November 27, 2008
This year thanksgiving is riding the momentum of the nation, a new president, a teetering economy, a cultural shift and a world at war.
Us Webicrats sometimes lose site of what is going on "out there" because we are so busy "in here" designing, developing, programming, strategizing, and telling stories.
We sometimes get competitive, harbor anger amongst one another over accounts, clients, projects, work, whatever...
We are very fortunate and should be thankful that aside from the crazy deadlines, budgets, long nights, fickle clients and creative challenges we do what we love and live in relative peace and comfort, we are surrounded by toys, computers, and "kids" like ourselves who get to sell things by having fun.
There are now 125 dead, 327 wounded in attacks in India.
Lets all be thankful for everything we have and do each and every day.
Thanksgiving is a great way to head into the end of the year on a positive note so that the new year begins with a cheerful outlook and brotherly love amongst all human beings.
We should all reflect on everything we are thankful for, and internalize that thankfulness so that we may reflect it upon others around us.
Have a happy and a meaningful Thanksgiving holiday and may this season of change be for the good.
November 20, 2008
ThoughtPile won today's FWA award!!!
There is also an article published on The FWA to accompany the achievement.
In addition to ThoughtPile we also partnered with Mono to create this absolutely cool product site for the new Embody by Herman Miller.
Check it out here: Embody Micro Site
Both these two sites represent a kind of reconnaissance in interactive design. Designed by Vas Sloutchevsky, both employ 3D and all of the latest technologies yet the design is completely classic, I really enjoy the lack of sizzle and corporate brand bling that usually bloats a good idea.
Congratulations to the entire Mono and Freedom + Partners teams for a job well done.
November 17, 2008
The buzz in the industry this year has been swirling around the concept of story telling.
In an "ad age" where the old guard is passing the torch to the new, where advances in digital media have not only propelled the industry into the future but has also set it on a unchartered path, where the web has become the central storytelling hub for a many industries.
Take a breath, OK, continue...
Michael Eisner was quoted, saying “YouTube is to the Internet what a nickelodeon is to the movies. It’s the preliminary installment of what is to come,”
So what is to come Michael? his response is “Great, creative storytelling.”
- Michael Eisner says to AdAge.
Then in the famous interview heard around the ad world, Lee Clow was quoted on this topic as well:
“Online advertising is still semi-nowhere. It’s very intrusive and annoying and kind of the worst of our business in terms of pop-up and flash, and jump up and down”….”The ability to use the Internet in terms of great brand storytelling is still at its infancy,” he said. “The Internet advertising media, cross my fingers and hope to God, with bandwidth and with some ability, is going to become more artful; it’s going to become more interesting. … But it’s going to take creative people to embrace the possibilities of what you can do on the Internet in terms of advertising and storytelling and make it a little better and smarter.”
Story telling is what is going to save the web from its intrusive and annoying toddler stages. It will be the maturity that the web will eventually grow into and will become a giant field overgrown with thick, lush, dew-laden, story telling in the most creative, technologically advanced, and impressive ways we have ever seen.
Right now we are NOT there yet.
That nagging top header, that annoying left nav and that over bloated center table doesn't seem to want to die just yet. The hyperlink and the rollover are still lingering in our interfaces and we are still tripping over stingy footers.
However! Do not despair!
Today's FWA SOTD award went to Cookie a shop from Poland who in my opinion showed us one way to tell a story online.
The website is called Day To Day Hero and its super!
Check it out here: Day To Day Hero
Lukasz Twardowski and team Cookie did a superb job showing us how fun telling a story online can be.
Definitely check out this site.
November 11, 2008
I monitor the web like a freak.
I have trained myself to hone in on the latest and greatest sites out there so I can be a better evangelist for our industry.
I try to examine every detail of any site worthy of examining so that I can better inform our clients as to what will succeed and what will fail.
Many times I see two sites that launch around the same time, designed and developed by two completely different shops, and they have such stark similarities in both their concept and design, function and genre that I often wonder if information leaked into each one of the agencies as to what the other is doing.
I know I know, its called a trend, but what happened to me today finally enlightened me to how this occurs.
Freedom + Partners recently put out a site for Herman Miller called ThoughtPile. It is a really neat site that is a data visualization of various thoughts that people have about various topics concerning the world and how to make it better.
Firstborn Multimedia recently put out a site for AT&T called Speak In Thumbs. It is a really neat site that is a data visualization of various thoughts that people express using keyboard shortcuts on their Samsung Propel Smart Phone.
Now I know for a fact that none of us speak, yes I did once work at Firstborn, however there has been no sharing of creative, ideas, nothing, yet these two sites are almost identical if you break them down.
So now I finally get to be in the eye of the storm! I get to see how this happens.
ThoughtPile starts off with a standard text intro that explains the site which is pretty standard, nothing so glaring about that. But then when we go into the site we start to see the similarities.
ThoughtPile has a question of the week at the top left hand corner of the page, a circle in the middle displaying the thoughts and then an orange plus sign on the right hand side that is used to add new thoughts.
Speak In Thumbs has a text instruction on top left hand corner of the page, a circle in the middle displaying the expressions and then an orange plus sign on the right hand side that is used to add new thoughts.
So I ask myself, how? Are trends that powerful that they permeate the industry by filling the heads of creative directors, designers, coders and agency partners?
The answer must be that we all think alike, we must all have a unified intuition that binds us as web professionals.
I can understand how popular trends force designs to look alike and dictate how images and video are treated but to wire frame two totally separate sites to be so similar is mind boggling.
Well, both are great sites by two great teams, excellent executions that speak volumes about both studios.
I am glad that I was finally able to be involved in this anomaly that had been confusing me for so long.
Its interesting to see that there is some sort of greater connection between digital agencies that cause sites to sometimes mimic one another.
November 7, 2008
The celebration from this weeks election results are still reverberating throughout the city (I live in NYC) and cities all over the world. People are suddenly alive with chatter, intelligent, emotional, and critical chatter about the new President elect Barack Obama.
Obama means so many different things to so many different people.
Obama is a candidate that truly embodies the nation he is serving. Just look around at the faces, listen to people speak, gauge the atmosphere around yourself and you will see why Obama was the obvious choice for President.
We live in very uncertain times and in many ways Obama is a very uncertain choice for President.
A black man is now President of a very young nation that very early on in its history was a bastion of slavery and racial intolerance, that sometimes still lingers in many parts of the country.
As a nation we elected a man who has little high office experience, often preaches over inflated promises and is a mixture of races that leaves him sitting just outside both black and white lines. A man who is full of potential and who instills the desire in a nation that wants to help him realize that potential.
As a nation we have decided to break loose the grips of conventional wisdom and let a man who is more about the future than a patriot of the past. A man who is looking forward, not back, to an America that realizes its true place amongst nations.
His campaign has cured this nation of its apathy and has re-injected a new interest in how we are perceived amongst other nations. The reality of his very being is proof enough that we are a nation in transition.
Obama is a man who represents the hope in all of us.
He is the culmination of everything we want from a nation that promised us all a dream.
Obama is no super hero. He is all of us, his mixture goes beyond race, his honesty and courage is rooted in the desire for those very attributes in all of us. His determination and his rise to success from the very depths of community service is what draws us to him so closely.
We have become an empty nation and an empty people.
Our spending habits, pop culture and banking and education systems have all deteriorated due to neglect and over consumption. We are losing our houses, our jobs and our security into old age.
The nations to the east and to the south are like hungry wolves waiting for the right moment for us to weaken from the fat that we consume on a daily basis. We are fat from every aspect of our lives. Fat from gas, from money, from food and from consumption.
The past eight years have been spent dealing with the realization that we have lost our luster. Our respect and our prominence has worn off and we are now tangled in a ball of critical issues facing our country. We were left licking our wounds and trying to figure out how to clean messes rather than how to prosper.
Obama may not be the cure but he is a remedy that will lead us to a cure.
His desire for truth and for facing the issues head on through constant communication and embracing the nation wholly.
This is not a political article, and what I am about to write is not entirely political in nature.
What amazed me the most about this campaign was Obama's ability to recognize, understand and embrace the web as a tool for communication. He not only validated the publics desire for change but he also validated the power of the Internet as a means to help bring about that change.
Obama understood the the Internet was his bull horn, it amplified his voice, his persona and his soul to the furthest reaches of the planet.
From Facebook to YouTube from Google to Yahoo, CNN and ESPN. News clips, SNL and MySpace. Widgets, RSS feeds, banners and blogs.
The digital frontier was Obama's campaign trail conquered!
We no longer recognize those purple mountains majesty and from sea to shining sea is a vague term to the youth of today
Emails, websites, Sarah Silverman viral video-sites, iPhone apps and digital downloads.
Obama knew that he would be heard the loudest through the Internet and through technology that is embraced by all.
3 minutes before Obama emerged to give his historic acceptance speech in Chicago, every one of his supporters got a personal email thanking them for everything they have done to support his landslide win.
From the very beginning of this campaign there was a very futuristic feel to how Obama was speaking to the public. It was llike nothing else we have ever witnessed.
The Internet has changed the way we do lots of things in our lives and now it has changed the way elections are won. It is the new stage for politics and the most powerful communication tool known to mankind.
What impressed me was Obama's familiarity for the medium. His campaign trusted and executed flawlessly on every technology, trend, application and information platform. From design to function and beyond.
You think your popular because you have 998 friends on Facebook?
Well Obama has 2,712,479 and counting.
Names and faces of real people, real supporters, real users who feel a connection closer than any connection to any other past President. These are people who can speak up and feel that they are being heard, people with hopes and dreams and a people who wants to know that those hopes are not going unnoticed.
Democrat is now a brand.
I am a Mac = Democrat
I am a PC = Republican
Its amazing how the threads of pop culture and society mimic one another so subtly yet so obviously when put side by side.
We are obviously a nation divided by a checkered past and an unknown future.
What was is now and what is now is almost gone.
The speed of communication has accelerated us as a planet and is now forcing us to go beyond and transcend, to evolve.
Obama is the face of that evolution.
He is global, he is both sides of the coin.
His lack of experience is a strength because there is less for him to undo and more for him to grow into.
His leadership will succeed based on how committed he is to keep that light burning so that we as a people can navigate through these dark times.
His tenacity is what we will need to push through these next eight years. Hopefully he surrounds himself with the right people so he can focus on keeping that smile burning across his face. That smile that smiles for all of us.
His race, his facade, is simply that of a people who have always struggled for progress. His face is the color of adversity and overcoming it.
We all now struggle for progress, we all need redemption from our mistakes and now we all move forward together as one nation to climb out of this hole we have found ourselves buried in.
Obama is the first President in the new age.
The continents of the Earth have gathered as one Pangea once again, as it had started millions of years ago. The Internet has bridged the great oceans and has created dialog, both good and bad amongst the people of the world.
Obama is the first President of the first generation of an evolution.
The Internet Age.
As the community who designs and develops for this great voice to be projected to the entire planet, we should all be proud that the medium we love is what made a difference in the world.
Today, November 17th, President-elect Obama will record the weekly Democratic address not just on radio but also on video -- a first. The address, typically four minutes long, will be turned into a YouTube video and posted on Obama's transition site, Change.gov, once the radio address is made public on Saturday morning.
The address will be taped at the transition office in Chicago today.
"This is just one of many ways that he will communicate directly with the American people and make the White House and the political process more transparent," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told us last night.
In addition to regularly videotaping the radio address, officials at the transition office say the Obama White House will also conduct online Q&As and video interviews. The goal, officials say, is to put a face on government. In the following weeks, for example, senior members of the transition team, various policy experts and choices for the Cabinet, among others, will record videos for Change.gov.
November 3, 2008
The web offers the ad industry tons of potential in terms of options to market a brand online.
So much so that it can get confusing or even impossible to nail down which methods will work for which brand.
Brands require experts who monitor those trends on the internet and who understand what is working at any given time in specific areas of the web. Trends change daily based on new technologies and more interactive ways to tell a story.
The experts are the ones creating the new technologies and innovations on the web as a means to stay competitive.
They are the digital agencies.
As ad agencies get more proficient at identifying and in some ways codifying these various techniques we are starting to see more and more interesting websites being launched. But those sites are not necessarily successful.
It is often the case where ideas and the technologies don't play nicely together.
Today these new techniques come and go almost daily and the rule book changes with every new site launched. This is confusing to agencies and by the time they think they get it, they don't.
If you take a look at a cross section of the more successful or popular sites that have been launched recently you will notice that most of them lack one important component, and a trend that is becoming more and more popular today, that is critical for a successful online campaign.
I will get to what that is later in this post.
Imagine you come up with an idea, and you sell it through to your client but in the back of your mind there is nothing that says that the idea will surely work. Its a gamble, like anything in life, you just have no real facts to say that something will be a hit.
You familiarize yourself will all the latest trends and work with the best digital agencies out there to make sure your site will be prefect for launch.
The copy is airtight, assets are beautifully created and the site is the definition of digital harmony.
The ad buys are in place, banners are everywhere, even a TV spot driving traffic to the site.
Your psyched, your client is psyched, everyone involved is feeling great and you've already drafted your awards acceptance speech.
The day has come, the site goes live.
What I am getting at here is that culturally traditional ad agencies are just simply out of sync with what the public wants, expects and needs from the web.
The web insists that those who are creating media for it stay much more abreast to what its capabilities are and unlike the past new technologies are adopted much quicker on the web than the more static traditional platforms ever had available to them.
Over the last ten years consumers have been re-trained to think faster, react immediately and receive their reward instantly.
Apple's iTunes is a great example of that. Who would have thought that Apple would emerge as the top seller of entertainment media like music and movies and now mobile applications.
We are the instant gratification generation.
We click we get.
So the question that weighs heavily on my mind is, why would an ad agency that specializes in traditional marketing endeavor to strategize a web campaign for their clients when their staff is not geared for this kind of work and why would brands pay them millions to do work they are not specialized to do?
One of this year's biggest stories was the outburst by Big Spaceship owner Michael Lebowitz. He spoke up regarding his shops credit snub at Cannes.
The issue was credit, and the topic was definitely newsworthy, but what also happened was that it helped usher in the emergence of the digital agency.
It was a new voice speaking up and saying HEY WE EXIST!
Brands typically rely on their AOR to strategize a marketing campaign that they expect to be evenly distributed across various media platforms based on where they will get the best consumer response.
Now that the web has become one of the, if not the, most popular places to advertise we are seeing ad agencies starting to struggle with how they are executing more traditional ideas on the web.
There is no doubt that traditional ad agencies are tremendously talented at coming up with stories to tell based on brands and that ideas are in no shortage but taking those ideas and translating them online poses a new challenge to them.
I do not believe that the agencies were able to foresee the speed at which the industry would shift, the veracious impact with which digital would gain prominence as well as the rate of expansion of the web.
Agencies were simply to big and unable to see how quickly the web would become mainstreamed and how the new media marketplace would be completely redefined.
Most of the larger traditional agencies have not adjusted to the shift.
Only a few agencies have changed culturally. The agencies that have sprouted up during the dot com years were lucky enough to have built digital capabilities into their core services. Older agencies are now trying to simply acquire it.
Brands expect their agency to be able to execute across all media and inherently understand the nature of that media and how to integrate with it.
Smaller digital agencies had already bought into the new culture in the mid 90s, they have been doing this for over ten years now and over those ten years have accepted their roles as second fiddle to the larger agencies but at the same time waiting patiently, and learning from the mistakes that agencies made, for their time to come.
Digital agencies live and breathe and experiment with new media and digital storytelling in ways that traditional ad agencies cant. Digital agencies are naturally more curious about the medium because they created that medium and are always trying to improve it.
Digital shops have been learning from the mistakes made at larger agencies, smaller digital shops have identified that in order to grab the reigns they must know how to own and then integrate online media across a larger media marketplace and are doing so quite nicely.
As brands now shift their dollars towards the web the looming question is who should be getting the big bucks?
Digital shops have been doing work with agencies for some time now and like any close relationship each of the participants have rubbed off on one another.
Digital shops had to learn how to communicate with agencies by adopting a lot of the traditional processes that agencies have had in place for a 100 some odd years now and large agencies have had to step up their techno-jargon in order to jive with the hip smaller digital shops.
The result is that digital SHOPS have now become digital AGENCIES.
Growth is critical in any industry and evolution is unavoidable.
Now that media technologists and ad folks have intermingled and digital shops have realized that they too can come up with creative and innovative ways to market a brand, especially online, there seems to be an inherent shift in where brands need to be turning to drive their next campaign.
Any smart brand manager should realize that going directly to a digital agency will not only help save them money, because digital agencies tend to be much smaller and more nimble, but that they will be putting their money behind the people who are not only following the trends but actually creating those trends.
With limited budgets digital agencies can only go so far.
Digital projects suffer because the pie is being eaten by way too many people. By the time the people who are actually doing the project get the brief most of the dollars have been eaten up by the layers of bureaucracy at the AOR.
But if the budgets for digital campaigns were to be put directly in the hands of the digital agencies it would help to create not only more innovative executions but also help to finance the emergence of new technologies on the web and more exciting stories being told.
I mentioned earlier in this post that there is a missing component that traditional ad agencies lack.
That component is real time media tracking that is both accurate in terms of understanding audiences and identifying what user behavior patterns are successful and acting quickly on those findings.
Digital shops not only understand the inner workings of new media, they created this media, and intuitively understand what ideas will work online and which ones will fail.
Imagine a small digital shop who has been working every major traditional agency for ten years, learning from every project. Learning how each one of them communicates, comes up with ideas and tackles problems. Then they go ahead and apply that to their vast digital knowledge and then wrap that up with killer creative. The perfect model for the new agency trained by the old guard.
The digital shops were and continue to witness and learn from every success and mistake made by a cross section of large agencies.
Its like spending ten years in grad school being taught by the best professors.
Now that our country is facing financial introspection and money needs to be spent wisely, brands should reconsider where they distribute their ad dollars.
Digital shops are now more than capable of quarterbacking a campaign.
Ideas born from within the digital culture will have a better chance of surviving the fast pace of the web and in turn will give brands more bang for their buck. They will offer brands solutions that will enable the campaign to shift based on what users want and expect at various points of the campaign life.
One such execution, in my opinion, was launched this year for NBC Universal by digital shop Freedom + Partners. It is a very unique website created for the show The Starter Wife.
The site can be seen here: http://www.tswlife.com
What set this site apart from other sites I have seen this year is that it is loaded with potential for what the new face of the web will look like once more digital shops starting leading campaigns online.
With time and budget limitations, Freedom + Partners was able to execute a site that was a true convergence of media platforms. From book to mini series to weekly episodes to website every part of this property lives on a separate and appropriate media platform making it a truly diverse brand that speaks to a multitude of audiences.
NBC Universal was brave enough to take a chance on a digital agency who understood how to get immediate feedback from its audience. In partnering with Freedom + Partners, NBC Universal saw the potential for giving users new content immediately following an episode of the show and using that information to provide them with a better overall brand experience every time they came back to the site.
The site is now an evolving media platform that will give NBC the ability to see what their audiences want and how they react to what they are already giving them.
There is no exact science for success on the web, however putting your projects in the hands of those who are most intimate with it is one step towards success.