Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A quick look at augmented reality in 2011

Do you think 3D TV will eventually take off? I'm not sure - but if it does it will go in one of two directions; without glasses and with glasses. Right now, 3D glasses are the most popular. If a glasses free 3D option becomes popular then you might imagine people start wearing anti-3D glasses, especially useful for driving in case advertising screens or shop window displays go 3D.

If you can see a future in which people commonly wear 3D glasses then that's a future in which people commonly wear augmented reality glasses. That will certainly be a tipping point for augmented reality. It'll become common place.

In this half of 2011 most augmented reality is mobile. The booming smartphone market is responsible and we've some very impressive mobile aps. Blippar is one.

Sony recently uploaded an augmented reality demo to their Japanese YouTube channel. It's called "SmartAR", once again it makes some us of mobile devices but its the actual augmented effects that are especially stunning.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Impressive: Rishad Tobaccowala of VivaKi

I'm quite impressed with this video. I don't normally expect the "big agencies", let alone the holding groups, to get it but Rishad Tobaccowala makes a lot of sense. The video was produced for Yahoo's Future of Agency series.

Whereas the concepts of "paid, owned and earned" are well established in grassroots digital and been around long enough to filter up to senior levels, I'd argue that the need for speed and recognising the gulf between what traditional agencies can deliver and what clients need are still progressive observations for a CxO to make.

The Interface is the Message

A commonly quoted maxim in digital ad land these days is that your brand is no longer what you say it is. Your band is now what people think it is, how they experience it and how they describe it to their peers. Social media can be vital here because it's through social media and CRM (more agencies need to offer CRM) that people actually interface with and experience your brand.

Of course, it's not just via Facebook and other social platforms that people experience your brand - your brand produces its own interfaces. Your web site is one key example of an interface. It's owned media.

With this in mind, I wanted to share Aaron Koblin's TED presentation from a few days ago. It's titled "Artfully visualizing our humanity" and is a series of some fantastic interface ideas. Aaron is clearly deeply inspired by the Mechnical Turk and crowd sourcing.

This has some pretty pictures. It's worth watching.

Does Twitter need to buy Seesmic?

Image representing Seesmic as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseAs you’ll know, Twitter has bought the British company TweetDeck. Many blogs predicted this and, I believe, appropriately described the purchase as a defensive move. After all; Twitter already has a client that came to them via their Tweetie purchase. They did not need TweetDeck's tech.

The challenger, the rival bidder, is UberMedia. UberMedia has bought up a host of Twitter clients and already tussled with Twitter over advertising rights and techniques. Indeed, some of UberMedia’s clients were officially banned from Twitter for a while. UberMedia tried to by TweetDeck and if they had succeeded then they would control a lion’s share of the “source” of tweets and reads.

UberMedia, with TweetDeck in their arsenal, would have been able to build some interesting wrappers. They could have, for example, built a group layer on top of Twitter, powered by their servers, which required UberMedia software to use. That might have had traction has so many Twitter users would have been able to use the group feature. They could even have built a messaging platform of their own, one that allowed UberMedia users to communicate to each other, client to client even if Twitter was down. That would begin to leech away from Twitter's core if very successful.

Twitter bought TweetDeck instead. In their blog post they say;

This acquisition is an important step forward for us. TweetDeck provides brands, publishers, marketers and others with a powerful platform to track all the real-time conversations they care about. In order to support this important constituency, we will continue to invest in the TweetDeck that users know and love.

In other words; they’re hinting that there are two tiers of Twitter users – those who’ll be happy with Tweetie as a basic platform but people like you and I who would want something more powerful.

Here’s the thing; TweetDeck is miles behind Seesmic Desktop when it comes to providing a platform for publishers, marketers and other power users. I know I’ve just committed sacrilege and TweetDeck is beloved by many of you; but I’m prepared to defend my position.

TweetDeck essentially handles one account at a time but you can add more accounts and display multiple columns. If you’re using TweetDeck to manage more than one account you essentially have a screen with one (or more) columns for Account A and a different set of columns for Account B.

Seesmic is better. You can have a column that includes tweets from more than one account. One of the most useful columns I find is the mass “mention” column. That’s a single column that shows any tweets that mention any of the accounts you have synced.

Another illustration of how Seesmic copes with multiple accounts better than TweetDeck is when it comes to replying or retweeting tweets. With TweetDeck you can only retweet or reply to a tweet detected by Account A as Account A. You know how that works; you select the tweet in the appropriate column and select retweet. With Seesmic Desktop when you decide to reply or retweet to any tweet you also get to pick which account you wish to send that reply from. I find this vital for power-use.

In addition, Seesmic offers fantastic mobile apps – just as multi-account friendly as the desktop client – as well as a web interface. Seesmic offers plugins. I use my desktop client at home and at a glance I can see the Klout rating of whoever it was who just sent that tweet. Even if I don’t recognise the name I can tell, at a glance, how seriously I need to take that tweet.

In conclusion; I very much argue that if Twitter is serious about providing a platform for publishers, marketing and power users then it very much needs to ramp up TweetDeck’s abilities in this area. TweetDeck became so popular because it was quick, clean and easy to use – not because it supported those features that only power users would need. I believe a quick way to achieve this is to purchase Seesmic.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dark Patterns - black hat usability?

Dark Patterns is a phrase coined by Dr Harry Brignull. They refer to those tricky and "slightly" deceptive usability techniques that websites may deploy - sometimes accidentally - that encourage users to take certain actions.

I recommend this audio enabled Slideshare in which Harry walks us through some examples of bad Dark Pattern practise and some alternative honest patterns.

If you want to read up then I recommend the Dark Patterns wiki.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Changing Scope of Advertising [infographic]

MDG, an ad agency in south Florida, have put together an infographic to try and illustrate the changing scope of advertising. It's quite a challenge! Advertising has become almost atomic with so many micro-niche areas of interest and the rate of change is only for people who hunger for it. In some cases, the work ad agencies should have been doing last month has very little resemblance to the work they should be doing this month.

Yeah, this infographic might be a simplication but I still think it illustrates the changes well enough to make the point. I also notice the use of "Outbound" and "Inbound" in the graphic too. The Google VC backed HubSpot will be pleased.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Do trad ad agencies get social media?

SanFran based ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein are now on Twitter as @GSP. It's taken them a while, only signing up to the site on the 20th of May but they put a lot of thought into their first tweet.

In a video which pokes fun at the question "Do trad ag agencies get social media?" Goodby, Silverstein share their tweeting experience.

Friday, May 06, 2011

How the new AdWords policy could impact social media competitions

Google will be making some sensible changes to their AdWords policy. The search engine will start being stricter with rules around the gathering of personal and financial information.

Google wants to avoid headlines like; “Scammers use AdWords to harvest personal data”. This makes sense; especially as security is seen as one of the biggest barriers to widespread cloud adoption from businesses and Google very much is betting on a cloudy future.

  1. Clear, accessible disclosure before visitors submit personal information
    Our existing policy requires you to clearly describe how any personal information you solicit will be used. Soon, we’ll require that your description must also be easily accessible before site visitors submit their details.
  2. Option to discontinue direct communications
    In the same description of how personal information will be used, you’ll also be required to describe how people can opt out of future emails, phone calls, or other direct communications.
  3. SSL when collecting payment and certain financial and personal information
    Many websites use what are known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connections to encrypt sensitive information that travels between the user's browser and the website's servers. To help ensure user safety, AdWords policy will require all advertisers to use SSL when collecting payments and certain financial and personal information (like bank account and social security numbers).

Let’s just park the SSL issue for now except to say that phrase “and certain financial and personal information” adds weight to the suggestion these will not be machine enforced rules. These will be rules that a suspicious site is weighed against. Google’s not defined what those ‘certain’ financial details are; the assumption has to be along the lines of payments and transactions though.

The first two points are more general and therefore have a wider impact. Just to summarise; soon you’ll be vulnerable to competitors, angry customers, competition losers or even Google themselves suggesting you should no longer be able to run a paid search campaign because you’re collecting data irresponsibly. It may not become common but it is always very unwise to ignore AdWords’ guidelines.

Google defines personal and financial information here. It includes full name and email addresses.

That’s not much. I put “social media competitions” in the title of this little ramble because pretty much every well run social media competition gathers up these days. In particular, I’m talking about the ones which you name and email yourself to enter and then tweet to boost your win chances. For example;

This means that competitions need to be thrown together with a little bit more forward thought, that’s all. In particular, entry screens will have a link to a page describing what the brand is intending on doing with the gathered email addresses.

In many cases brands are happy to forget the details from competitions completely. Sure, there are some brands who’ll run a competition to data harvest but many of the social media inspired competitions are designed to grab attention, build followers and Likes.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Who are the players in the Battle for the Living Room?

Fritz & Laban watching TVImage by Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi via FlickrThe battle for the living room is a phrase used to describe the tussle to control household’s TV screens. The TV screen is certainly the largest screen in a house and many believe it is in the most influential. It is likely the TV screen that families plan activities like holidays, house moves and family insurance in front of.

The battle for the living room interests digital marketers because the TV set is now a digital channel. There are connected TVs capable of internet interaction, set-top boxes like Tivo (who recently entered into an agreement with Virgin Media) that give TVs some internet capability and there are game consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Nintendo recently admitted that one of the flaws of the now declining Wii was its poor internet experience. Expect Nintendo’s Project Cafe – which we’ll hear more about at E3 – to try and make amends.

Another easy example of the internet coming to TV is YouTube. YouTube Leanback has been optimised for TV set consumption.

There is more than control of the TV set that is at play in the Battle for the Living Room. The convergence of devices is also crucial. While the TV is being used to watch TV many families now use mobile or tablet devices to check the internet. You just have to watch Twitter while a long-form program or sports match is on. Big news is still capable of breaking Twitter’s previous all-time high scores for volume. It’s not just the largest screen in the house that matters in this battle; it’s the smallest screens too.

So, who are the major players in the Battle for the Living Room?

At this point in time I only see three players strong enough to be significant by themselves. Two of them will work with allies; one of which will need more allies than the other. One is likely to try going it alone.

The loner: Apple

Strengths: iOS, iTunes, Mobile
Weakness: Rocky relationships, weak cloud presence, no console

I think Apple will try and win this battle by themselves. Apple are certainly a powerhouse in both mobile and tablet. iTunes provides digital content to handsets, Macs and PCs and although they’re yet to make the leap to the cloud the rumours around iCloud/CloudMe suggest that that deficiency may soon be corrected.

Apple does have Apple TV. The little unit seems to bubble on by itself and we occasionally hear about it at big days. Don’t discount Apple TV.

One of the challenges Apple may face is their relationship with hardware companies. Apple are suing Samsung and Samsung are counter-suing. As it happens, Samsung provides many components to Apple and if the on-going lawsuits threaten that relationship they will certainly make TV-sized hardware alliances less likely.

If Apple applies the same moderation rules to any TV services that it "helps with" as it has done to iAds and the AppStore then I predict many frustrated agencies and production companies.

The gamesmaster: Microsoft

Strengths: Xbox Live, Kinect, relationships with ad agencies
Weaknesses: Windows Phone 7 adoption, Bing adoption, brand concerns

Microsoft’s big advantage in the battle for the living room is the Xbox 360 and the Kinect. The Kinect, in particular, is impressive and gives the internet an eye into the living room. It’s already theoretically possible to target ads (produced via the Xbox 360) based on logos the Kinect recognises (though Microsoft isn’t allowing this) and there are studies showing how emotional states can be detected via body language that the Kinect can read. Imagine that; digital ads targeted by demographic and emotional state.

It is possible to watch the TV – content originally produced for the TV, anyway – via the Xbox. For example, in the States you can watch Hulu via Xbox Live and Hulu Plus has just launched.

Microsoft need Windows Phone 7 to be successful. In my opinion the OS is better than the sales figures show. What’s going on? I fear it might be the “Windows” brand. Some of my semi-tech friends aren’t up to date with the world shattering differences between versions 6 and 7 of Microsoft’s phone presence but they do know they want to avoid Windows on their phone. However, this could change and I think many of us will look to the Nokia and Microsoft deal with great interest. Bing will also be taking up residence in RIM devices according to news from BlackBerry World 2011 today.

Windows for PCs is in a far better shape. It does compete with Apple in the laptop space but still has plenty of marketshare. Windows netbooks are common. Companies like Asus produce Windows 7 laptops with revolving touch screens that easily turn into tablets.

Although it is tempting to suggest that Bing will never beat Google we should remember that Microsoft has been building user IDs for far longer than Google. For example, everyone with a Hotmail address is someone Microsoft has a relationship with. That’s the tactic they’re using with Windows Phone 7; they’re not asking consumers to create a new account, they’re just using Windows Phone 7 has the device that manages the mobile coordination of people’s mobile/social presence. That same tactic may well extend via Live accounts and connected/Xbox TV sets.

The diplomat: Google

Strengths: Cloud, YouTube, Android
Weakness: Alliances required, weak Google TV, customer service

Google is also a contender in the battle for the living room. Android is a success on mobile phones and the search giant will be doing everything it can to make sure Android 3.0 is a success for tablets too.

Google’s very strong in the cloud but rather weak on hardware. This is where we might see the first of the key alliances – Sony. Okay, right now Sony is throwing subpoenas at Google in order to get hold of hacker data. The recent trouble with user data at PSN and SOE is not likely to persuade Sony to spend any less efforts in tracking down hackers and crackers so I don’t imagine this legal conflict will go away. Despite that; PlayStation 3 gaming consoles were once scheduled to upgrade to Google TV devices at one point and it’s perhaps only the faltering of Google TV that will delay that.

Google TV 1.0 did not take off. One of Google’s allies Logitech certain felt that failure as they were left a fat inventory of unsold and expensive Google TV set top boxes. Google TV is far from gone, though, and there are plenty of rumours that suggest Google have learnt from the first attempt and has made the very wise decision to morph Android 3.0 into something that could support TV as well. Imagine that; an OS for tablets, smartphones and TV sets. Google encourages us to think of Android as the OS for devices without keyboards and the forthcoming Chrome OS as the OS for devices with keyboards.

Although Google may not be a brand house holds think of in relation to TV - YouTube certainly is.