Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I'm going travel'n today! Y'all watch that eggnogging, I know how you are!

Friday, December 22, 2006

You try ignoring a train wreck

A research firm in the UK, Bunnyfoot, released a press release on a study on the effectiveness of in-game ads recently. To paraphrase, the firm concludes that in-game ads are a waste of time and that gamers don't engage with them. Well, you know I had to look into this one.

I found the press release. I read it. Before I begin, let's take a sidebar.

Yeah ok, so like, I know what you're thinking. You're like, dude, umm freak'n marketer, of course you hate this study. But it's not like that. I'm totally going at this from a objective perspective. I'm always ready to back down, even cave if you will, when presented with sound data. Hey, I might then shred the methodology but I'd stand corrected until more data was available.

Biggest problem with this press release: there's absolutely no data. The entire thing reads like a one guy's interpretation of a rorschach inkblot test. Straight from the press release (with my comments italicized and in blue):

Results showed an astonishing variation in consumer engagement (We were not able to definitively find results as our data was all over the place. However, we're going to tell a story anyways because we spent money on this puppy). Overall, SFI scores were comparatively low (compared to what?), especially when contrasted with the prevalence of brand placements (So the scores were low when compared to the number of ads shown? Shouldn't you like, compare scores to other scores? You know, instead of comparing scores to your own bias?). Highest SFI scores were found with NBA Live and Smackdown Vs Raw; however, recall and recognition figures were surprisingly low; (surprising to whom? Again, what's the benchmark, what are you comparing to?) a pattern evident across all titles. Moreover, PGR3 elicited no consumer engagement at all, resulting in 0% on all scores. (I stand corrected, this is the only data point in the entire press release)
Like I've said many times on this blog: beware of what you read in a press release. This release has gotten pick up on respectable pubs like Gamedaily, Next Gen and Gamasutra. None of those pubs have questioned the legitimacy of these findings.

Now I don't want to question anyone's journalistic integrity but perhaps the headline from this release was just too good to pass up. Maybe we don't really want to know how true it is, we just like hearing it. In-game ads have generally been received as warmly as a raging case of herpes (not that I know anything about that). Someone puts out a study that seemingly shows the ads to be impotent and guess what, that study will get headlines.

It's almost like they're saying: hey, let's forget about the methodology. Let's forget if the study was a one-off (play this game for 5 minutes while I watch you) or longitudinal (play this game for a few days). Forget about using a control or comparing results to other results. Forget about all that k? Just read the headline.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

BN: The blog you should like totally read

Recently came across two really horrible tag lines.

Greyhound's "Let's Go Dog" and Advil's "I'm All Advil"

Ok, to be fair, it's not easy being a bus service or a pain killer. These products are about as sexy as grandma's thong (Yes, I know I'm asking for more trouble). So now imagine that you're the brand manager for these brands and you have the unenviable task of trying to push more product. Good news though, finance just approved a sweet new marketing budget. You immediately round up the agency talent and have a meeting.... it goes something like this:

You start the meeting with some objectives (because that's what they told you to do in business school).

"People, we need a new direction. It can't be different than the old direction because we spent a lot of money building this brand and we can't mess with it. One more thing: it can't be similar to the old direction because that's not interesting anymore. Ok? Let's brainstorm."

"What about a concise and exciting tag line?" Joan, the copy writer, says.

"What about a new logo?" Daniel, the art director, states more than suggests.

"We need our own 'Just do it" Joan says, jotting down the phrase in her moleskin notebook. She then doubles back to reinforce the crosses on the t's, each stroke appearing to strengthen her confidence in the idea.

"Yeah like that swoosh logo." Daniel says, nodding in no one in particular. You hear the distinct sound of an out of control pen tip ripping across paper. The moleskin closes with a snap.

"How about a catch phrase?" You offer.

There's a pause, more than likely the brilliance of the idea is sinking in. Joan looks like she likes the idea and says, "I like that idea!". From the other side of the table, Daniel leans back in his chair and begins to intently examine the back of his pen.

"Ok, come up with some options and let's regroup next week." You say with satisfaction.

"We're going to have to get back to you on the timing" says an account executive that you swear wasn't there a moment ago.

"That'll be fine."

Weeks go by and finally you get to see some concepts. They're all horrible. You try to reject them all but you're told revisions would take a few more weeks. You don't have time like that; top floor Sharon wants to see results this quarter. So you go with the concept you hate the least. This turns out to be...

Let's Go Dog! (or I'm All Advil!)

The good news is that they went ahead with the site idea you had. You've been reading a lot about consumer generated content online so now you're all about starting conversations with your customers. You required the site to have that very trendy "submitted content" content. In fact, you even called up the agency just to make sure they have the bandwidth to cover all the people that'll be coming to the site. "Maybe we should hire some college kids to filter out the submissions. Will 20 kids be enough?" You ask yourself.

You start to wonder if your consumer generated stuff will be as big as YouTube. Suddenly, two words pop into your head: Bumper Stickers! You dial the agency.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Weather weathervane

The Wii weather channel is in business. Not exactly a monumental bit of news, you can get weather anywhere. But then I started thinking. As gimicky as it can sometimes be, weather has always been some sort of technology milestone.

  • In mobile communications, Google lets you get weather via SMS
  • Tivo sets went online and one of the first services offered was weather
  • All sorts of items out there (cars, watches, fridges)
I don't think it matters how ubiquitous weather forecasts are and how you'll probably never use it in any of those products (I mean, how badly do you really need to know the 5-day?). What matters is that weather signals that the product is beyond the ordinary, connected to something simple and yet grand. Unlike stocks or news or gossip, weather is universal. Everyone needs to know it and everyone understands it. Weather is hands-down the best candidate for that extra feature.

With that said, adding weather doesn't always mean the product becomes a hit. Like marketing in Second Life, you do it to get people talking but you really shouldn't expect results.

For the Wii, they didn't really need to add the weather function, the product is innovative enough as it is. The weather function in the Wii suggests to me that Nintendo is trying to tell us something. They're saying, "If we can pull weather into the system, imagine the possibilities." I do and I'm impressed.

Monday, December 18, 2006

How do we make the ramp big enough?

This just in: Consumer generated media has jumped the shark. The YouTube thing, that whole Digg this stuff, even the recommendation stuff you did on Amazon the other day, it's all now officially done. Stick a fork in it.

What am I talking about? It comes down to one particularly big announcement recently. Time Magazine just announced their Person of the Year and that person is you. Yeah, you. Feel special? Not so fast, it's me too. And that nice girl at the Gap. Yup, even that guy with the suspenders at work. (What's up with that guy?)

Time thinks this year is all about the consumer taking over media. It's about lonelygirl and those mentos guys but a fair share goes to the unspoken people that have made all those Web 2.0 sites the latest darlings of cool. I think it's pretty cool and I agree wholeheartedly. Problem is, this is the kiss of death. No career survives a Person of the Year, that's the top of the track, it's all downhill from here.

It's a shame too, I was just about to put up my own video series on YouTube. It was going to be called "Confessions from the Bathtub". You would have loved it.

Bonus section:
On a related note. While going to the Time Person of the Year section of their site, I run into this contextually relevant interstitial ad unit (the kind that interrupts you between click locations):Did you read the first copy line of the ad? "You might not be Time Person of the Year" It continues to say something to the effect of "you can drive like one". Oh my god, this is so absolutely delicious, I can't stand it. Can you imagine the look on the agency's collective face when Time announced that the Person of the Year was indeed "you". "But but... we already flighted the ad!" "Dammit!" Let us sit back and sip at the greatness that this is blunder. Mmm, so fresh, so tasty.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Taking a cue from the Bush Rumsfeld hugfest

Now I know I'm not Gawker but this story about Paris Hilton defending Britney's partying was just too good to pass up. You gotta imagine the cringes and winces that this little interview evoked from their entourages.

Britney's publicist, on site: "No Paris, it's fine, you don't have to say anything. Seriously, we got it under control. You really don't have to say anything to the press."

Minutes later: "NO NO NO! Shut up, shut up!.... Dammit!"

In related news, the publicist was last seen on a bender in Brentwood.

Say hello to my little friend

Hey look, it's me! (pronounced: Mii)

And there's Steven Colbert! What are the odds?!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies

Here's an interesting question. Should all advertising you see be identified as advertising? If your initial reaction is yes, then you'll want to head over to NextGen and read this article. Too lazy to click? Yeah, I know that feeling. Here, I'll sum it up for you: The FTC is going to start evaluating viral ad campaigns to see if "the relationship between the endorser and the seller isn't disclosed". What does this mean in real life? Well, that means that if you pay someone to go onto a message board and post about how great your product is, that's a no go. That's cool, I hate those secret astroturfing campaigns anyways.

However, here's where it gets sticky for me: What about viral campaigns that take the form of alternate reality games? Remember I love bees? Or Giantology? Are these viral campaigns deceptive because the advertiser isn't immediately disclosed? Will this inevitably extend to product placements in TV or movies or the stuff a celebrity wears? Should we slap a warning label on every piece of advertising to make sure we identify it as such? Will I stop asking questions and actually say something? Yes.

When I was working on BOTS, we had to identify all of our advertising with a nice 10 point font disclaimer on all ad boxes that said, "Advertisement". This was because we had players under the age of 13 and those poor kids can't tell the difference between an ad and a non-ad. Which I guess makes sense. For example, as I kid, I never knew what paid for TV. The commercials were just more content to me, mini shows, if you will.

But hey, last I checked, most advertising is geared towards adults or near adults. You know... the people in the world with money. We are constantly bombarded with advertising and almost everything you see with a brand in it (TV, billboard, message board or your local park trash can) was more than likely meticulously planned by some account executive somewhere. There's no accidents in advertising. Cynical adults know this and all adults should at least implicitly understand this.

But let's go back to viral campaigns. They are a different beast altogether. What if instead of monetary compensation, endorsers are given something else, something like social capital? The ability to pass along something cool before anyone else or to tout an upcoming product before it's "cool" has value in itself. If an advertiser gathers a group of influencers, do the influencers have to disclose that they were selected to be the seeders? What I'm getting at is that you really can't get into someone's head and find out if their motivation for shilling something is "pure".

C'mon people, let's buck up and realize that the world can not be padded at every turn. Buyer beware. Advertisee beware.

"Life is pain Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

Monday, December 11, 2006

OMG, Redsteel suxxor

For the most part, I try to conduct myself professionally on this blog. Time permitting, I copy edit my entries and my final posts are usually the third if not fifth revision. However, there are moments when well-written (or at least well-intentioned) prose does not do justice to the message one is trying to convey. In these moments, the sheer angst and raw emotion involved demand something less constructed, something more primal, less polite. Something like this:

OMFG! RedSteel for the Wii sucks so hard! Holy crap, where do I start? Ugly ass cutscenes. Stupid gameplay (the sword-fighting is so lame! I sympathize with the children of the developers; those poor bastards that have to hide their face at school. "Nuh uh, my daddy didn't make Redsteel, you're a liar-face!"). Phoned in voice-acting. Level design and aesthetic so frustrating, I think I gave myself a hemorrhoid.

I'm floored, absolutely floored that this was actually released. In the assembly of all games I've ever played, the Time Crisis representative stood up, took a peek at the new guy, winced and sat back down whispering to The House of the Dead, "Damn, that's one ugly mofo".

I think you get the point. For more punishment, see Game Rankings review summaries.

Later this week, my amazing (in a good way) experience with Wii Sports and Zelda.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Browncoats LFG

Here's a quick news bit as my Wii updates (refer to previous post).

The popular (caveat: not quite popular enough to stay on the air yet strangely popular enough to have a movie ) sci-fi series Firefly has given its blessing (read: milked licensing rights for mega bucks) to a MMORPG on the Multiverse Network platform.

Before I dive into the news, just wanted to let you know that I actually did like the show and movie. I call it "The Real World: Millennium Falcon". I can't wait for Whedon to make a new show, hopefully one set in the White House or behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show. =P

Anyways, back to the news. This is retarded. The show was watchable because of the characters, not the universe they inhabited (though I do like the whole Asian domination thing). I can't imagine the Browncoats being excited about running around in this world without somehow being connected to the star characters. I can't help but think this would be like making a Superman MMO that doesn't actually let you to hang out with or be Supes.

via Wired and Amber (who beat me to it and said generally the same things, but don't hold that against her)

(Dammit, why won't this Wii finish updating?!)


My Wii has arrived!

I'd love to tell you all about it but I'm updating it right now. We're currently on the third try as I keep getting an Internet error. Hopefully, I don't have a brick since some other people have run into this issue.

If all goes well, I'm diving in for a nice long session. Rough estimates have me back to the land of reality sometime next Tuesday. Heh

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Late night snack

Hello from the Hilton in Downtown Nashville. It's like 3AM here and freezing, I mean absolutely frigid. Can I just say that I live in the best state in the entire universe? Except the state of bliss, now that's a place you want to buy a timeshare! (It's past midnight, we're fresh out of wit, all we got left are stale puns).

I wasn't going to post because I never get around to posting when I'm not at home anyways (heck, I never post when I'm out of town; even when I promise to post) so why break the trend now.

But here's a late night tidbit just for you. Found an interesting little site via a tip from my friend JB. If you like data and graphs and numbers and all those things that make normal people squint their eyes and reassess the value of your friendship vs. the degradation of their coolness by being in your proximity... then check out It's Web 2.0 meets random data elements. Looks to be a pretty interesting concept.

My main concern is the reliability of data. Usually, people will believe anything in a graph if they think it's remotely plausible. Once information or misinformation is out there, it's really hard to control or pull back. If you think trans fat is dangerous, think about the problems a misleading graph about health risks, investment strategies, brand perceptions/sales, or blog popularity (Branded Newb is the number one online marketing blog on the fourth Tuesday of all months ending in "er". It's true, look it up!) could do to susceptible people.

Swivels seems to be based on people submitting data and then remixing it into insightful or silly visuals. However, is this site going to work if it doesn't run on pure facts but on "social facts" such as what makes Wikipedia work? What I'm calling social facts are not factual per se, they're democratically factual. Just check out all the back and forth that happens in Wikipedia on hot topics like evolution, global warming and the 23rd President of the United States (Benjamin Harrison... or so the "government" would like you to believe).

If the community actually takes the time to monitor data integrity, then I think this has potential to be a really cool resource. If not, well then, I've got a couple data points correlating blog commenting with material wealth. You better get a head start.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Google Maps in My Pants

I don't give enough kudos on the Newb so here's a big one to Helio, the cell (don't call it a phone) phone guys. First, they have an awesome site that has probably one of the best interfaces for shopping for a phone that I've seen to date (or shopping for anything else for that matter).

You can do almost all your decision making within the same page and the information is concise and to the point, no stupid marketing copy or unnecessary legal. If you want more info, it's just underneath the fold. This is how you do online shopping! Such a nice execution, I honestly wished my contract was up with T-Mobile. Check out the screenshot and then head to their site for a test drive to see what I mean.

The second thing they get kudos for is a radio spot that actually got my attention. Heard the spot in my car and found it on Google Blogoscoped. They're hosting the MP3 so as a courtesy, I'm not going to direct link it but you should head over there listen to it. The ad has a song with the lines, "I got Google Maps in my pants, in my pants, in my pants." Nuff said.

I'm heading out of town again today but I'll be back Friday. Happy Early Holidays!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Honey! The ads are creeping again...

You ever notice something, you know, something that's probably been there all along and think to yourself: "When the hell did this new staircase show up at my apartment?" or something similar. That happens to me all the time! The other day, I found a new button on the radio of my car that I swear was not there before. There should be a name for this phenomenon. It should probably be in French, you know, like deja vu. Maybe "Qu'est-ce que c'est!?". Nah, that's too hard to type. How about the Spanish "Que es eso?!"

Nevermind, I digress. Anyways, I got a que es eso moment yesterday when I was doing some Xmas shopping. (This is probably old news in the blogosphere but it's new to me.) Amazon and both have ads in their sites. No, not their own ads, other people's ads. When did this happen?! (btw, the links to their sites are affiliate free, how often do you see that? See, I'm not 100% evil!)

So after I got over my initial shock at seeing this, (and my guilt at not noticing earlier) I started thinking. Of course, the more I started thinking, the more I got confused. Why would they want to do this? Ok smarty pants, yes, I know it's to make money. But surely they're losing something as well.

I mean, are they such giants of e-commerce that they can sacrifice the shopping experience for the added ad revenue? Not only that, why would a shopping site, where I would think the main goal is retention and stickiness, want to give people the option to click off to another site?

The only thing I could come up with is that they're using ad revenue to offset sales revenue and thus be able to offer lower prices, negating the lowered user experience (people shop by price anyways). Still, the whole thing doesn't make much sense to me.

Monday, December 04, 2006

What? Do I look easy to you?

Have you ever been to the world of online marketing? It's a fantastical place; the rivers run with chocolate and flow besides vast orchards of money trees. But try not to blink because those same rivers can very quickly turn into watery avenues of bloated bodies coursing through fields of charred and blackened dreams. This world can blossom or bust in a blink and the only thing you're left with is your own barely audible "Why?".

Why? Sometimes it's the market, sometimes it's your own stupid mistakes. Financial scandals are a good one (mistake that is). So is shopping for Aerons before you're profitable. Now I don't mean to be all doom and gloom (there is no second bubble right?). There is, however, one thing that will always be a mistake and that's not respecting your consumers.

Consumers, like me, are fundamentally conservative. When we walk down the world of online marketing, we keep our purses clutched closely (yeah, I have a man-purse, what's it to you?) and we walk on the other side of the road when we see something fishy in front of us. Safety is one of our highest concerns and privacy is inextricably tied to it. Collectively, we don't like putting out with our personal information until we've been wooed a little, maybe taken out for a few dinners or at least a movie.

So it's with considerable pain, as an online marketer myself, that I see campaigns such as the one by Kettle Chips. I was reading boingboing when I saw their interesting ad in the corner. 5 new flavors of Kettle Chips and I get to vote (on something, I guess the best flavor?). So far so good. A campaign that invites me to participate; what a nice web-savvy concept. So I click.

I get to the landing page of the campaign and I hit this screen. "A world of flavor awaits" it says. Vote for the next flavor to hit the stores, it implies. That sounds cool, I want to vote, I want to see the flavors! "Enter your email and press GO".

[Insert sudden braking sound here]

I have to do what?! You want my email address before I can vote for your stupid chips brand extension? I don't think so. Bye!

I left the site. Frankly, I'm not that kind of consumer. I'm not easy.

I'm sure (or maybe I hope) that there's a ton of cool content behind that screen and that this brand isn't really that bad. Heck, maybe I could even take these chips home to meet my parents. Unfortunately, the rush to get my email address killed this relationship before it even started. This brand didn't respect me as a consumer. Sure, it got my attention but the moment that happened, it asked to get private. If I were the slapping type, I'd slap them for the audacity.

This isn't that complicated an idea so I hope this serves as a reminder to other online marketers. Respect your consumer. They are doing you a favor by visiting your site, heck by even giving you the time of day. Eventually, we'll fork out our private information but only after you've wined and dined us a little, maybe given us a reason to trust you. Such a shame too, I really wanted to vote for those Chocolate Chips if for no reason other than the pun.

I hope they read this. So for the Google crawlers, a little song:

Kettle Chips, Kettle Chips, I've loved your big crunch
Kettle Chips: Chocolate Flavored, you'd go well with lunch
(I can't think of a line but I want to rhyme munch)
You broke my heart, when you asked me to part
with my information, giving me such consternation.
Kettle Chips, Kettle Chips, I've loved your big crunch
Kettle Chips, Kettle Chips, I've loooooved your big crunch.