Time Square in Google Earth

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

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

Buy Your Own Ad Agency On eBay

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

IBM Developing Virtual World Interface for the Blind

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

Isn't it what MUDs used to be?


MIT CMS Class Notes Online at MIT OCW

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

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

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

Online Publishers: Sell What Others Are Buying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 Tips for In-Game Advertising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also:

Guest Post: Hulu vs YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

Doodle in Anaglyph 3D

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

Future Now: Rioters Use Lasers Against Cops

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

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

Agency Microsite in Anaglyph 3D

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

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

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

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

Future of the Internet: Pew Report

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

ROI Math for Brands on Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Things For Monday Morning

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

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

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

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

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

Western Brands on Russian Stones

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

Future: Seeing Through the Mind's Eye

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

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

Future: Brain Scanner To Visualize Dreams

The Making Of Photoshop CS4 Ad

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

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

Accessible Porn

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

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


From Hamnet to Mad Men: Fan Fiction in Real Time

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

Fold Yourself Into a Christmas Decoration

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

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

A foldout airplane in Google Docs
Papercraft advertising
Rethinking print advertising

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

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

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

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

Ten Half-Baked Advertising Ideas: Orwellian? Feasible?

Holograms, 3D Movies and Social DVDs

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

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

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

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

Video report follows.

More Future of Advertising

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

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

HP's Tabbloid Turns Feeds Into Personalized Magazine

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

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

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

Pay-per-View as Advertising Model for YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picadmedia Inserts Ads In Your Images

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

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

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

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

Disposable Phonograph as Propaganda Device

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

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

iPhone as a Game Controller

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

Fat and Happiness are Social

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Target Clerk Bans Mobile Price Checking

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

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

Future Now: Reality Augmented Through Mobile Phone

This is the future of mobile search and augmented reality as imagined by a Tokyo designer and published in February 2008.

And this is a video of an Android phone running Wikitude that checks your geo coordinates and tells you what it is you are looking at.
-- via Erwin van Lun

Flash Game Accessible to the Blind

Flyzzz is one of the four Flash games that accompany beautiful TV spots for Leonard Cheshire Disability. Flyzzz can be played by the ear -- you help the chamelion catch flies when they are buzzing right above him.

Color-Blind Image Simulation
Advertising for the Color-Blind
Tool: How Color Blind People See Text
Advertising in Braille
The Robotic Shopping Assistant
Playboy in Braille

41 Commercials In One Music Video

How many of the 41 commercials mashed up into one music video can you recognize? How many brands can you name?
-- thanks, Roni

Advertising Lab Turns Four

It is amidst cries announcing the death of blogging that AdLab celebrates its fourth birthday this week (the official DOB is November 12; we are late to our own party). Thank you for reading AdLab over the past year, bookmarking it, sending it to friends, adding it to blogrolls, and writing back.

Traditionally, some numbers:
  • Total page views: ~1,909,881 (up from 1,362,218 in AdLab's third year, up from ~580,232 the year before, and ~130,000 on its first birthday)
  • Total RSS readers: ~11,000 (up from ~3,900 in Y3, ~1,200 in Y2 and ~200 in Y1)
  • Posts served this year: 362, to the total of 2,312. It's only half the previous year's volume (700, total of 1950 by Y3).
  • AdSense revenues also halved, which can attributed to the last year's redesign. On the other hand, Balihoo's sponsorship this year kept the blog in the relative green (thank you!).
So, I've gone easy on posting stuff this year, and there are a couple of reasons. One is that there's less blogging time now that my family has grown 50%. More importantly, blogging is tough once you've been on the same beat for some time. I'm sort of running out of novelty stuff like Holopops, and ads on butts are exciting only the first three times even if they may well be the future of advertising.

While I'm considering other options, why don't you shoot an email or leave a comment if there's a topic you'd like to see covered here in the next year?

Advertising Lab
- Turns Three
- Turns Two
- Turns One

Tutti Frutti

- Juhll is the company of Jennifer Uhll, the former creative director at Lower My Bills who ushered in a new style of banner-making (NYT had the story a couple of years ago). Adverlicio.us has an entire gallery.

- What Kind of Blogger Are You? (The tool is kind of like those generic heartwarming zodiac readings that feel oh so personalized.)

- Dissecting Influence is a newly discovered blog that focuses on what's going on inside your (your!) head.

- Why. So. Serious. (in Heath Ledger's voice): "I'm not sure if this is supposed to be some sick, Brazil-inspired joke, but the "thought leaders" at Ad Labs raided the Half Bakery to come up with ten "half-baked" advertising ideas that they hope to see in the future. Ad Labs calls them "brilliant"; I call them scary, and not good scary."

- Make any photo a Polaroid photo with Poladroid.

- iPhone apps that never passed through the gates of iHeaven.

- Google classifieds search in Russia (in Russian).

Flogos: Foam Clouds Shaped Like Logos

Via our reader Flummox comes the word of Flogos, a company that makes machines that make clouds shaped like corporate logos. The clouds are made from "proprietary surfactant (soap) based foam formulations and lighter-than-air gases such as helium." Some videos to illustrate: Nintendo's Kirby (below) and a bunch of other samples (on Flogos' site).

Dr. Pepper Owes You a Can of Soda

Remember how in March Dr. Pepper promised everyone in the States a can of Dr. Pepper if Guns'n'Roses released its "Chinese Democracy" album in 2008? Well, guess what, the album is coming out on Thursday, and now it's time to pay up. To its credit, Dr. Pepper is doing just that.

Ten Half-Baked Advertising Ideas

Today, we are raiding Half Bakery for a glimpse of the improbable advertising future. Put your sunglasses on; the brilliance of these ideas is blinding.

1. Advertishoes. "Replace the soles of your shoes with soft rubber, impregnated with chalk or ink, that squashes out onto the ground as you put your foot down. Similar to a self-inking rubber stamp."

2. Get to the airport luggage screeners with X-ray-visible ads: "If two ads are printed on the same page in a magazine, but one is printed with large letters in radiopaque white ink, then the white-on-white ad will only be visible if the magazine is in carry-on luggage viewed by x-ray techs at airport inspection stations."

3. Ads on status bars (also independently described by AdLab):  "Put scrolling text messages in progress bars, and make some money on the side."

4. Skyscrapers as smoke jet printers:  "Except instead of ink being shot on to a page of paper it shoots smoke up in to the air. The print head is mounted on top of a high rise building, and instead of the print head moving it relies on wind to move the 'paper' to the side."

5. Rainbow advertising: "Using refraction and rainbow technology, it should be possible to advertise right on airborne drops of moisture. Simply vary the color makeup of your light source."

6. Books printed in sponsored typeface:  "Free classic books reprinted typeset in a font that has McDonald's M's and Special K's and so forth."

7. Ads on fake phone numbers in the movies: "Whenever they use a telephone in the movies, they always use a 555 number. I guess they do that so people won't go home and try to call. Wait a minute. Why not encourage them to call. Talk about a captive audience..."

8. Logo clouds: "Create large lakes in the shape of corporate logos. When the sun shines on them (on a windless day) logo-shaped clouds will appear above them. Note that it might be cheaper to change your company's logo to the shape of an existing lake."

9. Lonely?  Invite telemarketers in your life with a "Please Call Me" list:  "Maybe the local resteraunts could call you around lunch-time and tell you what kinds of specials they have, just so you don't have to go sit down to find that out."

10. Spitball billboards: " This display uses a computer aimed pneumatic spitball cannon which "paints" a picture out of colored spitballs. The display can be wiped clear with a water hose, so the next image can be painted."

Event: Futures of Entertainment at MIT, Nov 21-22

Judging by the speakers list for this year's FoE @ MIT -- a cyborg anthropologist, production designer of Watchmen, producer of Blair Witch Project,  director of interactive marketing at WWE, Peter Kim, Grant McCracken -- it looks like it's going to be fun.  Registration closed on Tuesday, Nov 18, so hurry.  Check out video and audio recordings of the last year's event, and the year before that.

Embed This Banner

Another step towards bookmarkable advertising: this Adobe banner came with an embed code, like your friendly neighborhood YouTube video. It's a somewhat lousy execution of an idea based on an interesting insight -- there's a small percentage of people that would not only click on your ad, but would also show it to other people.  Bummer, though: the ad links to a pdf file that pops an error. Plus, I wish this "embedebleness" came with some sort of revenue share.

The banner links directly to a pdf that doesn't display on older versions of Acrobat Reader.

The Adobe banner on Techcrunch.

Gift Cards As Speaker, Camera

One of Target's gift cards this year is a 1.2MP digital camera (via).

BestBuy's cards have a little speaker and a 3.5mm jack that you can plug into your iPod. (via )

Advertising in Calendars

Not like Pirelli Calendars (wiki), but still pretty cool, in a geeky kind of way. Calgoo: "a permission-based marketing medium that uses the electronic calendar as the delivery channel."  In other words, your ad messages in other people's Outlooks and iCals via a dynamic calendar feed. See the demo to understand how everything works.

Bookmarkable Banners with Reminders from Spongecell

AdLab's Inbox: Claymation, Widgets, and NASDAQ

Letters to the editor from the past few weeks. Keep'em coming.

-- An Orange America: an abstract visualization of the aggregate conversation on Twitter showing frequency and context of election-related words. Simon, one of the creators (together with JESS3), writes:

"To make it work, we take a sample from Twitter every 30 seconds and analyze them in 50-result batches for associations and term matches. They accumulate for 5 minutes and then we flush sample aggregates to the database. So the database has samples from when it started through present in 5-minute granularity. As new terms trend, they begin to populate on the X-axis. The system back end will be implemented using a Java-based stack and PostgreSQL RDBMS. The presentation will be implemented using Flash targeted to Player 9, standards-compliant XHTML/CSS targeted to modern browser versions with significant market share (Safari 2+, Firefox 2+, IE 6+)."

-- Scientific American: Does Consumerism Make Us Crazy? (No.) -- from Micah

-- Media Tools for Creative Professionals

-- Reader Lena from Russia has a question. Do you know of any now-common English words that were minted by the ad industry in the past? Or, in her own words, "I'm looking for - words that were created especially for advertising and PR, brand-names, etc. They may be quite common nowadays, but I really need to know what words appeared thanks to advertising."

-- Widget strategies

-- A beautifully illustrated report from Razorfish. Tip: print the report to pdf; will be easier to read. Oh, and this: "Razorfish is strengthening its brand by choosing one of the most memorable and iconic names in the digital world. After extensive brand awareness research, we determined that the name Razorfish already enjoys powerful brand equity and best represents our evolution into the global agency of the future, which taps into the immersive and social nature of digital."

-- CellForce claims to have "the world's largest consumer database of U.S. cell phone users and email addresses", but since there was no URL in the press release, there won't be any here.

-- NASDAQ sells ad space on its website. NYSE apparently doesn't.

-- Here's a company that creates video claymation tutorials - Claytorial.

-- Roberto asks: "I would like to know if you could put a link to our web page." Sure. Here's a link to the site of a company that "offers the Bentley´s of Billboards."

Elections Through Gamers' Eyes

See larger. Credit.

CNN "Hologram" and Other Studio Gadgetry

Wired runs an overview of the heavy gadgetry trotted out by networks during last night's elections coverage. The CNN's "hologram" was not a hologram at all, unfortunately, but we have to admit that this "via hologram" sounds pretty awesome. Here's a similar effect of "telepresence" as demonstrated by Cisco.

MSNBC's 3D set-up from Brainstorm was pretty cool, too.

Loved the virtual capitol on CNN:  "The "virtual Capitol" is newer, and so perhaps cooler. I'm standing in the studio looking at an empty desk, and glance up at a monitor and see how a full model of the Capitol building has somehow been dropped on top of that desk (which is still empty). Then you can open the top of the Capitol (don't try this at home) and see how the seats are being won and lost as the night goes on." (source )

Video of the virtual capitol.

Barcode Scanner Apps for Android Reviewed

AndroidApps.com reviews two barcode scanning and comparison shopping apps for Android phones: ShopSavvy and CompareEverywhere. I already wrote about the implications of putting an instant price-matching device in the hands of retail shoppers, but there are other interesting angles to it. These applications seem to be among the few with one or two natural business models built into them from the start.  Placing contextual recommendations next to price look-up results is one; powering branded wishlists and registries is another.

The reviews of both apps are below.

Barcode, Iris Scanners for Google Android
The Future of Retail: Instant Price Match

Road as Medium, Plays Back Music for Honda

(image: gigdoggy)

When we run out of space for billboards on our roads' sides, we'll embed jingles into the pavement.

GigDoggy: "A Japanese engineer by the name of Shizuo Shinoda was the first to come up with the brilliant idea of transforming roads into a playback medium. The system works by cutting thousands of little grooves in the asphalt that produce a sound when a vehicle drives over them. The grooves are a few millimeters deep and 6 to 12 millimeters wide, and the closer you bring them together the higher the pitch will be when driven over. Production cost is about $20 000. Mr Shinoda got the idea by driving his car over markings a bulldozer had previously scraped off a street and realized he was generating a series a tones."

Video below:  music roads in Japan.

From WSJ (thank you, Robert):  the making-of video of the Civic Musical Road in Lancaster, CA that played an overture from William Tell until nearby residents complained. It is now being rebuilt elsewhere.


Behavioral Advertising on Checkout Receipts

WSJ: "The checkout ads range from messages encouraging shoppers to try a brand that competes with one they just bought, to others urging them to buy a new flavor of a product they buy regularly. "It's a really effective way to reach a consumer," says Brett White, head of marketing for Stouffer's, which has bought such ads for about a year. Indeed, Stouffer's said the response rate to the checkout ads for its Dinner Club was 10 times as high as for similar ads that ran in freestanding newspaper inserts."

The key vendor:  Catalina Marketing.

Targeting Messages by Referring Site

I was googling "oil price projections" the other day and landed on a Forbes.com article that greeted me with a pop-out layer suggesting other articles related to my search. I've seen it done before on a few blogs; pretty neat. Not a bad format for a display ad, either.

Case Study: Burger King's Advergames - Part 3

This is the final part of an abstract from a new book  Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business by David Edery and Ethan Mollick (here are part 1 and part 2).

Finally, the Burger King games could not have come about without an experienced and reliable game developer. Blitz Games had a long history of delivering projects on time, and had also worked on several projects involving outside stakeholders and IP holders. As such, they were well suited for the Burger King project. Despite this, Blitz still encountered several serious stumbling blocks during the course of the games’ development, learning hard-won lessons as  a result:

Multiplatform development
To maximize their potential audience, Burger King wanted games that were compatible with both the original Xbox and the Xbox 360. However, they also wanted the 360 version to be more impressive than the original
 Xbox version; after all, the 360 had just been released and was being marketed as a high-performance, “next generation” console.

Given the tight development time frame for the games, this took time and attention away from work that could have been put into additional game features and polish. Marketers should be aware that making a game compatible with multiple platforms—even platforms in the same line—can require significant effort, and should therefore budget and schedule accordingly.

Multiplayer challenges
Big Bumpin’ and Pocketbike Racer both include online multiplayer action—an important feature of
these games. Although online multiplayer modes can make a game much more compelling to consumers, such modes also make a game much more difficult and expensive to develop. Many developers consistently underestimate the difficulty of multiplayer development, especially on console platforms, and Blitz was no exception, though they ultimately managed to execute beautifully on Burger King’s vision. The lesson here: If you want a multiplayer game, make sure you reserve substantial time for the development and testing of that multiplayer functionality.

Different games, different assets
The benefit of creating three very different games was, as mentioned earlier, the fact that it enabled Burger King to appeal to different kinds of gamers and encourage multiple trips to Burger King restaurants. However, it also forced Blitz to develop very different assets (such as art and computer code) for the three games—time and effort that could have gone into raising the overall quality of a smaller number of games, or an equal number of more similar games. While developing three very different games ultimately proved to be a great strategy for Burger King, marketers who are seeking to raise the bar and stand out from competitors in the future may want to focus their budget on projects that are more ambitious in scale, but less ambitious in scope. As always, it depends on the situation.

Brand rules and restrictions
One of the biggest potential stumbling blocks for any game developer is something that marketers have total control over: the restrictions on how a company’s brands can be used in a game. Failure to carefully explain and explore these restrictions at the start of a game development project can wreak havoc later on.

Take the case of Sneak King. Blitz initially intended the game to be a Spy-versus-Spy-type game, with multiple Kings trying to out-deliver one another while laying traps for their opponents. After much design work, Blitz was informed  that “there can be only one King.” So Blitz substantially revised the design, choosing to focus on “king of the hill”–style gameplay; whoever captures the crown gets to be King. They were then informed  that “you cannot ‘become’ the King.”  So Blitz adjusted yet again: One person plays the King, while the others play the remaining BK personalities, laying traps to prevent him from making deliveries. They then heard, “The King is too savvy to find himself in danger of any kind.” And so on and so forth.

Some of the trouble with Sneak King was inevitable; it is impossible for marketers to predict every possible brand usage that a developer might propose. However, some of these brand-related missteps could have been avoided with clearer upfront communication. In particular, given the action-oriented nature of many video games, it was probably not hard to guess that “the King might find himself in danger.” Marketers would do well to put time, upfront,  into deciding and communicating what basic attributes of their brands are truly inviolable.

The Burger King promotion was expensive. In addition to the cost of developing the games themselves, Burger King had to pay distribution fees, promotional fees, and other nondevelopment expenses. In fact, the total cost of the promotion was ultimately many times the cost of game development itself, though it’s worth noting that Burger King recouped a significant percentage of its costs by selling the games for $3.99. Given the effort and financial resources necessary to support an initiative of this scope, marketers wanting to emulate Burger King’s success must be prepared to treat their initiative as a key one for their company. Otherwise, the risks of an expensive failure prove too great. Fortunately, as demonstrated by Burger King, the benefits of a well-managed advergame initiative are even greater.

Advertising Lab is pleased to offer highlights from a book that just came out, Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business, co-authored (together with Ethan Mollick) by an old friend and former MIT colleague David Edery, who now works as Worldwide Games Portfolio Planner for Xbox Live Arcade.

You will find a review in Economist, and Cliff Notes in Inc. Here, with authors' permission, I'm publishing their findings and insights about Burger King's set of blockbuster advergames that are at least in part credited for the 41% jump in company's quarterly profits

Case Study: Burger King's Advergames - Part 2

This is part 2 of 3 of an abstract from a new book  Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business by David Edery and Ethan Mollick (here's part 1).

Burger King also made the decision to sell the games at $3.99, an extremely low price for disc-based (as opposed to downloadable) Xbox games but, as it turned out, a potentially much better price than “free.” By choosing to charge even a small sum, Burger King seems to have sent a message to consumers that its games had real value, unlike other advergames they might have played and been disappointed by in the past. Burger King further supported the games with a strong marketing campaign that included advertisements shown during Saturday Night Live and during NFL games. All this sent a very clear message to consumers: “There is something of value waiting for you at Burger King.”

Furthermore, Burger King wisely decided to spread its bets by appealing to as broad an audience as possible. The company attracted “gift givers” and more casual gamers by pricing the games cheaply. It attracted enthusiasts by taking advantage of Microsoft’s phenomenally successfully “achievement” system, which awards gamers points when they play games, and by building multiplayer functionality into two of the three games. And lastly, by creating three very different games, Burger King made sure it had something to offer any customer, no matter how narrow their interest in game genres might be.

The games were also so successful because Microsoft and Burger King had motivated and empowered project champions involved in the process.

Within Microsoft, that champion was Chris Di Cesare, formerly Director of Marketing for Xbox. In Di Cesare’s words, “The scale of the agencies and people involved in this promotion was immense. We’re talking PR firms, ad agencies, online firms, game developer and publisher, and promotion agencies on both sides. It easily could have devolved into fiefdoms, but everyone checked their egos at the door and focused on Burger King’s very clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish. Everyone fell in line because of Burger King’s passion for this project. However, the Burger King guys were total novices when it came to game development, so it became my job to translate their desires to the great many groups within Microsoft that needed to work together for this to happen. In other words, Burger King had an internal evangelist in me.”

Advertising Lab is pleased to offer highlights from a book that just came out, Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business, co-authored (together with Ethan Mollick) by an old friend and former MIT colleague David Edery, who now works as Worldwide Games Portfolio Planner for Xbox Live Arcade.

You will find a review in Economist, and Cliff Notes in Inc. Here, with authors' permission, I'm publishing their findings and insights about Burger King's set of blockbuster advergames that are at least in part credited for the 41% jump in company's quarterly profits

MySpace to Hit $1B in Ad Revenue

So, on one hand, MySpace is expected to hit $1B in ad revenue for the year. On the other hand, the click-through rates for the site are 3-5 clicks  for 10,000 impressions (0.03% CTR; from this source and my own experience).  At $3 per 1000 impressions, that's $30 for 5 clicks. Not bad.

Make Ads Relevant By Letting Users Choose Them

This is the last part of the guest post by David Rostan, the co-founder and president of ListensToYou. (See part 1 on privacy, and part II on tracking.)

With ListensToYou, David hopes to improve the online advertising market by giving users control over the ads they want to see.  If you want to take a closer look at ListensToYou to understand David's approach, you can use the invitation code "adverlab" (limited to the first 100 sign-ups).

Ideally, users would be offered explicit control over ads they do and do not see on ANY website they visit across the internet. 

We think it is possible to increase the relevance of internet ads as well as our trust in the websites we frequent.  We have created a concept that allows for more consumer power and less misplaced advertising by offering customers a tool to express their preferences (categories, keywords or profiles) specifically for the purposes of connecting them with products and services they may want or need.  Websites that adhere to these user-selected declarations of ad appropriateness are allowed to put a badge on their website indicating that they “follow customer-friendly ad practices.”

We’re calling this service ListensToYou and we are interested in feedback, ideas and concerns that you have as public consumers of information, services and products. 

ListensToYou believes that, when consumers, rather than algorithms, marketers or lawmakers, choose ad content, online advertising becomes better for everyone in the value chain – publishers, advertisers and users.

Customer-friendly ad practices could, first, go a long way toward removing the irrelevance and mistrust issues of online advertising.  Rather than backward-looking behavioral targeting, users would update settings as their lives and preferences change; rather than stereotypes created by context and demographics, explicitly stated preferences pick up anomalies and get past the typical ad clickers in the typical places. 

Consumers would have one convenient, trusted place online to express the desirability and appropriateness of advertising categories or specific product and service offers that they could update or delete any time they would like. 

They would not only get more relevant ads but also be given a place to have a fair transaction of giving information in exchange for getting advertisements – a place in the conversation that they would feel good about.  Publishers would avoid wasted impressions and improve click thru rates and quality leads by serving more relevant, trusted ads.  They could even open their sites to new types of advertisers as they understand the varied preferences of their user base.

I mentioned earlier that there was no signal between publishers and consumers to indicate that the ads on a website were safe, appropriate or potentially  influenced or controlled by users.  The ListensToYou badge indicates and certifies that a publisher adheres to consumer-friendly advertising practices.  That is, the website respects consumer-stated levels of ad appropriateness and they ensure that ads do not violate user expectations (open up multiple hard-to-close ad windows, for example). 

ListensToYou serves as a validation that the publisher brings the user into the conversation about what ad content is appropriate for them, specifically, and a certification that it serves ads that are safe to click.  Therefore, publishers are able to signal that they are willing to listen and brands can choose to advertise on sites that listen – building trust even when users don’t use the ListensToYou service.

Market and non-market forces are moving quickly to “fix” some of the problems of online advertising.  Regulators are considering controls on behavioral targeting and more consumer tools are being developed to block ads or allow users to browse the internet with complete anonymity.  Meanwhile, online advertisers are creating smarter ways to gather and use implicit information to target ads. 

ListensToYou and consumer-friendly ad practices aren’t a replacement for those things, but they are a necessary improvement that brings the user’s explicit choice of content back into the equation in a meaningful way.

Prior to founding his company, David Rostan worked in marketing and strategy for technology and ecommerce companies. He has earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.