Thursday, December 27, 2007

Innovating the Wii Experience (Part 1)

Far and wide implications as far as what can happen with the future of gaming interaction. Thinking beyond that obvious thoughts there, imagine where this can take interactive storytelling and even online marketing--pretty groundbreaking stuff to break that axis and allow a user to enter the environment.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Don't Over-Write

I have a very hard time being concise. This spot makes it easy to see why I should try harder.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

$100 Laptop Program Needs Your Help

In high school, it was pretty challenging to be an emerging futurist and proponent of digital convergence. I was fortunate enough to have at least one teacher who let me ramble on about it (thanks, Mr Goodwin), but for the most part, telling people in the mid-nineties that their computer and tv would soon be the same thing wasn't really of interest or relevance to many folks. There weren't a whole lot of people around to talk about things like that with--or even many books to read. The first I recall devouring was Being Digital, penned by Nicholas Negroponte, at the time, director of the MIT Media Lab.

A few years ago, I was excited to learn that he had walked away from his post to pursue his passion--putting a computer in the hands of every child in the world. The organization is called One Laptop Per Child and the goal was to work with corporations to get the costs down to $100 per machine. The stories of even the early successes are amazing.

As you might imagine, this is quite an undertaking, and the fact that it hit the news again today is probably a sign that progress isn't going as well as they might have hoped. Nevertheless, for the first time, the program has gone public--asking individuals to help the cause. BBC reports that starting November 12, anyone will be able to purchase two laptops at a time--one that they may keep, and another that will be donated. The price is $399 for the two machines through the G1G1 (Give One, Get One) Program.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Halo3 Believe Campaign

There are buckets of amazing things to talk about surrounding next week's release of Halo 3 for Xbox 360. First off, all expectations are that its sales figures will obliterate any Hollywood box office record for an opening weekend. Yes, I realize that a game costs significantly more than a movie ticket, but seriously--gaming has come a long, long way. That's a whole different discussion, though.

My buddy Derek at AKQA tossed me the link to the Halo 3 site they just wrapped and launched to help promote this new blockbuster and it's pretty unbelievable.

I'm enamored by the concept. Most video games just focus on showing some hot graphics and animations from the game to entice folks to buy. With Halo 3, they finally took the step beyond and moved to telling a story. The serious gamers are already lined up for their copy, it's the fringe people who need a reason to buy (even if they have to buy an Xbox console in addition). With a very cinematic approach, they show the culminating battle of the war that takes place in the game and put it on par with other epic battles in our world's history. They did some really interesting offline promotions along these lines, as well.

I'm also impressed by the execution. In a world where the obvious solution would have been to take the already-created 3D characters and use them to tell the story, they instead painstakingly created the battle scene you'll see on the site out of true miniatures, and passed a film camera through the scene. Insodoing, they were able to do some things that couldn't have been done with CG--like allowing visitors to download any frame of the entire piece full-screen, to be used as a wallpaper.

Enjoy the story, and as you move through the environment, keep an eye out for the cauliflower explosions and the cotton ball smoke coming from the tank.

Food Fight

I just came across this site today and thought it was a really interesting way to get people involved and engaged in learning about and playing with the food they eat.

Get messy.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Work is Play: MediaSauce at Oranje

Last night was Oranje, one of Indy's annual can't-miss arts events. This was its sixth year, and by all accounts, it keeps getting better. In and of itself, the premise is unique because it treats art as an experience to be emersed into rather than something you just observe and pass by.

Each year the event takes place in a new location, most often in a large, vacant commercial or industrial building downtown. This year was held at the former Ross-Gage building at 22nd and Illinois. This giant facility kept hundreds of people gainfully employed for decades by doing nothing other than cutting out the thumb-shaped tabs on dictionaries, encyclopedias, and bibles that were shipped around the world. Amazing. We're truly in a different era now.

Anyway, this empty space is transformed for one night to allow dozens of local artists the opportunity to show and sell their work and gain exposure from thousands of visitors. Additionally, there are a multitude of stages with live music and a fashion show.

As an event sponsor, MediaSauce had the task of taking a blank 20'x20' space and transforming it into something significant enough to represent our ethos to all in attendance. Our choice was to create an interactive photobooth themed Work is Play. We built an environment out of conduit and visquine that allowed us to shoot images of attendees and then create an ongoing work of art throughout the night by projecting the images onto the opaque visquine walls for everyone to see. Also created on-the-fly was the web-based version of the experience, allowing people to find their specific image and download a high-resolution file to print or share.

In addition to the booth, fellow Saucers Ben and Dan worked together throughout the night to create an impressive graffiti mural and Abby did an amazing job with the makeup in what was basically an "unfashion show" that was a highlight of the night. The show had nothing to do with fashion, instead, it was all about the look she created.

All told, it was an impressive night. Creativity was abound, and the 20+ MediaSaucer who volunteered to help out in and around the booth had a great time hanging out and creating something truly unique that those who were in attendance truly enjoyed. It's unique for us to get the chance to have instantaneous feedback. Since most of our work lives online, we don't always see first-hand how excited people get by interacting with our ideas, this event gave us that chance.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Direct Mail vs Trees

On a continuum of "stuff I appreciate about the world we live in", a beautiful softwood tree, such as a spruce, pine, fir, or aspen, inhabits the complete opposite end of the spectrum from direct mail, such as real estate fliers, envelopes stuffed full of meaningless coupons, or brochures promoting supplements to my Medicare coverage.

Those ads don't even make it into my house. On occasion, I've been known to clip a pizza coupon or two, but now that I live near HotBox Pizza, I don't even need those. Instead, they go straight into the big, stinky garage trashcan so they can think about what they've done. I suppose that's not fair of me. It isn't the flier's fault that some backhanded marketing professional convinced a naive business person that it was brilliant strategy to send out random postcards or coupons to thousands of people who aren't at all in the market for their product or service. Yet, it is the advertisements who must suffer the consequences by heading off to a landfill or recycling plant for the remainder of their miserable trash-bag-water-soaked lives.

Successful marketing isn't about seeing how many people will immediately throw away messaging from you. It's about cultivating an audience and being relevant to them when, how, and why, you communicate.

More importantly, trees are rad, and those stupid direct mail ads you toss straight into the trash account for the demise of 1.5 trees per year per US household. So, do three things:

1. Think about that poor tree and a half the next time you throw away those ads. Their blood is on your hands. You know, that half tree might be a baby tree--have you no heart?

2. Better yet, just stop getting junk mail by registering here. It's like a Do Not Call List that saves trees, too. It costs a buck. If that's too much, email me and I'll reimburse you.

3. Find your own local pizza shop and support it instead of using that Dominoes coupon. The guy who runs it is probably helping a half dozen delivery drivers buy a new car to impress a girl or even pay for college.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I wholeheartedly believe that words create meaning. Until there is language to describe something, to a certain degree, it doesn't really exist. I mean, I'm sure people in generations past had struggles in their twenties, but until Abby Wilner coined the phrase and wrote the book in 2001, the idea of a "Quarterlife Crisis," was more of a figuring-out-process.

The truth is, most of life is chaotic, but there is a lot of figuring out to do throughout your mid-twenties that makes things especially challenging. There are changing dynamics of friendships and confusing relationships abound. As responsibilities and commitments mount and you struggle into adulthood, the question is inescapable--"what is it i am supposed to be doing with my life?"

It is the exploration of this subject matter that has lead to the creation of a new web-based series from Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the duo responsible for Blood Diamond, The Last Samuari, and Thirtysomething. The show is supposed to have the same sort of budget commitments that it would if it were destined for network television. It's simply going to be broadcast on MySpace instead because that's where the target audience would prefer it. The hour-long episodes will also air on, which will become a fully functional portal for actual quarter-lifers trying to find their path. Perhaps this becomes the new way to pitch a show idea--if enough people are watching it online, it won't be long before the networks come calling to try to cash in.

Quarterlife Trailer

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Looks interesting, and it's just great to see that bigger budgets are moving to the screen that makes the most sense. Soon enough there won't be a difference, anyway.

One last topical reference in the form of some lyrics to a John Mayer song from an entire album that is basically about this same subject matter. Good stuff.

I rent a room and I fill the spaces with
wood in places to make it feel like home
but all I feel's alone
It might be a quarter life crisis
or just the stirring in my soul

Either way I wonder sometime
about the outcome
of a still verdictless life

John Mayer, Why Georgia (lyrics)

Read more about the show from the New York Times.

Monday, September 10, 2007

This is Faceball

"A lot of people would ask, 'why?' "

"None of those people work here."

Thank you Flickr, for your continued focus on innovation.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Art vs Art

So, today was the culmination of the annual Art vs Art competition. This amazing event is the brainchild of Jim Clinger, good friend and fellow MediaSauce team member of mine, and his cohorts at Primary Colours. It was my first time in attendance at the event, and it was amazing.

Here's how it works. Hundreds of artists arrive. They are each given the same kit of supplies--canvas, three (primary) colors of paint, brushes, etc. They are also given up to 4 hours to create. At the end of the allotted time, the pieces are collected and the voting begins. The top pieces (based on audience votes) are entered into an NCAA-style bracket for an all-out head-to-head battle. Round after round, the pieces are presented on stage and a decibel-meter judging crowd response declares which piece will move on to the next round, and which will face the Wheel of Death. If the losing piece doesn't receive a high enough bid--it's destroyed on spot in front of a bloodthirsty crowd of arts enthusiasts by means of a chainsaw, wood chipper, vat of acid, graffiti tagger, or worse). Each round, the starting bid increases.

This year, for the first time ever, the winning piece failed to earn a high enough bid. As the judges conferred about how to handle the situation, the winning artist, Amory Abbot, (oversized novelty check in tow) walked over and spun the Wheel of Death, thus sealing the fate of his piece.

Justice was served. Read the winning artist's blog here.

If you're interested in seeing more, here's how last year looked:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Creativity Always Inspires

Over the past few years, I've developed a pretty intense crush on TED. Once a year, 1000 thought leaders, visionaries, idea merchants, and catalysts get together for 3 days in Monterey, California to take a step back from the day-to-day and share their perspectives from their respective areas of expertise (in 18 minutes or less) and show how the pursuit of big ideas is helping change the world.

Though the original scope of the conference was Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED), the interconnectedness of our 21st century has led to a world where an increasingly wide array of topics fall into at least one of these categories. So, whether you're interested in the Climate Crisis (Al Gore, John Doerr), the future of media (Charles Leadbeater, Johnathan Harris), saving the world (Nicholas Negroponte, Bono), or dozens of things in between, there is something that will inspire you.

Best of all, this wealth of knowledge is no longer reserved just for those fortunate enough to earn an invitation. Video presentations are now added to the website on a weekly basis to incite dialogue, challenge thinking, and entertain more than anything you'll find on network television. Anyway, please check it out.

I love TED, but honestly, I only told you about it so I could tell you this . . .

Today, the Indianapolis Arts Council hosted their annual kick-off luncheon, Start With Art. I had the pleasure of attending and listening to Sir Ken Robinson speak about the importance of creativity and how lousy our society does at embracing it, from cutting funding to the arts in schools to the failure of many businesses to embrace the natural talents of their teams. I was really looking forward to hearing him speak and then talking with him afterwards because his presentation at TED has been one of my absolute favorites.

Since I blathered on so much about TED, I won't get into all of the details of today's talk. Instead, I'll let you enjoy the speech that first developed my affinity for Sir Robinson.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Return

So, it's been weeks and weeks since I spoke up and shared with the class. I'd like to apologize to my dozens of loyal readers out there (I think I may be pushing it a bit there--we're still striving towards the double digits). So, is my silence a testiment to a lack of quality topical material? Am I being passive aggressive and turning a frosty shoulder? Not in the least. Buckets have been going on in and around my world on a personal level, as well as the busy business of transforming the media universe. Yet, I've been absent--sitting about, mumming the words. You deserve better, America! In an effort to actually do something about that, you'll see a more dedicated focus coming from the keys of me. There is far too much going on to fail to share it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Global Awareness Through Gaming

Too often, the only news we hear about video games are the complaints about how the violence seen is warping children's minds, causing them to shoot up schools, and cause complete and utter chaos throughout even the most tepid neighborhoods.

The truth is that video games have joined a long list of cop-outs and scapegoats for parents and advocacy groups.

I'll hop down from the soapbox long enough to share a site with you. It's a video game sponsored by mtvU, and though it's no where near as violent as it could and perhaps should be, it is a game about Darfur built to educate, inform, and incite the mainstream through interactivity.

Check it out.

If you're interested in learning more about Darfur, but aren't into games, check out Eyes on Darfur, a partnership with Google Maps/Earth that shows how genocide travels from village to village.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Joost + AppleTV = enough reason to cancel my cable

Not that I need much of a push.

Two weeks ago, I was reading articles about how AppleTV was going to be Steve Jobs' only flop after a red hot winning streak of brilliant business decisions and product launches (iMac, iPod, iTunes, etc.). Last week, they announced a partnership with YouTube that would allow all video on YouTube to be viewed on your television via AppleTV (initially, it only allowed content that came from iTunes). In fact, YouTube is currently re-rendering all of its content in order to provide higher video quality specifically for this purpose (it's been reported that this huge project has actually been in the works for several weeks in order to be prepared for Apple's release of the iPhone in late June). Today, this interview with Joost CEO Mike Volpi points towards a potential partnership between his fledging internet video content network and Apple.

One big, big step closer to not needing to differentiate between a TV and a computer (and more importantly, pay for both services).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Last evening, I was fortunate enough to participate in a round table discussion concerning the challenges facing multi-generational workforces. This dialogue is one of a series hosted by Gerry Dick and sponsored by Ice Miller centered on the different attitudes and aptitudes of baby-boomers vs. Gen X'ers vs Millennials.

I was born in 1979, which puts me right on the dividing line between Generation X and Generation Y. I didn't grow up surrounded my computers, but I grew up as our Interconnected World did. I was the only representative that fell outside of the Boomer generation. On top of that, MediaSauce is an organization that wouldn't exist without broadband, and thus we are predominately comprised of a younger citizenry. This detail put everything into a unique context for me. While most of the participants focused on the clashes they feel with integrating and educating the young talent that joins their organization about the way they operate, we most often feel that strain when more established and experienced professionals join our ranks. In our world, focused so intently on new and emerging technology, it is often people with less time in the actual workforce who have more experience with the tools that we rely most heavily on. Because of this, the common situation is flipped on its head. It is the Millennials and young X'ers that hold the technical wisdom that the others must work to understand. At the same time, the Boomers offer great wisdom to direct the application of these new endeavors.

The point is, in an industry that relies on the power of brilliant ideas put towards achieving relevant goals, diversity of background and wisdom is the key to success.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Digg Falls on Its Sword

For those who don't know, is an original Web 2.0 heavyweight/phenomenon whose general purpose is to help its users collaborate about what's most hot and/or important all across the web. Basically, if i think something is interesting, I "Digg" it. The links, stories, and sites that the most people "digg" move up the list and get the most attention.

On May 1, they had a truly defining series of events and they rose to the occasion. A user posted a link to a site that provided the crack to make it possible to pirate/copy HD-DVDs of films. The link quickly rose in the rankings and Digg was slapped with a take down notice. They reacted as any growing business might, by agreeing with what the big boy tells you. However, when they complied, the users had an immediate backlash and continued to post more and more links to the crack. Basically, they used Digg's technology against itself.

"Today was an insane day," founder Kevin Rose wrote on the company's blog last night. "We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. ... But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you've made it clear. You'd rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company."

When your whole purpose is to give people a voice and foster collaboration, they're going to get pissed when you tell them what they can and cannot say. Most honorable reaction from Rose--it will be interesting to see what happens in the courts because as we know, when the entertainment industry sees a new technology, they always react with fear and litigation.

Viva la revolucion!


Joost Goes Live

The platform that may well prove to be the culmination of the inevitable convergence of the web and and the media outlet formerly (and formally) known as television officially launched. Before even moving out at beta, they have 32 national (now international thanks to the web's reach) advertisers on board and paying for a variety of different forms of ads to an audience that doesn't even exist yet. It's a no-brainer, though. Joost, developed by the guys who last did Skype, has done a great job of signing content deals with a laundry list of providers, most recently Turner Broadcasting (including The Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and CNN), Viacom (who is currently suing Google/YouTube for $1 billion), along with programming from Hasbro (Transformers, GI Joe, etc.), the NHL, Sports Illustrated and Sony Pictures Television.

This site is a monumental step. They will get a lot of eyeballs to take a look at content that will be from both traditional sources, and custom entertainment created specific by/for advertisers.

Learn about the advertising here.
Learn about the content here.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Do TV Execs Really Understand? We'll Tell You After This Commercial Break

On the same day earlier this week, two media behemoths announced their thoughts as to how the changing face of content delivery should be handled.

First came ABC. While speaking before an audience of advertising agency representatives and media buyers, ABC Television Executive Mike Shaw took it upon himself to become another lightning rod for out of touch old-media philosophy. Rather than devising feasible solutions for what is a completely different communicative world, Shaw spent his time finger-pointing at DVR technology and encouraging his audience to help work to stop the ad-skipping and time-shifting capability of these devices embraced by millions of television viewers.

Shaw’s stance is beyond ludicrous—it is a waste of breath. Rather than burning energy lamenting that what is past is gone, those who succeed listen, observe, and find ways to leverage changes and advances to create new opportunities that are mutually beneficial.

Case in point. Later in the week, NBC Universal (Universal Pictures, NBC Television, MSN, AOL, Yahoo, etc.) and News Corp. (owner of MySpace and Fox Television) made a very different announcement. They have partnered together to create what they hope is an advertiser-friendly web presence that allows visitors to view their programs online. Many are calling this a YouTube killer, but that description is only accurate in that they both house staggering supplies of online video content. YouTube is designed for user-created content, while this new offering will focus on the same material currently available on the participating television network’s prime time schedules.

The NBC Universal/News Corp plan not only creates new advertising inventory, it gives the content consumer the entertainment they want, when they want it, on whatever screen they’d like. Since it’s streaming, ads will be inserted in the programming. Eventually, these ads could easily be served based upon the viewer’s opt-in choices for what advertising they’d like to see.

First of all, the initial idea and structure here seems solid, but only if they choose to evolve rather than recreate. It gives the consumer the platform they have been asking for—the access to the shows they want whenever they want to watch them. However, the idea is still an interruptive approach and little more than a new spin on the same old ad model. At least they’re trying. Sort of.

Television networks really don’t have a choice. Their responsibility and sole purpose is simply to deliver an audience to the advertisers. The shows they choose, the news they cover, the sports contracts they sign—the only real reason is to put eyeballs in front of ads. So, as more and more advertisers shift dollars away from dwindling television audiences and towards the web, the networks have little choice but to change.

There’s room for a couple of interesting advancements here.

First, they could continue their partnership with Apple to offer the commercial-free versions of programs for sale via iTunes (AppleTV could supplant DVR if they are involved in the streaming of the free versions (with commercials) as well) to those viewers who choose to view the shows commercial-free. It’s direct-purchase television. Watch a great episode of 30 Rock and then choose to download it advertising-free for $1 or $2. If I liked it enough to want to watch at my leisure, it's well worth the cash to keep the episode on hand.

Second, the audience could drive more creative advertising strategies. There are so many better ways to attract and engage an audience around your product than by interrupting the story their being told. My hope is that this new online destination isn’t setting out to simply deliver 30-second television commercials to computer screens. Use those budgets instead to innovate. There is so much more possibility than just rehashing the same old ads. Foster interaction. Allow participation. Encourage opinions.

Time will tell if either of these announcements are really saying the same thing or if they are just different attempts to hold on to the way things have always been. My money is on more of the same.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Just a quick rant about mobile marketing.

This goes out to all of my industry peers out there who want the secret answer for figuring out how to use mobile marketing. I'll officially let the secret spill.

It doesn’t matter.

You’re wasting your time and your clients' money developing it and hypothesizing about it. Stop wasting your time talking about it. Finding new ways to intrude and irritate on the last vestige of privacy won’t succeed in the direction anyone is currently pursuing. Phones are more and more relevant and marketing aimed at reaching people using them is less and less viable.

Why not? Because though cell phone users have reached critical mass, even those whose phones are capable of accessing the web currently choose not to. Only 5% of those who are capable access online content. This is because what is available to access isn’t worth the trouble. All of this will change quickly, however, because the number of people using Smartphones will dramatically increase in the coming months. As this happens, led by the launch of the Apple iPhone with an integrated full-scale web browser (all websites will be viewable as-is), mobile becomes the same as online.

It makes it pretty easy. All you have to worry about is creating engaging content and maybe adjusting some usability to work on small touchscreens such as the Treo and the iPhone rather than through full-sized keyboard/mouse setups. In a matter on months, the integration of content will be to the point where all the content we access, and the advertising messages that surround it, will be the same regardless of which screen (television, computer, phone) you’re enjoying it from and the conversation will stop being about one medium versus another. It will be about what it should always be about—creating great experiences for those who want to learn more about a product or service.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Communication Break-ups

Day after day they clutter my inbox. Article after article, newsletter after newsletter, full of complaints and commiserations about the changing status of the marketing industry. Questions are asked. Issues are raised. Problems are pointed out. Derivative sentiments are shared about changing ad models. And yet, the only solutions offered are restatements of what is already broken and attempts to do the same old things on a different kind of screen. The truth is that none of these efforts are relevant because they aren’t even addressing the right issue. The entire philosophy is backwards.

Marketing is communication. That is all. It’s not all that complicated. It’s relationship building, and just like any healthy relationship, this effort is a two-way initiative. It’s built on trust and respect. As any husband will attest, telling your wife what to do or how to think will not only fail miserably to produce the results you’re aiming for, it will most likely end with her telling her girlfriends (and perhaps next husband) all sorts of horrible things about you and your ridiculous lack of tact. What about the relationship a consumer has with the faceless corporation that makes the car they drive or the soap they use would lead marketers to believe that they can get away with such callous behavior when even those engaged in holy matrimony wouldn’t dare?

Communication, to a consumer or to a spouse, is not about telling, it’s about connecting. You have to be honest, you have to be authentic, you have to listen, you have to care, and you have to mean it. You have no right, and no real power, to control. The best you can do is behave in line with the expectations you’ve created.

Stop being selfish. Marketing is not about what you want to tell people or what you want to convince them. It’s about what people want to know to make up their own mind.

Monday, March 5, 2007


With early news this morning that overseas markets will send the NYSE into another week of chaos (thus proving the world is, indeed, flat), it seems only right that I'm sitting right in the heart of the Financial District as the opening bell rings. Thankfully, my day won't be spent making sense of that madness, instead, it will be spent conjuring up visions of the future of marketing and its inextricable link to human interaction.

Today, I'm going to get to know some of the other leaders in this ever-changing industry at the Future Marketing Summit in New York City.

Don't worry, I'll let you know what I think.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Wii-ginning

That's a horrible pun. These things happen.

Since the Wii offers its own web browser through a partnership with Opera, it means that any website is accessible and viewable through it--right on your television. Some sites are already publishing their own "Wii-Friendly" navigation systems or microsites specifically for visitors who are using the Wii and it's remote.

Check out Finetune, and notice the navigation. It is fantastically Wii-friendly, and built primarily for streaming online music through the Wii, thus connecting the home entertainment center (and its great speakers) to the web .

Viidelectrix has created a gaming site that features a series of mini games designed to be played on a Wii via the web browser "channel".

These sites, while extremely elementary, represent a significant first step towards bringing the entirety of the web to the television screen. Let your mind wander for just a moment and think about the possibilities here. In addition to the possibilities for individuals or corporations to create experiences to attract Wii users through engaging content or even simple games, there is also an entire series of connective possibilities.

For instance, if it's not enough to stream music or play games through your Wii, you can also access all the music, photos, videos, documents, etc. that are stored on your computer via MyCasting with Orb. says, "Orb MyCasting is a program that allows you to stream music and photos from your PC to your Wii. Using the Wii’s built-in Opera browser, Orb creates a mini-server inside your subnet and displays your content right on the Wii’s screen."

My friend Adam described it a little more clearly the other day, "I'm in my family room, listening to music on my Wii-equipped TV that is stored on a PC in my office while I'm playing on my laptop. Sure I could stream the content right to my laptop via iTunes, but why eat up my system resources while I'm working? Plus, laptop speakers suck. It's all about options people!"

Well put, indeed. You won't believe what these little steps will lead to.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

On a Wii and a Prayer

It has been some time since gaming has been a major recipient of my free time. Recently, however, some of the classics (Tetris, Super Mario Brothers, RC Pro Am, etc.) have re-emerged when groups of my friends gather. Perhaps its the nostalgia sprinkled with a little competition, but something about it is just a good time.

Until this week, my interest in the latest generation of console games had been strictly based on the appreciation of the technological enhancements and the ever-expanding "connective" capabilities to allow players to interact with one another. Xbox 360 was the first to the party. PlayStation3 was the prettiest girl there. But it would be a cute little Nintendo Wii that I chose to bring home with me. Though from a technology standpoint, it is little more than a GameCube with a new wireless controller and an adaptive interface, it has something else that the more complex systems can't deny--ridiculous fun for even the least committed gamers.

Just before the doors opened last Sunday morning, I joined a small crowd at my local Target store after having been alerted via iTrackr that they had some of the evasive little buggers in stock. After dealing with a touch of credit card fraud (someone had apparently stolen my information and used it to run up charges on a World of Warcraft account (I don't think we'll have much trouble tracking them down)), I was on my way home with a Wii.

Within minutes after being plugged in, the Wii was wirelessly connected to the web. We created our own character icons--Miis--and the gaming commenced. Over the couple of drifted-in snow days that followed, evenings around my house consisted of playing enough Wii Sports to find myself a tad sore.

The Wii remote is the most intuitive way to interact with technology since the advent of the mouse. Gone are the complicated sequences with a dozen buttons doing different things that have scared away the less committed gamers. Just point it at the screen, move it around, and push the button. Great work from Nintendo who seems to have emulated Apple in many ways with the creation of the Wii. It's all about creating a simple, fun user experience.

The exciting thing is that I get the feeling that this whole thing is really just in a sort of Beta format right now. There will be plenty of advancements to come and plenty of ways for third parties to create "channels" (downloadable applications) for users to interact with. The possibilities there are virtually limitless, especially since Wii connects online and allows access to the entire Web.

The next time you see a line of people outside of an electronics store just before they open--hop in line and pick up a Wii.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Who's Terrorizing Whom?

For a variety of reasons, I'm not one to get particularly political. To be honest, the same can be said of most of my generation. Every now and then, something happens that raises the ere of even the least political-minded citizens. With all of the turmoil in the world, perhaps it's surprising that last week's guerrilla marketing campaign gone bad was enough to do the trick.

The Cartoon Network and it's ad agency, Interference Inc., created magnetic light-up signs featuring one of the characters for the show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The signs were basically relatively flat versions of a Lite-Brite and just about the size of a piece of notebook paper with some battery-powered LEDs protruding out. After notifying local law enforcement agencies of their plans, they posted the signs throughout 10 major US cites. After resting comfortably on display for several days, this happened in Boston on January 31:

Immediately, suspects were sought. However, finding them wasn't very challenging, since they had already posted video of their exploits on YouTube.

Inquires were made. Fingers were pointed. News coverage continued. Politicians got involved. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money was wasted. Commuters were inconvenienced. A full-on tizzy ensued.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino blamed the entire series of events on "corporate greed". He was ready to fight for his citizens. He was ready for blood. He was ready to use this opportunity to earn another term or a different office.

Eventually, a television network executive stepped down.

"Somebody had to pay," Menino said in an interview. "He's the one who made all the decisions, and he didn't do anything to react to the concerns. The resignation should really serve as a message that these sorts of marketing tactics should not and will not be tolerated."

Let me begin by saying that I fully understand that these are troubled times in which we live--we certainly do a wonderful job of reminding ourselves of that as frequently as possible. Placing any sort of foreign object anywhere near a city street is questionable at best. Nevertheless, I resoundingly question who is truly to blame for any sort of terror instilled upon the people of New England. Was it the group who posted advertisements, the administration that jumped the gun and called in the cavalry, or the media that fueled the fire?

The truth is, all three played a role in this marketing debacle turned Inquisition, yet it seems only the television network and their agency are bearing the brunt of the blame. In the meantime, government officials are using their complete miscalculation and embarrassing failure in communication as an opportunity to convince their citizens that they're being well taken care of. Even now, the media continues to report on this story by describing the ads as "Hoax Devices", though they were never had anything to do with bombs until the media announced that they were.

My stance is this. The advertisements didn't terrorize anyone (aside from perhaps one paranoid citizen who phoned it in). It was the politicians and the media that did. Will they have to pay?

Just Some Silly Kids in Costumes. Right? Part 3

So, how did this whole thing play out? It seems the promotion and the results are inextricably linked.

Almost immediately, Bear vs. Colt was picked up by several prominent sports blogs and a handful of traditional media outlets, including newspapers in Indianapolis and Miami (it's amazing what a couple of emails can do). The blogs would prove to be some of the most important referral sites throughout the length of the series. Each posting in a blog in would prove to generate 50 times more traffic than an article in a major newspaper, such as the Indianapolis Star (based upon referral statistics).

On Tuesday, MediaSauce posted a Bear vs. Colt banner ad on Inside Indiana Business daily e-newsletter in place of its typical banner. The ad generated the highest number of click-throughs ever generated, generating more traffic on its first day than most of their ads create in a year (as described by Inside Indiana Business advertising director).

On Wednesday, Yahoo’s daily vodcast of their most recommended destinations on the web, The 9, unveiled Bear vs. Colt as their #1 site of the day. Later in the week, they would place it at #2 on a list of “Best Super Bowl Sites”, behind only the official site of the big game.

The rest of the week saw the trends continue. DeadSpin continued to post and redirected thousands of visitors to view the latest episodes. Even Fox Sports named Bear vs. Colt as one of its “Heroes” of the week. Publicity continued to increase—each posting led to several others, as well as open discussion from all who viewed it.

By kickoff, Bear and Colt had each sent out a flurry of eleventh hour requests to their “Friends”, swaying voting back and forth throughout the day. Ultimately, it was Colt who erased a late 1600 vote deficit to win the fan vote, the big game, and ultimately (in the final episode), the girl.

In the end, this campaign provided a rallying point and a release of nervous energy for thousands of fans across the world. In less than a week:
  • More than 92,000 votes were cast by people who were actively engaged and participating with the site.
  • Bear vs. Colt saw well over 1 million hits in just 7 days.
  • The average visit was more than 2:20.
  • The videos were watched via YouTube an additional 50,000 times.
  • Each character had gained more than 1,000 “Friends” via MySpace.
  • The Bear vs. Colt group on Facebook gained more than 1000 members.

  • Received prominent discussion about its innovative voting widget on technology and trade blogs such as Mashable.
  • Made an appearance/plug on an episode of CNBC’s nationally broadcasted Fast Money.
  • Appeared on the front page of the business section of The Indianapolis Star.
  • Earned two appearances on local CBS affiliate WISH-TV 8.
  • Increased traffic to its site by several thousand unique visitors per day.
  • Increased in-bound leads by 100%.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Just Some Silly Kids in Costumes. Right? Part 2

Everyday, thousands of videos, ranging from corporate training initiatives to Hollywood film trailers to dogs wearing outfits while knitting with grandmothers, are posted online. For the most part, that is the end of their journey. Their creators have made it to the show, but they have no real intent of going anywhere beyond where the couple of emails to friends might take it.

With BEARvsCOLT, our goals were very different, and several strategic initiatives were made to build a diverse audience, encourage them to help spread the word, and keep them returning for more.

We chose to utilize many popular web-based tools and applications, as well as some we created on our own. No one piece of the puzzle held all of the answers, but each worked together to bring more attention to the project, allow visitors to engage in different ways, and extend their experience throughout the week and across many sites.

The site itself is simple. It’s a player that allows us to post a new video every day. The videos are the main attraction, and a commitment has been made to keeping them unbiased. After all, the site poses a direct question and allows visitors to vote for their “side”. In just 5 days, more than 70,000 votes have been cast. It is this voting feature that has truly brought fans back time and again to support their team and help determine the winner of the final episode. The single most surprising aspect of this entire project has been the consistency of the voting. Each team has taken significant leads, but for the most part, it has been a dead heat. As I write, Colt leads by a score of 36,540 to 36,539. Unbelievable.

Rather than keeping the content exclusive to, we chose to publish it on YouTube and MySpace. Fans were asked to “friend” their favorite character (BEAR or COLT) on MySpace, which not only allowed us to open two-way dialogue with our audience (and let them know when their team was falling behind), but also allowed them an easy, comfortable forum for spreading the word and pointing more people our direction. Also, Bear and Colt were able to update and alert their “Friends” when they needed help with voting, share photos they had taken in between videos, or announce when a new video adventure had been posted online. Hearing the backstory, as well as the genuine angst straight from the characters, riled fans to the point of sending messages to the rival character to tell them what they really thought.

As the presence increased on blogs and as MySpace “Friends” reached into the thousands, an innovative widget was created that allowed fans to embed a real-time scoreboard on their site to track the exact score between Bear and Colt. Even better—people vote directly from that widget and register a vote just like if they were at Feel free to cast your own absentee ballot:

Voting will continue until kickoff, at which time we'll be able to finish the edit of the final episode and announce the real winner to the world. Next time, I'll let you know who won, and some of the specific places where we have people talking about these silly kids in costumes.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Just Some Silly Kids in Costumes. Right?

Unlike many in my industry, I won’t pretend that marketing is much more than the creative execution of common sense. It’s about raising awareness and creating connections that last, and those results hinge on the relevance of material presented to a specific audience at a specific time. I shouldn’t even be telling you this, but here is the secret formula to winning marketing:

1) Decide what you want to accomplish (goal).
2) Decide whom you need to connect with to make that happen (audience).
3) Figure out what they need to know or do to help you out with #1 (strategy/message).
4) Do it (creative execution).

Depending on your goal and your audience, standing on the sidewalk and screaming into a megaphone may well work much better than writing a daily blog or buying a Super Bowl TV ad.

Just as the size of the television viewing audience drives up the costs of the 30-second Super Bowl spot ($2.6 million per for 2007), the excitement and energy surrounding our local team (Colts) and our nearest NFL neighbor (Bears) made the environment perfect for a big idea to be embraced and enjoyed by the entire community. With such a large number of folks interested in the same thing at the same time (a rarity in this age of segmentation), they’re apt to get excited about it when you place before them some fresh material about that area of interest. The timing is right, the audience is ready—all it takes is an idea that just crazy enough to get noticed.

Why not mascot-related violence?

I’m the first to admit, the idea is ridiculous. That's sort of the whole point.

1) Toss some talented improv actor friends into shabby-looking mascot costumes.
2) Throw them into some loosely formed situations (and a few completely uncontrolled ones).
3) Roll tape.

The truth is, the launch of the site is just the beginning. More precisely, it’s just the middle. We defined objectives, targeted an audience, and devised a creative concept to connect with them.

This project, though silly, had legitimate goals, purpose, and strategy. They weren’t as hatched or researched as most, but due to the nature of the piece and the brevity of the window of opportunity, we moved quickly and have found some amazing results.

Check back tomorrow for the update about the ongoing process of engaging an audience.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Simple, But Not Easy

In recent weeks, my friends and I have enjoyed something of a renaissance with "The Beautiful Game" of Tetris. I'm a sucker for Nintendo-era games, anyway, but there is something very unique about this one. It's addictive and it's fair to all combatants, even if you've never held a game controller. I consider it to be my generation's Rubick's Cube--except a lot less frustrating. The beauty is in the simplicity. Though the goal is simple, and the challenge is fair for anyone who plays.

Anyway, it wasn't until my friend Dave Warner pointed me towards this BBC documentary that I learned the tumultuous history behind the game. It proves to be an amazing story.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I’m many things to many different people—we all are, and it’s that unique blend of passions, personalities, and predispositions that adds up to who you are and what you’re all about (your ethos). Today, the sum of my being is assuredly pointing the barometer towards "technodork", and it’s all Apple’s fault.

In today’s keynote presentation at the Macworld Conference in San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled two products that mark significant steps towards the sort of digital convergence that makes all of us who consume and create content a little bit giddy. Each of these devices truly has the potential to change the way we consume and create content while communicating about our lives. Individuals in our society are becoming increasingly comfortable with interacting with screens. Screens are the windows through which we experience entertainment, knowledge, and even social interaction. In the past, the screen defined the content that could be delivered. Today, Apple moved its focus from the computer screen to the two other screens that help shape and define our communicative existence—the television and the phone. In so doing, they have become the first major player to provide the hardware and software to provide seamless convergence across all three screens and moved us closer to an era of instant accessibility to "what I want, when I want it"—whatever that may be.

AppleTV wirelessly connects your computer to your television, making every bit of music and video content you’ve found worth of dumping into iTunes accessible for viewing on the big screen. Not only can you watch the television shows and movies you’ve downloaded, but it provides equal access to every podcast posted and every bit of user created content that you can toss into iTunes. It’s a huge step for the democratization of content—allowing the short films your neighbor’s kid produces just for fun the same ability to be seen as the latest iteration of CSI. Obviously, the dollars involved in promotion and production doesn’t exactly put little Timmy into direct competition with the major television networks, but the opportunity to have your voice heard has never been greater.

The all-star of the presentation was certainly the highly anticipated iPhone, a hybrid device that reinvents the Smartphone and provides a completely new dimension for the iPod. The iPhone is the all-in-one device that brings your entire digital being to your hand. Music, movies, email, camera, contacts, calendar, full-versions of websites—it’s all here, and it runs on the same operating system that makes all Apple computers so robust and yet, easy to use. The biggest difference is that in lieu of a keyboard, stylus, click wheel, or mouse, the iPhone embraces simplicity by making the interaction with the screen completely touch-dependant.

Whatever the screen and whatever the content, Apple is positioned to be there to help define your experience. I, for one, am ridiculously giddy about it.