Friday, August 31, 2007

Are we becoming cement heads?

What is my daughter going to do for entertainment in 20 years? Will she watch teens wrestling each other in their backyard, exchange cat images with dumb captions or participate in a Jackass stunt just to share with the world? That's the world being envisioned by Andrew Keen in his book 'The Cult of the Amateur: How today's Internet is killing our culture.'

Mr. Keen argues that “what the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment.” In his view Web 2.0 is changing the cultural landscape and not for the better. By undermining mainstream media and intellectual property rights, he says, it is creating a world in which we will “live to see the bulk of our music coming from amateur garage bands, our movies and television from glorified YouTubes, and our news made up of hyperactive celebrity gossip, served up as mere dressing for advertising.” This is what happens, he suggests, “when ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule.”

And he continues:

“What you may not realize is that what is free is actually costing us a fortune,” Mr. Keen writes. “The new winners — Google, YouTube, MySpace, Craigslist, and the hundreds of start-ups hungry for a piece of the Web 2.0 pie — are unlikely to fill the shoes of the industries they are helping to undermine, in terms of products produced, jobs created, revenue generated or benefits conferred. By stealing away our eyeballs, the blogs and wikis are decimating the publishing, music and news-gathering industries that created the original content those Web sites ‘aggregate.’ Our culture is essentially cannibalizing its young, destroying the very sources of the content they crave.”

Sure, very elitist and snobbish. And he has a point. But, then again, he doesn't:

Newspapers, record labels, movie studios, TV networks, etc. have lived in this cocoon that allowed them to release products that were mostly crappy and just intended to make a buck (Can you say Wild Hogs?) All these entertainment money-making machines displayed a Country Club mentality that allowed almost nobody to break into. Sure, there is David Lynch, Bjork and Kurt Vonnegut. But for each one of them is another Rush Hour Sequel and a Britney single. Or rather 10,000 of them.

We should let the markets decide what people will use for their entertainment. And, as we know, these things come in waves: The flood of reality shows were countered with well-written shows like 'Lost'. And the flood of amateur videos will be countered with more professional content.

However, I'm worrying about newspapers. People don't like to read them anymore. When I used to fly early morning, everybody in the plane was reading the paper. Now, I'm often the only one.
Historically, people chose their paper to validate their point of view. But, even if you're a card-carrying Republican, you will find articles in the NY Times that will expand your horizon. Same is true for Democrats in the Wall Street Journal. In the era of blogs and citizen journalism, these opposing views are being drowned out by voives that cement one's point of view.
It takes a lot of work, effort and sweat to be a good journalist. Sure, some of them have gotten lazy in the last few years and the CBS/Rather affair showed that the Wiki Intelligence of the blogosphere can be utilized to validate stories/claims. But just because you have a Typepad account doesn't mean you're a journalist.

My concern is that all of us might just become cement heads, not movable, just looking in one direction, no opportunity to expand your horizon. That's not what liberty and freedom is all about.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Shrinking Cities

Our human nature makes us focus on and celebrate booming cities like New York, Mexico City, Tokyo and Vegas.
But we're surrounded by cities that are disappearing in front of our eyes: Detroit, Venice and Leipzig come to mind. Rural towns in the Mid-West.

This phenomenon has reached virtual worlds as well: Second Life lost 2.5% of its population in June and some of the bigger corporations have left for now.
Leaving behind abandoned buildings and islands, marketing displays celebrating nothingness, and one of the largest banks in the virtual world, Ginko Financial, closing down because of insolvency. Abandoning urban areas seems to be a pattern of our civilization.

The German project Shrinking Cities focuses on this social, cultural and economic challenge. It started with the fact that in Eastern Germany since 1989 more than 1 million apartments remain empty and countless structures and facilities have been abandoned.
And the project continued with a global research on this topic, Second Life being one of the global players.

Currently, they are sponsoring a contest in order to reinvent Second Life.

This is an intriguing project since we tend to focus on the new, new, new thing and when that turns into an old, new, new thing, we forget about it quickly.
It might be too late for Second Life to get the major marketers back but it might be enough to catch a second wind.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The difference between success and failure

How does a visionary project turn into an utter failure? When does a great strategy and an innovative plan turn into a project you never want to mention again?

I've seen it too many times: The strategy was spot-on, the tactics delight the client and the plan has enough breathing room to allow for revisions and issues. And all this excitement and energy ends up in a mediocre, at best, effort that leaves a bad taste in everybody's mouth.
Mind you, I'm not talking about oversold projects that never had the chance to make it to the Olymp. I'm talking about projects that looked like sure winners and ended up being stinkers.

The reason? One word: Execution.
We tend to pay a lot of attention to strategy, innovation and tactics. But too often we forget the real key to success: implementation.

Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan wrtoe the essential guide to Implementation: 'Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things done.'
If you have a chance, grab it. If not, here are some quotes:

"Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing hows and whats, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability."

And my favorite:

"I saw that leaders placed too much emphasis on what some call high-level strategy, on intellectualizing and philosophizing, and not enough on implementation. People would agree on a project or initiative, and then nothing would come of it."

How many companies fail every year because they don't execute. How many innovative campaigns don't connect because they were not executed appropriately?
Way too many.

The new world of social networking

This is how the world of social networking looks like: Facebook is a very strong international contender, but is the most global network. Friendster, as reported before in the LA Times, is the leader in Southeast Asia.

Since we are still trying to find ways to integrate marketing into these new sites, it will be fascinating how marketers will connect with global cultures on these networks. Becoming part of the community might work in country A, could be detrimental to the marketers in country B.
For example, shall there be a global Facebook approach to marketing or shall it be adjusted from country to country?

My recommendation: everything is local. In order for bigger networks not to become irrelevant by the onslaught of niche networks, the big boys need to stay close to the ground and understand what each cohort/culture/group desires. Each affinity group could wants to be marketed to in different ways.

There are no golden rules. Just don't use the sledgehammer approach.

Via Valleywag and psfk.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Another dot-com bust?

Since the housing market started to implode, many industry professionals have wondered if digital marketing will face another dot-com bust, this time fueled by limited credit opportunities and advertisers reducing their investment in online marketing.

Catherine Holahan's article in today's BusinessWeek article titled 'Tech Stock Oasis: Can it last' points us in the opposite direction, and she claims a possible recession might dramatically increase the change of investment from offline to online marketing:

"For one, it is generally cheaper to reach 1% of households using the Internet than it is to reach them via print and television campaigns, says Tim Vanderhook, chief executive of ad-targeting network SpecificMedia. Many premium sites charge $30 to $200 for every 1,000 people who see an ad. Television ads fall in roughly the same price range for cost per 1,000 views. However, nonpremium sites without clearly targeted content—a category comprising most of the Web including e-mail sites, social networks, and most user-generated content sites—charge $20 or less. The nonpremium price typically increases a few dollars when ad networks apply additional targeting, but is still often cheaper than advertising in other media. As a result, when marketers needs to trim the budget, but still reach as many people as possible, they are likely to opt to spend less on other media formats and more online.

S&P's Kessler also says a marketing budget crunch could accelerate the shift of advertising dollars from traditional media to online. "Online is a lot less expensive, and you can spend it in small bites," says Kessler. "When you do television buys, they are generally big commitments where money is required up front."

Not directly related to this article but still very relevant, AdAge reports today that Beam Global Wine & Spirits (Jim Beam, Sauza Tequila, Courvoisier Cognac)is shifting their overall marketing strategy from advertising to word-of-mouth tactics.
Beam's CMO Rory Finlay Web 2.0 quote: "A brand that's dynamic is much more interesting to talk about than one that sits in the corner shouting at you."

Hats off to Beam Global Wine & Spirits. They seem to understand that building a community around their brand infuses new life and offers people the opportunity to make the brand their own. People are passionate about their alcohol choices and they want to share their passion with others.

Many elderly people resign just to die very soon after because they isolated themselves from the outside world. They don't learn, experiment or try new experiences. In order for brands to stay alive and relevant, they have to connect with the outside world: Learn, experiment, experience.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Wondering why most everybody ignores your ads?
Then make sure to read the newest article from David Carrabis on iMediaconnection.

He explains that whatever gets our attention doesn't get our attention until the brain lets it.

"The brain-mind system doesn't understand media rich environments so it translates these environments into what it does understand: walking in the forest. It's been good at walking in forests for millions of years, and to the brain, a media rich environment has similar qualities. The brain essentially decides it knows how to deal with what's going on and sends the mind a "Don't worry, I've got a lock on this. You can relax," signal.

What the brain-mind does understand via this translation is known in neuroscience as multi-modal environments. It is this recognition of the multi-modal environment that allows the brain-mind system to force a different allocation of buffer storage in media rich environments. This translation to multi-modal means you can make one of those cross sensory-attention systems send a message that will be recognized as important, specifically, important enough for the mind to take it as meaningful in the current situation and focus attention on it.

People in our offices and clients are often amused that I'll raise my hand in the middle of a discussion in order to be heard. In business meetings where everyone's attention is focused on the presenter or a slide, I'll sotto vocé something and everyone will turn to me, "What was that, Joseph?" There are lots of tricks along these lines that effectively tweak the multi-modal recognition filters to pass information through the buffer system to get the mind's attention.

And there's more. People aren't irritated when I wave my hand or whisper something. Quite the opposite, usually. Tension leaves. This is because the multi-modal system was designed to keep us safe and alive. Waving my hand and whispering signals the cross sensory-attention systems in a non-threatening way."

And he then drafts the golden rule of marketing:

"Ask for their attention by
Getting their attention in a way they're not
Using their attention"

In a marketing world where 1% CTR are considered a success and marketers try to rationalize that DVR's and other ad-blocking techniques are just a little speed bump, the article explains why we're struggling connecting with people.

And it explains why widgets have become such an important part in the digital marketing puzzle: We don't hit consumers over the head, integrate well into their multi-model media consumption and, thereby, can influence opinions of people. Same goes for SEM.

But, as previously discussed, widgets can't be the answer for all our marketing problems.

We need to find new ways to ask for attention by getting their attention in new, innovative ways. That's why it's imperative for marketers to focus more on content creation, on developing tools that improve people's life. When marketers are integrated into the lifestyles of their target audience, they will find it easier to connect.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The window of opportunity is closing fast

I love widgets.
They give marketers a unique opportunity to provide people with valuable tools and associating this life improvement with their brand.
Here at Genex, we built and marketed a few of them and were always happy with the overall results. But we are rapidly approaching a saturation point: Currently, Yahoo! offers 3,666 widgets, Facebook more than 4,500 and Google 13,627.

In short: Way too many widgets.

Nothing against widgets, but my laptop screen is not a 100 inch flatscreen and only allows for a few widgets. It's fairly obvious that widgets are losing their attractiveness and value for marketers.

What to do?

I dont' mean to discourage marketers to build widgets. There's always space for a real valuable tool. A tool that improves the life experience of people. A tool that makes their life easier. Saves them a few seconds a day.
But I would discourage anyone to build a widget in order to have a widget. Users will not download it, use or engage with it.

Marketers should not waste their time and resources on widgets unless there's a need in the marketplace for this widget.

Next step in the widget evolution: A Super Widget,integrating various widgets into one power-house: Traffic Information for the commute, news and weather widget for the work day, local entertainment widget for the evening planning, etc.
One will build it. And they will all come.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Battle of the Giants

Danah Boy wrote a thought-provoking piece about MySpace and Facebook, titled: "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace."

He claims:
"The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other "good" kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we'd call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, "burnouts," "alternative kids," "art fags," punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn't play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn't go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers."

He continues:

"Most teens who exclusively use Facebook are familiar with and have an opinion about MySpace. These teens are very aware of MySpace and they often have a negative opinion about it. They see it as gaudy, immature, and "so middle school." They prefer the "clean" look of Facebook, noting that it is more mature and that MySpace is "so lame." What hegemonic teens call gaudy can also be labeled as "glitzy" or "bling" or "fly" (or what my generation would call "phat") by subaltern teens. Terms like "bling" come out of hip-hop culture where showy, sparkly, brash visual displays are acceptable and valued. The look and feel of MySpace resonates far better with subaltern communities than it does with the upwardly mobile hegemonic teens. This is even clear in the blogosphere where people talk about how gauche MySpace is while commending Facebook on its aesthetics."

I disagree. Wholeheartedly.

MySpace has its roots in the entertainment community and Facebook in the college community. And it shows: MySpace is more flashy and often feels like amateur hour at its peak, while Facebook offers a clean interface that is attractive to all kinds of users. Both social networks serve different purposes at this point and that has nothing to do with the implied class system.

Are we really discussing school backyard politics about who's the coolest and most fashionable? Didn't we say a while ago that the Internet is the ultimate democracy tool? Or do we have to become Second Life avatars to bring the democracy back?

If you're intrigued by the article, here you can find further explanations from Danah.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mobile Marketing is about dialogue

A piece in the NY Times talked about the importance of mobile marketing for concert promoters, sponsors and artists.

Combine this with current mobile stats:

Over 250 million of mobile users in the U.S.
35% of adult surveyors were willing to accept incentive-based ads.
56% were willing to accept these ads as text messages.
40% were willing to accept ads via picture message.

The initial stages of mobile marketing were about polls, ringtones and news alerts. Unless you have the pull of American Idol or Beyonce, these tactics don't really go that far and will not be successful in the long run.

As the NY Times piece explains, mobile marketing is about building relationships. It's not enough to reach out to the mobile crowd once as part of an overall campaign. Compare mobile marketing to email marketing: in order to build a database and initiate a mobile relationship, you need to build a relationship and allow them to interact with you on their own terms.

When I went to Coachella a few years ago, I signed up for their mobile updates. I received updates about lineup changes, tips how to avoid traffic, etc. throughout the two days I attended. This was the experience I was looking for. Unfortunately, the promoters didn't continue to market to me after the concert was over: No messages about posted live performances, videos or photos. No insider information about next year's lineup. That's where marketers tend to miss the mark: It's not always about today's sale. Your customers are willing to open up their wallets next year if you continue to engage them.

Why would you not?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Media Multitasking

Luth Research just released a report about media multitasking: We seem to sleep less than the needed 7 hours and spend an increasing amount of hours (around 20 hours a week) on consuming media simultaneously.

"On average, 17 percent of our time awake -- approximately 19.80 hours per week -- is spent using two or more media simultaneously, according to the latest quarterly findings (Quarter 1, 2007) from Luth Research's IndicatorEDG™, an online study surveying more than 5,000 respondents in the U.S. The media in question included all mass media (e.g., TV, radio, Internet) and personal electronic devices (e.g., cell phone, MP3 player, wireless email device)."

Employed people spend less time media multitasking while the unemployed, retired or homemakers tend to raise the average. And in the center of all this multitasking is TV:

"Watching TV was named by nearly half of the respondents to be what they typically do
when working on the Internet or email through a computer. One in five people have their TV on while using their cell phone to make phone calls. TV seems to be a natural fit to co-own consumer time and space with other print media, as 20 percent of the respondents cited TV as the medium they were also using when reading a newspaper, a magazine, or a book."

And this is the most interesting part:

"Compared to the 60 percent of the respondents who spent less than 20 hours per week on media multi-tasking, those who spent 20 or more hours were found to be less happy in general about their life. Specifically, people spending 20 or more hours media multitasking expressed a lower average rating of happiness with their work, family and romantic lives.
Furthermore, the high consumption media multitaskers (those who spent 20 or more hours per week multitasking) were more likely to say they never had enough time and they experienced a higher level of stress. No doubt, quality of life is determined by many diverse elements. However, as we may want to pause and ask ourselves: Are we driving ourselves to be less happy?"

Media Consumption has become one of my focal points when thinking about the future of media and how emerging media can engage people in a more meaningful way.

Clearly, multitasking is a time waster and sometimes even dangerous. Research shows that people waste/lose up to 2 hours a day. And, when multi-tasking while driving a 2,000 lb. torpedo (car), it can turn into a more significant event, as in an accident and possibly fatal.

Focusing on media, multitasking will continue to be a major issue for measuring media effectiveness and media value: You're researching cars on Edmunds while watching Lost. Are you completely ignoring commercials or are there instances where they attract your attention? How about the ads on Edmunds? Are they of any value while you watch Lost, do they leave any impression or just a waste of money?

At this point, we don't know. In the meantime, we need to more precise with our messaging. And more entertaining. Only outstanding creative that has a clear message with cut through the clutter. No matter what channel you're deploying.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What Web 3.0 should be

I started booking my European vacation. Europe is littered with discount airlines. I used them last year and was quite impressed with the price/value ratio.
The first step was to check out Expedia and Orbitz. Flights from Germany to the Canary Islands range between $800 and $5,000. You're kidding, right?
Next step: Googling/Yahooing (that's not a word, is it?) aformentioned flights. Result: Range between $800 and $5,000.

Next step: Searching for the right keyword combinations to find discount airlines in Europe serving that destination. It takes a lot of time, is very frustrating and leaves you guessing: Are there even better deals out there? I found a flight for $250 but it makes me wonder if there's a flight for $150 out there? Or $100?

This is not an acceptable user experience. People should be able to type in their destinations and find the best deal immediately. Attached to it should be offers for cars and accomodations.
That's why was such a killer application: It changed the whole game. Amazon became the one-stop shop for books and music. Sure, there might be a slightly better deal out there. But why bother when the user experience is so economical and convincing?

The travel industry has a long way to go. and are fairly valuable but they haven't reached the Amazon Olymp. There's a lot of content missing (most discount airlines are not represented on major travel booking sites) and makes every user wonder if they overpaid. A lot of innovation is needed in the travel industry. Health Care. Automotive. You name it.

In the end, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 just means that there's more ahead. A lot more.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Another buzzword: MoSoSos

MySpace, Friendster, Club Penguin, Facebook - social networks are everywhere.
And as if this is not enough, mobile social networks are starting to take off
(Or as some call them MoSoSos - for mobile social software).
Everybody is talking about Twitter but there are others out there that serve different needs, such as Rave Guardian, Jaiku, Loopt and Sociallight.

These platform-agnostic mobile social networks have become the favorite of the Web 2.0 community and give users the opportunity to quickly communicate with friends and family about their immediate reactions and what they're doing/feeling at this moment. And one can access these platforms through any device and, if your PDA/laptop is GPS-enabled, you can be informed when friends are close by (Loopt) or share comments about businesses/locations through Sociallight.
MoSoSos will really take off when people don't have to type their messages anymore and can just convert them from voice to text. And allow for even quicker interaction.

The need to stay connected is everywhere: at work, with friends and family. I see a major shift from personal connectivity to business connectivity. When IM's enjoyed their time in the sun, they were mostly used for personal reasons. This has shifted in the last few years to a much more business-driven approach. We'll see the same shift in MoSoSos in the next few years and this will change the business of mobile social networks as well: Opportunities for real-time, geo-located marketing opportunities will allow for new ways to connect with consumers in a very valuable way.

It's hard to say if Twitter, Loopt or others will be the major players in this field. It depends on how they continue innovating their sites (see Friendster) and where the masses will ultimately end up and spend their MoSoSo time. In the mid-term future, only geographically mobile solutions that help us connect with our affinity groups or friends will be the winner because they allow for stickiness and valuable content.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Marriage and marketing

What is a good marriage? Is it a memorable engagement, beautiful ring, stunning wedding, amazing honeymoon, a nice kitchen, a flatscreen TV?

Of course not.

All of the above help to make for nice memories and comfortable living. But they have nothing to do with a good marriage.

Many brands still believe that a good relationship between people and themselves is determined by a few major things. Let's just look at the dealership experience: An inviting lobby, modern lighting, fresh Starbucks coffee, flatscreen TV, leather chairs. Shouldn't the customers feel happy and be content? Why are they still unhappy? Why do they divorce after a few bad experiences and are looking for a new partner?

Because a good relationship is not about the big things. It's about the little things: a smile, a touch, a tease, a selfless act.

As a brand, you have to create an environment that allows people to behave in a certain way. in a way that fits with your brand. Or how you want people to experience your brand. It's not about the bling, it's about the setup.

When you prepare a romantic candlelight dinner, you better not think about yourself. You think how your partner feels at this moment. And how you can affect this emotion.

And that's where many brand go wrong: When people engage with your brand worry less about how they feel about you. Worry how they feel about themselves. And try to make a positive change. Everything else will fall into place.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

An ad-free city

From Adbusters:
"In 2007, the world’s fourth-largest metropolis and Brazil’s most important city, São Paulo, became the first city outside of the communist world to put into effect a radical, near-complete ban on outdoor advertising. Known on one hand for being the country’s slick commercial capital and on the other for its extreme gang violence and crushing poverty, São Paulo’s “Lei Cidade Limpa” or Clean City Law was an unexpected success, owing largely to the singular determination of the city’s conservative mayor, Gilberto Kassab."

"One sore loser in the battle was Clear Channel Communications. Having recently entered the Brazilian market, the corporation was purchasing a Brazilian subsidiary as well as the rights to a large share of the city’s billboard market. Weeks before the ban took effect, Clear Channel launched a counter-campaign in support of outdoor ads, with desperate slogans that failed to resonate with the masses: “There’s a new movie on all the billboards – what billboards? Outdoor media is culture.”

Although legal challenges from businesses have left a handful of billboards standing, the city, now stripped of its 15,000 billboards, resembles a battlefield strewn with blank marquees, partially torn-down frames and hastily painted-over storefront facades. While it’s unclear whether this cleanup can be replicated in other cities around the world, it has so far been a success in São Paulo: surveys indicate that the measure is extremely popular with the city’s residents, with more than 70 percent approval."

What an amazing and revolutionary idea.
It really shocks me that São Paulo could take this step and that 70% of the residents approve of it. I can't even imagine how Los Angeles or New York would look like without billboards. Is the outdoor advertising a crutch for city planners not to focus on city planning? Is it a crutch for us to feel hip and alive in a city?

The real question is: Is this a one-time event or will other cities follow? Reading the comments on Adbusters, some mentioned that São Paulo had the worst clutter of OOH anybody every experienced. Does it have to get extremely bad before people will stand up against advertising pollution?

A lot to ponder. At least advertisers don't have to worry about breaking through the outdoor clutter anymore.

Check out the YouTube video below for a more in-depth look at this revolutionary initiative.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Went to Riordan's Tavern last night. Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles, owns this place, right next to the Old Pantry, a landmark restaurant.

The restaurant is supposed to remind us of a classic New York neighborhood tavern with a mahogany bar, exposed bricked walls, etc. The food was pretty good, a bit overpriced, the wine list was a joke (4 wines...). The restaurant tries to transfer a neighborhood New York experience to a Los Angeles experience: the walls are filled with pictures of Riordan, LA landmarks and legends. It clearly tried to show that Riordan's Tavern is a local place where Angelenos go.

Unfortunately, the moment I sat down at the bar I saw picture of Chick Hearn, the legendary Lakers announcer, with a plaque below reading 'Chick Hern'.

I know I'm a stickler for spelling. I just can't stand it. But there are misspellings and misspellings.
If you try to be an authentic Los Angeles restaurant, there's no excuse for spelling Chick's name wrong. None. There are certain legends (Vin Scully, Magic Johnson, come to mind) every second grader will spell correctly.
This grave mistake at Riordan's Tavern just showed every customer that it's not an authentic restaurant. Just another faux Los Angeles place.

You can have big claims. But the small things decide if people will believe you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Why the web changes everything

This map shows the distribution of all people age 15-49 with HIV. The highest HIV prevalence was in Swaziland: almost four in every ten people were HIV positive. All ten territories with the highest prevalence of HIV are in central and southeastern Africa.

These innovative cartograms "were produced in a unique collaboration between the universities of Michigan in the U.S. and Sheffield."

Usually, countries on maps are defined by size. But these cartograms redraw the globe and resize countries according to new categories.

This map displays worldwide military spending in 2002: The US looks morbidly obese, taking up 45% of the world's land mass. The world spent $789 billion in 2002, the US alone $353 billion. Compare it to the war deaths map:

"In 2002, there were an estimated 172,000 war deaths worldwide, across 80 territories. The Democratic Republic of Congo (dark red) bore the brunt - 26 per cent - of the total figure.

Nine territories accounted for 70 per cent of all deaths. Burundi had the highest death rate owing to war at 1.2 people per thousand of the population."

Political issues are complex. They are filled with stats, numbers, comparisons, half-truths and even more stats. These maps might help cut through the clutter:
Before you saw the map, did you really know how bad the AIDS crisis was in Africa?
How can US politicians recommend increased military spending when the US already spends 45% of the worlds military budget?

A picture says more than 1,000 words. We know that. But this is just the beginning. If we could connect these high-level maps to real-life stories, we'd have a winner: If we could understand the severity of the AIDS problem in Swaziland on a personal basis, any reasonable person would support a major initiative to eradicate AIDS.(Imagine: 40% of the overall population in Swaziland has AIDS. 40%.)

As depressing and sad as these maps are, they should give us hope for a better and more global approach to the future.

But, we have to be careful. There's a fine line between the indifference of wisdom and the folly of enthusiam. I'm with Anatole France and prefer the folly of enthusiasm.

And to end on a less serious note:

Europe represents:

"The average Western European drinks over a third more alcohol than the average person in any other area on earth. In some places there is practically no alcohol consumption, which is why many Middle Eastern countries are not visible on this map.

Ugandans drink the most alcohol per adult, closely followed by Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Ireland.

The map shows the proportion of worldwide alcohol drunk in 2001. It does not take population density into account, so some countries, such as Australia, are unexpectedly shrivelled, while Britain is particularly bloated even though we not in the top ten."


Monday, August 13, 2007

Social Bookmarking for Dummies

The guys from Common Craft Show have developed another good tutorial, focusing on social bookmarking.

A great video that clearly communicates the practical use of new web technologies. I'm sure most of my readers are very familiar with this concept but this might be something to share with friends and families who don't live and breathe Web 2.0.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Web 3.0

Eric Schmidt of Google was asked about Web 3.0 and his answer is making the bloggers rounds. I was surprised to learn that Google's CEO is a bit removed from what's really going on out there: Defining Web 2.0 as a marketing term is just plainly incorrect and claim it's based around Ajax is fairly mind-numbing.

I think that Web 2.0 is really centered around user participation, content creation and distribution.
Web 3.0 is about web applications connecting to web applications tasked by people to enrich their lifes.

Web 3.0 is the next step of the information age, allowing for deeper and complex interactions between people and data. It will allow for a much more personal experience.

Pretty promising, scary and filled with opportunities.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Quote of the day

"The question is how to arrive at your opinions and not what your opinions are. The thing in which we believe is the supremacy of reason. If reason should lead you to orthodox conclusions, well and good; you are still a Rationalist. To my mind the essential thing is that one should base one's arguments upon the kind of grounds that are accepted in science, and one should not regard anything that one accepts as quite certain, but only as probable in a greater or a less degree. Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality."

Bertrand Russel

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Fog Screen

And you thought your flatscreen at home was cool: This piece of innovative technology allows you to walk through a screen.
"Using nothing more than tap water and ultrasonic waves, FogScreen projection screen machines employ a patented technology to create a smooth foggy airflow that captures images just like a screen. You can walk right through a FogScreen projection screen without getting wet. The microscopic fog droplets actually feel dry to the touch, just like air."
Ok, I won't see this in my home anytime soon but we'll see more of these in pop-up retail stores or events. Experiential without being too experiential...


It's August 9 and I made a resolution. Seems a few months too late but I'm not a big believer of New Year's resolutions, so why not have an August resolution?
I got the idea from a friend of mine and a blog I just discovered:

Instead of writing a lengthy diary, why not a short sentence or word once a day? Let's face it, most of us don't have time between family, work, friends, etc. to write daily observations about our lives. But all of us have time to write down the essence of day, the best quote of the day, the overall emotional experience of that day.
I was contemplating another blog but one is enough. Twitter seems more appropriate for my needs: Just a sentence. Nothing more. It doesn't say everything about my day. But it might just say enough.

Follow my days on

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Social Networks might cure cancer

Gina Kolata wrote an interesting piece in Sunday's New York Times, reflecting upon the on the power of social networks.
My favorite quote:

"Now, scientists believe that social networks not only can spread diseases, like the common cold, but also may influence many types of behavior — negative and positive — which then affect an individual’s health, as well as a community’s.

“In the past few years we have been seeing a network revolution,” says Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, a physics professor at the University of Notre Dame. “People sensed that networks were out there, but they never had large enough data sets to start understanding them in a quantitative fashion.”

We've known this all along haven't we? That's why our parents tried to keep us away from the 'bad kids'. That's why we had the first cigarette, the first drink.

Human beings are social creatures and everybody influences everybody. And these social networks not only exist between people but also on a cellular level:

"The challenge in medicine now is to map out complex dynamic networks, Dr. Barabasi said, and he does not just mean networks of people. The proteins and enzymes in a cell also form a closely connected network, Dr. Barabasi says. And when you tweak one protein, the whole web is affected. “That is why drugs have side effects,” Dr. Barabasi said.

And, he adds, “we will not have cures for obesity or cancer until we understand those networks.”

But he’s an optimist, believing that these cellular networks will be mapped sooner or later. “Right now, this is a work in progress,” Dr. Barabasi says, “but I believe we will get there in 10 years.”

Social Networks as the cure-all? Why not?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Is this where we're heading?

Mass media and mass transportation have a lot in common: They treat the customer like sheep, don't offer any personalization and push people more and more into niche efforts.

It's tough enough to travel today but it's even tougher to endure the attitude of flight attendants in planes and conductors in trains: All of them seem to think we have the IQ of a guinea pig. That's the only explanation I have for the way I'm being talked to in planes or trains: 'Go there.' 'Don't do this.' 'What's wrong with you?' (I was asked this question by a flight attendant when I requested a bottle of water...)

Mass transportation suffers the same fate than mass media: They treat the customers like sheep, don't offer any personalization and push people more and more into niche efforts. Amtrak will never make it because they don't have real competitors. United and American have a slight chance because they have to deal with Virgin America, JetBlue and more competitors to come.
Mass Media on the other hand has done a remarkable job of a turnaround. The upfront was very successful, TV viewing is up and all the networks seem to be leaning back and enjoying the change from insignificant to invulnerable.

Crises have peaks and valleys. Mass Media enjoys a temporary peak. A valley is next. Final destination: Death Valley?

Monday, August 6, 2007

There are wrong questions

My wife and I just spent a weekend in Santa Barbara. I do highly recommend wine tastings, can’t recommend any of the restaurants. I can’t say the food was bad or even terrible. It was just not good enough for the asked price: too salty, too complex for its own sake, not surprising enough.
Service was pretty good but the current service model in restaurants has major flaws:

During our various visits, we were constantly asked:

“Is everything good?”
“How’s everything?”
“Are you having a good time?”

Now, everything was good and we had a good time. As a customer you're in a tough place: You can either start to explain your issues with the food and look like a petty jerk. Or you just smile not to ever come back.

Questions like "Is everything good?" don't allow room for a real answer.

Instead, restaurants should ask questions that allow for honest answers, such as
"Did the food meet your expectations?"
"What did you think about the food?"

Good, open-ended questions will lead to informed discussions. Good questions can help moving through issues - to clarify, expand, and engage. Good question establish an atmosphere for meanignful discussions.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Long live the real CEO

The new millennium is only 7 years old and it’s already littered with scandals, perp walks and a declining trust of people in institutions: Enron, Jack Abramoff, WMD’s in Iraq, Pet Food Recalls, Barry Bonds, Catholic Church sex scandal - you name it. And we thought the 80’s were the decade of greed.
Boy, have we learned from the 80’s and perfected the skill of distorting the truth just to get ahead or make another buck.

Politicians and industry tycoons have started to pay the price, either by going to jail or suffering historically low approval ratings. Marketers have been spared iron curtains so far but our credibility has suffered dramatically.
Sure, we can always point at technology for the rise of social networks and peer-to-peer marketing. But that’s only part of the picture. People don’t believe in ads and don’t trust marketers anymore because too often we acted without integrity and rather shady: Business managers went to jail for ‘creative accounting’.
Marketers went to the ‘Consumer Ignorance Jail’ because of ‘Creative Marketing’.
Just have a look at the current WOM bandwagon.
Ok, any intern understands now that WOM is the best and most efficient way to connect with consumers. And there are many brave souls out there trying to find this connection in an ethical way. But the vultures are closing in: Faux blogs, blog aggregators selling their soul to the almighty dollar, bloggers turning into escort services (Can somebody say Payperpost?) for corporations.

People look for integrity when connecting with a brand. The current ‘green’ and ‘organic’ trend is proof of that new found desire for deep-rooted integrity. But most brands don’t understand yet that integrity is not a ‘nice to have’, rather the admission price to be considered by customers, one of the pillars of a strong brand. And it shows: Good companies have rules for ethical conduct. And that’s where it ends. Employees and executives have to figure out the rest. If they fail, companies are fast to drop them and point at their ethical playbook. Most organizations don’t offer discussions about ethical conduct and hope that their rulebook will suffice.

It doesn’t.

People are hesitant buying from good companies.
They expect more - A great company. Or even better, a great, ethical
company with 3 basic rules:

- People are not cash cows, they are brand partners.

- We only sell products that are exceptional. And don’t try to cover up mediocre products with exceptional advertising.

- Long-term relationships are more valuable than quarterly profits.

Oh boy, the CFO doesn’t like to hear any of this. But the CFO doesn’t like to hear either that the company is going under because consumers were disrespected and mediocre products didn’t sell.

Maybe it’s time for the Chief Ethical Officer: An executive that clearly defines the ethical roadmap to avoid the fate of the Enrons of this and future worlds. An executive that shares power with the CMO and reports to the Chief Executive Officer. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need a Chief Ethical Officer. But people have given up on the perfect world. They are happy with an ethical company that believes in integrity. Let’s give them what they want.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Wow x 3

IBM continues to be an innovation leader: Many Eyes is a free online data visualization tool from IBM's Visual Communication Lab. You can upload your own date and improve your PowerPoint decks with various graph formats: tag clouds, tree maps, whatever your heart desires.
One of the coolest free applications I've seen in a long time.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Dance, Bear, Dance

Some of you might have seen it: the bear with the nosering and when you gave his handler a few pennies, the bear danced for a few seconds just to be transformed into an abused animal again.

A good piece by the LA Times titled "Agencies pulling stunts to win clients" reminded of this sad image.

One of my favorite quotes:

What changed? For the advertising industry, most everything. There's been a steady shift away from time-honored ad channels -- TV and radio, print publications and billboards -- to digital media. And there's a growing pack of fresh-faced agencies with unconventional attitudes and approaches that are giving established shops a run for their money.

The field is so crowded that the big agencies are going after accounts they used to scorn, and spending a lot to win them. These days, "clients' demands require more expenditure," said Don Just, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's Adcenter in Richmond, Va.

And more gimmicks. Jos Anshell, chief executive of Moses Anshell agency in Phoenix, bought dozens of summer sausages with the idea of sending them to potential clients with cards saying, "This is the last baloney you'll ever receive from us," but the meat went bad before he could dispatch them."

And an agency that seemed to stale for a youth marketing account had this idea:

"…rented a three-story house on Hermosa Beach, equipped it with funky furniture and video games, commissioned a graffiti-esque wall painting and staffed the place with employees in their 20s. Come pitch time, a chauffeur in a Hummer drove Boost Mobile executives to the beach house and they were given a tour of what {the agency} promised would be its new Boost Mobile marketing headquarters, devoted to selling the younger generation on the wireless companies’ products."

Sure, sometimes this works and you get the account. (In this case it didn't.)

Gimmicks might work initially but they portray an agency image: The image of someone who's willing to do anything for you, no matter what. Just like the teenage boys who do anything for the cheerleader, just to be pushed aside by the quarterback.

These might be desperate times but do they really call for desperate measures? Agencies and clients need mature working relationships, not dancing bears.