The ROI of Second Life [rerun]

What I wrote about Second Life four years ago can be applied to Foursquare check-ins and other emerging media behaviors that haven't yet reached enough of a critical mass to be useful to advertisers in a traditional way.

"If it’s not about fame and if it’s not about money, why bother at all? The answer is knowledge.

Some experts predict that in the fairly near future at least part of the Internet will turn 3-D with online destinations either adopting some form of 3-D interface or expanding into the existing virtual environments ( is one of the blogs tracking the signs of change). The argument goes that the companies that are playing inside Second Life and similar worlds today will be better prepared for tomorrow."

Read the rest of this 2006 post on Hill Holliday's blog.

Enjoy August reruns of some of our most popular articles while the editorial team (of one) takes a long-overdue break away from all things digital.

What I Learned From An Experiment in Spreadability

Just published some data and analysis behind the Jerzify Yourself site that Hill Holliday built back in January as an experiment in "spreadable design" and that got picked up by celeb publications and got passed around rather nicely. Lots of interesting stuff:  the effect of celebrity tweets, the speed of link propagation in Twitter and Facebook, different levels of "spreadfulness" we saw on different sites -- all right here.

BP Blames Photographer For Photoshop Blunder

When BP got caught altering one of the photos on their Gulf response press page, whom did they blame? "A photographer."  

Washington Post: "Scott Dean, a spokesman for BP, said that there was nothing sinister in the photo alteration and provided the original unaltered version. He said that a photographer working for the company had inserted the three images in spots where the video screens were blank."

AP: "He [Dean] says the photographer was showing off his Photoshop skills and there was no ill intent."

The photographer's name shows up on the image's meta data. He's been doing work for the company since at least 2004. "Showing off his Photoshop skills?"  Couldn't they find someone else to throw under the bus?

Are Mad Men Ceilings Too Modern?

As you know, finding mistakes in Mad Men is "one of white people’s favorite activities on earth", so here's my tentative contribution. Don't these drop ceilings look a bit too modern, especially with those air diffusers?  Drop ceilings were invented in 1958 and were originally glued or stapled. The T-bar suspension system you see here wasn't invented until the 1960s.

Would love to hear from somebody who knows more.

-- the image is from here

Billboards With Face Recognition Collect Demographic Data in Japan

One of the popular stories last week was this AFP piece about a group of Japanese train stations testing a new set of billboards with face recognition technology.  The billboards were inevitably, and sometimes breathlessly,  compared to the personalized signage in Minority Report.

The project is a lot less ambitious: it's goal is to collect demo data on people who pass by and stop to gawk at the ads: "The displays are part of a one-year trial being conducted by the Digital Signage Promotion Project, comprising 11 railway companies and their affiliated advertising firms. Their aim is to learn what kinds of people are interested in which ads at what times."

You can find additional details about the billboards in this press release (pdf in Japanese). Here's the project's website (Chrome does a decent job auto-translating it).

The technology is not very new; AdLab's posted about it two years ago. Much cooler are these mannequins with face recognition.

Check out CNN's coverage of the billboards back when they were displayed at a tradeshow in March complete, of course, with a Minority Report reference.

WashPo Lists Private Psy-Op Contractors

As a part of its investigative Top Secret America project, Washington Post compiled a list of 37 companies to which the intelligence community contracts some of its psy-op work.  Here's a description from a website of one of these companies: "MeriTec Information Operations (IO) professionals have decades of experience in the integration of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception, and operations security in concert with other capabilities to achieve desired effects on adversary human and automated decision making and to defend our own information and decision making processes."

Another company, Leonie Industries (wiki; the above image is from their site) is in business of deploying "credible campaigns with an authentic, local feel." Their digital capabilities include "Machine cinema, Viral media, Mobile, and Video Games".

Update: Funny, I just spotted the same creepy image of the face above in the "What The Fuck Is Social Media Now?" deck (slide 4).

Mobile Check-Ins And Future Loyalty Programs

I first witnessed the excitement around the potential of location-based mobile marketing back in 2000 at one of the numerous m-commerce conferences. Back when the coolest phone was Nokia 9110, and mine was more of a cute Alcatel, the common marketing dream went like this:
Stores will be able to market their products and services by transmitting promotional coupons and messages to passers-by: "Come in and enjoy a complimentary cup of our new coffee blend," or "Get half off, if you make your purchase within the next 30 minutes". (The quote and the image above are from this pdf published a decade ago.)
It seems like a lot of thinking today rolls along the same tracks: a user pulls out his smartphone, opens an app, and sees banners with offers from nearby establishments. I've been somewhat skeptical about the whole banner-on-the phone thing as much as I once was about SMS promos, but this kind of location-based advertising probably makes sense, not least because it has been around forever in its lower-tech form of the "Sale" signs you see in store windows every day.

One thing I'm hopeful for, though, is this whole emerging checking-in behavior. If enough people get used to the act of announcing where they are,  retailers will get a new way to guide and measure shopping behaviors with the granularity that can't be afforded by the traditional loyalty card. Loyalty cards reward purchase. A program based on check-ins would be able to reward a much wider range of actions, from spending a certain amount of time checking out the merchandise in a particular aisle to bringing along friends. The reward might not be large enough to get people to drive all the way across town to check in, but it might just be the force that gets mall shoppers to poke their nose into the store they wouldn't otherwise visit.

I don't think badges and other forms of social recognition will remain a very strong incentive for a whole lot of people for too long, and I just posted an argument to that effect on Forbes,  but a program that follows the frequent-flyer mechanisms of point accumulation and tiered rewards could be very interesting.

The Ultimate Compendium of Old Spice Lessons

Hello, ladies. I am on a bandwagon, backwards.

A Twitter friend made a good observation the other day about how finally there's a new social media campaign to replace Dove as the case study of record. And what do you know?  Isaiah Mustafa's towel has barely dried, and there's already a deck on Slideshare.

I thought I'd spend some time on a handy list of smart thoughts shared by others and save it for the day when I -- and probably you as well -- have slides of our own to write.

Altogether, I have uncovered 54 bulleted and many more freestyle lessons in posts on topics that range from public speaking and enterprise marketing to the future of news and online video. A lot of them are the usual stuff you've been seeing since the dawn of time (that is, the Campaign for Real Beauty) -- seed, engage the influencers, create great content -- the kind of stuff that could've been milked from just about any half-hearted attempt at a Twitter profile. This article that everyone's retweeting contains probably the most of it per square inch.

Here are five lessons that are less obvious:

Characters Are More Social Than Brands - from a colleague of mine and also my favorite on this list.

Create anticipation. This is a great point I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere -- the sense of anticipation that there's more great stuff coming played a huge role in the campaign's success.

Advertising isn't going away. "Could 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like' have been created using anything other than broadcast advertising? No. And that's important."

Share the toys. "In response to a popular request on Reddit, the Old Spice Man provided users with the tools to create voicemail messages using his voice, and users used it to create an online voicemail generator."

Know when to stop speaking. (From a list of ten lessons on public speaking).

One from me, too:  invest in a producer with super powers.

Bonus track:  Six more lessons that you've heard before but are worth repeating.

Involve media. "Many of the videos Old Spice created were directly in response to media outlets. By doing that, Old Spice ensured that the media outlet not only saw what they were up to, but it gave them an ego-charged reason to share it with their own audiences."

Don't be a control freak: "This program couldn’t have happened had Proctor & Gamble not ceded control to consumers and to a smart team of marketing professionals."

Keep it simple. "Limit the personality traits of your persona. Don't attempt sophisticated cinematography."

Keep it grainy. "The poor production value, relatively speaking, is part of the point."

Know your medium: "Don't try to take traditional print and broadcast ads and simply regurgitate them on the Web."

Have the guts. "When you really think about it, Proctor & Gamble took a big risk with this campaign."

And here's the brief that the Old Spice brief could've looked like.

iPad Kiosks

Wonder if there are cases or enclosures (and apps) that turn an iPod touch or iPhone into a kiosk, too.

There's More To Games Than High Scores

As you are reading through Adweek's special issue on gaming and advertising, I thought I'd point towards an April post by Russell Davies who wrote that there's more to gaming than badges and leaderboards. "We're going to encounter a bunch of crappy sorta-games foisted on us. Those rudimentary game schemes are going to be rolled out by everyone with a rewards card, CRM system, loyalty scheme or something that can be plotted on a graph. And they're going to be no fun. They're going to drive us all mad. This'll either lead to wholesale abandonment of the whole idea or a recognition that proper games design is necessary."

Idea: Augmenting Printed Pages With Digital Comments

SFWeekly unearthed the pitch deck (pdf) by Mekanism to Fast Company that lead to the magazine's widely discussed Influence Project.

It's always a voyeur fun to look at others' pitches, and there's a lot to see in Mekanism's deck (although not as much as in that Arnell's logo doc for Pepsi). I really like the idea of using smartphones to augment printed pages with digital comments: "When a reader sees something comment worthy, they lift their phone, tap the spot on the page that they want to comment on, enter their comment, and upload it. Of course, they would also be able to see other people’s comments as well."

Quote of the Week

"Influence can be quiet, understated, and wielded with grace. Influence is NOT jumping up and down, begging for people to click on stuff so that they, too, can find the gatekey for their own path to feeling important in the online fishbowl."
-- Amber Naslund

Paper Tweet Notepad

"50 sheets of social networking bandwidth" for $4.49.