Xbox Kinect Brings Gesture and Voice to TV Ads
By Sarah Voges
Microsoft has engineered a way for advertisers to bake voice and gesture-based response mechanisms into TV spots seen by Xbox Kinect users. Called Nuads, the product lets marketers add an interactive layer to commercials without requiring viewers to fumble with remote control buttons. For instance, Kinect owners may respond to a call to action by waving a hand or speaking a few words aloud.
The Age of Wearable Electronics Is Here
By John Keehler
Take a stroll down memory lane to see how far we’ve come with wearable electronics. What used to be bulky cameras strapped to giant virtual reality goggles has become sleek, barely noticeable Bluetooth accessories. We truly have arrived at the age of wearable electronics.
Facebook Experiments with Comment Ads
By Colin Hogan
Facebook is experimenting with a new type of ad that invites users to comment on a question posed by an advertiser. The format, which mirrors a status update on a branded Facebook page but doesn’t depend on users signing up, invites a dialogue. The first advertiser to try the so-called Comment ads, Allstate, used the Mayhem character from its commercials, who asked, “What’s the worst thing your kid’s ever done in the car?” Another advertiser, Hallmark, plans to ask, “How do you make summertime a special occasion?”
HBO App Sees Big Growth
By Alex Kenney
This weekend HBO expected the 3-millionth download of their newly released HBO Go app, which gives HBO subscribers streaming access to everything in the HBO vault. With 28 million HBO subscribers in the U.S., that’s almost 10% of the company’s audience that has tried out the app, which is pretty good considering some cable companies like Time Warner don’t offer the option. The app is HBO’s way to offer users the convenient on-demand viewing that Netflix provides, and they’re banking that their content is good enough to maintain the audience.
The Future According to Eric Schmidt
By Brian Kress
At the Cannes Lions Festival last week, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was named Cannes’ Media Person of the Year, and in his acceptance speech, he gave some insight on what the future might look like. Included in his crystal-gazing was a world without credit cards and cars that drive themselves.
There’s a good chance that if you’re interested in the tech industry, you’ve probably seen the 2001 movie, “Startup.com”. The documentary follows two friends as they leave their high-paying investment banking jobs and risk it all to launch govWorks, a website they thought would completely revolutionize the way government works and interacts with its people. I don’t want to pour salt in an old wound (given the time period, you can imagine how the movie ended), but the two entrepreneurs’ dream – the huge idea that would completely change all previously held beliefs about government – was essentially a way to pay parking tickets online. Today, Iceland is crowdsourcing its new constitution on Facebook. BAM! How’s that for human progress in 10 years?
After the country’s 2008 financial collapse, Iceland saw a need to rethink, retool and potentially reboot the way the country was being governed. The Icelandic government saw the rewriting of the constitution as a perfect opportunity to use social media to ensure transparency and public engagement during the entire process. Also, two-thirds of its citizens are on Facebook, so it just made sense.
The 25-member council commissioned with the task to refine the country’s constitution can be found here: Stjórnlagaráð. I would suggest clicking the link unless you happen to have an Icelandic keyboard.
On that Facebook page, you will find what you might expect from a transparent government body –frequent updates from council members, press photos of the events, and even a daily live stream of their meetings. However, the kicker here is that citizens can submit their thoughts, opinions and new ideas for specific articles of the constitution to be considered by the council.
In an interview with The Guardian, Icelandic council member Thorvaldur Gylfason said, “There’s been a lot of goodwill for what we are trying to do. The public has added much to our debate. Their comments have been quite helpful, and they have had a positive effect on the outcome.”
In light of what Iceland is doing, and now that we have our first Twittering president, I’d like to know what’s stopping our great nation from conducting a similar experiment with democracy and social media?
For example, political pundits and the common man alike have complained about the Electoral College for decades. While it was originally intended to help less-populated states during presidential elections, many argue that the Electoral College is completely outdated and gives an unfair advantage to candidates who may not win the popular vote (depends on the hanging chads). It’d be very interesting to see if a provision like this would remain if ordinary citizens were allowed to help persuade a redraft of the U.S. Constitution.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that with an Internet recently overrun with hackers and funny pictures of cats, that the less-intelligent people in our country will abuse the ability to influence the process. But let’s pretend like it’s the perfect world. What would you change about our country’s current Constitution? What new ideas or processes would you suggest?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below and I’ll tweet them to @BarackObama.
Foursquare Surpasses 10 Million Users
Foursquare surpassed the 10 million user mark this past weekend, and the company has released a great infographic to celebrate the announcement. Click through to view the stats on where people are checking in (Old Navy, Bank of America, 7-Eleven, Home Depot and Target top the list) and what their sentiment is when they do so in various cities.
Average U.S. Smartphone Data Usage Up
“According to Nielsen’s monthly analysis of cellphone bills for 65,000+ lines, smartphone owners – especially those with iPhones and Android devices — are consuming more data than ever before on a per-user basis. In just the last 12 months, the amount of data the average smartphone user consumes per month has grown by 89 percent from 230 Megabytes (MB) in Q1 2010 to 435 MB in Q1 2011.”
Facebook to be Top US Display Ad Seller in 2011
Facebook has quickly risen to become one of the biggest players in the US online ad market and by the end of this year will push past Yahoo! to become the top display ad-selling company in the country. eMarketer estimates an 80.9% ad revenue growth over last year – almost double!! – with revenues expected to reach $2.19B in 2011.
HTC Uses Google Goggles For Interactive Campaign
HTC created a cross-media campaign featuring 60 unique pieces of content that “cultural curators” can discover and download by scanning TV, print, or outdoor executions from the campaign. By partnering with Google the campaign moves beyond the QR code to make the entire execution link to exciting digital content created for the campaign.
It’s a great time to be a digitally savvy sports fan. Long gone are the days of sitting on the couch passively watching a game, relying only on the people in the room and TV broadcasters for selective information. Now there are apps, text alerts, Twitter feeds, online streaming, Facebook pages…you name it, and it can be used to augment your fandom. From an advertiser perspective, it’s important to realize just how engaged these fans are within the digital medium these days and to consider advertising and sponsorship opportunities within the space if it’s a good fit with your brand.
The recent NBA finals (Congratulations, Mavs!!) are a great example. NBA.com set an all-time record for streams and page views during the finals alone, with 141 million video streams and 401 million page views, an increase of 89% and 11%, respectively, versus last year’s records. The NBA’s free mobile app, NBA Game Time, was available on almost any platform you can think of, from the iPhone to Blackberry, and Apple to Google TV, and it was downloaded more than 2.5 million times. As a point of comparison, there were 1 million downloads last season, which speaks both to the popularity of the NBA series this year as well as increased mobile adoption rates among consumers.
And then there’s social media. Two hundred fifty NBA players have Twitter accounts and 75 have Facebook pages. Combined, the athletes, league and teams accumulated nearly 120 million fans and followers across Facebook and Twitter.
Compare that to the nearly 24 million people measured by Nielsen who tuned in to watch the game on ABC on Sunday night, and you really realize the enormity and potential of that social media audience. For advertisers, it’s encouraging to see how well the NBA has developed its social media community. As a viewer, it’s fascinating to follow sportswriters on Twitter to get insider information that might not be mentioned by sports announcers catering to the mainstream TV viewer. How serious was that injury? It’s pretty much guaranteed that someone on Twitter will know (or at least be speculating) before it comes across your TV set.
On the other hand, the out-of-market digital experience has improved, but is still far from perfect. Being a NY sports fan living in Dallas, digital has allowed me to stay true to my Yankee roots (though, as you can tell, the Mavericks have found a little place in my heart) through text alerts, frequent Yankees.com visits and watching games online through the MLB At Bat app.
However, there are a lot of kinks to work out with the usual tug of war between cable companies and networks and between platforms. While I could purchase the MLB TV package through Time Warner, this doesn’t translate to being able to watch games online if I want to bring my iPad to the gym. Conversely, paying the MLB to have access to watch games online does not translate to watching on TV, and without 3G on my iPad, I can’t watch at the gym either. Every additional platform and service is an additional charge, and it gets expensive quickly. It’s so complicated that I’ve actually started bringing magazines to work out instead…and for this digitally savvy sports fan, that says a lot.
Anyone out there have any similar frustrations? Or a great digital experience during the Mavericks/Heat series?
I haven’t watched Major League Baseball in several years, but, as bandwagoners often do, I started to follow the Texas Rangers after their recent trip to the World Series. I’ve also noticed how on-screen graphics for sports presentations have evolved to display a vital set of information about the game in a very small area so that viewers aren’t distracted or overwhelmed with information. As an average fan of the game, I can get right up to speed after tuning in to a game already in progress.
In a very small “FOX Box,” as FOX Sports calls it, six crucial pieces of information can quickly get a viewer up to speed in a matter of seconds, with no extraneous information. While taking up a minute amount of space on the screen I can see:
- The teams playing – using three characters mirroring those found in newspaper box scores
- The current score
- The current inning (top and bottom)
- The number of runners on their respective bases
- The pitch count
- The number of outs
FOX uses this same box in their NFL presentations. Again, a small box in the upper left-hand corner displays:
- The teams playing, using team colors and logos only
- The current score
- The time remaining in the current quarter
- The down and distance
- The team in possession of the ball
- The number of timeouts remaining for each team
Providing context is also vital on the Web. One of the primary heuristics of user interface design is called “Visibility of System Status” – We need to ensure the user knows where they are within a process, taxonomy or time frame. Users don’t always enter a site from the home page, so the interface should provide some sort of context within the page where they have landed.
When moderating user testing for an interface, I like to have the participant turn away from the screen while I go to a random page. I’ll then ask them to look at the screen and tell me where they are on the site. Without visual cues, the user is completely lost. Without context, the site appears disjointed.
Some solutions: The global navigation elements need an “ON” state, enabled when any of the pages within its section are being viewed. Each page could also include breadcrumbs (text or text links that give users a way to keep track of their location within programs or documents). Dallasnews.com does a great job with both. They highlight the current section and subsection and provide a breadcrumb so that users can see where they are and easily navigate back to a primary section or page.
Amazon does a good job matching titles within the browser’s header, tab and URL.
Even a simple “Back to Category XYZ” text link on a detail page within category XYZ will help users understand where they are.
While visibility of system status is only one of many heuristics we evaluate for each interface we build, it is probably the most important and simplest of concepts to implement. The next time you are on one of your favorite sites, try closing your eyes, clicking somewhere on the screen and then seeing if you can identify where you are in the site. It’s a fun way to test for system status visibility.
Twitter’s Awareness vs. Usage Problem
While Twitter’s awareness among US consumers has risen to an amazing 92%, the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that only 8% of US consumers are actually using the service.
1993 was a big year. The Mosaic Internet Web browser was launched, NAFTA was signed, Seinfeld won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series and the high school class of 2011 was born. Nielsen congratulates the class of 2011 and takes look at today’s American teen, raised in an age dominated by media choices like never before—from the Internet to cable channels to web connected devices galore.
Facebook Sees Traffic Drop in US and Canada
While Facebook has climbed to 687 million monthly active users worldwide, most of the new users are coming from countries that were relatively late to adopt the social network, while use has dropped off in early adopting countries like the United States and Canada. The number of users in the US fell by 6 million to 149 million during May, which marks the first time the site has lost users in the past year.
Breaking Down the Online Media Budget
Online advertising channels are growing rapidly to encompass more of advertisers’ media budgets, this recent infographic released by Mashable profiles the most utilized tactics within this space against traditional media outlets. Most notably, online advertising currently accounts for more spending than radio and outdoor combined, and advertisers are spending $0.53 for every hour spent with newspapers compared to just one cent for each hour with a mobile device.
Facebook Advertising Improves Conversions
According to a recent study, brands should look to their Facebook community for a cost effective way to push event sign-ups, product purchase and service registrations. “Over the course of a thirteen-client, 4.1 billion ad impression study, TBG found that targeting Facebook fans was more effective than targeting non-fans when it comes to these specific types of conversions… Registration acquisition costs can be 44% cheaper, while event sign-ups cost 33% less and purchases are 15% cheaper to achieve.”
We’ve talked about what it takes to bring a brand into social media and the benefits for doing so, but let’s not forget that one of the best things about social media is that it’s fun. And participating in the fun is a wonderful way to give your brand a personality or revive it for a new audience. We’ve already seen a few great examples, such as the Toyota Swagger Wagon and Ford, but developing your cool factor requires understanding cool.
Defining cool is not easy to do. Webster tells us it’s slang for very good or excellent. And Urban Dictionary has lots of options, but basically it’s the same idea. For me, defining cool takes me back to high school where I was the band nerd and therefore less cool (for the record, being a band nerd totally paid off). So I won’t pretend to have some magic formula for how you, too, can be cool, but the brands that seem to get the buzz have a cool factor, so this post aims to try and figure it out.
From the analysis of both the brands and the people who have been thought of as cool, I’ve developed a few criteria:
- Be unique
- Be you – I know it sound the same as #1, but I mean it a little differently, so hang with me for a second
- Be likeable
Part of what makes something cool is that it’s different. It doesn’t have to be way out there, but it is admired for what makes it unique or how it did something in a new way. When the iPhone came out, it was cool in part because of the Apple brand, but more so because it created a mobile phone experience that was very different than any other mobile experience at the time.
Remember that Old Spice campaign? Of course you do, it’s everyone’s favorite example. But everyone mentions it for a reason. I imagine that, previous to their success in social media, Old Spice needed young men to stop thinking of them as just a brand for their fathers or grandfathers. So they decided they’d try talking to this group in a new way – break a few unwritten rules – and do something interesting and unique. They now have brand equity waiting to be turned into sales because they found a way to be “cool” to a new audience by using existing platforms in a new way.
Ever heard someone say, “They’re trying too hard?” That’s what happens when you try to be cool, but it doesn’t match who you are. In short, it’s the recognition that we can’t just copy a technique that worked for someone else, but must really consider what will work for our brand. Think about what your brand does well, and then think about how social media as a technology can capitalize on those strengths to find that unique path for your brand.
Conan O’Brien is a great example of someone who stuck to what he does best, making people laugh, but found success by sharing his talent in a new way. That success came in the form of 3.2 million Twitter followers, a great social media strategy, and a live comedy tour that led to a hit new show on TBS. By his own admission, his fans pushed him into new media, but now he has become one of the biggest innovators in terms of connecting his brand of funny with his audience. Interestingly, his thoughts on how the traditional and new media intersect are pretty simple: create great content, then use technology to share it.
Cool is perceived. People have to like you or something you do to call you cool. That doesn’t mean you have to be universally likeable – although that will probably get you bigger pass-along rates – but you do need to be likeable among your target audience. After all, the point of your efforts is to create a better connection with your customers, so that filter should be used when planning social media initiatives.
The Bronx Zoo is a pretty typical Twitter account, posting news, event information, pictures and “behind the scenes” bits from the zoo. Then they lost a cobra, and some clever person started the Twitter account @BronxZoosCobra where she tweeted about the snake’s adventures around New York City. This very likeable new side of the zoo gained 239,757 followers in the first four days of the cobra’s exploits. This was not an officially run Twitter account to anyone’s knowledge, although the author of the tweets has not been confirmed. The fake Twitter account and news coverage did, however, help the real Bronx Zoo gain about 6,000 new followers during the week the cobra was missing.
The instant popularity of the cobra’s Twitter page spawned other accounts, like the disgruntled zookeeper, a feisty mongoose and recently a peahen for the bird that wandered away from the zoo on May 9. The Bronx Zoo didn’t try to stop the person posting as the cobra, possibly because they saw it as a way to “connect people to wild nature” as their website states or possibly because they were busy looking for the cobra. Either way, it would be interesting to see how the Bronx Zoo could incorporate the fun personality that made the cobra so likeable into their own initiatives, maybe even partnering with the anonymous tweeter to help her do more of what she’s already doing well.
That’s it for our social media series. Do you have other examples of brands developing their “cool factor” in social media? Do you have another definition of cool? Leave them in the comments.
Selling things is easy when you’ve got an awesome product. And this real estate agent knows she’s selling one of the world’s coolest products.
Favorite line: “Leave your cares behind. Not your family members.”
“Home Alone,” at least in my mind, is a timeless movie. It’s every kid’s dream come true. The parents go out, and all of a sudden, you’re king of the castle. That’s probably why I watched that movie about a zillion times as a kid. Well, that and it was one of two VHS tapes I owned. The other being “Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze.”
What I loved about the video for the house is that the real estate agent makes no bones about why you should buy it. Sure, it’s got a large sunroom, an elegant sitting room and a spacious master bath. Truth be told, it’s a beautiful house. But that doesn’t connect on an emotional level. She knows it reminds people from all over of something that only movie magic can produce.
The owners, on the other hand, seem to play it down. They’re just a family that wants to sell their home. However, from the asking price, I’m fairly certain they know the value of owning the house where Macaulay Culkin single-handedly took down the Wet Bandits. Surely that became apparent when the Japanese ambassador showed up to check out their digs.
Can you tell I would love to live in this house? I don’t care what they say in the video, I would definitely try sliding down those stairs on a sled. I would watch old gangster movies and eat massive bowls of ice cream. And I would definitely make friends with the guy who salts the sidewalk, because I know he would have my back in a pinch.
I apologize if you haven’t seen the movie, but do yourself a favor and watch it soon. Here’s a fun musical trailer for it:
After weeks of rainy weather, it’s 98° in Dallas, which means that summer is finally here. The season of sun, patios and, of course, summer vacations. Whether you’re headed to the beach or hitting the slopes, taking a vacation can be stressful. But it doesn’t always have to be, thanks to some new offerings in the app store.
Here are some useful mobile apps to download before your next vacation:
Before Your Trip
One of the most stressful parts of a trip is the planning stage. From checking the weather of your destination to keeping track of all your flights, there are lots of things to do before you leave. Here are a couple of tools that will simplify your online research.
Booking airline tickets, hotels, rental cars and restaurants leaves you with lots of separate pieces of paper. TripIt makes it easy for anyone to organize trip details into one master online itinerary, which automatically includes maps, directions, weather, restaurant bookings, theater tickets and more right from within the itinerary. Within the app, you can access travel plans, share them with friends, check in for flights or print an itinerary.
If you’re traveling by plane this summer, the FlightTrack app is a simple solution to keeping up to date with your flight information. You can track your flights with real-time departure information, delays and gate numbers at a glance. If your flight is cancelled, the app will help you find an alternate flight. With nearly 1,500 airlines and worldwide destinations, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a flight that it won’t track.
During Your Trip
Once you arrive, you can use these smartphone apps to communicate with others in your group and explore the new city you visit.
When traveling in a group, it can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page. With Group Text from Bightkite, you can start a conversation with a group of friends, and when anyone replies, everyone gets the message. Texts are free and unlimited, and it works with any phone, not just the iPhone.
It seems that we use Wikipedia to research everything these days. Wikihood brings all of this information to your cellphone and organizes it for you based on your travel plans. Using location-based technology, this app automatically shows you a list of notable places around you.
Just admit it, we’ve all been there. You’re in a new city (or in the middle of nowhere), you have to go andthere’s no restroom in sight. Thanks to the bathroom finder app, sponsored by Charmin, you can find the nearest clean restroom to your location.
After Your Trip
Even though your trip is ending, you can still find ways to make the memories last. Use these apps on your flight home.
Adobe Photoshop Express
This app is for the creatively inclined. Use Photoshop Express to make quick edits to photos before posting them to Facebook or putting them in your scrapbook. Simply drag your finger across the screen to crop, rotate or adjust color. You can also easily add filters, effects and borders to your vacation photos. Adobe Photoshop Express is also available as an iPad app.
50 Places of a Lifetime
Once your trip is over, you can always start planning for your next summer vacation and checking off your bucket list with the “50 Places of a Lifetime: The World’s Greatest Destinations” app from National Geographic. The app features picturesque photo galleries, 360° panoramas, interactive facts and short personal essays from each place to help inspire your next choice of a vacation destination.
25 Million iPads Sold in Past 14 Months
At the World Wide Developer Conference, some amazing statistics were released that further confirm the overwhelming success of iOS devices, including that 25 million iPads were sold in the last 14 months since its launch. Overall, Apple has sold over 200 million iOS devices to date.
Apple iCloud Includes Music Service
Today, Apple announced it’s latest music offerings coming this fall, iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match. With iTunes in the Cloud, users can now store all purchased music in the cloud and download to all their devices at no additional charge. And iTunes Match allows for cloud storage of up to 25,000 tracks ripped from CD’s for an annual fee of $25.
Among U.S. adults who go online, 13% use Twitter — and more than half (54%) of these people access the popular social media service with their mobile phone, according to new research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The report also revealed some interesting details about the demographics of Twitter users. For instance, 25% of adult African-Americans who use the Internet are on Twitter, as are 19% of Hispanic Americans, compared with only 9% of whites.
Most Sharing Happens Via Facebook
A new study released by ShareThis shows that 38% of shared links that are actually clicked have been spread through Facebook. Twitter and Email trail with 17% apiece for clicked links, although links shared via Twitter are likely to be visited by more people than either Facebook or email. Further, the study shows that 8 in 10 people will share content only from one category, whether it be politics, shopping, or entertainment.