Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Web (and Advertising) in 3-D

Is it me or did everything just kick into 3-D?

In a number of magazines this past week I read about the upcoming deluge of digital 3-D movies and the movie industry’s overall push towards embracing the 3-dimensional world as a means of investment in their future. It seems that everything in the coming weeks will be 3-D. Even a few of this year’s Superbowl spots were in 3-D, though I don’t know a single person who had the glasses to watch them.

That got me to thinking while we were at OMMA Global about what the next stage of the web will be and it leads me to the idea that Web 3.0 might as well be called Web 3-D.
Just about everyone agrees that the next stage of the web is a transition towards a customizable, distributed web that no longer relies on mass audience destinations as much as it will rely on technology to tailor the remote experience to the individual user, but is it possible that the next stage of the web will also transition from a 2-dimensional experience of flat web pages to a 3-dimensional experience more akin to virtual worlds?

The virtual worlds buzz has died down a bit, but most technologists agree that the future of the web involves VR (virtual reality) in some manner, and VR implies a 3-dimensional experience. If you follow this path of thought, then you can also surmise that the format for display advertising will evolve to a more 3-dimensional experience as well. Whether that experience would be analogous to digital billboards with motion, even video, embedded in the virtual landscape or just entry and exit points being converted to digital advertising “portals”, either one can be considered very interesting and very alluring to advertisers. The issue with the current display formats is that they’re flat and can be overlooked, as well as the fact that too many people rely on click-through as a metric for success. In a 3-dimensional world the ads can take on a new life and even morph into truer product placement. I don’t mean that your web experience will be like walking through a virtual world. I simply mean that the browser may be lifted in front of you and pages may reside behind pages in a more tangible, 3-dimensional browsing experience rather than the current flat-land way they look and feel.

This topic gets me excited because of the possibilities that arise. How many times have you wished you could create a 3-D chart when presenting to the client that integrated three axes into the discussion? Imagine if the way you surfed the web could be more similar to the “switch between windows” icon in Windows Vista or the most recent way the Apple Safari browser updates your “most recent pages viewed” format? Expanding the experience of web surfing outside of the current browser formats will represent a massive shift in the way we experience the web and interconnectedness of the Internet would be even more easily understood. It’s rather inevitable that something like this will happen. The browser space has been stagnant for years; regardless of what Firefox or Chrome bring to the table. They all represent a 2-D web experience and that is simply not the way I see the future.

Much of the talk at OMMA was about display and how we might see improvements in the coming years, but most of our discussion focused on measurement and interaction. Maybe the solution lies in revisiting the actual web experience itself? Maybe we need to revise our entire experience with digital media and bring the “pinch and zoom” functionality of the iPhone to the general PC? I know someone smarter than me is working on this right now and I wish they’d hurry up and show it off!

Do you think we’re headed in this direction? Comment on the message board and let us know!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Benefits vs. Price: Advertising Strategy in a Recession

In an economic downturn of such weight and impact as this, now being referred to as the “Great Recession” due to our love for branding our own historical periods, how does a mass market, consumer brand react? How does a consumer brand respond to ensure success?

I’ve been paying close attention to various answers to this question over the last few months and I’ve learned there are two distinct camps of response. They are diametrically opposed in process and structure, but they can each be successful in their own right.

The first response for a brand is to spend, spend, spend. When a brand spends during a recession, they do so to take advantage of the lack of spending by their competitors and they attempt to increase market share by hammering home product benefits and values. To spend during a downturn is an aggressive strategy that can result in a stronger recovery once the rest of the economy catches up. There are loads of data and research studies that support the concept of spending during a recession, but what they rarely tell you is that to do it effectively you need a strong creative strategy.

Brands that advertise heavily during times of economic distress need to be sympathetic to consumers and they need to focus attention on product benefits that go beyond the obvious. They need to get into emotional benefits and they need to offer intangible reasons why the brand should be your brand of choice. Some good examples, in my eyes, of brands that are being successful with this right now include Pepsi and Audi. Pepsi’s advertisements are currently ubiquitous, and even though I’m a Coca Cola drinker I enjoy the positive message associated with Pepsi’s ads. Audi is another example of a high end brand that appears to still be spending in order to increase the perception of their brand as a premium. When dollars return and the market starts to go positive, Audi will likely gain market share even further.

Unfortunately, many brands that take this strategy resort to a pure media strategy during these periods and they just turn up the flow of dollars which can result in wear-out for their creative and consumer fatigue. If you’re turning up the media faucet during this period you need to turn up the creative faucet as well. Both Pepsi and Audi seem to be using fresh creative during this period, so they’re certainly on to something!

The opposite strategy is to reduce spending and focus solely on the baseline of your media, but it always appears that when brands take this strategy from a media perspective, they also tend to focus their messaging on price. Selling on price is absolutely a strong strategy during economic hardship for targeting the average consumer because it provides a message which is quickly understood and valued, but price can be a dangerous message because once you drop or focus on price, it can be harder to focus on anything else later.

Price resonates immediately, but it can also shift the attention away from product benefits. The one shining example of where this is not the case is the current Hyundai campaign that offers the “safety net” pricing that ensures you won’t be stuck paying for a new car if you lose your job. Though not obviously a price message, it translates to the concept of Hyundai being a great deal all around. The question is that once we emerge from the recession, can they still go beyond price? Hyundai had been doing a fantastic job of messaging value and changing the image of their brand, can they maintain that in the future? My guess is they can because their message didn’t default directly to price, even though they danced around it without saying it outright. Brands that are focused purely on price are the ones that I would see in trouble.

Overall I guess my opinion is quite obvious; that spending and messaging product benefits sets your brand up for success. What I suggest you do is become your own advertising anthropologist and focus one eye on the messaging you see around you. Identify the advertisers focusing on price and see if this represents a change in strategy (some brands, like Wal-Mart, have always been about price and that’s all you would ever expect). Also try and determine, with your consumer hat on, whether you would believe a product benefit message later from that brand now that they are focused on price (how would you respond if Wal-Mart started selling premium goods?). It’s an interesting exercise and one that will get you thinking.

Let us know your results by telling us on the Spin board!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dancing Around the Bleeding Edge of Technology (Without Getting Cut)

The biggest trend in the digital electronics world has nothing and everything to do with the Internet. The trend is not that devices such as your TV or your telephone are connected to the web; they’ve been doing that for years, but that the interface for these devices are becoming more dynamic and reminiscent of bleeding edge digital devices like the iPhone and bleeding edge platforms, such as Social Media.

My wife was reading Business Week (admittedly not a bleeding edge publication) and she tears out the best articles for me; the ones she knows I’ll find of interest. In one recent issue (April 13, to be exact) there were three very relevant articles regarding how traditional devices were morphing their user interfaces and how these interfaces were becoming more webified and ready for search and discovery navigation as well as expanding their boundaries beyond that of their original purpose.

The Cable industry has been leading this charge for a number of years now and recently Canoe Ventures announced a little teaser for where they’re going over the next couple of weeks. Cable has recognized for quite some time that their old ways of doing business were going to become slowly extinct and they’ve been responding in broad fashion. On the conservative side they’ve dipped their toes into online TV with sites such as Comcast’s Fancast site which is apparently part of a broader initiative with their “skunkworks” group called (simply) Comcast Interactive Media. On the more liberal side, and not always in conjunction with the cable companies themselves, I’ve seen a glimpse of where the platforms truly could go. About two years ago Alan Schulman of The Digital Innovations Group displayed an example of what he would do, if given the chance and opportunity, to recreate the television “guide” experience using a graphical, non-linear search model. That example was pretty brilliant and even though I know there were a number of cable representatives in the room, I never saw it come to fruition. For that matter, I have yet to see anyone even come close to what he put together but I’m holding my breath and keeping my fingers crossed because it was awesome.

Of course, this is not all about Cable; the telephone industry is doing it too! Verizon has been running a slew of TV campaigns promoting its new Hub. The Hub is basically a really-smart phone. It’s disguised as a landline with benefits such as contacts, Vcast, weather and other fun features. Of course, none of these are new for any of you with a 3rd or better generation mobile phone, but for those of you still holding on to your “landline”, this just may be your kind of device. To me it feels less like an innovation and more of a desperate last gasp for the home phone.

But none of these innovations even holds a candle to what’s going on as a result of the influence from gaming platforms like the Wii and PS3. In that same issue of Business Week there was a story about the impending rush of “gesture-reading” devices like HP’s TouchSmart PC and even your home television. These devices are taking the world of Minority Report and making it real by bringing you into the interface and having your hand gestures interact with the display, potentially dragging you kicking and screaming into a 3-dimensional digital world (something I predict is as inevitable as a sun burn in Maui). If you could sit on the couch and wave your hands in order to browse through the interface of your TV, literally casting aside the less interesting content and dragging the best stuff to the top, you’d be giving the term “couch surfing” a whole new meaning. And just for the record, this isn’t the kind of stuff you’ll be waiting 10 years just to see in action. HP says these could be in your hands by the end of the year.

And here it is, just as I thought people were getting comfortable with technology the world up and changes again. The creative minds that were jolted by the release of the iPhone and the Wii have been set free and they’re out of control, but in a very, very good way. Those of us surface-dwelling minds are using the Apple-design “reflection” in every powerpoint we do and consider that to be innovative, but people far smarter than us are tackling these challenges and succeeding. I love being a part of it and getting to see it all first, because the simple truth is that while the bleeding edge may not be the gathering point for the masses, it does provide insight into where the masses are headed, and that is a place I want to be.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Doing Things Differently

I like to do things differently. I like to see change. Want to know why? Because doing things differently can spark new ideas. The worst thing you can do in life is to be come mundane and ordinary. If you do, then you start to skip over the obvious and you bypass the steps that make you learn.

I like to do new things and try new ideas because they help my mind to be challenged.

Being challenged means you will find a new way of doing business and that is where success is generated from.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Round-Up Volume 1, Issue 24: “And We’ll Have Fun, Fun, Fun…” With The Round Up!

This time around the Round Up – it’s all about getting some balance! You know what they say about, “All work and no play”, right? You can’t get too far in life without having at least a little bit of fun. What’s funny is that the very existence of that old saying goes to show you that even way back before the Internet, people had trouble balancing work and fun. These days, it certainly hasn’t gotten any easier!

Since we all seem to have issues in this area, we decided we’d balance out this edition of Digital Influentials with a little bit of this and a little bit of that. To quote the famous hip hop Black Sheep who’ve got “brothers in a jungle, cousins on a quest”; The Choice is Yours!

First off, for a site that allows you to indulge in a little bit of self deprecation with the intent of making you feel better, check out F-MY-LIFE ( This site is growing by leaps and bounds (just scored a book deal) and allows you to share that frustrating experience from today that has you thinking your life sucks sometimes. The funny thing is that by reading the site for just a few minutes, your life doesn’t sound so bad anymore! It’s a fun way to make yourself feel better!

If you’re looking for a fun challenge and a new way to use what little brain cells you’ve got left, check out THESE THREE BANDS ( The challenge is simple; describe one band using three other bands. My first submission was “Death Cab For Cutie is like James Taylor after he drinks a bottle of Jack Daniels, gets really sad about his break up with Carly Simon and calls up Coldplay for a jam session”. If you think you can do better, go for it! It’s a fun way to pass the time!

If you’re looking for a new apartment, which can be about as fun as a trip to the dentist, make your life a little easier by using CAZOODLE ( They make finding an apartment as easy as typing in your zip code. It can also be easier than trolling through Craigslist and you can cut right to the chase; price, location and pictures! The search works quickly and the Google Map overlay is especially helpful! It’s a fun way to find a place to live!

For a fun way to express yourself or your business, check out MOO ( The Moo cards have been around for some time now, but they are ever-expanding in their sizes and the quality is top notch!

And just in case you need to get back to work, or more importantly you need to go to a conference to find more work, check out GARY’S GUIDE ( Gary’s Guide provides a one-stop location for all business related conferences. It is an invaluable solution for finding where your clients may be spending their time. It’s a fun way to build your business, indirectly of course.

And just in case your business needs an iPhone App, check out MOTHERAPP ( If you can do HTML, they can help you translate that into an App. This business is getting bigger everyday and the rumor is that Apple is approaching their 1 billionth App in the App Store, so you’d better get in line! It’s a fun way to expand your horizons!

And speaking of iPhone Apps… check out the CELLFIRE app to get some mobile coupons and the new SKYPE app that lets you call using VOIP without spending minutes. They’re both fun ways to save money!

That’s it for this week – now go have some fun!

Friday, April 17, 2009

World Golf Tour Is Back

Ok, Ok. I know they never really went anywhere, but the site has relaunched and they have lots of great stuff going on! The most recent addition that rocks is found at the US Open Site. Now you too can play Beth Page Black with the pros.

Here's a link to the press release they sent out.

I've been following the site since it launched 2 years ago and waiting for the depth of detail and the scope of courses that they have now. From what i've seen thus far, its been worth the wait!

Check it out!

Blog Neglect

Do you ever feel as though you are neglecting your blog? I do, but i know it doesn't get lonely and it never gets jealous of me writing in other places. Good blog :-)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Liberty Mutual Takes on AIG - Yes!!

This is a great ad and a direct shot at AIG:

Follow My Tweets Right Here!

A quick thanks to this article, sent over by Stephanie Sarka. It finally allowed me to grab the right kind of widget to display my twitter feed on this page. Believe it or not, this has been a difficult task until now!

Check it out right there on the right hand side, or visit twitter!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

If you aren't at least a little interested and excited about this movie, then you live in a dark hole.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Round-Up Volume 1, Issue 23: April Showers Bring… The Round Up!

As the old saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers”, and things to do around the house! It’s that wonderful time of the year where most people undergo a spiritual and material cleansing. If you’re anything like me, you rummage through your closets and dump out the unbelievably cluttered drawers of your house and uncover all those little useless items you’ve been hoarding since 1992. You donate old clothes to Goodwill and you make space for all the new useless stuff you’re going to hold onto for the coming months! In my specific case, you’re finding space to put all the baby-related items that you’ll need in just 4 weeks when our son, our first baby, will be born!

The reason I decided this edition of The Round Up would use the “Spring Cleaning” theme, other than a shameless act of self-promotion for our baby, is because the sites and services we uncovered seemed to flow in the sense they uncovered new information and make room for organizing! Wonder how that might work out? Well read on…!

The first little organization tool we uncovered was XOBNI ( If you use Outlook, and I know you do, Xobni plugs in and adds a layer of information that is actually quite interesting. It can surf LinkedIn to add pictures and information on the people who are emailing you as well as Facebook for similar information and it can access Hoovers to allow you to pull up company information, too. Think email’s too slow? Skype directly from your inbox and reach out and talk to someone! It could be a way to clean out your inbox and make your connections that much smarter!

Are you considering taking your spring cleaning to “the next level”? Why not visit CALFINDER ( CalFinder does more than the name implies and it provides a resource for you to find local remodeling contractors so you can do those long-awaited changes to your home. They’re deep in many areas of the US, far beyond California. You just pick a project, enter some information and get connected direct! How much easier could it be to get that bathroom remodel done and ready for the summer months!

In the area of marketing, spring cleaning always refers to that time of year when your clients are looking for “something new and innovative”. For a quick and dirty solution, check out INVOLVER ( Involver provides a platform for syndicating, managing and targeting a viral video offering. You know your clients want viral video, so just go and do it already J. There’s nothing that says “spring cleaning” like a viral video (I know, that barely makes any sense, but I had to try).

In the iPhone Apps world, check out THINGS which provides a great, simple and easy “to-do” list functionality. GROCERIES, the grocery shopping app that makes going to the store a little more organized. There weren’t too many others we found this week because we were taking the time to clean out our apps section, just like those drawers in our house!

Now make sure you go see your significant other and give them a big hug! Spring cleaning is also the time of the year to get your priorities straight and family is always the top priority, even over this influential newsletter J

Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

All for Under $50k

I am shocked at the price and the beauty of this car, but you gotta love it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Gotta Love The Numbers

These are some recent numbers that i read in Time. The gist of the story was that the mainstream audience does not watch TV in the same way anymore, and I have to agree after reading these!

The following are the percentage of households watching ABC, CBS or NBC in primetime through the years...

1952-53: 75%
1982-83: 51%
2007-08: 18%

I am not saying the TV audience is necessarily leaving TV, but it is horribly fragmented and that data proves the point!