Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coolness Reality Check

I'd like to think I'm cool and hip. Like today, I was driving in to work, enjoying the music on the radio, checking stocks on my iPhone and feeling pretty damn good about myself.

And then this happened: I was about to get out of the car, when I hear the host on the radio say, "You Won!! You just got two tickets to the Kelly Clarkson concert!" This was immediately followed by ear-piercing screaming... from the winning caller. From me... came a whooshing sound of deflation, a sigh which carried with it the last remnants of my taken for granted youth-attached coolness. The realization, as welcomed as a hug with a cactus, came quickly: I was rocking out to this radio station only a few seconds ago and they just gave away Kelly Clarkson tickets. I am a total dweeb.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Photos In Post Production

Here's a photo from my trip that's gone through post production. The rest are still in the works and will probably not be ready till I get a solid weekend behind me.

The image was taken at Wong Tai Sin, arguably the most popular temple in Hong Kong.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

One pic before I fly

Waiting for my flight to board and sending one more pic before I head home. Will then post more.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Your Postcard

Hi all. I'm currently in a Gloria Jean's coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. What a fantastic place. Going to have to tell you all about it later. In the meantime, enjoy two random photos. I'll upload more photos to Flickr at a later time.















Monday, October 01, 2007

Treehugger!

I get my power from the LA DWP. Today, I found out you could sign up to get 100% green power from them. Now I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean my power comes straight from wind mills or solar panels but it probably means they buy more of that kind of power from the extra costs I pay. It'll come out to about $200 a year for me to go 100% green power. That's not too bad if you think about it. I mean, if a lot more of us do this, we'll probably make a significant impact on coal consumption in the US.

Here's the problem. I found the sign up form here. It took me literally 5 minutes to find it and it was buried about 5 clicks deep from the main site. You would almost think they don't want you to find it. That kinda ticks me off. I mean, if they priced the green power correctly, then why would it matter to them if more of us went green? Now I do have to admit that they have a little promo line on the back flap of my paper bill, something to the effect of "Buy Green Power Now". The problem is, they don't actually tell you how to do that. Cheeky monkeys!

Anyways, I don't want to get all treehugger on you guys but if you should explore around your own power company's site and see if there's a green option for you too. It doesn't cost that much more and you'll really be doing the world a favor.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Irony tastes better on ice

As part of a promotion for Halo 3's release overseas, they did a PR stunt where tokens were frozen inside a giant block of ice. Participants shot water guns at the ice, melting it to get to the tokens and use them to redeem for gamer tech prizes like TVs and, of course, Halo 3.

Hmm, big block of unmovable ice sponsored by Microsoft. Consumers "pissing" on it until finally it yields and delivers the goods. Sounds like Microsoft's been on a roll lately with their PR efforts, remind you of anything?.

via AdRants

Monday, September 24, 2007

Underestimate of the moment

According to a new study, online game revenue will account for a third of all game industry revenue by 2011. Now, I'm not sure if they mean only games that live online like Wow or if they include all games that touch online, including digital distribution and console games that can be played online (Warhawk). If the latter, then I believe this estimate to be way off.

Four years is an eternity online. Think back to 2003 and the offerings we had at that time and think of the breadth of online gaming now. The fall of traditional console and hardware distribution will happen quick and fierce and my own gut feeling is that it'll happen in two years. It would be more realistic to think that online game revenue will be over 50%. This will include pure offerings like Wow but also downloaded content. Folks, the Wii isn't offering classic games just for the nostalgia or the minor revenue, they're testing a digital distribution model. The Xbox360 and PS3 are already offering full titles online. It won't take long before all titles move online.

By the way, this isn't only for the obvious reasons. Sure, you'll save money on getting rid of the pesky middle man (retailers) but think about the iTunes model. Offering a full suite of titles online will make more games available and tap into the long tail revenue potential of titles that never got a chance at retail.

Over 50%, mark it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Longtime listener...

So I know, I haven't been around lately. So the fact that I'm coming back now to post something shamelessly about myself is probably the wrong thing to do. In fact, it's downright the worse of self-promotion. But, I know you'll forgive me because that's the wonderful, forgiving, "let's not fight, want to watch a movie on the couch with some ice cream?" kind of reader you are. Have I mentioned how much you mean to me lately?

And now on to the post:

I was on NPR today! It was for Marketplace, the show about business and things. The article was about the huge hype behind Halo 3 and how the game industry's becoming so much like Hollywood. Anyways, you can listen or read the transcript here: My Marketplace moment.

It was a cool experience and Lisa Napoli, the writer, was very nice. What's funny is that the whole time there, I was thinking, "Wow, I really should sign up to be a member of KPCC (the local public radio station)" Anyways, it was funny how I basically just regurgitated what I've written before in this blog and somehow it was interesting enough to include in the segment. Go figure.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lunar Eclipse Photos

The lunar eclipse from my balcony:
1:34 AM













2:05AM













2:51AM













3:03AM

Some perspective

On Saturday morning, at 4AM, the Aurigid meteor shower will light up the skies on the West Coast. This, like many other meteor storms, are caused by dust left over from comets that pass Earth's orbit.

According to MSN, "this comet previously swept passed the sun sometime around the year 82 BC (when Julius Caesar was alive). Jenniskens and Vaubaillon calculated that a trail of dust released by the comet at that 82 B.C. visit will run smack into Earth's path when our planet passes by on September 1."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The fish were a sign


My fish died today. Both of them. I never named them because I couldn't tell them apart so they were just "the fish". I found them dead this morning, which brings up some interesting questions: Did they die at the same time? Did one of them die first, prompting the other say "O happy dagger" and end it? Was it a bowl-shattering domestic dispute that ended in a murder suicide?

Or was it just me, neglecting the fish?

I'm not suited for the whole responsibility thing. At first, I'm pretty good, taking care of the fish on a daily basis. Changing things up like the water on a weekly basis. And then for some reason, more often than not because I'm simply bored of it, I forget a feeding. A mossy coating soon lines the bowl, as if protecting the fish from suicidal tendencies.

I'm not heartless so I do occasionally come back and feed the fish, maybe not as neatly as I did before, maybe not counting out pinches and waiting around to watch them eat. Do fish choke?

Well, I completely blame myself. No fish deserves to die like this. Not through neglect. Maybe an unfortunate accident off the credenza or a predatory swipe by a visiting feline. That's the way to go.

Alas though, I am helpless against the dark cloaked one. The fish are gone.

I miss them.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Non-story of the week

Microsoft and EA develop a dynamic in-game advertising engine for Sports titles... story here.

And when they say "develop" they mean that Microsoft bought Massive Inc. the former independent industry leader in dynamic in-game advertising. Strange news item to try to regurgitate.

On a more personal note. I am still alive. =)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Checking In

Hey, how's everyone doing?

I'm still here. It's been a busy few months. There's so many things I wanted to write about but can't because I'm bound by the rusty shackles of multiple NDAs. What I can tell you is that I feel a disturbance in the Force, a gut reaction that the online advertising industry is about to make a significant shift. Money is getting tighter these days and accountability for performance is going up. Over and over, I'm seeing people wanting to see proof that things are working. This may mean that the trend towards fluffy online experiences like viral YouTube campaigns or pointless sites may be going away. Instead, we may start to see some more concrete initiatives that are relevant to consumers and that more directly hit the bottom line. In other words, your online experience may be a little less annoying soon. Since my job is basically Fluff Exterminator (think black jumpsuit with badge of pink poodle with big X on it... actually, don't.) work's been good lately.

Meanwhile, I've somehow turned into a workaholic. In doing so, I've also sapped whatever creative mojo I usually have for Branded Newb. Though it may seem like it, I haven't given up on this whole writing and blogging thing. Just wanted to let you know.

I'll see you when I come up for air. Probably this weekend after I read HP7.

Monday, July 09, 2007

If it ain't broke, promote that instead

Check out this banner for the Xbox360. The first image is the initial frame, the second is the final frame.

Notice anything missing? Right, no mention of games.

I'm not sure I buy an entire campaign to deliver the message of these secondary features. The iPhone has Google Maps built in but I wouldn't try to sell it as a competitor to a GPS unit (ignoring that it doesn't have GPS). Does this feel forced to anyone else?

Also, when the ad unit animates, the dude sitting on the... chair?... is rocking the controllers like he's playing a game. Umm... I don't know anyone that pivots back and forth while selecting music, scrolling through photos or pausing their home movie. Hey Microsoft, haven't you hurt yourself enough by giving the Xbox360 a half-ass effort? Couldn't find imagery or assets that actually worked with the concept eh? I guess someone said, "Just reuse the gaming dude, it won't matter". That's a shame.

The ad unit itself isn't too bad. The copy succinctly conveys the message that the console gives you more than games. The call to action at the end, "Learn More Today" is nice and large. Why "Today" vs. "Now" vs just "Learn More" baffles me but it's still a good call to action. A decent execution on a questionable marketing message. Try again.

Hard to reach places

Branded Newb Product of the Week: Infinity Razors

It's the razor that never needs sharpening! If you buy now, they'll even throw in a few bonuses. A "micro trimmer" for your unsightly nose hairs. An Infinity Chef Knife for umm...

Seriously WTF? If you have body hair that needs the freak'n Chef Knife, you have bigger issues than buying a razor that never dulls. I mean, you gotta make Robin Williams look like a pre-pubescent boy-band blondie before this makes sense.

Oh well, buy now! Supplies are limited.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Measure twice

According to the Washington Post, Microsoft will spend $1.15 billion to fix problems with the Xbox 360. As a result of a lot of broken consoles, it's also extended the warranty to 3 years, adding what will eventually be more cost. But let's do some quick math.

$1.15 billion divided by the 11.6 million Xbox360s sold so far.

Comes out to about $99.14 per Xbox360 for the repairs.

According to Wikipedia, the top end Xbox360 was priced at $399 at launch. The cost to manufacture was $525... a loss of $126 per Xbox.

So as of today, for each Xbox sold, Microsoft loses $225.

If Microsoft didn't have cash coming out its ears, would it have a prayer of surviving? This console war stuff is crazy. They sell consoles at a loss because they make money on the software. But it takes a lot of people using the consoles to make money and a lot of software sales to make a lot of money. Unless the console breaks records, by the time these manufacturers recoup the loss on the hardware, it's probably time to make new hardware.

This entire business model is about throwing yourself down a hill at breakneck speed and hoping that you get enough momentum to clear the canyon in front of you. If you don't sell enough units to pass that critical threshold, you'll probably just keep losing money.

You know, I wonder if the gas companies ever thought of selling cars? Milk companies giving away cereal. Eye solution companies selling contacts. Sorry, I think this whole console nonsense is going away. Web-based device-agnostic games are going to take these guys to the cleaners.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Heads or Tails, You Lose

Branded Newb Shopping Network Proudly Presents!

The 100th Anniversary Corvette Coin:

This is a once in a lifetime product folks. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Corvette, GM has allowed the production of these limited edition coins. The best part? The freak'n coin lights up! That's right, the headlights actually glow. Buy one now!

Anniversary does not imply annual celebration: First Corvette manufactured in 1953. Product thickness above standard width, the term coin is used figuratively. GM sponsorship only represents a desperate attempt at additional income. Coin is not legal tender though you can probably trade for a six-pack of PBR. Feeling of shame after purchase not included and may require additional shipping and handling.

Window shopping

When I advise clients on how to optimize their banner ads, I sometimes talk about moving desirable actions upstream. What I mean is that instead of making people click from a banner to a site and then getting them to do something on the site, why not just put the action on the banner? You end up saving some steps in between where many people might just drop off.

What if a client (not mine) took this to the extreme? You might get something like this Radio Shack ad. The thing is a whole shopping site within a banner. It has some pretty amazing functionality built-in. You can browse categories, then products in those categories. Add products to a shopping list, then save the list or go take the list with you to the site. Within the banner you can also locate a store or sign up for email communications. Aside from checking out, you don't need to leave the banner.

The banner where I found it:


Shopping list in the banner


Store locator


Categories to browse


I'm not sure if I could advise a client to go to this extreme. It just seems to me that it'd be extremely challenging to take someone from their mindset of reading an article to a shopping mindset of buying electronics. Sure, you want to show your breadth of offerings but having a full catalog in the banner seems like overkill. Now if this was targeted to when I was reading reviews of electronics, that would be different.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Shouldn't you put up a fight?

I had a miraculous experience yesterday. My 1-year contract with T-Mobile ended a few weeks ago and so yesterday morning I succumbed to my weakness and picked up a new phone, that one powered by AT&T. Knowing I would have to call in to cancel my T-Mobile account, I braced myself for explaining why I was leaving T-Mobile. I imagined throwing off the customer service rep with that single word that would need no further explanation. (I'm trying to write this entire post without using the name of that product, let's see if I can do it.)

You don't need an entire transcript of the conversation; nothing happened. She didn't ask me why I was leaving. She didn't offer me some promo to keep me around. She didn't even sound very regretful. I was in shock.

We always see horror stories about customer service reps on YouTube and home-made vigilante sites. I'm usually the cynic but my experience yesterday was absolutely perfect. It was the best cancellation call I ever made and it ended too quickly (less than 90 seconds). It's time I redeemed for some of my prior transgressions, some of my earlier badmouthing. So to even up things up, here's a batch of words for search:

  • T-Mobile great experience
  • Best Customer Service T-Mobile
  • Easy cancellation
Ok, enough of that. Back to your regularly scheduled sourness.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I see you!

Was watching HBO... ran into tv spot with url.

Went to site... watching it now...

Sweet online application of video technology...

Wooo, what did she just do?!

This is some cool stuff!

Oh damn, what!? I missed something.

Argh, gotta go, gotta keep up with the stories! TTYL!

HBOVoyeur.com

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More is not that much

Certain words in the marketplace stand out like chocolate cake at a fat camp. Words like "Sale", "Free" and "Unlimited" grab at your attention and try to elicit the kind of spending that can only be described as Pavlovian. "Unlimited" in particular has been an industry changing term. Netflix used it to change movie rentals. In the world of talking, counting minutes becomes obsolete with Vonage and Boost plans. In music, Napster opened up 3 million songs for the taking. With the sweet whisper of "Unlimited", marketers have shifted our culture beyond buffet aficionados and towards the sinister promise of absolute entitlement. Probably not since French royalty has any group felt like they deserved so much.

The problem with all this is that unlimited is an illusion. Sure, there is the obvious fact that there is no such thing as unlimited. If you do your homework, you soon realize there are only so many movies in the library, so many minutes in the day and that there are limits to the unlimited. But even beyond this obvious fact, unlimited is actually quite a bit less than those upper reaches.

We live in a world where everything can be comfortably bracketed by statistics. I don't have to know all that much about you to be able to predict how you'll behave. I may be wrong on individual cases but statistically, I'm probably going to be right much more often than not. When marketers throw out the word "unlimited", they absolutely know that they are not in danger of everyone suddenly gorging them out of house and home. The fact is, there may be short term spikes as we get collegiately drunk on our new found freedom but after time, we behave pretty predictably. As long as the marketer has priced their offering correctly, they have no concerns of everyone going nuts. All hail the power of statistics.

When we sign up for "unlimited", surely we know that we won't be breaking any records in terms of consumption; so what makes "unlimited" so appealing? It's actually very simple. When we buy "unlimited", we are buying insurance. We are buying the safety and ease of mind that we won't get stuck with a giant bill if we so happen to go a little crazy. I feel the same way each time I get in my car.

I bring this whole thing up because I was recently working on a project that required me to think of different ways to promote an offering. Unlimited was a tempting choice. It also seemed to be the most twitchy-reflexive choice too. There has to be something more interesting, I thought. What kept coming up was this: I may have mentioned this before on Branded Newb but I truly believe the next evolution of provider and consumer relationships is one that takes a cue from investing.

The principle of investing is simple. Find something you believe in, spend money on it and if it does well, you get paid for your commitment. We are starting to see some of this on sites that share revenue from user-submitted contributions. We've also seen this at outdoor retailer REI, whose members actually receive dividends if the company does well during the year. This type of relationship is where we're headed. It has all the trademark goodness that the Internet provides:

  • Transparency - The company is trying to make a buck but so are you.
  • Exclusivity - Consumers that join set themselves apart in a community.
  • Collaboration - Everyone is working towards the same goal.
  • Entrepreneurship - Let's not kid ourselves, we want "this thing" to be huge.
It's scary to say but "unlimited" is not enough. As a consumer, I want more than what I'm statistically going to actually consume. As a business, I want more out of the consumer than the "monthly fee". We have to (and will) begin establishing closer ties to each other to really shake things up.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dude, TeeVee is so 90's

Imagine combining YouTube with Red vs. Blue and way too much time on your hands. You'll get GeeVee. It's a social network video site that allows users to upload their game videos. Amateur game footage was never so... amateur.

Ahh, the niche social content site. Like those cable channels you never watch: you're not interested but you guess someone has to be if they're still on the air. I don't foresee this being a significant trend, you just can't beat the pull of YouTube. When you go niche, you dilute the surprise of exploration and the flavor-injected goodness of variety. You gain the perception of being the place to go to for your niche content. The problem is that this doesn't always work. The eBay clones, you know, the jewelry eBay, the car eBay... all couldn't survive because they were probably too niche. How do you build up a reputation if you only sell one thing every few years? How do you go big if your intention is to be small?

The Internet is a funny place. You can be rewarded for being very specific, covering something that no one else covers or you can be rewarded for being a one-stop shop. Nothing survives in between. Why? I'm not sure.

My theory is that if you're niche, you have to be consistent, like McDonald's fries. A niche site that gets noisy with other stuff is going to fail. Someone else is going to do that other stuff better. My advice to GeeVee (and their users) is to stick with a small menu; maybe just machinama based on Broadway musicals. Now that's a site worth coming back to.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Big is an understatement

via MarketingVox, via Times Online

The latest installment of Tomb Raider can quite possibly be one of the most significant milestones in game history. Not because of the game's content but because of its delivery. Tomb Raider Anniversary will be split into downloadable episodes, available at Xbox Live Marketplace. This may just be the Columbus of digital game distribution, you know, the big event everyone remembers even though there were plenty of prior accomplishments that were more legit and less small poxy.

Anyways, good to see Xbox embracing a digital distribution model for a top franchise. (Wii fanbois need not remind me of those downloadable Classic NES games, they don't count)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dead Zones

Currently, there are two known locations on the continental United States that do not have a mobile signal nor any broadband Internet access. One of these locations is so remote, you'd have to dog sled to a negative visibility airstrip somewhere in Minnesota, look for a siding-patched trailer, drop kick the door and begin to compel not only the guy inside, a twitchy pilot named Shuka, but also your surviving dogs to join you in the single prop Cessna parked out back. Next, you'd have to fly (if you can call it that) over two peaks so high you'd get brain freeze just by looking at them and then, swoop over crevasses wedged with the middle-aged bodies of adventure-seeking Orange County accountants. Finally, you'd land on a frozen lake. As you hike towards the middle of the lake with your cell phone in hand, you'll start to see and feel the modern world drift away from you, one painful bar at a time. Yes, welcome to the first dead zone.

The second one is in Montgomery Bell State Park, just an hour away from Nashville, Tennessee. You get here by leaving your very comfortable apartment in Playa Vista, CA (where there is so much unsecured wi-fi, an erection is probably all you need to check email), heading to the airport and plopping down in the "B" line, all the while, promising yourself never to book on an airline named after only one direction. At some point, after being toss fed a creative mix of snacks that you're pretty sure never involved someone with a culinary degree nor would ever be titled "Springtime Variations on the Vendings of My Youth", (though wouldn't it be great if they were) you land. You drive through roads that your GPS TomTom doesn't even know and it starts to say to you, "Are you sure you want to turn right here? I saw a movie once and it didn't end well if you turned right here." But you still turn right and left and before you know it, you reach an outpost of humanity that some people call a State Park. This is the type of place people like having family reunions because if you and your family end up killing each other, no one outside would ever find the bodies.

And so here I am. My cell phone lays stubbornly exhausted on the night stand, not quite able to accept the realization that there are no bars to be found. There is not a LAN outlet in site. Around here, you'd be more likely to find a bear kissing a wolf than a wi-fi signal. I am truly and sadly in a dead zone.

Earlier this evening, in an act of desperation, I yanked the cord from the room's phone and plugged it into my laptop, feeling like I just stole an old lady's wheelchair to joyride down the hill. I post now after spending nearly 2 hours signing up for NetZero dialup. As I type, the NetZero Taskbar application mocks me from it's "always on top" throne in the upper right of my screen, reminding me of my servitude.

What can I say? I'm nothing without internet access.

We're going where?!

Howdy!

This weekend, I'll be at the Montgomery Bell State Park in the good ol' state of Tennessee. You see, there ain't no thing likes the en'dars'net over dar so... I'll be out of touch for a while. Not that I haven't been out of touch. You know how it is.

Anyways, I appreciate the visit and I'll see you next week. In the meantime, you appreciate your connectivity to the rest of the world, savor it... enjoy it like the last little morsel of sweet chocolaty goodness that it is.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Game-dar

Was working with a colleague today and started chatting about life (non-work) stuff. As I like to consider myself a gamer, I mention my passion for games when opportunities like this present themselves. After some apprehensive pauses and a caveat of "Well, I haven't played in ages", it turns out that my co-worker is a fan of KOTOR. Now this took me by surprise. When people say they haven't played in ages, it usually means the last time they took up the "sticks" (as my neighbor, who is much cooler than I, calls controllers) was for Super Mario Bros or some variant of Madden. KOTOR, well, KOTOR is in a different league entirely.

If you play through a Star Wars RPG, you're a gamer. I don't care how you spin it. You've firmly entrenched yourself into gamer geekdom, case closed. Now, I didn't actually bring this up to him but I became acutely aware that he was very self-conscious about this revelation, as if this was the first time he came out of the gamer closet.

Sure, this story probably isn't unique. You probably run into people you'd never guess could kick your ass in Halo or blindside you in AOE 4. The thing is, why aren't these people more open about their gaming? The dreaded gamer stigma? Perhaps... that would be the obvious explanation.

I have an alternate theory: Let's call it the lonely gamer syndrome. There are very few titles out there that make it easy for people to talk to each other. Unlike watching Lost or Heroes, there's a lack of a common but disassociated experience. Sure, games have story lines that we could talk about but I think there's a problem with game story lines. When we play games and we assume the role of the protagonist, we internalize the story. There's just no good way to say, "Well, when I decided not to kill that guy, it was a poignant moment." That just doesn't work for me. Sports games are the same. "Dude, I was 2 points down with only half a second to go and I made this killer dunk that shook the house!" I can't quite put my finger on it but it sounds weird.

Would we get more social acceptance of games if we had more games we could talk about openly without that weird feeling described above? Are games, as a form of interactive entertainment, doomed to forever help us escape but not relate?

Monday, June 11, 2007

This Garlic Naan is Really Heavy

So last night I ordered some Indian food from a local place. It took about 1.5 hours to get here. That's not the story, I'm the patient type. The story is... at 90 minutes, I got a call on my phone.

"Hi, delivery." said the delivery person.
"Hi" said the hungry Ken.
"Are you at [### Rd]?"
"Yes, are you lost?"
"No, I'm here, can you come down and get the food?"
"Is the gate code not working?"
"It works but can you come down?"
"Umm..."

At this point, I'm thinking, "Wait a second, if the code works and you're not lost, why aren't you actually delivering to my door?" Get your lazy ass up here! Now you might be thinking: diva much? But I'm usually a nice guy, full of "thank you's" and "yes, that is a very generous tip, thanks for noticing." This particular delivery was different, it irked me.

"No, I can't, I'm busy right now. Please come up"

But of course, as soon as I say that, I feel guilty. Why couldn't I meet him half way? I mean, maybe he's running late or has a tough time figuring out elevator buttons. I should have just gone down to meet him.

Argh! I put on some pants, find my keys, and head out the door. As the door swings shut I suddenly remember that I was supposed to be busy. So I head back inside, grab a few paper towels and wet them. A busy person has wet paper towels, it's a well-known fact.

I head to meet the guy halfway at the elevator. On the way, I go through my repertoire of available faces: "Concerned Friend" No. "You stole my parking spot!" No. "Does this look infected to you?" No. "Is that 13 items in her cart?!" Perfect!

I reach the elevator and almost push the button but then I think, "Wait a second, why am I out here? I'm not going down. Screw that. I'm paying for delivery not half-delivery."

The delivery goes down as one would expect, eventless. As I walk back to my place, I run through the possible things he could have done to the food while in the elevator. I tell myself I don't like Indian food that much anyways.

This whole episode got me thinking. You can go 90% of the way with customer service but if you give up at that point, you might as well have not started. How much responsibility do we have as customers to meet you half way? Do we have any at all? Should I have gone down in the first place?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The universe balances itself

Few days ago, Sony let go of several employees. Today, rumors that because Nintendo is moving from Washington State to Northern California, many employees will not be joining. Sounds like when Nintendo lands in Foster City, there'll be a few qualified candidates looking for jobs.

For those stuck in Washington, well, I know a guy at Microsoft...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

When I'm not blogging...

I'm working. In the interest of shameless shilling towards some of the projects I've been working on, I bring you these helpful tips:

  • Visa pays for your 10th meal at Burger King
  • Use your Visa and get a chance to win a trip to Disney
  • California's Flex Your Power shows you how to save energy and maybe the world
  • Love your dog? Feed him Pedigree
  • Get fit with really big hula hoops from Hoopnotica
  • While we're on the topic of fitness... Play some games, it'll do your reflexes some good
  • Still want to save the world? Buy green products from Earthscreen
Yeah, I know, a sad excuse for a post. At least you know the kind of stuff that's going on in my life right now.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Random question

How is it that those "Text to Win" sweepstakes during TV shows like Deal or No Deal (and just about every other reality show) don't get shut down as illegal gambling? You pay $0.99 to play and you have a snow angel in hell's chance of winning; sounds a lot like the lottery to me.

Spatial advertising invasion

I was playing around this weekend on Google Map's new Street View function. It allows you to see the map location you're looking at as if you're sitting on top of a minivan. It's nothing new, Yahoo was teasing this stuff about a year ago. So if you ever wanted to travel virtually to San Francisco, check it out.

Myself, I revisited the Sir Francis Drake hotel. I stayed there a few years ago and one of the memorable things was seeing Tom Sweeney, the Beefeater doorman. He's apparently the "most photographed person in San Francisco" and has been standing there for decades. I find it very appropriate that in the Google Map street view image, you see Tom there, greeting some hotel guests (look closely behind the red van). Can you say great ad?
Speaking of ads. Can you start to see the potential of this thing for ad placement? Imagine if you will, a couple years from now, when Map functions are completely 3D virtual with real life skin overlays. While you're looking for directions to the nearest dry cleaner, you're flying in this virtual space. On the way to the dry cleaner from your home, you pass by billboards. Except, these billboards don't show what's there in real life, they show ads by Google, recommending a new dry cleaner. That, my friends, is the future of local ad targeting. Taken to the extreme, you can imagine ads on roads, on buildings, in place of actual store fronts and their signage. When the real world limitations on ads is lifted, there's no telling where they'd pop up or if you'd even know they're there.

Remind me to up my stocks in Google.

Friday, June 01, 2007

It's not like it was 20 years ago

Remember Tamagotchi pets? Those little egg devices with an animated pet you'd feed and take care of? Well, Reuters says that the movie based on these toys is about to come out. The toys were released in 1997, ten years ago.

In what reality does a ten year old novelty item get a movie today? It's not far enough in the past to qualify as retro chic and just far enough to be irrelevant. I'm so confused. I'm pretty sure if the movie were a Tamagotchi, it'd be long dead by now. Why? WHY?!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wall Street May Get Bad Chinese Delivery

Reuters reports that Chinese investors are heavily involved and influenced by online chatrooms for their investment decisions. According to the article, the Chinese market is heavy with activity from individual investors rather than brokers (typically more professional of the two). The Chinese are looking to the chatrooms for news, tips and camaraderie and use the info they get to make their investment decisions.

Not to be a doom and gloom predictor but I'm going to watch my investments closely in the near term. Here's why:

  1. The Chinese are notoriously risky gamblers (I can say this because my family is Chinese and because the French already noted the "the casino mentality in Shanghai")
  2. Internet chatter is an unregulated free for all, prone to ignoring facts and moving purely on opinion and the loudest voices (or ideas)
  3. The Chinese market is already inflated (Greenspan's statements)
  4. We live in a global economy, influenced by the shifts of international markets
  5. When the Chinese bubble bursts, it may be the event that causes our market to finally turn around from our record highs.
It seems to me that this is a repeat of our own enthusiasm back in the first dotcom bubble. The Internet is such a powerful medium and it continually amazes me the fiscal, social and political impact it can have in the world. It really makes me wonder what good and evils are in store for us in this fundamentally uncontrollable space.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Headline abuse

In my perpetual mission to uncover horribly inaccurate headlines, I don't think I've run across one so blatantly bad as this: Video games, gas prices cut traffic to US parks: from the Christian Science Monitor. The story is about declining attendance at the country's state and national parks. Although our beloved video games get top mention, that's not the reality. You have to get to the third page of the article before you see the critical line:

"Federal officials, governors, and others around the country have launched programs to fight what they see as "nature deficit disorder" among American couch potato kids spending increasing amounts of time in front of the TV or computer screen, playing video games, or text messaging on their cellphones – 44 hours a week, according to the National Wildlife Federation"
That's right, even in the line games are mentioned, they're not even mentioned first. Here are some other things mentioned in the article that might be contributing to the decline:
  • soccer camps
  • 9/11's chill on the economy and foreign visitation
  • the 1997 flood (of Yosemite)
  • shifting demographics
  • cost of visiting parks (gas excluded)
  • park fee hikes
So what's with picking on video games Ben Arnoldy & Brad Knickbocker (the writers [love the name Brad!]). I mean, seriously, WTF mates?! At best, your headline is a gross exaggeration. At worse, you're simply creating a lie through false pretenses since the National Wildlife Federation quote does not even correlate those activities with anything else let alone nature park visits. Hey guys, your community college called, they want the journalism degrees back.

Fighting a losing war

... against video games that is. It's been revealed that the governor of Illinois blew a $1 million trying to ban violent video games, which (last I checked) were protected by the First Amendment.

"The governor raided funds throughout state government to pay for the litigation. Some of the areas money was taken from included the public health department, the state's welfare agency and even the economic development department."
Well, it appears that public health and support for the poor is just not as important as trying to make a conservative political statement. "Some lawmakers who voted for it called it a bad law, but said they had to go along for political reasons."

That, my friends, is the crux of our problem. This game problem will go away in about 10 to 20 years, when the first gamer generation becomes old enough to yank the political agenda away from the gnarled hands of the boomers. Until that happens, we will continue to be targeted because the video game issue is not a violence issue, it's not a censorship issue nor even a moral content issue. It is a generation issue.

The birth of console games occurred in the 80's, which means that anyone over 40 will not understand growing up with games, violent or not. I'm sure the same thing happened to rock and roll; no one worries about it now because the opinion and policy makers of today grew up on that stuff. This ban/censorship thing won't go away because it's easier to point at issues you don't know rather than deal with the issues you do know.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Search is not everything, says Google

Ok, they didn't really say "Search is not everything" but the implication is there. Why else would I run into a banner ad from Google trying to sell me on Google analytics? In the toolkit of tactics to use in online marketing, search gets a whole lot of attention because it's very effective and efficient. Its most critical weakness is reach.

You just can't run a search campaign if no one knows about your product. Also a serious problem is if people rarely search for related topics to your product. In those situations, you can't rely on search to do much legwork. You need to do stuff like banner advertising.

If Google is doing it, you can bet it's a good idea. And that's been your daily online marketing tip (daily tip does not represent any actual promise of daily deliver of tips, your consumption of the daily tip acknowledges your understanding and waives any rights or expectations)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Who really pays your bills?

via The Consumerist, a study has shown that companies in the top 20% in terms of customer satisfaction also happen to outperform the general market by about 40%. Let's paraphrase that: Companies with great customer satisfaction are richly rewarded.

Now when I first read this article, I thought, "Duh". But then a few days later, I ran into a waiter who responded to my request for a side salad instead of fries (Look, there's a reason why I haven't posted any pictures of myself lately. Can you say Tubby McTubbs?) with the phrase, "We don't do that"... emphasis on the "we" and "that". When struck in the face with such abhorrent behavior, regardless of whether or not it's a customer server to customer servee situation, I get flash frozen by shock and then pathetically crumble. I'm not good with confrontations, especially when spit + food can still be a valid equation.

So instead, I seethe. And seethe I do extremely well. But it brought back to mind this study and how it reveals a truth in business. No matter what you do, if you screw the customer, you're screwing yourself. Which brings me to the purpose of this post: How many MMOs out there are appropriately allocating resources to customer service?

When I was brand managing games, I spent nearly half of my day immersed in the community. This was half because I'm a gamer myself and was power tripping on being on the other side and half because my business training told me that giving a lot of love to the customer pays off. I'd like to think it worked but we never got the sheer volume of people the bigger MMO's can claim. What would a study done in our industry regarding customer satisfaction and success of the game show us?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Brilliant satire = atonement?

Cynical marketers everywhere are rejoicing today at this viral:




Absolutely brilliant! The problem is, making fun of a problem is wholly different than solving the problem. This is, by the way, brought to you by Microsoft, who, reading between the lines, wants you to stop dating losers and go home with them instead. The viral is part of a "discussion" effort regarding marketing relationships.

When the hell did Dr. Phil get all up on our marketing asses? Hmm, anyways, will be interesting to see what they cook up on that site.

Google Wii-der

The Google RSS reader has been tweaked for the Wii, read all about it. More importantly, we now get to come up with a new portmanteau for this relationship (ok, it's not really a relationship, more like a first time "wassup" txt msg between friends of friends.).

Let's see... how about:

  • Wiigle
  • Goo-Wii
  • Gootendo
  • Googlii
  • Giigle
Oh man, they have to do more together just so I can write that something has "sweet Goo-Wii goodness".

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

One is a lonely number

Part 1:
Halo 3 is coming on Sept. 25 (Joystiq). I'm a fan of the first two, like just about everyone else, but I'm not getting a good feel about the third. I think there's an inherent problem with a third installment of any title. The first establishes it as a great game. The second shoulders the responsibility of keeping to the original but adding enough newness to make things interesting. This leaves the third to do what exactly? Add more new stuff and risk moving too far away from the first? Not add enough stuff and get stuck mirroring the experience of the second? Guess we'll find out in a few months.

Part 2:
NextGen covers a single potato chip of a hint on what may be in store with the sequel to LocoRoco, my favorite game of 2006. Also in the story is a snippet on the creator's process to get the original game made. You know, the fact that an innovative game can still be sold gives me decent warm fuzzies. The fact it probably will never be released on the Wii makes me sad. It'll be a PSP and PS3 exclusive with some six-axis goodies. Frankly, I haven't really figured out the six-axis thing. Moving both hands and arms like that is totally unnatural as compared to the very satisfying swashbuckling feeling of using the Wiimote.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday randomness

This banner ad caught my attention today. It says, "Your audience is on our network". Casale, the advertiser, is a media company. What they're trying to say is that you can find who you want to market to on their network of sites. I get that part, that's good to know.

I've been desperately trying to find undersexed soccer moms who run errands around town on mounted young studs. Thank god I know where to go now.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hack the Universe on YouTube

I was surfing around YouTube today and came across some interesting category of videos: Morally-Hazy How-To's.

Do this search on YouTube and you get about half a dozen videos showing you how to hack BOTS (yeah, that game with which I have some history). Do this search and you get many more on how to hack an Xbox. The list goes on.

This kind of stuff makes me wonder. How much tolerance would we have if someone showed you how to steal something tangible? Apparently, about the same. Search for "hack vending machine" and you get yourself a nice set of tutorials. You know, I'm sure if I sat down and thought of a few more things of an illegal nature, I'd find a video or two on YouTube showing me how to do it.

When we're talking about the threats to society from YouTube, how important is copyright infringement vs. software & hardware hacking vs. real world illegal stealing? Granted, the copyright issue has big pockets and thus a louder voice but clearly there are things we should probably address that is of a much more deviant nature. Scary shit out there folks.

In other news: Baby drivers can't read street signs

A new study making the rounds in the press concludes that iPods could cause pacemakers to malfunction. A very serious concern indeed. But to show you how the perfect headline can get ahead of itself let's take a closer look:

It was "a study presented by a 17-year-old high school student to a meeting of heart specialists Thursday"

My favorite quote: "'Most pacemaker patients are not iPod users,' Jongnarangsin said."

You don't say.

Look, I'm not discounting the kid's study. It's actually an important finding as our populace moves towards a generation where on-person peripherals are as important as clean underwear. The problem is that this is nothing more than an overemphasized headline and it has as much real value as the latest news on Paris (the tramp, not the city). What's wrong with journalists today?!

Hit him in the Cheetos

Next Gen has a great article on marketing and branded games. Cheetos hired a game company to develop a branded paintball game.

The developers had thought it would be a great idea to let the kids shoot the famed mascot. They were right. The kids would have loved that. The marketers didn’t. The game was scrapped.
Oops.

Personally, this is probably an overreaction on the part of the marketers. It's not like the kids would be able to kill the character, jump up and down on him and chant "Doritos is great!" It's paintball, everyone is fair game. Take the flip side of this and you could see the marketers potentially wanting the Cheetos Tiger to have super powers (of course only after eating Cheetos), flying around and hitting everyone with extreme accuracy.

As games become more and more a legitimate medium on par with TV, radio and the like, marketers are going to have to realize that absolute control is foolish. I frequently run into the same situation when clients want to create a community online but refuse to allow unedited comments from the community. It doesn't make sense just like having a shooting game with your mascot and not allowing someone to frag em doesn't make sense.

Random thought: So if this game had come out, would my fingers get all orange after playing it?

Random image: I wonder what the marketers think about this girl in a Cheetos bath.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Google Worth

The Wall Street Journal covers (might be subscription only) an interesting phenomenon of late. People Googling names before they decide what to name their new baby. If your last name is Smith, probably not a good idea to name your kid John Smith, though Jonas Smith is not too bad. Me, I don't actually show up until page 6. As we move towards completely archiving our lives, from online baby registries and announcements to angsty teenage MySpace profiles to professionally Linked In, we are becoming more and more instantly searchable. What effect might this have on this upcoming generation?

Well, if you take a look at what it's done with brands and marketing online, you might get a taste for what's to come at home. As common word .com urls started to become unavailable, marketers with new companies had to start getting fancy. Hence new product offerings with made-up or loosely spelled names: Flickr, Digg, Zazzle, Meebo, del.icio.us and the like. The wave of Web 2.0 offerings weren't just about social media or new site features, it was also about defining yourself online which meant making yourself searchable online.

Has it worked? That's hard to say. The value of a unique web name is front loaded. That is, you only really need it when no one knows about you. Once you gain some traction online, search engines should gradually increase your rank. When you're a true success, the value of the name is gone since you're playing with the big boys on page 1 now. I'm sure in the very beginning, when someone is trying to find you for the first time, the unique name is critical. But having a weird name isn't that great either, what if no one remembers it in the first place? What was that photo sharing site? It had a weird name like Flash'r or something.

Anyways, you can see the parallel that baby names might take. Will this next generation of kids find themselves at grade school roll call responding to names like, "J'hnny Smith", "Teepo Bryan" or "MySarah Morgan". You know, I used to wonder why all the names in those sci-fi novels were weird. Now I know.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Losing Faith

I normally don't venture into politics so I hope you'll forgive me for this trespass. The House passed a bill yesterday that basically extends the definition of hate crimes to cover sexual orientation.

The major lobbying group opposing the legislation? Conservative religious groups. You see, some people believe that God does not approve of Adam and Steve. They want to be able to freely condemn homosexuality and mark homosexuals as deviants in our society, not a group that should be protected from hate crimes. The unspoken but general idea is: God hates gays so we should be able to say whatever we want. Replace God with Allah, replace gays with infidels and let me know if there's any real difference between any religiously-generated hate. It's dangerous. But you know, let them say whatever they want in Church.

We are a free country. We should be able to say whatever we want. Thank God this proposed law doesn't appear to change that. It only punishes those that act upon or truly incite hate crimes. The fact is, the opposition is targeting something bigger. This is simply a maneuver to further ostracize those that don't fit into the conservative Christian view of America. It's shameful.

By the way, guess who is threatening to veto the bill? Don't get me started on him.

Good coverage here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Full Mahna, Let's Roll

After 35 years in complete obscurity, the Mahna Mahna song comes to haunt us in commercial form. For those of us neither dexterous nor quick enough to man the DVR fast forward button, we've been subjected to not one, not two but three ad campaigns using the song within the past year (Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper, Saturn and Big Lots). It may come as a surprise to you but apparently, creative guys at ad agencies "borrow" ideas from each other. I know, shocking. Let me be the first to say, stop it. It's embarrassing to the profession that we can't use an original song.

Ok, with that done, let's talk about that DVR thing. This is an open letter to everyone that watches TV with me. No back seat DVRing! You are not allowed to bestow a score at the end of every commercial break. It's my house, therefore, I don't need to hear a single peep if I don't stick the landing. Also, if I feel the need to pause, that's all good too. Got it? Thanks!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Thanks for the "ad"

According to Next-Gen: GameTap, the game network that digitally distributes titles to your PC, is now offering a free to play ad-supported option for select games. Some choice quotes:

About nine months ago Snyder and the GameTap team began to realize that its paid-subscription-only model is counterproductive to expanding the reach of the compelling service.
Also, our demographic was looking for an easy way to play games without making a huge time commitment or financial commitment. So we figured why not have all options for all gamers?
This is pretty cool stuff. Like I've been saying for a while, there's a market out there for ad-supported games. We need to stop thinking about in-game ads as the "product placement" type stuff you see after you shell out $50 for the game itself. Rather, we should think about in-game ads as a new option to consume quality content for free. It just makes so much sense for everyone involved.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fugliest new word of the day

Exergames, exertainment and exergaming are all words to describe interactive games that get you moving. Just because the words show up in an LA Times article, doesn't mean it's too late to change em right?

Just try to tell me you don't notice the word stand out like a pimp in an opera:

"Mainstream gyms, however, are reluctant to commit to exergames, even though cardio equipment manufacturers and exercisers have embraced integrated televisions and MP3 players."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekend Reading List

Just one item on the list, because it's long but trust me, it's well worth it. Here's a brief summary:

The Washington Post and a world-class violinist executed a brilliant social experiment. Put the violinist in a well-trafficked metro stop, have him play like any old street performer and see what happens. The results are fascinating. Everyone will probably take away something different from this story but for me, it's a story about marketing.

So much of what we value is based on context. Would you pay the same for Starbucks if it was in a foam cup and served at a hot dog stand? Would you think less of the same coffee if you only paid a quarter for it? As much as we sometimes hate marketing, it is intimately ingrained into our lives. When we buy Starbucks coffee, we pay significantly for marketing. It makes us feel good.

We have a relationship with marketing that provides us a framework for our daily decision-making. Without it, everything becomes utilitarian, everyone, the same. Without the location, the tickets, the ushers, the press, the posters, a world-class violinist with a multi-million dollar violin becomes just a street performer. Without marketing setting the bar for our sense of value, could we reach the highs we want our money to give us? I'm not so sure.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Random observation

The rule for male hosts on talk shows:

  • 1 guy - Acceptable especially late night
  • 2 guys - Only acceptable on radio
  • 3 + guys - Only acceptable when talking about sports
That is all, carry on.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Warning: This story will give you cavities

The next installment of Rachet & Clank will include an unlockable character that pilots a flying saucer. The character is based on a 9-year old paralyzed kid whose family will be featured on ABC's Extreme Home Makeover. To make the story even more heartwarming, the kid's father was paralyzed in Iraq.

"We were immediately moved to do something special for the Westbrook family when we learned about their tragic situation and James' passion for video games," Insomniac Games founder and CEO Ted Price says. "For all of us at Insomniac, this opportunity to help such an amazing family with our game-making experience was a real honor. We've never inserted a member of the public into our video games, and we think it's incredibly appropriate that James will be the first gamer to enjoy that unique experience."
You know, as cynical as I am, I don't for one second believe this was done for the PR push. I believe this to be an honest effort by the show's producers to find like-minded game developers to make a kid's dream come true. I feel so warm and fuzzy I'm going to completely ignore the professionally written joint press release by both companies. La la la, can't hear you. La la la!

via GameDaily

Virtual Worlds

Great article on Gamasutra about virtual worlds from the first conference devoted to these spaces. Look for nice snippets on marketing via the newest evolution of advergames. Also discussed are innovative revenue models for these worlds, including in-game advertising.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Marketer of the Moment

The Marketer of the Moment award goes to one Chris Stanley of London's Natural History Museum. His achievement? Stanley effectively got an entire country (not ours) buzzing about his discovery of a new mineral by linking it to kryptonite (yeah, Superman repellent).

Hit the link below for the full story but here's some great snippets:

The actual mineral found at a mine near Jadar does not glow, is not radioactive, has very tiny crystals and is white rather than green.
The museum quoted Stanley as saying he searched the Internet for the mineral's formula -- sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide -- and found the same scientific name written on a case containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luthor in the movie.
That guy is one clever little rock collector. He used the classic gravity slingshot maneuver on something with a much bigger cultural pull and propelled his little discovery into a nice buzzworthy trajectory. Well done!

via Reuters

Monday, April 23, 2007

Righteous Indignation For Sale

In what has to be the most "icky" marketing campaign of the year, Nike "extends the conversation" brought about by that Imus guy's inappropriate comments. Buying a full page ad in the Sunday NY Times, Nike shamelessly hijacks the controversy to promote their shoe brand. Because some copywriter obviously thought their witty repartee was worthy of subverting true national problems, I'll indulge them by including the full ad copy:

Thank you, ignorance.
Thank you for starting the conversation.
Thank you for making an entire nation listen to the Rutger's [sic] team story. And for making us wonder what other great stories we've missed. Thank you for reminding us to think before we speak.
Thank you for showing us how strong and poised 18 and 20-year-old women can be.
Thank you for reminding us that another basketball tournament goes on in March.
Thank you for showing us that sport includes more than the time spent on the court.
Thank you for unintentionally moving women's sport forward.
And thank you for making all of us realize that we still have a long way to go.
Next season starts 11.16.07.

Aside from the words, the ad includes a simple little swoosh. Not bad. You know Nike, you almost had me. The copy is pretty good. Not even halfway through, the repetition of "thank you's" successfully brings the sarcasm home and by the end of the lines, I'm actually believing the thank yous might be for real. Yes, this is truly poignant writing. Unfortunately, something is not quite right. Like a completely rotten apple, held miraculously together by the thinnest layer of wax, this perfectly glossy piece of art is repulsive at its core.

Nike, if you truly wanted to help, you needn't have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on a full page ad and then follow it up with a full banner ad campaign. No, a simple scholarship to Rutgers would have sufficed. But hey, let's be honest, you weren't out to help the cause. You saw an opportunity to interject your well-crafted volley of words into an otherwise marketer-free discussion.

In doing so, you have shown the lowest of lows of our profession. You have shown that even Nike is no better than the price gougers after a fierce storm. Though you're not selling water for $10 a gallon, you are pushing a product upon the vulnerabilities of the public after a crisis. It's shameful and it makes me ashamed to be in the same discipline.

"Extend the discussion" my ass. What's next, a line of shoes dedicated to Virginia Tech?

Via AdAge

Friday, April 20, 2007

I'm watching you

From Reuters, "Venezuela launched a Zeppelin on Thursday to patrol Caracas, seeking to fight crime in one of Latin America's most dangerous cities but also raising fears that President Hugo Chavez could be turning into Big Brother."

"Police will be able to control the blimps remotely, steering them over the city of about 5 million"

I'm simultaneously deeply disturbed as well as totally excited about the thought of police state zeppelins in an urban setting. Just load a turret on those puppies and it'll be just like those awesome animes and sci-fi flicks. Can't wait for the barcode tattoos!

Barbie caves to competitor

Barbie recently launched the beta of their new virtual world "Barbiegirls" and it signals several interesting developments from the age-old toy brand. First and most obvious is the entry into the virtual doll space, something that no doubt will significantly change the way we think about playing with your Barbie. But the Barbie brand hasn't been shy about entering the interactive entertainment space as they've licensed several game titles before. The more interesting thing for me is the shift in "look".

Take a look at the Barbiegirls site and you notice that this isn't your classic Barbie. In fact, the avatar (image to the right. Barbie is on the right) is nearly identical to Barbie's latest and most threatening competitor, Bratz. Are we seeing Barbie throw in the towel? Can this be more than the launch of a virtual world but actually a test initiative to see if Barbie can hang with the Bratz crowd? I think so.

I have to hand it to Barbie. It takes a lot for a brand to reposition itself and admit defeat. They probably could have done it sooner but for a brand like Barbie, it understandably takes a while to change direction (partly because you also don't want to dilute the brand by changing everytime a new trend pops up).

Here's another thought: Is our idealized female image now a teenage girl? Barbie, I believe, represented a young independent woman, early 20s at least. With Bratz a manifestation of our idolatry of Lohan and crew, have we shifted our preference even younger? That's a scary thought.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wii Don't Love Katamari

According to IGN, the next gen sequel to Katamari Damacy will be available on the PS3 and Xbox 360 but so far, not the Wii. Damn. That sucks.

This is perhaps the first title that I genuinely care about that's not Wiibound (rimshot). Is it because of the next gen capabilities or lack there of?

"As for the Wii, while the system was under consideration for the game, he [Katamari director Jun Moriwaki] feels that Nintendo's unique controller provides some difficulties that have to be worked out first."

The controller? Makes no sense. If my grandma can learn to love it, so can you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pop pellets faster than Anna

The Pac-Man World Championship begins next week. Yeah, I'm talking about that "wakka wakka" game and yes, I did say next week. It's retro time folks. Go ahead and give your pants a double cuff roll, we're electric sliding back into the 80's.

Don't want to go back? Yeah, me neither but apparently some people think it's a good idea. These include:

  • The Xbox Live Arcade which will host the Championship
  • Quiznos, which is sponsoring and will give out boatloads of sandwiches to the winner
  • The worldwide idiots shelling out $5 worth of Xbox Live points to enter the tourney
I can't tell which connection to Pac-Man is more ridiculous, the next gen hardware maker trying to leverage a 20 year old game, the sandwich maker trying to squeeze between two slices of "cool" or the middle-aged gamers trying to "school" those kids spoiled by over-hyped "grafix".

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I bet Master Chief smells dreamy

Similar to slapping movie characters on cereal boxes, Mountain Dew has licensed the Halo 3 title for a new beverage: a limited edition "red-hued, citrus-cherry-flavored" highly caffeinated Mountain Dew. Apparently, you'll need all that caffeine to finish describing it. The bottle proclaims it to be "Game Fuel". Hmm, one wonders how the prospective brand managers pitched this to their companies...

*Mountain Dew Offices, Morning*
Dew Brand Manager - "This makes sense for us, the demographics of the Halo 3 target aligns perfectly with ours. In addition, the expected brand lift and immediate sales of the product should provide positive return on the campaign. We expect a residue lift in sales for the entire brand well into the new fiscal year."

*Meanwhile back at Bungie's office*
Halo 3 Product Manager - "Money! Money money money! Did I mention money bitches?!"

You know, as far as product tie-ins go, this does make a lot of sense. The one thing that seems to be missing for me, though, is the extrinsic value of the product. Sure, there's more caffeine in it and sure it's branded with my favorite game but would I as a consumer really start drinking or drink more Dew because I can stare lovingly at Master Chief while doing so? You know, this may have worked when I was 7 and screamed bloody hell at the grocery store when I didn't get a product with my favorite character on it. I'm not so sure it has the same pull to someone who can just as easily throw down a few Red Bulls.

Where's the sweepstakes? Where's the loyalty points? What do I get out of it? Frankly, I don't see this promotion having any legs unless there's something more than the co-branding.

"Did I mention money bitches?!"

image stolen from some dude's post
via AdAge

Monday, April 16, 2007

Forget Big Brother, Watch Out for Google

The biggest news in the online marketing industry this week was the acquisition of DoubleClick by Google for a reported $3.1 billion. If you didn't know, DoubleClick is the largest full service ad server in the industry. If you've been online today, chances are you've already hit a dozen ads served by DoubleClick.

Why did Google pay $3.1 billion for something they already know how to do? Was it for DoubleClick's earning potential? Probably not, the word on the street is that they're paying upwards of 30 times earnings (moderately high if you compare it to others in the space). Google isn't interested in buying someone else's business to run, it bought DoubleClick for one simple reason. Data.

With the acquisition, Google now has the ability to monitor almost all online behavior. They can now plant the same cookie for all your online activities such as gmail, search and surfing. The latter will find you either through Google's own vast network of AdSense sites (these tend to be the small guys trying to make a buck or two on their traffic) or now through DoubleClick's network (these are in almost all of the big publishers). The data we're talking about is incredibly powerful and as we can tell, valuable. Just imagine how well Google would be able to target an ad to you if their cookie has followed you all day long.

I'm sure the privacy folks are going to take note.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Productive citizens play to farm, not have fun

BBC reports that China is making their online game providers limit the time that kids under 18 can play online games. This will be done by slowing progress (such as points) after three hours. After five hours, you don't progress at all and you get nagged with an on screen warning. This is, of course, to combat the growing problem of game addiction in China.

You know, they might be on to something. I don't agree with the government tinkering with game access but I do think that parents might find this interesting. In general, parents don't have many options when dealing with kids and games. It comes down to an on/off decision. Would be interesting to see parents given the ability to punish creatively.

  • Your gold is mine until you clean up your room!
  • You're grounded and I'm taking away AOE spells from your mage!
  • I've set you for only 2 rezzes this weekend, good luck out there champ!
Oh boy, my kids are gonna be sooo screwed.

By the way, traveling again today and tomorrow. Be back weekend-ish or so.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

House Cleaning, emphasis on the Ho

via BusinessWeek

Take-Two, makers of the Grand Theft Auto series "welcomed" a new management team recently. Today they announced their 100-day plan to reform the company. Let me paraphrase the plan:

  • We promise to stop cooking books and the only options we'll mess with is Cool Ranch or Salsa Roja
  • We uhh.. took a look around the office and sports is probably not our thing
  • We're going to "purge noncore and underperforming divisions" such as the newly constructed stripper motion capture studio and Cristal fluid dynamics engine project
  • "The watchword is integrity": We're going to watch it very carefully and if that fucker tries to move, we'll shoot him in the head.
Good luck guys, I hope the reform (GTA4) project goes well (sells 100MM copies).

Monday, April 09, 2007

Game advertising's high score

According to recent eMarketer research, in-game ad spend will reach $969 million in the US and close to $2 billion worldwide.

Looks to me like we flatten out somewhere past 2009. Wonder why...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Duck!

Joystiq hypothesizes on some stirrings that would bring the Wii Gun to reality.

Hands down, I don't think I've wanted a peripheral this bad since the BMW became iPod supported.

Now if only they create a game where you can knock off Mii's. Can you imagine the "family fun" that can be had? Oh man, good times!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

And then we'll charge $12 for popcorn!

Wired reports that the E3 replacement with the ridiculous name has just announced prices. It gave me an excuse to visit the site wherein I found this little blurb about the event:

They say good things come to those who wait — and they’re right.

E for ALL™ is the world’s first electronic entertainment show that brings game enthusiasts face-to-face with industry giants and the latest, hottest up-and-coming products. Test drive the newest and try out the not-yet-released games you’ve been waiting for.

E for All™ is powered by the people, and you’re in the driver’s seat. It’s going to be one wild ride! You in?

You’ve waited long enough for a show like this. See you in October!

If this expo delivers everything as promised, how exactly is this different than E3 (aside from the wave of inferior humanity that wasn't smart [or connected] enough to score badges at E3)? Anyways, that PR drivel above makes me all gassy and bloated inside. I'm sitting here imagining all the noise and insanity of E3 with the added bonus of the total lack of that little voice that says "I guess I shouldn't screw up since I'm wearing a badge with my name and company on it".

Hmm, anonymity eh? Well in that case... I can't wait to be there the first day! Dude, see you at the free Mt. Dews!

I digress. You know, the more I think about it, the more I think this was just a giant conspiracy to make money. It's just inevitable that this will turn into E3 of old. The press won't avoid it and the publishers won't be able to resist strutting. I know... I'm repeating myself from older posts but frankly, with the price of admission out in the open now and no other discernible differences, I can't help but think this is a plain ol'fashioned money grab.

E3 is dead, long live E3!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Google knows who you fragged last night

Google has filed a patent for targeting in-game ads based on player behavior. I don't have the patience to read through the actual patent but according to the MarketingVox article, it will serve you ads based on your actual in-game behavior and choices. For instance, if you choose race with a fixed-up Toyota rather than a stock Ferrari, perhaps you're in that Japanophile category of users.

The potential for this kind of data makes me salivate. Do healers have different shopping patterns than nuking mages? Can I find out what type of clothes you would buy IRL by the type of items you choose in-game? Figuring out this stuff will introduce the new evolution of games and marketing.

I'm still waiting for someone to make a connection between games and real life spending. I'd like to see a loyalty program where the more I spend offline, the more I get online. Drink Pepsi, get platinums. Would it kill immersion? Probably but it wouldn't apply to most games, just ones where this type of synergy would be valuable to everyone concerned.

Friday, March 30, 2007

OMG!! I <3 Danica!

Perhaps taking a hint from 15 year old lonely girls, Michael Eisner's new project (sans Disney) is a web-based show. The "show" is already promising 80 (that's right, eight zero) episodes that are 90 seconds each. Why would we possibly want to watch 80, 90 second episodes? Well, because the show is about chicks killing each other to become prom queen... Awesome! From a Wired article.

"The premise: A near-murder mystery set against the final two months of the school year tracks a pack of randy high schoolers as they ramp up for prom night."
Oh, and we also want to watch it because a darling actress friend of mine is a main character; Danica (That's her character's name, I'm not sure if I should use her real name but as a hint, it rhymes with Panama. Heh) That link above goes to the character's MySpace page. From there, you can visit her friends' pages and see their happy pre-prom lives.

So let me see here. Prom girls killing each other trying to become prom queen. Gotcha. Web-based show that you can catch on the main site as well as Youtube and probably other video outlets. Gotcha. MySpace presence and other web content made to look like stuff active teenagers would actually have. Ok. So that's the content but...

... how is everyone getting paid?
"Eisner: Well, there will be actual advertising before the episode and a lot of post roll. We'll keep it short, and there will be banners. With 10- to 20-minute (episodes strung together), there may be (ad) interruptions. Oh, and there are embedded spots -- product placements. With Star Style users can click through (the footage) and buy something."
Ahh, I knew there'd be ads. The Star Style thing is interesting though. So I'm guessing each second of the footage is tagged and if I see a particularly awesome blue tux, I can click to buy. You know, if they ditched the pre/post roll ads, went only with the cool Star Style stuff... they might have had something interesting. As it is, feels a lot like TV squeezed into YouTube.

Anything else Eisner?
"Well, there will be interactive community aspects to it for sure. And we're planning that and actually shooting extra material for that."
Does interactive community aspects mean Danica can add friends on MySpace? Interact with the public like she's oblivious to our voyeuristic endeavors? How do you incorporate community aspects without someone posting, "I totally saw you at Starbucks the other day, you're not in high school!"? "Panama" won't say if Danica gets bumped off early (you suck, where's the insider love?) but if she does, won't it be weird if her MySpace says that her last login was like, you know, AFTER her death?

From my geeky interactive strategist perspective, should be interesting to see how this all plays out. From a personal perspective, I hope Danica kicks ass, takes names and gets crowned. Go Danica!!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm right, they were wrong, bite me

In a post last year, I called bullshit on Second Life. Now, less than 8 months later, the buzz has subsided and marketers have all but given up on the medium.

As if the evidence wasn't overwhelming enough, now comes news that even Second Life residents are feeling unsatisfied with marketing in SL. Via MarketingVox, via Brandweek:

"A survey by German research firm Komjuniti reports that 70 percent of Second Life residents are disappointed in the presence that marketers have established in Second Life...

Even more disappointing are shops and outlets set up by brands, subjected to a certain amount of hype - and then all but abandoned. That non-presence presence is leading to frustration among residents looking for a more truly interactive experience."
I think I said it best when I said:
So let's face it, SL is a waste of time for marketers. When the real virtual world comes (and it will), the experiences in SL will provide little value (probably as valuable as logos on Pogs). I'm sure many marketers know this but until they stop looking good posing with the facade, they don't care.
Ok, enough gloating. Time to move on.

Competitive Maneuvers

As I'm sure everyone else is reporting, the Xbox360 is going to get a new version, the Elite. The move firmly entrenches the 360 in the battle with the PS3. It makes you wonder if they just don't care or have no idea how to deal with the Wii. The 360 brand manager even goes so far as to say:

“We don’t feel like the Wii customer and the Xbox customer are the same thing,” he said. “We think that as soon as the Wii customer turns 14 they want something else.”

Turns 14? Is that a fact based on sales demos or wishful thinking? This is like England being attacked by France and turning around to punch Ireland. Well done.

via NYTimes

Getting to school

  1. Go downstairs and head to street. Make a left. Walk down Raymond past tennis courts of Alhambra Park. Look both ways. Look again. Run across street. Wave to mom. Enter gate.
  2. Go downstairs and head to street. Make a right. Walk down Larch until Palm. Ignore crosswalk light, go across. Walk past sand lot and volleyball court at the Park. Cross street, enter gate.
  3. Go out door. Head south on Novelda until Alhambra Rd. Turn left on Chapel, past monastery. Walk approximately .75 miles to Main. Make right and walk another .5 miles to 2nd. Turn left. Stop at Rick's for soda before 1st period. Continue down 2nd, enter gate.
  4. Drive out of garage. Turn on lights. Take 110 South, then 10W, then 405N. Exit Wilshire Blvd. Turn left on Westwood. Look for parking. Look for parking. Look for parking. Park.
  5. Drive down hill. Left onto Longhollow Rd. Left to Highway 231. Drive down past Tractor Supply Co and Bi-Lo. Make right on Court St. Left into campus, park, close top.
  6. Pull out of garage. Turn left on San Remo. Right on Paseo Westpark. Left on Alton. Right on Culver. Right on Campus. Past Undergraduate Social Sciences Building. Pull into Reserved parking.