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August 2013
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September 2013

Life Beyond 30 Second Ads - 4 Minute Stories

ChipotleFor years I fought against the "rules of thumb" for digital.

  • 60-90 seconds for YouTube shorts 
  • 90-120 seconds for informational content
  • 15 seconds for video ads 
  • No more than 90 seconds for long form ads.
All of these rules of thumb pre-suppose that you have nothing to say that is worth listening to. That you want to sell to people who aren't otherwise interested. But great stories are worth sticking around for.

The problem is that few brands are designed to have stories worth telling. In an industrial age, brands became little more than colorful and consistent packaging. They became a benefit, not a mission. A statement rather than a story or a journey.

But in the real world, in the intimacy of digital content, in a world where we aren't constrained by commoditized formats of paid interruption, brands must be more than a statement. Brands are a journey, a quest, almost a religion. People don't just "Like" the statement, they join the movement.


1. Chipotle is a fast food chain. But the video below does more than push a price or a new product line. It does more than tell a story. It's an anthem, a mission statement, a cause. And after viewing the video, it's a cause I feel I need to join.

2. Now consider the video below. It's long. It's subtitled. I breaks every rule the agency world will give you. But it's been featured on Gawker and has amassed over 5 million views in under a week. I would love to see more ads this personal and this moving.

I didn't know who the brand was until the end. And as I'm not in the local market, I had to do some research to figure out who they are and what they do. They are a mobile carrier. This spot promotes their 3.5G/4G service. But it speaks to me. And it's everything Verizon, AT&T and T Mobile aren't. Which makes it wonderful.


THE DANGER & The Promise

 Brands cannot simply embrace emotion and causes willy nilly. It must speak to the brand promise and build on the product's consumer value. I don't want to see Heinz take on breast cancer just because their ads will become more meaningful. But I would love to see Heinz take on hunger or something child-related, because both of these causes speak to the brand promise. I would even stick around for a three to five minute video. Hell, we watched Red Bull's space jump for two hours! 

Don't just tell a story. Tell your story. We are ready and waiting to listen.

If Android is a KitKat, what is iOS 7?

Last week Android KitKat was announced. The next day, I asked my team, so what candy is iOS7? What is BB10? And the ideas just flowed.

Here's a sampling of our brain droppings, as illustrated by our incredible design team. Enjoy the entire list here

1. Twitter & Peeps

Nobody can put their finger on what makes it awesome, and there are many myths as to just what it is.



2. BlackBerry 10 & Black Licorice

Not everyone loves black licorice, but if it’s your thing, it’s your thing. And there’s no talking you out of it.



4. Facebook & PEZ

Talking heads full of artificial sweets can be incredibly addicting. But there is something wonderful and nostalgic about connecting with your past.



6. iOS 7 & Jelly Belly

Who doesn’t love Jelly Belly jelly beans? An odd assortment of colors and flavors, each unique piece creates an overall “ahhh” feeling. Most of the time.



10. Microsoft Office & PayDay

Do we really need to give any commentary here?


11. Linux & Nerds

A match made in heaven.



Enjoy the entire list here

Apple's biggest news: Software + Hardware for The Contextual Era

M7Apple made two seemingly minor updates to their mobile ecosystem that will pave the way a brighter, more contextual future.

1. Software: Smarter Siri

Siri is great, but there is a lot of room for improvement. By integrating third party sources Wikipedia and Twitter, Siri will become an increasingly natural gateway to the social and crowdsourced information floating in ether. And Siri will get even smarter with M7 - the contextual chip.

2. Hardware: M7 - a small announcement with HUGE potential

The M7 is Apple's new "motion" chip. This dedicated chip determines the phone's physical context - it's orientation, geo-location and momentum of the device. This is where this otherwise as-expected product announcement gets cool.

I don't know that this chip is the be-all and end-all of motion sensing. But Apple's calling it out as core to a new offering allowing developers to deliver "Optimizations based on contextual awareness". And this is a big deal. The parallels between this claim and the Moto X's positioning as a contextually smarter platform (with a dedicated voice-recognition chip) are clear. Motorola uses their contextual system to deliver simply brilliant experiences - such as switching to a voice-heavy interface while you are driving. Apple seems to be leaving the contextual innovation to developers.

Motorola claims that their dedicated voice chip improves battery life.

Apple claims the same:

The new M7 coprocessor is designed to make iPhone 5s even more efficient. It offloads work from the A7 chip by collecting motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. Apps can then use this data without constantly engaging the A7 chip. Because M7 is engineered for this specific task, it uses significantly less power than A7 would require. So again, battery life is spared." 

This is the future of contextual hardware.

I would be willing to bet that we will see a lot more secondary dedicated-solutions-oriented chips in the future. These dedicated low-power functions could become a partition on the SOC architecture or dedicated solutions delivered and horribly branded by the competition. But one way or the other, we're going to see a lot of it.

Wrap Up

Siri was one of Apple's first steps into our Age of Context. The M7 is the next logical step: physical hardware design. I don't know that the iPhone 5S will bring a rush of wild contextual innovation. But it's great to see Apple recognizing the importance of the C word: context. 

Correcting the rumors: Facebook's new "tracking" APIs

FearYesterday, Facebook announced two new tools for publishers and marketers. These tools are ways for publishers and marketers to access public Facebook posts. This is a sound strategy for Facebook and will work nicely for many publishers.

As with most advances, rumors and speculation about the evil consequences of Facebook's new tools are flying wildly across the net. Luckily, few of these rumors and much of this "reporting" is far from accurate.

Here's are a few things the Public Feed API and Keywords Insights API aren't doing:

  • Giving away your posts and conversations to marketers. See why below.
  • Tracking rack anything you write in private. See why below.
  • Doing the same thing as Twitter tracking tools such as Radian 6. 
    • Most Twitter posts are public and most Facebook posts are private. These tools don't track private posts or conversations.
    • Many if not most Twitter users uses aliases. Almost all Facebook users use real names. Twitter tracking and Facebook reporting are different beasts because the platforms are so different.
    • Social tracking tools are built for hard market intelligence and engagement. These tools provide high level conversation trackers.

Here's the big shocker: nothing has changed:

  1. If you have your Facebook privacy settings set on anything other than "public", nothing has changed. You will not be tracked any more than you were before these APIs were released.
  2. If you have your Facebook privacy settings set to public, your posts are already public and attributable to your public profile. Again, nothing has changed.

These tools present incredible power to publishers and marketers. But not at the expense of your privacy. 

Thank you, nothing to see here, please go about your business as normal, and have a great day.

Experience Driven Content

3i1h7There was a time when the best way to communicate a story was in text. But the web wasn't made for text alone. A great story isn't defined by a format such as text, audio or video. A great story is driven by the reader experience, by the reader's emotional and intellectual journey.

Content cards are great for short term content, but they are not the future of content overall. Content cards are a convenient build-once deploy-everywhere solution, but they are far from the ideal reader experience.

As a reader, I want to be given the best possible format for my reading experience. Often, this won't even include very much text at all.

I am a commuter and I don't enjoy reading long form text off a screen. I am sure that Fortune's feature length interview on the history of Napster is thrilling, but it's too long to be comfortably read on a screen. I would love to listen to the audio from the interview. I would love to hear all of the umms and hmms that made the interview human, the subtle human intonations that are lost in text.

I would love to purchase not only the Jobs book, but listen to the original source material - the audio from the interviews. I'm confident that these would provide a heavily human, rough experience from which we could all draw our own conclusions.

The future of content will not be about a single format, but a dynamic reader experience that considers far more than the size of the reader's screen. Cards are a great way to consume short snippets of content. But text alone is rarely the best way to present long-form content.

We need to stop thinking of content as the linear words or images on a page and embrace content as an experience. Experience-driven content need not be heavily designed with rich HTML5 animations. GIFs can add motion and emotion to a still image. Downloadable audio of the complete interviews can bring the interview to life without the needed expenses of proper video production. We have the tools and the creativity, we need only to put them to work.

Experience-driven content need not be expensive. But you can bet your ass it will be compelling.

BitTorrent is killing the pirates

6235-1Canal Street used to be the go-to location for the latest in pirated tapes and DVDs. But much like the record player, my kids won't know the joy of bargaining for a blurry copy of the latest blockbuster movie. Another thriving industry, brought down by online piracy.

Today's teens don't know about 3 for the price of 2 sales, and they certainly don't know the joys of popping a DVD or VHS into a beaten up small TV to check the quality. They don't know about home-printed labels on super thin dvd cases. And they have never seen the speed with which an entire video store can be thrown into a rolling duffle when the cops show up.

When you stroll down Canal Street today, all you see are people selling counterfeight clothing, accessories and cheap plastic toys.

Gone are the piles of ripped off VHS tapes, VCDs and DVDs. 

Piracy retailers. Another industry killed by the pirates on the net. 

Rosh Hashanah Reflections

Rosh hashanah
Every year has it's ups and it's downs. But this past year was almost entirely up for me. And for this I have tremendous gratitude to my wife, my children, my family, friends and G-d.

One year ago, I gave notice at Champions and joined the incredible team at Wibiya / Conduit. The team here is simply incredible. These are some of the most talented, and legit-fun people with whom I have had the pleasure of working. Over the past year we have added thousands of publishers and introduced a truly new approach to designing the content experience of the future. Stay tuned for big news in this space over the next few months.

On a personal level, this past year has been simply remarkable. Whereas our first year of aliyah (immigration to Israel) was about settling in, this past year was about truly experiencing what it means to live here. While my hebrew is far from native, we have begun to live our lives as locals. Ari (6) and Ovadya (3) are doing very well in school and have a deep appreciation for our values. And with G-ds help, we are expecting #3 in January. Rina, these past seven years have been a roller coaster and I never would have made it to where I am without you. Happy anniversary.

Life in Israel is unlike anything we could have ever expected. The startup culture is simply incredible. Everyone seems to have a few startup ideas in their back pocket, and many of my friends and neighbors are actively building their future. My good friends at Glide had a year of incredible growth and global recognition. When we first met just one year ago, they were first building their team.

But life in Israel is more than tech. While rockets fell on the south, people all across the country opened their homes, hearts and wallets to assist them. While my kids learned how to run to a "safe room" when the sirens wail, parents across the country were calling the pizza stores in the south and sending free pies to families with children stuck in bomb shelters. 

For the first time in my life, I have celebrated an entire year with a Jewish company. In December, we gathered around the menorah every evening and lit the candles together. In the spring, we gathered for a Passover toast led by the CEO. And last week, we gathered again for a Rosh Hashanah toast. It's nice to play for the home team.

I never that life could be this great. 

May the next year bring all of us health and happiness, wisdom and success, growth and focus on all that makes us great.

Shanah Tovah U'metukah.