia, who keep a database of offbeat out-of-home vendors, 
  • LeaderPromos, who sell promotional products,   
  • Marler Haley, who make banner stands,
  • and Max, who paid for the space but is keeping it ad-free

Next Business Day

Remember Dell Hell?

In 2005, Jeff Jarvis got a lemon of a laptop and made the story of his customer support tribulations public on his blog.

The saga eventually came to a seemingly happy end, with Jeff getting a refund (and happily spending it at an Apple store), and leaving the company's CEO with this parting bullet-pointed advice:

1. Read blogs.
2. Talk to bloggers.
3. Blog.

In other words, "join the conversation your customers are having without you."

And Dell did, and apparently so well that Jeff wrote the congratulatory "Dell Swell" piece in Business Week two years later, wondering "whether Dell had even become a Cluetrain company". Dell itself blogged about it.

If what Jeff wanted was revenge for all the hold music Dell had made him listen to, he couldn't have planned it better.

Last week, my laptop broke. A nameless thing, pictured above, that holds down the screw that holds down the heat sink on top of the video card got unglued from the motherboard, causing the video card to overheat and the computer to keep shutting down abruptly.

An unpleasant defect, I thought, but luckily I had bought that expensive three-year warranty, which is still good for another year.  The warranty that promises an on-site technician the "Next Business Day, Includes Nights/Weekends".

That very warranty that Jeff had.

I called the tech support last Friday, on Christmas day. The helpful guy on the other end of the line said he'd ship a new motherboard and a new fan, and I'd get an appointment call on Tuesday (that is, today) from a technician.

Today, I got a robocall saying the parts are on backorder and there would be a delay. This being another holiday week, I don't really expect the computer to get fixed before mid-January. In itself, it is an inconvenience, sure, but not a big deal.

What is a big deal, and more for Dell than for me, is the "next business day" promise.

A brand is a sum of our expectations about a product or service. These expectations are based on our own past experiences, other people's stories, media reports, and all those promises a company makes through its own communications.  When the reality fails to live up to our expectations, the brand suffers. When our expectations fall below the product's price, we walk away.

And when we walk away, the company can end up with a stock chart that looks like this:

So what happened when Dell took Jeff Jarvis's advice, hoping to become, in Michael Dell's words,  "a better company by listening and being involved in that conversation?"

We started to believe in a promise of "a better company", to trust that what had happened to Jeff was in the past and wouldn't happen to us. Our expectations went higher, only to fall harder and crash against the reality. Today, almost five years after the original Dell Hell (and a decade after this open letter), the "next business day" still means daysweeks, or months.

The only advice the company really needed in 2005 was not to make promises it couldn't keep.  What it got was "blog".



This post went up at 5 in the morning. At 9, the post got a Radian6 hit. At 10, a technician called and said he'd be here by 1. He showed up at noon, with new parts. Half an hour later, everything was fixed.

If this is the kind of service that everyone gets, I apologize and take it all back.

And if you are reading this from New Brunswick in Canada on your Radian6 dashboard and it was you who gave it an extra push, thank you.

Read about how Dell "answers the social phone" with Radian6 on Radian6 blog and on Dell's blog.

Alfa Romeo's Billboard Sinks to New Low

This post is worth writing for the headline alone.

If you liked the series of underwater billboards, here's another one for you, via AgencySpy:  AlfaRomeo is viralling a video of its billboard being lowered into the Challenger Deep (wiki) in the Mariana Trench, the deepest point on Earth at some 11,000 meters (36,000 ft).

But is it real?  I don't think so. Jalopnik points out certain inconsistencies, but here's, I think, the real tell -- the rope.  There's no way for the 11,000 meters of rope to fit on the spool of the size shown in the video.  See for yourself with this handy spool capacity calculator. I'm assuming (generously) the 3mm fiber diameter, 20" for traverse, 10" for barrel, and 15" for flange. The most you can fit on the spool of that size is 3,577 meters, and the spool in the video isn't even full.

Gamespot's Awards for In-Game Ads Done Wrong

GameSpot's 2009 "dubious honor" awards for most despicable in-game ad placements, the only award show AdLab faithfully covers every year, are in. And either the Gamespot editors are getting soft, or there wasn't a whole lot of interesting (or annoying) ad stuff going on in games this past year.

The winners are Pepsi machines in Bionic Commando. They don't look really all that horrible (but yes, somewhat out of place in an post-apocalyptic world), and it's not even clear if they are product placements at all.

Gamespot writes: "The game doesn't just feature Pepsi machines--it features multiple machines within a few feet of each other. It doesn't seem likely that the people of the near future will need so many carbonated beverages in such a small area. It's also ridiculous how pristine most of these machines look when surrounded by postapocalyptic debris, as if the Pepsi machines of the future were constructed out of an indestructible alloy while the rest of the world burned to the ground."

But Destructoid says the machines are not a paid placement, but a tribute to the brand by the game's developers. Plus, they dispense free drinks if you shoot them just so.

Other interesting nominees:

T-Mobile's Sidekick phone in Tony Hawk Ride, a title Gamespot gave only 3.5 points out of 10. The reviewer hated the entire game, and the Sidekick controls, while not helping, hardly were the $120 game's biggest problem.

iPhone in Mysterious Island 2.This one isn't actually a placement paid by Apple at all; it's a promo for the related puzzle mini-games available in the App Store:

"One moment you're bungling in the jungle with Jep [a monkey sidekick], and the next you're staring at an iPhone that has popped up out of nowhere. You can't use it, either. It just appears on the side of the screen, sticks around for a little bit, then vanishes. This icon actually indicates that you can port a puzzle out of the PC game to solve on the go with your iPhone, although if you don't own Apple's latest must-have device, this comes off as nothing but an out-of-the-blue product placement."

The (Augmented) View From My Window

I've always thought windows have a tremendous potential to become an important screen medium, and it looks like the right pieces of technology are slowly coming together. We played around with a few ideas, mostly around windows as AR displays. Here are some of them.

Two Handjobs For the Price of One

Because it's Friday. I wish they had an affiliate program.

Dell's @delloutlet Earns $4.5 Million in Six Months

It's been widely reported by now that Dell's @delloutlet Twitter account that broadcasts deals on computer equipment has earned the company $6.5 million. The more interesting part, and the one that's overlooked, is that $4.5 million of this money was earned between June and December. In June, the company said the account had brought in just $2M since the its launch two years earlier (or, they say, $2M in outlet items and another $1M in new products, but they don't break down the $6.5M number). Last December, the amount was at $1M.

So, it took Dell 18 months to earn its first Twitter million. Then it took just six months to add another million to that. And the next six months brought in $4.5M.

Twitter Bombs and the Real Time Tweets on Google Results Page

Oh, wow, pretty impressive. Tweets show up on Google as soon as you hit the "post" button (see the official announcement). I tried searching for a client brand, and sure enough, a scrolling stream of tweets containing the brand name showed up on the first page of results.

Is ranking on the first page that easy now?

How long till the first Twitterbomb -- tricky twittering for the sake of landing (and staying) on the first page for a search term?

Dear Future Astronaut

As Virgin Galactic unveiled its spaceship, I reached for an old email I had received from the company five years ago and still keep neatly folded in a folder.

The letter was addressed to "Dear Future Astronaut."  Me, that is.  How cool is that? Not "dear subscriber".  Not "dear first_name, last_name". Not "dear customer".  Future astronaut.

And it was signed not by some "Head of Customer Service" or "Chief of Client Affairs".  No, it was signed by the "Head of Astronaut Liaison".

When you sell someone's dream, you treat the dream with the respect it deserves. You stay in character. Even on an automated form letter.

10 Tips for Viral Marketers From a Military Propaganda Manual

Do you know that signature line from Henry Jenkins about how if it doesn't spread, it's dead?  Yes, well, this is the "if it doesn't spread, you are dead" kind of thing: a military rumor manual dated 1943, now declassified, and unearthed by a colleague of mine.  Plenty of solid insight for the designers of spreadable media, some already familiar from the books like Made to Stick and Rumor Psychology, written more than half a century after this document. My top ten favorites follow, mostly verbatim.  And I really like how they  use of "design" and "rumor" in the same sentence:

1. Effective rumor design requires special kinds of intelligence on Rumor Targets.

2. The design of a rumor is largely determined by the job it has to do. The slogan-type rumor ("England will fight to the last Frenchman") is especially adapted to summarizing opinions which are already widely accepted.  Narrative-type rumors, on the other hand, aim at introducing information which will create or shape new attitudes.

3. The successful propaganda rumor is self-propelling in a high degree, retains its original content with a minimum of distortion, and confirms to strategic requirements.

4. The form and content of a rumor should be tailor-made for the channel through which it is to be initiated. (The best type of rumor to be spread through diplomatic circles: clever epigrams.) Different channels of rumor initiation and dissemination frequently require different forms and contents for the rumor.

5. A successful rumor must take advantage of the state of mind of the people for whom it is intended.

6. The rumor should be sufficiently brief and simple to survive in memory of successive narrators.

7. The rumor's plot should recapitulate precedents and traditions in the history and folklore of the group.

8. A successful rumor is a function of the momentary interests and circumstances of the group. It provides justification for suppressed fears, hatreds, or desires.

9. Unless most subtly handled, counter-rumors may emphasize and increase the effectiveness of the rumor to be countered.

10. Design different rumors that reveal the same "information".

Friends With Benefits, and Other Data

I love how Razorfish makes all of the charts from its Feed report available zipped up in one convenient folder -- with all the powerpointage going on, it makes the brand very spreadable. Separately, you have to admire the effort that went into illustrating each of these reports (I already did last year).

On a note unrelated to this post, this graph above pulled from the report by Thought Gadgets is awesome. See how 25.5 is visually larger than 74.5?  If Tufte were dead, he'd roll in his grave.

Some numbers raise questions. Do you include a brand into your consideration set after you've "friended" it, or do you friend it because you are either a customer, or are already interested in the product? Or maybe, as the next graph shows, you are in it just for the price deals, promos and coupons? (The awkwardly phrased questions don't help: "when you follow a brand, does it generally // recommend the brand to others".)

You know these graphs will end up illustrating an argument like this (they did):  "The true power of Facebook lies in what happens AFTER someone becomes a "fan" of your page. A study from eMarketer shows that over 60% fans of a brand usually or always recommend that brand to other people - and 60% of fans usually or always make a purchase from that brand."

Some rain on the pARade (clever, huh): 71.70% of the respondents in the sample (all on broadband) have never tried "an augmented reality experience". (Although, to be fair, some probably have without knowing what it's called.) One other thing people say they haven't done: using tag clouds (59.80% never).

Bantr Replaces Ads with Tweets

Bantr is a Firefox extension that replaces some 300x250 banners with tweets from your friends. The site says the tweets are matched to the context of the page whose ads it's blocking. I didn't really notice, but I am not following thousands of people, so maybe that's why.  It doesn't replace every single unit, just one, and not on all sites, although it does on AdLab.

Wouldn't it be a fun ironic twist if the tweets Bantr displayed were affiliate ad tweets?

Or you can replace banners with art.

- via

10 Advertising Inventions Of The 19th Century

The original tweet ads (!), shoe printers, an improved advertising brick and much, much more in this list of ten new media patented in the 19th century, for the fans of our retromedia series.

eBay Banner Knows What I Need

It's as if the Big Brother were wearing a gray flannel suit and had three-martini lunches.  One banner knows were I'm going, another -- what I'm looking for.  This display unit from eBay showed up on YouTube on an unrelated search page and scrolled through half a dozen active auctions for photo gear, including one for a remote cable release for a Canon I've been looking for. The images are actual auction thumbnails. If the banner freaks you out, you can click on the AdChoice link at the bottom that takes you to an explanation: "We sometimes use information we have about you to help ensure the ads you see on eBay and elsewhere are as personalized to you as possible."

I usually find myself in the camp that defends this kind of targeting, but once, an overzealous travel company banner almost ruined a surprise trip by shouting "So, you are going to Vegas?" on a computer I was sharing with the surprisee. Caution, people, caution.

Power150 Roller Coaster

With all due respect, any ranking system that suffers wild daily swings like this is probably off. Is AdLab really almost twice as good today as it was yesterday, all because of a bunch of retweets of a single post?

It's one thing when Power150 was Todd's generous but private enterprise, but now that it's the industry's sort of official (and copied) "Who Is Who", there's gotta be a better way.

Would people go for a traffic tracking code?

How To Build Brand Cults

There's a flattering amount of retweeting of the There Is This Company post and the follow-up going on (thank you!), and one of the angles people suggest is that you don't really need involvement in social media to succeed in the marketplace if your products are as good as Apple's.

Maybe there is something else going on.
A reader sent me an email today asking about the book I mentioned in the comments to one of the posts but couldn't remember at the time. It's Douglas Atkin's The Culting of Brands (aff link), where he draws parallels between different religious cults and brands that enjoy very enthusiastic following, Apple in particular.

What you see above is a screengrab from a deck I presented years ago on the Cult of Mac, and the ten "easy steps" of brand culting (click image to zoom) are from the book's now defunct but archived microsite

The point about exclusivity is dead on.

And so is the part about creating an enemy -- maybe that's what all those Mac vs PC spots really are?

Here's the book's summary I found on Book Rapper along with a bunch of interesting charts. Also see this Business Week's article from back when the book came out.

Pavement Ad Printer from 1930, and Modern Printer Robots

Remember Nike's cool Chalkbot (a descendant of StreetWriter) that printed SMS messages for Tour de France cyclists on the road surface? Here's a similar idea: a drum of water, a stencil, and an ad message. Done in 1930 in Spain to promote a wine merchant.

And a modern-day "sea-tagging" campaign to promote an aquarium in London through sea-water prints on pavement:

A few other writing and drawing machines:

Hector the Graffiti Robot (from, like, 2004).

A wall-climbing printer.

PixelRoller (we wrote about it a few years ago).

The Real Future of Augmented Reality: SixthSense Demo at TED

A new and impressive demo of Sixth Sense, a project from MIT Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces Group. The real magic starts at 6'24".

There Is This Blog Post

Sometimes, when you have people listening and nodding  in agreement, they may be hearing something very different from what you think you are saying. 

Chris Anderson's tweeted about the There Is This Company post. Many people who read it see it, as Chris does, as a call to Apple to embrace some flavor of social marketing.  After all, it's 30,000-people company that doesn't have anyone I could find on LinkedIn with "social" and "media" in their title.

I don't think that's what I meant.

Apparently, Apple hasn't become the most admired company  with healthy sales growth, good margins, a nice stock rally, and lots of fans because it's social

What if Apple is what it is precisely because it isn't?

And maybe traditional advertising isn't too dead? At least as long as your banner ads actually drive people not only to your site, but also to the page that displays them?


Branded Biographies

If you had only 160 characters to introduce yourself, what words would do you pick?

Would any of these words be a brand name?

I've looked at how people associate themselves with brands in their Twitter bios using a nifty Google query ("bio * keyword" And chances are that if your tiny blurb includes a brand name, you either sell it, work for it, or really, really like it.

On Twitter, people like Apple. Lots of "apple fans",  but no "IBM fans". And yes, there are "Microsoft fans". Eight of them.

Microsoft, people work for.

Mazda, and Chrysler, and Toyota, they sell.

Once you omit duplicate results, fewer than a hundred people have Walmart in their bio. Even fewer have Versace. But that probably isn't surprising.

Graph Media Activities With a Wheel Chart

This hand-drawn "media wheel" shows what media people consume when and where, based on data points from a syndicated research.  Here's how me made it

Honesty in Advertising: Mobile Home Company

I wonder whether the company, with its spot hitting 800K+ views on YouTube, isn't going to make more money selling their $15 t-shirts than it does selling trailers. Watch the "making of" video, too.
- via

Vending Machine Sells Ideas

50 cents a pop. Maybe it can be hacked to sell slogans?
- BB, via

There Is This Company

Here's something I've been thinking about for some time now.

You see, there is this company.

It publishes over a hundred RSS feeds and several email newsletters, but not a single blog.

The only conversations this company entertains are the ones it starts itself or is subpoenaed into.

Conversations it doesn't like, it tries to silence.

It has sued some of its biggest fans.

It is not known for responding to online complaints about its products.

On MySpace, the profile that should have belonged to this company is occupied by a DJ.

On Flickr, it's someone from Japan.

Last month, it has opened several accounts on Twitter, which it uses to broadcast product news. Four of them follow exactly four other accounts; the fifth one follows twelve.

It has two Facebook pages and no applications.

It doesn't have a channel on YouTube to post viral videos.

Its website has a "Share" link. The link opens a pop-up window with two fields: your email address and the recipient's.

It runs an affiliate program.

Once, this company liked a student video so much it re-shot the video into an 30-second ad. A search for "crowdsourcing" among its press releases returns no matches.

You know that quip about how advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable?

This company spends nearly half a billion dollars on advertising every year. Much of this money is spent on 30-second spots, full page newspaper ads, huge billboards and station domination, online banners, and search ads.

This company thinks so different it must have fallen off a cluetrain.

People dress up as this company's ads for Halloween.

This company sits on the top of Fortune's list of most admired companies.


Serving Ads on Images Isn't Easy

I kept coming across these ad overlays on images today, and they led me back to Image Space Media, the company behind the format. AdLab first wrote about them last year when they were still known as PicAdMedia. AdBrite has also tried a similar approach in the past, and the service is still active.

While potentially interesting, it doesn't seem like an easy format to get right. Serving messages relevant to the image is key, for which you need rich metadata or some kind of image recognition algorithm, otherwise you are going to end up with an image-ad combination like the one below, on the company's own site (click image to zoom).

On the other hand, perhaps an ad for an ad blocker served as a layer over "We Love Advertising" image is a perfect match.

Redesign a Van Fleet for Dish Network

The first client project from Victors & Spoils is a nice break from the usual "create-a-cool-video" kind of the crowdsourcing assignment. Instead,  they ask you to redesign Dish Network's fleet of installation vans. Hope something as awesome as these trucks comes out.

The new agency has scored a nice-looking logo via a similar exercise.

-- via jason from 99designs.

Integrating Display Ads into Content

This site found an interesting way to integrate display ads into its content.  The Google/Doubleclick ad is the second one (flat belly) in the top row; it also appears on the site's sidebar in the same fashion.

Dead Body Spam

It's called "dead body spam" or "corpse graffiti": peddlers of virtual gold in World of Warcraft spell out their site's URL with bodies of dead players, a common practice in the game (watch video).


Esquire AR Issue Hits Newstands

The December issue of Esquire with the augmentedly realistic Robert Downey Jr. on the cover has finally arrived to our news store. Too bad I can't see anything since the AR download (?) requires a PC with a stand-alone graphics card. Maybe they should've given those away in addition to webcams.

I still have a bunch of copies of their eInk issue from last year, although the screens have long ran out of power. If you watch the intro video, you'll see that the copy behind their chief editor is dead, too.

That Entertainment Weekly with video inserts?  Still over $60 on eBay, and there are only one or two copies at a time for sale.

Update (Nov 16): So, I got home and tried the AR thing again, mostly because I hadn't seen a print ad with an AR component before, and Esquire has one for Lexus.

The ad has a cool part where it shows off how some kind of radar works, and turns your camera to "infrared" and activates face tracking.

That download file is 68Mb zipped. Would love to know the "engagement" stats one day. 

And yes, AR is the new Second Life (+part II)

Advertising Lab Turns Five

Not one.
Not two.
Not three.
Not four.

Today this blog turns five, with 2,529 posts, 19K+ RSS subscribers, 2.7M total pageviews, 1.64M total uniques. Which officially makes it my longest-running and the most public hobby.

Highlights of the past year:
- Google Wave and Advertising
- Interactive Signage in 1902
- Too Much Targeting, or That Hot Single Could be Your Wife
- Don't Kill the Microsite
- Targeting Zodiac Signs
- Advertising in PowerPoint Decks
- Augmented Reality Microsites: First Impressions
- Emerging Media in the 1930s
- Advertising on Swine Flu Masks
- Why Measure Engagement?
- TV in Contact Lenses
- If Shakespeare Had Tweeted
- 19 Tips for In-Game Advertising

And thank you for reading AdLab.

Just How Badly Does Murdoch Need Google's Traffic?

The top story today was Rupert Murdoch sort of saying that News Corp might start using robots.txt on Google to prevent its stuff from being indexed. Or that's how it was interpreted on the internets anyway. Nevermind that he probably meant something different -- that News Corp will erect pay walls around its online content the way it now does with the Wall Street Journal: a headline and a paragraph of text for free, and everything else is paid. (Well, it's not how it actually works, but whatever, it's complicated. In the same interview, Murdoch says his problem is not with Google, who's been easy to deal with.)

I giggle like a schoolgirl every time people say something along the lines "The guy is stuck on stupid if you ask me. I think he may be still be living in “tangible newspaper land” also known as the year 1995" (a Techcrunch verbatim). When a "stuck on stupid" guy is worth four billion bucks he has made himself, you'd figure it is not too generous to assume that he might know a thing or two about the biz.

The general consensus seems to be that blocking off Google's spiders will result in a significant traffic drop to News Corp's online properties. I've seen a lot of web traffic reports with Google leading the referrer list, so this collective opinion made sense. Then Hitwise posted some stats showing gets 25% of its traffic from Google's regular and news searches, so that seemed settled.

But I was curious enough to login into Compete Pro and fish out a few numbers. What you see are the top three referrers to some of News Corp's online properties in the US along with their share of traffic among all referrers.

Top Referrer: Google
  • (13.33%), (7.48%), (4.43%)
  • (11.43%), (8.34%), (7.59%)
  • (22.87%), (9.03%), (8.01%) 
  • (32.99%), (14.73%), (6.31%) 
  • (41.22%), (8.53%), (8.51%)
  • (26.86%), (6.30%), (5.89%)
  • (21.19%), (8.11%), (6.40%)
  • (26.51%), (16.71%), (5.71%)
  • (13.82%), (13.36%), (6.74%)

Top Referrer: Other

  • (21.43%), (13.12%), (11.24%)
  • (28.91%), (18.04%), (17.32%)
  • (28.91%), (18.04%), (6.02%)
  • (corporate site): (23.44%), (14.69%), (4.83%)
  • (16.61% -- that's a headline in itself), (11.17%), (8.78%)
  • (29%), (7.74%), (5.39%)
  • (14.92%), (12.18%), (7.36%)
  • (15.03%), (11.90%), (7.83%)
  • (27.18%), (11.45%), (10.10%)

It appears that Google is the top referrer for most of the entertainment stuff but not so much for news. And Murdoch's Dow Jones empire seems to be much less dependent on Google compared to a few other top newspapers for every one of which Google is the top referrer:
  • (Boston Globe): (12.61%)
  • 15.21%
  • 19.02%
  • 13.38%
  • 30.28%
  • 15.74%

Gutenborg Book Robot Test Drive

It's not hard to imagine the day when you go into a Crate&Barrel, walk up to a clerk, give her a Google SketchUp URL of a tea set you really like, watch her punch in some numbers, and have a machine manufacture the exact tea set in front of your eyes.

The Gutenborg book printer already does something very similar. As soon as I learned about it, I knew I had to give it a try, and on Saturday I did. See my field notes with pictures over at Hill Holliday's blog.

Background Wrap Ad on Digg

Oh, wow. So much for the subtlety of the new ad format -- just bumped into a background wrap on Digg promoting a video game.

Update: And, surprise, site users hate it (via).

Hole Punch Art

A self-portrait created with holes of 10 different sizes. There's a camera prototype that does that, too.

Advertising in Violent Game Scenes

Having blasted my way through Carmageddon all the way to the streets of San Andreas and Pripyat,  I'm no stranger to cartoony violence, but somehow slaughtering helpless civilian crowds wholesale just feels off. This leaked video is from the upcoming Modern Warfare 2 shooter that hits the stores on November 10th and has already broken Gamestop's pre-order records.

You know what would make the scene more realistic? In-game billboards, that's what.

But seriously, wouldn't it be a good spot for an armed services recruitment poster? Here you are, playing a generally good guy infiltrated into a terrorist group that is turning the airport into lasagna.  If you are not completely corrupt, you sort of feel bad about the whole thing and maybe even indignant. Aren't you in the right state of mind for a few (sponsored) suggestions of real-life retribution?

On a side note, Activision has been chasing this video off the net since it first leaked last week. Pull out your stopwatches and time how long this one will last. If by the time you reach this post the video is down, it's all over the torrent sites by now, if you are really curious.

Bonus treck: this Russian YouTube clone (called RuTube) has an interesting implentation of in-player ads -- full-size ad frames appear when you pause the playback.

Update (Nov 16):  Banned in Russia, ha! All your terrorists are belong to us.

Advertising on Flies

Advertising on flies, courtesy of Adland. Somewhere, a channel planner is smiling. These guys haul mini-banners, but you can also paint your brand directly on them, or laser-etch your USP

Study: Human Avatars Are Better Salesmen

Furries need not apply

In what seems like ages ago, in June 2006,  Harvard Business Review made a huge splash by running a piece on avatar-based marketing (there was even an in-world panel): "The avatar, though, arguably represents a distinctly different “shadow” consumer, one able to influence its creator’s purchase of real-world products and conceivably make its own real-world purchases in the virtual world. At the least, it may offer insights into its creator’s hidden tastes."

Just as I thought everyone's mostly forgotten about Second Life by now, I found this study by two Boston College researchers who recently published a paper on the effectiveness of avatar spokespeople. Their conclusion: "The participants perceive human-like spokes-avatars as more attractive, and players who interact with a human-like spokes-avatar perceive the iPhone advertisement as more informative than those who interact with a non-human spokes-avatar."

The entire Journal of Interactive Advertising is full of cool topics like this; too bad all their stuff is written in that kind of language that takes hours for us layfolk to decipher.

Video Advertising from Armpits

Just as you think there's nothing left to blog about, a friend sends you this. And this is a deodorant company sending out street teams with small TVs sewn into their armpits. The dream of Smell-o-Vision has finally come true.
- via CherryFlava

Update:  R/GA: "I pray the Charmin people don't see this." 

What We Know About Ad Skipping

I've posted a lot about ad skipping in the past here on AdLab, and now we've compiled a lot of different ad avoidance stats on Hill Holliday's blog, plus a bunch of old ads that promote products that help people skip ads (irony alert!). Above: an ad for Mazda that was designed for  people who liked to record their shows on VCRs and fast-forwarded through the commercial breaks.

Billboards That Give

I really like the idea of billboards that let people take something with them, like this Kenzo billboard with poppies. It's a good way to make them bookmarkable, to extend their shelf life. Here are a few more billboards that give blankets, samples, and a life raft.

Business Card Display

This rotating display by a bank that showcases business cards of its small-business customers is something they need to install at the conferences, ideally with a dispenser. Maybe something like adpockets, or these displays, or maybe even a vending machine. Something.

AdLab attended many conferences and came back with suggestions on designing usable conferencesconference badges, and conference websites.

Advertising on School Exams

This beats those report cards sponsored by McD's. A calculus teacher whose school's budget cuts left him short on money for copying expenses started selling ad space on exams. In a few days, he got 75 requests. "His semester final is sold out." Price list: $10 for a quiz; $20 - chapter test. The final goes for $30. That company in the picture -- I think it's these guys.

-- USA Today (2008), via

Send SMS to Complete This Ad

This Axe ad from Uruguay is the best mobile "send SMS and get something" implementation I've seen. Send a text message after dark to a phone number listed on the ad, and you'll get the missing fragment of the picture. Good teaser, meaningful payback. Very smart.