09 Feb, 2013 – leave a comment
Say you’re a time traveler and you’ve already toured the entirety of human history. After a while, the outside world might lose a little of its luster. That’s why this time traveler celebrates his birthday partying with himself. Every year, he travels to an abandoned hotel in New York City in 2071, the hundredth anniversary of his birth, and drinks twelve-year-old Scotch (lots of it) with all the other versions of who he has been and who he will be. Sure, the party is the same year after year, but at least it’s one party where he can really, well, be himself.
I just finished Sean Ferrell’s second novel, The Man in the Empty Suit, and I highly recommend it if you prefer your time travelers to have a well developed sense of self loathing, paranoia, and alcoholism.
04 Feb, 2013 – 3 comments
I saw this image from Stefan Sagmeister’s “The Happy Show” which just opened at the Design Exchange in Toronto.
I love the simplicity of the statement and its meaning.
And it reminds me of some recent conversations I’ve had on the role of planning in advertising.
There are two, generalized, modes of thought. One is that the planner’s job is to study the cultural stream and find a way for a brand and its meaning to slip neatly into that current. The other path is to understand the cultural stream in order to redirect it in your favor. The latter requires considerably more media, a brazen message, and a willing brand. But I guarantee that the latter is also a helluva lot more fun to work on.
25 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment
Here’s how it works:
- See a picture of someone in your area
- Swipe one way if they’re ugly
- Swipe the other way if they’re hot
- If you both swap hot, the app lets you connect
Brilliant. And everything Facebook isn’t right now – anonymity, zero effort, and UI genius.
24 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment
You still have a few days to apply to be a Nike+ Accelerator Partner, which comes with $20k, bragging rights, and access to the Nike+ and Fuelband APIs and SDKs. It’s a good idea and something that Nike needs to be doing to catch-up to competitor FitBit which is dominating the emerging space through community co-creation.
But I wonder what the mark of success will be for Nike. User adoption of new services, a fuzzy set of engagement metrics, PR, polish, etc. If I was in charge, I’d be myopically interested in apps and services which demonstrate actual positive health outcomes. To me, this has always been the most important unanswered question of this category and it looks like I’m not alone:
“It’s like the wild, wild West,” said Dr. Atul Butte of the Stanford School of Medicine, who just started using a Fitbit and an Aria Scale. “For a drug company, there’s such a burden to show how [their product] works better. A gadget maker is … not required to show that data and that’s kind of unfair.”
“Probably, like most gadgets, these devices help those folks on the borderline, [those] ready to make behavioral changes and looking for something to tip them into healthy behaviors,” he added.
We’ve entered an era where data is easier to generate and easier to display, but I haven’t seen much maturity in our understanding of how data impacts behavior under specific contexts and with specific mechanics. Critically, we also don’t have a grasp on what unintended consequences these devices might be having (e.g. just by wearing one you might feel healthier and thus make poorer choices). I personally worry that these devices are seen solely as marketing products (aka the new watch) and not as a balance of marketing message and behavioral modifier.
18 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment
This made me smile (and humbled, too).
Pssst. Shawn, we just call ourselves Inventionists now.
Best of luck. We need more of us.
15 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment
The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
– Ernest Hemingway
09 Jan, 2013 – one comment
On behalf of Dr. Pepper TEN, a crack team here at Deutsch LA has just launched what we’ve dubbed The Like Report. It’s a first of its kind study of manliness, based on actual Facebook data. Through a third party app, we got our hands on 536,369,926 points of Facebook Like data and through that data we learned such things like Asian Food has a higher percentage of Likes by men than horror movies. Or that ping pong is a ding dong dominated sport, with 79% Likes by men. As more people use the site, we’ll build on our dataset and hopefully our understanding of what men Like (to-date we’ve already racked up an additional 871k Likes). Over time, we also hope to release actual reports on the differences between men and women across the country.
On the site, you can play a guessing game on the topics guys like most, you can test your manliness by comparing your Likes to our Like pool, and you can browse a plethora of topics broken down by gender. It’s a cool idea and we’ve only begun to explore different ways to mine Facebook Like data and allow users to interact with it.
But sales pitch over. I wanted to use this post to talk rather candidly about the process behind launching a small digital experiment like this and some things we’ve learned along the way.
combatting the unknown
You could imagine our sales pitch to the client went a little something like this: “Let’s put a mirror up to the differences between men and women using actual data.” Nice idea but so many unknowns. What data? Where would we get it? How would we navigate the sensitivities of tone (pitting men vs women)? How would the user interact with this? Why would the user interact with this? What would we want the user to do after the interaction was over? We didn’t just need to answer these questions, we needed to answer them before we could expect the client to say, “Go.” And that’s pretty indicative of all digital ideas that extend beyond traditional banners or video content – in the pitch you’re usually relying on keyframes and clever copy to intrigue the client, but you’ll need considerable more detail to loosen the purse strings.
We wouldn’t have been able to marshal these answers in a reasonable time frame (also without going broke during concepting) without a few key ingredients: 1) damn good producers, 2) tech literacy across every member of the core team, 3) physical proximity, and 4) a smart partner. This project was a perfect case study in how the role of a digital producer, especially at the outset of a project, is to vanquish unknowns. Also, we couldn’t have iterated as a team without literally keeping the core team in a single room through the duration of the project AND ensuring each member of that team had a strong foundation of tech knowledge. Our creatives were not co-opted traditionalists. They were true digital-first creatives. Lastly, we quickly found a data partner that could help us skip over the immediate hurdle of collecting millions of data points (our backup would have been to create our own app and launch a campaign to ask people to authorize it).
selling a prototype
Even after answering the technical unknowns, there was a wide gap between the slide in the deck detailing the concept and the realized experience. And this gap wasn’t just on the client’s side, without a cogent first stab at the execution, our own team had several competing visions for the final product. Instead of spending countless hours debating conceptual ideas, the team forced itself to produce a sketch-like prototype to share internally and with the client. Yes, it would close off some of the creative avenues we could explore if we had more time, but it created a tangible ‘thing’ to sell to the client.
The screenshot above was the team’s actual first prototype of the experience. You might notice that we borrowed quite heavily from TugOfStore at the time. The team produced this prototype in Flash in only a matter of hours and it was this prototype that helped the client move from being interested in the idea to becoming interested in its execution.
the return of the micro-site?
One central question we struggled with was where this experience should live. One of this brand’s biggest assets is a considerable Facebook fan presence. We wanted to leverage that, especially because of the Facebook nature of the idea itself.
For some time, brands have been building experiences directly at Facebook, via a Facebook tab, to engage their fans. But the more digging we did, the more this seemed like the wrong direction. For one, with the latest redesign of Facebook, tabs are even harder to find. Two, the Facebook mobile app has no ability to serve up a tab or app and an increasing number of people rely on mobile alone to visit Facebook. Third, we dug up various stats that showed around only 1% of Facebook fans of a brand ever actually navigate back to the brand’s page. Fourth, an experience built into a tab comes with user experience and design limitations. But the most damning argument to be made against building experiences on Facebook is that Facebook, in a brainstorm with our team, actually discouraged us from building the experience on their platform for these very reasons. We were thankful for their honesty and a bit stunned by it.
So what did that leave us? Well, our first instinct was to find a media partner to host the experience. We thoroughly believe that interactive ideas need to be built on the platforms that users have already chosen to spend time at, rather than using media to lure users off to a micro-site. But here’s the rub: for the level of custom interaction we wanted, most publishing partners priced themselves outside of our budget. They are focused on their own timelines, product roadmaps, and editorial. For what we wanted to accomplish, even if we did the majority of the development, they would still have to redirect internal resources to cater to our needs and not their own. And ultimately, that was too costly.
If I can give you a piece of advice, I’d strongly suggest identifying media partners based on the challenge at hand, and then bring them into your creative ideation as early as possible. And bypass the media sales team as often as you can. If the goal is to get to attention-grabbing executions, then you need a partner thinking beyond the standard ad units they’re tasked to sell.
Digital is different from broadcast because of the murky legal waters surrounding digital executions. When you slap a brand name on anything you do on the web, there are risks (even beyond getting sued by patent trolls over using drop-down menus). As the team concepted the idea, one vision they had in mind was for the brand to take on an editorial role on everything that is Liked on Facebook. For example, one concept had the brand releasing daily updates on what was trending among men and women. The roadblock there is that most things that would have daily relevance would be tied to entities protected by copyright (e.g. Notre Dame Football, Brad Pitt, The Hangover). And even though we’re pulling that data directly from user behavior, if we were to showcase that data on a branded site (no matter what language we use), we would be violating copyright law.
This fact cripples a brand’s ability to create utility from existing user data and behavior on the web. Startups can take the risk because they have nothing to lose. Sometimes it isn’t even that cut and dry. Often you can speak to several attorneys and get several different perspectives on the law – especially when it comes to mining user data. Again, the deck is often stacked against us when we do want to create experiences beyond banners and web video.
This isn’t a new lesson but it’s always worth repeating. Nothing in digital is ever launched ‘perfect’ or finished (We say that digital is the ultimate etch-a-sketch). Always plan for worst-case scenarios and expect for them to happen. It’s nice to think about all the ways you’ll want to iterate and improve your shiny new digital toy, but first be ready to extinguish fires and dispense duct-tape.
Last of all, Dr. Pepper should be recognized for their courage. This isn’t a box they’ve already filled and it isn’t the most comfortable bet to make. Our internal team rallied to put out an engaging first iteration of the experience and we’re looking forward to doing even more together.
06 Jan, 2013 – 2 comments
I was fumbling with my iPhone 5 today when I came across the screen above.
Like staring at Medusa, I froze for a second.
This falls into a more subjective realm, but that screen is hideous. True, it’s probably the single most utilitarian function of the device, a function which itself is almost vestigial. But Apple used to be able to make even the most hard-working interactions enjoyable.
06 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment
03 Jan, 2013 – one comment
Because I am clinically unable to relax, I used some time over the break to revise my bio-site at BudCaddell.com.
I aimed toward simplicity but I left a rabbit hole in a (very non-exhaustive) timeline of my life at the bottom of the page.
To pull off the timeline, I used Timeline.js which was incredibly easy to implement and only required a little CSS knowledge to customize it. More sites should definitely try it.
Well, enjoy. Let me know what you think.