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.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Eco Future: Two airline approaches

Two press releases last week from the airline industry, one from Delta and one from Virgin Airlines. Both announce changed business practices to be more green, but the messages the announcements sent were quite different.

Virgin signed a multi billion dollar promise to buy 15 of Boeing’s fuel-efficient 787s, and announced it intends to fly the world’s first bio-fueled commercial airplane.

Delta now offers fliers the option to make a $10 donation per ticket purchase to The Conservation Fund to help offset their carbon footprint (which goes up significantly with flying).

As someone who is evermore environmentally conscientious, I think of solutions in two frames: correcting the now and protecting the future. Virgin is clearly taking strides toward both, and in significant ways. But the more I thought about it, Delta is doing neither—test this out: carbon offsetting is simply allowing us to sustain our current habits--instead of correcting the damaging action.

It gets back to the issue highlighted in Mya Frazier’s cautionary AdAge article this week. If you’re going green, make sure it’s for real. My opinion is that everyone (not ‘if’) should be going green, but companies’ fear of public backlash when they don’t go far enough-- being called out as “greenwashing”—is legitimate.

And for that reason, there’s a lot of opportunity in the “protecting the future” variety of solutions. It’s creating a vision. Virgin has made awesome announcements about its intent for the future, and it’s basking in goodwill now.

Dog Owners Looking For An Authority

Dog owners are looking for some answers. They're looking for an authority. And popular pooch site, Dogster has stepped up to the in paul's words "becoming a resource."

Dogster Launches RSS Feed for Pet Food Recall
To keep you updated on the latest developments in the ever-changing Menu Foods saga, Dogster has launched two RSS feeds designed to keep you and your pup in the know. The Pet Food Recall Alerts RSS feed focuses on breaking news on the pet food recalls and The Pet Food Recall News RSS feed will provide information and commentary on the pet food recall that is less time-sensitive in nature. Users can subscribe to one or both RSS feeds from Dogster's Pet Food Recall Resource Page. Here, they will also be able to view Dogster's DogBlog written by intrepid blogger Joy Ward, and find links to other organizations, including government-related agencies, that have pertinent information or are taking action related to the pet food recall.

As the story continues to unfold and multiply (China, human food, etc.) with more product recalls and a menu foods petition, it'd be nice to have a trusted source of unbiased info. (See aki's Meshly on RevolutionHealth.) Also of interest is how online has been critical to the story's development, the spread and organization of info, galvanizing of passionate communities.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Inbox of Immaturity

Let's kick it off with an add-on from last week. This site offers more hairstyle options for Sanjaya-ing yourself or a buddy.

And now here's an old favorite with a new twist: The Juggernaut.
Other than the child exploitation, little man can beatbox and rap to Humps.
An older, little guy named Weng Weng rapping.
Here's how I'll be spending my next Tuesday evening: With the PTA - yes, at a Cornhole league. (Only in the Midwest.)
Before you leave on this glorious Friday, check out (and if you're in NY perhaps use), courtesy of Thrillist and reminded by PSFK.

Enjoy your weekend.

Bonus Link for NBA fans: Baron's Beard

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Review: Joost

Joost was in the news again today with the announcement that it’s signed some big name clients into various ad unit tests on the platform. A few of us have been testing it for several weeks, so I thought I’d post my review.

So, what is Joost? From a business perspective, Joost is an online content delivery platform that delivers video content on demand. I think of Joost as the entertainment industry’s response to YouTube, which means that while it is “on demand,” it really is like watching television. The content is commercial content, and there is a lot of it.

Joost is not a web site. You don’t type in a URL to get to it. Instead, you download the Joost executable to your desktop and install it. Currently, support is for the modern Windows platforms as well as Intel-based Macs. When you run the installer, you create a username and password, which you enter everytime you launch the application.

The application runs full screen and looks about as good as iTunes. It streams video from the web. So, you can’t download content and watch it later (for example, on a plane) which is one of the things I love about iTunes. Joost has a fairly clean user-interface. A few buttons are a little ambiguous, but it’s not too tough to figure things out.

If you are watching a program on Joost, you can open a widget that lets you invite a friend. As a beta-tester, I had three invitations to bring people into Joost, so I tested this. The thing is, there are no hyperlinks to Joost, so these emails simply promote a program within the client. Contrast this to YouTube where you get a link directly to a video and it launches immediately on click. While this might not seem like a big deal to someone like Viacom, who owns a ton of this content, or an advertiser, it illustrates the immediacy that makes YouTube so viral.

Joost was touted as having some social-ish features, but I was unimpressed. Supposedly, you can chat with other Joost users who are watching a program, or invite people in the client to watch the program while your watching it. So few people are on the platform now that chat probably wasn’t viable to test, but I don't imagine it being much different than the chat experience withing massive online games. As for inviting people to watch the same program as me, I think it’s a somewhat useless feature when you consider the time-shifted nature of broadband content consumption. I don’t want to watch something on Joost when you are watching it. I want to watch it when I want to watch it.

The ads just rolled out today, but I think I only saw one pre-roll(I was on the know that we don't really get paid for this kind of thing...). Not too obtrusive. In fact, it probably hearkens back to the earliest incarnations of television spots, which (I’ve heard) were sponsorships and ran only at the beginning of the show. Supposedly, contextual advertising will be tested and we can likely look forward to disruptions ranging from mild to extreme. Joost says advertising will be limited to three minutes an hour. One advantage to a web-delivered platform is that Joost can gauge how ads are tolerated based on audience behavior metrics.

I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m curious to see what emerges from a branded content perspective. This seems like Joost's most intriguing marketing possibility.

So, my take on this is that it’s not bad. But it’s not really that great. And if you play around with it a while, it becomes obvious that the people that are most excited about this platform are probably the owners of commercial content libraries that have no home online and the advertisers scrambling to find a viable video platform for the next generation of :30s. Interesting to see how this one plays out. Ultimately, the people will decide.

Neo-Health: tasty weight loss

Obesity in the US has reached a high alert level, and product innovation is reacting. Some work better than others, and it’s often because developers realized a human truth: we like to eat. We don’t want to not eat (a lot). Introducing the “more for less” health mentality. It’s more bang for your buck, with a slight diet change (often an addition, so they can sell product) you can experience amazing results! Eat what you like, do what you want, and you’ll get skinnier/healthier/prettier!

Two examples:

Enviga and Celsius.
Two new green tea drinks that claim to help you burn calories. They lean on two familiar faces: caffeine and ECGC, an antioxidant found in green tea to claim that both will stimulate your metabolism enough to burn between 60 and 100 extra calories a day. (Enviga is on the high end, but you’d have to drink three cans a day. So really you’d only be burning 85 calories because you’d have to subtract the 5 per can you consume).

Coca-Cola, the maker of Enviga, is also leaning on study it funded to prove Enviga’s effectiveness. Its findings are questionable—only 31 participants, conducted once—and the Center for Science in the Public Interest is filing suit.

I tried Enviga and I’m thinking the weight loss comes from the sick feeling I had for hours after drinking it. Maybe it’d be better marketed as an appetite suppressant.

Anti-obesity gum.
The Imperial College London received a grant to explore adding an appetite suppressant to gum. It’s a drug that mimics the effects of a hormone that naturally occurs in our digestive tracks to make us feel full after a meal. Researchers decided that gum would be the ideal delivery method “because obese people like chewing.”

via iconoculture

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

FallonLabs: Meshly

Our own Jason Striegel and David Annis are at it again, this time with a clever Web 2.0 utility for micro-blogging that they've named Meshly.

Meshly takes after Twitter, in that you can send your posts to the site via instant messaging. It’s easy to do as they give you step by step directions through your IM client. Meshly is about uploading links. You choose which category to put it into, and if you don’t think it fits, you can create your own.

The idea is that communities will grow around people with similar interests through their link categories. You can also vote and comment on links, working like Digg. The posts with the most votes make it to the cover page for each content channel.

In their own words Meshly is “the easiest, fastest way to post links to your personal space as well as stay in contact with like-minded community members.”

Check out (and contribute!) to Fallon Planning Blog's Meshly channel, or even my own.

I have found this innovation of instant blogging via my Instant Message portal to be the time saver tool of the year! Quick thoughts simply need a clear and easy posting interface like Meshly - no fuss, no processes. And let's be honest, most blog posts are not really as substantive as we imagine. In fact, most posts are simply quick links and bookmark referrers to clever sites and funny videos. Utilities like Meshly can direct these quickie "side lines" and notes to the blog margins of your widget thus freeing up the center real estate to focus on the big thinking content that matters. Meshly is like a CNN news ticker for your blog. Or a notepad for your blog.

Reality Photo

Late on the scene, but thought worth posting in case anyone else hadn't seen this. My friend passed it on because he thought the girl in the middle taking a picture was Staci from DanceLife. (Oh, act like you didn't watch that. And no, Nolan's not the driver.)

In fact, this is the winning photo from the 2006 World Press Photo awards, taken by Spencer Platt of Getty Images. And it's not off the set of a TV show or music video. "The picture shows a group of young Lebanese driving through a South Beirut neighborhood devastated by Israeli bombings. The picture was taken on 15 August 2006, the first day of the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah when thousands of Lebanese started returning to their homes." Quite an interesting contrast.

Shift Happens: Toyota Overtakes GM As World No.1 by Auto Sales

History was written in the first quarter of 2007 when, according to the latest sales figures, Japan's Toyota scorched past decades-long market leader General Motors to become the planet's best-selling carmaker.

During the January-March period Toyota's worldwide sales hit 2.348 million units compared with the Detroit-headquartered company's 2.26m vehicles.

Few believe the situation to be a statistical flash-in-the-pan, as the Japanese giant has been steadily gaining on GM over the past two years.

via USA Today, WARC

Monday, April 23, 2007

It's the utility, stupid!

A friend of mine launched a website,, last week.

Take a look at the image above. Compare it to Temperature. Humidity. Five day forecast. That's all there is. No doppler radar animation. No video highlights. No topical, weather related articles. No sexy flash animations. No AJAX webdings.

Web two point oh? No.

Now, there must be a hundred weather related websites out there, so what's to learn from the most pedestrian of weather portals? Let's ask the users - the 150 thousand of them that were visiting the humble little weather site 3 days after launch:

Just for comparison's sake, I've plotted their traffic against

Advertising is Disruptive
You've heard the expression, "It's the customer, stupid!" Problem is, there's a history of trying to court the customer with a lot of glitter and no substance. In a broadcast, passive consumer model, this is probably the right strategy. Your potential customer is sitting there watching a television program. You have 30 seconds to catch her attention and offer something that's so visually engaging that she doesn't get up to fetch a bag of chips.

When this thinking is applied online, the outcome is big-production, flash-heavy microsites, "viral" videos, and roll-out animated banner advertisements. Let's make something so visually stunning, so culturally shocking, or so amazing and never-been-done-before that people will have to stop what they are doing and consume our advertisement for a little while.

Empowered Consumers Avoid Disruptions
So in an environment where people can block popups, time-shift and commercial-skip television... Hell, in an environment where someone can spend a weekend recreating anything that you have created, and do it better and without advertisement, and share it with the world... in this environment, do you really want your brand to be an interruption?

Aside from banner placement--and even then, only by interrupting the user's experience--we don't have the luxury of throwing ads at people anymore and forcing them to watch. If your advertisement doesn't provide value to the user, if there is no utility, it will be rejected and avoided.

Value, Utility, and Participation in Brand - That's King
The argument that I'm making is that if we're to be successful brand ambassadors in the online space, we need to recognize that our ads are now a consumable product too. All the same rules of markets and capitalism apply to our work. For online advertisement to win, it needs to provide enough value and utility to the user, such that it's able to offset the cost of a person's time. If something is to be successfully viral, the payoff needs to exceed the investment a user has to make in helping to spread the message.

How do we do this?

We need to work with our clients to help them find ways for their customers to be active, engaged brand participants. This means being a destination for the customer experience, not an interruption. This means allowing customers to truly own, modify, and customize your product. It means letting customers make experience destinations of their own.

Sometimes it means letting customers make better advertisements than we're capable of.

In the End, Customers are Smarter
There are a lot more consumers out there than there are advertisers, and many of them are smarter than us. Lucky for us, consumers want to own solid products and identify with great brands. We just need to let them.

Take a look again at that screenshot above. See the bottom, where it says "data provided by" This is the best advertisement I've seen for the Weather Channel brand, and guess what? They are getting 150k (and growing) ad impressions a day by making their product freely available... to their competitors.

Top 100 Brandz of 2007

Consultancy Millward-Brown today released their annual ranking of the top 100 global brands. Through a formula which looks at a company's intangible earnings, the company presents their POV on what a brands contribution was to those earnings, and additionally projects what the future value will be.

An interesting read, throws out some good fodder in times where its increasingly difficult to prove how our brand building efforts are adding to the bottom line.

*notable for Fallon, Citi is ranked #8, up 9% from the year prior, and is the only financial services company to make the top 10.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Belly Brain

We talk about emotions and their impact on the individual. Now learn about the belly brain, which scientists say may play an even more important role in our development than the brain in our heads.


Communities of tomorrow: linked by commonalities and networks online but anonymous in the physical space?

is a google map mashup that lets people hide a gift and mark it on the map for others to find. Searchers ideally hide new gifts, or pass along their newfound treasure. Then everyone talks about it online. There’s no face-to-face aspect about it, and I imagine that meeting a fellow dropspotter would be kind of weird.

There’s a dropspot in mpls and I’m going to check it out this weekend; I’ll report back on Monday.

Inbox of Immaturity

If it wasn't for the news of Alec Baldwin's crazy call to his daughter this morning, the top five would be:

USC Will Be The Most Popular Basketball Team Among Nickelodeon Viewers
Bernie Williams on stage and guitar with the Allman Bros
Will Ferrell Movie Generator (They also have an informative map detailing the rules and name of the popular drinking game...Beirut vs. Beer Pong.)
Sanjaya Yourself (Or create other silly head in various background "zings.")
Short Circuitz premieres a new Ludacris video (Also had a solid GWB response to Kanye's Katrina remarks.)

And of course, a big shout out and thanks to Imus for starting the conversation on immaturity...amongst other things according to Nike.

Planning Tool: The Budget Graph

Now that you've paid your taxes, see where they're going onThe Budget Graph. While you could get that information on the government's OMB site, the folks at the budget graph have done the heavy lifting for you (and also added a few graphics to hold your attention). You can search by branch or by governmental department and find out how the total funds compare to the previous year.

For example, if you select "Health and Human Services," you see that "Administration for Children and Families" was allocated $12.329 billion, a 10% decrease from last year (that's a loss of ~$1.4 B). A pretty significant cut, and all the more reason to support Susie Flynn and CDF (Digg her here).

Meanwhile, the FDA is getting $1.641 B, a 10% increase (a gain of a mere $151 million). This increase starts to feel small in light of the fact that only 1.3% of imported foods are inspected and many are found to be tainted.

All in all, a cool tool (though the site seems to be a bit slow at time of posting).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Doers (in a Web 2.0 world)

Two things:

First, a reminder that our very own Aki and Paul will be presenting "What Web 2.0 Means for Advertising Agencies" TONIGHT at 7pm (5:30 for the sauce) at O'Gara's Bar & Grill, 164 North Snelling Avenue, St Paul, Minnesota. These guys are the real deal, a dynamic duo. Like Stiller and Wilson, Ferrell and Heder, Sanjaya and Seacrest, Barry and Robin (Gibb). Plus, The Office is a repeat, Grey's stinks this season, and you're still not smarter than a fifth grader. Pimp my Ride fans, you will actually have to DVR it or sacrifice (till the weekend's back-to-back-to-back episodes air). Hope to see you there. Here's the original post for more details.

Second, our ex-very-own Adrian + co at Zeus Jones have recently uploaded the presentation the did at Web 2.0 Expo at Yugma. Some stuff they did here, but mostly about the company's launch—putting their mission into ACTION. Cool stuff. See for yourself. Here it is (they made good on Slide 44):

Brave New Media: Humanizing Technology/Humanizing Advertising

David Annis notes, this website is either the best book website you've ever seen, or the worst.

Another framing for consideration is that finally people are making the web useful for themselves. Out of the hands of code specialists and in the grubby hands of folks. Web 2.0 democratises the tools of mass communication for any and all. This author is telling an interesting story. No widgets, no flashies, no zowie. No budget. Web does not have to be big zowies. But it has to be interesting and special.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Trust, your gut and the Internet

Seth Godin posted this reader comment and it struck a nerve (or two):

"I was amused by my own behaviour this morning.

I was looking for a welder of stainless steel to make up some security gates. I went to a website list of suitable contractors, clicked on all those in my area and ended up with 25 pages opened. I then called the first one and asked if they could make up something to my drawing. They couldn't (not their type of business) but I had a very pleasant and helpful discussion with the owner about stainless steel in general.

I then asked if he could suggest anyone else that might be able to do the work. He suggested a name and number. I called them, discussed the project and am waiting for their quote.
I then closed the other 24 web pages - unseen or contacted.

The rapport that I felt (from a perfect stranger) was sufficient to make me take his recommendation and pursue a quote from his referred "friend" in preference to the other 24 open pages. Funny that! The need for a personal link goes deep."
Similarly, I have been searching for a contractor to re-roof my home. I have heard enough contractor from hell stories to take some time on this decision. Despite the web offering up dozens of "referral" sites, most sponsored by the contractors themselves, I was left with a huge list of possible contractors and little in the way of any sense of comfort. I resorted to using spontaneously derived (and marginally objective) criteria to narrow the list.
Then I started calling. I ultimately asked for bids from those who engaged me with conversation that made me feel "comfortable". In other words, I used gut feel. I think we instinctively want to trust our gut, and speaking with a real person has always been our gut's preferred geiger counter.
I wonder if or how, the web can ever overcome this hurdle? Can designers learn to incorporate "gut cues" into web experiences?
Incidentally, I do not view consumer generated "review" sites as the answer. They are easily gamed, are skewed towards angry customers and there is really no way to gauge the reviewer's expertise (I have seen Taco Bell judged "best Mexican food restaurant" in newspaper and magazine reader polls).

Mass Interactive: Funny Or Die

Funny Or Die is a comedy video site containing both professional content from big name talent and user-generated content (think YouTube for funny). Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are behind what could be considered a farm system for discovering talent for their company, Gary Sanchez Productions.

Trendcentral notes that although the site is still in beta, "it has already become one of the fastest growing content-based websites in history so far (faster than YouTube)".

The first video, The Landlord, has already garned over 2 million views (to date) in only a few days of going live.

*"IN BETA" IS RIGHT...half the embeddable links don't work, and it don't xfer to my Vod:Pod...hope IT at Funny or Die works it out. Fast. Cuz tech glitches just ain't funny.

Brave New Media: Evolution of Games

I was asked by a few here to give a "tour" of Second Life. I pulled out an insert from Wired magazine and we went to some of the better known 2L ventures. The recurring comment was "where are the people"? All these corporate constructs, but no people. Our visit to a sex dungeon revealed the people on a Monday afternoon and points to where all the real action is on the burgeoning 2L...Today.

The experience reminded me of 1994 when I went to the internet and looked up some random sites to visit. I had an insert from Wired magazine then, too, to guide me to the better sites. And I wandered into some chat rooms and sex dungeons to check out where the real action was on the burgeoning world wide web. Most of the sites I visited then were lame and not much use at all. However, users created eBays and Amazons and Netscapes and Googles and YouTubes to channel all that potential into profitable ventures beyond banal twittering.

If you impose Second Life onto this familiar framing of the 'evolution of games', the possibilities become clear. Or rather, the usefulness of Second Life is still not so clear, but the potential for users to eventually create previously unfathomable, yet fiercely ubiquitous uses becomes very clear.

Second Life, for the moment, is analogous to the internet circa 1995, or gaming circa 1974. Now: a banal waste of time, crude and choppy...tomorrow: perhaps a daily standard for us all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

State of the Blogosphere/Live Web

Technorati posts the latest State of the Blogosphere :

-70 million weblogs
-About 120,000 new weblogs each day, or...
-1.4 new blogs every second
-3000-7000 new splogs (fake, or spam blogs) created every day
-Peak of 11,000 splogs per day last December
-1.5 million posts per day, or...
-17 posts per second
-Growing from 35 to 75 million blogs took 320 days
-22 blogs among the top 100 blogs among the top 100 sources linked to in Q4 2006 - up from 12 in the prior quarter
-Japanese the #1 blogging language at 37%
-English second at 33%
-Chinese third at 8%
-Italian fourth at 3%
-Farsi a newcomer in the top 10 at 1%
-English the most even in postings around-the-clock
-Tracking 230 million posts with tags or categories
-35% of all February 2007 posts used tags
-2.5 million blogs posted at least one tagged post in February

Slowing in the doubling of the size of the blogosphere. This shouldn't be surprising, as we're dealing with the law of large numbers - it takes a lot more growth to double from 35 million blogs to 70 million (which took about 320 days) than when it doubled from 5 million to 10 million blogs (which took about 180 days).

Slowing in growth in the rate of posts created per day; while there are spikes in blog posts during times of significant world crisis -- for instance, last summer's conflict between Israel and Hezbollah -- the overall trend is that posting volume is growing more slowly, at about 1.5 million postings per day. That's about 17 posts per second. In October 2006, Technorati was tracking about 1.3 million postings per day, about 15 posts per second.

Get more here

Friday, April 13, 2007

Inbox of Immaturity

It's baseball season, so a lot of time has been devoted to smack-talking and hating on the Yankees and Red Sox, but my inbox has still managed to get a gem or two over these past couple of weeks. Here's the Top Ten:

1. First, Billy shows off his ping pong ball bouncing/throwing skills. Yes, "This time it's personal."
2. Malibu's second most wanted...Malibu
3. I'm probably late to this French-born Algerian dunking machine
4. If Jacko wants a robot, give him a damn robot already
5. The website for Milwaukee's Best Light
6."Interesting" use of OOH that may benefit my client Beneful
8. Moving to Brazil - watch if only for the woman in silver at 1:15
9. In case you that makes you want to get a head-start on summer, peep Wholesome Wear with "swimwear that highlights the face rather than the body."
10. Finally, Sad Kermit takes us out

Mass Interactive: US Postal Service Star Wars Stamps

Uh, prob not too work-related, but it is important nevertheless, vote for your favorite Star Wars stamp!

I'm putting my vote on Candidate Vader and the Sith Party - I'm tired of the whiny Jedi tyranny! Over 100,000 votes to-date. You've got 39 days left to be heard on this important issue...

This campaign has prob done more to get our USPS on the buzz/relevance register than anything they've done in recent years...besides raise rates. Good distraction, guys!

Artoo Mailbox spotters are passionately engaged and connecting here and other sites across the web...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Event: "What Web 2.0 Means for Advertising Agencies"

Ad2/Ad Federation Minnesota Event: "What Web 2.0 Means for Advertising Agencies"

If human behavior is changing, advertisers need to adjust their strategies.

Planning Director Aki Spicer and Interactive Production Manager Paul Sanders from Fallon will identify some trends that have brought us to Web 2.0, and why advertisers need to pay attention if they are to remain relevant. Web 2.0 is a convergence of technology and social trends impacting media consumption beyond the internet.

@ 7p (5:30p socializing starts)
O'Gara's Bar & Grill
164 North Snelling Avenue
St Paul, Minnesota

Identity Theft: Dateline "To Catch an ID Thief"

Chris Hansen of 'Dateline' stalks the people who steal credit card information and try to scam Americans out of money. Originally aired on NBC March 27.

Brave New Media: Xbox on the move

Xbox has been plugging away at video gaming perceptions (mindless, solitary waste of time). Last month, Xbox Live offered the first episode of “South Park” ever produced in HD—because Comedy Central doesn’t have an HD offering. It’s a partnership that should be a wake up call for traditional distributors: they’re competing against a much wider array of new digital platforms.

It’s a call that others should be hearing, too. Xbox Live announced today (via Ad Age) that it will now offer instant messaging through the TV. Seems logical: "If my Xbox is on I might as well let my IM list pop up -- screens are big enough today," said Mike Vorhaus, SVP at Frank N Magid Associates. That sounds like a solid rationale for TV 2.0.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mass Interactive: Robin Sparkle's #1 Fan

NYTimes details an interesting new media meets old media case study similar to the That Girl Emily/Court TV integration of last year.

Summary fact highlights:

The Robin Sparkle's MySpace page was a plant, concocted by the producers of the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” to play off a storyline in the show’s Nov. 20 episode.

During that episode, it was discovered that one of the main characters has an embarrassing childhood secret: her teenage performances as Robin Sparkles. At the moment in the show when a character discovered a video of Sparkles online — 21 minutes into the episode — a streaming video went live on the Sparkles MySpace page, with 3 minutes and 20 seconds of clichéd pop music, big bouncy hair and bad synthesizers, not to mention lyrics like “I’m going to rock your body ’til Canada Day.”
Let's Go To The Mall - Robin Sparkle

By the next morning, the number of “friends” on the Robin Sparkles fan page had jumped from fewer than 100 to more than 5,000, and the video was one of the most viewed on both MySpace and YouTube. More important, the ratings for “How I Met Your Mother” jumped the next week, increasing by more than a million viewers in the age 18-to-34 demographic group. That gave the show, a critical favorite but a middling ratings success, its highest overall ratings of the season.

As of today she has over 6000 MySpace "friends".

An interesting takeaway on how we all may best integrate social media into the the broader marketing schema, one of the show's creators, Carter Bays says “We also don’t want to forget what we’re here to do, which is a television show. Everything we’ve done online — whether it’s Barney’s blog or the Robin Sparkles video — has come organically from something going on in the show. It’s great to have these things out there, but we don’t do them just for the sake of doing them. There has to be a reason.”

I ran a BlogPulse read...

Note that Nov 05 spike for the show's buzz is star Neil Patrick Harris' real life gay revelation. Without that gay reveal, the show's buzz would be fairly flat, the next 2 big spikes for show buzz are Robin Sparks MySpace page related, and subsequent show buzz flattens to mere mentions of the title buried in TV articles. The Robin Sparkle MySpace buzz lowers, yet long tails and keeps on givin' buzz long after airing. This week's spikes are PR pushes to get the creators out there (you know the hustle) and that buzz is mostly centered on re-capping the innovation about the MySpace integration (like this post).

Monday, April 09, 2007

Planner Extraordinaire: Rod Benson

You should read this guy's stuff. If you work with a sports client or in a sports-related industry, you should know Rod Benson. (The Sports Guy has linked to his site in the past.) If you're a planner looking for some inspiration in noticing and/or storytelling, you should look no further than Rod Benson.

Who is Rod Benson? In his words: "Im tall, skinny and athletic. I play professional basketball in the NBA Developmental League, but my aspirations are much higher. I write blogs and make videos for fun because the professional basketball world has left me with quite a lot of free time and, unlike my teammates, I don’t have a wife and kids. Im very much into being grown man in all my current activities. That would include dressing the part and having business cards. I believe in first impressions. I believe in the power of effective communication. I believe that everybody’s got a story --- mine are just usually better. I believe in humor and, as a result, I find myself joking around a lot. Im very creative. I believe that all of my good traits are seen as better because I’m also an athlete. I also believe that all my of bad traits are seen as worse because I’m also an athlete."

Review (using our trusty and comprehensive guide): Closer to Wow! than Hmmn.
Self-aware, intelligent, and a bit arrogant, Rod's got a fresh perspective on the life of an athlete (a D-leaguer/E-list celebrity) and more imporantly knows how to develop "characters"/people and tell an interesting story. Here's one of my favorite recent posts. Read and note his observations from both on and off the court and get insight into himself and others. A quick look at his site, Too Much Rod Benson, proves that he's using planner tools. Here's a guy, I can get enthusiatic about.

Politics 2.0: UK Labour Party Gets YouTube Channel

Mashable reports

British PM Tony Blair launched a YouTube channel, which he says will allow the Labour Party to talk directly to the public, rather than being filtered by the media.

Blair’s intro clip has been viewed almost 10,000 times in the 3 days it's been live and received more than 116 comments such as "I wont vote till Tony Blair Does a Numa Numa video", and "He looks uncomfortable, shifty, untrustworthy." and "Someone straighten the man's tie, for God's sake", "Does he really think "talking to the kids" like this comes across as anything other than a Dad trying to be cool at a teenagers party.", and "Could you stop taxing us to death please? Yours gratefully, Everyone.", and "marry me tony".

Who needs opinion polls when citizens can make their gripes and praises directly to the man (supposing he actually reads his comments and checks his view counts every morning?).

Friday, April 06, 2007

Freeloader: Free Tax Day Ice Cream

Been quite awhile since I've posted a Freeloader.

So take this: Tax Day is April 17th, but don't be depressed. It's also free cone day at Ben & Jerry's. From 12pm to 8pm, at all participating Ben & Jerry's, you can enjoy a free ice cream.

Brave New Media: Shift Happens

Found this ditty over on Plannersphere compacting the big impacts of globalization and the information age


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hip-Hop's "Unwelcome Attention" Returns: Jay-Z Endorses Ace of Spade Champagne

Ugh. I won't even begin to try and recap the history on this Jay-Z vs Cristal feud.

But months after boycotting Louis Roederer Cristal, Jay-Z has found a new bubbly to enjoy. According to reports, the rap mogul is close to signing a deal to endorse Ace of Spade, an Armand De Brignac champagne featured in the rapper's video for the song "Show Me What You Got." Jay-Z also mentions Ace of Spade in the hit single and in the video, the rapper is seen opening a brief case during a card game. The brief case contains a bottle of Armand de Brignac, known for its solid gold-plated bottle and Ace of Spades shaped label.

Although the deal isn't official, Armand de Brignac president/CEO Brett Berish welcomed the attention his brand has received from Jay-Z. "Jay-Z has always demonstrated the highest standards and finest taste, and we're honored to see Armand make an appearance in 'Show Me What You Got,'" Berish said.

A Google search nets a lot of press release matter about how Armand de Brignac has been produced for "centuries" and is only now being imported stateside after enjoying success in France. But wait...Armand, who?

Further Google search reveals a story on Gawker, who calls bulls**t.

According to Gawker and HipHopGame, Armand de Brignac is a new stealth brand created by Cattier Champagne, to all appearances exclusively for its cameo in the Jay-Z video (and likely subsequent appearances and distribution in his clubs, etc.). Perhaps the best part: The Cattier bottle and vintage ("Antique Gold") that likely matches the relabeled "Armand de Brignac" sells for around $60 tops. "Armand de Brignac" reputedly goes for $300.

Nice hustle if you can pull it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Postcards From Second Life: Coldwell Banker, The First Real Estate Firm "In-World"

A recent Fortune magazine article revealed that Coldwell Banker, one of the largest real estate firms in the country, began selling real estate in SL on Friday March 30th. According to Charlie Young, SVP of marketing, the company isn't planning to make money in SL.

Rather, the plan is to drive sales of real estate in the real world. Hoping to use SL as a means to understand this "new consumer", actively engaged in social media, virtual worlds, and interacting with brands and each other in ways most marketers are still struggling (and often failing) to understand.

The Coldwell offices will be staffed with "real people" there to answer questions-- and, the company hopes, offset the lonliness may SLers feel wandering aimlessly in the often baren virtual world. Additionally, the company hopes to bring some order to real estate sale, currently controlled by random barrons who buy/sell and operate much like a black market.

It's an interesting play to me. Recently it seems we're seeing more and more companies taking some time to think about how they will actually add value in SL beyond just having a physical presence.

I decided to visit the offices, and see what Coldwell's deal really was.

Just like you'd expect in real life, I was immediately approached by a sales agents avatar, and for the next few minutes he proceeded to rattle off the services offered up in SL.

I found out I had to be of "qualifying age" (30-150 days as a SL resident), along with certain amounts of virtual currency (sadly I'm still clinging to the $250 Linden I got for signing up). There are "kiosks" set up around the HQ, and the units that are white mean they're available for sale/rent.

Actually quite the unique setup and an interesting idea, I was impressed at how well done it is. Not that I'm going to be forking up my real world dough anytime soon for a SL house, but I'll stand by and praise the move.

Whether or not this translates into people running to Coldwell for the real-life property needs, its interesting to see the company admit that this is just as much an experiment in learning how to approach/sell to the people in today's new media world as it is an exercise in making $$. I'd venture to say this is probably one of the smartest ways any big company has entered and set up shop in SL. There's clear value they bring (order to the land buying process), value in it for them (find out how to sell to people who are not buying a house because of a :60 TV spot), and translate those learnings back to real life.

Politics 2.0: MySpace Will Hold Presidential Primary

If MySpace were a country, it would be the 11th largest in the world.

So while it may be only be a marketing event for MySpace to say it’s holding a presidential primary next January, you can be sure the candidates will take it seriously.

The MySpace primary will be held on January 1 & 2, 2008, before any of the official state primaries. Every user will be asked to vote for their favorite candidate.

Most of the candidates already have MySpace pages.
Barack Obama 89947 friends
John Edwards 17071 friends
Hillary Clinton 7685 friends
John McCain 3697 friends
Rudy Guiliani (Private Profile-booo!)

via TechCrunch

Help Wanted: Connection Planners @ Fallon

You might be a Connection Planner and you don’t know it.

If you work in politics and your job is to create complex communication strategies to narrowcast to multiple target audiences all towards one big defining win. You think of everything as an opportunity to extend your message: the photo op, the setting, the PR spin, the sound byte, whether or not to tell people the candidate windsurfs . . . You have passion for using communications to convince people to believe in something – a person, a cause, an idea.

If you work in the media department of an ad agency but you’re a strategic thinker. You find yourself awash in tchotkes, boondoggles, flow charts, and Excel spreadsheets. When what really interests you is the big idea. And we’re not talking about tactics, we’re talking about the big strategic idea. The thing that makes it all go. You’re more interested in building the Velcro wall for the other guys (some who work in media) to know what should stick.

If you work in music or film and your job is to give albums or films their moment in time. You understand the communications complexity to making a film “open” weekend one, and the necessary actions before and after. You understand how the Web has changed music, and that some of today’s most popular bands were built by pasting small together over and over until it was BIG (see Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, etc.), and by urban street teaming and word of mouth (see hip hop, the mix tape).

If you work in planning but your heart is in popular culture not research. If you find you’re less interested in giving birth to the big idea, and more interested in raising it in today’s fascinating new media world. If you consider yourself more street smart than book smart. If you think you can learn a lot about communication strategy from American Idol, P. Diddy, and You’ve read the marketing books, but you want to bring them to life, to take action, not just philosophize. You know what's wrong, now you want the opportunity to do something about it.

Sound like you?

If so, you’re already doing Connection Planning. Call Fallon to get paid.

Forward resume and cvr letter to

Brave New Media: The Machine is Us/ing Us

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mass Interactive: McFly 2015

The McFlys won't die!

For the uninitiated, Marty McFly (aka Michael J Fox) sported the fictional Nike moonboots in the year 2015 in the '80s film Back To The Future 2.

One would assume that Nike has heard the clamoring by now and surely have put these Air McFlys on the SKU plan for 2015. The latest consumer demand tactic: sign the petition, with your email and shoe size - a company can't refuse ACTUAL SHOE ORDERS now can they?

*These McFlys might be the only sneaks that Murray Hardie doesn't own (yet).

Get fly

via Freshness Mag

Monday, April 02, 2007

Mass Interactive: Redux launched 14 days and 10 odd hours ago. That’s when Justin strapped a camera to his head and started live feeding his life—24/7. And, according to the site, he has no intention of taking the camera off.

The curious voyeur who watches Real World can get the same kick out of, that’s nothing new. But the fascinating part is how Justin interacts with his viewers. He answers emails, text messages, IMs. He used to take phone calls until he got too overwhelmed—people want to interact with Justin.

He is giving up a lot of control over his life to his viewers; basically, people can change Justin’s world as he’s living in it. A prankster called in an order for $63 in pizza to be delivered to Justin. And when he got kicked out of the Gap for refusing to take his camera off, people watching called the store to tell the employees to tell them how lame that was. And when Justin’s trying to sleep, fans on the site try to convince his roommates to wake him up—earlier this week, they poured water on him to satisfy the live chat peer pressure.

It's like Sims meets Truman Show, which is a cool novelty, but these guys are trying to make money. They are loading up with product placements and eventually want to get enough demand to get their own network. I’d say the intrigue will wear off, and that will be a flash in the pan. But spend some time watching him yourself and tell me if you disagree.

via SF Chronicle

Politics 2.0: "Vote Different/1984" Ad

San Francisco Chronicle says it "represents a watershed moment in 21st century media and political advertising."

This Pro-Obama/Anti-Hillary video recently introduced on YouTube represents "a new era, a new wave of politics ... because it's not about Obama," says Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank on politics and new media. "It's about the end of the broadcast era."

So far - 3million views and counting on YouTube since its early March debut!

This user-created mashup has "changed the zone" between political campaigns, their followers and the Internet, says Simon Rosenberg, president of the Washington-based New Democrat Network, an influential party advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

With presidential campaigns now poised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising that will blanket television before November 2008, this seemingly home-produced video -- created with software and a laptop, and likely without the benefit of a team of expensive political consultants -- opens a new window, Rosenberg said. It has dramatized a brave new world in which passionate activists outside the structure of traditional campaigns have the power to shape the message -- even for a presidential candidate.

The ad is proof that "anybody can do powerful emotional ads ... and the campaigns are no longer in control," Rosenberg said. "It will no longer be a top-down candidate message; that's a 20th century broadcast model."

It also dramatizes that today, political activists with the Internet as their ammunition have gone from being "just donors to the cause," he said, "to being partners in the fight. And they don't have to wait for permission."

via WSJ, SF Chronicle, NYTimes