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December 2006

Dubai's iPad

Apple's iPod has become ubiquitous in modern life, spawning an entire market of media, software, peripherals, accessories, and even clothing lines. And now...its influence extends to architecture:

James Law Cybertecture has developed plans for a 23-story building dubbed the iPad. Set to open in Dubai by 2009, the iPod-shaped building will house 200 offices and homes at the same 6% slant of the MP3 player in its docking station.

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Post-Christmas Links

Welcome back from the holiday!

In honor of this quiet work week, I'm keeping it simple and just sharing the headlines that caught my attention today:Sony

  • Clocky, the brainchild of 27-year-old MIT grad and entrepreneur Gauri Nandar, recently graduated from the MIT Media Lab and is available for public consumption. It's an alarm clock that continuously runs away from its owner and makes noise after the snooze bar is hit!Clocky

Boston's ICA: It's a Gas!

For months, we watched as the new Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston was being built on Northern Ave. It went up on a desolate parcel of land next door to the old Anthony's Pier 4, and promised to be the latest in a series of buildings that will transform the waterfront from its humble, seafaring past into its luxurious, contemporary future.

Well, the new museum finally opened this month, and I had the opportunity to visit it last night for the first time (Thursday nights after 5pm are free, courtesy of Target). And it is beautiful...on the outside:

Ica The building is designed to provide dramatic views of the water from the inside, and it certainly does that. Plus, there is a gorgeous plank wood deck that wraps around it, which I'm sure will be put to good use in the warm weather.

But the art installations inside are another story. And this is all purely subjective, of course, from someone who is not a big fan of contemporary art.

The galleries are well laid out, well lit, easy to navigate, and - to my untrained eye - provide a nice space for viewing the pieces. But the pieces...well...they certainly are conversation starters, which is I guess what art appreciation is all about.

Here, I will share the GIANT (26 ft. 2 in. x 40 ft. 1 in.) mural visitors see upon entering the museum; judge for yourselves.
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This work by Chino Aoshima is called "The Divine Gas."

From the accompanying pamphlet:

The Divine Gas depicts a giant girl lying in a lush landscape. The setting seems idyllic and serene - birds soar, a deer nestles near her foot, a couple frolics hand-in-hand.

Meanwhile, a billowing cloudscape, lorded over by a genie, emerges from her bottom. A few figures sit in the clouds, while others tumble toward the ground. Has the heroine given birth to a new (though somewhat ominous) world through her "divine gas?"

And:

Who is the troll-like figure in the clouds? A god or a demon? Aoshima describes her as: "the spirit of farting. She's cleansing the world with farts." And who are the people, apparently faint from the smell, falling out of the clouds?

Hmmm.

Visit the ICA and see for yourself, or check out Boston.com's neat interactive guide to the museum.


Holiday Greetings

At this time of year, it's always fun to see the holiday e-cards various marketers and their agencies come up with (usually in an effort to outdo one another and hope that their cards go viral.). It's one "deliverable" that virtually guarantees creative freedom...and a lot of fun.

And while I enjoy looking at them (see the Leo Burnett/Millions of Us/Second Life/Run DMC jam), the holiday greeting that really grabbed my attention this year was a simple one from American Express:

Amex Yes - it's an old-fashioned, paper card. But it's so simple and on-brand, I find it elegant.

There's no hard sell, no call to action (outside of enjoying the holiday), and it's not even personalized (but let's face it, the database-driven "Dear STEPHANIE" messages don't really feel that personal).

Just a simple thank you and best wishes for the new year. And it works.

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Jaxtr

Jaxtr Jaxtr is a very cool alternative to the existing Web-based calling services like Skype. From Yahoo! News:

Once registered on Jaxtr's site, a user can embed an interactive phone feature into selected blogs or social network profiles [hopefully the Six Apart family of blogging apps will get in on this one.]

Consumers will be able to click on any Jaxtr link, enter their own phone number, which triggers an instant call to their phone. Answering the phone connects the caller to the Jaxtr user's own phone. Callers then speak phone to phone.

Jaxtr, a play on the phrase "jack your phone," promises its users can hear from callers through their Web site profiles while preserving the privacy of their existing phone numbers.

The service provides local phone numbers that allow callers to eliminate expensive international long distance charges from any of 29 national markets in Europe, the Americas and Asia.


Getting (a) Second Life

Second_life_2 This post is long overdue, but I want to acknowledge the great panel put together by MITX and One to One Interactive last week in Boston: Get a Second Life: Exploring the 3D World.

The discussion couldn't have been more timely, as big brands like IBM, Toyota, and Ciscso (in the last week alone) rush to buy "land" within Second Life, the 3D virtual world that is the latest "it" spot to try and reach an ever-elusive consumer base and demonstrate marketing finesse.

MITX supplied a great cross-section of SL participants, each with his or her own unique experiences with and impressions of the medium (albeit all positive-leaning, since most of these people earn a living off of SL in some capacity. To their credit, all were very candid when discussing the challenges and shortcomings of the virtual world, and audience members were not shy about sharing their own skepticism. An in-world client perspective would've been a great addition, though).

The participants:

The agenda:

What's all the fuss about, and is it worth the effort?

The highlights:

SL has been around for three years. While well-known brands didn't establish in-world versions of themselves until more recently, SL has had a fairly robust virtual economy since the early days (based on its in-world currency, Linden Dollars). But the news last month of the first Second Life millionaire finally got the attention of the mainstream press. And now SL is mentioned (seemingly) everywhere.

Its popularity has not come without controversy, including questions about Linden Lab's (the creator of SL) ability to manage the fast-growing community; unrest among long-time residents who resent the influx of mainstream marketers to their world; questions about the real audience numbers; challenges with scalability, stability, interoperability, and security. Let's face it: SL relatively unregulated, uncontrollable, imperfect and unproven.

However, like other elements of the Long Tail, SL shouldn't be ignored. It's essentially the first global society, with 40% of its users outside the US, and a population that exceeds the size of some countries (as Rick Murray pointed out). More and more people are creating avatars and spending hours in-world; it fulfills a basic human need to connect, and the 3D attributes are appealing to us as humans.

Is it the Holy Grail of marketing? Absolutely not. Just like any other channel - on its own - is not. SL is simply one more element in the larger continuum of social media. At a minimum, marketers should be aware of its existence and take the time to understand how people are interacting with - and within - it.

As with any new channel (mobile comes to mind), it's imperative to think about *how* people use it and then figure out how you can be relevant to them when they're in that mindset. Mainstreaming of SL needs to be done with sensitivity: if residents feel alienated by big-brand entrants, they may leave and the whole community could collapse. To that end, marketers need to understand the social structure within SL and either add value to the community or stay out of it altogether. C.C. Chapman advises marketers to not let their brands be shackled by real life. Don't think about campaigns; instead, introduce initiatives with long-lasting utility.

And what about the ROI? Rick Murray (I believe) noted that it's too late to gain the first-mover publicity, and it's too early to gauge real revenue opportunities. Nonetheless, the ripple effect of a SL event can be big: while a "successful" in-world event may only attract ~50 people (technology limitations prevent much more), those participants tend to be influentials who will turn around and blog about their experiences to their own audiences. This can then get picked up by the media, and the overall exposure is exponentially bigger.

In addition, SL provides a good forum for research. Activities within SL are highly trackable, which gives marketers a good opportunity to listen, engage, collaborate, and co-create. 3D interfaces offer a long-term opportunity to interact with constituents in a different way...a chance to observe socialization, interaction, and consumption of branded content. In this age of consumers-in-control, co-creation in Second Life may be more palatable than co-creation in Real Life.

If you want to read more on the topic, there are a lot of conversations going on in the blogosphere.
Illya Vedrashko shares his thoughts on calculating ROI from SL - as well as his slides from the panel presentation - here. And Charlie O'Donnell and David Churbuck have started an excellent point-counterpoint on the subject (thanks to JaffeJuice for the tip).

And if you're a markter that's curious to see what the virtual world is all about, join iVillage tonight for their Girls Night Out event in Second Life, or take the MarketingProf tour of SL on January 11 - this one designed especially for marketers.

UPDATE: Reuben Steiger shared his take on the MITX panel in his morning Roadcast #2. Worth a listen.


Soulcowboys present +Remedy

If you're in Boston this Saturday night, and looking to hear some great house music, then head on over to The Good Life on Kingston Street around 10pm and check out +Remedy.

The night is hosted by Soulcowboys, a collective of local DJs including Marc Grooves, Echo (a/k/a Chris DeOrio), Matius, Bee Coy, and John Davis that got together to promote good house music nights in the city. Each has a slightly different style, but the music is more soulful, R&B, and jazz-influenced than progressive house music.

And in addition to playing good music, they bring together an eclectic and fun group of people. At this event they've also teamed up with Walt Zink to collect Toys for Tots and donations for the Salvation Army, so bring a gift if you can!

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Michael Crichton's Next

I received my monthly Borders Rewards email this week, featuring new and noteworthy books, movies, and music available in their stores, and was delighted to see this teaser campaign for MIchael Crichton's Next.
Borders The book originally caught my eye because of its plotline:

The ability to grow new limbs. Puppies that never grow up. Miracle cures. Humanzees.Michael Crichton's latest scientific thriller considers the best and worst possibilities of our evolving capacity to alter DNA.

I happen to be reading a ton of information on genomic sequencing these days in connection with a website build at work, and I find the subject fascinating (albeit far-fetched in the case of this fiction work).

But plotlines aside, what really got me excited about this book is the creative marketing campaign its publisher has developed in order to generate buzz around the title. Following in the footsteps of Lost, they have created a companion website for the fictional organization in the book, NEXTgencode.

Nextgencode The site highlights NEXTgencode's eight innovative products (including the ControlGene, found in every Dictator), the latest genetic news (like "scientists predict natural blondes will be extinct by the year 2206"), and the obligatory "About Us" section. Every page should be read. It's absolutely hilarious.

My favorite product is the Permapuppy which stays small - and cute - for its entire lifespan (which you choose).

Permapuppy_1 There are also links to the companion blog, Ethics in Genetics, where people are talking about no-sneeze kittens and transgenic chickens (posts and comments are both available via RSS), NEXTgencode's MySpace page (420 Friends as of this posting), and two additional microsites: Cockroach Adoption and Franken's hybrid meals (created by Hijinx Design).

A ton of work - and fun, presumably - went into this campaign. I'm eager to read the book.


MyZiki - Update

Here's an update to yesterday's post:

True to their word, the good folks over at Ziki have set up a paid search campaign for my name on my behalf. You will now see a paid placement for my Ziki profile when you search on my name on Google and Yahoo! (see sponsored links from the Google page, below; let's pretend eBay isn't advertising "Stephanie Rogers for less!").

It's neat, but I wonder if they will ultimately allow members to customize the ad copy so that it is more unique/compelling. It does present an interesting strategy for brands that want to aggregate multiple content sources and have one more search-friendly site available to help them in the rankings.

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