Category Archives: Sony

The :30 second spot ain’t dead. It’s Googled.

Pity the poor tube. The average U.S. home has at least four televisions — more than the people who reside under the roof. Americans watch on average 5 hours and 9 minutes of live TV each day. And yet this big, broad, blue-light bathing glow that we can’t escape is never commented on as a revolution in communications.

Stand by. Google this week hinted it was dipping its toe in the Internet-to-TV waters with Smart TV, hoping to do with big screens what its Android OS is with mobile: capture a new market. Google is partnering with Sony, Intel and Logitech to launch open-source software that streams TV shows, YouTube or home videos to the big screen in your basement. Such integrated video hasn’t caught on yet because most TVs aren’t built to hook into the web, and “bridge” systems such as Apple TV have limited functionality (and require too many damn wires for the average user to contemplate). That’s about to change — now, more than 1 million TV sets in the U.S. are wired for the Internet, and about 10 million are expected to be in homes by 2011.

The battle for the future of television is getting interesting. Hardware makers such as Sony and Panasonic are also pushing out 3-D televisions, partly because the ginormous files required to render 3-D can’t be jammed easily through cable or Internet pipes — you’ll have to buy an expensive Sony or Panasonic box. (Bonus points: 3-D TVs work by projecting regular TV images, but simply flash the images back and forth from two alternating perspectives rapidly in sync with battery-powered glasses that shutter your left and right eyes in sequence; we’ve seen the illusion and it is startlingly holographic.) The irony is cable companies may get caught between two crushing forces, the ultra-high-def holographic 3-D of Avatar films and the ultra-fuzzy-low-res quality of Internet cat videos. Consumers seem drawn to the extremes; that doesn’t bode well for the ratings of mediocrity in the middle.

Image: Jorge Miente

Freed up, locked down

Rupert Murdoch is mad. It seems Google has been lifting his content for free (Google helps you find things by copying paragraphs of material it doesn’t own every time you punch a query into its search engine) … and so he is threatening to shut Google down. You know. Refusing to release content from The Wall Street Journal in a format that search engines (or others beyond his walls) can read and republish. All you have to do is subscribe to his protected (unphysical) material.

Sony is happy. It seems Sony wants you to buy its new TVs. Alas, you just upgraded your television two years ago to the big flat-panel in your basement, and Sony’s new gadget is only marginally better with, um, slightly more contrast. Sony knows you’re saturated with electronics and don’t really need a new device … so it is offering to open content up. You know. Giving away free movies from Hollywood in a format your family will enjoy and rewatch. All you have to do is buy the Sony (physical) material.

Payment force = mass times acceleration

Who wins in these scenarios? Both involve cross-subsidies — in which you pay for one thing (subscription, gadget) to get another future series of stuff (stories, movies) for apparently free. Murdoch wants you to spend a few hundred a year for a stream of business content. Sony wants you to spend a few thousand for a giant slab of glass that streams “free” content. Our bet is the Sony scenario wins. Consumers perceive value at the point of purchase, and a sexy device (think, the iPhone in your pocket) feels worth a sudden outlay of cash, even if that outlay is bigger.

We admire Murdoch’s stubbornness in defending the value of content streams. We just don’t think people want to pay for it. The pain of spending has to be tied to something substantial, like a big block of glass. Perhaps it’s all the result of the caveman bartering logic that we relied on for thousands of generations before the advent of electronics just one breed-cycle ago: If the deal doesn’t involve mass, we can’t accelerate payment.

Image: Hey Mr Glen

Good Sony. Bad Sony.

We’re really not digging the Sony Foam City ad. We won’t show it here, because it’s boring, and will just summarize that there is lots of gray gooey foam floating around streets until finally the camera cuts to Sony products. Yeah.

Instead, let’s rewind three years to review the sheer-genius original Sony spot by Danish director Nicolai Fuglsig, in which he bounced 250,000 tiny colored balls down the streets of San Francisco. That Sony spot won universal praise due to the incredible imagery and slow build. It feels like you’re watching a child being born.

At 16 seconds, we see more than one ball bouncing. At 1:21 the growing tide strands a dog; at 1:41 a frog leaps for his life, and by 2 minutes the colors merge into a perfect metaphor for modern TV. The music by José González didn’t hurt, either.

The foam ad, by comparison, gives the story away in 5 seconds, and then bores us with more foam, floating, floating, for 55 seconds more.

It’s the difference between tickling and snoring. Good Sony. Bad Sony.

(Fallon London, the agency behind both spots, did pull off another nice version with stop-motion plasticine bunnies in NYC last year. Can’t wait to see what they do with Gummi bears.)

The open market niche: Profiting from environmentalism

Here’s a feel-good idea for the New Year: What if you could make money by saving the planet?

Recycling gadgets will get more attention in 2008, as 70 million TV sets go obsolete. By February 2009, the FCC will force all TV broadcasters to convert to digital signals, turning millions of old cathode ray tube sets into pretty black glass boxes. Many of these old TVs have 4 to 8 pounds of lead in the screen. You better believe recycling gadgets will hit the major news wires by next fall.

Consider the 500 million used cell phones in the United States, with a combined total of 312,000 pounds of lead. Dump them all in local landfills, and that lead heads for groundwater … and we were worried about Chinese toys? Cell phone batteries also contain cadmium, a human carcinogen that causes lung or liver damage.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if a company had the foresight to profit in advance of an environmental concern? What if a Sony or Apple or AT&T repositioned themselves as a national resource for gathering old gadgets, beyond their own products? We bet they’d make a boatload of money in new gadget sales.

Until then, we offer four ways to clean out the junk drawer for the New Year.

1. Drop off old cell phones at a cell phone store. Most carriers will recycle them, or even donate the old phones to victims of domestic violence. Verizon, for example, has a HopeLine recycling program that has kept 200 tons of electronic waste and batteries out of landfills.

2. If your old gadget seems to still work, punch it in to This web site will give you a quote to actually buy your old technology, and if you accept, it will send a free shipping label for you to drop it in the mail.

3. One of the best things you can do is find out where to take old batteries. About 3 billion batteries are sold in the U.S. each year. Call to Recycle offers locations for battery recycling nationally.

4. For general information on recycling, the web site Earth911 lists local resources that will accept batteries and all forms of electronics.

DVD sales horror is a wake-up call for online video

Sales of movie DVDs are expected to fall for the first time ever this year, pointing to the rise of online video. After all, there are only so many hours in the day. Marketers who are not already testing online video ads need to get aboard. More than half of YouTube users, for example, are in the attractive 35-64 demo — online video is no longer just for kids.

Sony tells Forbes that it is jumping in feet first, but even they find the formats confusing. Sony’s Sean Carey sums up the trouble:

There is no consistency around the ad units today. So when an advertiser buys an ad on YouTube, they get an overlay, when they buy an ad on MySpace, it’s an eight-second pre-roll, when they buy an ad on Crackle, it may be a sponsorship that includes some pieces of all of that. And it’s difficult for an advertiser to get a handle on what the delivery is in that sort of environment–not only what the delivery is but how to mass the creative to all those different ad opportunities.

Pre-rolls, overlays, pop-up videos in banners … the best way to sort this out is to take 5% of your ad budget, set up a testing plan, and start using online video to pull consumers to your sites. We’ve found careful use of behavioral targeted ads with video can jack up click-through rates 5 times higher than national banner averages. The future is coming. Don’t be scared.