Amex Centurion Statue in Farmville

Continuing to keep an eye on brands in Farmville:  American Express is letting its card holders to redeem reward points for Zynga's virtual goods (and Citi has just followed). Amex is also offering a special Centurion statue that will double the mastery for players' crops in Farmville for one week.

Previous promos in Farmville: Megamind, Farmers Insurance, McDonald's, peanuts.

BMW Puts Its Logo On The Back of Eyelids

Putting the phenomenon of closed-eye visualizations to profitable use, the Dutch ad team for BMW flashed the car maker's logo in a darkened movie theater and then asked the audience to close their eyes to discover a bright BMW-shaped spot -- also known as retinal noise -- on the back of their eyelids.  Note that "CEV noise will not disappear if observed continuously over a period of time".
-- via Denver Egotist

Photo Experiments With Kinect's Structured Light

A photographer experiments with Kinect's structured light: "The Kinect - an inexpensive videogame peripheral - projects a pattern of infrared dots known as "structured light". Invisible to the eye, this pattern can be captured using an infrared camera."

Book Promos Help People Kill Time

A publisher in Thailand promotes new books by printing story snippets where people are likely to have the time to read them - queues, receipts with queue numbers, placemats in restaurants.  
-- creative criminal

Earlier: Airport Billboard Tires Kids Pre-Flight, Billboards That Give

Google in 133t Calls Its Ads Sp4m

A funny "localized" version of Google with its interface translated into 133t stays in character and calls its ads what the real haxorz are calling them - "sp4m".

Smarter Conversations

I get a fair number of PR emails every day, but this one is strange. It came last Friday from Lois Whitman, whose name will be familiar to Techcrunch readers. The email makes it known that Hugh Macleod (@gapingvoid) is available for interviews, which makes it look like Hugh has retained services of a PR company. This, in turn, is puzzling: why would someone who is followed and read by just about every ad blogger hire a PR firm to send the same ad bloggers an email blast? (I noticed AdPulp got the same email.) Or maybe I am completely misunderstanding this message and it's simply Lois promoting her PR practice, and Hugh has nothing to do with it. I emailed both Hugh and Lois last Friday, but haven't heard back yet.

Speaking of "smarter conversations":  if advertising is the cost of being boring, what's, then, an email PR blast?

An Overwhelming Security Questions Form

Above is a pretty badly designed sign-up form asking a bunch of "security questions" by a site I had to use last night, and here's how to fix some of the most common problems with such forms.

Pocket Bargain Finder from 1999

In 1999, a team of researchers at Accenture described what you now know as a barcode-scanning app on your phone; they called it Pocket Bargain Finder. Pocket Bargain Finder "combines the global scope of Internet shopping agents, the ease-of-input of a barcode scanner, and the portability of a PDA. The result is a convergence of electronic and physical commerce that we call augmented commerce."  In their research paper (pdf), the authors have described the potentially disruptive effects such technology would have on traditional retailers: "With consumers able to find the best price regardless of where they shop, the physical retailer is left at a distinct disadvantage."  (Related from AdLab a few years ago: The Future of Retail: Instant Price Check.)

This is apropos of the Price Check for iPhone, a new app that Amazon launched today that lets you scan barcodes, snap pictures or say the product name into it and it will show you product prices, reviews and ratings along with a big Buy On Amazon button.

The Once-Removed SEO

Search engine optimization  used to mean attracting more traffic to your site by getting your site to rank higher on a page that displays search results for a specific query.

SEO by proxy is a new(ish) twist.  Hijack a page on an already established site, optimize that instead for the query, and pepper in abundant links to your own original destination. Here's a document on Scribd that doesn't make any sense to anyone but a Google spider, which put it on the first page of results for "brand expectations," above a link to a much more legible but less keyword-stuffed book on Google's own Books site. The big red Click Here" links go to some affiliate page.

15 Stories From Fast Company About The Future of Advertising

FastCompany yesterday made a splash with its The Future of Advertising piece. It's not the first time the magazine offers predictions about the ad industry. I've looked through the first 100 issues published between 1995-2005, and found at least 15 stories describing how broken the ad biz is and offering some version of its future; that's at least one story published every year. 

Rethinking Big on Madison Avenue, October 31, 1995 (FastCompany's first issue)
If you look at the level of organizational change in ad agencies compared with the rest of corporate America, it's like one is standing still and the other is running at 100 miles per hour. Agencies have not changed in 50 years.

The Ad Agency to End All Ad Agencies, December 31, 1996
The truth about companies has more energy than any fabricated advertising slogans. Every company has its own truths. It's even more true on the Net, a modern version of the old marketplace. There will still be people bullshitting on it, but the people who are putting honest communication across will succeed.

Branding Is Dead! Long Live Sustainable Identity! March 31, 1998. (That was the issue that introduced Zaltman's metaphor elicitation method and Godin's permission marketing)
The Internet has introduced a whole new group of players into the "influencer" chain that PR people must connect to, and the opinions of these Web pundits present a new challenge for PR to grapple with.

Do You Buy the New Marketing? August 31, 1999
It's new! It's radical! It's digital! And it's designed for you. That's the pitch from a hot new crop of books on marketing. Together, they amount to a cutting-edge curriculum for connecting with customers.

This Virtual Agency Has Big Ideas, October 31 1999 (Basically, an early crowdsourcing model by Host Universal)
As the bathwater cooled, Smith returned to an idea that he'd been mulling over for weeks: Why not build a virtual agency -- a flexible organization that would be dedicated to generating strategic and creative solutions for clients? Instead of running a shop full of employees, why not contract work out to small, ad hoc teams that would offer the best available talent for any given project? Each team would work directly for a client. Its only product would be its ideas.

Change Agency, April 30, 2000
How does a fabulously successful, old-line ad agency reinvent itself for the Digital Age?  Those are the kinds of questions that occupy the staffers at Y&R 2.1, a fledgling agency-within-an-agency at Young & Rubicam. The 30-person shop was established last December with the goal of creating a bug-free version of a traditional agency.

Attention, Please, May 31, 2000
If Billboards are the ultimate symbol of old-economy advertising, then E*billboards are the next frontier of new-economy advertising.

Will Online Ads Ever Click?  February 28, 2001
The problem with Internet advertising isn't that there's too much of it (or, these days, less and less of it), or even that most banner ads make 30-second TV spots look like Oscar material. No, the problem is that Internet advertising just isn't smart enough.

Don't Shout, Listen, July 31, 2001
At Procter & Gamble, branding is almost everything. And in the age of the Web, almost everything is up for grabs. Here's how P&G has turned the Internet into a device for listening to customers -- and for experimenting with its brands.

Advertising, Under Review, March 31, 2002
Never mind the blank TV -- someone unplugged the entire ad business! When it comes to spending -- whether the medium is television, print, or the Internet -- the boom times are over. Clients wonder if agencies understand their problems, and consumers wonder why they should pay attention to what Madison Avenue produces.

More Than a Game, April 30, 2002
How many 2002 Super Bowl spots made you sit up and take notice? When was the last time you saw a banner ad that really clicked with you? Madison Avenue is in a creative slump. That's why marketers are testing alternatives to the 30-second spot and the pop-up ad. Their latest experiment: the "advergame."

Memo to Brands: Surrender, May 31, 2002
Don't kill your television. Just paralyze it. Choke off its influence, smother its authority, and reclaim control over your evenings, Saturday mornings, and bathroom breaks. That is the directive from TiVo central, where technology is rendering the 30-second television ad impotent. Empowered viewers armed with digital video recorders are zapping through Academy Award speeches, opening credits, and thousands of TV commercials -- giggling all the way. And that is only the beginning of the end.

Buzz Without Bucks, August 1, 2003
Smart companies are discovering that you don't need big budgets to deliver a big message. By cleverly cultivating buzz, small businesses with tiny budgets can level the playing field with established giants.

It's a Blog World After All, April 1, 2004
Despite those worries, no new medium can go for long without being turned into a marketing channel. Got a message to get out or a product to promote? The blog world is populated by folks who thrive on racing to be first to post news and getting others to link to, or "blogroll," them. They're naturally the opinionated, hyperconnected influencers marketers crave.

Commercial Success, January 1, 2005:
"The creative departments at ad agencies still see TV as the sexy medium," says Montague, who's now chief creative officer of J. Walter Thompson, "but their days are numbered. These people will either get religion or get left behind."  That might sound a bit hyperbolic, but consider this: In the late 1950s and early 1960s, even after broadcast TV had come to more than half of U.S. households, the reputable creative directors refused to make TV commercials, which weren't very good yet and still weren't admired or respected as an art form. Eventually, they got religion -- or got left behind.

Your Blog Here!  April 1, 2005
Yay! FastCompany names AdLab one of its favorite ad blogs because of its ad-futuristic bent.

Is Mad. Ave. Ready to Go Naked? October 1, 2005
After years of mass denial--of declining advertising effectiveness, of disruptive technologies such as the Internet and TiVo changing long-entrenched consumer behavior--the ad industry is finally beginning to acknowledge its baldness.

Vending Machines With Face Recognition and Opinions

The Japanese should connect these vending machines that suggest a drink based on customers' gender to the billboards with face recognition they've been installing in train stations earlier this year -- unless that's what they are already doing. From Reuters: "The machines, developed by JR East Water Business Co, a subsidiary of railway firm JR East Co, use large touch-panel screens with sensors that allow the machine to determine the characteristics of an approaching customer."

The embedded digital signage bases its drink recommendations on temperature and time in addition to the customer's gender. The machines are made by Acure that has more information about them on its site.

Here's the press release in Japanese (pdf).

Armchair Photoethnography

Ad planners,  researchers and other insight miners couldn't be more pleased about the democratization of digital photography and the astronomical number of pictures of the mundane that can be found online.

Looking at the pictures of people's experiences related to the brand I'm researching is a lot of fun. The way a picture is composed, the way the subject matter is centered can say a lot about what people think is important. Sometimes, we would recruit a bunch of people,  hand them cameras for a week or two, and then follow up with questions. Often, though, what we do is armchair photoethnography -- going through photos already posted somewhere and looking for patterns.

My first stop used to be Flickr, but now I often start with Ginipic, a free desktop app that searches multiple photosharing sites at once. It's probably obvious in retrospect, but it took me some time to realize that the kinds of  pictures people share on Flickr and, say, Picasa can often differ dramatically. Flickr, after all, is a forum for amateur and professional photographers who try to put their best foot forward, while Picasa is a place where you put your kids' snapshots for the grandma to see. Consider these search results, via Ginipic, for "Niagara": the first set is from Flickr, the second set is from Picasa. Pictures in the former are fancier, pictures in the latter have a lot more faces.

Favorited Tweets

Roger Sterling has a book out.

A very important white paper: "3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology"

Punchcut: "Traditional TV UI models are basic, disconnected, one-dimensional and linear. The new mobile, social and interactive contexts of use demand new UI solutions."

Along the same lines, an official guide for designing for Google TV.

Audio map of accents from around the world.

A big list of Foursquare badges.

"7 Awesome Ways Barnyard Animals Are Like Communism" and other classic book titles optimized for traffic.

Can you tell Arial from Helvetica?  20 challenges

A new breakthrough in holographic displays - full color, refreshed at 2 seconds.

There are 3300+ more of these in my favorites list on Twitter.

An Enthusiastic Review for Clarks Shoes

This review for Clarks Artisan Women's Peralta Boot made my day:
I just ordered those booties and wore them all day next day. Running errand, walking a lot was not a problem. Heel could be a bid higher and would still be comfy. Love those!!! They go well with black pants. And even though I am a guy nobody the whole [time] noticed that I wear womens shoes. Went shopping, post office, had lunch met a girlfriend and did some further shoe shopping in them.

Ten Good Decks

SlideShare is a great service and a huge repository of slideable wisdom, but it doesn't make it easy to find good stuff. In my four years with the site, I've favorited about 25 presentations. Below are the ten I wanted to share. You have probably seen some of them before.

Thinking About Innovation by Noah Brier.

How To Build a Web App, also by Noah.

Designing Interesting Moments by Bill Scott.

History of a Button by Bill DeRouchey, author of the PushClickTouch blog.

How To Do Propagation Planning by Griffin Farley.

Just Add Points? What UX Can (and Cannot) Learn From Games by Sebastian Deterding.

Pawned. Gamification and Its Discontents, a sequel to "Just Add Points?"

Connection Planningness by Jason Oke and Gareth Kay

Beyond Advertising by Adrian Ho

Level Designers, Core Space Creation and Level Flow by Matthias Worch

Bonus tracks:

  • SlideShare Zeitgeist 2009, by SlideShare.  A rare compendium of deck-related trivia:  that the average number of slides in a presentation is 19.33, that presentations in French are, on average, the longest, and that Arial is the most popular typeface.
  • Smoke - The Convenient Truth makes a strong argument why you should buy tobacco stocks, although the authors' intent might have been different.

I also have a rant (unrelated to the list above) that I felt I had to get out but that probably doesn't deserve a post of its own.

The before/after image on the top of the post is a slide from a sample SlideShare deck by Garr Reynolds, the Presentation Zen author, and it illustrates the unfortunate sideways evolution of the corporate communication genre.  We used to spend hours fumbling with PowerPoint templates and animations and slide transitions. Today, we spend hours coming up with clever one-liners and raiding Flickr and stock image banks in search of the perfect generic photo in high resolution. The result is pretty much the same, only now the image-heavy and word-light decks can't even stand on their own without the presenter to provide context.

Andrew Abela calls this new style "ballroom presentations" and he says that "conference room presentations" call for a different approach. I am not sure I completely agree with everything in the Extreme Presentation method he proposes, but the novelty is refreshing.

Chex Quest, The First Game Ad Mod

This is a TV spot for the 1996 Chex Quest, which I think was the first time when a standalone mod of a popular game (Doom) was used to promote a product. It was distributed on a CD in more than six million of Chex cereal boxes, attracted a lot of fans, and apparently won an EFFIE for its effectiveness. I couldn't find the game on the list of winners on the official site, but one of its creators claims the game was responsible for a 248% lift in sales.  The game was developed by Digital CafĂ© in Minneapolis, an early interactive agency co-founded in 1991 by Dean Hyers and Michael Koenigs. You can still download the game and its 2008 sequel here.  If you'd rather watch than play, here's a five-minute speed run through the game.

Quake II Ad as a Grocery Circular

A 1999 ad for a Quake II port (click image for full size): "Hand-batter every opponent with customized control and a slaughterhouse of butchery devices. Ten slabs of juicy maps offer place settings no carnivore can resist."
-- Vintage Computing

Drawing Logos from Memory To Test Recollection

An interesting way to find out what people remember about your brand is asking them to draw its logo from memory. A group in Austria did just that a few years ago by having 150 people sketching 12 different logos. Everyone remembered that LaCoste logo had a crocodile, but a few were confused about which way it was turned. Sketches for Toyota were all over the place: one rendering was actually a Mitsubishi mark. The Adidas drawings above show how some people's memory was stuck under the layers of old brand communications featuring the iconic leaf logo, while others didn't remember which way the three lines should be sloping.

Mad Men Against The Machine

Last month, I was on a panel at a FutureM "Flying Cars Are Here" event. I talked about robots, which in retrospect turned out to be surprisingly timely: that same week, AdWeek ran "Machine-Built Brands" and AdAge wrote about "Glitch in the Coming Advertising Singularity". The accompanying slides are on Slideshare and are also embedded at the end.  Below is what I talked about.

Hi. I run the R&D practice here at Hill Holliday. It’s a really great gig because I get to read science fiction and think about robots.

I can easily name two reasons to turn to science fiction for insights.

One is that some of the kids who read science fiction grow up and go on to making things they’ve been dreaming about.

The other reason is that science fiction, just like advertising, reflects the collective dreams and fears of a particular era.

We fantasize about giant machines laying destruction on entire cities, or brains of metal that farm humans for energy, or a disembodied artificial intelligence that provokes a nuclear holocaust.

On the other hand, you have Rosie the Maid from The Jetsons, a show that launched right in the middle of the Mad Men era, the golden age of American advertising.  And if there is one thing that Rosie can tell us about our collective dreams it’s that we really would love a chance to slack on our chores.

A New York Times spread from the early 1980s sums up the duties the humans have been eager to relinquish: "In the distant future robots may scrub toilets, wash the dishes, and mow the lawn. Made to order robots can already be adapted to serve drinks at cocktail parties or vacuum on their own."

Ever since the Mechanical Willie, a robot that Westinghouse unveiled in 1934 and that crooned in a “mellow baritone and manipulated a vacuum cleaner with almost human skill” – ever since then, the civilization has been trying really hard to stick the broom into some else’s mechanical hands.

The broom, of course, is both very literal and very symbolic, a metaphor for all the things humans have long sought to outsource.

A 1978 book called Exploring the World of Robots introduced the world to the "Maid Without Tears", but also mused about the bigger picture of the future where humans are being cared for by a nurturing robotic brain:

"The robot brain will suggest meals for the day. It will order our shopping, finding out from other robots in the local shows where the best buys are."

We wanted a machine that would not only wash our socks and do our dishes but that would also know us so intimately that it would relieve us from deciding which socks to purchase and what food to eat in the first place and let us, humans, concentrate on nobler pursuits.

If we look at our technology dreams that do come true, we’ll see that while they retain the core functionality, their physical appearance is often different from the way we’ve imagined it, dictated by what is commercially practical at the moment. We wanted a life potion and got pills and vaccines. We wanted a magic carpet and got the 31 inches of seat pitch on the economy class. We wanted a “Maid Without Tears” and got a Roomba.

We wanted a machine that would take care of our daily odds and ends, a brain that would help us navigate the abundances of capitalism. We got what we wanted.

Only instead of a white shiny plastic humanoid rolling around a house we got server farms.

We got hundreds of thousands of computers sitting in fortresses of reinforced concrete. They hum quietly and analyze every single choice we make so that they suggest something we are likely to enjoy even more.

What started with “if you like this book, you will love that one” a decade ago now spans a wide range of human choices, from running a family budget (oh, it looks like you are spending too much on food) to finding a life partner (“how about Jelly Penguins who lives 4.35 miles from you?”).

The machines gently guide you towards new restaurants, recipes, exercise routines, business associates, friends, dates, movies, music, potato chips, mutual funds and underwear.

There are many different companies carving out their own niches in the business of making recommendations.

One company, Hunch, has an ambition to help us make all of those decisions at one place.

And then there’s Google that, in Time’s words, is “a massive recommendation engine advising us on what we should read and watch and ultimately know”.

We, the ad people, used to be the ultimate recommendation engine, the ones who told others what to crave, what to buy, who to look up to, what to aspire to.

We told others how to think: Think Small. Think Different. Think Outside the Bun.

We were the ones who defined tastes and influenced choices.

And now all these recommendation services create an extra layer around customers, a cocoon that is becoming increasingly harder to get through.

This year, we as an industry will spend more than two billion dollars on “search engine optimization”, which is to say that we are paying a lot of money to convince the machines that what we have to say is what people actually need to hear.

Two billion dollars is the kind of money that can buy some 800 Super Bowl spots; that’s every single spot in every Super Bowl for the next decade.

And we’d better get used to it. The machines aren’t going away.

Over the course of several recent interviews [1,2,3],  Google’s Eric Schmidt outlined the company’s vision for what he called a Serendipity Engine.

Search occurring in the background.

The machine learning from not only your active interaction with it, but also, passively, from your behavior, from the comfort of your pocket as you go about your day.

A brain that suggests what you should do next, what you care about.

Imagine a future, Schmidt says, in which you don’t forget, because the computer remembers.

Imagine this future, and then brace for it.

Study: 3D Ads Remembered Better

Make that ad really pop:
"ESPN used Disney’s Media and Ad Lab in Austin to measure viewer response to its inaugural 3D coverage. It was, for the most part, favorable. ESPN found that cued recall of ads increased from 68 percent in 2D to 83 percent in 3D. Purchase intent went from 49 to 83 percent. Ad "liking" went from 67 to 83 percent.

"We don’t know how much of this is due to the novelty of the 3D experience,” said lead researcher Dr. Duane Varan. "We tried to get around that with 2D... but we won’t know the answer to that for a while."

Airport Billboard Tires Kids Pre-Flight

A slowly rotating signboard for FirstBank in Denver airport  lends a helpful hand to parents before a long flight by wearing down their kids so that they fall asleep sooner on the plane. Made by TDA Boulder, who just made another airport billboard for the same client equipped with QR codes that link to freely downloadable books.

TDA are the same guys who did this cool signboard that worked as a business-card sharing station for small businesses, among other awesome work.

Filing this under Billboards That Give.

The World's Most Postmodern Halloween Costume

Assuming an identity of a possibility to shape one's identity must be the most postmodern way to dress up for Halloween. Meet a Halloween costume that looks like Facebook's default user profile picture.

Jeep's Twitter Puzzle: Assemble Profile Icons Into a Picture

Jeep is running a game on Twitter and it's a nifty puzzle with a somewhat steep learning curve where you need to follow certain accounts in a certain order so that their profile pics arrange themselves into a complete picture of, say, a waterfall. If you want to play, you should watch the tutorial first and then roll back to the old Twitter interface for the whole thing to work.

If Your Agency Kicks Ass Without Market Research, It's Not Wrong

German Dziebel,  a planner with a PhD in anthropology with whom I share a department and an office at Hill (as well as an occasional cracker) and who in the past worked at Arnold and Crispin, has joined the current round of debate about market research with a comment so interesting that I asked him to guest-blog it here.  He came back with the thoughts that follow.

All market research is wrong.

"Is your market research helping you in achieving your end? If yes it's not wrong."

Behind this disjointed Platonic dialogue, there’s a tell-me-what-you-think-and-I’ll-tell-you-who-you-are situation. Faris Yakob is Chief Innovation Officer at MDC. He recently authored the first line. His detractor is an anonymous Ph.D. student in marketing. MDC owns a majority stake at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which is the most profitable agency in the network. As an erstwhile planner at Crispin, I witnessed (and enjoyed) the downright neglect for large-scale, serious, quantitative and focus-group-based market research. As Alex Bogusky, borrowing from Steve Jobs, used to say: “Who cares about what consumers think. We should surprise them with innovative ideas instead of tracking their misguided accounts of their own needs and wants.” Well, I paraphrased and beautified it a bit but this is the essence of what he used to say. Colin Drummond, an average-size link in a chain of ever-changing heads of planning at Crispin, used to direct his department to a paper that once appeared in Brand Republic. The paper was called “Why Great Planners Have to Be Dumb.” Great is good, smart is bad. Most recently, Colin, now head of planning at Ogilvy West, tweeted about the new book “Proofiness,” by Charles Seife, that purports to expose, in a populist genre, the faults of statistics.

At that time Crispin’s planning department was 30-(wo)man-strong. So, here’s another apparent paradox: if great planners are dumb and all market research is wrong, why do you need to maintain as many as 30 dumb planners undoing market research? The answer is simple: to staff the brand-new name for planners at Crispin, namely “Cognitive Anthropologists” or “Cogs.” Cogs encompass traditional planners – those who renounced market research to fit Crispin’s culture -, social scientists – those who didn’t find work in overly populated academia – and investigative journalists – “investigative” not in the sense of bold, dedicated truth-seekers but in the sense of investigating consumer habits and writing about them without technical jargon. Again, “anthropology” (from Greek anthropos ‘human being, man’) was picked for its sound, not for its meaning and not by professional anthropologists but by advertisers seeking new ways to market directly to “people,” not “consumers” (Apparently, consultant Robert Deutsch, a self-proclaimed cognitive anthropologist with a background in social psychology, introduced the word to Crispin’s senior management.) Driven by a concoction of imagination, greed, boredom, lies, thrill and insecurities a new bold philosophy of planning was violently born.

One of the observations that I made trying to resolve the apparent conundrum of informed anti-intellectualism is that the denial of market research in theory and practice next to the adoption of an academic moniker “anthropology” accompanied the ascent of Crispin as the hottest ad shop in the nation. Crispin attempted to revolutionize planning by bringing on board practitioners who would gear research to the goal of changing consumer culture (note another shift from “market” to “culture”) around a brand by means of creating entertaining and memorable content, launching new technologies and experimenting with disruptive use of media. Re-positioning the planning discipline was a way to re-invent market research for advertising’s emerging new ecosystem. In the famous words of Red Queen from Carroll’s Looking Glass, “it takes all the running [read: market research] you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.” (This principle is so great, it even made it into the book of evolutionary laws, thanks to Leigh Van Valen.) It involved a Dionysian influx of humanities and social sciences – bastardized but marketable – into what once was dominated by the Apollonian disciplines of psychology, communications and economics. In a surprising reversal of the Ph.D. student in marketing’s defense of market research, if the abnegation of market research helps you in achieving your and your client’s end, the all-market-research-is-wrong dictum is not wrong. It’s just a different way of using old words: not descriptively, but performatively (pace John Austin).

So, there’s nothing to debate – time to imitate and steal.

Filter Out Content Farms from Search Results

If you search a lot and are annoyed by the first-page prominence of useless but well-SEOed content farm garbage, Google Search Filter for Chrome will let you blacklist domains from appearing in search results.

No You Can't: Megamind Promo in Farmville [Screenshots]

DreamWorks has just launched a 24-hour Farmville promo for its Megamind movie scheduled to premier tomorrow. The promo unfolds along the scenario similar to an earlier campaign by McDonald's: the hero appears on your neighbors list, he owns a farm, and for visiting it you get two items -- a useful crop booster Mega-Grow and a useless floating decoration (McDonald's gave away a coffee speed boost and a decorative balloon while Farmers Insurance balloon prevented crops from withering).  The "No You Can't" balloon -- a nod to the iconic Shepard Fairey poster and Obama's 2008 slogan --  is a nice touch that's also ironic in light of yesterday's elections.

As far as I can tell, nothing else on the farm is clickable.

Reuters says you can buy movie tickets from the promo; the link to the tickets is actually outside of the game area and it goes to a tab on Megamind's Facebook page.

Vintage Ads For Social Media

So, not only was there a cell phone in a Charlie Chaplin movie, but it turns out folks in the 1950s already had Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Skype if  these vintage ads are any proof.

Scratch-Off Video Game Cards "Released in 1989, the Nintendo Game Packs was a series from Topps that consisted of 60 scratch-off game cards and 33 stickers from six NES games: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Punch-Out!!, and Double Dragon. Each of the stickers had a "top secret tip" for one of the games on the back. Each series of the scratch-off cards followed a particular game, with 10 cards per set. The goal was to uncover certain symbols while avoiding enemy symbols."

- via Vintage Computing

Dress Like A Celebrity Blogger This Halloween

Print out and don a mask from CostumePop this Halloween and be your favorite famous blogger.

Turn Your Video Ad Into CAPTCHA

NuCaptcha announced its video CAPTCHA technology for advertisers today; the image above is a replacement gif from under the standard Flash unit so the tech does work on the Flashless iOS browsers.  The press release says the format will come in three IAB sizes, "pricing is either on a video CPM basis ($10 to $25), or a cost-per-engagement basis ($0.10 to $1.00), for larger, longer videos."

Not sure how it works, but "publishers and advertisers can create “instant” NuCaptcha videos by turning existing video advertisements into NuCaptcha Engage advertisements".

I wrote before how CAPTCHA ads in general have a potential to create incentives for publishers to sacrifice user experience for extra monetization opportunities.

Wonder if connected TVs' users are eventually going to have to deal with CAPTCHAs -- entering squiggles using a remote control doesn't sound like a very comfortable experience.

If Your Market Research Works, It's Not Wrong

Faris detonated a bomb the other day with his "All Market Research Is Wrong" manifesto. My first thought was "Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules."  I understand the choice of the provocative headline and its role in attracting readers and encouraging debate but it did feel a bit like a case of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater. The "All Market Research is Wrong" line was copiously retweeted at least partly to (and, I suspect, by) people who wouldn't bother reading past the fourth sentence with the "epistemologically specious" bit in it.

It's hard to disagree when Faris writes that survey results must be supplemented "with real behavioral data, from direct observation, or from the web - triangulating insights from as many sources as possible." But boiling down an entire "$11bn" industry to a few misguided practices and then dismissing it as useless --  "all the data it generates should be understood as wrong" -- doesn't quite seem right.

Faris discusses market research as "the systematic collection and evaluation of data regarding customers' preferences for actual and potential products and services" and goes on to argue that using online surveys and focus groups is not going to yield predictive results about customer preferences.  (It's appropriately ironic that "market research" in the dictionary he uses is also listed as "uncountable".) This is a rather narrow definition -- compare it with Wikipedia's entry for "market research" ("any organized effort to gather information about markets or customers") or even "marketing research":

"The systematic gathering, recording, and analysis of data about issues relating to marketing products and services. The goal of marketing research is to identify and assess how changing elements of the marketing mix impacts customer behavior."
But even a cartoonish definition of market research as "web based surveys done over the weekend" (as Faris adds in a comment under his post) is too broad to exclude such methodology as, say, discrete choice modeling where options can be presented to a panel via a "web based survey done over a weekend" and which has proven useful for estimating probabilities of demand for one alternative over others.

There are plenty of things that can go wrong with all market research, survey-based or observational: misinterpretation and selective presentation of results, over-reliance on some indicators at the expense of others, wrong instruments for the task, badly formulated questions, sampling errors, biases and so on. All these issues seem to be what IT help desk people call PEBKAC: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair -- a user error, not a system malfunction.

But ultimately, as one particularly pragmatic PhD student commented, "Is your market research helping you in achieving your end? If yes it's not wrong."

Also, coincidentally, picked this gem up on Twitter today - "data is not plural for anecdote."

Nielsen Corrects The Number of iPad App Users

Headline in Register

Headline in Business Insider

Nielsen has come out with a report about iPad users that contained one widely quoted (by Register, Business Insider, RWW, among many others) number - 32% of iPad users haven't downloaded a single app. This number has just been adjusted down to a much more reasonable 9%.

Mistakes happen, and this one shows how little filtering is done to the press-released info by publications that tens of thousands of us read every day and use in our work -- has a single one of those that turned the "32%" number into a headline called Nielsen to ask for a clarification? This is why we end up reading such ridiculous claims as "iPhone apps are bigger than television" that are based on stuff that doesn't make a lot of sense when you stare at it for more than a second.

Also, it's interesting how the adjustment in the number of people who have downloaded an app had no influence on the breakdown of the downloaded apps by type.

Before: 32% of iPad users haven't downloaded apps

Before: 9% of iPad users haven't downloaded apps

Gender-Specific Shampoo Usage Instructions

If you are one of those people who read instructions on shampoo bottles, and you share a bathroom with a person of the opposite gender, you might have noticed this striking stylistic difference in how directions for shampoo usage are worded for men and for women. Here, it's eight words on one bottle and forty on the other. Reminds me of how men and women shop differently.

Should instruction manuals for products that are even more complex than a bottle of shampoo be written for a particular audience and accounting for gender and perhaps age differences?  How about different levels of domain knowledge?  You know how they include multi-lingual booklets with gadgets these days. It would be kind of like that.

On a related train of thought - in his post on investing, Mark Cuban wrote this: "Wall Street has done an AMAZING job of creating conventional wisdom . 'Buy and Hold' is the 2nd most misleading marketing slogan ever, after the brilliant 'rinse and repeat' message on every shampoo bottle."

I kept thinking about the awesomeness of the "rinse and repeat", started to poke around and dug up this Fortune article back from 1999: "In Benjamin Cheever's novel The Plagiarist, a marketing executive becomes an industry legend by adding one word to shampoo bottles: REPEAT. He doubles shampoo sales overnight."

One Ad Agency In Numbers

An very nice agency self-promo poking fun at the infographics and kinetic typography genre for Dare in London.

Flame-Baiting CEOs

Going kind of off topic here, but I found  RIM co-CEO's blog response to Steve Jobs's "distortion field" pretty amusing.   Should CEO's get so easily flame-baited?

Below: Apple's distortion field in action.

CLOVR Ties In-Banner Offers To Credit Cards

The just-launched CLOVR Media gives yet another twist to the concept of bookmarkable advertising:  see an online ad promoting a deal or a discount, click on the clover sign in the corner, and the information about the offer is tied to your credit card numbers. No paper coupons to cut out, organize and scan at the store -- the discount is applied automatically when your card is swiped at the register.

EdoInteractive and Transactis are two companies working in this potentially very lucrative space.

What's Your Transmedia Strategy?

Don't have a transmedia strategy yet?  Inject some instant smart and awesome into your PowerPoints with WTFIMTS, inspired by the classic WTF Is My Social Media Strategy.

Study: Some People Watch Less TV

Say Media (formely VideoEgg and Six Apart) is releasing today a potentially interesting "Off The Grid" study (see it in my Google Docs) about people who are consuming less live and more streaming and on-demand TV. The study breaks these people down into two groups:

34 million are Opt-Outs.

22 million are On-Demanders.

I wish companies that send out announcements and nicely formatted summaries would also attach raw data, because the way these segments are defined here seems kind of arbitrary. For the Opt-Outs, how many people don't own a TV at all compared to last year? Is not having watched TV in the past week indicative of their long-term behavior? For On-Demanders, how many of those who watch less live TV are streaming?  How many of those who stream watch more live TV as a result?

There must be some people who watch more TV for the overall viewership time to have gone up, right?

Quote of the Week

"It’s not all that bad, really, to get ads for diapers when you’re having a baby, or ads for cars when you are looking to buy a car. Life will go on."

Michael Arrington on Techcrunch about the WSJ's story on Facebook "data leak".

Now You Really "Like" This Banner

Continuing the topic of bookmarkable advertising: not sure how Mountain Dew integrating Facebook "Like" buttons into their display ads is "the first time the social-networking behemoth will extend its social/sharing functionality to ads appearing on other Web sites," in Adweek's exclusive words. You can roll your own Likeable and Shareable banners with Spongecell; in-banner sharing functionality via third-party services has been offered for a fairly long time now.