Interface

action is real > great agencies deliver action

Richard_Nixon_campaign_rally_1968 Show and Tell is the basis for the entire media/PR industry.  A great talker or sincere conversationalist can inspire and empathize.  Talk is very important. Talk works.  But even the biggest ad spend or social inspirational effort cannot sell a clearly broken product.

So what's an agency to do when they are tasked with selling a broken product? 

Fix it.

Great agencies and consultants don't operate in a communications silo, they empower and partner with their clients to deliver real solutions.  They join the real marketing discussions, including product, design, distribution and internal/external communications.  They don't just think communications, they bring real marketing strategy to the table. 

Talk without action simply doesn't work.

Don't think social.  Think business.

Inspired by the video below.


Hulu : Ads as Content - With Ads

We all know that many of our friends and family members tune into the Superbowl for the ads.

In a sense, Superbowl ads are the ultimate short-form branded content. 

And so, Hulu has chosen to run mini-pre-roll in front of the creative spots run during the Superbowl.

Erick Schonfeld over at TechCrunch finds this offensive.  But I find it sensible.

If an ad is a 30 second slice of content, it's only natural to put a 3 second spot in front of it right? (see video below)

My only gripe is with the format.  Hulu should be streaming these ads back-to-back with only the occasional 3 second interuption.  Nobody goes to Hulu's Superbowl Ad page to view just one ad.  Get with the medium, get with the people.

Hulu, you challenged the world once, proving that traditional media could get digital right.  Let's keep the groove alive, ok?

Hulu Superbowl Ad Widget

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social yelling - the day after the superbowl

  • Not everybody likes the loud party guy with all the friends and buckets of charisma.  But lots of people do.
  • Nobody likes the wannabe party guy who is just loud.

Brands may not be expected to "participate in a two way dialogue" on broadcast television, or during a 30 second Superbowl spot (though they should be listening and learning).  Because for those 30 seconds the brands are the life of the party, they have purchased the stature of everybody's friend.

But just seconds later, someone else is the focus of attention.  The second your spot ends, you cease to be the center of attention.  Sure, people may speak fondly of you the day after, remembering your great punchline.  But if you don't join the next party, everyone will have forgotten you in just a few weeks time.

The superbowl is great for mass awareness.  But it would be a shame to throw away all that awareness without the most rudimentary digital/social follow up.

The Game is over.  Let The Conversations begin.


Future Visions: Hulu

Hulu's been out for a while.  And while I was at first skeptical, I now regularly enjoy their offering.

But what's next for Hulu? 

  • Will their growth be in a broader library or in added functionality?
  • Will new platforms like Tivo or downloadable content drive increased value?


They've got us watching.  They occasionally have us interacting.  But is this really all they could, or should be doing to grow their business?

  • Isn't there a massive ad opportunity in a Hulu desktop utility with a program guide?
  • Wouldn't a distribution partnership with Microsoft delivering free ad supported downloads drive real equity for a next gen Zune?
  • Wouldn't a section containing all of their advertiser spots, fully embeddable, drive added value to advertisers?  Allowing them to utilize Hulu to launch "viral" video campaigns?

Sure, you need to the content to drive the eyeballs.  But please Hulu, don't forget about breaking the technology mold.  You did it once.  The market will demand that you do it again.  Or someone else will.


when a series of tubes go tubeless - the evolving natural web

The Windows Network and Internet icon employs the 'tube' metaphor

Image via Wikipedia

The internet is just a series of tubes, right?

It's a connection, it's a lifeline, that can be turned on and off.  It's a utility.  That's why we need net neutrality, right?

While the world of the internet within the browser or within a dedicated connected application (ex - widgets or Outlook) is far from gone, the time has come for marketers and technologists to look at the internet as more then a channel.  The connected web is the natural evolution of the human experience.

Higher speeds, open platforms, more intuitive development kits, these are all small pieces in a larger puzzle.  There is a greater endgame at play.

Consider:

  • Social media has evolved via digital connectivity, and it continues to evolve.
  • Video viewing has evolved, and will continue to evolve.
  • Mobile connectivity has evolved, and clearly will continue to evolve.


We cannot look to the future without remembering the past.  The media and technology landscapes have greatly evolved over the past century.  And they will continue to evolve.  But the world didn't turn on a dime, it will not change with a single keynote.

The world is going to continue to change, but without looking through the lens of the historical human perspective, we are doomed to chasing waterfalls.

Dreaming is great for ideation, but insight is what fuels the future.

So what are your insights?  What are the key factors driving tomorrow?

face it: your shoes (content) don't fit

Glass slipper If there's one thing I learned from Cinderella, it's not to trust talking rodents. 

If I had to chose another lesson it would be this: items are best utilized for their natural context.

If the shoe doesn't fit, forcing your way into it is both painful and useless. 


Contextual relevancy (the correct foot) is essential to obtaining the desired value (the prince) out of content (the shoe). 

We would do well to remember this.

Content delivers the strongest value to both the user and the content creator (or brand) when it plays in it's intended environment. 

A 90 minute movie may be enjoyable from the couch on a big screen tv, but it would be unwatchable when viewed a cell phone.  While a 30 second YouTube clip looks great on my cellphone, it is unwatchable on my TV.  Context drives the content experience.

Or as Valeria Maltoni said  "content works best within context".  I couldn't agree more.

And the implications are many.

Marketing Implications

Car lane The Current Dynamic: Content generators (newspapers) give the nod to feed aggregator users (Google Reader regulars), by creating RSS feeds.  These feeds feature the newspaper's existent text content and do not require additional formatting or redesign.  This content works reasonably well in the aggregate environment.

However, even as an avid feed aggregate user, I still prefer to read lengthy articles in their native environments.  There is a tangibly real value in reading content together with the pictures, formatting, sidebars and color schemes it was intended to be viewed within.

The Challenge:  Many brands are trying to live in the context of an aggregate experience (widgets in social pages, Google Reader, podcasts, etc.) by creating mini-microsites in the form of widgets and long form commercials in the form of podcasts.  A magazine ad would perform poorly on television. 

New Channel > New Experience > New Marketing.

The Solution: It's time that marketers began thinking about the aggregate user and the flaws of the strip-and-syndicate model.  We need to be building distributed utility that fits the need of the user within the context of the user, rather than the models that suit the brand low hanging fruit (text).  We need to think strategically within user and platform centric models, ultimately delivering unique utility that drives brand objectives.

It's time we started designing for success.

Technology/UI Implications

The Current Dynamic: RSS strips everything.  It strips the design, the context, the subsequent conversation.  RSS Readers strip much of the richness of the content in favor of the simplicity and ubiquity of pure text.

In a social media environment, RSS often strips even the social out of social media.

The conversational aspect of blogs as I see it, lives in three places -

  1. blog to blog conversations within the blog posts themselves,
  2. conversations living within the comments sections on blogs, and
  3. conversations (many of them public) taking place on external social media channels, such as Twitter. 

Read a blog in an RSS reader and you're only getting 1/3 the social capability of the channel.

The Next Steps

We can and will learn to aggregate and syndicate well.  But a new format is needed.

  • Wouldn't it be great is Google Reader could adjust the tonality and feel of their reader based on the piece of content being viewed?
  • Wouldn't it be fantastic if an aggregator could adjust the UI to the nature of the content (text, video, audio) rather than vice versa?
  • Wouldn't it be neat if Google Reader could display a few dynamic widgets on the page?
    • one containing related posts from across the blogosphere
    • another could contain comments and discussion threads in the blog comments together with the ability to contribute within the reader interface
    • a third would contain related media from across the internet - Twitter, traditional digital media, YouTube videos, etc.

Key Takeaway: Syndicated media need not lack for context.  However, without context, media is often stripped of it's richness and ultimately, value. 

By all means, syndicate and aggregate, but do so with caution.


form vs. function in interactive video

Ctv Interactive/clickable video sounds great... in theory.

Advertisers dream of the day when their products will clickable in-stream.  As a user, I would enjoy the ability to purchase background music or a film soundtracks from within the video viewing experience.

As an experience designer, how would you layer in this interaction?  How would you notify consumers of a clickable asset without intruding on the user experience?  When does notification become interruption?  When does interruption become invasive?

I don't have an answer, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Here are a few examples of what I've seen to date:

  • Permission.tv puts floating target beacons over the clickable elements within a video.
  • Overlay.tv (kudos to Scott for sharing) allows users to turn on and off calls to action (floating targets).
  • Joost inserts semi-relevant widget overlays over video.
  • HoneyShed (a client) puts calls to action for the "clickable" items on a sidebar.

Which is the best solution?  I really don't know.  But I have a feeling that we are not yet where we're going to be.


Smart Player > next gen online video is here (w video!)

Header OK, so that title is a bit of an exaggeration.  That being said, I am very excited about Permission TV's new Smart Player.  This is THE FIRST truly interactive web player platform I've seen.

  • It has:
    • user generated in-stream commenting,
    • socialization tools,
    • mashability,
    • plinking (product linking),
    • e-commerce,
    • embedability,
    • content oriented interactivity,
    • smart serving (based on a full suite of demographics, geo-targeting and more), and
    • dynamic content/advertising.

And best of all, it's dynamic and semantic content engine is advertiser friendly with a rich reporting suite to boot.  Video below (after the jump).

note: video removed.  You can see it here.

Some Perspective: This is currently a technology play with marketing potential.  Permission TV's next step has to be around licensing and distribution.  They have to get the right content owners and destination/distribution sites on board if this product is going to see the light of day in-market.

Future Visions: Web interactivity is only the beginning.  As out living room media experiences become more connected via iTV, Digital Cable, IPTV, Gaming Consoles, Media Extenders, DVRs and more, the interactivity of the web will merge with the simplicity of the living room media experience. 

I've been hearing more and more about "The 10 Foot Interaction".  Our media experiences will evolve.  We will interact from our couch, just not from a traditional mouse or keyboard.  It is going to be up to platform providers like Permission TV to build out tomorrow's web experiences today, and to begin thinking two steps ahead towards the living rooms experiences of the 2010s, real soon.

The web was only the beginning.