Monthly Archives: October 2011

How Apple is building a holographic future

3D modeling continues to evolve, and now Apple has acquired C3 Technologies, which uses former military technology to produce photorealistic maps of just about anything. The video above (C3 is a Saab AB spin-off) shows how a plane or helicopter can scan terrain below, to be modeled in 3D allowing future viewers to explore the world from any angle.

What would Apple do with such superb 3D modeling? Rumors abound Apple is preparing to build TVs, and Apple has patented innovative projection technology that would render 3D effects as holograms, no glasses required. The patent, which we’ve explored in detail, would project images that include ambient lighting in the room, so a person standing “before you” would have shadows on her face from the light coming in by the window. Perhaps Apple is planning a holographic future we haven’t envisioned yet.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Why personalization fails


Personalization is everywhere, especially online, where companies retarget you with banner ads if you visit their web site, or bid on competitor terms that pop up on finance pages (see the nice play by Blockbuster, above), or even chase you if you don’t click on an ad by figuring out a lot about who you are. For instance, savvy digital media buyers can run a few hundred thousand banners on a WSJ.com section read heavily by CEOs and pay a small fortune — but then tag the CEOs’ computers to serve additional banners downstream, wherever those CEOs go online, at 90% savings. In essence, this “lifts” the audience from WSJ, aligns offer with the target, and slashes media costs.

The premise of all these tactics is personalization lifts response. But does it? More than a decade ago I worked with Don Peppers, the brilliant father of 1to1 marketing who helped launch the CRM craze in the 1990s (before the term Customer Relationship Management became an acronym for software baloney). Personalization assumes that an offer with higher relevance, based on your personal and unique needs, will grab your attention, convert you to a sale, and keep you as a loyal customer.

Yeah, 1to1 can work, but it’s only one aspect of three major prongs of competition — the others being price (or perceived value) and product (where innovation is hot). Wives love husbands, but some still chase younger boyfriend or girlfriend products over personalized marital service. Apple doesn’t give a damn about personalization, for instance, yet makes a fortune in profits off of hot product designs. (I’ve often thought the reason iTunes’ interface is so horribly cluttered is Apple has found confusion leads to more sales as we click on random songs/videos we didn’t know we wanted). Consumers want deals and cool product designs; personalization cannot address those aspects.

No one ever, ever, ever asked for a two-door minivan or a cell phone with a camera or a flat computer screen with no keyboard.

Personalization does not lead to market revolutions.

Another problem with personalization is entire industries make money off waste. The cable industry, for instance, pushes more than 166 :30 second spots to a typical U.S. consumer each day (based on 5 hours and 9 minutes of TV time and 16-18 spots per hour). If you could get only the personalized ads you wanted, you might put up with 10 or 20 spots — but the remaining 146 spots would vaporize and all the ad revenue with it. Media intermediaries make boatloads off of waste. True targeting on TV, the current king among consumer media consumption, would erase billions of dollars from the ad industry.

Finally, people are not unique data sets. We have modality. I’m constantly frustrated by Amazon.com offering me Legos or Oprah books when those recommendations are based on shopping I’ve done for others. Amazon, like Netflix and others who attempt personalization, needs to provide a modality dial. Tonight I may want food, or history, or a book on technology, or sex, or a spy film. I have no idea who I will be in a few hours.

So keep trying, marketers. We try for our clients too. But it’s hard, when your carefully crafted personal offer is sent to a moving target.

We are humans, and we contain multitudes.

Inspired by +Len Kendall

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Bing bids on Google for Cain’s traffic. Clever.


This is interesting for those who work in digital advertising. The Bing search engine is running a PPC campaign on Google search tonight bidding on the term “999 plan” — sure to be hot during tonight’s GOP debate telecast on CNN — throwing the Google searcher to a Bing search results page. I hit it myself trying to find details on Google for Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan and … yes … was impressed with Bing’s comprehensive results.

Well played, Bing. Microsoft, like Herman Cain, tonight you are showing balls.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Netflix kills Qwikster — yet still buries DVDs


Netflix announced today it will go back to business as usual, give up renaming its DVD-by-mail service Qwikster, and allow consumers to order movies for both streaming and mail from one web site. With the stock price down 61%, Reed Hastings beat a hasty retreat from his vision of making Netflix purely a streaming firm. NYT reports Hastings joked on Facebook that his investors might poison him.

Which is sad, because Hastings was absolutely right. Netflix pissed off consumers with its price hike this summer, pushing fees for combined mail rentals and streaming from $10 to $16 per month, causing screams. But that was a bargain compared to the $75 per month average U.S. cable bill. Before that price hike, streaming cost $8 a month and DVDs were a $2 surcharge — yet it costs Netflix a full $1 to ship every DVD to home by mail. The economics make no sense, and the consumer outrage is a perfect example of the illogical way people respond to prices based not on value, but on a perceived reference point. The same animal instinct that makes us feel good when we buy a leather jacket for $300 “marked down 50% from $600,” a fake reference price that never really existed, triggers fury when we suddenly have to pay $6 more for a fantastic service previously priced at an insanely low $10.

What The New York Times and other media miss today is Netflix, while superficially apologetic, remains completely focused on streaming and killing DVDs — as they should. The Netflix home page mentions DVDs by mail nowhere; click on the main offer, and the second “unlimited TV episodes & movies” landing page focuses almost entirely on the streaming service, with only one tiny text link at the bottom left posing “Can I get DVDs by mail from Netflix?” If I did not want anyone to sign up for the mail service, but had to offer it, this is exactly how I’d bury it.

Netflix tried to fire its DVD customers, but couldn’t. So now, it’s simply going to migrate quietly away from them.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Originally posted on G+.

Why you didn’t get the iPhone 5


Wonder why Apple only tweaked the innards of the iPhone? Apple sales of iPhones are up — way up. The table above shows the history of iPhone unit sales; the latest hardware upgrade, in the iPhone 4, launched in June 2010 only four quarters ago, pushing sales phenomenally higher. 55.2 million iPhones were sold in the past three quarters vs. 25.8 million in the same period a year prior. Sales are nowhere near cresting for the current design, so Apple likely is pacing itself for a hot, thinner iPhone 5 release in June 2012.

Sorry you have to wait. It would help if you didn’t buy so many of the current models.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Posted from Google+.