Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Vacation for Brains

I'm going to take a break until the New Year, and then either start all over again, or maybe start a new format (still focused on interactive advertising/marketing). Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Gray Matters #3: Jekyllism

Bringing a close to the Web Ailments series is a multiple personality disorder that could possibly be the father of both the Atlas Syndrome and Sectionitis. Jekyllism is a war between the rational and the emotional, and it’s older than the web.

Jekyllism affects all advertising creative, from TV to Web. It’s a war where one side wants every bit of information about the product in a commercial, and the other wants to infuse an emotional connection to make the spot memorable. The battlefield is the limitations of the medium, whether it’s 60 seconds, or the size of a piece of paper. More often than we’d like, the advertising produced is merely the outcome of the war. It takes intelligence, patience and sometimes a strong ego to hold Jekyllism in check.

You would imagine that if you took away the 60 second limitation, or the dimensional restraint of a printed page, then we could reach a blissful dream land where anything is possible. The website,with it’s potential for a hundred million doorways, and cubby holes, and the ability to offer doorways within doorways…could very well be the promised land.

But it’s not. Because the disorder that has affected traditional advertising for so long has it’s hands all over our websites. There is no better or more obvious place to see this then the homepage of most sites.

Jekyllism is trained to fight in a finite space, so it’s dug trenches in the one crucial page to any website. It’s made a website finite by deciding that everything that is needed to be said, should be said on the homepage. and “Above The Fold”. For those who aren’t familiar with the Fold, it’s the area that a visitor views before they need to scroll down.

We’ve taken a multi-dimensional space and built a box.

On homepages you’ll see Mastheads with multiple messages, accompanied by Promo-Boxes with multiple messages, with Text boxes of multiple messages, you’ll see Navigations drop down with multiple ways to get to every page on the site, your head will spin with all the options, pictures and words. All crammed together, fighting for your attention.

If you want to see a great example of this – visit godaddy. Or visit a site with products that have a lot of features.

In mediums with finite space, Jekyllism will continue to be a problem. Online media with it’s little boxes will be subjected to the battle. But when it comes to your website, the figurative drive needs to be reformatted.

Peace can be achieved for Jekyllism because there is space enough for both sides on your website. The website is not a store, it’s not physically limited, and it doesn’t have just one doorway. In fact, your visitors will enter from all sides at any time. The answer will not be to put as much content as possible on every page, but to take a step back and let both sides of Jekyllism decide the best possible way to achieve their goals..across the entire site.

That ends the Website Ailments series. While Jekyllism, Sectionitis, and the Atlas Syndrome are all still found on the commercial web, I find that it gives me great hope. These are ailments either inherited from old think, or a result of just trying to figure this web thing out. Which means, to me, that the truly great stuff is still to come.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Grey Matters #2 : Sectionitis

The second ailment in commercial web today is Sectionitis. From About Us, to Photo Gallery, the Section has been the de-facto way to organize a site. While the Section itself has been a solid solution for organizing content, the side-effect, Sectionitis, has led to the dilution of great ideas and a thought process that demands you create content for the sections, instead of ideas that makes sense for your goals.

Sectionitis says, we have these 4 sections, how does your idea fit into one of these sections? If your idea doesn’t fit neatly into one of these sections, you must either mold it to fit, or create a new section. If your idea is bigger than a section, then the only answer is to make it a completely different site.

What if you have four great ideas? Sectionitis would lead you to creating four sections for your site, one for each idea. Organized, yes. But now you’ve split your budget four ways, and the result is four ideas quarter-baked.

I’m going to provide an example for this one. Mountain Dew has a “Green Label Art” initiative going on where they have independent artists create bottle labels. The website has 8 sections total, ranging from Artists to Events to Gear. And of course a landing page that binds them all.

One section of the site is a Draw Your Own label. Very cool idea. Not ground-breaking, but perfect for what they are doing. It allows a visitor to “paint” their own label design. However, the interface and functionality is lacking. It feels rushed, and an after-thought. The signs of Sectionitis.

Instead of creating a section-based site, why not make this idea the site. Spend your efforts in creating an environment that encourages the visitor to express themselves while learning about the other artists participating. Allow the visitor the ability to change the canvas to other Artists renderings, while giving them the ability to draw on it as well? Is “Events” a section that needed any part of the budget beyond a easy-to use and post RSS feed?

Sectionitis makes every section equally important, so that no section is important.

If you are in the business of conveying pure information, then neatly packed boxes is possibly the best solution for you. But if you’re in the experience/emotional business as well, then it might serve you better to keep in mind that it is more likely that a structure for site will be the by-product of great idea, rather than the other way around.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Grey Matters #1: The Atlas Syndrome

The backbone of business online, the Website, has fallen into the shadows with the rise of Social Media. While it doesn’t get the attention its more popular sister gets, Clients still invest millions of dollars a year for website oriented Interactive Advertising, whether it’s a 3D video experience, an online game, or User-generated send-a-longs.

I’ve spent the last nine months exploring websites in key industries, looking at the inspiring (or sometimes dull) ways we are promoting our products online. One hundred websites in twenty-five industries later, I’ve found three common maladies affecting Interactive Advertising today. In this series of posts I’ll share the problems, and offer my thoughts on cures. A link to all my findings is down below.

Ailment #1: The Atlas Syndrome

The most common cause of Atlas Syndrome are attitudes like “If we build it, they will come” and “That’s a cool idea, throw it in there.”. The former believes that by the simple act of creating a forum, for example, then hundreds of people will flock to your site and a community will be born. The latter believes that the simple essence of an idea is suitable for web consumption – you need not add water, love, or budget. Both leave it up to the website to magically make itself profitable.

The results are typically low traffic, and even lower ROI. The cure is simple, not all websites must carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Let’s look closer at “If we build it, they will come.”. One example of this is the User-generated promotion. Site A wants you to upload a video of yourself doing Fun Thing B. Site C wants you to write a story about your experience with Product C.

In theory, these always sound like a great way to involve your customers.

In reality, there are two very real insights that, if having been realized, would have saved someone the embarrasing 2 video submission result down the road.

Insight 1: Only a small percentage of the total traffic to your site will actually participate in your promotion. If your site gets 100,000-150,000 people a month, don’t expect 100,000-150,000 video submissions. Hope for 50. And really hope that 10 of those are somewhat decent.

Insight 2: People love to share…to an audience. This is why User-generated became so popular. We’re igniting the inner narcissist. Call it social or sharing, the Internet is built on it . So we put up these User-generated promotions and sit back waiting for the floods. But wait…your website, out in the middle of nowhere, isn’t exactly Madison Square Gardens. Not many people like giving private dances.

The answer is to step outside of the website box you’ve created. The web now flows in channels. Large pipelines of people that perfectly fit your content desires. Channels that can provide both the traffic and the audience. Do you want people to upload great pics? Use Facebook, or Flickr, or go rogue and find an up-and-comer social site. Do you want people to upload videos? Start a Youtube Channel, or partner with a large portal.

Before you embark on a large initiative online, look around, there’s a really good chance there’s a better, smarter outlet to help you with your goals. Use your own website to help enhance the project. Look for ways to connect the incoming traffic to your site with your promotion within the channel. Design your website to be the best possible pay-off to the promotion, rather than the source. Don’t let it crumble beneath the weight of your great ideas.

Now let's take a look at “That’s a cool idea, throw it in there.” This attitude is based on the assumption that your website will be improved if it contains as many different ideas as possible. Your website will be a hit if it’s a one-stop shop for information, entertainment, and social connectivity.

If you have the budget of say, Yahoo, and the focus of your site is to be everything to everyone, then this doesn’t pertain to you. Otherwise, your website need not carry the weight of the world on it’s shoulders.

The primary cure to this attitude is focus. It’s easy to catch this attitude with the lack of boundaries the Internet provides, and the multitude of glittery ideas available.

Let’s take Games, for example. Specifically Flash games. I was surprised to find all the sites that had a Flash game. As I was exploring the sites of different industries it became a subgoal of mine to find as many games as possible. In 25 industries, I found a game in at least one site each. This includes deodorants and dog food!

Games are great interactivity, and in theory, will keep a person on your site longer. But in practice your game is competing with literally millions of other free entertainment sources online and the person shopping your brand is most likely shopping.

The money you spent on the game, and the time, could have been used to strengthen the focus of your site.

If you think a game, or game-like attributes, perfectly fit your brand and the goal of the website, I can suggest a couple of things. One, there are quite a few great communities for game creators out there. Why not commission an actual game-crafter, or even better, sponsor one of the thousands games already made on a site with steady traffic. Two, add game-like attributes to the core focus of the site. If you want people to learn about the benefits on your washing machine, build a game around the features. This will combine the two solutions you’re looking for: informing about your product, and keeping someone on your site to hear everything you have to say about the product.

To wrap up The Atlas Syndrome, it’s best to keep in mind that a focused website with strong supporting ties to other content channels will be more robust, will last longer, and achieve a higher and more consistent ROI. A gas station next to an arcade on a major highway will be more profitable than one on a side road with a Pac-man machine.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Toy Co. #4: Fisher-Price

The toy market doesn't seem all the big, dominated mostly by Mattel, Hasbro and Fisher-Price. It's amazing how small the world begins to feel as you take a look at different industries.

Like the other toy sites I've looked at, Fisher-Price is predominately a retail site. But I did find a couple interactive pieces (that weren't the obligatory games):

The Geotrax line of Train track building has a "Submit your Photo" section of the site. There's a respectable amount of photos here - and they don't seem to be all from the same kids ;)

Here's a cool idea. The notion of Downloadable Content seems to be old-hat to the Video Game industry, but this is the first incarnation I've seen in the Toy world. This series of toys is your basic "build-a-something" set, but it has areas where you can physically attach an illustrated image to enhance the "scene". The cool part is that you can create the images online and print them out.

But, like so many great ideas on the web, they end up half-baked -- like the above.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Toy Co. #3:Playmobil

I didn't know Playmobil was a german company until visiting their site.

There are a couple interesting things on the Playmobil site:

With an Ikea-type flare, this is a flash exploration of a suburban Playmobil house. There's a bit of a story on the right, which, oddly enough, I've not really seen before. It's like a snippet from a book, following a young girl answering the doorbell.

If you click on any of the rooms you get a slideshow of a variety of accessories/furniture for that room. The Ikea feeling is really strong here, like Ikea took over Barbie and put some thought into it.

This is here is probably one of the smartest games I've seen on a site. You are in charge of barbequeing for the family. You put the meat on the grill and you've got to flip it at the right times so you dont burn it. You get points for the best grilled meats.

those germans, always thinking and shit.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Toy Co. #2: Hasbro

The Hasbro site kinda looks and feels like someone dropped a grenade into a toy chest and then put the resultant chaos online. I say this with nothing but love.

Sifting through the debris I found a couple things to share:

This is the G.I. Joe page within the Hasbro site. It might be hard to tell, but the majority of the page is taken up by a battle scene between action figures. You can mouse either direction to see all of the scene. There's also a variety of games that feature the figures as well. If you click on one of the figures, you're taken to the Shopping section....which then makes the whole experience feel really disjointed. Is this a site for kids or for adults to shop?

You see this on a lot of commercial sites, this mashed duality. Do you want me to play or do you want me to shop? There's only so much room on the page. What ends up happening is the page above, full of shit for both and feels a bit overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. Confusing ain't it?

Then there's this page:

Which i think is strictly for kids. Kinda raids the eyeballs. Somehow, by exploring more, I found another version of this page:

I'm confused too.

But! Out of this I found the Star Wars Comic Creator:

Which is a sweet idea.

I imagine children getting lost in sites like this for days, then shuffling out of nowhere with a blank distant look in their eyes, their greedy little hands begging for your credit card. There might be a science to this that I'm immune to (or to old to fall in to).


Friday, November 13, 2009

Toy Co. #1: Mattel

If your job is making fun interactive things for children, your website should probably reflect that. First up in exploring the Toy industry is Mattel.

While not pushing any boundaries, the Mattel site does feel a bit like a kids toy. All the buttons and motion have sound effects that you usually find accompanied by furry animals or big plastic instruments. Interesting note on the masthead, you can click at the top or bottom to have all the info/images (ie. dino, and cloud images seen above) move in and out via a Z-index, revealing completely new toy environments.

Unsurprisingly, the site has a whole section dedicated to games. I didn't see anything that struck me as topic worthy, but I will say that all the games were centered around Mattel products, and, for the most part, well executed. I say this because you can find some real crap when it comes to advergaming.

The section that took my notice was the Toy Factory section:

We've seen this before, many times. Basically a build-your-own-scene application. Choose backgrounds, toys, accessories etc. The interface is one of the better I've seen however and worth a look. The page features a wind-up randomizer device, which when used, just throws a bunch of objects into a scene. Strange results, but the device is fun to use.

Best feature of this app is that it begins building a Wish List below with all the toys you pick for your scene.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Camera Nerds #4: Hiroshi Seo

The last photographer portfolio in my excursion is taking us over to the land of the rising sun.

The site of Hiroshi Seo is packaged up neatly in concept, unlike the others we've seen so far. His work is presented as a simple story told over his career.

The timeline on the right acts as your guide through the tower of images that represent his body of work. In between the image tower and the timeline is an interesting touch that validates the concept. Here you'll find the timestamp of each photo in the tower. It's this minor detail that gives the site a sense of history and atmosphere (along with a bit o' music).

Selecting a photo moves the timeline and tower over, always a better option than the a "close" button or the like.

It's not often that meat-and-potatoes sections such as Profile or News would be included in a concept, but here the site carries through the timeline to support the content.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Camera Nerds #3: Andreas Smetana

I could probably spend a few months looking at photographers sites, and like it.

Andreas Smetana's site is a tasty elegant affair:

Your trip through the gallery of his work is controlled by the Up and Down arrows, each new row cascading in fluidly.

And of course, as all photo sites should be, the photos themselves are viewed full-screen.

It's so easy when building a website, or probably any piece of design or creative, to muck it up by trying to be too clever. The real trick is to make it look easy.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Camera Nerds #2: Fabio Lana

Sailing our barges across the Mediterranean to Italy, we find Fabio Lana's site. This is actually the work of Gabriel Vinci. I feel i need to state that, since this is no longer Fabio Lana's official site.

It's an interesting take on the slide carousel. Clicking the arrow turns the carousel of course.

A nice touch is the connection between a "quick view" mouse-over menu at top, and the carousel below. While it's just a linear version of the same menu, the images visible below are darkened above.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Camera Nerds #1: Emmanuel Rouzic

Photographer portfolio sites are a source of inspiration for me. For one thing, they're very focused. The whole goal is to show off their photos. And secondly, they (the photo portfolio web designer) are continuously experimenting with the how someone experiences those photos.

Today's site features a spanish photographer: Emmanuel Rouzic.

The site opens with a full-screen montage of his photos, with random photos flashing and changing as energetic music pulses out of your speakers. Can your flickr do that? :) All the images are clickable, leading you on to that images and the rest of the album it's attached to.

You can click on the photo to zoom in and then mouse-around to see the details, or keep clicking the arrow (on right) to see the next bits.

Very simple, yet it's got an atmosphere. You feel more like you're at a show, walking around looking at what you want to look at, taking your time. If this site showed you all his photos in a literal fashion or just as a page full of thumbnails, I think it would just be an over-done Flickr rip.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Heavy Petting #3: Pets or Food?

I'm having a bit of a holiday this week, so updates will be spotty until next monday.

But, I am leaving this here with you...the comments are the best part :)



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heavy Petting #2: Alpo

My hundredth post! Can I get a bow wow?

Dogs trust Alpo. I think it's right up there with dead squirrels.

I was happy to find a few things going on here. But first things first....this gave me a laugh ->

Hot-spots on dog food! Is there no end to the universal usefullness of the hot-spot? It's as if..the hot-spot is the duct tape of the web!

Anyway, Alpo's writing a book called Real Dogs Eat Meat, and they took stories from people about their dogs. Sounds familiar (see last post below). I do think this is perhaps a better execution, as they end up with a tangible product that they can resell back to us. Smart puppy.

A game! I wish I had a "game alert siren". This one is your very basic "memory match" game. However, they have a great payoff - you can download and print out a coupon. Granted the coupon isn't that great, but it's the thought that counts. I think they should beef up the reward and make it a coupon book or something. They're on to something here. I have yet to see a game that offers a reward..most are self-indulgent "hope they waste time on my site" wastes of time.
I'm a gamer and quite addicted to Xbox Live achievement points -- which are used for nothing. I hope we see more of this kind of thinking.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Heavy Petting #1: Fancy Feast

Every week I think I've ran out of commercially advertised products, and every week I manage to dig up something. I have got to be getting close to the bottom of this barrel.

I'm not sure how interesting Pet Food sites will turn out to be. Judging by what I know of the pet social scene online, I would imagine a lot of manufacturers would be focusing on Twitters/Facebook/Youtube.

Not so much with Fancy Feast, the first product this week.

Fancy Feast lavishes you with large luscious (dare I say fancy?) flashy masthead action. Nothing else, but get a load of that crystal feeding dish. That fucking cat eats better than I do. Although, it does look like it's full of brains.

The Confessions of Love page asks you to submit/write a memory of your cat onto a postcard. It's got the usual things, like picking a background for the card, sending to a friend etc. One thing that caught my eye was this - "Your confessions will appear here on the site and maybe in more surprising places."

A few ideas on where those "surprising places" would be:

1. Part of the Ransom Note you find in place of your cat
2. Carved into a dog
3. Behind the toilet


Monday, October 12, 2009

Eau De #4: Airness

The last stop in my look into the perfume/cologne arena is, again, in France. And this site is definitely completely in French (unlike last week's false alarm).

The Airness-Attraction Day site is comprised mainly of a interactive video story:

I will warn you, the intro involves a man topless, parkour and a panther. Once you get past that (and feel less vomitey - due to the cheese factor), the video is quite epic at times.

Like most interactive video sites, the movie plays to a certain point and then offers you choices:

I do not speak french, so I have no idea where I kept going, but the elevator scene is nice. I will be honest, there is a part of me that, due to this being french, I was hoping things would take a turn to the ... more expressive? It doesn't, oh well.

The end surprised me. It was a mini-game you play to seduce the girl. This is a true test of a game, can you understand how to play without knowing the language? Took me twice to win ze lady.

Games are the language of love. Or something.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Eau De #3: Cacharel Scarlett

Two people can keep a secret, if one of them is dead - The Pierces

Or if one of them cannot read French. I'm not 100% completely absolutely sure this is a perfume site, but it does have words like Eau De, and Fragrance. And it's hot in a soft, feminine way, which screams (or rather giggles) perfume to me.

HA. There's an english version to the site. Here I thought I was peeking into the bedroom of a french girl. God, that sounds bad. *cough. Ok.

With no real prompt or introduction, the Scarlett site places you in the middle of a woman/girl's boudoir. While their target is obviously very focused, I couldn't help being a bit drawn in. The tiny dots around the room bring up soft fluid glimpses into this persons (your) life.

Arrows on either side bring all portions of the room into view.

In addition to the bedroom is the "Wall of My Life". It's basically a scrap-booking app, to upload photos (which you can add tape too), or create your own images with the drawing tools. Nowhere in this is there an Ad for the perfume. You do not make a wall that is an ad for this product.

If you happened to have read the last two posts, I swear I didn't set this up. Where the last two sites were self-involved, this one is you-centered. The former made it plain that it was about the brand, the latter about me. When the other sites use CTA's like "Discover" and "Experience", this one embodies both those actions and leaves the rest to you.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Eau De #2: Davidoff

Yesterday we "experienced". Today we "Discover". It's like there was a deal struck between the copy-writers for these sites. Tomorrow maybe we'll find the "Explore" site.

Today is Davidoff, of such colognes as Cool Water, and Adventure. The Adventure microsite was indeed a discovery for me. I did not expect it. In hindsight, maybe my sarcasm was uncalled for.

The Adventure site is a collection of full-screen video clips that act as the only real content in each section of the site. The History section above is what you see, plus a few words including Exoticism, which I did not know was a word. Another discovery!

The site is full of video clips and just tiny bits of copy. I must admit, it's got a certain charm to it.
I grudgingly admit that I "discovered". There was thought put into this, and it was refreshing to see.

and then I moved on to some of the other Davidoff fragrances. And I found this little number:

This is a "send a postcard" app. The premise is that you send someone you love or secretly admire a postcard....of some douche sitting on a bed in a suit and a bottle of cologne in the foreground.

Couple this type of thing with each fragrance having a prominently displayed "Advertisment" section, wherein lies the commercials or print ads for the product, AND words like modernity...and you begin to think that these fragance companies are self-obssessed, narcissitic cockdonkeys.

But, i've only visited two major sites this week. I'm sure I will be proven wrong with the next site I visit. I'm sure.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Eau De #1: Calvin Klein

The was a time when the word "experience" meant something online. Now it means you're going to see a few images, and maybe hear a song.

Exhibit A: Experiencing Calvin Klein CKFree

The best thing to do with a large pretty picture is stick a box of content over top of it.

Having a section dedicated to your Ads, and blessing someone with the chance to download the ads for wallpaper sets the right tone.

Now offer me the chance to put my own picture above your ad, while listening to U2, and send the postcard and the song along to my friends.

It's like some creepy guy has slobbered all over my brain, stuck his picture in my pocket, and gave me permission to tell my friends about him.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Vroom #3: All State and Harley Again

There isn't much going on in Motorcycle land. At least here in America.

Harley has a Choose Your Own adventure video site up in Europe.

Create your Perfect Harley-Davidson Weekend. Tour around little towns in europe, camp, etc. How quaint... There isn't any real product info, and all you see are some quick cut shots of a bike. Maybe there's more at the end ... but like any trip, I usually vere off and head for the local pub and never come back out. cheers.

I will probably not being doing a series on the Insurance industry. Something tells me that it would be another boring week. But All State does have some interesting things going on, coicidentally around motorcycles.

At the All State Garage you can build your dream bike from the ground up. While you're picking parts, they use the time to tell you facts regarding All State insurance. Smart use of the journey.

again, i didn't follow through to the pay-off. it's friday!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vroom #2: Harley-Davidson

There is no messing around when it comes to the Harley-Davidson.

The one thing about HD that they just get, above so many others, the owner relationship. They've always had some great things for owners, and not afraid to let the world see it.

Who else will sell you skins for every type of device in your life, from computer to xbox controller?

The Motorcycle maps look even better than triple A's.

If those things were enough to get you interested in a hog, you can use their cycle finder app to find the right one for you.

fuck i sound like an advertisement. i don't even have a bike. that's what smart work does to you though, you find yourself hawking it whether you want to or not.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Vroom #1: Kawasaki Ninja

Ninja's happen. It's just a fact of life.

This week is moto-hog-rocket week, and first up is Kawasaki.

Where would we be without the 360 + hotspots? They're the best when they're in an environment like this, as opposed to pure white or studio.

Ninja's race. That's what ninja's do. Usually after totally freaking out on a bunch of dudes.

I love the small details, like being able to put your name on the jacket of your rider before the race.

The game is slick but not very exciting. I'm sure the actual experience is more heart-pumping, rather than heart-plodding.


Grey Matters

I'm a Digital ACD in Advertising land. I have been in love with the internet for over 10 years now. And I have a Red Bull problem. There I said it.

I travel around different industries every week or so and look for interesting and tasty interactive bits. I hope to make this a place for ad folk to keep up to date. And I just enjoy the spelunk.

Brain Pieces from Me

"There is a creative solution for everything."

"Sometimes, to be successful with Social Media, don't start a conversation. Start an argument."

"This is no longer the Age of Information, it's the Age of Opinion."

"The work that comes out of an Agency is the result of not going crazy while doing it."

People Who Probably Read My Blog