Target Shoots the Messenger

Ad Biz, courier bag, Cultures & Fringes, Design & Creativity, Lamitron, Pop Culturisms, RootPhi, Target, Timbuk2, Wal Mart

This past June, Treehugger reported that Timbuk2 was going to team up with RootPhito build a messenger bag by pressing (laminating) recycled billboards, grocery bags, posters, and the like.  The bags will be called Lamitron, and their development process has been closely watched by influential bloggers including Cool HuntingWired and PSFK.

Here are a few prototypes:

targetbag.jpg

example2.jpg

example3.jpg

I dig it.  I dig it so much that I have postponed buying a new courier bag until these roll out.  Think about it, an ad guy walking around with a bag made of deconstructed ads. 

I signed up for their email and was immediately notified that Lamitron bags would be available for purchase as soon as Timbuk2 and RootPhi ironed out the production process.  That original email is lost, but it included an image with yet another example of what the bags could look like (ever mindful that they are all custom):

target-copy.jpg

(sorry for the fuzzy image…I had to do a screen capture)

As you can see, one of the primary materials RootPhi and Timbuk2 were playing with was the always hip, always branded Target shopping bag.  Cool idea, right?

Not according to Target.

Today, Timbuk2 sent out another email notifying all those interested in Lamitron bags that Target tossed them a cease and desist order.  It read:

notarget.jpg

Note the Lamitron bag in this email.  The right panel, made of a Target shopping bag, has been blurred. 

Obviously, Timbuk2 is taking this cease and decist letter seriously.  Their tact and tone indicates they do not want to poke the beast for fear of legal repercussions, but come on…

Shame on you, Target.  This is a new era, and you know that.  Your marketing efforts are some of the most progressive in the world.  You have a keen understanding of how to engage customers in new, interactive ways.

Timbuk2 may be another “company” rather than a “customer”, but what they offer you is a way to keep the Target brand relevant, fresh, and at the cutting edge of fashion and design.  Why in the world would you ask Timbuk2 to remove your logo from their bags?  It is a critical step in the wrong direction.

I have not control over the process, but I’m hopeful that, in an act of passive aggression, Timbuk2 and RootPhi stop by Wal-Mart on their way to the printing press:

walmart.jpg

Multi-Dimensional Facebook

Design & Creativity, Digital Media, Facebook, graph, Social Marketing, social network, Web 2.0

Jeff Berg of the Interpublic Emerging Media Lab posted a great article on the growth of Facebook applications (3,000 and counting) that have been developed by third-party developers since the system went live a few months ago. 

One stood out: Interactive Friends Graph

 interactivemap.jpg

As you can see, my entire network (not that big, really) is posted in this application.  When I scroll over a friend – in this case, Ed Mahon – I immediately see how our networks overlap. 

The name “Interactive Friends Graph” is terribly boring, but this visualization tool is something I have been wanting for a very long time. 

A major problem I have had with social networks from the beginning is they have been programed not as networks but as linear streams of data.  MySpace posts my friends in rows.  Facebook posts my friends in columns.

Now, with this map, I can finally see a representation of my social network much as it exists in my head – a mishmash of loose connections that encircle my little slice of the world.

This same type of mapping (e.g., multi-axis and multi-dimensional) will play a key role in Web 2.5 (yes, I just made that up).  More to come, I’m sure.

Photovolution

Co Creation, Design & Creativity, Digital Media, digital photography, Geek Culture, innovators, Social Marketing, Trends, User Generated Content, Web 2.0

I went out and picked up a new copy of iLife this past weekend.  I’m not one to review softward, but the new iPhoto was a welcomed departure from the cumbersome version still found on most Macs today.  The new features are great – such as being able to view the photographs within a folder simply by dragging your cursor across that folder – but my overall impression is this version of iPhoto is more of an evolution than a revolution. Something seems to be missing.  You should definately see the online demo of iLife/iMovie/iPhoto for yourself.

Then today, after some inspiration from a friend who sent me the link to Philip’s new Drag & Draw, I began looking online for other software applications that could help me navigate my ever-growing list of photographs on Flickr, iPhoto, my cell phone, my work laptop, my laptop, my wife’s laptop, etc.

I came across this.  It is the first YouTube video that actually compelled me to raise my hand to my mouth in astonishment:

This is a photo revolution. Mr. Jobs, you still have some work to do.

IBM Saves Second Life

Community Marketing, Design & Creativity, Digital Media, Second Life, Social Marketing, Web 2.0

IBM’s research labs in England have been working on a new project called DIY Shopper.  The juggernaut of the computer age has teamed up with Kingfisher, a leading home improvement/DIY store in the UK and Asia, do build out a website that takes into account some of the best attributes of Web 2.0.

kingfisher.jpg

The new site will go well beyond the basic customer review.  It will incorporate blogs, buddy lists of in-store advisors, and notes from people doing similar products.  The content will be available in-store on handheld devices so you can refer back to the reviews and advice held in the web interface.

More importantly, IBM is blending a traditional website – DIY Shopper – with a virtual world.  Specifically, they have designed DIY Shopper to integrate with Second Life so that a shopper’s avatar is able to view materials available in store on his/her virtual house.  Let me write that again.  Products from the real world will be available in a digital, 3D format so that customers can see what they look like prior to purchase.  Here’s a screen shot:

 

Note the products in the bottom-left corner. 

To quote the head of police in Goonies: “Holy Mary Mother of God.  Will you look at that.”

This is the future of retail.  Kingfisher is just the start.  User-generated content is going to be pervasive throughout web-based retail experiences.  We are going to see retailers go far beyond the basic user review.  Companies will either open up their online retail experiences to outside influences – blogs, videos, buddy lists from social networks, the list goes on – or watch their competitors do it first and take the (brand) credit.

This is the future of virtual worlds.  Retailers have tried to integrate virtual shopping with real-world purchases before.  For instance, I could have gone to the American Apparel store in SL and tried on a virtual shirt that I could then buy through americanapparel.com.  Of course, AA has since shut their virtual doors.  Why?  I think it is because they were asking people to start in a virtual world and then go back to a more familiar ground – the 2-dimensional website.  Or maybe it was because people aren’t ready for virtual clothes (because it is such an emotional decision-making process) but are fine with looking at virtual drywall.

What IBM and Kingfisher are proposing is that you go to Kingfisher.com.uk, select a few products for comparison, and then link them to your virtual house in Second Life to see how they look.  That flow is more comfortable for people – or at least my intuition says so.

We’ll see what happens.  Kudos to Kingfisher and IBM for pulling out the defibrillator for SL.

The UGA Balancing Act

Ad Biz, Design & Creativity, Digital Media, Media, Traditional Media 2.0, Web 2.0

User Generated Advertising (UGA) is getting a lot of press lately.  A couple of examples show the diverse range of thoughts companies have on this subject.

VISA – Pulling Back the Reigns

Today, Adweek announced that Visa will not include traditional UGA – where anybody can create and submit an idea/ad – in their next “Life Takes Visa” branding strategy.  From the article:

Visa says its research shows the best way to reach the goals of the current effort is to assign consumers a secondary role—at most.The company says its learned consumer content has its limits when marketing has specific tasks to perform.

The next campaign will include “users” acting within a walled garden of sorts.  Visa has decided to sponsor 48-Hour Film Project, an international film competition where amateur filmmakers create 7-minute videos over the course of a designated weekend.  Visa has chosen to sponsor 30 teams who will compete in 48-Hour, and they have requested that these teams film 7-minute videos that are in line with the “Life Takes” campaign.  Winners get Visa gift cards, of course.

Kevin Burke, SVB Advertising, Visa, said “We want people who are skilled in storytelling and have a diverse and fresh point of view.”  That’s a nice way of saying that Visa doesn’t want the schlock that comes with a traditional UGA campaign.

It seems the pendulum is swinging a bit for Visa:

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I can’t argue with Visa’s decision.  As I wrote in this post, I don’t think there are many examples where unbridled user-generated advertising is effective.  It is too easy for clients to misinterpret the idea of “crowd wisdom” and end up with 100,000 homogenous and imitative submissions that somebody, billing a whole lot of hours, has to sift through only to discover the AOR’s creative team could have done better work.  Best to involve a customer base through other means…after all, “user-generated” means a lot of things.  It’s a shame how most advertising agencies seem to be stuck in the UGA field instead of looking to incorporate user generation elsewhere.  But I digress…

Visa shows us is a new UGA hybrid is taking center stage.  And I love it.  In my opinion, we are beginning to understand that control needs to be shared in the world of Web 2.0.  If companies and their ad agencies hoard control – as we have done since the dawn of time – we risk alienating our customers.  Oppositely, if we give customers complete control we risk watering down everything.  A balanced hybrid (the middle of the pendulum) may be the best place for our work to ultimately rest.

Taco Bell – Avatarsment

Taco Bell announced today that they are going to be making a big splash in the world of UGA come September.  The press release reads:

Taco Bell has partnered with Gizmoz and MTV in search of three virtual consumer actors to star as animated talking characters in a 30-second Taco Bell television commercial. The ad for Fourthmeal the late night meal between dinner and breakfast will debut worldwide during the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) on September 9, 2007.

gizmozlogo.gif

WTF?

Let’s break this down. 

First off, Taco Bell has already made the ad – or at least the script – so this is not UGA in the traditional sense where the customer has complete control.  Taco Bell is merely looking for actors.  Virtual actors.

Secondly, TB is partnering with Gizmoz, an Israeli startup that has developed a new technology enabling users to create their own animated, talking avatars and then plug them into social networking profiles, blogs, emails, personal websites, and eventually virtual worlds like Second Life.  In other words, using Gizmoz technology I’ll be able to upload my face onto an avatar and surf the Web as my virtual self.  Dig 555dwain’s Avatar below.  He obviously needs to stay away from kitchen knives:

555.jpg 

Taco Bell came up with a new term for this type of UGA – Avatarsment.  Badum dum. 

But seriously, this is a great idea and great incorporation of digital technology into a UGA campaign.  Taco Bell maintains control and integrity over the creative output while inviting customers into the process with a new, fun carrot on a stick: Gizmoz avatars.

The customer has control.

The company has control.

Balance is achieved.

I can’t wait for the MTV Awards.

Well, not really.  I hate MTV.

But I can’t wait to see this campaign’s final product.

Co-Creating Downtown Austin

Community Marketing, Design & Creativity, Digital Media, Trends, Web 2.0

I’m such a nerd that when I’m bored I simply surf around the world using Google mapping software.  Maps, earth, satellite images, their new voyeur software…I love it all.

I came across a thread on a Skyscraper Page the other day regarding 3-D images being uploaded into Google Earth.  It seems that the local planner/developer community here (at least the online planner/developer community) is really excited about the chance to put their own work on Google Earth. 

Here is how the thread starts with a note from a guy that goes by the handel priller:

“I noticed that Google Earth has almost no models for buildings in Austin, not even the plain placeholder boxes they have for most big cities. I’ve been wanting to play with Google’s SketchUp program, too, so I decided to start building some models with it that I could upload to Google Earth.

Please keep in mind I have no experience doing this kind of modeling. So I’ve started on a few more simple buildings, getting some experience, before tackling the more complex ones. And then eventually I hope to try to model some of the new highrises.

Here’s the models I did for 100 Congress and One Congress Plaza. The capitol building was done by Google:”

And here are his buildings (the Capital is in the background of the first image):

congress.jpg

dobie-tower.jpg

Once these images were uploaded, the entire forum (about two dozen daily visitors) exploded with excitement.  People have been cheering on prillar who has gone onto build out another ten or so towers using Google ScetchUp.  Others in the forum have joined in and are adding to the skyline.  Given the traffic on this forum thread, I would imagine that most of downtown Austin will be created by Average Joe’s before end of year.

What did Google provide?  Everything.  The maps, the sketchup software, and even the chance for people to upload their sketches to Google Earth so they could share their work with others.  All of their services are easy to use – see my previous post on Flow Theory – and allows for organic creativity among the most obscure groups including a bunch of planning/developing junkies in Austin.

From past threads you may have noted that I’m opposed to the Walled Garden effect most companies insist on using when considering co-creation.  Google shows us how to do it right.

Now if we can just get Google to understand the power of WOM.  Downtown Austin was built by chance, but Google can learn from this and stimulate similar collaborative efforts among similar audiences in cities across the world.  If I were working in their marketing department, I would be scouring the globe for groups like this one on Skyscraper Page.  I may even build competitions into the mix to stimulate more modeling faster. 

Regardless, as long as they keep their software open for additions, I don’t see an end to turning the 2D into the 3D.

austin.jpg 

Rapid Prototyping

Breakthroughs, Design & Creativity, Idea City in Second Life, Media Technologies

The New York Times has a great article on 3-D scanners today – desktop boxes that can copy, e-mail, print or fax 3-D objects.

This builds on the current regarding home fabrication in the home.  Sears was publicised a few months back for introducing a home fabricator.  Combined with a 3-D imager, hobbyists will soon be able to upload an original object, tinker with its specs, and produce a copy/revised version at their desks.

Per the NYT article: “The world is just beginning to grapple with the implications of this relatively low-cost duplicating method, often called rapid prototyping.  Hearing aid companies, for instance, are producing some custom-fitted ear pieces from molds of patients.  Custom car companies produce new parts for classic cars or modified parts for hot rods.  Consumer produce makers create fully functional designs before committing themselves to big producution runs.”

The ramifications of these technologies are huge.  People often think of emerging technologies as simply allowing people to stay connected with others.  But, in this instance, the effects are much more personal.  Customization will be open to the masses, and with it the mass produced, mass advertised product of the industrial era will receive a long-overdue expiration date.

However, companies and their marketing departments can still tap into this technology.  Just off the cuff I can think of several examples how this technology could be used by brands as utility for their customers.  For instance, Ray-Ban could provide me with a service whereby my face is scanned and a pair of aviators are custom fabricated for me.  “My Ray-Bans” are born.  And, of course, if Ray-Ban insists on ignoring this technology, I can always look elsewhere…so goes the rejection of technology so goes the rejection of brands in a world where the tangible is comoditized.

One more thought from me: Online piracy is about to move beyond media.  When anyone can make anything, the complaints coming from the music industry seem trivial.