The Already Obsolete HTC Status

Posted by on Jul 20, 2011 in Advertising, Brands, Design, Innovation | 1 comment

Obsolete HTC Status


Watching the new ads for AT&Ts exclusive HTC Status which features a Facebook button in the body of the phone (!%$?) has me thinking about a few things…

  • I’m really lighting up to Google+ – although I won’t go out on a limb and say “no more Facebook or Twitter for me” just yet.
  • Should a phone, or any device other than a computer keyboard or musical instrument, have manual keys any more? It seems like a touchscreen that can always be evolving with the OS rather than a hard-wired button system is much more scalable.
  • Let’s say speed of a total rise and fall of new innovative communications mediums like Facebook and Google+ continues to increase, how fast will someone need to get out a new piece of hardware like a smartphone to capitalize on that medium?

I’m sure Facebook will be around long enough for the full lifecycle of this phone to come and go before Google+ can make any sizeable impact on FB usage (assuming G+ even gets past the innovator/early adopter phase in their own life cycle). But seriously, who is the audience for this phone?!?

Watch the video, let me know if you have any ideas…

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Lessons in Going Viral: With Frozen Food Master Gregory Ng

Posted by on Dec 7, 2010 in Advertising, Entertainment, Viral | 0 comments

If you’ve ever stood in the frozen food aisle… wondering which chicken parm you should get, you probably had to make an impulse decision, based solely on packaging and your experience with the brand. Odds are, you then waited four minutes and thirty seconds at home, the microwave beeped, and you experienced that familiar taste – disappointment.

Enter The Frozen Food Master

Gregory Ng, local Raleigh creative executive, aims to take the guesswork out of shopping for frozen foods. And he’s built a cult following doing just that. Every episode of his popular Freezerburns series, featuring online reviews of frozen foods, will gain 100 – 200 thousand views a year. Four hundred episodes into the life of the show, The Frozen Food Master knows a thing or two about his audience, the products they’re looking for, and producing great content on the web.

In anticipation of his guest appearance at Going Viral: Making and Distributing Online Video next Wednesday, December 15 at Designbox in downtown Raleigh (click the link above for tickets), The Frozen Food Master and I caught up for an interview to preview some of the insights he’ll share on-site at the workshop. The interview is below, followed by his top 6 most watch videos of all time:

How many views does a typical Freezerburns episode receive?

On average, episodes will get 10,000 views the first week, and that’s across 30+ video networks. Six months out,  80 – 100k views. My Father’s Day episode comparing frozen hamburgers made it to the front page of Youtube for the entire weekend, and received 180k views in those three days, I haven’t checked in a while, but that was the most successful episode to date.

Describe the progression from the first episode to today.

In the beginning it was a playground, a lot of experimentation. I knew I wanted to produce a show, so I turned on the camera and started shooting. Back then there was no editing, I just wanted to get something published. I’ve talked to a lot people, and it was true for me too, we’re all afraid to put something online at the beginning, so we tweak and edit and it never happens. The truth is, its an evolution. I set out to do five videos a week for the first year, and it really wasn’t until my 75th video or so that I felt comfortable. Looking back at my earliest episodes, I had no camera presence, I was stumbling over words. I used to look at tape and think everything was pure gold, so I couldn’t get anything down below 15 minutes. Now, I’m much more deliberate in what I want to saw and how, and much more liberal in editing. Everything is between 5-7 minutes long, because that’s my sweet spot.

You don’t consider your content viral, what is your strategy for getting views?

Very few people can capture lightning in a bottle more than once. Name another video by the guy who did Chocolate Rain,  or David After the Dentist, or JK Wedding Dance – those videos that are truly viral. Those are impossible to reproduce. And what I’ve found is there’s a formula for what people will share. The value of my videos is in the information gathering I do. Someone can find my video because they saw a frozen food product they might want to try, they searched for it online, and they came up with Freezerburns. They can subscribe to my feed and tune in when they want. So I don’t shoot to produce something that’s universally appealing, and my subscribers don’t watch every episode. But 5% of my entire audience watches Freezerburns religiously, and for the most part the rest find me through search engines, because I’m optimizing them well.

What other content (series, viral videos, shows) do you use for inspiration and why?

Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s a New York Times best-selling author, and the host of Wine Library TV. He changed the way online video is done. How do content producers interact with their fans? How can they foster that real one to one relationship? He’s the godfather of all that. I watch a lot of online video, mostly in series like Gary’s, and what I really like is the conversation you can have over a full body of work.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d offer to potential viral video producers?

The big question for me is how you define viral. There’s a lot of videos that trend towards the 300-400k view mark, but they never make it across the divide. They’re trying really hard to be viral, and I think they don’t succeed because they don’t feel genuine. You have to really understand your goal. If its to have one great video with millions, great. But most likely, that’s something you’ll never achieve. If your goal is to produce content that people relate to, and grow an audience over time, stick to something you’re passionate about. Only so many people can get kicked in the nuts. And we know spoofs and parodies work, but if you’re not enjoying doing it, people can tell its fake. The best videos, in my opinion, start with passion, not a play for views.

The Freezerburns Top 6

Father’s Day Frozen Hamburger Frodown

Tofurky Vegetarian Feast

Frosty Paws and Cool Claws Frozen Pet Food

Pepperoni Threepeat Belly Buster

Can Anything Make Steak-Umm Taste Better?

Which Tastes Better: Item A or Item B?

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Brand reflections: Proposal for a new metric

Posted by on Oct 19, 2010 in Advertising, Brands, Entertainment, Innovation, The Future | 1 comment

Brand reflectionWhen you’re driving to work and pass a billboard that you notice for a split second, or you have to sit through a 30-second ad during Glee, the advertisers paying to get in front of you call this an impression. It’s basically the foundation of how media people price their outlet. Lately, new metrics like time on site, pageviews, click-through rates, and interaction have been created to measure and monetize the internet. I have nothing against metrics and making money off of great content and site traffic, but there’s a critical flaw in my opinion.

They all measure what the audience is doing – watching, clicking, commenting – not what the advertiser is doing.

The VP of Brand Creativity for Blackberry, Paul Kalbfleisch, gave a presentation yesterday in the Research Triangle Park on the mobile phone giant’s continual quest to align their offering and message with the shared values of their audience. Simply put, audience loves music = Blackberry loves music. Audience loves sports = Blackberry loves sports. One of the more creative ways they’ve expressed this mission in the past is with their partnership with of The Black Eyed Peas, and the genesis of the “BBM” song.

The video below was captured by an attendee at a concert in Chicago, and it shows how Blackberry and the artist were able to integrate their communal text messaging platform into a live, crowd-sourced freestyle rap.

Brand Reflections

What a terrific display of a brand reflecting the values: love of music, love of participation, desire to share their own voice of their audience.

So what would happen if advertisers measured the frequency and volume of moments which made a lasting impression on someone, rather than measuring when someone received an advertising message on someone. I propose that this framework fits more closely the emerging marketing model that brands, advertisers and the media are already adopting within social media, branded entertainment, community development and social responsibility initiatives.

The Challenge: Assigning Value to a Reflection

The funny thing about an impression is its ambiguity. I could watch a 30 second commercial or see a display ad on Mashable, and while the cost is drastically different, the true value of the impression is essentially the same (you may disagree, I’m saying this is my feedback as a receiver of advertising messages). I’ve been in many conversations hypothesizing the value of someone leaving a comment on a blog or joining a Facebook community versus an impression, and wonder how we might measure and assign value to “brand reflections”.

Consider something like a video contest, where the brand is actively saying “What do you think about us?”, this is a great example of a reflection model. So when 200 people spend 20 hours of their lives devoted to thinking about a brand, getting their friends involved, sharing their work across their social networks, and committing their pride, creativity and potential career advancement opportunities into the project – what is the value of of those 12 million+ seconds just dedicated to sharing their values with that brand.

Is it worth 12 million people noticing a billboard for a split second?

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Four Wonderfully Watchable Brands

Posted by on Sep 12, 2010 in Advertising, Branded Entertainment, Comedy, Entertainment | 2 comments

While everyone and their social media expert brother are talking about how brands can be “talkable”, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there’s still value in the one-way media consumption model. Yeah, call me crazy, I think there are people that still just watch media, without participating in a two-way conversation.

Enter the Age of the Watchable Brand

Traditional broadcast advertising has been defeated by Tivo and DVRs – most people aren’t sitting through commercials – so a number of content-savvy brands are using their paid media time or organic word-of-mouth to drive viewers into other avenues of branded entertainment to deliver their message in a more compelling and watchable format.

Here are four examples of wonderfully watchable brands that are delighting viewers by embracing branded entertainment:

Toyota Sienna on Youtube

A lot of us have seen the clever and endearing “Sienna Family” series on tv – aging hipster mom and dad, candidly sharing how the Sienna fits into their lifestyle. But you probably haven’t taken the extra step to follow the call to action at the end, check out Sienna’s Youtube page and enter the world of the Swagger Wagon.

toyota sienna youtube

Their 6 million views rap video that smartly speaks to their target audience with lyrics like “Bring the beat back, cause yo I got more to say, you know I’m always front and center at the school play … cut the crust off the PB&Js chill the Yoohoos…” and over 20 other entertaining spots have accumulated over 10 million plays on the channel thanks to their consistent ad series and favorable industry word-of-mouth.

Click here to visit the Sienna family on Youtube

Zappos on Facebook

You’ll often find me talking about just how damn talkable the Zappos brand is – their infinitely sustainable word of mouth strategy is driven by their core value of delivering amazing customer service, the kind that well, people just have to rave about. Well Zappos is apparently an amazing place to work to boot (you may have heard of their hiring practices), and if you watch any of the over 130 videos created by employees and uploaded to their Facebook page, you believe it.

Zappos facebook page videos

Check out a few videos like “Banana Phone” or “Development Olympics” to see how the company delivers on their promise of employee happiness, transparently exposing their enviably utopic-seeming corporate culture.

Click here to visit Zappos videos on Facebook

American Family Insurance’s “In Gayle We Trust”

Insurance companies do a hell of a lot of advertising. Geico’s famous for theirs, everyone seems to love Progressive’s Flo series, Allstate is coming on strong of late, and State Farm, well, they seem to be confused. Considering this crowded share of voice battle in between shows, it makes perfect sense that the underdog, in this case American Family Insurance, would choose not to fight in traditional advertising ring. What we’ve gained instead is the wonderfully watchable In Gayle We Trust.

In Gayle We Trust

Viewers can engage with the American Family Insurance brand in two seasons of easily enjoyable bites (3-6 minutes each) on hulu or NBC’s website (the show was produced for NBC’s digital studio) following Gayle Evans Evans, lovable insurance slinger, as she judges the Maple Grove Chili Cook-off, raises money for the local children’s library and generally solves all the town’s problems like any reputable insurance salesperson should.

Click here to watch In Gayle We Trust on hulu

Ikea’s Easy to Assemble

Have you ever seen an ad for Ikea on tv? I don’t think so, because Ikea has taken it upon themselves to create their own TV show online, and two seasons of Easy to Assemble. Created by veteran actor Ileana Douglas and featuring a slew of recognizable actors like Ed Bagley Jr., Justine Bateman and Jane Lynch, the series has been applauded by Ikea fans and the entertainment industry as the best web series online.

ikea easy to assemble

Following Ileana’s departure from Hollywood and entry into the home furnishings customer service world, the show delivers a charmingly self-deprecating look at actors’ sometimes ill-fated career paths, working in Ikea’s trademark Swedish meatballs and faux-training videos along the way.

Click here to watch Ikea’s Easy to Assemble TV

Sum it up, Arik

Brands can be more than just products on shelves, recipients of our paychecks and 30-second interrupters. With well-crafted branded entertainment and extended web series’ can engage consumers longer, deliver more compelling and believable messaging, generate organic word-of-mouth and get invited to more cool kid parties, in general. There’s probably some sales upticks and purchase intent that comes along with that stuff too.

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Alex Bogusky’s Fearless Cottage

Posted by on Aug 30, 2010 in Advertising, Innovation | 0 comments

alex bogusky fearless cottage

“Fear is the mortal enemy of innovation, creativity and happiness.” So says Alex Bogusky, the epitome of the ad industry rock star, and founder of The Fearless Cottage. Bogusky, in a somewhat modern day transcendentalist manner, recently left his post as partner of ad agency Crispin, Porter & Bogusky (responsible for breakthrough campaigns for Burger King and Domino’s, among others) and has wandered into the woods in pursuit of a greater purpose. And while that exact purpose seems somewhat nebulous in the incubation stage (the site touches on sustainability, food industry activism, art, design, advertising), anything Bogusky does is worthy of taking note and bound to have an impact on how society approaches creativity.

The most tangible output of the Fearless Cottage so far is the Fearless Q&A series, in which Bogusky interviews guests on topics ranging from what’s wrong with our school’s cafeterias to what’s happening in experiential marketing, in hour-long format on his YouTube Channel. One of the most engaging episodes features his own father, a logo designer, and offers Bogusky fans a look into the iconography and craftsmanship that was the setting for the young creative genius in the making.

DESIGN with Alex Bogusky and his Dad

While I’m not exactly sure what’s going to come out of Fearless Cottage (it seems like Alex isn’t sure either), I’m looking forward to tuning into their weekly Q&A and taking part in the pseud0-movement that may or may not revolutionize the way that Americans eat… or sell products… or something.

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Seth Godin and the future of books

Posted by on Aug 25, 2010 in Advertising, Crowdsourcing, Entertainment, Innovation, The Future | 0 comments

seth godin the future of bookings reading trends richard wiley amazon kindle ipad

The future of books and reading are top of mind for me since Seth Godin, best-selling author of a dozen must-own books for marketers, sent a powerful message to the publishing industry with this announcement:

“I’ve decided not to publish any more books in the traditional way. 12 for 12 and I’m done. I like the people, but I can’t abide the long wait, the filters, the big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store they don’t usually visit to buy something they don’t usually buy, to get them to pay for an idea in a form that’s hard to spread … I really don’t think the process is worth the effort that it now takes to make it work. I can reach 10 or 50 times as many people electronically. No, it’s not ‘better’, but it’s different. So while I’m not sure what format my writing will take, I’m not planning on it being the 1907 version of hardcover publishing any longer.” Read the MediaBistro article here.

I’m not reading this as “hardcopy books are dead” as much as “the system sucks, I’m going to find a better way.” And this leaves me to reflect on some of the trends in the book publishing industry that are paving Seth’s way.

Kindles and iPads and such

It’s no ephiphany that reading is headed the way of the e-reader or tablet. Amazon’s sold a billion dollars worth of stuff through mobile devices, a lot of it books on the Kindle or through the

What surprises me about this market is one of the ways digital reading offerings are being positioned. I recently worked on a creative campaign for Zinio, a digital newsstand for interactive magazines and books with their own iPad app, and one of their selling points is the 60,000 issues of magazines available. The Nook ad hanging on the entrance to B&N touts over 1,000,000 titles. Same goes for Amazon and everyone else, “We’ve got x number of things you can read, isn’t that mind blowing?”.

To me it seems counterintuitive to where everything else digital is headed – curation, personalization and customization – to avoid massive information overload. Sure, I want to know that if I invest in a digital reader, I can find whatever I want. I get that. But never will 1,000,000 books be of any more value to me as a reader than the couple thousand books that I’m going to read in my lifetime.

In my opinion, the future of the digital reading experience is all about personalization. A smart reading list, delivered to me chapter by chapter from different books, based on my cultural and social needs for entertainment, education and professional development.

If you’re fascinated in where the digital reading experience is headed like me, or you have a long list of gripes about the form and function of e-readers, I recommend this incedible essay “Embracing the Digital Book” on the future of e-readers by Craig Mod.

There is No Book

So what about the word “book”? I hadn’t thought about the nomenclature until I came across Bob Stein and the if:book project by the Institute of the Future of the Book.

In this article, Bob imagines a future where “app” is the most likely term to replace “book”. Who knows what will happen here, I mean we’re still saying things like album and record despite the complete overhaul of the music industry. I personally think “book” has resiliance in spite of the medium. On a side note, I think “TV” is here to stay also, no matter what device we watch it on.

The most compelling quote from Bob Stein’s article I thought was this:

“The distinction between media types was a lot more important during the analog era of the mid-twentieth cenury. In 1950 no one would confuse a novel with a movie or a song with a TV show. But today we have e-books with video sequences, and movies published with extensive text-based supplements. Is Lady Gaga a music star or video star?”

Is he envisioning a future where everything is sensory-rich and our need to categorize media dwindles? Will there no longer be audio-only, text-only, image-only art and entertainment?

Fundraising for Books with Kickstartup

The dusty economics of 20th-century publishing have no doubt accelerated the massive shift in how books go to market. Just like movies and music, the hyper-connected entertainment landscape allows individuals with a good idea to find success without a corporate backer. Case in point is another great essay by Craig Mod on how he raised capital for a book project through Kickstartup.

Through the innovative micro-funding startup, Craig and his partner raised $24,000 to produce and distribute a new edition of their book thanks to the wonders of the internet. Not alone by any means, Writer 2.0 editor Pagan Kennedy documents similar success with the crowdfunding for publishing model here.

Book Promotions through Crowdsourcing

My final consideration for this post is the promotions aspects of books in the new millenium. What better case than a crowdsourcing campaign for a book about the transformation of the publishing and printed media industry, Richard Hine’s Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch.

The fiction-based-on-real-life novel (like a Devil Wears Prada for the print industry) authored by a veteran of the print world and published by Amazon Encore is sourcing video trailers, digital print ads and online banners by leveraging the power of social media to engage potential audience members in the creative marketing process. Below is the video brief for the Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch campaign on Zooppa (disclosure, I work with Zooppa).

I imagine a future where this kind of reader interaction in the marketing process and funding process (as noted above) extends into the entire creative and publishing model in ways difficult to imagine today.

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