Excellence In Advertising

I was asked the other day to name my favorite advertisement. In terms of effective engagement, I think branded apps are the best combination of free-to-the-consumer utility and on-going engagement for the brand. I recently downloaded an app to help me find the closest Chevron gas station because my dealer said that their special gasoline is best for my car. It’s a single purpose app (shows you the nearest Chevron based on your phone’s location) but Chevron took to the time to add information about the gasoline and also insert a feed of online coupons that can be redeemed at their gas station.

While I was a Yahoo, I kept a running feed of links pointing to clever advertising campaigns and used those as case studies when speaking with advertisers and agencies that were always coming to Yahoo for advice and collaboration. Today I ran across this clever idea using your mobile phone to control a giant game of Pong! on a billboard in Sweden. What is unique is that it uses your phone’s web browser to find your physical location and as long as it determined that you were in the proximity of the billboard, it would let you enter a code to on the web browser to control the game.

No app. No downloads.

Engagement is measured by those that click through to the coupon screen where they get a free drink or snack at the local McDonalds. It’s not clear from the video if this coupon was just on your browser’s screen or if it get’s sent to you via SMS or email. If it’s the latter, then not only are they able to measure conversions, they are also capturing phone or email addresses for future campaigns.

Oh, if you want to browse the archive of other clever advertising campaigns of note, I have a list on my Pinboard link feed.

iPhone Tracker Art

Dav Yaginuma, my brother-in-law, exported his iPhone’s location data and, using the open source iPhone Tracker modified the settings to create very fine grained view of his whereabouts. I would have thought an aggregated view such as the one above would give a strong signal to where he lives and works but I guess he is too nomadic to be that predictable.

At best,  the pattern resembles a colony of ants swarming spilled sugar water which, in some sense, describes San Francisco from a distance.

More visualizations like this on Dav’s site, Aku Aku.

I personally think this location data is really useful and describe it more as a feature than a security violation. For those concerned with what big companies know about you, check out my earlier post, Location Traces as Art

Douglas Adams on Location-Based Services

Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, spoke to a room full of telecom executives in 2001 and in the middle of pleading with them to improve the call quality along the 101 freeway near his home in Santa Barbara, California, he also included this nugget describing a world that is just starting to be realized in 2011.

The one thing I did get right when I came up with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was that it would know where you were and come up with information appropriately, and that of course is the thing that makes the crucial difference to everything in that list above. If every piece of information knew the when of itself and the where of itself, so that the virtual world we created fitted over the real world like an invisible glove, and these devices, which we currently think of as telephones or PDA’s, would be the devices that made that invisible world visible to us. The things which both generate the model and make it appear to us, they become windows from the real world into the virtual world which is everywhere around us.

Of course they won’t be like this, these are just telephones with bits added on, one wire taken away and a few more added to it.

Douglas Adams speech to Mobile World Congress, February 21, 2001

The main use case for Foursquare beyond telling people which office I’m working in for the day is to check the Tips section for a venue to see what the dishes are recommended at a restaurant or sights to see at a museum. Augmenting the physical world with location-specific media is the next big trend. Color.com is doing it with photos. Who will do it with music, who will do it with video, who will do it with links?

Clever Hack for Mobile User Studies

For less than $100 you too can whip together a pocket cam rig to film test users of your mobile app and spot trouble areas. From the Artefact blog:

Staring over your participant’s shoulder isn’t creating the most natural situation when testing user experiences. You get less than ideal viewing angles, participants can’t get into a flow and it’s hard to get good video of it all. So how do you get around that? I’ll introduce to you a few key pieces of hardware and software that can make your life a little easier. Maybe even the coolest researcher in your department, in less than an hour.

Cheap POV video for mobile phone studies

Location Traces as Art

Determined to teach others how much data telecom providers not only harness but retain, German Green Party politician, Malte Spitz, sued his cell phone service provider, Deutsche Telecom, for his location data. What he received was raw data of his location, signal strength, and when he was on the phone.  Working with the German newspaper Zeit, he then published this data spanning the six months between August 2009 and February 2010 and put it up on Zeit Online into an interactive map.

Publishing your movements has obvious privacy implications and that is precisely the point that Mr. Spitz is trying to make. Over 35,000 location coordinates were taken but even the New York Times article reporting on this project revealed that these were only a subset of all the data that could be taken. Each of the Spitz datapoints were taken when he (or his email client) was checking email via the Deutsche Telecom servers. Yet, even with this low-fidelity view, it’s easy to draw lines between the points and the sample set is large enough that it’s fairly easy to work out where Mr. Spitz lives, works, and other aspects of his weekly routine. The calendar bar on the site also lets you zoom in on where he spent Christmas.

Put another way though, having access to a private dashboard where I could review where I’ve been would certainly be helpful for my expense reports and letting me selectively publish my data would certainly save having to manually check -in and create visualizations as I did with FourSquare or the raumzeitgeist report provided by  dopplr showing your past trips (above).

TED just published a fascinating talk (Birth of a Word) by MIT researcher Deb Roy who used location traces at a micro-level (below) to study how his son (who was filmed and tracked for the 24 hours a day for the first two years of his life) picked up language. While the visualization was used to assist in research, it also wowed the audience at TED as a breath-taking visualization as well.

Does location data represent a new form of art?

will.i.am on chips talking to chips

In a post last year, I paraphrased a quote, “If you are not paying for a product, you are the product.” Will.i.am recently updated this quote with the line,

You are either the person getting pimped, or you’re the person doing the pimping.

The video below of will.i.am from the Black-Eyed Peas speaking with John Battelle at a recent conference he hosted in LA has been looping away in my mind for the past week. In it, he questions the 80/20 revenue split with Apple of iTunes digital distribution as something left over from the days of Tower Records when distribution meant up-front manufacturing commitments, inventory stocking, and shipping of physical goods. The fact that record publishers still keep this uneven split for digital “licensing” to places such as iTunes is the, “dirty secret nobody’s talking about.”

will.i.am’s description of how the Black-Eyed Peas negotiated a new type of advertising unit for the Super Bowl and collaborated with Marc Benioff and Salesforce to promote Chatter.com through the mini-site thebabypeas.com is a glimpse at how switched on celebrities are using modern tools to manage their brand without the help (or interference or commissions) by an agency.

But the most visionary thing and something I keep coming back to is will.i.am’s vision of the next generation internet. It’s a world where brand “alliances” pool together to subsidize content producers. A world where, “chips talk to chips” without a middleman to make the free flow of content seamless and automatic. In this new world, a collection of devices will marry themselves to a library of content and work seamlessly together.

Extended further, it’s a world in which we no longer need the internet to connect us all. When you text someone next to you, why do you need to connect to a cell tower and send the message over a network only to round trip it right back again. If you extend the chips-talking-to-chips metaphor, why not just have the phone turn itself into the modern version of a walkie-talkie and beam the message right over? Bluetooth and NFC have started this vision but taken further, why can’t cellphones self-organize into mini-networks so that a group of phones together could share information without having to connect to the cloud?

Mobile in Japan – ON FIRE!

comScore released their Mobile Year in Review report for 2010 which, for some reason, includes Japan for the first time this year. Japan has been years ahead of other markets for some time now and their findings, summarized in the graph above, confirm that. In their words, Japan is, “perhaps one of the most mature and sophisticated mobile markests int he world.” Other highlights:

  • In December 2010 (that’s just 31 days folks!) 9.8 million users in Japan made a purchase using their mobile wallet software embedded in their phone. 9.8 million!
  • 76.8% used “connected media” vs. 46 % in the US and 41% in the EU. I have a tweet into @comscore to get details on how they define “connected media” and will update when I hear back.

I clearly have to figure out how to get my butt over to Japan.

Update : I never did hear back from ComScore but Rudy De Waele of @mtrends helpfully defines connected media as “browsed, accessed applications, or downloaded content” which basically means email, games, streaming video, and any application that pulls down bits from the network. Makes me wonder what the remaining 59% in the EU and 54% in US are doing on their phone. Voice, SMS, and Snake?

Push Button Social Networking

HTC announced two phones with dedicated buttons for Facebook. The touchscreen Salsa and ChaCha (pictured below).

Running Android Gingerbread 2.3.3, HTC modified the Sense UI to integrate the Facebook into the experience. According to the HTC press release,

The Facebook button on HTC ChaCha and HTC Salsa is context-aware, gently pulsing with light whenever there is an opportunity to share content or updates through Facebook. With a single press of the button, you can update your status, upload a photo, share a Website, post what song you are listening to, ‘check in’ to a location and more. For example, you can take a photograph of friends on your phone and upload it instantly to Facebook by simply pressing the button. Or let your friends know what song you’re listening to by pressing the button while listening to music on the phone. The track is automatically identified and shared on Facebook.

Dedicated hardware keys are nothing new (see Yahoo button on Japanese feature phone below) but HTC has taken advantage of the phone sensors and software to give this button multiple uses, as long as your preferred social network is Facebook.

Shipping in Q2 2011 across Europe and Asia and launching exclusively with AT&T “later this year.”