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Posts from February 2010



On Thursday [25FEB] I'm heading over to the City College of New York to be the inaugural speaker for their MCA Ad/PR lecture series

I shall be talking about some of the things I've been thinking about recently to do with the effect of what we call technology on the advertising industry, and the larger media ecosystem it lives in. 

I've been lucky enough to be asked to speak at various universities over the last few years, from the University of Westminster in the UK, to MIT, USC and CCNY over here.

[And the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in a couple of weeks as part of the Conversations about the Future of Advertising series].

It's always really interesting for me since normally I talk to advertising and marketing people about this kind of thing, but I'm usually stealing chunks of excellent academic thinking, some of which is [hopefully] new to the audience. 

Whereas with a student audience, the academic stuff is usually more familiar, but the real-life advertising stuff is less familiar. 

And it's that mix of things you are familiar with and things that you aren't, things both establish and then disrupt expectations, that is one of the awesome features of recombinance. 

In some ways, this line of thought is itself a function of a false opposition that we set up in reference to education systems - the division between 'academic' and 'vocational' learning. 

I think there is another interesting distinction to be made that works perhaps along the same lines.

Let's say that there are only two kinds of learning. 

Learning things [putting entries into a database] and learning skills or toolsets, that can be applied to different things - installing different pieces of software. 

I've always been in love with trivia and enjoyed looking for similarities across broad reference sets - since I don't follow sports it's probably one of my more masculine qualities. But the corpus of knowledge has long since extended beyond the means of any mind to retain. 

So the new kind of digitally enhanced intelligence that we are supposed to getting thanks to Google will have to be about learning to absorb and deal with new information quickly - which requires robust toolsets - abstract conceptualizations - that can be applied to brand new situations and problems.

Use Your Fingers

Stefan just sent me this lovely example of the kind of thing I was talking about in my Gestures 2010 Provocation thing, that the NYTimes picked up on a few weeks later. 

From TIGS [December 2009]

Some Next Big Things for 2010:

1. Gestures
Gestural interfaces are the future of human computer interaction, at least until we find a way to connect something straight into your brain. Despite the excitement the first multi-touchscreens triggered and the seeming ubiquity of the iPhone touchscreen paradigm it spawned, little has been made of their potential. Things like FluidTunes – an app which lets you control iTunes by waving your hand in front of the built-in webcam – and interactive installations triggered by similar motion detection both show new ways to interact with content, experiences and brands.

As with Fluidtunes, you control the content by waving your hand in front of your webcam - you can also pinch to zoom in and out of photos, analogously to how the touchscreen works on some of the Nikon cameras. 

In a smart piece of distributed functionality, the image interface was exported via a bookmarklet that you can use it on other photo sites. 

So, instead of installing a viewer like CoolIris, the bookmarklet pulls the images back into the Nikon site so you can use the functionality there. 

As we continue to embrace gestural interfaces, and webcam penetration continues to increase [careful when googling for that stat...], expect to see lots more of this sort of thing, and people all over the country waving their hands at their laptops.

Proof of Platform

In a former life, I worked with Google in Australia [on the local and maps launch], in London [on the search/brand story] and in New York [on the first Chrome launch]. 

Across those clients and continents, once thing remained absolutely constant in all the recommendations and discussion: Google doesn't advertise

OK, so even back in 06, Google had already dipped its toe with super-smart recruitment ads and was beginning to realise that it was going to have to promote some of its huge array of products somehow, especially in categories that are strategically vital, like local search and browsers, for ushering in Google's vision of a ubiquitous internet, always on and for all, that it can serve, and serve ads to.

But we always agreed, as Larry and Sergey said in the SEC filing, that Google was not a regular company, and had no intention of starting to act like one. 

So seeing the Google Superbowl spot for search, a category where 100million dollars has bought Bing about 2 point of marketshare, left me a little puzzled, charming and Googley as the treatment was. 

[Although it did remind me of the search stories that were re-constructed from the leaked AOL search data, which were a bit more ominous.] 

[One of the most important things you learn working at, or with, Google, is what is, and isn't Googley. Long term Googlers just know. It becomes instinctual, because Google is a company that understands that a brand is a behavioral template for every person that works there.] 

[A Google engineer once said to me in Australia: aren't all ads spam? - which is what led to this article - because I steal.

BUT then I remembered that: 

Google intends to become the trading platform for all advertising, especially television, 

bringing the granularity of direct marketing and online ad serving to broadcast

that the Google TV Ads product is still relatively unknown and underutilized, 

despite the incredible level of data it can provide,

that Google has been trying for years to help advertisers think about the relationship between Superbowl [or any TV spots] and search and online video

that the ad was conceived and launched, according to Eric Schmidt, as an online film, that became an 'ad', 

[an inversion that I think is probably the right way to think about what we do]

and that the proof of any new platform requires big brand case studies and support, and that having your own is always useful when talking to agencies....

And in fact they have already said they are running Chrome spots across their TV AD network as a LIVE CASE STUDY OF HOW THESE THINGS WORK TOGETHER...because you can use insight from online deployment to better plan the TV, as I've been saying for years, because the internet gives you real data, not nonsense from pre-testing focus groups:

Using some of the results from our placement-targeted ads on the Google Content Network, we designed a Google TV Ads campaign which we hope will raise awareness of our browser, and also help us better understand how television can supplement our other online media campaigns.

and then I thought that maybe this Superbowl TV spot wasn't really advertising search at all.

The Actual Crowdsourcery Bit

smw_newyork on Broadcast Live Free

Goodness me isn't the world fast now?

Gandhi once said that

"There is more to life than increasing its speed"

and he was almost certainly right but I wonder what he would have made of twitter.

[See previous riff on diminished cultural latency for more on this seemingly glib insight.] 

I've literally just left the salubrious agency environs of JWT NYC where I was chatting with some lovely people about crowdsourcing [see the post below for the illustrious people I got to sit with] for the edification of a larger group of lovely people, and the video of it is already online by the time I get back to my desk.

So, like, the event kind of gets distributed across time and space.

Well, not backwards in time, but you get what I mean.



[I was just watching a bit of this - because I'm really vain and that - and it reminded me that I repeatedly rail against the idea that crowds are inherently wise, and therefore crowdsourcing is awesome.

As I say up there in video form, I think the fact that Jeff Howe's Crowdsourcing and James Surowieki's book The Wisdom of Crowds came out around the same time iun 2004 caused some kind of associative conflation, where by crowds are wise, so if you source crowds, that's wise.

Or something.

Despite my brilliant dismantling of this fallacious idea -

[pointing out that in the book crowds are only wise in VERY SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES, usually guessing numeric means, when the crowd can't communicate with itself to cause information cascades, and mostly for guessing the weight of bulls.

Or something.]

- it kept coming back up, not just because no one was listening to me but because it's that kind of idea, one that is ripe for misuse.

It's not that I don't think crowdsourcing can be awesome - of course it can, whatever it actually is, - but the logic flow crowds=wise therfore crowdsourcing = awesome is nonsense. 

No one is smarter than everyone, that's definitely true.

[although we really need everyone to CATCH UP and show Steve Jobs that this is true] 

But as Agent K in Men In Black says:

A person is smart, people are stupid.

[Also see your high school essay entitled The Role of the Mob in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, for more on this idea]

There isn't something intrinsically BETTER about leveraging crowds - like everything it depends on what you are trying to do and other context.

But, if being inclusive, or engagement, or advocacy or other stuff like that is part of what you are trying to achieve, then there is something intrinsically better about crowdsourcing is, because then the process is also the product. 

Research done with 1 million Facebook fans is marketing.



As you may already know, it is now officially SOCIAL MEDIA WEEK - so there are lots of interesting events to check out and parties to go to in various different cities.

I sit on the advisory board of SOCIAL MEDIA WEEK in NYC but I've been a bit useless at helping out this time around.

However, I have promised to be on a panel tomorrow morning - and it STARTS at 9am.

[Although I didn't realize that when I agreed to it.]

Regardless, I shall be there bright, early and caffeinated to discuss Crowdsourcing with some truly brilliant people who all know more about this stuff than I do.

The very awesome and lovely John Winsor [CEO of Victors&Spoils] is moderating:

Ty Montague, Co-President and Chief Creative Officer, JWT North America

Michael Lebowitz, Founder and CEO, Big Spaceship

Saneel Radia, SVP, Alchemist at Denuo

[and me]

I shall attempt not to embarrass myself more than necessary.

If you are there, do come say hi.