Share ideas that inspire. FALLON PLANNERS (and co-conspirators) are freely invited to post trends, commentary, obscure ephemera and insightful rants regarding the experience of branding.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The Common Craft Show is a series of short explanatory videos by Lee and Sachi LeFever. Their goal is to fight complexity with simple tools and plain language.
Lots of talk about getting up and doing more lately (shout to Leland's manifesto about taking action in planning). I think part of the magic potion is finding inspiration so compelling that the spirit moves you into action. So here are a few examples of innovation and invention that will will hopefully move you in that direction.
"INDEX: is a global non-profit network organization that focuses on Design to Improve Life – e.g. design that substantially improves important aspects of human life – worldwide."
Sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it? Last week, awards were given to designers who had made significant contributions to designing differently.
Of course our favorite computer made the cut.
And the Solar Bottle, an answer to unclean drinking water. After bottling, the water sits in the sun, and pathogens are destroyed by heat. Winning designers, Alberto Meda & Francisco Gomez Paz increased functionality and practicality by adding an aluminum side to increase reflection and a handle to make the bottle portable. Simple, but brilliant.
The Laundry is another example of devising practical solutions. It's a paper recycling system for small businesses in London. And it's easy easy easy. Put your paper on the sidewalk, someone will take it away, and then, voile! magically, 100% recycled paper will return in its place. It completes the loop, so now recycled products are integrated painlessly into business' operations. One small step down the path that can help acclimatize companies to alternative products/uses.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Two new car commercials that tell me the industry doesn't get it.
1. Mitsubishi L200 "for people who love the country"
uuuh. it's a truck. I am guessing there are about three people in the UK who actually need to drive around the countryside in a gas guzzling (aka Earth killing) vehicle of this size.
via pirate geek
2. Kia "save the greenbacks"
Nothing quite like mocking our fragile environmental situation to sell a few cars.
See the spot on Transbuddha
Now, I know I'm going a little Al Gore here, but seriously, A) as an industry, we can play a role in influencing public opinion (by not letting work like this get out the door) and B) car companies are already in hot water. Why risk exacerbation? And okay, C) I'm reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and it's freaking me out.
I'm waiting for a model with organic fabric seats, cupholders made of recycled plastic and maybe even electronics powered by a solar panel on the roof. And no, not in a hybrid SUV.
Friday, August 24, 2007
...reveals that corporations (again) are not model citizens at playing by the rules. The scandal here isn't about "the cult of the amateur" abusing the open format to mislead and misinform (barring a prank or two, like George "Wanker" Bush, which I find funny btw). This scandal is another cautionary tale about corporations and institutions assuming to use social media as another tool to propagate one-way PR agendas the same way they've always done. For these monoliths, Wikipedia is simply another PR channel, seemingly without pesky editors. But there are editors - people. And user-created police controls like Wikiscanner only make transparent what always was - big media machines change the lines of text to suit their goals and this activity is labelled under the guise of "information".
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The first assignment has been posted in the experiment that is Planning For Good. The brief is for the city of New Orleans; specifically for an organization called the Idea Village.
The challenge? While most of the coverage of New Orleans has focused on the problems and negatives, another story has quietly emerged: the city has become a magnet of sorts for adventurous young people with energy, a sense of purpose, and a realization that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to help re-invent a city. As Forbes Magazine has said:
"Now, instead of the brain drain, the city is nurturing a brain gain. New Orleans has become the testing ground for a new career and lifestyle ideal among today's 20-somethings."
The Idea Village is positioned at the heart of that. It's a not-for-profit that helps to fund and support innovative entrepreneurial ventures (about 250 so far) to not just rebuild New Orleans, but to turn it into a world-class model city.
The brief is to help the Idea Village build their brand, so they in turn can help build New Orleans. How should the Idea Village define and articulate who they are and what they do? How can they attract and motivate these smart young people moving to New Orleans?
See the Planning For Good page on Facebook for more detail on the brief and how to submit your ideas. Additional information and thoughts from the client will also be posted there as we get it. If you're Facebook averse, leave a comment here, at Influx , or at Brand New and someone will send you stuff.
Please take a look at the brief and give it some thought. If every one of the talented and generous people (that means you) in the marketing blogosphere spends a few hours on this, some amazing stuff will happen.
We have one month to collaborate and collect ideas to send back to the Idea Village. Contributions from anyone are very welcome (you certainly don't need to be a planner). And while we hope to get some big, fully developed ideas, any little thoughts or even questions are also encouraged - they might spark an idea in someone else.
Derek Lerner at GHAVA Twittr'd me this interesting clip as it reminded him of the Trash Talk initiative (note to self...behind on photo posts, where's dat cord? Doh.).
On the same note, this link about transparent rubbish bins from PSFK gives me other food for thought around the urgency of making our trash more transparent if we are to spark a change in personal action. We, collectively and individually expend great efforts to hide and disguise trash. Since childhood, we have come to know trash only as something that goes down a magic tube and "away". We hide the smells, we hide it out back, we never have to face it full on and truly deal with it. So the pile builds under our figurative carpets.
Ambient Devices offers ingenius products that re-envision everyday data...in these examples - a desktop glow-orb that depicts real-time stock trends, or a wall meter that displays real-time energy consumption. How might this work in a trash can connotation? Tap our toilets and actually assess the damage we inflict? Tap our drains and confront the volumes we channel down the pipes?
More interesting is the Hive Minding potential that Frog Design's Trash Talk Initiative begins to reveal to me: toss up an idea (or a problem, aka a "brief") and invite bright minds to brew on the subject and blog insights and experiences.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
In a significant first, YouTube has decided to let advertisers inject their messages inside the video frame for select content on its site (see ClickZ or MediaPost), or
NYTimes. For an example of the approach, see this Smosh video and watch Homer Simpson at 15 seconds in.
...sorta like TV networks do already.
Some key points about the ads — lifted directly from the ClickZ article:
The new offering, dubbed InVideo Ads, mimics the clickable ad overlays introduced in recent months on ad networks like VideoEgg and YuMe.
Ad product consists of animated bars that obscure the bottom 20 percent of the video frame for a given clip. They initiate 15 seconds after the beginning of a clip
InVideo overlays are “80 percent transparent” and remain visible for approximately 10 seconds before shrinking to a small button users can later click to view the marketing message again.
YouTube has set a $20 CPM for InVideo ad buys consisting of an InVideo ad accompanied by a tiny in-player companion ad and an adjacent in-page unit.
Clicking on an overlay ad pauses the current video and launches one of two experiences brands can choose between. One is a new clip superimposed over the video in progress via a player-within-a-player interface. When the paid clip ends or is closed, the original automatically picks up where it left off. Shiva Rajaraman, YouTube Product Manager, said 76 percent of those who click the overlay and watch the video ad viewed the entire trailer for NewLine’s “Hairspray.”
During YouTube’s research process, Rajaraman said, “One of the key things we found, not surprisingly, is that when a video is playing on YouTube their attention is [locked in to the video frame]. When we came up with an ad format, we realized that… it needs to be in the player.”
Yet when the Google-owned video portal tested pre-roll placements, YouTube users abandoned video clips at a more than 50 percent rate. The overlay, by contrast, results in an abandonment rate under 10 percent. Not only that, but click rates are five to 10 times greater than standard display click-to-video ads, according to Rajaraman.
via Nalts and Clickz and MediaPost and NYTimes.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Last weekend, Leonardo DiCaprio's The 11th Hour was released in select cities (Minneapolis: August 31). The film's promotional web site is interesting. (Well, aside from the lame Planet Green game sponsored by Starbucks; reminds me of "fun" children's PSA activities—how many forms of pollution can you find in this picture?—or of Captain Planet.)
A brief quiz lets you assess your carbon output. While that service isn't new, this is a clean and easy way to assess your lifestyle. I don't drive, so my biggest output is air travel. I admire people like John Grant who have cut their impact by reducing travel, but would find it hard to follow suit for both personal and professional reasons. Mine are typical issues: far-flung family and friends, out of town clients, and the not insignificant (and not unselfish) love of travel and exploration (if only I'd been to Climate Camp, perhaps I'd feel otherwise). Purchasing carbon offsets would be a good first step, but that ultimately doesn't solve the problem, it simply incorporates true cost of the service.
So if we can't cut out travel, what to do instead? We have low emission vehicles, why not low-emission planes? And low-emission airports (think of all the trash created while we eat our way to departure time, moving walkways, 24/7 lighting, etc.)? Yet as McDonough and Braungart note in Cradle to Cradle, "being 'less bad' is no good." Is there a completely clean solution? Unlike mass consumer technology, the design of commercial planes—and most major forms of transport—has remained relatively stagnant over the past 50 years, concentrating on improving the existing model versus revolutionizing the idea itself. The physical air travel infrastructure is relatively minimal compared to other modes of transport (beyond airports, there aren't thousands of miles of track or road that must be maintained; fueling stations are centralized); can that be leveraged in a redesign?
Easy questions to pose when you're not an engineer, but as someone whose life has been greatly shaped by air travel, I sincerely hope the eco-vs.-airplane game isn't zero-sum. And if so, perhaps by the time we've reached that conclusion the physicists will have figured out how to make Apparition a reality.
Friday, August 17, 2007
I'm sure most of you are familiar with the internet phone app Skype. Earlier this week the service went down worldwide, and the estimated +200 million users world wide were left Skype-less, myself included.
While I was initially incredibly irritated (still am actually, as I still cannot connect), what I thought was interesting was watching how the blogosphere reacted as the company responded to the problem- which apparently, for many, was just not fast or efficiently enough, which pushed some to start an online petition protesting what they feel is just the latest in poor service (see: users unleashing some fury on a previous incident).
Yet another reminder of how powerful blogs and web 2.0 technology at our fingertips truly is. The level of transparency and accountability we can demand from the companies we choose to do biz with- and how instantaneously they allow us to act- is truly incredible. It took minutes, not hours, after the service went down before the blogs were on fire, lambasting Skype service and pointing out that this was no isolated incident.
It wasn't too long ago that companies got away with telling us what they wanted us to know, when they wanted us to know it. Now they themselves feel the heat of us watching the watchers so much that they keep us updated almost hourly with what they are doing to address the situation. Though I'd say that it's still lacking, as there have been few details released, nor a clear time line as to when all systems will be a go.
But at this point, "updates" are becoming "irritation" as I am still Skype-less...
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Mattel hit a rough patch. Its toys are being pulled from shelves left and right, and, maybe worse yet, for a variety of problems, from choking hazards to lead paint.
The tide started with a recall two weeks ago, and, as AdAge points out, Mattel decided to rely on the news media to deploy its heartfelt apologies. Then, more recalls and full page ads in the WSJ, NYT, and USA Today. Mattel is sorry and now it’s paying to tell you so. And if you happen to be on the website, the company put together a video address from Chairman-CEO Bob Eckert.
I have been thinking about managing disaster more than usual lately with the local response to our city’s bridge collapse. I walked around in the on a neighboring bridge the day 35W fell and was surrounded by thousands of other people who just couldn’t stay in their living rooms any longer, who needed to get out and feel like there were still other people out there. After disaster, people want to gather and feel comforted by community.
Later that night, police shut the walking bridge. It stayed closed for a week. The bridge that connects the city, where tourists take photos of our skyline and new theater, a bridge on countless runners’ and bikers’ daily routes. The city didn’t realize that, when it shut down the bridge, it did more than further complicate transportation. It closed a gathering place for healing. Where people could have left flowers or flags or notes or just paused for a minute to reflect on the intensity of what happened. There was no place for us to socialize what happened, to make sense of it and figure it into our reality.
Is Mattel’s reaction to endangering millions of people’s kids was not only recycled straight from the handbook of “how to save face when you've f-ed up,” but it’s one-way in a time when we are communal. Mattel needs its bridge, and if it does things right, it can own “recuperation.” Set up a smartly-played online community, start a news feed updating the percentage of tainted product that are reeled in, solicit input from moms and dads of places they’ve seen the recalled products. Give people a chance to feel like they can DO something.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Are we changing our collective understanding of green? The study of semiotics delves into the meaning behind what we see, and helps provide insight on what we should include where to create a desired impression.
So we all know that black=death or power or elegance.
And red=passion, fire, or danger.
And green=earth, growth, or money.
But let’s concentrate on that first one: earth. Growing concern over our environmental and ecological health and future has led to an uptick in green imagery in our everyday lives. But in this heated and prevalent conversation, a new association is developing: green=good. As the ambassador of efforts to preserve our planet, green is getting a lot of positive attention; is it possible or likely that we are in the midst of a mass shift of what it means? One step further, what does that mean for brands, like BP and Starbucks, that already have a toehold on green (and what it can mean for their stock prices)?
Color futurists, semioticians and anyone else with an opinion….whaddya think?
Posted by salina at 8/15/2007 02:47:00 PM
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Today's Spam Spotting revealed this bit of obnoxious commercial grafiti: NYC Taxi TV. Our cabbie informs that these monitors are forcibly inserted into driver's cabs and the noise is rather annoying and distracting. As he points out: "how would u like someone to come to your office or place of work and blast some ads to your clients all day?" Good point Mr. Cabbie. I don't think I'd enjoy that much at all.
NYC's taxi drivers have no control as Taxi TVs activate full blast upon starting the fare meter. He says that most drivers, incl himself, plead riders to just shut the TVs off (top right corner button) and enjoy some quiet respite, to talk to co-riders, cellulate, or just vegetate.
So, the takeway is that this medium is prob not being watched at all (though I am sure a "view" is still tabulated and billed upon every meter activation nonetheless). Sucker clients. Sucker agencies. Note too, cabbies are not cut into the revenue pie for this brave new advertising medium (and they pay for their cabs remember)...so guess what? They have few qualms advising customers to just shut the box off.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Travel Trash Update. Again, I have fallen off the wagon due to travel and conferences. 3 hail marys and all may be forgiven, rite?
I am, however, increasingly conscious of avoiding needless paper plates and plastic bags. Ever notice how everyone wants to give you plastic bags for any and everything? And those dumb stirrers at the coffee condiments table.
Airplanes, don't separate out the cans and organic compost. What's up with that NWA?
Airports, not a recycle bin in the whole complex.
Hotel events and luncheons...hotel rooms...no assistance for this reforming wastemaker.
On a related note - I now realize that I love my Escape Hybrid. More specifically, I love the "score" meters in-dash that show me just how much MPG I am saving this moment when I drive slowly enough to remain in the "green" (aka electric mode). Staying steady in the green racks me up the savings "points". Driving speedy and erratically shows me the consequences immediately. And I stop, because seeing 20 MPG is a bummer. However, seeing that I am racking up 30-40 MPG makes me feel good. These green meters in my dashboard compel me to change my driving habits and rack up more MPGs. These point meters remind me of a video game score, and moreso provide me the perception of "progress". And reward. I am compelled to beat my driving score from last time, and top my all-time-high MPG score. I realize this is probably not the intention of the green designers at Ford.
I'd like my trash can to note my scores, too. Why can't the cans tell me just how toxic (or not) my trash currently is? I'd like my garbage can to function better and tell me how well I am progressing at this very moment, every moment.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Scientists at the University of Alberta recently published results of an animal-based designed to test the efficacy of diet foods. "Animals have the ability to sense the caloric value of food they take in," says David Pierce, lead researcher. "We found out that an animal can learn to use flavors to predict calories in an attempt to achieve energy balance." Pierce fed his rats diet foods and full calorie foods, and then gave them full calorie foods that had a diet flavor. The animals' bodies responded by assuming a calorie deprivation, so they overate at the next feeding to make up for it. The relevance to humans is a growing belief that, the more "diet" foods one consumes, the more the body grasps at the next opportunity to make up for calories lost.
However, another study may provide the solution.
Kids who were given food, even healthy food like carrots, said they preferred its taste to plain bag foods when it was wrapped in a McDonald's container, according to a paper published by the Stanford University.
Could we as marketers encourage kids (backhandedly, albeit) to eat healthier by tricking them with the brands they already associate with good taste? If the body can train itself to categorize tastes as diet or not, as well as train itself to prefer foods that are visually associated with good flavor, then wouldn't it work to leverage brand equities to help kids eat better and override that taste association?
Might be a particularly salient issue for the cereal industry, whose brands kids know and love, but are now faced with strapped sugar, fat and sodium content regulation.
From the creators of Obama Girl (check here and here), Barely Political, peep the latest video release: blond triplets- The Romney Girls- and their vote for a Polygamous get together with Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney....
Just as I said about the Hot for Hill girl...Obama Girl is still hotter...
At the AAAA conference yesterday, Facebook VP of Media Sales Mike Murphy spoke about successful sponsorships and referenced Target's "Brave New Dorm Room" group as a good example. (Search "Target" within Facebook and it should be the first result.) Target gives people tips, content, product sharing capabilities (compare wish-lists with your future roommate), and links to Target. The execution is nice, and—type-A design freak that I am—I would have loved this when I was in college. (I'm sure my roommates are thankful this application did not exist.) Cool idea.
Fast forward 24 hours to a Reuters article announcing that Wal-Mart is launching the identical program:
The world's largest retailer on Wednesday is launching the "Roommate Style Match" group on Facebook, a social networking site that has millions of college-age users, in the hopes of grabbing a larger chunk of back-to-school shopping dollars.Disappointing to see Wal-Mart following versus innovating once again. Should be interesting to see which group gets better traction, if any. Informal discussion with our interns indicated this wasn't topping their list of groups to use.
Facebook users who join the Wal-Mart group will be able to take a quiz to determine their decorating style and get a list of "recommended products" they can buy at Wal-Mart to mesh their style with their roommate's.
Posted by alyson at 8/09/2007 12:28:00 PM
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Just returned from a jam-packed 3 day session at the 4A's in San Diego. Got to hear a lot of great presentations. While my head is still swimming as I try to digest the mass amount of info, one of the things I went to the conference curious to hear conversations about was the many "divisions" of planning- account vs connection vs channel vs etc, and what people thought ideal relationships might be...
I leave the conference with more or less the same conclusion I had going in- there doesn't seem to be much consensus when it comes to how these various roles of planning work together. Some believe connection is wholly separate, and should be formally, from account, while others see them as two peas of the same pod...
But one theme popped up that probably makes the clearest case for me as to how they could work best as two separate roles. I heard from a few people the idea that a connection and account planner could ideally work together in a model similar to that of writer and art director teams: both responsible for different yet related parts of the process, bouncing ideas off one another until the best possible solution is reached. Not saying this may be the best in all cases, but a clearly defined partnership the way creatives work could be an interesting approach.
But in general, conversations I heard were few about connection vs account vs etc, and there tended to be little commonalities between them. Though, if any readers out there who attended were privy to some good convo on this, sound off...
On that note, keep up on the Connection Planning Conference in October to hear the plannerly conversations continue.
Ed Cotton of Butler Shine + Stern/Influx Insights and Aki Spicer of Fallon Planning Blog presented "Blogging the Agency" at AAAA Planning Conference 2007 in San Diego yesterday. Here is the presentation.
Thanx to all who came to our breakout session!
Posted by AKI SYSTEMS 2600 at 8/08/2007 02:21:00 AM
I took this photo to document a brand that doesn't get it. I was annoyed that the label kept falling off of this bottle of water, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Aquafina still treats its packaging as a disposable throw-away. Aside from the crappy glue that turned their brand into an irritant, the bottle could be for Diet Coke, A&W root beer or practically anything else. Compare to Perrier.
Then Eric Ryan, founder of method, hopped on stage and showed us how he turned the household cleaning product category on its side. He talked a lot about the effort they put into packaging and it really struck me. Part of method's birth came from the insight that people are crammed on space and are trying to get a little cleaning done in between everything else in their lives. So they're not going to be patient with digging through the closet for some detergent. He realized that, if you design it right, people will leave their cleaning supplies out by the sink, on the counter, or in the bathroom. For method, the package is part of the product, not just the container around it.
Beyond Eric and method, the idea that "everything counts" rose to the top as a key theme of this year's conference. What's inside, how it's presented outside, and where it fits into our individual and collective lives. We heard it in the stringent efficiency of XS Energy Drink, and in Bruce Mau's compelling narration of the purpose behind Massive Change. This is inspiring as a subtext to the conference's theme of Creating Possibilities; we as planners are peering toward a future of opportunities that is only limited by our own ingenuity and inventiveness.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Check my livestreamed Twittr feeds @ http://twitter.com/akispicer
*Check other Tweets from the AAAA Planner Conference, too:
Been a long time since we checked in on LonelyGirl15 since the expose. Nice recap video here:
Still doesn't make me want to tune in...but interesting to see they've managed to milk it. Nice work if you can get it.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Life in an age of transparency...
Other Twin Cities bridges to watch out for - via email chains and webposts, such as this from Eric Hare:
Bridges are scored on a 0-100 rating system. Bridges that are 50 or less are considered "deficient". The bridge that fell yesterday was rated 50.0 according to the list of all deficient bridges in the 7-County area
Note that there are 72 total bridges on this list.
Cross-checked that with the St Paul Bridge index and found that, aside from a few smaller bridges over ravines and so on, we have four major bridges in Saint Paul that qualify as "deficient" - shown here ranked by their rating in 2005:
26.7 Summit Ave over CP Rail Systems and Ayd Mill Rd
40.8 Interstate 35E over BNSF RR, CP Rail Systems & Cayuga St
43.4 Warner Rd EB (Reserve) over BNSF RR, CP Rail Systems, Union Pacific RR
49.5 Hwy 52 (Lafayette Rd) over Mississippi River
The Summit Ave bridge rates so low because at the time it had just been whacked by an empty container train, which ripped out a significant portion of its structure. This has been mostly fixed by now. The remaining 3 should be considered as likely to fail as the I-35W bridge.
Note: I-35E at Cayuga St is the long bridge just North of Pennsylvania. Lafayette is the only one across water (the Mississippi). Some work has been done on this, and its rating may have improved.
Cats do Web 2.0, too!
MC Escher Cats. Looking at cats. Looking at cats. Looking at cats. Looking at cats. Looking at cats. I think you get the idea... Nice (AND DAMN SIMPLE) way to hook cat lovers into a participatory web game. Kittenwar still reigns, though.
Help Google imagine how an email message travels around the world.
Post your clip as a response to this one. They'll edit a selection of submissions together to make a final video, which will be featured on the Gmail homepage and seen by users worldwide.
Respond to this video with your own clip by August 13, 2007 to be considered to the final collaborative video. Learn more about the project at http://mail.google.com/mvideo
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I commented yesterday on some overarching themes that seemed to run throughout the World Future Society Conference. Supporting those themes were some good examples and cited sources, so to wrap up conference reporting, today's post will be a sampling of what I heard.
Product sales + open source invention...buy a cool electronics kit (this photo is for the MintyBoost, an iPod battery charger made from an Altoids gum tin) or look at the photos and instructions and try it yourself. The site gives credit to other inventions who were inspiration as well as posts others' iterations of the original idea.
iRobot bills itself as being in the "practical robot" business (every knows about the Roomba auto vacuum cleaner) iRobot also sells what's basically an idea starter. Its an iRobot that anyone from kids to roboticists can plug into the computer and being to program. Its open access design lets users add on other electronics or modifications without blowing the whole thing up. The company also paired up with Instructables and Tom's Hardware for the iRobot Create Challenge--you can guess its premise. Not sure if this one is an entry, but here is the Adverbot, which uses the iRobot as a base for mobile advertising delivery. If you've got an idea, entries due August 31, 2007.
"build, craft, hack, play, MAKE" Sponsored by MAKE magazine, this is a two-day festival that encourages people from all skill sets to display their DIY-ness. This sounds like an improved version of the craft fair--nothing's for sale, so you don't walk around saying, "300 bucks for THAT?! I could make that myself at home!"