Monthly Archives: June 2008

Humans behind the lights


Cenci Goepel and Jens Warnecke of the Lightmark Project create stunning images with long-exposure camera settings and hand-held lights. You’ve seen similar work in the recent Sprint branding campaign, which began with beautiful human-powered flashlight animation and came off the rails when computers took over the illumination.

Why does one design conceit work and the other fall flat? Illusion is stronger when you sense the humans that create it.

Imagine meeting someone every day who wore a mask, said nasty things, followed you at work, home and at parties, and … because of all this was extremely popular.

On the internet, these people are called “trolls” — usually witty writers with an edge who take up a pen name, create an avatar (fake personality), and begin shouting online at others all to build controversy and their own ratings. The social media analyst Danah Boyd notes that “trollish” behavior seems to be growing everywhere.

I’m deeply disturbed by the proliferation of troll-like behavior in contemporary life. Why are public figures increasingly appearing whose whole identity is wrapped around driving others batty? Why does it seem as though more people are starting to write controversial books purely to make money off of the attention they receive when others attack them? Why are reputable publications publishing these authors’ tirades against others that are intended specifically to draw them out in a public fight? I guess we know the answer… Or at least the equation. Attention = money. And in the world of media, attention = advertising revenue.

Perhaps Trollism is a natural extension of public relations and marketing, only on an individual level, where individuals learn to control the networks of communication to build demand for their own egos. A bit nasty to watch, but mesmorising, nonetheless.

In case you missed it, Google just killed the portal


What if all those banner ads you see on web sites were little video screens, offering free TV programming that you really want to see?

Naughty, naughty Google just announced it will shake up the entire communications world this September by pushing free entertainment video instead of banner ads to hundreds of web sites as part of its AdSense network. Google will provide raucous humor clips by Seth MacFarlane, creator of TV’s animated “Family Guy.” The videos will include embedded ads, but the focus is on the entertainment with the ad being the trailing party.

Play this forward a few years and you may see the end of online portals altogether. Who needs ABC or iTunes or YouTube or Break.com or Hulu.com as an entry point, if personalized entertainment comes and finds you?

Photo: Joe5ho

Watching for market shifts


In our 30s we became infatuated with men’s watches — not really understanding the brand hierarchy, but feeling the pull of Patek Philippe on the high end, sometimes admiring Rolex (but knowing they were for old men), shelling out a few hundred for a Swiss Army with complications every few years, and finally settling on Breitling as an aspiration. A bit James Bond-ish, but more complex than the official Bond Omega.

It all culminated on a vacation trip at age 39, when we stumbled upon a jewelry store and began an hourlong flirtation with the young woman behind the counter (sweetie was shopping elsewhere). Italian, the woman was, and the way she presented watches led us to believe a key was being laid on the counter to a new, secret, exciting world of manhood. Every piece of titanium and crystal posed a question: Are you man enough to divine these movements?

But we walked out. Something tipped, more than the idea that a grand for a watch is way too much. We began to realize that watches may become a relic.

What happened? Cell phones, then smart phones, and now iPhones have moved us beyond watching time to connecting with photos and video and blogs and mobile text. The function of “what time is it?” has turned into a periphery, a tiny numeric display at the top right of your cell phone. We now expect our portable tools to do far more. If a watch is a knife — even a beautiful blade — we now need the Swiss Army model, complete with corkscrew and social media.

We’re certain demand for wrist watches will continue, at least for a few decades aided by ads in the Wall Street Journal. But you can feel the shift. Market changes take time, but as SUVs are replaced by hydrogen cars, and newspapers disappear in favor of small internet screens, you have to wonder: How will the long shift of demand affect the products that you sell?

Photo: Envios

Now buy a house and get a blonde, too


Really, we can’t make this up. Deven Trabosh of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is selling her house for $340,000 on eBay — and if you pay an additional $500,000 “shipping fee,” you get her too.

She tells the AP that it’s all combining her hopes of selling a home and finding a mate. 500 guys, including an Italian wine taster, have expressed interest in the pay-for-marriage deal.

Which shows that (a) the internet is the perfect sorter for supply and demand, and (b) the world’s oldest profession always has new twists.

Elvis teaches you the instant response

Our last few posts have featured unclothed women and erogenous fuzzy peaches, so in the spirit of fair play we now show you a young Elvis in tight leather.

Here’s the point: Watch this crowd in the first instant that Joseph Hall walks on stage. They don’t know if this Elvis impersonator is good, if he can dance, if he sings or screeches. But in that split second, you can feel the crowd make a flash judgment — and tip toward a response.

Advertising is just like this. Most ad messages are developed laboriously by research, focus groups, past campaign analysis, creatives, math types with offers, and media planning. But it all must work in that first heartbeat. There is a miniscule flashpoint in which consumers decide yea or nay, move past this or digest it, turn the page or consider a response.

You have to catch the consumer in that instant. The message has to be simple and focused. The impression has to tip.

Sort of like a guy in black leather.

Philips’ electronic tattoos


The body as an LED screen. Could happen.

Philips has launched a series of “design probes” that explore the merger of electronics and human form. Tattoos that grow or disappear based on touch. Jewelry that adheres to women’s chests. Dresses filled with mood-shifting lights.

Unfortunately this video of teens embracing doesn’t show off the possibilities. Instead, Philips could have revealed how human-embedded electronics might revolutionize communication. Bank passcodes that light up (ink up?) when requested. User IDs for government access. Hand currency that shows current account balances. Mobile video screens that glow on your forearm. Health care monitors that ink up when blood pressure rises. Nikeplus mileage counters as you run.

But sexy young people unclothed? Well, the future might have that, too.

Found by Orange Element and Garret Ohm.

Will you still need me, will you still read me, when I’m 64?


A new PWC report shows a growing generational divide in how consumers use media. Digital and mobile distribution of “Entertainment and Media,” or E&M, is expected to double from 5% of all communications in 2007 to 11% in 2012. However, this growth is driven mainly by young people. Consumers over age 50 are expected to sustain traditional media formats such as TV and radio.

A few other intriguing findings:

– Young people under age 25 account for 31% of total global population.
– However, the “youth share” is highest in many emerging markets. The under 25 set accounts for 43% of the population in Brazil and 50% in India.
– Thus digital and mobile formats may accelerate most quickly in emerging markets.
– In the U.S., the population appears headed for a split: Aging boomers who prefer traditional media are growing at 13%, but rapid growth in the under 25 crowd, especially among Hispanics and other non-Caucasians, will accelerate digital growth.

All of which creates a little cognitive dissonance in media planning. The over 50 crowd has the highest net worth and incomes. The under 25 crowd makes the most impulse purchases. Digital gets all the news, but traditional media is the path to the most money.

Your future media plan will need to address this generational divide.

Photo: Lara Jade

The truth about sexual obsession


About six years ago we got on a plane bound from Washington, D.C., to New York and settled in to a blue US Airways seat next to a consulting buddy. Our friend, Ed, tapped us on the elbow. “Look at that,” he said. We moved our eyes up slowly, a bit embarrassed that Ed was checking out a blonde, and then we realized the blonde he was checking was U.S. talk show host Katie Couric.

Katie looked pretty good. At least the back of her head did, which is all we caught as she slid into a front-row airline seat. Her hair had some sort of multifaceted, shimmering gleam, as if a dozen hair stylists had worked different layers of gold through it all at once.

Katie’s hair looked expensive.

She moved on to the evening news, where great ratings didn’t happen, and as the years passed we realized (a) we would never date Katie, because we were already married, and (b) a huge latent sexism exists in society if Katie couldn’t pull good ratings because the American public judges her on hair color and not smart journalism skills. In the end, guys on planes admired young hair, and people eating dinner wanted TV news from old men.

If the fact that we’re calling her “Katie” bothers you, congrats, you’re feeling the deep-rooted emotion of sexual response on some level — an innate characteristic that humans all spend time trying to repress, or trying to stimulate, all while denying we are animals at heart. This thought occurs after a week in which national advertisers like J.C. Penney and Heinz caught flack for running/repudiating ads that showed teenagers stripping for sex and men kissing over kitchen counters. The sex-in-advertising thing that causes so much reaction is rooted in our hormonal foundation. To fight sexual prejudice — the pre-judging of people based on their biological features — is to battle a million years of evolution. Humans didn’t survive without mating, so looking for mates is in our blood.

Today a friend we made on Twitter wrote,

“My sis just said that the hiring person for a job she applied to was concerned that the size of her breasts would be a ‘distraction.’ Srsly.”

Whoa. We re-read it, and thought the appropriate response is to feel concerned for her sister. But of course, we also wondered about her sister’s appearance.

And finally, we thought –- how clever. That writer on Twitter just boosted her own ratings by stimulating a response.

Photo: Fatman. (Hey, it’s just a peach.)