Tag Archives: Technology

If All Screens Are TVs, What Then?

TVolution Last week, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences announced that they would be awarding prestigious Emmy Awards in an expansion of the short-form series category. The deeper explanation of categories and requirements is:

The Emmys has expanded the short-form series awards to four categories: comedy or drama; variety; reality/non-fiction; and animation. Series must have a minimum of six episodes with an average length of 15 minutes or less, and be shown on traditional TV or via the Internet. Awards have also been added for short-form actor and actress as well.

What struck me is the inclusion of something that was not traditionally television within a “traditional” television environment. While not completely out of line with what the academy has done in the past – they have a membership group that focuses on digital content and they already expanded the meaning of Primetime when they included cable shows that could effectively be consumed at any time (a la HBO, Showtime, BBC) nearly two decades ago, before even DVRs and time shifting came around – it certainly seemed a bit of a land grab for an organization to stay relevant in the shifting of landscapes to an unknown future.

Then, there’s a lot of noise about Facebook making a play for the streaming rights to NFL games over the past day or so that really brings to question:

What do we consider a TV moving forward?
If all screens are TVs, how are people going to interact with them and content?
When will we start gaining from data insights in making it a better experience?

Just looking at Facebook and their want for live sports content, they’ve already driven video views on the platform to 100MM per day. The opportunity to completely do away with second screen environments – where your friend’s comments appear adjacent to the video, effectively making it a huge virtual sofa – is an evolutionary game changer. And, the predictive opportunity for delivering content based specifically on what you’ve been interested in that day or even that hour is mind-numbing.

One challenge in all of this is how closely tied to the past TV – of any form -remains. Though the rising interactivity allows for lean forward video consumption, there are far more viewers sticking to the lean back model. They still might make a selection off their DVR, VOD, or even that time-worn event of choosing a channel, but why can’t we start moving toward content delivered in linear fashion based on what you would probably be interested in right now?

Why do we see a huge amount of content highlighted based on what we watched in the middle of the night on Netflix when I’m logging in with my kids mid-day on a weekend? How come I do an incredible amount of searching on Google, yet their owned YouTube only prompts videos that I’ve already showed my kids on my computer a month prior? When will Facebook come forward with a “You’ll Also Like” product based on what video I’ve consumed and not what my friends post? (To give Facebook credit, they’ve done something like this, but it comes across as being more advertising than value-add.)

I do see a time when we will be able to turn on a stream of content – both short and long-form – and predictive technologies will line up the content and you can choose to watch or skip. The reality is that there is so much data there, it’s sort of silly not to use it. Whether it is Google or Facebook that have people exploring on a daily basis – and they also deliver content – or Cable/Satellite providers who might have relationships with data providers, there should be an ability to curate in real-time what the viewer might want right now. The use of data right now is usually only good for showing me what I was interested in then. Imagine the possibilities if we could have what is top-of-mind now delivered to us.

Perhaps this thinking isn’t even breaking enough from the TV norms as we know them. As much of content is evolutionary, perhaps this will just be a step to opening our minds and experiences to enable an content distribution/consumption cycle we can’t even yet conceive of.

For those reasons, I’m excited about the question of “What Then?”

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Seeing The Future Sometimes Only Needs Looking Under The Hood

The-JetsonsSome (or most) news blurbs deserve (or require) more big-picture consideration than what is immediately prevalent on the surface. Coverage of GM’s investment of $500M in Lyft is just one example. While part of GM’s hoped-for returns is based on the opportunity for providing fleet cars for Lyft’s services, a more “sexy” consideration is the development of self-driving cars. If you look with broader goggles, the implications for both are much larger than what they seem.

First off, numerous car manufacturers are developing products specifically to serve the shift to car sharing. Just this past September, I met with a representative of Citroen in Paris who explained how they are looking at alternative ways to find revenues in this new economy without selling vehicles – and they are certainly not alone. If micro-payments can revolutionize politicking, investment and charity, why can’t the same be said for larger ticket items like automotive, housing or even luxury accouterments?

The self-driving cars offer an even more exciting opportunity that comes with its own set of numerous implications far beyond individuals transporting themselves without having to focus on driving. Over coffee with Jason DaPonte, Transport For London’s Director of Innovation, we had a great conversation about the future and how self-driving cars could absolutely affect people’s normal use of subways, buses and trains. In fact, there’s every possibility that those vehicles could become an integral part of a municipality’s services – or modes of transportation. If you thought controlling buses, trains and subways was a feat, imagine what it’ll be like when hundreds or thousands of automated cars are whizzing around a congested city like London!

With all this, there are a lot of unknowns and a lot of time to pass before we figure things out. We will probably look back at the airport challenges of Uber and Lyft, or the growing legal parries with Airbnb’s lodging structure and chuckle about how quaint they were. Ultimately, with the growing shared economy and smarter use of technology to do the mundane, it requires a sense of how these pieces fit within the big picture to really grasp our future.

Who knows, maybe that kick-ass transportation of THE JETSONS is not so far-fetched anymore…

Strong List Of 2015’s Greatest Innovations

CICADA

If you have time to look away from the numerous sales hitting your in-box, you might want to check out a list of the Greatest Innovations attributed to 2015 that Popular Science just published. The cool thing about it is that it is not limited to one vertical, and while some lists of innovation only refer to tech, this one covers some items that have nothing to do with chip sets, wiring or other hi-fi.

One great lens to look at this list through is in thinking how product development, consumer traits and advancements in how we actually do things will be affected by these new ideas and technologies. Certainly, there are some items that we’ve heard of and considered before and some items were available in other countries or pro-grade models, but it doesn’t make them any less cooler.

Beyond my geek-love for the Sphero BB-8 and fascination with Erector Set Bridges, there were some other specific items that caught my eye:

  • RED’s Epic Dragon Camera – Shooting in 6K is pretty nifty, but this baby provides flexibility in the edit bay.
  • Amazon has been talking about Drone delivery, but it seems that DHL’s Parcelcopter already has it beat in delivering packages to remote locations in all types of weather.
  • You can see the image of the CICADA above. This is a series of nanobots that can all work together in unison for weather readings, bomb discovery and more. The Navy just signed a contract with their parent company. I’m most interested in seeing how this might be used for (or affect) consumers – and I’ll try to keep my sci-fi mind from the thoughts of nanobots in The Day The Earth Stood Still remake that I marketed years ago…
  • How cool is the Malloy Aeronautics Hoverbike?  If that ever comes out for commercial use, I’ve got to get me one. Just don’t want to think about what insurance will cost.
  • Sort of like putting a chip in your dog for tracking if they are lost, Anti-Theft dots allow you to do the same with all items – if the police (or finders) actually have the technology to decipher them.
  • Proving that BYOD is pervading everything, NYPD just started using the DAS app to rely on mobile connectivity for quick information faster than what they can get through their patrol cars. Wanna find an arrest record quickly, pop out your iPhone or Android device!
  • I would love to have solar panels, but it only made sense to me if you could use that harnessed power when the Sun’s not shining. Tesla has seemingly answered that dream with their Powerwall – starting at only $3000.  Now I just need to get the panels installed for “no cost” as I’ve been marketed soooo many times.
  • Something that will hopefully make a true difference is the XOFT targeted radiation treatment. Any summary written here wouldn’t do this lifesaver justice. You’ve got to zip through the listing to find out more and imagine what this would do at scale.
  • I laughed a little when I saw the USB Type C in here. It will be interesting to see if it really picks up, being as the USB 3.0 never caught on. And, as we’ve found in some cases, just because Apple uses a certain type of connector doesn’t mean that it will last…

Hope you enjoy, and please feel free to add your thoughts or add items that should have been on the list below!

Not only a solid tech development for Comic Books – an opportunity for more compelling Storytelling.

Google has developed new functionality to simplify comic book consumption on small devices – something that has been a challenge due to the dynamic way in which comic books and graphic novels are laid out. By turning the phone to landscape, a viewer can more easily scroll through the reading experience as described in the Android blog, fans should have a more compelling experience. The thing is, this functionality can be used for storytelling of many types that can make good work out of a scrolling ability.  It will be interesting to see how storytellers might utilize this new feature to give audiences of all types something to cheer about.

5 Facts That Affect GREAT Social

PancakeSelfie

Holiday Inn Express has just gotten past the hump of their nine city, SelfiePancake Express truck tour and there’s already a few pieces of learning to be gained from this strong social content event. Signing Rob Riggle as the “Creative Director” for this campaign touting Holiday Inn Express’ newly launched 60-second pancake maker that includes a food truck outfitted with quirky and cool technology placing visitors’ selfies on the pancake themselves was very smart. The concept is a good one, but both wins and losses are showing in the middle of the campaign that makes a stop in Los Angeles this weekend. Here’s five of them…

CONTENT STRATEGY DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ON-THE-NOSE – This campaign doesn’t blatantly tout the things you usually associate with hotel stays – hospitality, comfort, etc. – to engender conversion. They key on a secondary offering in this content – their included breakfasts and spiffy pancake maker – to add to the aura while having some fun. It’s definitely not a hard sell to stay at their locations, but its a meaningful one.

HASHTAG STRATEGY SHOULD CLARIFY, NOT CONFUSE – Looking at just some of the collateral for this campaign, there’s not one, not two, but three hashtags presented. The most beneficial to this campaign is the #PancakeSelfie tag due to the content and context. The second one – #StaySmart – makes sense as it is their current corporate hashtag. But, that general tag should not have the prominence it does on this campaign and one can wonder why they chose such a generally vague tag when other hotel chains and organizations use the same tag. When choosing a hashtag, you should know you’ll be able to completely own it (again, no confusion.) And, the third hashtag is the most confusing – #DontWaffle. Besides the obvious point that a waffle is not a pancake, it just bifurcates the audience and certainly does not inspire by leading with a negative – a sentiment not aligned with their overall branding or this campaign.

POSITIONING CELEBRITY IN CREATIVE WAYS IS A WIN – They made a smart move by incorporating talent (Rob Riggle) as not just a spokesperson, but an executive of the company. We’re not sure if he’s being anything more than creative for the company, but it puts a different spin that alludes to the fun the chain is poking at themselves. As Riggle proves, the change in perspective allows more flexibility in storytelling and relate-ability. There’s a number of videos that were created and, with Riggle’s talent, there probably was enough content on the cutting room floor to complete a half-dozen more.

AUDIENCES NEED AN INCENTIVE – OR TO BE INSPIRED – TO POST TO THE SOCIAL NETWORKS – This is absolutely not scientific (due to just being a quick look at hashtags to get a sense of how many people were tagging posts properly), but there are an incredibly low number of people posting pictures of their #PancakeSelfies. Pardon the pun, but the table was set with plates that had all the right branding printed to surround the pancake and the participants just didn’t bite. Either they felt it was not cool enough to post without prodding, or an incentive like a “post to win” mechanism was needed. In this case, the chain could have offered a lucky person(s) a few free nights.

PR AND OUTREACH IS ESSENTIAL TO EVENT SOCIAL PROGRAMMING – When reviewing location mentions, the actual locations were surprisingly not posted with the hashtag – as far as we could see. And we definitely couldn’t find exact location call-outs from the official social feeds. The location announcements were found through local media outlets. Without knowing how many people showed up at each location, we can’t tell how effective they were, but it does show that events need tight integration with the communications teams to activate all outlets. In the case of this campaign, the fact that we don’t know where the truck is going to be in Los Angeles – and there’s nothing in the feeds about past locations (except Long Beach), there’s a hole in the plan.

So, Holiday Inn Express has done a great job with the Social Content Concept and execution on a good number of the pieces. It just highlights that all of a campaigns components (social or otherwise) really need to be addressed and aligned to see holistic success and a return on the efforts of a hard-working team.

Mapping The Cost Of Innovation

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Many companies claim that they place an emphasis on innovation – and to a point, they are delivering – but when it comes specifically to marketing and buzz generation, companies set themselves up to fail in the innovation category.

Sure.  They may execute a campaign that utilizes a new technology or create a video that goes viral and generates an insane amount of views. They might even develop a marketing product that revolutionizes the industry or makes use of an existing product in ways nobody thought of before. But when it really comes down to it, most companies fail when bringing innovation to their marketing because they don’t plan or spend in the right way that lends to cost-savings down the road. Or, even worse, the execution doesn’t align with their strategy, so it hits the intended consumers like a thud.

Many innovative marketing products could be better if they were not treated as the end-all product that is oft copied, but as something that builds upon itself. Innovation done correctly is built with future iterations in mind so that products and development can be built on or added on cost-effectively. Too often, those new product are developed for one execution and then, upon its success, they do not allow for augmentation – forcing companies and their vendors to start from scratch.

Numerous factors lead to innovation that is not cost-effective.  Sometimes, due to a lack of vision or strategic planning.  Others might be due to a company’s lack of determination in supporting ongoing innovation expenditures. And then sometimes, products just don’t work out. All of those factors, are reasonable explanations for the waste of money but they don’t need to be. It really comes down to the ability to have long-term vision and communicate objectives well.

With the right executives supporting the long-term innovation play – where a specific near-term ROI may not happen – the environment can be ripe for marketing success for quarters and years to come.

Here’s how you do it — think more than one step ahead. Auto manufacturers build concept cars with the full knowledge that the car as a whole might not make it to the dealer, but components like auto-parking most likely will.  With that vision toward the future derivatives, even an unsuccessful campaign is not a waste of money. Be thinking of what components might be re-used in the future and make sure your team and vendors build those elements accordingly.

Granted, some form of smoke and mirrors is a component of your innovation process – and not in a devious way – you might think of innovation as putting the cart before the horse.  What it does is build an environment of hype that points to a vision of what the future could be. Be prepared to create assets that just show off what you are planning to do in order to effectively communicate expectations within the company. Utilize communication and spin control. If innovation is treated solely as a magic force that nobody has insight into, it is doomed to fail in the long run.  Even the major technology companies that have super-secret labs share some of their developments internally and sometimes, even externally. Maintaining to others that you are doing really cool things under a shroud of mystery will only lead to further questions on the money that’s being spent. Conversely, communicating too much without conveying the ultimate vision can be almost as damaging.

To the finance types, developing key KPIs to measure your success is a necessary component. Innovation is not an always-win proposition. You may not find huge marketing numbers to point to a winner. Come up with those elements that prove its working.  Is it money saved on future campaigns?  Is it press coverage of your marketing products? Is it related to time-to-market for future products? Is it tied to sales? Brand recognition? Whatever it is, make sure that is known to your team and management. Without those clearly understood KPIs, you’re effectively spending a lot of money on just an illusion…

When all is said and done, there needs to be an environment or atmosphere that welcomes trial and error. Intrinsically, there is no other undertaking that comes across so much success and failure with few traditional methods of measuring both. It is those corporations and organizations that truly embrace innovation (and not just tout that they are innovative) who most consistently bring successful innovations to market. Sometimes innovation can seem just outside your grasp (as an individual or an organization) but with vision, communication and execution, it will come back x-fold in marketing and revenue streams you might not have even considered at the onset.

Is 2015 The Year Of Hope For Net Neutrality?

As we have entered a bright, shiny new year, 2015 has us looking forward with hope and wonder about what BIG events will alter our futures the most. I’ve been thinking (and hoping) for quite a while that the most influential technology and business event of 2015 will be the solution of the Net Neutrality conundrum.  I inserted “hope” above because I don’t think it’s going to resolve itself anytime soon, but there is a huge amount of success or failure relying on a resolution.

Part of the problem is the confusion about whose responsibility it should be in the first place.  I don’t even claim to know all of the intricacies, so forgive me if I come across as naive in trying to simplify. There are certainly many (like Nick Castelli) who have different takes and do decent jobs of laying out what’s at stake. You can always do more research and come back to straighten me out…

To me, one of the main issues stems from the following:
In the United States, laws were set in place that – when telecom companies laid down cable, fiber, networks, infrastructure, they need to allow other companies to make use of their infrastructure. The companies using the infrastructure may be paying to use the pipes, but it was found to not fully cover their part of the costs – especially when they are able to offer services utilizing those infrastructures at a lesser cost than what the bigger companies paid to have them laid in the first place.  What happens is that any incentive to upgrade services is diminished because competitors can utilize those very same upgrades almost immediately with no capital expenditure. Because of this, you can find areas in major metropolitan cities who don’t have fiber network access and, therefore, slower connections than individuals or businesses residing just blocks away.

On the other side, we consumers don’t want to pay more to get the things we feel we’re entitled to. As has proven  lately, this is great when there is an entity willing to foot the bill (i.e. advertising supported) but not so good when the financial support dwindles so as to be inconsequential. This leaves entities searching for other forms of revenue – whether it be only providing content by subscriptions or fees.

Companies are jumping into the fray from left and right to serve the needs of the public and businesses via the internet – with huge distribution expenses offset by existing infrastructures. The concern is, the longer the lack of clarity continues, we’ll be seeing more executives like Reed Hastings of Netflix paying ISPs for a perceived fast-lane from one hand while lamenting the position ISPs are putting us in on the other. The confusion leads to many disjointed decisions that look to solve current issues (fleeting as they may be) and, perhaps, setting bad precedent for the future.

Ultimately, the question of Net Neutrality is much broader than who raises prices and who gets stuck with the bill.

Going to the basics of broadband, there have been studies on the effects of faster internet connections on the GDP, education and society. In 2013, Ericsson published a study with Chalmers University of Technology and the Arthur D. Little organization that pointed to a direct growth in GDP of 0.3% based on the doubling of broadband speeds between 2008 and 2011. Beyond the growth in GDP, there were other bumps that benefited society in ways that are harder to quantify.

Property of Ericsson, Chambers University and Arthur D Little. From the 2013 publication, ANALYZING THE EFFECT OF BROADBAND ON GDP.

Property of Ericsson, Chambers University and Arthur D Little. From the 2013 publication, ANALYZING THE EFFECT OF BROADBAND ON GDP.

In some ways, I question the wholeness of the data based on the years they were measuring.  For instance, South Korea had already installed a phenomenal broadband infrastructure that was inexpensive for it’s people and provided speeds far beyond most other countries. One example of the difference was illustrated when, in 2006, I was checking paid media creative maximums in many of the key countries I was working with around the world.  In the US and UK, the heaviest K size for standard banners was 12Kb.  In South Korea, it was 400Kb.  The reason is because their pipes were so wide, 400Kb needed as little load time for their consumers as it did for consumers in the US, UK, DE and most others. But, even in its simplest form, the study proves a point that there is much more benefit to fast connections than just being able to watch movies (or make more money for the ISPs.)

Now comes the part where my naivete or idealism comes into play – the truth is, I’ve been trying to find alternative solutions in my own head since before the United States Supreme Court struck down net neutrality rules in January of ’14.

As broadband is key to growth for any country – not just for GDP, but education and society as a whole, it seems that there needs to be a solution that the government foots most if not all of the bill. I get that there should be a true opportunity for industry to grow and not be dragged down by the masses, but in this age, the hottest commodities are digital solutions and the distribution and development of those products.

We usually get into trouble when we bring up politics and not just because of its divisive nature. It’s because politics has become more of a game of sportsmanship trying to move everyone toward their ideal – whether it be governmental or industrial. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.  We can’t abolish Net Neutrality AND feel that we are doing a service for the greater whole.  The wealthier will be able to pay for and get what they want and the large corporations will be able to quash the opportunities for upstarts to make a mark on any given industry.

Until there is clarity on the future (or not) of Net Neutrality, industries will be stunted in their ability to set strategy on how they address their business models and digital distribution of their product, content, marketing, communities and much much more.

With all of that being said, the ISPs should be paid to deliver the required broadband infrastructure that allows for as good of Net Neutrality as we can hope for. The government may be the only entity that can “afford” to pay for this deployment and convey whatever modicum of impartiality they attempt to convey at this point. If that doesn’t happen, 2015 will just be another year on the road to removing hope for most visionaries, innovators and hard-workers about reaching their dream (American or other.)