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What Planet Do You Live On?

One of the few things that can instantly annoy me are right wing pundits. Whenever the Daily Show is featuring a clip from one of those guys, I cringe. Obviously, it’s because of my politics.

But I’m beginning to think about the people who agree with the likes of Limbaugh and O’Reilly and if this was ever possible before media fragmentation (I know, this idea is so 2 years ago).

My classmate had this idea that information creates communities, which until now, I did not understand the impact. While multiple viewpoints on a idea is ideally very good for the sake of getting the full picture, I think the opposite has happened. The communities that are created by this information are too strong. People simply choose the viewpoint they agree most with and shut off everything else. It’s the exact opposite impact that choice is supposed to have.

My problem with this is that now we can’t agree to one reality. Everyone is living in their own little world and when something comes up that demands discourse and debate, we spend all our time arguing about how to define the problem rather than fixing it. Nothing happens and everyone starts blaming each other. It’s a frustrating process that’s easier to laugh at than doing anything about.

New Media Again

I think MAGE left an interesting thought on my last post about new media – “now. As slow as media companies have been to use the new media, business have been slower to understand it,” – that got me thinking about media companies in general.

I agree that media companies are slow about using new media. We had Tata Sato of Mindshare visit our class this semester and the question of new media came up. And if I remember correctly, her response to it was that they don’t do anything that hasn’t been proven to work. One reason why media companies are making a killing is because they have the greatest handle on metrics and ROI – something clients love hearing about. I think the problem with new media is that there are no established case studies that the media company can use to make the suggestion to their clients.

Some of the shops that can get away with making new media recommendations are more creative or innovation types of companies. Or simply companies that create things, not messaging – Anomaly, Zeus Jones, Poke, etc. Those things that they create go on to become a media channel of sorts. And I say “media channels of sorts” because I know some agencies prefer to create tools or useful experiences where no content is being delivered.

How the iPhone Will Change Mobile Marketing

This is a summary of a project I was working on for a class.

iPhone takes smart phones mainstream
Smart phones – Blackberries and Treos – have always been popular among business users because of their email and web capabilities. But the design aesthetics and costs have deterred the typical cell phone user from switching over. The capabilities were desired, but not in that packaging. But the iPhone got it right.

And in the process of getting it right, it helped turn users towards the larger category of smart phones in general. Blackberry reported an increase in sales after the release of the iPhone. And from our survey, all iPhone users swear to never go back to a normal cell phone. People are now in tune with a smarter, more dynamic mobile experience.

Increased functionality = intense usage behavior
While all smart phones have increased functionality, the iPhone made took the idea mainstream to the average consumer. The study found that the increased functionality of the iPhone lead to intense usage behaviors. Users described the iPhone as “a computer that happens to make phone calls” and also stating that “everyday is like getting a new phone…with all the third party apps.” Obviously, there is an opportunity to engage people through the phones, but through very specific terms of engagement.

The brand is the phone and the phone is the brand
That observation infers that if a brand wants to engage a user on their mobile device, that they have to also take the route of increased functionality. Typically, a brand would engage through the phone (like a media channel) to get to the consumer. However, there is an opportunity to transform the phone experience into a brand experience. It’s a daring proposition that suggests that a brand should take over the phone, but done in a way that adds value.

Terms of engagement
Applications or widgets are an effective way to engage people on their phones. Small pieces of software are effective in changing the phone experience into brand experience. Also, software is designed and structured in a way to deliver on function. A couple of cues to consider when designing applications or widgets for mobile marketing campaigns:

All about utility, not story – stories do very little in terms of creating function. It’s counter-intuitive thinking in the communications business, but it’s one that will create applications that will last longer.

Start with the client’s product idea – often times we create concepts to layer on top of the product to sell it. However, applications have the potential to becoming business building opportunities. The closer the application is tied to the product the more relevant it is for the user.

Insights for usage/design not feel/think – for the sake of usability, planners have to consider insights that will inspire how the application will work and how people will use it.

New Media

As I’m getting into the thick of it for job hunting, I find that answering those tough interview questions is good for developing thoughts. One thing people seem to be curious about is my approach to new media. I don’t think I say it outright, but my portfolio hints at it.

New media, right now, I think is reactive. It seems like people look for opportunities where they can connect with people and then find the media channel to deliver it. That’s context or contact or communication or whatever planning. But I think the real opportunity is in looking for those opportunities where you can connect with people but where there is no media channel to deliver it. That’s a true opportunity to develop new media because you get to create that channel and own it. What comes out of this situation are not necessarily ads on eggs or guerilla marketing, but innovation and new inventions.

Social Networking Websites Don’t Democratize

I’ve been thinking about the comment that Louise left on this post. I realized that I didn’t consider social networking into my answer because I don’t feel that it is a democratizing force online. For me, this issue of democratization is wrapped around power and access and social networking websites do neither.

It all starts with content. On the web, content is analogous to real estate in the real world. The more content you own (and the higher the quality) gives you more power to throw around on the web because it shows expertise and drives an audience. It’s the reason why everyone reads Russell Davies’ blog and not mine. Social networking websites, I feel, don’t encourage the creation of content, rather they encourage you to categorize yourself based on content you consume like those favorites lists and so on.

Since there is little content on social networking sites, it’s closed off to search bugs from Google- though it may also be due to IT magic. However the point is that Google is the gateway for information and if content from SNS websites can’t be retrieved then it’s useless. This is the information age and power is partly derived from having open access to information.

And lastly, the point of SNS websites is not to make new friends, but to keep in touch with the ones you already have. We did a survey at R/GA once to measure behaviors on Myspace and Facebook and we found that making new friends was ranked near the bottom when we asked what they usually do on those websites. The way we use these websites infers that SNS websites don’t necessarily have the reach and influence to be a democratizing force all on its own. However, that doesn’t mean we can change that behavior so that we can use it to garner power.

The Way ‘Zines Should Be

Who says magazines are dead? They’re alive and kickin’ on the web – but not like those ‘zines or ezines or whatever they’re called. An online magazine for me was always defined as a PDF you download or a website/blog. The thing is, those forms of online magazines don’t take advantage of technology to make their content and presentation more interactive and engaging.

Through some random clicking, I found Coldtea – a Chinese online magazine that focuses on fashion, photography, style and culture. To view this magazine, you download an .exe file that runs like a little program. Below are some screenshots, which don’t do the experience much justice.

Everything is in Flash so things are animated – like the turning of the page and some of the art pieces. There is also a soundtrack that plays in the background as you read through it. And lastly, they embed videos and voice tracks inside to give the written words and photos some more dimension.

This takes magazine reading from a thing we do to something we experience. I can’t wait for some of my favorite magazines to start doing this. Oh, and there’s another online magazine called Certain that does something similar, though with no animation

Updating an Old Argument

All your music sounds better when you play it really loud in your car. True story. During my short visit home, the stock speakers made Lupe Fiasco’s album kick just a little harder and I grew to really like “The Instrumental”:

He just sits, and listens to the people in the boxes
Everything he hears he absorbs and adopts it
Anything not coming out the box he blocks it
See he loves to box and hope they never stop it
Anything the box tell him to do, he does it
Anything it tell him to get, he shops and he cops it

This song takes on the academic argument about how advertising/media affects people, which is backed up by reams of research and ivy tower thinking. On the other hand, everyone in advertising is preaching “change” citing how TV and magazines are not as influential as they were before.

Have criticisms of advertising become outdated? Or have people woken up and are starting to see through BS of branding?

Admittedly, the second hypothesis is only half true (and half wishful thinking). While people still buy something because of the logo, people are starting to be really savvy about brands. There was an article in the NY times about streetwear companies that touched on this.

However, I think there is a very good case for the first one. Emerging medias have focused on narrowcasting and subsequently supporting the growth of smaller communities. In smaller communities, their size doesn’t warrant enough attention from the market, therefore they get to grow unaffected (or not as affected) by the status quo.

But, I think even the smaller communities have their own “boxes” and brands that they adore. For example, I’ve always raised an eyebrow at Giant Robot. It started off as a culture magazine, but now if you pick one up, you’ll see that it’s basically a catalogue with editorial content. And surprise, you can find all those things at the Giant Robot website or store in NYC.

So, are they just as evil as the big corporations or do we forgive them because they are serving a subculture? Because the original academic argument is dealing with control and the colonization of the mind and as far as I can tell, even in a subculture it still happens.