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Pixelator Turns Video Billboard Ads into Art

28 April 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

Pixelator subverts outdoor video billboard screens by transforming them into a beautiful colorful array of 45 blinking, color-changing squares.

The displays are completely unauthorized performance art by people making a statement about advertising pollution in public space and the inaccessibility of these screens to artists or non-commercial uses..

Click here to see the video and learn how to make your own.

Pixel Art Meets Street Art

by Hashem Bajwa

This is a simple, wonderful mixture of Pixel Art and Street Art, found by PicoCool in NYC. Does anyone have more examples of pixel or virtual art invading physical space?

Internet Will Overtake TV as Biggest Ad Medium

by Hashem Bajwa

MSNBC reported last week that Internet ad spending will overtake TV in the UK by the end of 2009 -- becoming the biggest advertising medium in Britain, according to a report published by the IAB and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

And who stands to gain the most with this growth?

Google of course.

Rory Cellan-Jones, a blogger for the BBC, calculates that Google will overtake the ITV television network as the biggest seller of advertising in the UK this year. (ITV sold about £1.5 billion of advertising last year.)

Morgan Stanley estimates Google’s total advertising revenue will be $21.9 billion globally. Excluding the payments it makes to companies that display its ads, Google’s total ad revenue will be $15.7 billion. Time Warner, the largest media company in the world, earned $8.8 billion in advertising revenue last year, and Viacom had $4.7 billion in ad revenue last year. No one comes close to Google.

ChasNote points out the above chart comparing 2006 to 2007 ad dollars in the US. Online growth is exploding while Broadcast TV, Radio and Newspaper drop.

More than just ad dollars following a trend or digital hype, the growth is being driven due to real changes in behavior: 1) Rising number of people online, 2) the introduction of cheap laptops and 3) the growing popularity TV shows on the Internet.

Art on Tokyo Construction Fences

22 April 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

Readers of Brain Sells will know our fascination with all things Japanese, so after writing about Reverse Graffiti we had to share a bit about this construction site in Tokyo that has been turned into a canvas for great illustration.

I've been told that the average life of a building in Tokyo is just 17 years. With that constant redevelopment happening these white walled construction fences -- called karikakoi -- are a common scene. In Japan there is an effort o beautify these urban landscapes and surfaces, using them as canvases for installations, art, and illustrations.

Could brands do more with these spaces beyond plastering up wild postings and billboard ads? Could we create site specific installations that tie into the surrounding space? Could they be interactive in a useful way?

This reminds me of a project Goodby, Silverstein did for HP at the National Galleries in London during its East Wing refurbishment in 2003. Titled "The Adventures of Yellow", HP told the story of Van Gogh's Chair by printing out a massive 60 meter-long piece that was posted to the outside facade of the site. Every few months a new piece was created for another work of art from the Galleries based on a different color.

PingMag has more examples of creative uses of these spaces in Tokyo.

Reverse Graffiti

by Hashem Bajwa

This mural was created inside the Broadway Tunnel in San Francisco by British-based artist Paul Curtis using a technique called reverse graffiti or clean tagging. With the aid of San Francisco police and public works officials, Curtis spent the night blasting away at the years of grime with a high-powered water cannon.

This is a nice example of otherwise dead space being transformed into something enjoyable. Tide Detergent used this effect on sidewalks recently to demonstrate their cleaning power in everyday life.

Here's a link to more photos of this mural Flickr.

Unsnobby Coffee

21 April 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

As someone fed up with people who order silly named drinks like "Tall Skinny Double Frappucino with Soy Milk, Whip & Pumpkin Sprinkles" from Starbucks, I smiled at this new campaign for McDonald's "UnSnobby Coffee".

The work plays goes after Starbucks, playing off their language, and positions itself as a real simple coffee and not yuppie-laden pretentious coffee drinking.

The site is simple and quick, it doesn't try to be more than it is or create some big fancy experience or story for something as simple as coffee.

It does feature a "Snobby Coffee Intervention" where you can fill a madlibs style form making fun of your friends Venti Latte Snobbery.

Flexible E-Paper Digital Bracelet

09 April 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

China-based Chocolate Agency has created a concept piece of electronic jewelry-turned-interactive mobile device. The slap bracelet displays images and is powered by the natural movement of your arms.

The device is made from E-paper, which is a technology in development that allows for bendable, flexible, paper-like materials to display video and digital imagery.

Here's a short video of the bracelet concept. Source: PSFK

The Shortest PR Pitch

by Hashem Bajwa

This email was sent by a PR rep to a blogger to get coverage of a new BMW video. Instead of a long PR pitch about why the video or story is interesting, they kept it short and to the point: "Google Rampenfest". And the top organic result is the BMW website and video.

Source: Adlab

Adults Often Online When Watching TV

by Hashem Bajwa

Media multitasking — watching TV while surfing the internet — are common among online adults in the United States and Britain, finds a survey by Harris Interactive.

The survey found that its not an "either/or" between TV and the web. People use the web as an accompaniment to TV:
  • 78 percent of US online adults have gone online while watching TV.
  • 35 percent report doing so often or always.
  • 62 percent look for content unrelated to what they're watching on TV.
  • 25 percent seek info specific to programs, such as profiles of actor, products from ads or on a show, and upcoming events.

Mobile Phone Sommeliers in Japan

26 March 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

Plans to launch Mobile Phone "Sommeliers" have been unveiled in Japan in an effort to guide customers through the complex maze of technology when choosing a new handset and plan. The effort would create a new breed of mobile phone experts who will need to pass exams to receive a license.

Japan is a fitting setting for these Sommeliers, being home to the most advanced mobile technology in the world, but this idea can also apply to brands in the US. With more choices in technology and more features, companies that can offer guides & services to help people learn and make more use of their products could achieve a higher level of loyalty and customer satisfaction.

The image above is of a new line of phones from Japan's Softbank & Samsung in a range of Pantone approved colors. Pantone has licensed its distinctive colors and brand perhaps too widely, but in doing so are creating more choice and options for personalization in a range of categories.

Source: Monocle

Big Fantastic Deal

by Hashem Bajwa

Domino's Pizza has created a new site that lets pizza lovers easily build their own pizzas in whatever strange combinations they'd like, such as 4 slices with mushrooms, 3 with pepperoni, and 1 with brie cheese, and have it delivered in less than 30 minutes for a flat rate of $10,99.

After selecting topics people can name their strange creation, adding it to a library of pizza permutations.

An interesting thing about this is that the Marketing is blurring with the Product. Domino's may not have been able to make such a custom pizza, but the marketing idea behind the effort and site was adopted by the company and became a real product service they could deliver on.

We Tell Stories

by Hashem Bajwa

Penguine Books is launching a digital writing project called We Tell Stories in collaboration with Alternate Reality Game designers Six to Start. Penguin has challenged some of its top authors to create new forms of story designed specially for the internet -- blending traditional story-telling, Web 2.0-style mashups, interactive games and classic novels.

The project begins this month with six weekly installments, after which a seventh game that will tie all six together.

Each story is based on a classic novel and written by a different Penguin author, including Booker-shortlisted Mohsin Hamid, popular teen fiction author Kevin Brooks, prize-winning Naomi Alderman and bestselling thriller author Nicci French.

"The stories couldn't exist on paper. But it's not a gimmicky thing. We pushed our authors to look at how viewers and readers are going to view them, thinking about different points in the story, and about how the mechanism in the story is going to effect their writing." said Penguin's publisher Jeremy Ettinghausen.

At the end of the project is a prize...Penguin's complete library of 1,300 books.

Principles of Innovation

14 March 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

Google's SVP of Product Management & Marketing Jonathan Rosenberg speaks practically about the things he learned at Google about being innovative. A lot of it can be applied to advertising agencies and our clients. Here's a summary of his principles...

Network Effect:
The more you do something, the greater the value.

Colleges are great because they have great professors...great students come because they have great professors...great professors come because they want to be around great students...great alumni network form out of great students and so more students come.

Google users go where the information is, advertisers go where people are, we get more users beecause we have more advetisers because we can buy distribution because sites know we can monetize their content better and get more users.

Hiring Brilliant People
A's hire B's...B's hire C's and so on. You can train A's to hire A's, but you can't train B's to hire anything but second rate B's or Cs, because they are threatened by A's and can't understand them anyway. Maintain a high bar. Three person teams work better, small workspaces, don't hire specialists.

Ideas Come from Anywhere
Most companies say this but don't do it. They don't reward it. Have to be accepting and then implement a system to deliver against it. Trust people with everything. At Google everything we do is on our intranet. Product developent cycle is based on that openness.

Morph Ideas, Don't Kill Them
The underlying technologies are changing fast. We have to constantly be revisiting ideas that did not work and reapplying.

Blogs were originally about sharing information to reach niche communities, but now blog systems are the engine to publish information in Google Docs and Apps.

Convergence used to be about one device magical device that does everything...that didn't happen. Convergence us really in the cloud not the device...all of your data needs to converge, devices will diverge. Different things happened from the expectations, but its the same idea.

Users Come First, Not Money
Disinformation gets spread fast, but Truth travels faster.
People ruthlessly punish companies that do the wrong thing, and richly reward companies that do the right thing. (Steve Jobs is about the user. iPod based on one button, instead of Sony with a hundred confusing buttons.)

Don't say to us "I Think"...Show Us
Bring data we know to be true, not spun up. Two projectors in every meeting room. One for your idea or presentation, and one that shows actual source data. Argue everything based on data that everyone else in the room can argue against. Tell us with data what worked, not what you think will work.

Sardine fishermen go out to sea, get fish, then sell them in the market. The first one back gets a good price at the market, the last fisherman has a catch that spoils and races back out to sea to the next town that he thinks might have enough demand to sell his fish there. Someone gave them cell phones to call ahead and find out which town needs nore fish. The fisherman does not want ot think, he wants to know.

Iterating Products
Most talk about experimenting & iterating, few do it. Larry Page said to me: "When did the engineers do a better job of adding new features or doing it faster than what you put in your product plan brief and schedule?" Well never. Just get people working on a demo, see what users do and then iterate it form there.

Having Clear Vision
How many people worked for a company that had a missions statement? Everyone.
How many people remember their mission statement? No one.

Antibodies in Companies Try to Kill Big Ideas.
Most people in a company under promise, and over deliver. That's wrong. Creates fear, complacency and rewards mediocre work. Google looks at it differently. You are only expected to achieve a mark of 60% on your Objectives, but your Objectives must be big. People may not achieve the big goal, but reward people who do reasonably well, instead of them under-performing in hopes of maybe over-delivering and ending up just being mediocre.

Accept a Smaller Piece of a Bigger Pie
Writers Strike was basically about an increase in profits from 4 cents to 8 cents on DVD sales...they basically held up the world on the future of DVD royalties. But who even uses DVDs? Most people in this room are watching movies on their computer or on-demand. The writers were arguing a larger piece of a smaller pie that is turning into a crumb!

Feed the Winners, Starve the Losers
Most companies have General Managers that worry about their own area not the greater good. Take a portal like Yahoo. Distribution is on the homepage for every group...Weather, Fiance site, Sports, Career, etc. A group doing poorly and failing to get users will want to push more to get more exposure on the homepage so they can get more traffic. This is the opposite of what you should do. If the Career site sucks, no one is visiting it, but the Finance site is doing great booming, steer people there. Feed the winners, starve the losers. Its the difference between a general manager oriented company and a functionally oriented one.

Avoid Hippos
A hippo kills more people than any other animal. In business, hippos kill more products & ideas than anyone, A hippo is the highest paid person's opinion. Hippos say "I think..."
Eric Schmidt when at SUN needed a Workstation PC to complete an idea he had...he took one off the dock and unpacked it...it had 8 "Read Me First" documents! He put it on the wall and it was the company's org chart. 8 hippos insisted they have their own document in it.
If you can see a companies org chart in the box, don't buy it. Apple is an example of doing it right. Maniacal focus on the user.

Rewarding Innovation
Most companies have profit sharing...HP gives 6.5% to 8.5%...everyone gets about the same. Instead, pay the people that deliver more. The best guys in an investment bank make more, shortstops on a baseball team gets more, etc. At Google the guy who made Google News has made us lots of money, millions of dollars, so we pay him millions of dollars. Life is not fair...I'm not as pretty so I got less dates...I can't shoot slam dunks so I don't get to play in the NBA. Reward innovation.

Lawyers and Bureaucrats
A good one thinks through the implications of a problem in relationship to the business objectives. The bad ones are not flexible to what reality is.

At toll roads like the Golden Gate Bridge...you queue, you burn gas, you thrown money in a bin...you used to have to do the same thing when you drive back. But a toll one direction is better and they changed it. Who is gonna drive around the bay the other way just to avoid a toll!?

Software and downloads have an "I AGREE" form, filled with legal. Same with those long copyright & legal footers appended to the end of emails yous end from your company, it wastes bits. Lawyers insist on these things but they don't understand the online medium.

At Starbucks you don't have to wait for the transaction to complete if you pay with a credit card...they process it as if it is going to go through. This way the line moves faster, and the transaction is processed in the background, and there's an alert a few minutes later if there is a problem with the card. I mean what is someone gonna do!? Is someone gonna get their Tall Mocha Frappuccino and run out of the store with a visa card that does not work? Ridiculous!

Bad lawyers and manager create a constraint set that becomes the null set, and then they optimize around that...wrong rules, not applicable anymore.

Learning to Learn
I can't articulate theories about economics from my college...but I did learn how to learn.

Cell Phone Disco

by Hashem Bajwa

Cell Phone Disco is an experimental installation that visualizes EM fields emitted from mobile phones. When EM waves are detected it flashes some of the thousands of LEDs on the surface. The surface is also a canvas for an inkless marker, whereby moving the phone close to the cells leaves a light drawing behind. The installation makes something in our environment that is usually hidden from our senses, visible & interactive.

Natural Born Clickers

13 March 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

The click is dead...and the few people who do click on banner ads are not your best customers and do nothing for your brand.

So says new research by Starcom , Tacoda & ComScore, which calls into question click-through-rates as a primary source of accountability for Internet advertising aimed at brand building.

The Wrong People Are Clicking:

The study reveals that a very small group of consumers who are not representative of the total US online population is accountable for the vast majority of display ad click-through behavior:

"The study illustrates that heavy clickers represent just 6% of the online population yet account for 50% of all display ad clicks. While many online media companies use click-through rate as an ad negotiation currency, the study shows that heavy clickers are not representative of the general public. In fact, heavy clickers skew towards users between the ages of 25-44, households with an income under $40,000, spend less than non-clickers, and are more likely to visit auctions, gambling, and career site.”

No Corrolation Between Clicks & Brand Metrics:

"Starcom data suggests no correlation between display ad clicks and brand metrics, and show no connection between measured attitude towards a brand and the number of times an ad for that brand was clicked. The research presentation suggests that when digital campaigns have a branding objective, optimizing for high click rates does not necessarily improve campaign performance.”

CTRs are the wrong measure for brand-building advertising and consideration/preference campaigns online.

Source: ChasNote

The Synchronicity Photo Project

by Hashem Bajwa

Japanese art director Jun Tsuzuki run Synchronicity, an on-going project where people all over the world are asked to take a picture of what they are doing at a pre-determined moment in time.

The pictures, along with a brief explanation of the time and place they are taken, are displayed on the Synchronicity website as a portrait of the world at that exact moment. The project is simple but intriguing.

Source: Cool Hunting

Planting & Nurturing Your Marketing

11 March 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

ChasNote points out a thought from Carat CEO Sarah Fay:

Sara likens marketing today to planting a tree — the beginning of a process that will grow and requires nurturing over time — rather than the old approach to marketing that, like a house, is finished and has begun its decay on its first day as a completed structure with dry paint.

What a marvelous metaphor. Brands and their marketing are not singular, linear, solid, complete, perfected objects. That's not how consumers experience them.

Tokyo Sample Lab

by Hashem Bajwa

The Sample Lab, which opened last year in Tokyo's Iceberg Building in Harajuku, is a members-only space that invites consumers to sample and test new products.

Members pay an annual fee and gain entrance to the lab by showing a QR code stored on their mobile. The store has shelves filled with different kinds of merchandise and features a room to sit down to try out beauty products.

Many consumers are happy to pay to be the first to try out a new product, and to spread buzz. Moreover, creating a dedicated space for trying out new products makes it easier to collect feedback.

Could Ad Agencies create dedicated spaces like this for their stable of brands or use retail space as a dedicated on-going live consumer research tool or as an incubator of marketing ideas & new products?

Interactive Talking Paper

by Hashem Bajwa

The Paper Four project in Sweden has developed a prototype digital paper that uses embedded sensors to detect touch, and when you graze over a certain spot, it actually talks back to you via "printed speakers."

The device combines paper with "printed graphic codes and electronically conductive ink that is sensitive to pressure." This could become an practical mass use format for interactive outdoor advertising.

Source: Engadget

Playfully Addictive Site for Kids from Innocent Smoothies

19 February 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

We at Brain Sells are already fans of Innocent Smoothies' smart scrappy marketing, and here's a new example of a site designed for kids from the healthy UK smoothie maker.

The site is made up of simple movable panels with small fun gems in each of them -- from recipes, games, photos, to a contest with kids artwork on the packs and even stuff for adults.

Thanks to IF! for finding this.

Super Bowl Advertisers Fumble Online

18 February 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

Some of the biggest brands in the world vied to capitalize on buzz created by Super Bowl ads, but most failed to successfully link TV ads to their online presence, according to Reprise Media, which measures how prepared brands are to capture online interest and buzz.

Among this year's key findings:

  • 6% of Super Bowl advertisers put a call to action in their commercials.
  • 28% of brands purchased ads against Super Bowl-related keywords.
  • 93% of advertisers did not buy search placement for concepts related to their ads — terms related to spokesperson, mascot, celebrity or tagline.
  • No Super Bowl ads pointed to a social media presence on MySpace, YouTube or Facebook. Less than one-fifth showed Super Bowl-related content on social networks.
  • Advertisers are getting better at including the relevant URL in their ads...with 84% displaying a URL in their commercials.
This year's game was the second most watched program, ever. TV is not dead. But why would a company spend $2.7 million for :30 seconds on TV and not try to make the most of the buzz online? What about the rest of the year?

Have a look on Google Trends for any brand in the Super Bowl and there is a huge up tick in search volume during the game. Are brands taking advantage of this sign of interest & intention?

Diesel's Liquid Space Runway Show

by Hashem Bajwa

Diesel’s Spring/Summer 08 runway show was entitled "Liquid Space". While regular human models paced up and down the runway, a host of CGI characters appeared in mid-air to interact with them within an underwater landscape. These animated holograms were entirely viewable from both sides of the stage.

You can view the video here, pretty stunning.

The experience was created by Barcelona 3D animation studio Dvein and Danish media production agency Vizoo.

What kinds of new experiences offline could we create by blending interaction between the live performance, digital art and online interactivity?

Innovative Minds Don't Think Alike

28 January 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

A few weeks back the New York Times published a brilliant piece on the "curse of knowledge", a phrase that means that once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do. When it’s time to accomplish a task those in the know get it done the way it has always been done, stifling innovation as they barrel along the well-worn path.

The article suggests this is why engineers often design things that are only useful to other engineers, or why business leaders face obstacles in conveying new ideas to the rank & file staff.

There are implications in the ad agency business as well...where media, technology and consumer behavior are all constantly changing. Agencies race to hire so-called "experienced" experts who only give the appearance of knowledge. Perhaps doing that actually limits innovation.

Chip Heath says in the article: “People who design products are experts cursed by their knowledge, and they can’t imagine what it’s like to be as ignorant as the rest of us.”

To innovate in marketing and creativity, people are badly needed who can think more contrarily and ask provocative optimistic questions -- and then translate those new ideas into simple, relevant, language for others.

Art, Community, Technology...in a Bank

27 January 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

Portland-based Umpqua Bank have dropped the corporate-finance-dead-space theme so often associated with a trip to the bank and instead created their first Innovation Lab. The retail space is a high-tech, interactive, community hub, combining technology, art & entertainment.

Some of the features in the bank include immersive video conferencing, nine 50-inch high-definition touch screen displays, a digital community wall, customizable brochures printed on-demand, work spaces & banquettes with hidden laptops, a music portal and gourmet coffee shop. The lab also serves as an independent space for business meetings and social events, like a Nintendo Wii tournament.

Umpqua has partnered with local merchants in Portland to sell their merchandise inside the space, along with tech brands such as Cisco, Microsoft, an Lenovo who all provide elements of the experience.

Their own financial services are sold like colorful rich beauty products, in smart, simple packaging and language throughout.

Umpqua intends the space to be an ongoing experiment, updating it every quarter. The lab was designed by Ziba.

The Media Wanker

22 January 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

This is sadly all too similar to how the advertising/media world really is! Hilarious...

iTunes Signature Maker

21 January 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

iTunes Signature Maker analyzes your music collection and creates a short audio signature to represent who you are and what you listen to. The site analyzes your music collection and generates an short audio signature that represents all of your music.

Your iTunes signature can be uploaded onto your iPod, e-mailed to friends, or shared your blog or homepage. While its not very useful, more of a novelty, the idea of taking your personal content and transforming it into some kind of identifier or small chunk is interesting as more of our lives are digitized online.

A Hardworking Presidential Brand Identity

by Hashem Bajwa

Barack Obama has created a brand identity online that is very flexible and relevant to different groups. Here's some design examples of this flexibily for different constituencies & ethnicities. His campaign has also created an Action Center of tools, assets and advertising materials that individuals to help get the word out about Obama, create local events, or make marketing materials that are high res and highly relevant for different interests.

Brand design alone cannot make a presidency of course, policies and action matter, but it's encouraging to see design and brand innovation in an otherwise stale category, and by all measures Obama is supporting the brand with substance so far...

Making Virtual Objects in Real Life

07 January 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

Fabjectory takes your virtual characters & objects and makes them into detailed, full color, real-life statuettes.

Users upload an image file of their virtual object, and Fabjectory (usig a rapid prototyping technique) will produce a physical version. For now they are only doing this for Nintendo Mii characters, Second Life Avatars and Google Sketch-up 3D objects.

While Fabjectory might just be making simple toys, it does show the potential of taking digital creations & assets and bringing them into the offline world with physical representations. As social networks increase in value in our lives and the web itself more personal to us, these bridges -- online & offline -- become more interesting.

Physical to Digital: Voice Visualizations & DNA Art

by Hashem Bajwa

Voiceprints uses specially-designed software to translate a person's voice pattern into an artistic visual design.

The technology analyzes frequencies to create an algorithm that organizes visual elements into a representation of your personal voice.

DNA11 Prints is another example of our personal physical markers being transformed digitally. A quick swab of your saliva provides enough genetic material to create artistic visuals of your DNA sequence.

Our digital world is being personalized rapidly with our content & interests, and increasingly so with our own physical attributes -- digital & physical blurring together. "The man is the machine, and the machine is the man."

HP Creates Tools to Clip & Print the Web

06 January 2008 by Hashem Bajwa

Ever print something from a website and get a line of text straggling on another page? With ads everywhere? Formatted all wrong?

HP has developed Smart Web Printing, a technology that plugs into your browser and lets you "clip" an individual photo, block of text or other elements on a page, then pick and choose what you want to print and in what layout.

Its a simple way to pick and choose the content you want and organize it into a useful way for printing.

This is similar to HP Blog Printing available on a lot of blogs like TechCrunch and BoingBoing, that lets you choose and print nicely formatted the posts you want from any blog.

In both examples, HP is adding new functionality to web content that provides consumers with a beneficial tool, while extending its brand throughout the web.

You can learn more about how it works and download the free software for Web Print here and Blog Print here.

Disclaimer: HP is a global client of my employer Goodby Silverstein.