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


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.