What money won’t buy?

Back in 2008, 30 year-old Mike Merrill was at a career crossroads. So, he did what any other aspiring entrepreneur would do: he divided himself into 100k shares at $1 apiece and let people on the internet buy a stake in his life.

Since then, he’s sold off 10,991 shares of himself to 663 investors all across the world.

 

These shareholders — most of whom are complete strangers — get voting power on every major decision Merrill makes: whether or not to get a vasectomy, how much sleep he should get each night, and even who he should date.

Some early investors (including his own brother) chose to cash out big, while others have been in it for the long haul. In return, Merrill gets his own “personal board of advisors” to help him more decisively wade through life’s decisions.

But what’s life like as a “publicly-traded” human? And in an era of digital individualism, why would someone willingly auction off his own agency?

The self-proclaimed “anti-authoritarian” endured a strict, regimented lifestyle for 3 years, until he disobeyed the rules, and was discharged.

He has a “little identity crisis,” and eventually followed one of his buddies down to Portland, Oregon and “fumbled” his way into the software world, working various non-technical odd jobs.

Then, one night in 2008, dissatisfied with his choices in life, an idea struck: What if I let other people control my life?

So, he decided to “IPO” himself

The first thing Merrill had to do was determine his worth as a human.

“At time I had a day job,” he recalls. “So I calculated my worth based on my free time — nights and weekends — and I figured that time, for the rest of my life, was probably around $100k.”

Merrill ultimately decided to divvy himself up into 100k shares at $1 each. Like an actual corporation, he set out to “drum up demand.”

To keep shareholders informed, he built a website — KmikeyM.com — that contained a platform where people could vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the projects he should pursue.

At first, the topics Merrill put up for vote were trivial things, like whether or not he should invest $79.63 in a Rwandan chicken farming business (approved, with flying colors). But things escalated very quickly.

By the tail end of his first year on the market, Merrill made plans to move in with his then-girlfriend of 5 years — but when his shareholders caught wind of the decision, they were furious.

“I was getting emails from people saying, ‘We should have a say in such things — it’s going to impact your life!’” he says. “I thought, okay, that’s probably a fair point. And from then on, I let them vote on things in my private life too.”

First up on the table: whether or not Merrill should get a vasectomy — a procedure that would’ve permanently prevented him from having children (or, in the eyes of shareholders, “adding an economic burden” to their investment). His shareholders narrowly voted the procedure down, 45% ‘Yes’ to 55% ‘No.’ In the ensuing months, Merrill put a variety of major lifestyle choices up for vote: whether or not to adopt a polyphasic sleep schedule (Approved), become a registered Republican (Approved), or convert to a vegetarian (Approved).

When Merrill started putting more dramatic decisions on the chopping block, he started to attract more buyers.Driven by letting investors in on the more intimate aspects of his life, Merrill then decide to take things a step further.

When Merrill’s relationship dissipated in 2012, he once again turned to his shareholders for advice — this time, in the romance department.

“Under normal circumstances, no one is going to complain when someone is buying flowers or going out to dinner and a movie,” he wrote in an investor letter. “But as a publicly traded person with a responsibility of productivity to the shareholders, we live under special circumstances. A relationship is likely to affect both [my] productivity and [my] output.”

In a resolution titled “Shareholder Control of Romantic Relationships,” Merrill asked his investors if they’d like to take over control of his dating process. It passed with an 86% vote.

Merrill gives his investors an update

Merrill went on a variety of dates, updating investors via a private forum at each juncture and ceding to their feedback. After numerous dates, Merrill began to fall for a 28 year-old assistant named Marijke Dixon — and after securing his shareholders’ approval, he offered her a three-month “relationship contract.” As their relationship progressed, Dixon progressively acquired shares in Merrill in an (unsuccessful) attempt to gain a controlling voting power.

Stranger things

The flood of new shareholders dramatically changed the way Merrill thought about his experiment.

With a mix of strangers and friends (his original investors), Merrill realized he had to mitigate the possibility of “insider trading:” his friends, who he hung out with on a daily basis, knew more about his life than other investors. To compensate, he began publically posting more updates and information about his life.But he started to realize that strangers probably made better investors, anyway: “I found them to be more objective,” he says. “When people know you too well, they vote for what they think you want, which isn’t necessarily what’s in your best interest.”

This hypothesis proved to be true when his new shareholders unanimously voted for Merrill to leave his desk job of 10 years to strike out on his own and take a calculated risk.

Merrill’s market

Today, Merrill boasts 663 investors all across the world, who collectively own 10,991 shares.

Like all markets, Merrill’s share price is contingent upon demand, and demand usually fluctuates in tandem with hype, press, and publicity. In recent years, those things have stagnated, and his shares — once as high as $18 — fell as low as $2.18.

Today, his share price sits squarely at $4.75, still a solid return for his earliest $1 investors.

“I have a powerful decision-making engine of people who can give me feedback or advice about anything,” he says. “Honestly, who wouldn’t want that?”

 

Why It’s Hot:

-This 1st Crowdsourced Human Control project

-This type of “crowdsourcing” decision-making approach is beginning to take place within politics

-Will be interesting to see if brands adopt this at a more meaningful level

 

Source: The Hustle

The Robots Are Here

An animal shelter in San Francisco has been criticized for using a robot security guard to scare off homeless people.

The San Francisco branch of the SPCA (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) hired a K5 robot built by Knightscope to patrol the sidewalks outside its facilities as a “way to try dealing with the growing number of needles, car break-ins and crime that seemed to emanate from nearby tent encampments of homeless people.”

Jennifer Scarlett, president of the SF SPCA told the Business Times last week: “We weren’t able to use the sidewalks at all when there’s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment.”

The robot in question is equipped with four cameras, moves at a pace of three miles per hour, and is cheaper than a human security guard — costing around $6 an hour to rent. The same model of robot previously knocked over a toddler in a mall and fell into a fountain in DC. Knightscope says its robots are intended as deterrents, and for providing mobile surveillance.

Reaction to the news on social media has been overwhelming negative, with people shaming the SPCA for deploying the machine, and encouraging others to vandalize or destroy it. Within a week of the robot starting its duties, some people “put a tarp over it, knocked it over and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors.” One Twitter user reported seeing the robot with feces smeared on it.

“Contrary to sensationalized reports, Knightscope was not brought in to clear the area around the SF SPCA of homeless individuals,” a spokesperson told The Verge. “Knightscope was deployed, however, to serve and protect the SPCA. The SCPA has the right to protect its property, employees and visitors, and Knightscope is dedicated to helping them achieve this goal. The SPCA has reported fewer car break-ins and overall improved safety and quality of the surrounding area.”

In any case, the SPCA K5 might have a limited shelf life in San Francisco. The city recently passed new legislation limiting the use of robots in city streets. Although the rules were aimed primarily at delivery bots, the SPCA has been ordered to keep the K5 off sidewalks or face a $1,000 daily fine. Knightscope is currently negotiating with the city over future deployments.

Why It’s Hot:

  • Knightscope’s response raises questions about how society will respond to robots like these in the future.
  • Seems that because these robots are semi-autonomous, Knightscope, and those who hire them, can shift the blame for its actions.
  • While most people are getting nervous about the physical takeover of robots, no one is worried about the more imminent threat of AI, which is what the majority of industry leaders, such as Elon Musk, are warning us about.

Source: The Verge

An AI for Fashion

New York startup Finery has created an AI-powered operating system that will organize your wardrobe.

It provides an automated system that reminds women what options they have, as well as creating outfits for them – saving users a lot of time and money (as they won’t mistakenly buy another grey cashmere jumper if they know they already have three at home).

Users link The Wardrobe Operating System to their email address, so the platform can browse through their mailbox to find their shopping history. All the items they’ve purchased online are then transferred to their digital wardrobe (with 93% accuracy).

Any clothing bought from a bricks-and-mortar shop can be added as well, but that’s done manually by either searching the Finery database for the item or uploading an image (either one you’ve taken or one from the internet). Finery uses Cloud Vision to identify what the object is (skirt, dress, trousers, etc.), the color and the material – then the brand and size can be added manually.

Once your clothing is all uploaded, the platform uses algorithms to recommend outfits based on the pieces you own as well as recommending future purchases that would match with your current items.

Users can also create and save outfits within the platform. And, if they give Finery access to their shopping accounts, the startup will aggregate all their unpurchased shopping cart items into a single Wishlist and alert them when said items go on sale.

Finery will alert its users when the return window for an item they’ve purchased is closing. And it will also let them know if they already own an item that looks similar to one they are planning on buying.

Finery has currently partnered with over 500 stores, equivalent to more than 10,000 brands, to create its online catalog. ‘That covers about ninety percent of the retail market.

Next, the company will be expanding into children’s clothing, and then men’s fashion. And it’s working on developing algorithms to suggest outfit combinations based on weather, location and personal preference, as well as a personalized recommendations tool for items not yet in user’s closets.

 

Why It’s Hot:

  • This personal “stylist” gives courage to fashion-handicaps (like myself) to shop online with confidence
  • It helps avoid unnecessary fashion splurges – BFD considering the average woman spends $250 -$350K on clothes over their lifetime
  • Acts as a fashion-dream catcher that helps grant your wish list by making purchases easy

Source: Contagious

P.s. Apologies for using a Fox News video but it’s the only one decent one I could find (YUK!!!!)

Drink Smartly

Jim Beam is making a foray into the newly popular voice-activated home tech category … with a delightfully absurd machine.

The whiskey marketer is billing it as the “first-ever artificially intelligent decanter,” and calling it, naturally, “Jim.” A parody of toys like Amazon Echo and Google Home, it’s available for pre-order at $34.90 and voiced by Fred Noe, seventh generation master distiller for the brand.

It won’t be able to tell you the weather or “call you a cab to Cupertino,” according to the promotional video, but it will encourage you to drink bourbon, rain or shine, any way you please—and even measure it out for you.

It’s not Jim Beam’s first time poking fun at consumer tech marketing. Last year it cooked up the Jim Beam Apple Watch, a green tweed band with a collapsable shot glass attached, launched to hijack attention around announcements from the gadget maker (and to promote apple-flavored Jim Beam).

The new addition is certainly amusing enough, even if it lacks the inspired brilliance (or perhaps, inspired stupidity) of its predecessor. Some Silicon Valley advertisers might get away with tediously pretentious marketing if they really are changing the world, but it’s also a category that’s deservedly spawned a rich tradition of mockery.

While it might be up for debate whether it truly is the first smart decanter (especially depending what you mean by “smart”), suffice it to say nobody else is going to be in a rush to claim the title. That for no other reason than if you’re too lazy or drunk to measure out another glass of the hard stuff for yourself, then you really don’t need it.

Source: Adweek

Trump Being President FINALLY Pays Off

Trump is a monumental $%*&&%%#$@^!. At least that is what the small card game company, Card Against Humanity (and the rest of the entire Universe) thinks.

So they decided to use their profits FOR humanity and bought a plot of land that prevents Trump from building a border wall between the US and Mexico. They also retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for the wall to get built. This was part of a holiday promotion, for which customers could contribute to the wall-blocking project with $15 purchases for surprise gift packages. They sold out just within hours.

Why It’s Hot:

-Campaign stayed true to the brand’s irreverent nature of giving the middle finger to political correctness

-They made a very loud public statement that they knew would resonate with their audiences

-It’s another example of a brand picking and side an contributing their profits for good

So Much Baggage

It’s widely understood that when it comes to Mexicans & travel, your luggage is always at the seams. Someone always wants you to bring them something and you always want to bring a whole lot of trinkets you don’t need. This is mandatory ☝.

Due to this unspoken rule, one of the most frustrating pain points is going over the weight limit.

So when Samsonite released their new lightweight luggage product line, they headed straight to Mexico. The appeal of the luggage for this market would be that the less your luggage weights, the more unnecessary crap you can lug with you.

They drove awareness to the luggage by introducing much-needed utility into the market – an unconventional luggage tag that acted as a scale to help people avoid overweight shock. The giant branded tags attached to luggage handles. If it held when lifted, then luggage was under the 50lb. If it broke, you were in trouble.

 

Why Its Hot:

– The brand chose to support their claims with actions and utility, not just with messaging

– The tag kept the brand top of mind, especially during the most critical trigger moment of consideration…when people go over the weight limit.

– It didn’t require an uber elegant tech solution, just some elegant thinking

Source

Amazon Amps Up AR

Amazon announced a new augmented reality (AR) functionality for the Amazon App that will give shoppers a chance to envision real-world products around their homes before deciding to buy them.

Amazon didn’t specify exactly which of its offerings will be optimized for the app, but it claims that “thousands” of items across multiple product types will be viewable in AR. You can check out exactly how the tool works in the video below.

The app update is now available for the Amazon app on iOS 11 via Apple’s ARKit, so for now AR View is strictly for shoppers that have iPhones dating back to the 6S. Amazon didn’t share any plans to expand to Android phones.

AR visualization is a growing trend as the tech becomes more common, thanks to new efforts from Apple and Google. Home goods giant Ikea offered one of the first apps using the new ARKit for its customers back in September, while Google teamed up with Wayfair to show off a similar functionality for Tango phones on a mobile version of Chrome at the I/O conference in May.

Amazon is ramping up the tech offerings, giving us voice ordering with Alexa, AI style guidance with the Echo Look, and now AR functionality. The services are all cool shortcuts to make shopping easier than ever — which is exactly what Amazon wants to drive sales.

Why It’s Hot

  • For someone who is 15 steps ahead of the tech game, this is quite a lag for Amazon
  • Though late, Amazon continues to extend its world-class UX experience
  • This is yet another big ripple made created by iPhone’s ARKit

 

Source

$weet $weet Money

A combination of India’s lack of digital payment adoption and shop owners never having enough change to give back to customers after a purchase has resulted in a very unique cultural practice: giving candy as change to consumers, instead of coins. Though it may sound sweet (eh? eh?), this leaves customers feeling scammed and shop owners feeling annoyed.

Taking note of this mutual pain point Paytm, a digital payment app, created its own brand of candy. These could still be given as change to consumers, but with a twist – the candy wrappers could be redeemed as real money with the download of their app by inputting the promo codes on the inside of the candy wrappers.

Though Paytm didn’t monetize (the candies were given to shop owners for free) they massively reduced their acquisition costs from $ 0.92 to $.18) with over 1M people downloading their app.

Why It’s Hot:

  • The campaign stemmed from a real culture insight/pain point and the brand sat in the middle of the solution
  • Really smart way of turning an everyday object into a medium (the wrappers)
  • Leveraged an old behavior (cash economy) to transition people to a new one (digital payment)

Disney’s Real-Time Rotten Tomatoes

Disney is using new deep learning software to analyze movie-goers’ facial expressions and gauge how much they’re enjoying a film.

The innovation within the new system is an algorithm that Disney and Caltech call factorised variational autoencoders (FVAEs), which use deep learning technology to automatically turn facial expressions into numerical data, and is able to incorporate metadata.

Combining the FVAE algorithm with infrared cameras, Disney can analyse the facial expressions of moviegoers in a cinema as they react to what they’re being shown on screen. With enough information, the new technology can even predict how an audience member will react to upcoming scenes after just 10 minutes of observation.

Why It’s Hot

  • Technology could be used to tailor a film to an audience in real time, bringing in a new aspect of personalization to cinema
  • Data gathered and analyzed can be funneled into other developing AI systems where picking up cues from their body language to be able to better assist (e.g. robot babysitters)
  • Raises the question of how this will impact the movies we end up being exposed to with this AI now acting as the gatekeeper between us and the next Sharknado

Source

 

I’m gonna go watch some Jersey now…

Nike is celebrating the beginning of its partnership with the NBA by revealing that its new fan jerseys will include an interactive element, designed to bring the sport’s followers closer to its biggest stars. Billed as ‘the future of fan apparel’, each of the connected basketball jerseys features a unique NFC chip — the same technology used in metro cards, or for apple pay — built into its jock tag. using NIKEconnect, fans will then be able to access real-time, personalized experiences through their smartphone.

Why It’s Hot:

-Yet another example of how physical and digital worlds continue colliding at breakneck

-Successfully merged two of the most relevant communication tactics, tech and content, to deliver unique experiences

– Somehow, it turned clothing into a proprietary media channel () which huge cross-selling opportunities

Source

Face-Controlled Emojis

“A new app is trying to make it simpler to help you react to photos and videos that your friends post online—it’s using AI to capture your facial expressions and automatically translate them into a range of emoji faces.

Polygram, which is free and available only for the iPhone for now, is a social app that lets you share things like photos, videos, and messages. Unlike on, say, Facebook, though, where you have a small range of pre-set reactions to choose from beyond clicking a little thumbs-up icon, Polygram uses a neural network that runs locally on the phone to figure out if you’re smiling, frowning, bored, embarrassed, surprised, and more.

Marcin Kmiec, one of Polygram’s cofounders, says the app’s AI works by capturing your face with the front-facing camera on the phone and analyzing sequences of images as quickly as possible, rather than just looking at specific points on the face like your pupils and nose. This is done directly on the phone, using the iPhone’s graphics processing unit, he says.

When you look at a post in the app you see a small yellow emoji on the bottom of the display, its expression changing along with your real one. There’s a slight delay—20 milliseconds, which is just barely noticeable—between what you’re expressing on your face and what shows up in the app. The app records your response (or responses, if your expression changes a few times) in a little log of emoji on the side of the screen, along with those of others who’ve already looked at the same post.”

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608748/the-next-generation-of-emoji-will-be-based-on-your-facial-expressions/

Why It’s Hot:

-The Circle is coming to life (eek)

-This has larger implications for how Biometrics are across various sub-categories such as e-commerce (e.g ratings & reviews) and advertisers (e.g. ad performance metrics)

-With new iPhone pushing this technology to the masses in the millions this type of functionality is sure to catch fire

 

 

Sex Sells

In Colombia, young lovers often resort to stealing moments of intimacy in places where they risk being interrupted (such as a parent’s house, or in a parked car).

To help them get their hot-n-heavy, Condom brand Duo released an app to alert young lovers in Colombia when they risk being caught having sex.

To work, the app requires two mobile phones with cameras. One phone is placed in the area where the interruption is likely to come from and acts like a motion sensor. When someone (or something) disturbs the scene, the first phone sends a message (and an image of the intruder) to the second phone, alerting the lovers and giving them time to compose themselves.

According to Geometry Global, the app attracted 62,262downloads, more than 23,000 monthly active users, and the brand achieved a 23% increase in sales in the fourth quarter of 2016, and a 20% lift in the first quarter of 2017.

Why It’s Hot

  • We’ll its sex related
  • Brand solved a very real pain point for their core audience; young consumers who are likely to live at home and crave privacy

 

Source: https://www.contagious.io/articles/brand-guardian

Immersive Branding

Google is redefining how we perceive the multiple “realities” we have been wrangling to understand to begin with by introducing Immersive Computing.

On one end of the human experience, you have reality. Living, breathing, non-digital reality. It’s great. Usually. In the middle, as technology becomes more “immersive,” you have augmented reality. Basically, graphics start to float in front of your eyes on top of the real world–like a monster in Pokémon Go. Then, eventually, as more and more of these graphics are layered over your perception, you naturally segue into virtual reality. At the right end of the spectrum, all reality has been replaced with pixels.

Basically, this is saying that the existing range of really distinct experiences or technological paradigms, aren’t different, but are all a gradient. And as technology advances and devices merge, immersive computing will allow us to pick and choose how much reality get (or don’t get). It’s the ability to dive as deeply (or shallowly) into the digital world as we’d like, at any time we’d would like, through glasses, or goggles, or a screen, or contact lenses…but preferably a Google device (Wink! Wink!)

And it’s also a way for Google (and brands) to eventually be able to hack our perception at a moment’s notice…In gradients of course.

Why It’s Hot:

New interesting way to frame immersive technologies- one that is more palatable to general audiences

  • By consolidating all their “reality related” interface experiments under one tech genre, Google is positioning themselves as the leaders in the category
  • It’s also an indicator of where they are going to be taking headsets/glasses, and possibly Samsung’s contacts.

Source:

Apple Takes a Bite out of the AR Pie

Apple released ARKit, a mobile AR platform that uses Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) to accurately track the world around it. VIO fuses camera sensor data with CoreMotion data, allowing the device to sense how it moves within a room with a high degree of accuracy, and without any additional calibration. It’s open to all developers who want to come create and play…and it’s also probably luring them away from FB/Snapchat/Googs.

By having the experience live in an app on millions of iOS devices, it’s giving creators (developers) a much wider audience (and incentive) to test and socialize.

Already, ARKit’s sharing platform is seeing some really awesome crowdsourced examples of the tech in action.

See more examples of what developers have already been toying with, go here.

Why It’s Hot:

Apple Is….

  • Democratizing AR to both users and developers (HoloLens who?)
  • Positioning it’s self the Go-To AR platform
  • Low-Overhead cutting edge technology for brands to explore and own

Screaming for help, just went high-tech

Every year, there are 44,000 accidents causing injuries and in only 10% of cases do the emergency services reach the scene in time. This lateness or non-arrival of first aid leads to 14,000 deaths annually.

So life insurance brand AIA decided to harness the country’s 35 million smartphone devices to enable people to get help faster. Open Aiya, created my Happiness FCB Saigon, is a mobile app that allows people to alert their contacts about an accident even if they can’t reach their phone.

When a user says, ‘Hey Siri, Open AIYA’ the voice activated panic system automatically sends an SMS to family, friends and the emergency services. The message contains the person’s precise GPS location so they are easier to assist.

Why It’s Hot:

-Yet another example of brands finding a pain point that aligns with their business model, and solving it through innovative tech….and develop a first of it’s kind, at that (the first voice-activated panic system)

I’ll have chicken with a side of animatronics please

To celebrate National Fried Chicken Day, Kentucky Fried Chicken is bringing founder Colonel Harland Sanders to the drive-thru experience as robot chicken-expert H.A.R.L.A.N.D. (Human Assisted Robotic Linguistic Animatronic Networked Device). H.A.R.L.A.N.D. is a state-of-the-art voice modulator system that gives drive-thru customers the experience of ordering from an animatronic Colonel Sanders head that speaks in the voice of Colonel Sanders.

The animatronic uses speech recognition, artificial intelligence technology and text-to-speech techniques to repeat whatever the drive-thru operator speaks so customers can have unique and interactive conversations with the “real Colonel Sanders”.

In short, it’s a megaphone disguised as a Colonel Sanders head. A very cool one.

Why it’s Hot:

  • Revamped the drive-thru experience, which has remained unchanged for quite a while
  • Continues the trend of Tech being the new Advertising
  • Cleverly launched during a relevant moment for the brand (Fried Chicken Day)
  • Chances are this is not a one trick pony, but a step to replacing human employees with Colonel Sanders heads

How much is that Puppy in the windo….err flat screen TV

Pet care brand Pedigree and its partner charity Ampara Animal needed to drive foot traffic to animal shelters as part of the Pedigree Adoption Drive.

The brand partnered with shopping-centre electronics stores to create the Dog Channel, where the generic content displayed on the TV screens in-store was replaced with videos of dogs waiting to be adopted from a nearby shelter.

Alongside the footage was a message to customers that included the dogs’ names and encouraged people to visit the shelter. When the dogs on the screens found new homes, the display changed to indicate a successful adoption.

Why It’s Hot:

-Chimes with the brand’s quest to grow the pet ownership – and by extension the pet care market.

-It merged a digital activation with OOH in a pretty unusual and innovative way

Snickers Puts the “Video” in Video Games

 

Knowing that videos tend to run the risk of being skipped, Snickers developed a way to keep viewers engaged by developing video game videos.

In line with their “You’re not you when you are hungry” campaign platform, the first features a school-bus driver whose hunger has turned him into a WWE wrestler with incessant road rage. In the second, a hungry tennis umpire has transformed into a whining rockstar.

In both scenarios, a series of Snickers bars float across the screen towards the character’s outstretched hand, but the viewers must click the pause button at the correct moment to help the characters grab them.

If they’re successful, the WWE wrestler calms down into a bus driver, and the musician morphs back into an umpire. If not, they’ve got nine more tries to get it right.

Why It’s Hot:

  • Smart and entertaining way to engage viewers when consuming video
  • It’s another example of how platforms, such as YouTube, are flexing to service creative ideas led by agencies
  • Shows the growing trend of choosing to develop platform-digital-specific work rather than “copy and paste” TV commercials, which generally don’t perform as well

 

Gone In 6 Seconds

Australian retailer Myer hosted a flash sale using YouTube’s six-second pre-roll ad slots.

The 6 Second Sale ads feature more than 100 Myer products with discounts greater than those available in store and online by 5%. Viewers have only six seconds (the length of the pre-roll ad) to secure the deal being offered, with those that manage to click on the offer in time are taken to a pre-populated shopping cart on Myer’s site.

The campaign created using Google’s Vogon –  customization tool that lets brands create unlimited variations of the same ad by changing the text, audio or images. The targeting used in the 6 Second Sale ensures no YouTube user will see the same ad twice.

The 6 Second Sale is being promoted through Myer’s website, social channels, catalog and print.

Why It’s Hot

-It merges shopping impulse with a platform experience that times out in a very short amount of time

-Leverages scarcity to heighten the need to buy and drive sales

-Great example of a brand “hacking” a platform to drive a campaign

 

 

From Goggles to Lenses

Google just released Google Lens, and while we are mandated to go into frenzy mode, a closer look makes the unveiling a bit lackluster after all is said and done.
According to Google’s CEO,  “Google Lens is a set of vision-based computing capabilities that can understand what you’re looking at and help you take action based on what you are looking at.”

Sound familiar? It should…

The tech and use cases are not new. Yelp has long been using Monocle, Amazon has already introduced Flow, and Pinterest Lens has been around for a while. Also, this looks more like a Google Goggles 2.0 release. Since people were not ready for that, seems they have modified it to better fit existing behaviors vs. developing new ones.

What sets this apart from the rest is that, with Google being a search-driven platforms, the capabilities of the product are extended. But this may not be a good thing. While Amazon, Yelp, and Pinterest uses are more narrow and specific, resulting in the likelihood of desired results, the vastness of Google increases the chances of the results missing the mark. For example, I point it to a flower expecting to know where to buy it, and instead, it tells me whether it’s poisonous or not.

Now, what makes this unique is how it can integrate with Google Assistant, allowing users to use voice, images, or a combination of both to conduct searches. This also allows it to live across multiple Google platforms, which makes the adoption of the tech more likely.

This is where it gets interesting for advertisers. If this takes off, this gives us an entire new way to connect with consumers across all of Google’s products, and will probably force us to rethink the customer journey. While unknown, it’s exciting given new uncharted “media frontiers” don’t come about that often. From a data collection standpoint, it can also give us new (and hopefully) better way determine use intent.

Why It’s Hot

  • It’s surprising to see a tech giant unveil something so “meh”.
  • On the bright side it’s an opportunity for our brands to begin testing a new tech with a solid potential of adoption.
  • It’s a good example of a tech company pivoting to better suit existing behaviors vs. developing new ones.

Source.

Slow down baby, this is too fast…

Arteris, a road operator from Brazil released Speed-O-Track, an app that encourages drivers to obey the speed limit by messing up their music.

When a driver breaks the speed limit, the app increases the tempo of the music being played on Spotify. It does this by connecting to Google Maps data to identify the speed limit and distorts accordingly.

 

Granted, the benefits of this largely depend on people downloading the app. To encourage this, Arteris has offered a free month’s subscription to Spotify to the first 500 people who download the app.

Why It’s Hot

  • It’s an example of a brand developing tech that fits nicely with their business objectives while solving a problem for their customers
  • It came up with a nice solve to encourage adaption
  • Instead of building tech from scratch, it layered on to existing platforms, once again demonstrating we don’t have reinvent the wheel to develop something groundbreaking.

Source: https://www.contagious.io/articles/fast-tracking

We Have 99 Problems, And Earth Ain’t One

Climate change has been at a fever pitch for, well, ever. Seems like every time we make a little bit of process, we take a few leaps back. While there are many reason for this I believe one of the main ones is how the problem has been framed and so does Drew Train.

In his article, he claims that how we are positioning this crisis to the public is boring and far too distant to really get people to mobilize and push for action. And it’s also kind of wrong….

Truth is earth has been here long before we got here and will still be here long after we are gone. The earth is not in danger of extinction. WE ARE. PEOPLE. The conversation shouldn’t be about saving Mother Earth, it should be about saving US.

(1:26)

As advertisers, we have the responsibility to take matters into our own hands by helping reposition the problem and find synergies within our lines of business to contribute to the cause. As a digital agency, this gets facilitated by the mere fact that technology is at the heart of a lot of the solutions to our climate crisis.

Why It’s Hot

-It’s not hot as much as it is important

-It’s a good example of how a strategic shift can solve an ongoing problem

-There are a million problems within this sector for brands to solve, we just have to look

Life in the hands of VR

Let’s keep it real. VR has us industry folks in a tizzy. All the press, Silicon Valley support, growing client interest ladders up to this being the shiny new toy. It makes sense for us to default to VR use cases that are marketing-driven. After all, the VR world is ripe for the taking because there is so much uncharted territory, almost anywhere we land will be new news. We are all VR-Marco-Polos in waiting.

Yet, there IS life outside the walls of advertising and VR is being adopted quickly and seriously. A few of the industries that have taken notice are those that tend to have high levels of risk, especially when it comes to human life.

Court: Jury members can now see a crime scene in 3D, helping jurors visualize how people and objects, such as bullets, move through space. The use of VR to recreate crime scenes and better inspect evidence has made it easier for people understand the details of a case, and in turn, has a direct impact on decision made regarding whether a suspect was guilty or not.

Military: The U.S. military often uses virtual-reality simulators to train soldiers before they are deployed with non-commercial versions of games like Virtual Battlespace 2 and Unity 3D. These simulations allow teams to practice working together in realistically replicated environments but more importantly, the immersive experience helps them better understand and retain the lessons.

Why It’s Hot

– We tend to see VR through these eyes of childlike wonder, but it’s actually a pretty badass serious technology.

-Elevates VR far beyond the “brand experience” we have gotten used to hearing about, and into a real world with serious consequences.

– It’s important to take notice of what our technologies are doing outside of our sphere not only for education but for inspiration.

-Some of the uses may not be marketable but can be very pertinent to our clients (e.g. The Army, Cigna). Those are opportunities for us to get involved in the development and implementation.

Money DOES Talk!

When we think of digital businesses and how they should market themselves, the obvious channels to promote them are, well, digital. It’s rare to see them break the mold and, moreover, do it successfully. But it happens!

The charitable app, Entourage,  which gives people a platform to organize efforts to help the homeless, wanted to promote itself and its cause. Instead of following the digital-path well traveled, it opted to use the oldest and most viral medium. Money.

€5 Bills were stamped with the name of the app and homeless people were asked to add their own hand-written notes on the bills. The messages were meant to humanize the homeless community while creating a viral effect for the app. Since the money remained in rotation indefinitely, it will continue to exchange hands and pass on the message.

Why It’s Hot:

-Campaign promotes a digital platform through one of the oldest “viral” objects in human history

-Turned an object that we all use and exchange with each other on a daily basis into a free media channel

-This goes to show “limited budgets” are no excuse for not developing groundbreaking work

Billboards, meet VR…you’re new Daddy

A Peruvian highway is prime ad space during the summer months, which forces advertisers to battle it out in efforts to capture the attention of thousands of beachgoers.

But Sodimac, a home improvement brand, set out to capture their imaginations instead by skipping the billboard approach altogether. They did so by creating a 360-degree virtual reality experience along the highway where brand representatives gave out 40,000 Google Cardboard headsets to car passengers. With their VR headsets on, passengers experienced giant-sized virtual Sodimac summer products along the road, making their road trip seem more like a Disneyland Ride, than a car drive. More importantly, they completely ignored all other billboards.

  • We don’t hear a lot about Billboard clutter and we hardly see smart digital ideas that solve for that, which this beautifully does
  • Brought VR to life in a very unexpected space and on a massive scale
  • Tech approach delivered on their brand proposition: They are experts in transforming spaces
  • VR experience was innovative, but also added value to consumers by making their drive more exciting

“Run for your life, the robots are coming”

Image result for bicentennial man

Boston Dynamics’ next generation robot, Atlas, feels almost too human, even with his clunky walk and lack of facial features. This anthropomorphic adaptation to tech has many functional implications in the workforce, as well as being an impressive feat of engineering. However, an unexpected “side effect” becomes apparent towards the end of this demo when Atlas is being knocked off balance to showcase his superior build…it actually elicits empathetic emotions from the human viewer. It feels as if he is being bullied.

This caught us off-guard – although robots are increasingly common in our daily lives, and we are even used to technologies having their own personalities (ala Siri sassy retorts), sympathy for a robot was a visceral response that was totally unexpected. The feeling was driven by instinct rather than logic.

As strategists, we know how powerful these emotions can be, and in fact, it is our job to tap into them, making us believe robots like Atlas can never replace us. Yet, a recent AdAge article makes us question the safety of our jobs in this robot-filled-future.

The author has no doubts that robotics of some kind will play a role in all jobs, one way or another, sooner than later. In this article, he suggests that the last jobs to go will be those with a “unique combination of human intuition, reasoning, empathy, and emotion”, but in spite of this, advertisers are not on the list. Coke’s recent efforts further validate his conclusion.

As of today, we don’t know what the future of our industry will look like, but we do know this: It is our job to stay ahead of all innovations and technologies and to learn everything we can about how our jobs will evolve to include our new robotic co-workers.

WHY IT’S HOT

  • The anthropomorphic applications to robotics serve a much higher purpose that just functionality – these techniques are being applied to help us embrace them (figuratively and literally)
  • Technology is evolving to a place where it is not only poised to replace humans in the workplace but is also driving us to discover a new connection to robotic objects on a mass scale
  • The future of man and machine will likely depend on being able to co-exist, which begs the question – How we can we as advertisers get ahead of the game and prepare for this type of collaboration?

Liz Medina & Rachel Schneer

 

As if though we need one more excuse to drink…

While the world collapses around us here in the States, New Zealanders are kicking back, enjoying life, and catching some surf. Right? Wrong. They are dealing with their own set of problems too. A sand drought (gasp!). Apparently, those pesky grains you keep finding in random body parts days after going to the beach are used in everything from construction to pharmaceuticals (weird). The demand is such that two-thirds of the world’s beaches are retreating.

DB Export, a Kiwi Brewery, took note of this, and the fact that one-fourth of beer bottles never make it to recycling centers and instead end up in landfills. The result? They rolled up their social-responsibility-sleeves and said “We got this”.  The brand developed a fleet of Beer Bottle Sand Machines that lets drinkers instantly turn their beer bottles into 200 grams of sand substitute in just 5 seconds, which will later be donated to one of New Zealand’s biggest producers of bagged concrete.

And how valuable is doing something good, if no one sees it, right? Which is why drinkers can also document and share the footage of their environmentally-friendly activity thanks to an in-built web camera.

It’s rare when a brand can triangulate efforts that solve an environmental challenge by increasing their product’s consumption. It’s even rarer to have it be done through such an out-of-the-box-use of tech.

Now, if we could only develop tech that puts Donald Trump to sleep for an hour for every beer bottle that is drunk…Something to work towards, People!

Why It’s Hot

  • It’s SO smart to line up brand engagement and consumption with a noteworthy social cause
  • DB Export was able to connect seemingly unrelated topics (sand drought and beers) to solve a brand and a social challenge
  • Activation enables consumers to feel good, and do good, just by drinking a cold one

 

 

The Magic Touch

Because touching isn’t exciting enough already, now Panasonic has unveiled a prototype that transmits data via skin contact. When wearing a transmitter, data is sent through a radio field that is transmitted through human skin. The technology is safe, as the currents flow on the surface of the body, not on the inside.

Currently, the tech can do simple things like change the color light of a lamp, but it can potentially have more practical uses like exchanging business information (the business cards of the future!) with a handshake or open locked doors by touching the door handle. The use cases are pretty infinite – Think, paying for your seamless order, providing medical history, starting your car, IDing yourself to an officer when you get pulled over, changing the thermostat temperature, all with a touch. Magic.

It does raise the question of how easily this can make it to steal personal data, but that’s for another post.

As of now, the technology is too big for practical use, but Panasonic is able to make the device as small as needed if there is demand for the system.

Why It’s Hot:

  • It turns the entire human body into wearable tech hardware
  • It’s the ultimate seamless digital experience
  • Makes it wonderfully easy to exchange numbers with people at bars

Gravity Can’t Bring Love Down

UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive—or BAMPFA—wanted to give their new exhibition titled “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia” a little bump.

But Goodby Silverstein & Partners, their agency, does not know how to give “bumps”. Instead, they shot this out of a bloody cannon by developing a geolocation-based augmented-reality mobile app that lets people pepper the virtual space over the Bay Area with digital balloon hearts containing hippy-like messages such as, “Love Is in the Air” or “Free sex”. Okay, okay, to be transparent, I TRIED to upload this last message but the app wouldn’t let me. Apparently, you have to be in the Bay Area. Bummer.

 

Anyway, think of it as a Pokémon, except instead of catching the little trolls, you are making and popping virtual hearts that release lovey-dovey messages.

In addition to allowing you to spread the virtual love, the app also plays ’60s and ’70s songs like John Lennon’s “Imagine” and features a virtual tour of Bay Area locations significant to the hippie movement’s artistic and political history.

Why It’s Hot:

  • NAILS a very unique and cool use of AR
  • Provides a gamified AR experience ala Pokémon
  • App is fun and practical – i.e. virtual tours tied to the thematic of the exhibition
  • Subtly hints at a larger cultural sentiment of acceptance and hippy rebellion

Do As I Do, Not As I Say

Booking.com encouraged its 14,000 global employees to go out and document their carpe diem travel moments. After a years’ worth of documented travel across the globe, their footage was compiled into a video that places their adventurous employees at center stage and showcases their adventures in a manner that inspires wanderlust in all of us.

While this may seem like just another piece of content, it really goes the extra mile for Booking.com as it positions the brand and its staff as travel experts who drink the Kool-Aid they sell.

Why It’s Hot:

  • Adds a human touch to a purely online business, where lack of human interaction makes transactions with the brand feel utilitarian.
  • Makes viewers feel the feels in an authentic manner that inspires people to want to get lost in the world.
  • Strategy is anchored on the insight that people are more likely to trust employee recommendations based on their own experiences with a brand/product.