A bridge too far?

June 25, 2012

Band of Bridges is a simple but smart little campaign site celebrating the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. The aim is to create the mother of all bridges, a construction that will span our entire globe. The tools: Google Maps and people’s favorite elevated crossings.

I’ve bagged Worcester bridge, go get yours at Band of Bridges.

tags: Online

The human side to technology: Google Street View Trekker

June 21, 2012
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Google Street View is amazing. It’s amazing because it seems so natural and such an obvious extension to those old digitally impersonal maps.

It’s even more amazing when you think about the technology behind those useful images. Now that Google Street View has gone into the wild, that technology includes a bloke with a big rucksack – the Street View Trekker.

Street View Trekkers solve the problem of inaccessibility by wondering about in the wild, enabling Google to photograph the beautiful places they want us all to experience, such as the Grand Canyon or Muir Woods, so we can explore them right from their desktop. Nice job if you can get it.

tags: Online

McDonald’s Hamburger Timetable

June 19, 2012
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In cooperation with PKP (Polish State Railways), DDB have created a special ‘timetable’ and installed it on the way to McDonald’s.

It tells you train departure time, destination, platform and waiting time measured not in minutes or hours but… in the hamburgers, cokes and fries you manage to eat before your train leaves.

It’s a nice idea, but with all the train delays I seem to have had recently I’d be the size of a house! It just seems a little too close to Super Size Me all over again!

Still the campaign has certainly achieved some great results, so maybe we can learn from DDB and the WCML can learn from PKP .

Daybreak: A new form of experiential advertising?

June 14, 2012
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The old adage ‘Content is king’ has, today, never been so true. In our ultra socially connected world, everyone is working harder to become front-of-mind, top-of-search or in-with-the-chatter – all with the express aim of getting noticed. But what’s the secret to being popular?

Advertising is dead

It’s been well documented, in this blog as everywhere, that traditional advertising stopped working a long time ago (although it’s always interesting to see the budgets still there!), so brands (and bloggers) have long been on the hunt to uncover what actually does work. What’ll make you the most popular kid on the block.

Perhaps unsurprisingly they’ve found their answer, and it’s and answer that should never have been forgotten. A simple truth that’s always been the mantra of the good – the king of things that work is content.

But what makes content good? What will make it popular? And how do you get people to talk about it? Well, that’s the challenge facing brands today and it’s throwing up some really interesting ideas.

I love a good story told well

Throughout history, people have used great stories to attract and engage. Ever since the first people came together around a protective fire, they have used the power of narrative to both educate and entertain. Storytelling has always been the lifeblood social infrastructure.

I guess the pure beauty of this type of communication is that the fundamentals haven’t changed in the millennia that we’ve been plying it. Yes, concepts such as the story arc may have introduced structure and process to the craft, but a good story has always been a good story and it’ll always get people talking.

The thing that has changed over time is the way we tell our stories and the channels we use to impart them to their audience.

Daybreak is just one of those stories.

Layering content for engaging experiences

Daybreak essentially expands on the history of storytelling in advertising with a new campaign for AT&T. Created by a partnership between BBDO, North Kingdom and Monterosa, Daybreak is an ARG that uses a mix of media to communicate its narrative through a variety of channels.

The layered digital campaign opens a new phase in AT&T’s ‘Rethink Possible’ platform and aims to highlight its 4G network and product innovations. Taking content from season one of Tim Kring’s Fox series Touch, the five-part mini-drama spreads engagement across two dedicated sites as well as smart iOS and Android mobile apps.

Although Daybreak isn’t the first ARG that’s been created (it certainly follows a similar path to the much documented Lost marketing campaigns), it is interesting to see this type of campaign being employed in what is essentially a brand advert.

It’s going to be interesting to track the success of this highly intricate campaign, both in terms of engagement (visits + returns and app downloads) as well as ongoing brand loyalty. Ultimately success will be marked by product sales directly derived from the campaign’s influence.

The truth is out there – content is king

What I think Daybreak does prove, even in its early stages, is that now, more than ever, has to be the time of exceptional content. Context and creativity must take centre stage both within the development of ideas and the delivery media selected.

So, what’s the secret of creating popular content? Develop interesting, relevant ideas through understanding and real customer insight, produce quality creative that will engage and inspire it audience to act, then deliver your message employing a long form, multi-channeled method that will foster a tangible sense of audience ownership.

Overall by making you message entertaining, educational or both, by challenging your audience and by situating palpable participation, you’ll be going a long way towards creating exceptional content. And telling a great story.

Collect advice in Channel 4’s Scrapbook

June 13, 2012

You know what it’s like, you’re bombarded with all these highly essential, must know tips and advice, no everything from creating the perfect fine dining experience to renovating your newly purchased stately home, by all these ‘experts’, but somehow you’ve got to find a way of remembering all the useful stuff.

Well, to prevent all those hours of ‘fruitful’ TV from just washing over, and to help us collate all that indispensable stuff, Channel 4 have created Scrapbook.

Scrapbook draws together lifestyle tips, recipes and suggestions from a team of Channel Four personalities such as Jamie Oliver, Kevin McLeod, Dr Christian Jessen and Mary Portas. Users can browse these contributors’ own Scrapbooks, collating them in their own Scrapbook page, and can also add elements from other external sites.

Scrapbook is a great idea, and certainly taps in to our current passions for ‘data collection’ and the social sharing of such inventory – perhaps following in the footstep of Pinterest and the like.

It also looks great, designed by Clearleft, the site style follows today’s trending for simulating the real world in pixels. And as a result feels very simple and straight forward to use – just snip and paste (just like real-life).

Scrapbook is an idea that I, and many others, have played around with before, but C4’s version is a lovely looking iteration, that just drives you on to get one of those projects worthy of collecting all those wonderful tips!

tags: Online

AR v QR: Is now the time for the printed page to go digital?

June 12, 2012
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Ever since the web took its electrifying grip on our imaginations and communications, those poor old print designers have been trying to find a way to energise the experience of their printed pages.

I guess V1.0 could be said to have been the flip book. In their day everyone wanted one, if you had a brochure then you needed to put it online – after all that’s where everyone was right? It was an idea (I’m not saying it was a good one), it was quick and cheap to do, but ultimately it was pretty pointless – it wasn’t a technology that enhanced the brochure experience, it just put it in a different place, and that place wasn’t as good as the original. The screen was never going to be the right destination for a brochure and its design. So the flip book soon flipped no more.

Then V1.5 would be the QR code. Oh the QR code, what hopes they had for it. They’re still everywhere. The basic idea wasn’t that bad really – provide a link between the printed page/poster, and the more exciting digital experience. In the end though the QR code is just a simple link, and one that you have to get your device, find the scanning app, hold it up to snap the code, and finally you’re off. Simpler just to type in a url right? Anyway how does QR add to the printed page experience? it just takes you off somewhere else, and the advertiser has to create two separate destinations. So QR isn’t the saviour of the printed page.

Could V2.0 be Layar?

Layar say they are – an industry-leading company at the forefront of the rapidly emerging medium of augmented reality (AR). AR is a way viewing digital information which has been superimposed – or augmented – onto a live view of the physical, real-world environment around you.

Basically Layar allows the print designer to scan their printed pages into the Layar system, and add digital content on top (the digital layer). Then when someone’s looking at that page in a magazine or brochure, and they see the Layar logo (I guess), they whip out their device, fire up the app, hold it up to the page, and there’s all the cool digital stuff.

The nice thing about it is that you’re not really creating duplicated content, and the user isn’t being forced away from their current destination. In many ways Layar is finally digitising the printed page.

As with all these new technologies, time will tell if it truly is revolutionary, and a lot of that will depend on its take-up both by publishers and consumers. It’ll be an interesting journey to watch augmented or not.

The life of an email by Google

June 11, 2012

Ever wondered what happens when you send an email?

Google’s The Story of Send takes you on a journey with Gmail to find out. Along the way you’ll discover their data centres, through videos, photos and descriptions. You’ll find out how super eco conscious the big corporate would like us to see them as (and that’s the idea). And you’ll be entertained by B-Reel‘s nice little Google animation.

Who’d have thought the transfer of data, something we all take so much for granted, could have a story worth telling. But it’s interesting, and you should really understand what’s happening behind the ‘ping’. And it all begins when you click send.

Get a Golden State of Mind

June 8, 2012

Golden State of Mind is a nicely crafted brand campaign and fully immersive online destination, that connects PacSun‘s online presence to their national retail locations.

It’s a flexible, cross-platform experience that makes great use of the latest tech ‘bells and whistles’ to present Californian life (the brand’s home – I guess) in a vibrant, exciting and fashionable light.

The site, created by Juxt Interactive, presents the user with two navigable options: scroll up to explore the current brand campaign, or scroll down raising a dynamic media drawer with instant previews of the most current content in the site including blog posts, image sets, and live social feeds.

Mapping digital content

Central to the site is a nice Google Maps integration of the state of California, that geographically places all the latest content and is filterable via key topics.

Certainly the whole experience has a summer vibe about it, a little of that Californian freedom that we’d all love a piece of (especially as I’m currently in the middle of a typical British summer day – cats & dogs!).

It’s also nice to see a brand investing in a digital destination that isn’t all BUY ME NOW. In many ways it’s reminiscent of what Diesel have been doing with their digital engagement for some time now. The blog actually has some interesting content, and I especially like their integration of Instagram, it just seems the right channel to be implementing right now.

tags: Online

Digital Talent: Less Rain

June 7, 2012

One thing is for sure, this industry is brimming with talent. And we need talent in the industry. The pace of change is relentless.

Digital media innovations seem to flow at the speed of imagination, no longer constrained by the shackles technological invention, today’s true creative thinkers are free to focus on the user, their needs, hopes and desires.

The challenge we all face today, is less about how to convince the user to use that new digital ‘thing’, more how to keep up with the user’s insatiable appetite for using new digital ‘things’. This has led to a desperate need for creation of the new. But, I believe, new has to be new with a purpose, not just new for new’s sake, not just new because the old is old, but new because the new beats the old, the new brings real benefit.

In this respect we must never stop learning. Learning from the user and their experiences, learning form the projects we deliver and their effectiveness and learning from the talent we have in this industry and their progressive thinking.

Fortunately some of the talent out there are free with their thinking. Vassilios Alexiou of Less Rain for example.

Maybe 11 or 12 years ago I was fortunate enough to meet up with the Less Rain guys in Berlin. It was a little random I have to say, I’d been charged with finding ‘creative talent’ by the agency I was working for at the time, and bringing back inspiration for the rest of the team. So a trip was planned to Berlin, and with the help of an online translation service (Oh dear!) I emailed a couple of the agencies I respected. A little to my surprise, but perhaps more due to their intrigue as to the purpose (that online translation service again!!) most said – yeah pop in, say hi.

Even back then, and this was around 2000 – there just wasn’t the same kind of creative digital community there is today, the guys were brilliantly inspiring. Obviously talented (that’s a no brainer) but open, willing to chat, happy to impart nuggets of wisdom earned from experience. They welcomed us into their studio. They showed us their work and talked about their thinking. They even took us for lunch and told us the best places to go in Berlin. I reckon that’s pretty nice.

And yes, I’m a Less Rain fan. Always have been and continue to be to this day. So it was great to see Vassilios openly chatting about his view of the future direction of digital on Getty Images Digital Talent. There’s some interesting thinking in his world, some great insight, and certainly a wealth of learning material for us all.

“…Technology is helping us do more, it should also help us do less if, it can…” a great sentiment and a point very well made. Helping people to achieve more with less effort – that’s the point of what we do isn’t it?! There’s a lesson in everything.

Velocity: A Review

June 1, 2012

So, a while ago I popped a post eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new read: Velocity – a conversational styled creative business book, that tracks the thoughts, observations and reflections of AKQA’s Ajaz Ahmed and Nike’s Stefan Olander.

The first thing to say about the book is that if you’re a designer looking for ‘creative inspiration’ then this isn’t the book for you (try: AKQA Ideas: Vol 1). Or if you’re a digital marketeer looking for a templated process workflow, this book isn’t going to help (try: Digital Marketing: Strategies for Online Success). Okay, that’s who it’s not for – although if you are the above I’d still recommend a read.

So who is it for? Well, if you’re interested in how the essence of great business should be done in today’s digital world, then you’re in luck – you have some great insights to absorb in the seven laws.

The second thing to say is it’s well worth the read. And that’s not just me saying it, of the 12 customer reviews it has on Amazon today, eleven have committed to the full 5 stars, with one 4 stars. Already the book is following the path of its laws!

The next thing to comment on is the book’s written format. It’s been crafted as a conversation between the two digital experts. They point out themselves that this is a little unusual, and I guess it is, but it certainly doesn’t get in the way of the massages. I found it made the whole experience a lot more personal that the typical business book.

I’m sure some might comment that the style of the book is simply a chance for the two to showboat their digital greatness, a self indulgent pat-on-the-back, but I’d disagree. Yes, some of the conversations seem a little self congratulatory, but you can’t really argue with the facts – Nike+ and Fiat eco:Drive have been sector, digital, possibly even life changing ideas.

Ok, not everyone is working on groundbreaking global digital accounts, but there is plenty in there for you, whatever your standing. Learning from and translating their lessons is the real power of this book.

Then there’s the Seven Laws themselves. From ‘A Smith & Wesson beats four aces’ to ‘Have a purpose larger then yourself’, they’re all both inspirational and practical. And they’re not just laws for digital communications either, they’re more like laws for life. Following them would be more akin to making you a fully rounded person, that a great digital leader – again, one of the powers of the book.

For me, it’s as easy to translate “Make meaningful connections” into having a true respect for others, as it is to fully understanding you client and their audience’s digital requirements. In that way the book seems to transcend any specific media, and position itself as a source of vision-shaping richness. Inspirational stuff!

And as well as inspiration within its pages, by reading Velocity you’re going to get a wealth of eminently repeatable quotes. From “Digital is the means, not the end”, to “…at the far side of an app, a Tweet, an anything, there’s a person”, to “Never have anything to apologise for”, to “Get going. Then get better”, there’s plenty of fodder there for pitches, proposals or simple client conversations.

So, overall, in a landscape awash with ‘how to’ books, Velocity is a refreshing change in its ambition to set a ‘tone’ rather that simply dictate a process. Velocity isn’t a reference book, and the two author aren’t pedagogic in their musings, but the book does position a clear vision of the future, and looks to inspire its readers into truly thinking about their digital actions.

Have a purpose larger then yourself – the seventh law, certainly seems to be a guiding principal for the two digital trailblazers. Velocity isn’t just an inspiring read, it’s a positive guiding light into the best ways to think, feel and act in world gone digital.

by____ Gavin Johnson