Mahir "I Kiss You" Çağrı Ten Years Later

Spotted Mahir, the hero of one of the earliest internet memes that circled the globe in 1999, giving media interviews at ROFLcon today. Stay tuned for more geeky celebrity sightings.

MIT Tech Review: Social TV Will Change the World

MIT Tech Review has published its 2010 list of ten technologies that will change the world, and one of them is social television. Wonder why now; I first posted on the subject five years ago, and the research goes a lot further back. It seemed like a pretty cool idea back at the time -- imagine connecting with those other wonderful people watching The Steve Wilkos Show! -- but the more I keep thinking about it, the more it seems like a solution in search of a problem.  Besides, with a combination of Twitter on a smartphone, hashtags and a TV, this isn't even the only solution.

That TV remote on the picture above looks pretty much like a new Dell smartphone with Twitter on it.

Anyway, the article highlights work by a Media Lab's research group: "Marie-José Montpetit, an invited scientist at MIT's Research Lab for Electronics, has been working for several years on social TV--a way to seamlessly combine the social networks that are boosting TV ratings with the more passive experience of traditional TV viewing. Her goal is to make watching television something that viewers in different places can share and discuss--and to make it easier to find something to watch."

A few years ago, John Batelle had a pretty cool idea of using online conversations around TV programs to rank shows in importance, the idea that has later materialized as Twielsen.

Sometimes, it feels like the TR suffers from the availability bias: two other technologies on the list are real-time search and 3D (mobile) displays.

Last year, they put Siri on the list, the same company Apple just bought.

Google Needs a "Try Again" Button

I wish Google had a "Try Again" button that would fetch a new set of results based on the algorithm's different set of assumptions about my search intent. The button would come in handy when I am stuck, can't think of another way to rephrase my query, and don't feel like manually combing through pages and pages of search results. Kind of the opposite of "I'm feeling lucky."

(I wonder why all those pages are even there if 94% of people don't ever venture past page 3, and those who do obviously aren't impressed with the first 30 results.  On the other hand, I'm also very curious about what site ranked last "of about 1,340,000,000" for "love", but Google won't go past page 80. It's so far down the list it must be filled with hate. Or indifference.)

 To go back to the regular button or to revisit the original set of results, I would just empty the search box.

The Evolution of Advertising in Sports Video Games

This is a rerun of a series of blog posts I did back in April 2006 while researching things for my grad thesis (bonus: an unpublished chapter on history).  It documents the evolution of advertising in sports video games published by Electronic Arts between 1983 and 2006. Since many AdLab readers probably haven't seen it, and the stuff is pretty fascinating, I thought I'd repost it. The original raw research notes follow.  Some links may since have expired. 

[Also see 19 Tips for In-Game Advertising, a case study on Burger King's games, the illustrated history with videos, and a lot of other good stuff posted here on AdLab about in-game advertising.]

I am writing the chapter on history of in-game advertising and decided to track down the evolution of sports games. I picked games made or published by Electronic Arts because the company has some of the most popular franchises, the games sold well, and also because these days the company seems to have a structured approach to selling ad space in their games. Below are screenshots from EA's sports games made during the two decades between 1983-2006.

Moving Old Posts About In-Game Ads to AdLab

I'll be moving a bunch of old posts about in-game advertising from a thesis blog I set up half a decade ago to AdLab. It's something I've been meaning to do forever, and now that Google is shutting down FTP support I finally get to do it.

Depending on how your RSS reader is set up, you might see these old posts showing up in your feed as new. Sorry for the clutter, I'll try to wrap things up quickly.

Slogan Slingers Crowdsource Slogans

You can get your next ad slogan crowdsourced with for about $200, or you can use this handy free slogan generator.

Related: literary analysis of advertising slogans, reenacting corporate slogans, and the inherent poetry of advertising.

Renault Puts Electric Cars in Sims 3

Electronic Arts and Renault announced an agreement that will enable players of The Sims 3 to download Renault's electric vehicles into the game.  "This Spring, Renault's Twizy Z.E Concept car will be made available to download free of charge [...] within an Electric Vehicle Pack."

Two years ago, Ikea released a Stuff Pack for Sims 2, a year after H&M. I've also seen BP-branded windmills in the most recent SimCity Societies.

Some numbers: "Since its June 2009 launch, The Sims 3 has sold more than 4.5 million copies worldwide to date." Fans have downloaded 130 million copies of player created content that includes Sims, houses, and stories. Nearly 2 million uploads have been made to date to the Sims 3 community site, "including 20 movies each hour. The Sims 3 YouTube Channel is in the top ten most viewed sponsored channels of all time with more than 28 million video views."
-- press release, Joystiq

Two Banners In One Short RSS Feed Item

I'm all for making money, and I know RSS ads aren't known for high click-throughs, but two banners in each non-full RSS feed item?  

Projector Turns Surfaces Into Touch Screens

A follow-up to the post from earlier today about student experiments with projected interfaces:  "Light Touch is an interactive projector that instantly transforms any flat surface into a touch screen."  Not for sale yet, but apparently available to potential partners.
- via

Skinput Body Interface Listens for Taps on Skin

CNN Labs (?) runs a story about Skinput, a prototype interface that appropriates the human body as input device, developed by a Carnegie Melon grad student and Microsoft researcher. "Skinput can tell whether a person tapped a middle finger or an index finger, because the two moves sound slightly different to the springy receivers."

Related:  some other work in this area as well as the now-famous Sixth Sense prototype from MIT.

Student Projects Explore Projection Interfaces

Five student projects at Uni of Washington explore "projection of interfaces on any surface suitable for display and interaction in the home of the future." Pictured above is an interactive cooking coach. I also like their solution to losing things around the house


Next time you hear news organizations complain about the internets stealing their headlines and stories, show them this.  In today's mainstream media's coverage of Gizmodo's iPhone 4G stunt, there is not a single line, not a single angle that adds anything new of value to the original story. All they do is summarize what Gizmodo has already published.  Look:

AP: Pics of purported next-generation iPhone reach Web

AFP: Apple wants its iPhone back

Telegraph: Apple orders Gizmodo return iPhone 4G

Bloomberg: New IPhone Found, Has Front-Facing Camera, Blog Says (Update3)

WSJ: Web Site's Account Of iPhone Fuels Buzz

NYT: For Apple, Lost iPhone Is a Big Deal

CNNMoney / Fortune: Apple wants its secret iPhone back

P.S. Is Apple's missive claiming the device the mellowest legal letter ever? "Please let me know where to pick up the unit."

Eww. 2 Girls 1 Sub [nsfw]

Wonder how Quiznos feels about its sandwich starring in this Playboy's prequel to the grossest internet meme since goatse. And if you are blissfully ignorant of the reference, please, please, don't try to look it up. This is AdLab's best advice in its five years on air.

Related: Mr. Clean and brand mascots in erotic fantasies

The Playboy video is below.

Future: Cell Phones As Personal Information Filters

This article was originally written for and published by Canvas8 in November 2009.

Pay no attention to the man holding the receiver; it’s the phone itself you’ll need to impress.

A small army of editors, programming directors, critics, censors, librarians and curators have shaped choices of entire generations.   But just like factory workers of the 19th century found themselves inevitably replaced by the more efficient machines, human gatekeepers are giving way to a new breed of automated tastemakers – sophisticated software that separates the information wheat from the chaff and whose influence is growing as fast as the amount of information we produce.

That is, pretty fast.

In 2002, the amount of new information was estimated to double every three years.    Today, it is doubling in size every 18 months. IBM expects that soon the amount of information will be doubling every eleven hours.  47,000 radio stations around the world pump out 70 million hours of original radio programming; 21,000 TV stations create 31 million hours of news, dramas, and reality shows; and printing presses roll out over a million new book titles, 25,000 newspapers, 80,000 trade periodicals and 37,000 academic journals. (source)

Finding a needle in this haystack of information requires superhuman powers. It is likely that in the near future these powers will come packaged in a slick portable device that stays awake around the clock, knows your tastes, detects your mood, programs your TV, fills your earbuds with infallibly pleasing music, and instructs you what to have for dinner and where, what books to read and what clothes to buy.

It will probably be a (really) smart phone.

Twitter Ads Triggered By Trademarked Keywords, Products

After reading articles like this recent one in NYT, I was left with the impression that Twitter's "Promoted Tweets" ads are triggered when people search for advertisers by their name. See this quote, for example:

"When people are searching on Starbucks, what we really want to show them is that something is happening at Starbucks right now, and Promoted Tweets will give us a chance to do that," said Chris Bruzzo, vice president of brand, content and online at Starbucks.

It turns out that the ads, much like Google AdWords, can be triggered by a bunch of other search terms, including product names or even third-party brands. I noticed that BestBuy's ads are live too (Starbucks's ads went on air earlier this week) and spent some time plugging different terms into the search box to see what will come up.

I am still trying to understand the logic that guides the display of the ads. It seems that there is a list against which the search terms are checked.  The search term (or a variation) needs to be present in the tweet itself, although not every word in a tweet will make it a "promoted" tweet. The list with the terms must be updated pretty often for the recently published tweets to show up as ads; either that, or the tweets must be scheduled in advance.

This tweet above becomes "promoted" when you search for hdtv, 3d tv, bestbuy, best buy, @bestbuy, 3d hdtv, 3d, but not, interestingly, by blue ray, blueray, electronics, tv, or bravia.

Searches for tri-color or Chickenfoot (a BestBuy concert) -- words that can be found in this and this tweets, respectively -- produced nothing.

Some trademarked terms trigger BestBuy's ads as well.  Search for iPad, and this tweet about iPad arrival comes up.  Search for Nook, and you get a Nook tweet-ad. Search for Bosch, though, and this tweet about Bosch appliances (published before the ad platform announcement) does not come up.

MediaPost yesterday wrote that this ad model could open a "PPC trademark can of worms."

More Details About Apple's iAd Platform

Not cheap, well targeted in a rather unique way, good looking, with room for improvement. A much more detailed account of our meeting with Apple's iAd team yesterday here.

North Korea Tours Info Pack

Followed a recent post on AdFreak to the site of KoryoGroup (cached) that offers tours to North Korea. The site is currently mostly down, but I got this pdf of their info pack. Lots of nuggets like "If you leave your camera on the bus etc the guides are a lot happier to give you more freedom."

Quote of the Week

"Apps are just (better) websites, because they don’t have to give a shit about SEO."

Remember when we used to have web pages that were for users, not spiders? f*cking keywords everywhere drives me bananas.

- A comment on Techcrunch

Movie Trailer in an Animated GIF

This GIF trailer was part of an email promo I got tonight from Pampers. Pretty eye-catching even if not exactly movie-quality. And pretty heavy, too, at 3.2MB.

Rethinking Calendars

AdLab's Rethink: series is about creative that is built around core and often unexpected properties of a particular medium. The first and the most popular post was about print, but I also really like  billboards that give, a road that plays music,  shopping bags that turn into kites, and interesting fishwrap.

Today, we continue the series with these wonderful promo calendars.

Calendars have what?  Leaves. Which makes it a perfect medium to promote a leaf blower. This calendar is rigged so that its leaves fall off automatically one each day and pile up on the floor; see for yourself in a video.

The thickness (or, rather, thinness) of paper has been explored by this knife brand before, in a print ad. This calendar with a slice of onion chopped off every day is a year-long reminder of the knives' sharpness.

The least obvious property of a calendar -- that the dates match up every 28 years -- was tapped into by Italy's League for the Environment to promote recycling.

The calendars below are interesting, too, although in a different way.

This idea is built not so much around the physical properties of the medium itself as a related saying "An apple a day keeps a doctor away". A calendar with 31 real apples in a tube, for a health insurance company.

A calendar in the shape of a photo lens promoting photog's services.

And a bizarre calendar with a leaf for each of the 7300+ days (that's 20 years) of warranty that a solar panel manufacturer gives its clients.

Twitter's First Ads Are Live

Just became a part of history by retweeting Twitter's first ad (for Starbucks). If you stay long enough on the search page, the sponsored tweets go in rotation; that is, the sponsored tweet is not necessarily the freshest one.

Nude Photographs for the Blind

Tactile Minds (around $200) includes 17 2-D tactile photographs created by Lisa J. Murph who "has photographed, sclupted, thermoformed, & self- published a book of nude photographs for the blind."

If the price is too steep, there's always the free nudie audio or the back issues of Playboy in Braille.

Optical Illusion: Disappearing Stain

This outdoor ad for a bleach is the most skillful implementation of an optical illusion I've seen in advertising - the stain disappears as you move closer to the poster.

Will You Love Ads Now?

Prescient (and rerun).

The Future of Print: Alice for the iPad

Alice in Wonderland for iPad. When we talk about iPad and the future of print, this is what we mean, not some gimmicky scrolling UI.
- via

Update: Ok, so I've just downloaded it ($9, or a free lite version with one chapter), and this is not entirely what we mean when we talk about the future. The best way to think of Alice for the iPad is as a digital version of a pop-up book. Mainstream book publishing isn't any more likely to make all their books like Alice than they are to convert all their titles to pop-up format.

But it is a very nice e-book. Kids will love it. By the way, check out the gorgeous paper version, too.

Lingerie Ads in Second Life

A collection on Flickr, via AdRants.

Also, a Pamela Anderson look-alike Second Life avatar in anaglyph (red-blue) 3D [video].

Debunking The Ad Contrarian

Update (April 12' 2010): Welcome, readers of TAC's fatherly rebuttal and MadMen fans! Did you know that Sterling Cooper didn't have a "television department" until Crane's "appointment" in 1960

Like many of you, I enjoy reading The Ad Contrarian blog, ran by an agency CEO Bob Hoffman.  In a sense, TAC is the ad industry's Perez Hilton: he draws in crowds by doodling on faces of today's idols; more often than not that's online advertising in general and social media in particular. Some of his posts are right on target, others are wildly off, but all are usually entertaining.

I get unduly excited, though, when in one sentence he insists that his ideological opponents should support their claims with solid data and in the next he makes sweeping generalizations that have little to do with reality.

Take his most recent post, for example, which he opens with: "We're about 15 years into the internet revolution as a mainstream phenomenon and by any measure internet advertising has to be deemed a major failure."

This statement, by any measure,  is inaccurate.

Internet advertising is as effective as TV at driving sales, if you believe the study published last year by ComScore, who had monitored purchasing behavior of 200,000 of its panelists. "Over the course of twelve weeks, online ad campaigns with an average reach of 40 percent of their target segment successfully grew retail sales of the advertised brands by an average of 9 percent." The advertised brands were all consumer packaged goods. (via)

Here's a different study published by Yahoo! Research together with, again, ComScore in 2007: "Consumers exposed to display advertising spent an average of $6 in the store for every $1 they spent online".

(Since TAC insists on quoting the "99% of all video is viewed on traditional TV" stat from Nielsen's "Three Screen Report", I didn't bother googling past the first available ComScore study.)

TAC then writes: "Fifteen years into its mainstream life, television had created scores of powerful consumer-facing brands."

This, too, is hard to believe.

Let's start from the day the very first commercial aired, which was on July 1, 1941 during the launch of NBC, since TAC's 15-year timeline for the mainstream web apparently begins when the first ad banner went live in 1994, with only 2 percent of the US households online.

For thirteen years after 1941, the share of TV remained way below 5 percent of the total ad spend until it surged to about 15 percent in 1954 (via), as a recession ended and the install base of TV sets had finally tipped over the 50-percent mark (via).

TV advertising during this period was dominated by the "single-sponsor" format, where an advertiser would produce and control an entire chunk of schedule with programs such as Kraft Television Theater, Colgate Comedy Hour, and Coke Time. The modern "magazine concept" format, where advertisers would buy one- or two-minute chunks of air time, was not established until the 1960.  "While participation advertising met with some initial resistance on Madison Avenue, many agencies saw that it was the ideal promotional vehicle for packaged-goods companies manufacturing a cornucopia of brand names, such as Procter and Gamble with such disparate products as Tide (laundry detergent), Crest (toothpaste), and Jif (peanut butter)." (source)

Given that there were only four TV networks at the time and a rather limited ad inventory, it is hardly possible that TV was creating "scores of powerful consumer-facing brands" during the single-sponsor era.

Finally, TAC asks, "After 15 years, can anyone name even ten serious non-native [that is, not Google, Amazon, etc] consumer-facing brands that have been created by web advertising?"

To be honest, I can't. But I also can't think of 1) any non-native (not purely web-based) "serious" brand  that tried going the online-only route, and 2) many "serious" brands launched in the past 15 years created by any means.  Based on what TAC wrote later in the comment section, let's consider a brand "serious" if it does better than Zappos, which had $1B in sales and 10 million customers in 2008.

It's an interesting question, though, and if you know the answer, please leave a comment.
Can you name a serious non-native consumer brand created entirely by web advertising?

On the other hand, "great brands have never been created by 'branding'".

Is Wired's iPad App Toast?

Last week, I posted that Wired's app would be built on Adobe Air and then repacked with CS5 into a native iPad app. Now the newly updated language of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement seems to prohibit apps created with cross-compilers like the Adobe's packager. Which means Wired's app in its current form is dead. Which, in turn, is ironic given Wired's glowing cover story (with iPad on the cover) this month about how tablets will change the face of computing.

Real-Time Web Traffic Stats On Your iPhone [ad]

I had been searching for a traffic counter with a dedicated iPhone interface that I can access on the go for some time, and it turns out that good solutions aren't really that many. There's Mint, which you have to host yourself. There's the Analytics app for iPhone, which is a mobile interface for your Google Analytics account. I tested, I think, every single one of those apps, and Analytics is by far the best, but it comes with all the limitations of Google Analytics itself, most importantly the reporting lag.

Then there's Clicky, which is a hosted service that offers an iPhone-like mobile web interface (the screenshot above), real-time reporting, and detailed activity logs for each visitor.  Clicky comes in a variety of plans that range from free to $20 a month. I've been a happy customer of their $10/month Pro plan for half a year now and am happy to recommend them.

It's Peanuts: Farmville Reaps Brand Placement

BBR Saatchi & Saatchi Tel Aviv and Saatchi Interactive will launch the first "commercially inspired crop" on Farmville. "The initiative will see Zynga, creators of FarmVille, introduce a new crop – peanuts - as part of Saatchi Tel Aviv's roll-out campaign for Elite Taami Nutz, a new peanut-filled variant of one of Israel's favourite chocolate snacks. The 'peanuts' will be available on FarmVille from the 14th April 2010."

-- from a press release

iPad: The Swiss Army Knife of Media Consumption

I got to play with the iPad at work and here's what I think.

By the way, what would be a good caption for the photo above?   All I have is stuff like "We've got plenty of Time".

iPad Media Coverage Thirty Years Ago

This news clip about Compuserve's (?) experimental news delivery service from 30 years ago is a lot like the iPad coverage we have all been enjoying over the past month.  "Imagine, if you will, sitting down to your morning coffee, turning on your home computer to read the day's newspaper. Well, it's not as far-fetched as it may seem."
-- via

Splash! The World's Tallest Email Ad

There's so little creative thinking in the mainstream ad world going into one of the most popular digital media around (email's penetration is near 100% of online population) that we take it upon us to celebrate every nugget, starting with the world's tallest email sent out by a Brazilian waterpark. Scrolling down the image 12,000 pixels tall is likely to make you almost as dizzy as the water slide it promotes. Below is a heavily resized version of the original.

A/B Testing Creative for Panhandling

A few years ago, I posted about a business student whose internship project was to increase daily revenue of a panhandler through adjusting the emotional pitch of the cardboard sign. In the same spirit of responsible citizenship, Daily Conversions blog decided to do a split test on another pandhandler's banner. Results? "This experiment improved this man's earnings by over 100% over several days."

An important finding: holding your cup up doesn't do anything for your conversions.
-- via

Canon's Lens-Shaped Thermos Hits eBay

This thermos styled after the iconic white L lens that Canon was giving away to the lucky press during Vancouver Olympics is easily the awesomest piece of schwag I've ever seen and written about. They are now hitting eBay, and this one is already up to over $100 with two days of bidding left. I bet it will go for more than an actual non-Canon lens of similar properties.

Looks like a manufacturer in China has decided to ride the wave, because there's a bunch of eBay offers for pre-ordering one "directly from the OEM", due for shipping in mid-April.