Monthly Archives: October 2011

Steve Job’s Stanford Commencement Address

With Steve Jobs’ death almost two weeks behind us, sentiments are still as fresh as ever.  He is remembered through magazine articles, online blogs and TV tributes among others.  Besides reflecting on his strong character and professional success, Facebook and Twitter statuses worldwide have reminded us of his infamous Stanford Commencement address:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Jobs teaches us that death is unavoidable but voicing your beliefs while you have the chance is priceless.  If you don’t take risks and speak your mind, you haven’t lived to your full potential.

In due time, the iPhone 5 will trump the iPhone 4S, but how long will it take for a commencement speech to trump the words that Jobs shared with the 2005 graduating class of Standford University?

Olympiasm from Brands

When I was younger, my father and I would often listen to Paul Harvey‘s “The Rest of the Story” daily radio show. The format of the program was to present the background story or facts on a variety of subjects with a surprise saved until the very end. The broadcasts always concluded with the tag line “And now you know… the rest of the story.”

The episode that stuck with me above all that Paul so engagingly told was the story of a child who overcame quite possibly the worst obstacles that one could face in childhood. Born prematurely as the 20th of 21 children, this little girl survived polio — resulting in infantile paralysis, scarlet fever, whooping cough, chickenpox and measles. After living in leg braces from the ages 6-9 to correct her polio-afflicted, twisted legs, this little girl learned to walk again, and then she learned to run. Wilma Rudolph went on to become a two-time Olympian and elevated women’s track into a major presence worldwide in 1960, with the first international television coverage of the Olympics taking place that same year. While Rudolph’s accolades in track and field were phenomenal, it was the rest of her story, the setbacks and challenges that struck me as so inspiring.

As of today, we’re 280 days away from the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. In an expanding world of sports content, Olympic fanatics like myself are craving quality coverage of the athletes and storylines that will inspire us next summer. In the US specifically, we’re seeing major moves from the likes of CBS, NBC and FOX Sports in the land grab of broadcast rights.  While live broadcast rights are the hot commodity, there is incredible value in the stories of dedication, challenges, setbacks and victories as well as defeats that each athlete and team create on their journey to realize their Olympic dreams.

We’ve seen major success over the past few years of extended sports content with the likes of ESPN’s Peabody winning  “30 for 30”, HBO’s “24/7”, “Hard Knocks” and “Jeter 3K”. There is a giant gaping hole where the amazing amateur stories within the Olympic realm should be. NBC captures a significant amount of content and tells a wonderful story as the broadcast home of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, but the timeframe is limited to a few weeks out of every few years. Universal Sports has also begun a program called “Destination London”, which is quite compelling, but on a network that isn’t widely available.

Earlier this summer, NBC broadcasted the 2011 FINA World Championships. The new faces of US Swimming that will take the stage in London, pending qualifications at US Trials in Omaha, include the Michael Phelps challenger Ryan Lochte and a 6’1”, 16-year-old phenom named Missy Franklin. Beyond the new faces, star talent like Janet Evans and Ian Thorpe are making major comebacks.  All of these storylines have the potential to be on par with the anticipation of Michael Phelps returning after his gold rush in Beijing. I’ll admit, I have a severe bias towards the world of swimming, but when it comes to storytelling at the Olympics, if the story is compelling enough (and many of them are), an engaged audience is agnostic of the sport.

The IOC and USOC have made major strides in invigorating and sustaining their presence over the past few years, leveraging improved digital and social media properties, live events and youth engagement like never before. Now it’s only a matter of time until the missing link, high-quality content, is part of the year round presence they have created. Brands can help to accelerate this timeframe while gaining awareness and connection to consumers by attaching themselves to these organizations, sports properties, athletes, and stories.

Olympic fanatics like myself exemplify a demand for content, information and connection more than just once every two or four years.  If brands want to create affinity with consumers through meaningful, sought after content, they need only identify the right storyline that is authentic to the brand and the property. By developing brand-funded content, with the athlete story at the forefront, advertisers can create content that invites rather than interrupts.

Each Olympic Games is executed with the goal of establishing a legacy by making an impact on the city, country and even continent (in the case of Brazil, the 2016 Summer Olympic games will be the first games ever in Latin America). Brands can create a legacy as well. P&G became the “Proud Sponsor of Moms” at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games and with early success, continues to support this program through London this summer.  The USOC has also recently announced “Team USA: Britain Bound”, a series of 4 minute films following US Olympic champions as they explore the host city a year ahead of the games.

While the land grab is on for broadcast rights by networks, the land grab should also be on for Olympic stories by brands to tell the rest of the story.

A World of Ice Cream Sandwiches and Post-it Notes

Since I am over traditional advertising, what is going to wow me at this point? Well… I will show you two brand instillations that rocked my world last week:

1. Super Mario Bros. Post-it Note Window Instillation:

Digital solutions group, Filter decided to create a giant mural out of Post-it Notes representing an iconic scene from the original Super Mario Bros. video game on Nintendo. I had no idea what this was all about and soon learned it was a war. A war between tech companies in Seattle, WA for who could make the coolest video game post-it creation. Amazing – driving company pride and reminding us how much we love these brands that might have fallen off the radar, such as Nintendo.

2. Samsung and Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich:

On October 19th there will be a press event in Hong Kong promoting the next version of Google’s OS along with the launch of the Samsung Nexus Prime. I was looking at this gigantic Android Ice Cream Sandwich and I thought first off, this is going to get destroyed in five minutes by hungry animals… that is sad. Second, what is the deal with the Ice Cream Sandwich imagery – well it is in fact the name of the new OS similar to Honeycomb and Gingerbread – how nice to stick to the trend!

My point: A real-time instillation, in my opinion, is a great way to attract attention, get questions flowing about the brand, work of art or instillation, and start sparking interest in the brand. Don’t worry I am here to report all week on ridiculous stuff taking place in the ad world…coming at you this week with some CMJ updates.


Web 2.0: Data is Feral

Live stream the Web 2.0 Summit on mashable now. They’ll be speakers like James Gleick (Author of The Information), Bill Maris (Google Ventures), and Sean Parker (Founders Fund). The conference kicked off at 2:00 p.m. PT Monday and will start up again at 9:00 a.m. PT Tuesday and Wednesday.

The focus is on data, online identity, privacy, human rights, innovation and the economy. I found Christopher Poole (4chan) and Genevieve Bell’s (Intel Labs) presentations to be particularly inspiring. Poole laid bare the problem with online identity today. People are not mirrors who reflect the same identity in all situations. People are more like diamonds or prisms who can appear as completely different people depending on the angle of observation, but who are always essentially the same person. Christopher feels that social nets like Facebook and Google + are treating people as if they are flat, dimensionless caricatures of themselves. He feels that Google’s identity requisite is ridiculous because it forces all users to be tethered to every online action they’ve ever done. This is especially detrimental to youth, who should be free to explore and make mistakes without lasting repercussions in order to grow. Christopher insists that he is not an anonymity guy, he’s just a choices guy.

Genevieve Bell asked, “If data were a person, what would it look like?” She hypothesized that “data likes to look good,” backing up her statement with a stat that 100% of Americans lie about how they look on dating sites. 100%. So all of the unstructured data we generate (80% of new data growth) is skewed with our own desires to enhance our appearance online. From this perspective, data is not just an aggregation of our online actions, but also an embodiment of our qualitative hopes and fears. Genevieve very much reminded me of Kevin Kelly’s 2010 description of the biological nature of the technium in What Technology Wants when she went on to describe why data is feral. Data has a life of its own. It cannot be controlled. It will generate and move across country lines, through languages and any barriers you could imagine. Of course privacy policy and security measures will evolve to resist this, but that won’t change the wild nature of data. (BTW this is why I personally believe that data generation+analysis goes hand in hand with egalitarian social elevation, not for a “social betterment” play, but for the primal reason that humans learned to cooperate in the first place: to survive.) Data is certainly the most powerful and indiscriminate force of our generation. Genevieve’s last point was that data may not want to last forever. Some data, like all biological beings, will want to pass away. This dovetails nicely with Christopher Poole’s argument for the right to transient online identities.

Out of all the endless permutations of what constitutes “advertising,” this is by far my favorite: awesome brands sponsoring thinkers to get together think. TED. BMW Guggenheim Lab. The Creator’s Project. Sundance New Frontier Story Lab. Brands look great purely through association with these mash ups. The more brands allow thought leaders and creatives to autonomously run the show, the better the brands look. Less is more. It’s a beautiful, symbiotic relationship that has been propelling innovation since the days of the World’s Fair. Free to all, this is branded content at its best: an unquestionable contribution to society, an audience who grows in numbers and quality, a brand that continually renews its values with the social milieu. Bravo Adobe, Bing, Intel, Nielsen, IBM, Serve, Dell, Yahoo!, and all the rest.