Monthly Archives: October 2005

Yahoo! Creative Conference NYC 10-19-2005

Today I went to my first creative conference in NYC in many years. Now that I am out of Yahoo, I am not in the usual invite list. But I told my buddy Jerry that I was going to be in NYC this week and he invited me.
The campaigns that were presented were in stark contrast to when I started working on creative evangelism in online advertising back in 2001. They were just incredible!
Back in 2001, the world was much different. The industry was just coming out of the slump, and online advertising will still very much a “take the print campaign and stuff it into a banner ad” mode. I and a few others went out there, armed with flash presentations with deep sexy house soundtracks, and attempted to attract the creatives back onto the internet.
The lack of understanding of the medium was very high. Nobody seemed to know what to do with the Internet, and generally creatives wanted to work on the familiar, which was print and TV commercials.
But from 2001 to the present, something drastically changed. Today’s campaigns are exponentially more sophisticated. Creatives have done a 180 and have totally embraced the interactive realm. They have really tried to understand and use every single touchpoint as a marketing vehicle.
For example, my favorite of the day was Crispin, Porter, and Bogusky’s Subservient Chicken campaign. Burger King wanted to introduce their new chicken offerings and do it in a super creative way. CPB came up with the Subservient Chicken to engage consumers in a way never done before. On the website, you can basically make the chicken do whatever you want, hence the moniker “subservient”. They also did many other things like create a subservient chicken character on Friendster.
Later, they took the chicken concept to the next level by creating an Ultimate Fighting Championship for the chicken flavors, which resulted in a DirecTV pay per view 15 minute short called Chicken Fight. The build up was such that they had a gambling site enable betting on either chicken. A feather that flew off one of the chickens was found on Ebay. Everything was marketed to build up the fight of the century.
The third instantiation of the chicken concept was creation of a rock group called Coq Roq. In marketing Burger King’s new chicken strips which looked like french fries, this rock group sang rock songs which talked about the new chicken strips. Their website enabled SMS messages, downloads of their songs on iTunes, MySpace, Garageband riffs, and the ability to dial a number on your cellphone, let it listen to a song you’re listening to, and then it would return the song name plus the band’s opinion on the song.
I love how advertising people are now looking at every single possible venue for capturing users. Instead of just creating yet another banner ad or video, they are using Friendster, MySpace, MP3 downloads, and other popular places where consumers hang out on the Internet.
It’s great to see that the evolution of advertising in the medium has grown so dramatically. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
PS. For more fun, check out Cingular’s Make Me Dance campaign and the Rainier Beer campaign.

Real World Spam

Last Wednesday, I went to my mailbox and pulled out some mail. After quickly flipping through it, I took the whole pile and dumped it all in my trash can, even before I got to my front door.
How ridiculous is this. I take 15 minutes of my valuable time to check my mailbox, only to find that it’s filled with stuff I don’t need or want, and has no importance to me whatsoever. Isn’t mail about sending important stuff to me and not junk someone else thinks I need?
I travel a lot, so I put my mail on hold quite a bit at the post office. When I come back from a long trip, I go to the window where we get our vacation hold mail. The lady there recognizes me because I hold my mail often. I give her my driver’s license and she goes into the back room to get my mail. After a few minutes, I (always) hear her puffing and struggling back to the window and then she puts this crate full of mail, sometimes two crates, onto the window ledge where I pick it up. Sometimes it’s so heavy that she drags it along the floor to me. I just merely take those crates to the other counter and take another 15 minutes of my valuable time to go through it and throw all the junk mail into the trash at the US Post Office before I get home. I generally throw away about 80% of the stuff in there. What a waste!
So finally one day, after seeing her struggles for the Nth time, I ask her why doesn’t the US Postal Service do something about junk mail? If they would do something, then she wouldn’t be breaking her back every time with this huge crate of mail. Of course she responds back that it’s a business thing and that their revenue depends on more mail being sent. I relate to her the similarity between junk mail and email spam, and that huge battles are being fought to remove email spam. I say to her, shouldn’t the US Postal Service treat its customers the same way and help improve their experience with snail mail? No wonder people are doing whatever they can to remove dependence on snail mail.
As more services move online, I try to take advantage of paperless billing as much as possible. These bill statements just clutter up my house and I end up shredding them anyways. If the world goes the way it’s going, soon I will get NOTHING BUT JUNK MAIL in my physical mailbox. In fact, I should build a radio controlled door under my mailbox which just drops the mail into my trash can, so that I don’t even have to walk out there any more.
If someone really wants to send me a wedding invitation, they’d better do it via email. Or else I’ll just dump that fancy envelope in the trash.
And then “Vacation Hold” really means “US Post Office dumps my trash instead of me”.
Wake up US Postal Service. You’re a monopoly but you’re also missing the way the world is going. You’ll be a dead monopoly in a decade if you don’t do what every other business should be doing, which is listening to and taking care of your customers.

Amazing Discovery

About 2 months ago, I installed and brought on-line a brand new Humax DVD burning Tivo. And I discovered that the new version of Tivo burned into the current machines had different features than my old Sony Tivo which was now at least 5-6 years old.
I immediately set my Tivo to record some of my fave shows. And then I started noticing that in my Now Playing List, my Tivo was actually recording semi-random stuff. Well, not so random. It was taking my Season Passes and inferring what I might like, and then randomly taking up my extra hard drive space with related shows and movies.
And then…in a moment of boredom, I start watching some of the shows. I then realize some of this is pretty good. And that I’m glad that I’ve got a list of shows/movies that there is a good chance I’m interested in watching. And it’s now TIME INDEPENDENT. I don’t need to watch the channel guide and then leap to the TV at the time a show I want to watch is being broadcast. Sure I had licked the time dependence thing by setting Tivo to record shows I knew I wanted to watch. But now, I’ve got a whole universe of shows which I am not sure I want to watch, but it’s there if I wanted, all 500 channels now pre-filtered and sitting there waiting for me to watch WHENEVER I WANT TO WATCH, not when the networks want me to watch.
I remember an article about Yahoo! in the New York Times a few weeks back, Terry Semel was talking about the millions of channels that he wants to make available to everyone. But I think Tivo’s solution is getting closer to the real answer. We’re talking about MY CHANNEL. A (semi) personalized experience of all possible TV shows out there filtered to what I want to watch with a bit of serendipity thrown in. Here I sit, experiencing a bit of the future of video media.
O’ the battles the person who put this feature into Tivo must have fought! How could that person have gotten past all the Requirements Documents and reams of consumer research, internal politics, trying to get it prioritized high enough on development schedules. Is this person drained of all energy fighting those battles or working on? Or was it the CEO who demanded this feature and gotten it in as boss?
When I encounter great features and services, I can’t help but think about how these features and services come about, and the struggles people go through to get them built. After living in that world and watching it get harder and harder, I applaud when I see truly great stuff get out there.
The future is coming. Even if it takes screaming and kicking to get there.

In Boot Camp

I am back to basics in my piano lessons.
We started getting into learning some songs to break up the monotony when I realized that I just could not play these songs effectively.
The way I was playing these songs was literally memorizing them and the chords associated with them. I would play the melody with my right hand and then attempt to hit the chord symbols with my left.
However, not having the chords in my brain meant that I had build each one from scratch, and then memorize it in context of the song. Very unproductive and not very applicable to easily learning new songs.
And certainly not good for jazz improvisation which was the road I was going down.
So I’m back to basic training – boot camp for piano.
I’m drilling chords over and over and over and over until they stick in my brain and I can hit them instantaneously. Need to drill on them continuously and use repetition to burn them into my brain and my hands.
I think about what it takes to burn something in one’s brain. I think about my jazz piano playing and the need to memorize all the chords. I think about the triathlon training and doing all those workouts over and over again, drilling on form for swimming, biking, and running. It gets monotonous sometimes, but you have to do it so that your body and mind learn new things and destroys bad habits and infuses new better ones.
Sometimes you just need to stick with something for a long time, and it WILL get monotonous…but that’s what stamina and commitment are all about. In this fast-paced-low-attention-span world, people want things too quick and don’t want to put the effort in to really master something.
Mastery melds innate skill with stamina to stick it through the monotonous, repetitious, bad-habit-breaking parts. So next time you really want to get good at something, brace yourself for the monotonous parts and enjoy experiencing them rather than succumbing to their monotony. You’ll definitely enjoy the end result.